Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
By Brian Miller
There was no way East Aurora guard Ryan Boatright was walking out of the Tomcats' gym Friday night with anything but a happy ending.
Boatright scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half and single-handedly willed East in a mesmerizing fourth quarter to lead the Tomcats to a 63-59 victory over Batavia in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover home finale on senior night.
"We wanted to be on a roll entering the playoffs," said Boatright, also had nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. "I knew I had to make something happen for us to win. They were doing a good job doubling me, trying to get the ball out of my hands right away, basically saying the rest of my team's gotta beat them."
Despite a pair of No. 24's for each team being out-- leading scorer Jesse Coffey (illness) for Batavia and sharpshooter Letrell "Snoop" Viser (ankle) for East-- the Bulldogs (13-12) handled their business by using their size advantage down low to pound the Tomcats (21-5) into submission.
Cole Gardner scored 25 points to go with 17 rebounds and Elliott Vaughn had 11 points and 15 rebounds, not only keeping pace with East, but grabbing a four-point lead with six minutes remaining in the fourth.
"We had some good shots early at the start of the game, they just weren't dropping," Bulldogs coach Jim Roberts said. "
Batavia finished the fourth quarter alone with 10 offensive rebounds.
"Batavia is well-coached and they came to play," Tomcats coach Wendell Jeffries said. "We got up on them early and then they came back, took a four-point lead. And then Ryan Boatright really stepped up and showed why he's going to play in the Big East."
After that lead, Boatright made a play on every East possession.
He knocked down two free throws, went coast-to-coast for hard-earned layups on two straights possessions, knocked down two more free throws, assisted to teammate Bryan Robinson, and hit a jumper.
Then he hit perhaps his biggest shot of the night, a deep three from the left wing that gave East a 55-51 lead with 1:35 left, simultaneously bringing the crowd to its feet in a roar.
"It was game time," Boatright said. "As soon as the fourth quarter came I knew it was in me, it was hammer time, time to go. That three just came off emotion and a lot of hard work. I shoot that shot a lot of times in practice and a lot of times after practice."
Boatright came right back after that shot and stole a ball, assisting to Dominique Johnson for a layup before hitting another free throw a moment later to give East a 58-51 lead.
"He did some things in the fourth quarter that were magical," Roberts said. "He took over, but we didn't do ourselves any favors by going 7-for-20 shooting in the fourth quarter."
East seniors Johnson and John Williams (17 points) sealed the win with clutch free throws in the waning seconds, while Tom Okapal had 15 rebounds.
The only way East will see its familiar court again will be by winning the Bolingbrook 4A Regional, in which they are seeded first, to reach the sectional it will host.
The Tomcats will have to get through an opening round match and a potential third-time matchup with Neuqua Valley, meaning their are no guarantees, making Boatright's last regular season performance all the more special to him and to the fans who watched him play for four years.
"I wanted to leave with a bang," Boatright said. "I want people to remember me for something good, remember my last game. If it was a move, a shot, the win period, I wanted them to remember me because I don't know if we'll make it back here."