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Bench coming up big for West Aurora
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 3/13/2012 1:25 AM

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West Aurora's depth has played a key role in the Blackhawks' surge to the Class 4A Hinsdale Central supersectional.

Coach Gordie Kerkman and his staff not only bank on star forward Juwan Starks and point guard Jontrel Walker and fellow starters Josh McAuley at center, forward Chandler Thomas and off-guard Jayquan Lee.

Chandler's twin brother Spencer, Brandon Gossett, defensive bulldog Booker Ross and forward Aaron Kennebrew have come off the bench to provide positive results.

"All four of those guys have been instrumental in our tournament run this season," said Blackhawks assistant Paul Kieffer.

Of the nine Blackhawks who played in Friday's 69-61 win over Metea Valley at the East Aurora sectional final, seven of them scored.

"It's a great thing when everybody can do that," Chandler Thomas said after the Metea game. "It feels like, you know, 'I did a good job, I contributed to the team.' When everybody scores everything just seems to go a whole lot smoother everywhere."

Lee, whose back has been troubling him, did not play after the first quarter against Metea; reserve guard Ross' role is not an offensive one, it's to provide tough defense for a few minutes to spell a starter.

For a second straight game Spencer came off the bench for important points and rebounds. Against Metea it was 9 points with 11 rebounds; in the Blackhawks' 58-53 overtime win against Plainfield East in the sectional final Spencer Thomas scored 12 points with 11 boards, much of his impact coming in the fourth quarter and overtime.

Of the junior Thomas brother Kerkman said: "They position themselves very well and they're not afraid to get after it."

Gossett, who has made 19 3-pointers this season and had a mid-season string of four double-figure games in five outings, scored 7 points against Metea, perfect on both shot attempts and 2 free throws.

Another player who has come on well down the stretch is 6-foot-3 junior forward Kennebrew. He, along with Spencer Thomas and Gossett, were part of a third quarter effort that saw West Aurora expand on an 8-point halftime lead to go up 46-33 late in the third quarter. Kennebrew has become a bigger part of Kerkman's plan.

"Defensively he's been playing very good in the sectional," Kerkman said of Kennebrew. "He seems to be playing with more poise now. He hit that open shot against Metea the other night and had no hesitation, just knocked it down."

West Aurora's depth may be tested further if Lee's back acts up and Walker needs a breather. Kerkman said freshman Matt Dunn, who played on the sophomore team, was brought up at the end of the season.

Being one of the team's few players with true point guard skills, he'll be ready if needed Tuesday against Proviso East despite the attacking Pirates' quickness and defensive trapping.

"That's really asking an awful lot of him," Kerkman said.