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Strong Defense Leads East Aurora Past Depew

By Mike Pidanick

Defense has been huge all season long for the East Aurora High School boys basketball team this year and on a poor shooting night, the Blue Devils certainly needed some solid D in a big ECIC III game at Depew.

They got it. A dominant defensive performance and a late second-quarter surge led East Aurora to an ugly but needed 42-26 win over the rival Wildcats on Friday night. “All season my kids have done a great job defensively and that was on display again tonight.” East Aurora coach Chris Koselny said. “We struggled to shoot the ball tonight but a win is a win and I’ll take it.”

For most of the game, offense was lacking. The score was 2-0 four minutes into the game and EA needed a buzzer-beating put back by Josh Denz to take a 6-3 lead after the first quarter. The Blue Devils got going in the second quarter, outscoring Depew 20-5. The Wildcats, on the other hand, never got going offensively.

“When you hold a team to 42 points, you really shouldn’t lose by 16,” said Depew coach Larry Jones, whose team hit just two field goals in the first half. “Huge struggle offensively for us. Let’s give their defense credit, they did a nice job, they switched a lot of screens. But our offensive execution was pretty poor.”

Friday marked the seventh time this season that the Blue Devils held an opponent below 40 points. Offense was lacking in this game expect for a span late in the second quarter when the Blue Devils went on a 16-0 run – headlined by three 3-pointers from senior co-captain Nick Montgomery. East Aurora took a 26-7 lead into the locker room and despite a gritty effort by the underdog Wildcats, the lead never fell below double-figures in the second half.

“That opened the game up and those moments are huge,” Koselny said. “Those moments are huge and when you get them, you’ve got to build on it.” EA hit eight 3-pointers, five in the second quarter, compared to Depew’s zero.

“We had the same problem the other night,” Jones said. “We help too much and leave open shooters. You don’t want to give up the easy basket but by taking away the paint, you’re susceptible to those three,” Jones said. “So you want to make sure it’s the right people we’re leaving open and not their best player.”

Montgomery, who leads East Aurora with 15.4 points per game this season tied Denz for the team-lead at 15 points on this night for the Blue Devils (12-3, 7-1 ECIC III). EA is tied with Cheektowaga atop the division standings and the two teams split the regular season meetings. Seven different Wildcats scored but standout junior Chad Biersbach was the top guy with six points. Depew (10-6, 5-3 ECIC III) remains in third place but the toughest stretch on the schedule is coming soon.

This is kind of a crossroads for us,” Jones said. “We have Maryvale again, and Cheektowaga and East Aurora. So we have some work to do. We’ve had some good wins, but they weren’t the same caliber of opponent as Cheektowaga and East Aurora. So we have to make that decision now: Who are we and what are we going to be”

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