Prep Basketball: Rockford Auburn Knights slay giant Warren team, head to Peoria
By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Auburn led 18-10 after the first quarter. They only led 22-20 at the half.
As Gurnee Warren continued to chip away and finally take the lead, senior guard Mitch Munda of the Blue Devils took the time to clap loudly and had a few words directed toward Auburn’s Fred Van Vleet.
Munda made the mistake of tugging on Superman’s cape.
Van Vleet scored 18 of his 27 points after the trash talking, helping Auburn come back from a late deficit and close on a 9-0 run to end the game in a 49-43 victory in their IHSA Class 4A Super Sectional.
“I wouldn’t say it spurred me at all,” Van Vleet said of the talk. “Guys are going to talk. I do my talking by putting the ball in the basket and playing great defense.”
The performance by the all-state performer overshadowed a brilliant defensive game plan by coach Bryan Ott, and the execution by Javauntae Hicks.
Hicks, all 6 feet of him, spent his night guarding the 6-foot-8 Darius Paul and the 6-foot-9 Nathan Boothe. While Hicks didn’t score a point, his defense playing in front of the taller players was key for Auburn, causing 19 Warren turnovers.
“It’s the guy nobody wants to talk about,” Ott said. “He doesn’t score a lot of points or get a lot of rebounds. But at 6-foot, we’re always putting him on someone taller than him and asking him to work harder than the other kids. He is willing to sacrifice his body for four quarters to do that.”
The Knights also outrebounded the taller Blue Devils 36-33 in the game. Fifteen of those rebounds came on the offensive glass, including a late one by Elijah Smith that led to Boothe fouling out.
“They played better than we did,” Warren coach Chuck Ramsey said. “We never got in sync and played our game tonight. From beginning to end. A lot of rebounds are not due to height, but quickness to the ball. They just beat us to the ball.”
The victory was enough to send Auburn down state for the first time in decades on a special night when two Rockford teams had a shot to make it down. For Van Vleet and the Knights, it will provide a lifetime of memories.
“You talk about the lack of size and the size they have,” Van Vleet said. “To go out there and punch them in the mouth and take it from them, I’m going to remember that forever.”
Posted March 14, 2012
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