YORK — It’s been five years since the York Dukes boys basketball team was Central Conference champs. The Dukes were looking to snap that streak Saturday night on their home court in the tournament championship against a familiar foe from about 24 miles down the road, the Aurora Huskies.
But the Dukes will need to wait another year for a crack at the title.
Aurora claimed the Central Conference championship — its fourth straight — with a 61-58 win over York.
Although the Dukes battled much better this second time around compared to the first when the Huskies won by 21 points inside the Duke Dome on Dec. 14, York couldn’t get over the hump in the second half on Saturday.
The Dukes trailed 27-20 at halftime but cut their deficit to 29-28 with 5:59 left in the third thanks to a layup from senior point Jeb Lucas, who finished with 14 points. But York would never regain the lead and was kept at a four-point deficit for much of the third and fourth quarters. It wasn’t until a free throw from senior forward Garrett Snodgrass put the Aurora advantage at three points, 58-55, with 23 seconds left to play in regulation.
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Trailing 59-55, Brady Danielson nailed his fourth 3-pointer of the game to put the Huskie lead to 59-58 with 10 seconds left. With the Dukes forced to put Aurora at the line, the Huskies connected on 2 of 4 in the final 10 seconds. A last-second full-court heave from Danielson fell short.
Aurora senior guard and Concordia University basketball commit, Cade Reichardt, led the Huskies with 22 points while 6-foot-6 South Dakota State basketball pledge, Baylor Scheierman, netted 17.
“They’re obviously a good basketball team,” York head coach Scott Lamberty said after the game. “When Baylor goes out, Cade does a great job because he can go off the deck and shoot the three. That makes a huge difference because they’re hard to guard.”
York drops to 14-3 on the season while Aurora improves to 17-1. The Dukes are off until next Saturday when they’ll take on the Lakeview Vikings (4-12) in Columbus.
“Obviously the kids were down. When you lose a rivalry game, a conference championship on the home court and you had a shot to win it — that probably hurts worse,” Lamberty said of what the scene was like in the locker room.
York shot out to an 8-2 lead to start the game but a 10-0 run from the Huskies that bled into the first quarter put the hosts in a 16-10 hole. Aurora led 25-16 but back-to-back baskets from seniors Wyatt Cast and Reid Hoffmann cut York’s deficit to 25-20 with 1:37 left before the half.
“We need to continue to get better with ball movement and body movement against that zone,” Lamberty said of Aurora’s 2-3 defense. “We have to get more cuts and be a little more patient so we can get better opportunities. We’ve gotten better since the last time we played them and we’ll continue to get better these last three weeks.”
York trailed by nine points early in the fourth but went on a 6-2 run thanks to four points from Lucas and two from Snodgrass. Aurora went 17 of 27 from the free-throw line in the final eight minutes while York was 7 of 10.
Aurora (17-1) 14 13 13 21 — 61
York (14-3) 10 10 13 25 — 58
Aurora scoring: Cade Reichardt 22, Baylor Scheuermann 17, Nick Hutsell 10, Nathan Boerkircher 6, Jordan Stevenson 4, Kaleb Moural 2.
York scoring: Brady Danielson 20, Jeb Lucas 14, Wyatt Cast 13, Garrett Snodgrass 6, Reid Hoffmann 5.