AURORA — Throughout the season, the Aurora boys basketball team has been in a position to win a number of times when it mattered most.
Unfortunately for the Greenmen, the outcome somehow managed to favor the opponent more often than not.
On Tuesday, it was the same story for the young men dressed in white and green. Alas, the basketball gods wound up siding with the opponent once again.
The host Greenmen lost for the 11th time in 12 games after falling to former Chagrin Valley Conference rival Chesterland West Geauga 61-53.
Aurora led 49-45 early in the fourth quarter. Of course, such a situation like this has been typical of the Greenmen’s winter thus far.
Sadly, what happened afterward was too.
The Wolverines (12-7) took the lead (53-51) for good when 6-foot-7, 220-pound junior forward Josh Irwin attacked the basket, lost the ball momentarily and then got it back before laying it in.
Aurora, which also lost a commanding 93-59 decision to Suburban League American Conference champion Revere Friday in Bath Township, missed some shots and had a costly turnover late in the game. Those missed opportunities allowed West Geauga to put it away at the free-throw line. The Wolverines made all eight of their freebies in the final 80 seconds.
"We’ve been really close," Greenmen head coach T.J. Henderson said. "The last couple of weeks, we’ve had games where we were winning the fourth. Unfortunately, the ball hasn’t rolled our way, I guess.
"We miss a couple shots, other teams make shots and they’re winning the games."
Irwin was a dominant force for West Geauga throughout the evening. He scored a game-high 33 points and also had 10 rebounds and three steals.
Irwin converted all 10 of his foul shots and scored 10 points in the fourth quarter.
His partner in crime was senior guard Peyton Bissler, who scored 22 points, mainly on mid-range jumpers or layups off drives to the basket.
"Two guys beat us," Henderson said. "Going into the game, we knew exactly who they were. First quarter, we struggled with it. The second and third quarter, I thought we did a fantastic job, especially in the second quarter. We did a fantastic job of really limiting those guys.
"They’re really tough. They’re some of the best basketball players in the area, especially when they’re playing together. Unfortunately in the fourth quarter, we let them get rolling."
Senior guard Ethan Hays led Aurora (4-15) with 16 points, despite having to settle for mainly 3-point shots due to the Wolverines’ smothering defense. Hays wound up draining four shots from beyond the arc.
Senior forward Lenny Feckner added 14 points for the Greenmen, who made just two of their five foul-shot attempts.
Meanwhile, West Geauga converted 15-of-18 from the charity stripe.
"It’s a tough one to swallow because I know the kids worked their tails off," Henderson said. "We have the talent to win games. It’s just not happening."
Aurora fell to 1-11 in the conference after the loss to the Minutemen.
Jimmy Salamone led the way with a game-high 20 points and Hunter Drenth added 18 points for Revere.
Ethan Hays paced the Greenmen with 18 points and Jack Roche and Feckner added 11 and nine points, respectively, for Aurora.
Last season, the Greenmen turned things around after some peaks and valley and wound up reaching district play.
Aurora claimed its sectional championship when it pulled off a stunning upset against second-seeded Gates Mills Gilmour Academy.
"For me, I hope it’s a confidence booster for our kids," Henderson said. "We play Revere on Friday and if we can get a win in the first round, we’re going right back to Revere.
"We can use it maybe as something like a Gilmour from last year and try to find out some little things that we can do and have some confidence going into games."
Getting back to victory lane would be a good start, according to Henderson. As legendary former Green Bay Packers head coach Vince Lombardi once said "Confidence is contagious."
Henderson certainly hopes so.
"The kids were saying it in the huddle: ‘We just need to win once,’" he said. "‘We just need to get over this hump.’ Once we do, we’ll be OK. We’ll be fighting and clawing and doing what we need to do. We just have to finish the next few games."
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, email@example.com or @FrankAceto_RPC.