PENINSULA — Despite numerous disappointing defeats,T.J. Henderson kept insisting that his team was much better than its record.
It’s a safe bet no one is doubting the Aurora head boys basketball coach now.
The 10th-seeded Greenmen earned a 61-56 victory over seventh-seeded Woodridge Tuesday. The Stow Division II sectional semifinal game took place at Woodridge High School in Peninsula.
With the win, Aurora (7-16) earned a third date with Suburban League American Conference champion Revere in a sectional title game.
The Greenmen are scheduled to play the Minutemen Friday in Bath Township. Game time is set for 7 p.m. Revere beat Aurora twice during the regular season.
The Greenmen will butt heads with the Minutemen in a sectional final for the second time in three years. Revere topped Aurora 78-62 in 2018.
Of course, it would be easy to make the case that the Greenmen didn’t belong in this situation in the first place.
At least, that seemed to be the case a few weeks ago.
Aurora had losing streaks of four, five and eight games, respectively, during the regular season.
Those dreary days are long over now.
"The last two games coming into this game, it has been a lot of fun for them," Henderson said. "We were in games, we were in games and we didn’t finish. All of a sudden, we get that one. We go to Copley [last Friday] and we’re like, ‘We got this one.’
"[Tuesday], the same thing. I thought the kids did a fantastic job. Once we went down, it wasn’t like things started to melt down a little bit."
The Greenmen, who are 3-0 in sectional semifinal games since Henderson became the team’s head coach, have won three straight games.
And they have two victories against Woodridge too.
When the two teams met on the very same floor Jan. 21, Aurora routed the Bulldogs 77-47 in one of its best performances of the season.
Tuesday’s game was a much different animal as the momentum shifted several times in each team’s favor.
In the end, the Greenmen, who led by as many as 11 late in the first half, took control in the fourth quarter.
Aurora outscored Woodridge 18-11 in the final eight minutes. The Greenmen also made their free throws. Well, Lenny Feckner sure did.
The standout senior forward converted 5-of-6 freebies in the final four minutes to seal the deal.
"They were much better than they were last time," Henderson said. "Going into this game, I was extremely nervous because I knew how good they really were. It wasn’t that we were that much more talented than them. It’s just that our shots were falling like crazy and theirs weren’t."
Feckner, who also made a free throw in the second period, finished with 15 points.
Senior guard Ethan Hays scored a game-high 18 points despite being face-guarded for much of the game. He buried three consecutive 3-pointers in less than 30 seconds to give Aurora a 32-21 lead late in the half.
However, the Bulldogs came back with a vengeance in the third quarter. Woodridge (13-10) outscored the Greenmen 19-11 in the period. An 8-0 run gave the Bulldogs (41-38) their first lead since the midway point of the first period.
Nevertheless, Aurora got the last laugh with a 14-0 run to take the lead for good (54-45) midway through the fourth.
"We were hoping the guys wouldn’t take them lightly," Henderson said. "That’s a fantastic basketball team. They can shoot; they can score. They do a lot of really nice things. I think it was a great win for us."
Junior guard Gabe Elsawy scored 10 points for the Greenmen and senior guard Jack Deptola finished with eight points.
Junior guard Josh Decker led Woodridge with 18 points and sophomore guard Ben Kiser and senior guard Brandon Albright added 10 and nine points, respectively, for the Bulldogs.
Reporter Frank Aceto can be reached at 330-541-9444, firstname.lastname@example.org or @FrankAceto_Gannett.