By Joe Henricksen
Every year there are can't miss high school games. And nearly every year the East Aurora-West Aurora game is on that list.
The state's best rivalry takes center stage Saturday night when the two go at it for the 214th time in a sold out East Aurora gym. Anyone who has attended this rivalry over the years can easily identify the game with two words: special and intense.
There are other great rivalries--New Trier and Evanston, Moline and Rock Island to name a couple--but this one is a little different. This rivalry features one community, one town and two great basketball traditions all separated by a river. What's also unique is the fact there have been so many different family connections--brothers, cousins, uncles, aunts, grandparents, business leaders--that have played and cheered for both sides of town over the years.
While West Aurora has had its share of success with East Aurora over the past 10-15 years, this is a big one for the host Tomcats. East Aurora comes in as the favorite and boasts the most electric individual talent the city has seen since Kenny Battle of West Aurora in the mid-1980s and Thomas Wyatt of East Aurora in the late 1980s. Ryan Boatright, the 30-plus a night scoring sensation, has put the Tomcats in the headlines for the past four years. The explosive Boatright would love to go out with a bang and knock off the rival Blackhawks, an opportunity East High fans are salivating over.
After taking in several of Boatright's games this year, it's hard to immediately come up with a player that has been as dominating in Illinois high school basketball in recent memory. Yes, he spectacular and exciting, but he's dominating with the ball in his hands. He's absolutely impossible to guard--or even slow down--by one defender at the prep level.
A year ago the game was moved to a neutral floor for the first time, with West Aurora knocking off East Aurora 72-66 at the Convocation Center on the campus of Northern Illinois University. There was no way East Aurora was going to give up its home game, thus the rivalry returns to one of the best high school venues in the state.
East Aurora is ranked, fresh off a huge win over Neuqua Valley Thursday night, in control of the conference race and the No. 4 seed in its own sectional. The Tomcats and their fans certainly see a window of opportunity. Will the old nemesis and rival, with veteran coach and icon Gordie Kerkman on the opposite bench, be able to dampen the East High mood Saturday night?
Whatever transpires, the atmosphere with 4,000-plus fans will be special and the matchup intense.