April 12, 2024
Illinois High School Sports

Boys basketball: AJ Levine leads York past Batavia in OT, into Class 4A sectional final

Dukes will play Glenbard North for title Friday night

York’s Ryan Pechous celebrates the Dukes’ 52-44 victory over Batavia during the Addison Trail Class 4A boys basketball sectional semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Addison.

ADDISON – When York guard AJ Levine was knocked to the floor after taking a hard foul at Wednesday’s Class 4A Addison Trail Sectional semifinal against Batavia, there was a collective gasp from the Dukes fans in the big crowd.

It was early in the third quarter, and Levine had already scored 11 points in the first half to lead his team to a six-point advantage at intermission.

York’s A.J. Levine drives to the basket for a layup against Batavia during the Addison Trail Class 4A boys basketball sectional semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Addison.

So when the senior had to limp off the court, then head back toward the locker room, the York faithful went silent.

“It looked like he banged his knee,” said Dukes coach Mike Dunn, “and that’s what it turned out to be. Luckily for us, he was able to get back in there.”

Levine was inserted back into the lineup after a couple of minutes and promptly scored seven consecutive points to help York extend its lead, but the Bulldogs weren’t done by a long shot.

Batavia (22-9) scored the last nine points of regulation to send the game into overtime, where Levine and his teammates were able to right the ship from the foul line.

York’s Ryan Pechous, left, and Batavia’s C.J. Valente go to the floor for the ball during the Addison Trail Class 4A boys basketball sectional semifinal on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Addison.

York (26-7) pulled away in OT for a 52-44 victory. The Dukes advance to play Glenbard North in the sectional championship game at 6 p.m. Friday.

“This kid is a warrior,” added Dunn of Levine, who scored a game-high 22 points. “He put us on his back tonight when we were struggling.”

It was a heartbreaking loss for Batavia, which trailed 40-31 with 4 minutes remaining in regulation but went on a 9-0 run to tie things up.

A 3-pointer by Bulldogs junior Jax Abalos with 25 seconds remaining, his fifth of the game, sent it to an extra session.

“This is a team that never quits,” said Batavia coach Jim Nazos, “and we never thought for a second that they would.

“They battled to the end, and what I’ll remember about this group is that we had 14 seniors that just kind of broke through in a lot of ways. They just gave (their all) for each other and played their tails off.

“It’s what they did and what they accomplished that will be sustainable to the younger group coming up, more than maybe one more win, because it’s a blueprint as to how to do things.”

York senior Kyle Waltz opened overtime with a bucket, then Batavia senior Nate Nazos sank 1-of-2 free throws to bring the score to 42-41.

It stood that way until the final minute when the Dukes, who were just 5-of-16 foul shooting in regulation, came up clutch at the line down the stretch.

York was 8 for 9 from the free-throw line in OT, four of them coming from Waltz, and Levine pitched in with a huge 3-point play to help close out the win.

Abalos led the way for Batavia with 15 points while senior teammate Ben Fiegel scored nine.

Waltz finished with 12 points for York, while Braden Richardson scored 8, including a couple of crucial overtime free throws.

“They (Batavia) had all the momentum going into overtime,” said Waltz, “but we told ourselves that we weren’t going to let our season end like this.”

“These kids were fantastic,” coach Dunn added of his team, “and they made the plays when they had to.

“We missed some free throws that could have helped us extend the lead, but at this point it’s all about survive and advance. I’m so proud of these kids. They went from 13-18 last year to 26-7 and the sweet sixteen this season.”