Boys Basketball: Behind Ben VanderWal’s 32 points, Timothy Christian holds on at Aurora Christian

Furman recruit makes go-ahead three, clinching free throws in 56-52 win

Timothy Christian's Ben VanderWal (40) drives to the basket against Aurora Christian's Trey Beebe (22) during a basketball game at Aurora Christian High School on Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022.

AURORA – Ben VanderWal wasn’t apparently quite content with letting the ink dry on his signature performance.

The 6-foot-7 Timothy Christian senior had a few more plays to make.

VanderWal sunk a three-pointer with 1:10 left to give the Trojans a two-point lead. Then he capped off his 32-point, 11-rebound game with two free throws with 0.9 seconds remaining, clinching the Trojans’ 56-52 win at Aurora Christian to sweep the season series in the Metro Suburban Blue.

The Furman recruit relished the moment to clinch the win.

“It’s where you want to be [on the line],” VanderWal said. “If you’re a player who loves the game and loves to win, you want to have a chance to win the game for your team. If you can do that at the free throw line, you’re going to do that at the free throw line. I was just happy to get the opportunity, go up there and knock them in.”

Timothy Christian's Ben VanderWal (40) shoots the ball against Aurora Christian during a basketball game at Aurora Christian High School on Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022.

VanderWal showed confidence in himself to make his shots. But he also impacted the game with strong interior passing ability to find open teammates for looks at the basket.

“Tonight, he did a really nice job of finding some guys,” Trojans coach Scott Plaisier said. “When he has the basketball – especially when he puts it on the floor – all attention goes to him. He had a couple really nice looks of interior passes [and] had a couple of other guys that hit for threes. He can score with some of that physical contact as well.”

VanderWal’s three with 1:10 left is an example of that confident scoring ability.

“We were just running our regular motion action and see if we can get something out of it and then call a set,” Plaisier said. “He ended up getting a pretty good look on that wing. It takes a lot of confidence in yourself and just to trust that you can make those things at that time of the game.”

Following VanderWal’s three, Aurora Christian (14-5, 5-3) missed a turnaround jumper in the lane with 35 seconds left. On the ensuing inbound for Timothy Christian (11-14, 7-2), a turnover was forced to give the Eagles another chance, but they came up with a pair of misses from Jabari Sisco (12 points, six rebounds) and Cam Morel (five points).

Timothy Christian's Ben VanderWal (40) defends the paint blocking a shot by Aurora Christian's Jabari Sisco (13) during a basketball game at Aurora Christian High School on Tuesday, Jan 25, 2022.

Timothy Christian’s Kyle Steiner split two free throws to extend the lead to three with 16 seconds left and. Aurora Christian’s Drew Meyers (10 points), who hit a game-winning shot in the final seconds to beat Riverside Brookfield last Friday, missed what could’ve been a tying three with four seconds left. Steiner, again, had a chance to pad the lead, but missed both free throws with 3.2 seconds left.

Morel split two free throws in response for the Eagles, but VanderWal finished the job.

“I think both teams played well. It was a good high school game. They hit one more shot than we did and that’s why [VanderWal] is an all-state player,” Eagles coach Dan Beebe said. “…I was proud of our kids. I thought we scrapped and did a lot of good things…I’m pleased with everything, but the result.”

The Eagles were missing starting point guard Danny New, who suffered an ankle sprain against Riverside Brookfield New’s return for the near future is uncertain.

In his place, junior guard Calvin Washington impressed with 17 points and four rebounds.

“He can score. He can score in bunches,” Beebe said. “He got his opportunity and he showed what he can do. He started earlier in the year McCade [Weber] was out with an injury. [Washington does a good job and I was glad to see him step up like that.”