It was a tough season in many respects for the Aurora boys basketball team.
Some key injuries contributed to their six losses in the first nine games of the season. Starters starters Alex Hunt and Ben McQuiston were both out early on.
“We had injuries early,” Aurora coach Rick Bell said. “McQuiston missed about the first third of the season and he’s our leader. Not only that, we had another couple injuries that took away from our practices because of those injuries.
“Then we went through a period with kids who were just really sick. So it’s been about the last three weeks where we’ve been pretty healthy, things have gone well and we’ve really improved a lot.”
The Huskies finished the regular season well and carried that into the post season where they downed Northwest in the Class B, District 5 final to earn a second straight trip to the state tournament.
Aurora (14-9) will open state tournament play at 7 p.m. Thursday at the Devaney Sports Center against Scottsbluff (21-5).
Football took a toll on the basketball team in December. Hunt was out early with a shin injury and McQuiston with a broken hand.
McQuiston, who leads the Huskies in scoring at 11.1 points per game, returned to the lineup shortly after the Christmas break.
“We had a lot of injuries towards the beginning of the season,” Hunt said. “When we got all our guys back, we kind of meshed together and really were like a family, on the court and off the court.”
The injury bug hit again when starting guard Blake Williams injured his knee a day before the district began, but the Huskies were able to overcome that setback.
“After Christmas, we finally got back to almost our full strength,” McQuiston said. “We started hitting on all cylinders there for a while, but even when we lost Blake we knew we’d be all right. He was there for every step for us.”
Williams’ status for the state tournament is still in doubt. He was going to try and practice Monday.
While the Huskies would love to have Williams available, they are well prepared to go without their second-leading scorer (10 points per game) if necessary.
“With everything we’ve gone through this year, a lot of kids have played some significant minutes for us,” Bell said. “I really think that paid off. We missed Blake tremendously. We’re not quite the same offensively or defensively without him, but I really felt that we had as good a chance as anybody to win this district.”
The game against Scottsbluff will be a rematch of a first-round contest a year ago that the Bearcats won 62-59.
“Scottsbluff is very quick athletic and has some really good shooters,” Bell said. “They like to play uptempo on offense and defense.”
McQuiston said just making it to Lincoln isn’t enough.
“Another trip to Lincoln, but we’re not just going to be satisfied we’re going,” McQuiston said. “We’re going to win a basketball game or two or even three maybe.”