The Burlington Central boys basketball team welcomed 2011 the same way it finished 2010: with a victory.
The Rockets sank 10 field goals in a 27-point first quarter and maintained at least an 8-point lead the rest of the way in a 58-44 victory over visiting Richmond-Burton in Big Northern East play Tuesday night at Rocket Hill.
The win was the third straight for Central (8-5, 3-0), which led 27-13 after a quarter and went on to win for the seventh time in nine games, led by 20 points and 10 rebounds from senior Sam Klein.
"We make it a point to get out to a fast start in the first quarter," said Klein, who made 6-of-11 shots. "Defense is where it all starts. That's what we preach and where it all begins for us."
The offense wasn't too bad either, particularly early. Central sank 10-of-17 shots in the first quarter. The Rockets did much of their damage from long range. Senior guard Jared Moxness sank a pair of 3-pointers and Klein, Ray Hunnicutt and sophomore Ryan Ritchie each connected from behind the arc in the opening eight minutes as Central sank 5 of 9 from 3-point range.
"In the first quarter we had all the confidence and we were hitting everything," said Hunnicutt, who finished with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists. "In the second quarter we came out and people just weren't taking as many shots."
In fact, the Rockets attempted as many 3-pointers in the first quarter as they would the rest of the game, and it took Central three more quarters to match the 10 field goals they made in the first period.
"Those same guys that were making all those same field goals just stopped shooting those same shots," Central coach Brett Porto said. "It shouldn't be a confidence issue.
"For whatever reason we come out and have very good first quarters and shoot those shots that we work on in practice. As the game goes on sometimes we don't shoot the same shots, especially against a zone. They were then able to condense on the middle because our guys that were hot just stopped shooting.
"We have to recognize what a good shot is and shoot it."
Central outrebounded two-time defending champion Richmond-Burton 37-26 but committed 20 turnovers to Richmond's 18. Nonetheless, the visiting Rockets were unable to slice into the deficit further after having cut it to 8 points on consecutive post buckets from Zach Rygiel with 5:57 left in the third quarter.
Central bounced back with an 8-0 run, fueled by a 3-pointer from Klein, 2 free throws from Tim Sullivan and a three-point play by Hunnicutt, who pumped his fist after sinking an off-balance layup.
Zach Rygiel and Austin Gunderson each scored 10 points and Matt Rygiel added 8 points for Richmond-Burton (5-10, 0-2).