Burlington Central's girls basketball team knows Hampshire all too well.
The Rockets (13-15) knew if they could slide past Woodstock in the play-in game of the Class 3A Hampshire regional Monday night, the rivalry between the two would be renewed in a postseason edition with a chance to play for a regional title on the line.
By virtue of a 59-30 win over Woodstock (5-21), the Rockets will get that rematch of the Dec. 12 game in which the Whip-Purs won easily, 63-38 at Hampshire.
The stage will be the same on Wednesday but the stakes will be much higher. And freshman Alison Colby had the perfect mindset for Central after Monday's win:
"Revenge," she said. "I know we're not in the same conference but we're still big rivals so we need to take it to them."
And Rockets coach Jenna Real knows what's up.
"They're a tough team," Real said of Hampshire. "It's a rivalry so most of it is mental preparation. We've been getting prepared and once we get going, both offense and defense, coming out mentally ready to go and feeling confident, that will be the key."
Confidence may have been something the Rockets bolstered against the Blue Streaks, which was badly needed coming in. After losing 3 straight to end the regular season, the Rockets had to find a way to snap out of their funk. So they looked to seniors Jessica Laird and Brenda Thasavong to do so.
Laird and Thasavong poured in 15 points each. Thasavong was assertive down low while Laird knocked down 3 3-pointers as Central jumped out to a 20-6 first quarter lead and never looked back.
Woodstock put together a mini-run stretching from the end of the first half into opening stages of the third, which cut the Rocket lead to 11 with 7:24 in the third. But two straight baskets by Thasavong and 6 points total in the quarter on all high percentage shots pushed Woodstock back, with most of the dishes coming from Colby, a major catalyst with 3 points, 9 rebounds and 8 assists.
"I noticed I wasn't a real big scoring force this game but Brenda was," Colby said. "I was just trying to feed her the ball as much as I could and get offensive boards because we were lacking this season."
Colby drew the task of corralling Woodstock's center Arianna Davis, who at 5-foot 11 was just a monster on the boards with 17 rebounds. But Davis was held to 9 points, going 1-for-6 from the field in the second half.
"She got after it, she's a kid that's got more heart than anybody I've seen out there," Real said. "(Colby) came out fired up today and maybe didn't show that much on the points end but really made a huge difference and that definitely was a huge turnaround point for us having her get those boards and distributing those passes down the floor."
Central shot just a 43 percent clip from the field and was outrebounded 37-30. But the Rockets looked more fluid in the second half as Laird admitted it was nerve-racking, but a good tune up for Hampshire.
"It's intimidating," she said. "They're good. But so are we. We can match up to them and if we come out with the same intensity we did today we wont have a problem."