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Burlington Central's kiddie corps took a big step forward in the growing up process Friday night, but it was the Rockets' savvy senior who kept the ship on a straight course while they did.
The much ballyhooed BC freshman class of girls basketball players debuted on the varsity level and they all contributed in a 64-22 rout of Larkin in the opening round of the Central Thanksgiving Tournament on Rocket Hill.
But while those freshmen got their feet wet and their first-game jitters out of the way, senior guard Camille Dela Cruz provided the steadying influence first-year BC coach Mark Smith was looking for.
"Camille Dela Cruz really held us together in the first half," said Smith, the longtime area coach who coached his first game as a head varsity girls coach. "She played like a senior. She played tough defense and hit some key buckets."
Then it was the freshmen's turn. All five varsity rookies had a hand in the win, with Shelby Holt leading the way with 17 points that included 4 3-pointers. She also had 10 rebounds and 4 steals. Six-foot Rebecca Gerke had 11 points and 10 rebounds, Kayla Ross added 10 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists, Samantha Pryor had 6 points and 11 rebounds and Samantha Cruz added 4 points. BC outrebounded the Royals 66-22 as Larkin made just 8 of 47 from the field. Dela Cruz added 9 points and 4 steals for the Rockets.
"We work hard in practice," Holt said. "We were a little shaky in the first quarter so we just calmed down and relaxed. It was pretty intense in the locker room. There were a lot of nerves. But Camille took us through it and then we followed her lead. Obviously we're young but I'm excited about where we can go as a team."
Larkin scored the first 2 points of the game on free throws but then the Rockets went on a 13-0 run to end the first quarter. Dela Cruz hit a 3-pointer to help ignite the spurt. Larkin hung around and trailed just 20-12 after a basket by Quixmia Washington with 2:17 left in the first half. But Holt hit her first 3-pointer of the night with 1:35 left and Dela Cruz nailed two buckets in the final 1:07 to give the Rockets a 27-12 bulge at halftime.
Central then held Larkin to just 10 points in the second half and cruised to the easy win as Smith was able to get all 10 of his players ample court time. Central shot 24-for-62 for the night but did turn the ball over 26 times.
"In spurts we played pretty well and there's some talent out there," Smith said. "The girls played hard. There's some things to clean up but overall I'm happy."
Washington led Larkin with 16 points. The Royals played without senior Paris Patterson, who first-year coach Ruben Flores said missed the game for personal matters.
"It was the first game out of the box and we're running an all new offense," Flores said. "There were some sparks. Quixmia worked real hard. She's a slasher who just wants to go, go go. We just need to stay the course and run the offense. We came out with a lot of energy and the girls were excited."
Each team will play twice today. The Rockets take on CICS Ellison at 11:30 a.m. and Sycamore at 2:30 p.m., while Larkin plays those same opponents at the opposite times.