In case Saturday night was the final occasion Shane Hernandez played Burlington Central, the Hampshire senior wanted to make it memorable.
Hernandez did just that in a nearly full gym at Central, scoring a game-high 22 points and grabbing 6 rebounds as the Whip-Purs topped the Rockets, 62-51 in nonconference boys basketball action.
"This may be the last time playing Burlington so that just ups it," Hernandez said. "We knew it was going to be a close game."
It was a close game late until the third quarter before the Whip-Purs (5-1) went on a 6-0 run to increase a 5-point lead, 43-39, to a 49-38 advantage 35 seconds into the fourth quarter. Hampshire would increase the lead to as many as 17, 61-44, after 2 free throws by Hernandez with 2:41 remaining.
"I was a little disappointed with our defensive effort," Central coach Brett Porto said. "We haven't done well when adversity strikes so far this year. Any basketball game you're going to have our runs and things like that, we just haven't responded well."
The Rockets (0-6) took their first lead, 12-10, on a Ryan Ritchie basket with 3:13 remaining in the first quarter. Hampshire responded with a 9-0 run, including 5 points from senior Tyler Crater, to take a 19-12 lead with 15 seconds remaining in the first quarter. Central would only hold the lead for 40 seconds the rest of the game. A 3-pointer from Ritchie, who finished with 12 points, gave the Rockets a 30-29 lead with 1:30 remaining before halftime. Hernandez scored with 50 seconds left as Hampshire retook the lead 31-30.
"When we move the ball around, we're a tough team to defend," said Hampshire assistant coach Mike Featherly, who is running the team with head coach Bob Barnett due to return from his heart problems on Tuesday at home when the Whips host Marengo. "They're starting to buy into that ball rotation. We'll get a good look if we're patient with it."
Crater finished with 19 points and 6 rebounds for Hampshire. Michael Dumoulin added 11 points and 8 rebounds as the Whip-Purs outrebounded the Rockets 38-28.
Moter Deng led Central with 13 points, 7 coming in the first quarter. Duncan Ozburn had 9 rebounds.