The Burlington Central boys basketball team demonstrated improvement in aspects of the game coach Brett Porto has been stressing in Saturday's 63-48 victory over Marengo on Rocket Hill.
Porto wants to see more scoring from his reserves. The Rockets obliged with 22 points off the bench, led by 6 from junior James Raney, who splashed a pair of 3-pointers.
Central's coach wants his players to make smarter choices with the ball, particularly when the game is still in doubt. His team made progress in that regard by limiting its turnovers to 13.
He wants to see his players crashing the boards aggressively. The Rockets played their part by winning the rebounding battle 42-34, topped by 11 rebounds (7 offensive) from 6-foot-2 senior Bryce Warner.
But most of all, Porto wants to see his team compete for a conference title. Burlington Central (6-11, 4-0) heeded that message with its fourth Big Northern Conference East Division win in four tries to remain atop the standings.
"The energy was there and the effort was there, and that's what we've been working on because we've been playing some pretty selfish ball," said senior guard Ryan Ritchie, who scored 9 points. We made the extra pass and really played as a team.
"This was a big win for us because we want to come away with conference. It's something to look forward to. I know our record's not the best, but 4-0 in conference is pretty good."
Central built a 16-12 lead after a quarter and stretched it to 37-27 by halftime, thanks in part to senior guard Malik Harris. The 5-8 guard scored 10 of his 12 points in the first half, 7 in the second quarter.
Marengo (5-12, 1-3) was unable to draw any closer than 9 points after intermission. Held to 21 points in the second half, the Indians shot 26 percent (15 of 58) from the field and 15 of 31 from the free-throw line.
Central grew its lead to 15 points when Moter Deng sank a 3-pointer from NBA range to beat the third-quarter buzzer. Six Rockets scored in the final period to hold the Indians at bay.
Though Porto said he liked what he saw overall, the perfectionist in him wants to see such efforts from his team consistently.
"We still just have to be a little bit smarter offensively because that's really what has turned some of these games, that mental toughness and decision making," Porto said. "That's going to decide a lot of games for us if we can be smart offensively in that situation and not turn it over."
"As a whole, it was good to see some different guys put the ball in the basket. Hopefully, that can be a springboard."
Adam Rogutich led the Indians with 21 points and 6-6 junior Andrew Volkening scored 16 points and grabbed 12 rebounds in a losing cause.
Deng finished with 8 points, Reed Hunnicutt added 7 and Warner and Jacob Schutta each scored 5 for the BNC-East leaders, who next square off against St. Edward (14-4) in a nonconference matchup in Elgin on Friday.