The end result achieved the desired goal, but the path to it could have been smoother.
That's the message Burlington Central girls basketball coach Mark Smith delivered to his team Tuesday night after the Rockets climbed out of more holes than a groundhog in April to eventually come away with a 58-52 win over Machesney Park Harlem in the championship game of the Central Thanksgiving Tournament.
"Hopefully we learned our lesson tonight that you have to come out ready to play," Smith said, "but what a phenomenal fourth quarter."
Central (4-0) dug itself a 16-3 trench to start the game, connecting on just 1 of its first 10 shots while Harlem. But the fast and furious start allowed the Rockets time to regroup and despite being down 13 early, the came back to trail just 18-17 by the end of the first quarter.
Even though they came back and took two brief leads in the second quarter, the Rockets were down 36-30 at halftime and 48-38 at the end of the third quarter and it looked as though they were on their way to their first loss of the young season. But then, as quickly as they fell behind, they went ahead -- to stay.
Central went on an incredible 15-0 run to start the fourth quarter, a run that was aided by a technical foul call on the Harlem bench. That came just after junior Aly DeTamble had made 2 free throws to cut the Harlem lead to 48-43. Sophomore Samantha Pryor made the two technical foul shots then, after a Harlem miss on the other end and a scrum for the ball after a BC miss, Pryor took an inbounds pass from DeTamble, scored, was fouled and made the free throw to tie the game at 48. The Rockets took the lead for good on 2 free throws by sophomore Kayla Ross and extended the margin to as many as 8, 58-50, on 2 more from the line by sophomore Shelby Holt with 29 seconds to play. Central made 14 of 19 from the line in the fourth quarter and 18 of 27 for the game.
"We came into the game a little nervous but once we got into the flow of the game things got better," said Pryor, an all-tournament selection who led all scorers with 20 points while adding 10 rebounds.
The Rockets finished the night shooting 18-for-49 and turned the ball over just 11 times while also winning the rebound battle 32-30. They also turned up the defense in the fourth quarter, forcing the Huskies into 8 turnovers. Harlem had 17 turnovers for the game.
"We were displeased with our defense and the way we started the game," Smith said. "We persevered, for sure. We'll have to talk about how we start games. Harlem outplayed us for three quarters.
"But the girls never stopped believing. Anything can happen in a high school basketball game and that was proved tonight. I'm real proud of the girls."
Sophomore Becca Gerke came off the bench to add 13 points for the Rockets, while Ross had 7. McKaela Schmelzer led Harlem with 16 points.