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Senior guard Reed Hunnicutt and the Burlington Central boys basketball team played the final four minutes of Tuesday's 74-68 victory at Elgin's Chesbrough Field House like they wanted to leave a lasting impression.
Beginning with a jumper by Elgin senior Desmond Sanders with 16 seconds left in the third quarter, the Rockets and Maroons traded leads 10 times until they found themselves knotted at 59-59, courtesy of a 3-pointer by Elgin senior post Ryan Sitter.
An immediate counter for a driving layup by Hunnicutt, who then sank 4 straight free throws on Central's next 2 possessions, ignited a 10-2 run that helped the Class 3A Rockets improve to 6-1 with a quality road win against, arguably, the most athletic team they will face during the regular season.
"This is the last time us seniors are going to be playing here for the rest of our lives," Hunnicutt said of Chesbrough, "It was really great to get a win here against such a good program."
The Rockets already led 65-61 when Elgin failed to score for a third straight possession. Hunnicutt drove the other way, penetrated the lane and kicked a pass out to the right corner for waiting senior guard Sean Fitzgerald, who buried a 3-pointer for a 68-61 lead with 1:52 to play. Central sank 6 of 8 free throws down the stretch to seal the nonconference win without point guard Brett Rau, who missed his third straight game due to a hip flexor.
The balanced Rockets received contributions from Hunnicutt (15 points), senior center Duncan Ozburn (10 points, 10 rebounds), Sean Fitzgerald (13 points, 4 rebounds), senior guard Jacob Schutta (11 points, 4 rebounds) and sophomore Luke McCurdy, who scored 12 points filling in for Rau.
"That's the kind of team we have to be," Central coach Brett Porto said. "We don't have a guy that's going to drop 20 every night, but we have a lot of guys who can finish at the rim, shoot some free throws and hit some shots. On a given night it could be anyone. As long as we keep moving the ball around, I think we'll keep finding those looks."
Elgin (2-5), coming off its best win of the season on Sunday -- a 1-point win over previously undefeated Carmel -- did not match the energy and enthusiasm the Rockets brought. The game was tied 11-11 after a quarter and 26-26 at halftime, but Central led by as many as 7 points midway through the third quarter when McCurdy sank 2 free throws for a 39-32 lead.
"They played harder than us," Elgin coach Mike Sitter said. "They came out early and punched us in the face, and we came out early and played like a donkey. Ipso facto, we lose the game. That's a team where if we come out and play hard and show intensity right away, you can spread the floor on them, you can do a lot of things. But we can't dictate tempo from behind.
"Carmel, we had it for four quarters. (Against Central) we had it for one, one and a half. We're not good enough to come out and play part time."
Ryan Sitter led the Maroons with 16 points, including three 3-pointers, senior Donte Harper had 15 points and Butler came off the bench to score 13 and grab 5 rebounds, but it wasn't enough for Elgin, which plays at Streamwood on Friday at 7:15 p.m. and hosts Geneva on Saturday at 6 p.m.
"We didn't have intensity," Butler said. "Nobody was really playing like how we usually play. When we play against good teams we play our hardest, but when we play an average team or a team that's weaker than us, we sag off like we're superstars and we're not. That's what we have to get better at."