Burlington Central got in only one practice this week due to weather cancellations, and boy did it show in the first half against Rockford Christian.
The Rockets started out pretty ragged, but got things together in the second half while pulling away to a 55-43 victory in Big Northern East boys basketball action on Rocket Hill.
The Rockets got a huge lift from their bench. In fact, their top three scorers were nonstarters: James Raney with 12 points, Brett Rau with 11, and Ryan Fitzgerald with 10. Central's reserves outscored their starters, 35-20.
"That's what we need from this team," said Central coach Brett Porto. "That's the type of team we are. There's no one standout. We get a lot of different people touching the ball and contributions from a lot of areas. When we were struggling early on, that kind of makes us go."
After trailing most of the first quarter, the Rockets used a 10-2 run to take the lead, then opened the second half with a 12-4 spurt to open up the game.
Central (15-5, 5-1) made just 4 of 15 shots in the first quarter and often looked disorganized while falling behind.
"That's what happens when you've had one practice," said Porto. "The first half was a little bit expected, but I was very pleased with our second half."
Raney in particular gave the Rockets a big lift, scoring 10 of their first 14 points despite not starting. Rau then picked it up in the second half, scoring 9 points.
"We weren't finishing around the rim at all, we were missing a lot of layups, but in the second half, tremendous improvement," said Rau. "It was much better by everybody."
Reed Hunnicutt had 7 points for the Rockets. The Royal Lions frustrated Duncan Ozburn all night. He finished with just 5 points, but had 11 rebounds, 5 blocks, and 3 assists in an all-around effort.
Ryan Fitzgerald grabbed 7 rebounds as the Rockets controlled the boards, 34-25.
With the offense sputtering, the Rockets' defense helped turn things around, forcing 20 turnovers for the night.
Trailing 14-11, the Rockets forced a turnover and Raney drained a 3-pointer. A basket by Rau gave Central the lead for good and, after an Ozburn steal, Jacob Schutta made 2 free throws. Just like that, the Rockets led by 4 and never really looked back.
Rockford Christian's leading scorer also came off the bench, with Sam Bubnack scoring 10 points before fouling out.