Subject Line (article title)
Send to (required)E-mail
Send from (required)E-mail
It may be an overused cliché at times, but there’s a reason it’s overused.
And if you don’t believe so, just ask the Hampshire girls basketball team.
Burlington Central unleashed a smothering, stifling and relentless defense on the Whip-Purs Wednesday night in the first semifinal of the Class 3A Aurora Central Catholic regional and, coupled with the lights-out first half offense of sophomore standout Sam Pryor, the top-seeded Rockets cruised to a 59-35 win.
Central (23-4) will take on No. 2 St. Edward (19-8), which beat Rosary 60-36 in Wednesday’s second semifinal, on Saturday at noon for the regional championship and a place in next week’s Belvidere sectional. Saturday’s winner will face either Sycamore or Kaneland at 6 p.m. Monday in the sectional semifinals.
“That was nice,” said BC coach Mark Smith of Wednesday’s win. “We played very well. We hadn’t seen Hampshire in a while. They played great team basketball (Tuesday) and we knew we’d get a great effort from them.”
There was nothing wrong with the Whip-Purs’ effort. Hampshire simply couldn’t muster an offense against the pressure the Rockets applied from the opening tip to the final buzzer.
“Our press did us a lot of favors,” Smith said.
And how. Helping create 13 first-half turnovers and limiting No. 5 seed Hampshire (12-15) to just 16 shots in the first 16 minutes, the Rockets bolted to a 36-18 lead at the break and cruised through the second half.
Sophomore Kayla Ross led the defensive charge, playing the “safety” role on the press and collecting 6 steals to go along with 7 points.
“We’ve talked about the football safety position but I’m not sure how much football they watch,” laughed Smith. “(Ross) is our fastest kid. (Hampshire’s Sara) Finn had 25 points (Tuesday) and we had to shut her down. I don’t think she scored.”
She didn’t. Ross and Co. denied Finn possessions and she had just 5 shots on the night.
“Defense wins games,” Ross said. “We go out there and play our hardest and the press is working. I love defense.”
With the Rockets collecting 17 steals for the game, the offense became easier. Pryor took the lead there, scoring 20 of her game-high 23 points in the first half on 5 of 8 shooting. She also had 8 rebounds as Central, which shot 23-for-49 as a team, outrebounded the Whips 31-21.
“It just came,” said Pryor of her offensive outburst in the first half. “My team always hits me with good passes and with Kayla and Alison (Colby) and everybody getting steals ... we try to come to every game focused.”
Colby added 10 points, 5 steals and 4 assists for the Rockets while sophomore Shelby Holt had 8 points and sophomore Sam Cruz added 7 points, 5 steals and 4 assists.
Freshman Payton DeChant led Hampshire with 12 points. Sophomore Emma Benoit had 10 points and 6 rebounds, while Becky Dumoulin, one of only three seniors on the Hampshire roster, had 8 points.
“Their pressure got to us and we didn’t take care of the ball,” said first-year Hampshire coach Mike Featherly. “The effort, heart and enthusiasm have always been there but Burlington Central is a good team. You have to play really good to beat them.”
Featherly came away pleased overall with his first season as Hampshire’s head coach.
“The first year was a getting to know process,” said Featherly, a boys assistant coach prior to this season. “I’m looking forward to the second year. The girls always came with the right attitude and they wanted to get better. That makes it easier.”