The Burlington Central and Marengo boys basketball teams split two previous meetings that weren't decided until late.
Central's 63-43 Kishwaukee River Conference road victory on Tuesday was decided rather early, thanks to an initial defensive punch by the Rockets.
Coach Brett Porto's team opened the game by playing a physical, unpredictable full-court trap that frustrated the Indians. Central scored 12 first-quarter points off 10 Marengo turnovers to build a 22-10 lead after eight minutes.
"At the beginning we were trapping them up toward the baseline, then we were trapping them toward the half-court line," Central junior Zach Schutta said. "Every once in a while we were changing it up and it seemed to screw them up."
If the Indians broke the press, the Rockets settled into a box-and-one defense to control Marengo senior guard Mike Volkening, who scored 25 points in Marengo's 50-46 Kishwaukee River Conference victory at Central on Jan. 20. Volkening still led his team in scoring Tuesday, but he was limited to 14 points.
"We wanted to put a complete defensive game together, 32 minutes of really getting after people in the different defenses that we employed out there," Porto said. "I thought from start to finish that was about as well as we could execute."
Marengo coach Nate Wright said the Rockets didn't present anything his team wasn't expecting. His team just didn't adapt quickly enough to Central's physical style.
"There were some times when there was some contact and the officials let them play tonight," Wright said. "We didn't adjust to it at the beginning of the game and all the sudden it's a 15-point ballgame. We just took too long to make the adjustment to the way they were calling it."
The Indians committed only 7 turnovers after the first quarter but the damage was done. Central (22-3, 7-2) led 35-21 at the half and Marengo (18-7, 6-3) never drew closer than 8 points in the third quarter before eventually trailing by 15 heading to the fourth.
The victory keeps the Rockets atop the KRC with 2 league losses.
"Conference is on the line and I think our guys stepped up," Central senior Joey Ratzek said. "We played with more energy and more effort."
Offensively, 6-foot-2 sophomore Patrick Mayfield led the Rockets with 14 points on 5-of-10 shooting, including a pair of 3-pointers.
"I've been having a lot more confidence lately and I've been scoring a lot more," Mayfield said. "It's just like everything's clicking."
Senior guard Emmanuel Wells finished with 10 points and 3 steals and Schutta scored 8 points, leaving him 10 shy of 1,000 for his three-year varsity career. Ratzek added 7 points.
Ratzek and Schutta each grabbed 7 rebounds to help the Rockets win the rebounding battle 31-19.