Points weren't always easy to come by for the young Burlington Central girls basketball team this season, and it was especially difficult Wednesday night in the Class 3A Wheaton Academy regional semifinals.
Averaging 38 points a game during the regular season, the Rockets ran into the combination of a stifling Sycamore defense and a frigid shooting night. The result was a 33-18 season-ending loss in a game the Rockets shot just 20 percent from the field (8 of 40) and 9 percent at the free-throw line (1 of 11).
"It was a really tough game," said Kathryn Schmidt, who led the Rockets with 9 points. "They have some really nice players. We knew it was going to be a tough game. We put up a fight."
Sycamore (19-9), the No. 2 seed in the sub-sectional of the Kaneland sectional, will play St. Francis for the regional title Friday.
The Spartans didn't shoot much better, just 27.9 percent from the field. No. 7 seed Burlington Central (15-15) held Sycamore to one basket in the opening quarter, and field goals by Maddie Drescher and Mackenzie West left the Rockets up 4-2 after one quarter.
Neither team could make a shot for much of the second quarter. Kylie Feuerbach finally got a jumper to go halfway through the quarter to give Sycamore a 5-4 lead.
Feuerbach followed with a 3-pointer, Kate Majerus hit a jumper and Feuerbach's conventional 3-point play sent Sycamore to halftime up 13-8.
"We were stagnant on offense," Burlington Central coach Mark Smith said. "In the first half we missed 3 or 4 layups. It should have been tied at half."
The Spartans quickly extended their lead with the first 7 points of the third quarter, making it 20-8. Schmidt and West combined for the Rockets' final 7 points of the quarter to pull within 24-15 going to the fourth.
Any hopes of a comeback were dashed by another extended drought for the Rockets, who didn't score for the first six and a half minutes of the fourth quarter. Any time Schmidt touched the ball, the Spartans had another defender ready for a quick double team.
"She's a really nice player especially for a freshman," Spartans coach Adam Wickness said. "We knew when the ball got to her it was going up. That (double-team) was definitely part of the game plan."
Feuerbach, AAU teammates with Schmidt, led both teams with 11 points while adding 6 rebounds, 4 steals and 3 blocked shots.
"The defense was there," said Wickness, who teaches in the Kaneland school district at Harter Middle School. "It took awhile for the offense to heat up. Defense is something we've hung our hat on all season. This time of year that's what it's about."
Schmidt and West (7 points) scored all but 2 points for the Rockets, whose 8-player rotation included five freshmen: Schmidt, Zoey Kollhoff, Reili Gardner, Maddie Menke and Lily Moretti.
"Sometimes during the season I looked and there was five freshmen playing against older kids," Smith said. "Tonight was tough but I'm really proud of what they've done and what the future holds for us."
"It was a really good season," Schmidt said. "It was a blast. I had so much fun with Maddie (Drescher) our senior, she made it so much fun. We're really young, and we've got some good people coming up in eighth grade. We'll be fine."