Ray got the record, but Richmond-Burton took the title.
Burlington Central senior guard Ray Hunnicutt scored on a driving layup with one second remaining to become his school's all-time leading scorer, but achieving the milestone was bittersweet in light of Richmond-Burton's 46-40 victory on Senior Night on Rocket Hill.
Richmond-Burton (15-11, 8-2) took a 13-5 lead after a quarter and held off Central's second-half charge to win the winner-take-all, regular-season finale between first-place teams in the Big Northern Conference's East Division.
The division title is Richmond-Burton's third in four seasons.
"We knew we didn't play well the first time," R-B senior Matt Rygiel said of a 47-26 loss to Burlington Central on Jan. 27, "but when it came time we were going to get that championship."
Hunnicutt's seventh and final basket of the game gave him 14 points to lift his four-year varsity total to 1,505, a point better than 1995 graduate Gavin Schairer.
"As great as it is to do that, it would have been so much better if we had won," a dejected Hunnicutt said in the postgame locker room. "That's one thing I can take positively out of this game, I guess. I'm just ready to move on and be ready for Sycamore Monday."
"He probably would wish he didn't get the record tonight if he could trade that for a win," Central coach Brett Porto said. "That speaks a lot about his character and the type of character that he is."
R-B led 29-20 early in the third quarter, but Central (16-11, 7-3) used an 8-0 run to pull within a point. Hunnicutt, who was held to 2 baskets in the first half by Richmond's zone defense, scored 3 baskets during the run. However, a 3-pointer by R-B sophomore Mike Kaska kept his team in the lead.
Four times in the final period Central 3-point shooters missed open attempts that would have knotted the score. Much to R-B's surprise, Central made only 3-of-18 attempts from 3-point range (16.7 percent) and 17 of 53 overall (32.1 percent).
"When that shot goes up, I just assume it's going in with the way they shoot," Richmond-Burton coach Brandon Creason said.
A big Burlington Central student cheering section in full voice created an electric atmosphere for the de facto BNE title game, but visiting R-B was anything but rattled. Six players, including brothers Matt and Zach Rygiel, played football in the state title game last fall. Instead of being intimidated by the partisan environment, R-B's players excelled under the pressure.
"The state title game was so loud you could barely hear the person talking next to you," Zach Rygiel said, "but this crowd was just as loud or louder because it's so compact. You really had to focus on communicating."
"The inexperienced big-game guy is me," Creason said. "I'm going crazy and they're like, 'Coach, we've got this. Calm down. We do this all the time. We did this all fall.' I just feed off their calm."
Matt Rygiel's low-post basket against Hunnicutt put Richmond-Burton ahead 39-36 with 3:07 left, and Central missed 3-pointers on consecutive possessions. Zach Rygiel kept R-B ahead by sinking 5-of-6 free throws in the final minute.
"We talked before the game that it would be a matter of who made more plays, and they made more plays down the stretch than we did," Porto said. "We dug ourselves a hole early on. We just couldn't get the big shot to fall. We got it within a point every now and again, but we'd go turnover, turnover or we'd miss a shot. They just made more plays."
The silver lining for Hunnicutt on his record-breaking night? He achieved the milestone in front of the home crowd, which saluted him with a standing ovation as he sheepishly accepted the game ball in a postgame ceremony.
"This is where I've been the last four years," Hunnicutt said of the cozy gym. "I've spent my life here. I just wanted to get (the record) over with so I could be done with that and move on to regionals."
Burlington Central begins postseason play Monday with a Class 3A Rochelle regional play-in game against Sycamore, a team the Rockets defeated twice during the regular season.
Burlington-Central High School
Richmond-Burton Community High School
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