Burlington Central holds off Marengo for MLK Classic title
Burlington Central's boys basketball team rode a bit of a roller coaster Monday but in the end the Rockets came out on top.
Junior Michael Kalusa scored 19 points, including 7 in the fourth quarter, and Central held off Marengo 64-57 to win the championship of the Second Annual MLK Classic on Rocket Hill.
"That was about as close to a complete game as we've played in a while," said BC coach Brett Porto of the Rockets' second-straight title in their own tournament.
Tied at 15 late in the first quarter, senior Emmanuel Wells hit a 3-pointer with 51 seconds left in the frame that put the Rockets (16-1) ahead for good. But even though they opened up as much as a 13-point lead in the second quarter there were some anxious moments.
Marengo (14-4) closed the gap to 34-28 by halftime as the Indians went on an 8-1 run in the final 3:27 of the second quarter.
But Marengo stayed close and even got to within one, 47-46, with 5:26 left in the game, but Central never allowed Marengo to tie the game or take the lead.
The Indians did make it a 57-53 game on a 3-pointer from the right corner by senior Connor Wascher with 1:35 to play but the Rockets were able to make enough free throws down the stretch to hold off their Kishwaukee River Conference rivals, who they host again on Friday night with first place in the league on the line.
BC was 10 of 16 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter including 4 of 7 from senior Ta Vontae Harris (13 points), 4 of 4 from Wells (9 points) and 2 of 2 from Kalusa.
"The third quarter has been our death trap in this tournament," said Kalusa. "We lose our composure. We slowed it down and that helped (Marengo) but we were able to close out the game."
Central had a decent night shooting, going 22 of 47 but Marengo won the rebound battle 33-26 and the Indians, who were 23 of 59 shooting, scored 12 points on putbacks of their own missed shots.
"We have to box out and rebound always," said Porto. "We have to attack the glass better. We did just enough with our free throws to keep them at bay."
The Rockets also played stellar defense for most of the night, and they controlled the basketball on the offensive end. Marengo committed 13 turnovers to Central's 6.
"Coach always says defense creates offense and when we're playing good defense we're at our best," Kalusa said.
Added Porto: "We really needed to guard the ball well today and I thought we did that. We could have executed a little better at the end of the half and we had another little stretch in the third quarter but other than that, pretty happy.
"It means a lot to me to win this tournament two straight years, it means a lot to the kids and hopefully it means a lot to the community."
Joey Ratzek added 13 points and 7 rebounds for the Rockets while Zach Schutta had 8 points and 5 rebounds.
Senior standout Mike Volkening, who recently joined the 1,000-point club, led Marengo with a game-high 22 points while Alex Schirmer added 16 and Wascher 10 for the Indians.
Now it's on to Friday night's KRC battle.
"I expect it to be a similar type of game," Porto said. "We'll look at the film and make some adjustments. It'll be different. I've never had that, playing the same team twice in four days."
Elgin 70, Hampshire 57: In the fifth-place game the Maroons (11-8) got 23 points from Tim Wolf and 22 from Courtese Cooper to beat Hampshire. Dan Toolsie added 15 points for Elgin while Frederick Powell led Hampshire with 15. J.D. Shaw added 12 for the Whip-Purs (4-13) and Willian Dumoulin had 11.
Wheaton Academy 59, Kaneland 47: Dan Franck led Kaneland (4-14) with 14 points in the seventh-place game. The Knights, who have lost 8 in a row, played without injured leading scorer Blake Feiza.