Burlington Central's defense stymies Richmond-Burton
If it's the month of the December for the Burlington Central boys basketball team, then it's no surprise the Rockets returned to action Friday after some significant downtime.
But the nine-day layoff turned out just fine for Central, and while the offense struggled at times during the Rockets' 76-59 Kishwaukee River win over Richmond-Burton on Rocket Hill, it was business as usual on the defensive side.
The host Rockets (5-2, 1-0) tormented R-B's Rockets throughout, forcing 22 turnovers. Central's swarming pressure scored 19 points off R-B's turnovers and the Rockets owned the rebound battle 37-24, which offset a night where BC made just 14 of its 42 shot attempts in the first half and had 8 first quarter fouls.
"I think we're at least used to the long layoffs in December," said Rockets' coach Brett Porto, whose team won its second-straight and finished with a 46.5 percent shot clip after a 20-for-31 showing in the second half. "We started forcing a few jumpers and we always want to make our defense a part of our offense and make life difficult on an opponent and for the most part I thought we did that."
Dejsani Beamon, Zach Schutta, Patrick Mayfield and Justin Kalusa each gave a different challenge to Richmond-Burton, as Schutta led the way with 21 points to go with his 2 steals and 9 rebounds, including 7 offensive boards where the senior couldn't be stopped.
Mayfield (6 rebounds) and Kalusa (4 steals) were electric on the perimeter, totaling 19 points each as both went 8 of 16 from the field. Beamon posted an all-around game with 7 points, 6 assists and 3 rebounds.
But Beamon, Mayfield and Kalusa accounted for 14 of the team's 19 steals as Beamon and Mayfield each totaled 5 and the steal machine kept coming up 7s in third quarter where BC really decided matters.
After R-B cut it to 9 going into half, Kalusa nailed a 3 off a steal to begin the third and Mayfield found Schutta off a turnover for a layup with 4:55 left that capped a 12-4 run and a 43-26 BC lead. Eventually Central pushed it to 21 as BC outscored R-B 27-16 in the third, shooting 12 of 16 thanks to what it did on defense, forcing 5 turnovers.
"We play tough so much that it just wears them down," Beamon said of BC's defensive pressure. "After every halftime we say it's zero-zero. And we come back out with the same intensity and keep playing the way we know we're supposed to play. Our defense bails us out a lot of times like tonight."
It also helped that Mayfield scored 12 points in the third while Kalusa knocked down 2 of his 3 shots from deep. Schutta also scored 6 points in the quarter, but his damage on second chance efforts in the first half accounted for the little things BC needed to do to stay in front during the second quarter. Central turned the ball over 3 times and hit a wall shooting 5-for-22, which allowed R-B to creep within 5 at one point and forced a halftime talk to get things straightened out.
"Coach definitely preaches the little things, offensive rebounds are always important," said Schutta, who helped BC to 34 points in the paint and 15 layups. "But when we went into the locker room, we knew we had to come out (second half) and show up."
Which proved costly for R-B (4-4, 0-1), which couldn't match BC's third quarter intensity. Richmond was led by Mark Marzhal's 16 points while Luke Uhwat had 12 points and 7 rebounds. Shane Bynre added 11 points and 4 rebounds. R-B shot 20-for-38 for 52.6 percent but it didn't capitalize on its 30 free throw attempts, cashing in on just 16.