Defense helps Burlington Central pull away
The streaking Burlington Central boys basketball team turned a 4-point halftime lead at Richmond-Burton into a 30-point blowout by upping the defensive intensity in the second half Thursday.
The Kishwaukee River Conference leaders strengthened their grip on first place and extended their winning streak to 18 by outscoring R-B 49-23 over the final two quarters to win 84-54.
"At halftime we had a talk because our coach told us that's not our style of basketball," said 6-foot-4 Central junior Patrick Mayfield, who led the Rockets with 4 steals and 23 points on 9-of-17 shooting. "We came out with a ton of fire and we just gave it to them."
Senior guard Zach Schutta scored 18 points to surpass 1,500 in his four-year career. He now has 1,501 points in four varsity seasons and is 21 points behind school record holder Ray Hunnicutt's 1,522, a mark set in 2012.
But second-half defense propelled Central (21-2, 8-0) to the road win after coach Brett Porto said he saw some questionable defense from his team in the first half, like not sprinting, not talking enough on defense, not getting hands in faces, among other things.
His players caused 12 of Richmond-Burton's 28 turnovers in the second half.
"We had a few more hands in faces, we had a little more ball pressure and then we really kind of started pushing them off spots," Porto said. "That threw them off in the second half."
Central senior Michael Kalusa finished with 14 points, 8 of which came on breakaways off turnovers, two off his own steals.
"We were just kind of going through the motions," Kalusa said of the first half. "Coach kind of said 'hey, pick it up,' and we kind of did. And you can see the results."
Richmond-Burton coach Brandon Creason said his team was fortunate to be within striking distance at halftime considering its 16 first-half turnovers, which negated a slight rebounding advantage.
"I felt like the first half we were just hanging on," Creason said. "I never felt like we had real good control. They sped us up and forced into, I don't know, 400 turnovers it felt like. I don't know how many we had but it feels like near 400. I think if we played them 10 times, I don't think we'd beat them once. They're better than us."
Junior Jeffrey Jankowski Jr scored 14 points, senior Shane Byrne finished with 10 points and senior Mark Marzahl had 9 for Richmond-Burton (12-12, 4-3).