Marengo hands Burlington Central 1st conference loss
All the success Burlington Central has enjoyed in the Kishwaukee River Conference has created something of a target on the Rockets' back.
Marengo took aim Friday night and picked Burlington Central off, shooting 53 percent from the field in a 68-52 win.
"Burlington has kind of been the measuring stick in this conference for a long time," Marengo coach Nick Rode said. "We've been working the last couple years to get up to a spot we can be competitive with them. It's really nice for this group to get the final conference game against them here on their court."
Marengo (18-5, 7-1) pulled even in the loss column with the Rockets (15-6, 8-1). It will take an upset down the stretch for the teams not to share the conference crown before Burlington Central moves to the Fox Valley Conference next season.
Seniors Marissa Knobloch and Hannah Ritter excelled for Marengo in opposite but equally impressive ways Friday -- the former with a game-high 27 points and the later with a near triple double of 9 rebounds, 9 assists and 8 blocked shots.
"We're rivals and they don't like us and we don't like them," Knobloch said. "It just feels great to get the W. We always have super competitive games with each other."
Burlington Central defeated Marengo 50-45 in the first meeting. But the Rockets had junior Kathryn Schmidt in that game, and their leading scorer missed her seventh straight game Friday and 10th of the season.
Schmidt hasn't played since injuring her knee Dec. 20 against Dundee-Crown. Coach Mark Smith said he hopes she will be back soon.
"We have played well without her but that was not a performance we usually exhibit out there tonight," Smith said.
"We were out of sync defensively. You have to give Marengo credit. We had a lot of breakdowns."
Elana Wells and Lilly Moretti did their best to pick up the slack early on, each scoring 8 points in the first quarter to combine for all 16 of the team's points.
But the Rockets still trailed 17-16 after one quarter when the Indians burned them on a backdoor cut in the closing seconds.
The Rockets also didn't close the second quarter well, giving up a putback bucket that became a 3-point play and a 37-28 halftime deficit.
Burlington Central never got closer than 39-33 in the second half when Moretti sank one of her three 3-pointers. A Wells drive brought the Rockets within 58-49 with 2:26 remaining before the Indians closed the game on a 10-3 run.
While Wells sliced through the lane on several drives to the basket and floaters, scoring 13 points in the first half and 21 in the game, the Rockets couldn't slow Knobloch. The senior guard hit all 10 of her free throws and several long-range 3s.
Ritter also picked the Rockets apart with her passing on the offensive end while turning away one shot after another defensively near the basket.
"It's one game, we are tied for first in the conference still. But definitely disappointing," Smith said. "Not what we wanted. They were crisp offensively and we weren't. I thought Marengo looked like a well-oiled machine."
Moretti finished with 11 points, Avery Andersen came off the bench to hit three 3-pointers and score 9 points, and Zoey Kollhoff had 7 rebounds and 3 steals.