Burlington Central tips Sycamore in matchup of top 3A teams
There's a chance Burlington Central and Sycamore could meet again in a couple weeks in the Class 3A Rochelle sectional.
Fans can only hope it's as exciting as Saturday's matchup on Burlington Central's third annual Orange for Lisa game.
The Rockets built a 17-point lead in the third quarter only to watch Sycamore erase the deficit behind Iowa State bound junior Kylie Feuerbach.
Burlington Central regrouped in the final minutes led by reserve Gracie Ozburn who scored the final 6 points and made a game-clinching steal on Feuerbach for a 52-48 victory.
"That was the Gracie Ozburn game right there," Rockets coach Mark Smith said.
With most of the crowd in orange to honor Lisa Pryor, who helped start and run the Burlington Blast feeder program before passing away from cancer in 2016, Burlington Central (18-7) got off to a great start.
Leading scorer Kathryn Schmidt, playing her first game since injuring her knee Dec. 20, entered the game midway through the first quarter. The 52-percent 3-point shooter promptly buried her first 3 for a 10-5 lead.
Sophomore Avery Andersen capped a 12-2 run spanning the first and second quarters with a 3-pointer of her own to make it 24-14. Moments later Anderson drew the third foul on Feuerbach and sank 2 free throws as Burlington Central went to halftime up 31-22.
The Rockets scored the first 8 points of the third quarter -- including a Reili Gardner putback and Elana Wells 3 -- to open their biggest spread at 39-22.
"We dug ourselves too big of a hole in the first half and that was kind of the difference in the game," Sycamore coach Adam Wickness said. "I tip my hat to them. It's a good team and they came out ready to go. We came out a little flat."
Sycamore (17-7) rallied, outscoring the Rockets 22-5 to tie the game at 44 with 3:29 remaining on one of Feuerbach's four 3-pointers. Burlington Central hurt itself with 7 turnovers in the fourth quarter, struggling with the Spartans' pressure and traps.
"They trapped us hard and they trapped us hard with a 6-footer (Feuerbach) with 6-foot-6 arms," Smith said. "She's a great anticipator. You have to give them credit, they completely turned the momentum around. We made some silly turnovers and then it's a ballgame."
The Spartans missed on a chance to go ahead, and Wells put the Rockets back on top 46-44 with 2:45 remaining on a hard drive. After the Spartans split free throws, Ozburn scored twice for a 50-45 lead with 1:43 left.
Feuerbach again kept Sycamore alive with a 3 to make it 50-48 with 51 seconds to go. After a wild sequence when the Rockets threw the ball away, Wells came up with a steal but missed a breakaway lineup, and the Spartans missed a layup coming back the other way, Schmidt was fouled with 10 seconds to go and the Rockets still up 2.
The junior missed and the rebound went out of bounds to Sycamore. The Spartans inbounded to their star, but she stumbled and lost control while guarded by Wells and Ozburn, and Ozburn picked up the loose ball under the basket and laid it in as the final seconds ticked off.
"I kind of stepped in the way," said Ozburn, who transferred back to Burlington Central this year after playing the past two seasons at Harvest Christian. "I just didn't want her to get past half court. We had to help a lot and double her. It was a big win."
"I guess she didn't see 15 (Ozburn) there and feet got tangled up and it was incidental," Wickness said. "Probably not going to get that call from the referee at that point of the game."
Feuerbach missed the final three minutes of the first half with three fouls, sat out briefly in the third quarter and picked up her fourth foul with 6:42 remaining, yet still finished with 25 points and 7 rebounds.
"We had a hard time stoping No. 10 (Feuerbach)," Smith said. "She's just a great player. We got some lucky calls against her on the fouls."
"She played great down the stretch," Wickness said.
Burlington Central was much more balanced. Ozburn scored 10 points joining Wells (15 points) and Andersen (11) in double figures. Schmidt scored 7 as the Rockets are suddenly a much deeper team.
"She (Schmidt) said she felt fine after the game. She's going to help a lot," said Smith.
"One bad play, two good ones. We did enough to win. Obviously we turned the ball over too much. We could have wilted and we came up with two buckets to win. I thought that was a good sign for us. We've lost some close games to good teams."