Balanced Burlington Central wins rubber match over Johnsburg
Tell Johnsburg coach Mike Toussaint his team would hold Patrick Mayfield to 12 points -- nearly 15 below his average -- in Tuesday's Class 3A Marengo sectional semifinal and he'd be pretty confident his Skyhawks would be moving on.
That's just what Johnsburg did. Perhaps it would have worked earlier in the season, but Burlington Central is peaking at the right time, getting contributions up and down its lineup, and the Rockets used their team effort to turn back Johnsburg's pair of brilliant individual efforts.
Junior Josh Hudgens scored a career-high 22 points, senior Braden Seyller also scored 22 and junior Jake Lenschow tallied 16 giving the Rockets four in double figures in a 77-67 victory.
It was quite a contrast to Johnsburg whose Zach Toussaint and Jonathan Preston poured in 33 and 28 points, respectively, accounting for 61 of their team's 67 points.
"In the beginning (of the season) we struggled but we just had to come together as a team more, move the ball more, trust each other," Hudgens said. "We just want to do what we can do get the win. Anything to help the team get the win."
Burlington Central (26-8) advances to Friday's sectional final to face the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between Glenbard South (23-6) and Woodstock North (17-14).
The Rockets, looking for their first sectional championship, also reached the Sweet 16 last year before losing to Boylan 57-55.
"Chance to make history," Seyller said. "No team has ever done it. We're excited. We can do it."
Mayfield came into the game averaging 26.6 points per game. He scored 6 points in each half while finding open teammates much of the night.
"His passing ability is really good," Seyller said. "That's what's helping us right now. He doesn't have to do all the scoring. When he passes the ball it helps us and makes us a lot more dangerous."
Johnsburg (20-13), who also lost to Burlington Central in last year's sectional semifinal and split with the Rockets in the regular season, came out hot in a high-scoring, back-and-forth first quarter. Toussaint scored 10 points, but the Rockets took a 19-18 lead into the second quarter on Hudgens' inside bucket.
After trading the lead five times in the opening quarter, Burlington Central never trailed again, opening the second quarter on a 16-2 run that included a pair of Seyller 3s to lead 35-20.
Johnsburg trimmed that 15-point deficit to as close as 43-40 late in the third quarter before another Seyller 3-pointer with just 2.6 seconds left gave the Rockets a boost going to the fourth.
They then scored 31 fourth quarter points, including a stretch of 15 for 15 shooting from the foul line. They needed almost all those free throws to overcome some incredible shot making by Preston and especially Toussaint. The duo combined for all 27 of their team's fourth quarter points including some NBA-range 3s from Toussaint, the 2,000-point career scorer playing his final high school game.
"There's no defense for that," Rockets coach Brett Porto said of Toussaint.
"We've really improved. In the last three weeks kids have really bought in. You can definitely see it on the court. For Pat to be at 12 points he played a brilliant game and guys really stepped up. Just a really complete team victory."
The Rockets committed only 8 turnovers, made 18 of 20 free throws and dominated Johnsburg on the glass, 40-16. Mayfield led with 11 rebounds, Zac Schmidt grabbed 9, Hudgens and Seyller both had 6 and Lenschow 5.
"We got beat up," Mike Toussaint said. "Rebounding was one of our top keys and we didn't rebound very well. And I thought they got to every 50-50 ball. Their guys all stepped up.
"It's been our mantra all year, all grit and no quit. It's been fun. I know he's (Zach Toussaint) my nephew, I got to watch one of the best players in the state play for three years. But it was never about him. He could care less (about individual accolades)."