Burlington Central bests two FVC rivals to take 5th at DeKalb
Elana Wells made the most of her second chance Monday at DeKalb's MLK Tournament.
With Burlington Central clinging to a 2-point lead over Huntley with 14 seconds to go in the fifth-place game, Wells misfired on a 1-and-1.
But before the Red Raiders could get up court for a potential tying or game-winning shot, Wells stole the ball and was fouled again. This time she made both free throws to seal a 55-51 come-from-behind win -- the Rockets' second over a fellow Fox Valley Conference school in about five hours.
"It's always frustrating to miss free throws when it's crucial timing like that but I was glad I could knock down those two free throws," Wells said.
Burlington Central (18-4), who avenged a loss to Dundee-Crown earlier in the day, trailed 47-41 late in the third quarter.
Sophomore Rylie DuVal gave the team a spark with a 3-pointer just before the third quarter buzzer. Kat Schmidt and Wells scored on drives to trim Huntley's lead to 49-48.
Maddie Menke hustled for an offensive rebound to keep a possession alive that led to a Wells free throw and a 49-49 tie with 3:20 remaining. After Reili Gardner drew a charge, she also made a play on the other end by slashing through the lane for her only basket of the game and a 51-49 lead with 2:26 left.
Huntley (12-10), who scored only 4 points in the fourth quarter after reaching 14, 18 and 15 in the first three, couldn't get a shot to drop down the stretch.
"Beating Huntley, they are a great defensive team, we were able to fight back," Wells said. "I think it was good for us going into the second half of our conference."
Early in the first quarter, Huntley junior Kasmi Nwogu made a strong move to her left and scored inside, giving her 1,000 points -- the sixth to do so in school history. Red Raiders coach Steve Raethz called timeout as Red Raiders fans held up a 1,000 sign.
"It was really exciting," Nwogu said. "It was kind of overwhelming. My teammates have been helping me and getting me open for looks and I wouldn't have been able to do it without them."
Both teams were hot early. The Rockets led 35-32 at halftime before Huntley responded with an 8-0 run to start the third quarter.
The Red Raiders made 20 of 31 shots through three quarters, then hit just 1 of 8 in the fourth. Freshman Carly Faulkner (18 points), Nwogu (13) and Raquel Radermacher (11 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals) all scored in double figures.
"We gave up too many points in the first half," Raethz said. "That's not typical of us. I thought our kids made some nice adjustments coming out of halftime. We had some opportunities down the stretch on both ends."
Wells, who was joined on the all-tournament team by Faulkner, led the Rockets in scoring with 21 points, Schmidt had 11 and Lily Moretti 9.
Burlington Central started its day with a convincing 57-41 win over Dundee-Crown, the same team the Rockets are chasing in the FVC who defeated them 56-44 on Dec. 10.
It was a different story in DeKalb's field house. Up 7-6 late in the first quarter, Wells nailed a 3-pointer, then Schmidt sank 2 free throws for a 12-8 lead after one quarter -- and the lead kept growing from there.
Ahead 19-14 midway through the second quarter, sophomore Rebecca Carani made a 3, Wells scored on a layup, then she assisted Schmidt for a corner 3 before Schmidt returned the favor with a pass to Wells for another 3 and an 11-0 run that broke the game open. Burlington Central led 32-16 at halftime and by at least 15 points the entire second half.
"We're a different team from a month ago," Rockets coach Collin Kalamatas said. "We reminded the girls Maddie Menke left that game early in the second quarter, Kat Schmidt was maybe 3 or 4 games into her season at that point. We've kind of evolved a little bit offensively and we made some defensive adjustments this time around focusing more on taking away the paint. Really make it difficult on (Alyssa) Crenshaw to get clean looks. Girls did a great job."
Dundee-Crown (17-5), who later defeated Lincoln-Way Central 58-36 in the seventh place game, cut a 21-point deficit after three quarters to 50-35 when Cassidy Randl made three free throws but drew no closer.
Katelyn Skibinski led the Chargers with 11 points while Wells had 18 and Schmidt10.
"I just didn't like our energy from the start," Chargers coach Sarah Miller said. "I was concerned how we even warmed up this morning. Credit to them (Central). They came out really wanting to play and we came out and gave them momentum from the start.
"We still have a lot of goals we can meet. Just didn't come out in this tournament the way we wanted."
Huntley won its first game Monday 33-30 over Lincoln-Way Central despite scoring only 2 points in the fourth quarter.
The Red Raiders made two key stops in the final minute to protect the slim lead, the first with a steal by Radermacher and the second solid team defense that didn't allow a game-tying 3 attempt in the closing seconds.
"Our kids really overcame some adversity down the stretch," Raethz said. "The last two stops were awesome. Our kids stayed home on their good 3-point shooters and came up with a great stop at the end of the game."