Sycamore shoots past Burlington Central
When deciding how to defend Sycamore Tuesday night in the Class 3A Hampshire sectional semifinals, Burlington Central coach Collin Kalamatas called it a case of picking your poison.
The Rockets decided to do all they could to keep Iowa State-bound senior Kylie Feuerbach from slicing through the lane. Unfortunately that meant giving up open outside looks to players like Feuerbach's younger sister Faith.
Sycamore made eight 3-pointers in the game, four from Faith Feuerbach. Three of the 3s came early in the second half as the Spartans quickly turned a tight 3-point halftime lead into a 15-point margin.
Burlington Central battled to the end, getting as close as two in a frantic fourth quarter rally, but fell 66-59 in front of a loud and large turnout from both schools.
"We tried to focus on taking away Kylie's rim shots and give them credit, they have a ton of girls who hit a ton of shots," Kalamatas said. "End of the day that's what the game is all about. We just weren't sharp enough getting back on their shooters."
Sycamore (27-6) will play Montini for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Thursday.
Burlington Central senior Kat Schmidt led all scorers with 29 points including 11 in the fourth quarter. She also grabbed a game-high 11 rebounds.
"They were hitting a lot of shots, they definitely played really hard, I'm just so proud of how we played to come back from a 15-point deficit and just keep playing," said Schmidt, who will play at Lewis University next year after finishing her high school career as the school's all-time leading scorer. "They just have so many weapons. I'm just proud of my team working hard to the very last second."
Schmidt capped a wild, fast-paced first quarter with constant end-to-end action with a 3-pointer just before the buzzer for a 17-15 lead.
That turned out to be the last lead for Burlington Central (29-5). The Rockets hit just 3-of-15 shots in the second quarter to fall behind 27-24 at halftime.
"I think first half we were settling for contested 3s and out of rhythm 3s," Kalamatas said. "That was one thing we focused on at halftime and we got the ball to Kat in some great spots and Elana (Wells) got it going there in the fourth. Tonight was the defensive end that bit us in the back side."
Sycamore's 25-point third quarter put the Spartans up 52-42, and they led 57-45 with six minutes remaining. But the Rockets had a run left in them, starting with a Schmidt score inside and then her 3-point play in transition.
Wells drove for a basket and Schmidt buried a 3-pointer from the top of the key to complete a 10-0 run and make it a 57-55 game with 2:41 remaining.
That's as close as the Rockets got. Kylie Feuerbach's spin move for a lay-in restored a two-possession lead, and the Rockets also gave up three straight offensive rebounds on missed Sycamore free throws in the final two minutes that led to a pair of putback baskets by Feuerbach.
"When things got a little iffy there in the fourth quarter, she's the one who came up with some big plays, some big rebounds, nice putbacks. That's what we want and expect," Spartans coach Adam Wickness said.
"A good team like Burlington is going to go on runs. you know that. That's (offensive rebounding on missed free throws) something we stress the whole time. We knew there were a couple people on their team who didn't box out every time so we tried to take advantage of that."
Feuerbach finished with 20 points, 9 rebounds, 5 steals, 4 assists and 2 blocked shots. She also guarded Wells most of the game.
"I liked the defensive pressure when coach puts it on me, I like to guard those types of players," Feuerbach said. "We knew it was going to be a big game. They really gave us a run for our money. We have a really good team and so do they." Ella Shipley (13 points), Faith Feuerbach (13) and Faith Klemm (10) also scored in double figures while Schmidt and Wells (21 points) combined for 50 of Central's 59.
Schmidt scored 1,697 points at Burlington Central, more than any boy or girl. Though with one year remaining, Wells is going to make her own run at that record next year.
"She (Schmidt) knew it was do-or-die time and she's a special player," Kalamatas said.
In addition to Schmidt, the Rockets graduate seniors Lilly Moretti, Maddy Menke, Reili Gardner, Zoey Kollhoff and Alexandra Lichner. The group led Central to a second-place finish in their first season in the Fox Valley Conference and their first regional title since 2016.
"Our girls had a lot of heart to come back from down 15 to get back in it," Kalamatas said. "It's just a really special group. This is such a fun group of girls to be around. The disappointing thing isn't the loss, and I consider myself a pretty competitive person, it's just we aren't going to have more time together. I was looking forward to making a run and a couple more weeks with these kids."