Burlington Central wins FVC tournament
In the waning minutes, with a championship trophy waiting, Steven Langtim exited the court for the final time as a Burlington Central Rocket.
Langtim, the lone senior on a 16-1 team -- undefeated in conference -- walked off to applause and a standing ovation.
Minutes later, he stood with his teammates celebrating with the Fox Valley Conference championship trophy cradling in his arms following a convincing 64-35 victory over Cary-Grove on Saturday.
"It was memorable," Langtim said, reflecting on his final moments in a Central uniform. "It's hard to describe the feeling."
Langtim only spent two years on varsity but grinded through the program levels to get there.
"Some of these guys have been playing on varsity longer than I have," Langtim said. "They're just as much of a senior as I am. Especially, [in these] times, you don't know how long we've got together ... I treated them like seniors; they showed me some great respect this year. It was a lot of fun."
The stat sheet from Saturday's win might only reflect his 4 points and 3 rebounds, but Langtim's impact goes well beyond what occurred on the court -- even months before the very last game.
"I think he was paramount [to] this team like when we weren't together," Burlington Central coach Brett Porto said. "His camaraderie with his teammates; I think his work ethic is part of what bonded this team together, too.
"Just him embracing that: You don't always get a time to be on your home court to finish a year out with a win and bring a senior off the court like that. Hopefully, it's a memory that he enjoys for the rest of his life."
Rockets junior Gavin Sarvis, who dominated with 18 points, has been friends with Langtim since childhood.
"We've always been together," Sarvis said. "For him, we came out here to get this [title] for him. Because we know he's the only senior and he deserves this."
The Rockets took a 28-22 lead at the half. Cary-Grove forward Drew Talkington hit a 3-pointer early in the third quarter, but the Rockets exploded on a 22-4 run the final six minutes of the quarter to break the game wide open.
With just a few minutes left in the fourth quarter, both teams emptied the benches for the final few possessions of an unprecedented preps basketball season.
"I felt like we had some good looks, but realistically, it was defensively. We just couldn't stop them," Trojans coach Adam McCloud said on the difficult third quarter. "They are really well-coached, and it's one of the most athletic teams I've ever seen in the conference. The fact they're mostly juniors, it's pretty incredible. They have an opportunity to be a team that makes a run at state next year."
Cary-Grove (9-4) won a regional title and was set to face off for a sectional final against St. Charles North last season before the pandemic halted the postseason. One year later, it was right in the mix for a conference title.
"Our guys, can't say enough about them," McCloud said. "To lose what we had last year and then to come back to compete for a title, it just says a lot about our kids and a lot about our program. Obviously, it's now how you want to go out, but the better team won today."
C-G was paced by Talkington's 11 points and 4 rebounds, while Mike Clarke followed with 9 points. Ryan Weaver had 6 points.
The Rockets' all-around team effort was on full display. Nick Carpenter battled for 17 points and 7 rebounds. Zac Schmidt had 8 points and 6 rebounds, while Carson Seyller and Trestan Wagner each added 4 points, and Matthew Lemon had 2 points and 4 rebounds.
"We did [save our best for last]," Langtim said. "They're freak athletes: Nick's very reliable, Gavin has done the same all year, Carson ... every one of these guys: one through 10, they've all been there for us."