Huntley edges Burlington Central to take FVC lead
Players from both Huntley and Burlington Central knew what was at stake in their Saturday afternoon matchup.
Whoever fought off the last push from the other team would end the day at the top of the Fox Valley Conference standings with two weeks left to go in the season.
The Red Raiders and Rockets exchanged runs for much of the game, but Huntley used the biggest of the game and one last stop at the end to claw away with a 52-49 win.
"I'm just proud of our kids for their effort on both ends of the floor," Huntley coach Steve Raethz said. "A lot of different kids stepped up at different points of the game, made some big plays."
Huntley (15-6, 11-1 FVC) led 37-27 heading into the fourth quarter before Burlington Central went on an 11-5 run to make it a 42-38 with 4:53 left in the game. The two teams exchanged points until the Rockets' Taylor Charles made a free throw to make it a 50-47 with over a minute left.
Burlington Central got the ball back and had a chance to tie the game with: 14.7 left in the game but the Rockets missed a three-point attempt and Samantha Origel made a layup to make it 50-49 with over a second left. The Rockets fouled and Jessica Ozzauto made two free throws.
Jori Heard and Samantha Campanelli both scored 13 points while Ozzauto added 10. Anna Campanelli tallied 9 points while Morgan McCaughn scored 7.
Raethz knew Burlington Central players would have one last push and was proud of the way his players responded in the final minutes of a playoff-like game.
"It was one of those things where it was a game of runs tonight," Raethz said. "It was who could sustain runs the longest and who could stop some of the runs on the defensive end." Burlington Central (16-8, 10-2 FVC) started the game by making four 3-pointers and running out to a 14-9 lead with over three minutes left in the first quarter, but the Rockets didn't score again until Charles made a free throw with 1:23 left in the second quarter.
Huntley went on a 17-0 run during that drought to take control of the game. The Red Raiders played physical defense and closed the driving lanes for the Rockets, forcing Burlington Central to hold onto the ball instead of moving it around like they had earlier in the game.
The Red Raiders' defensive intensity has been the team's strong suit all season and once again led to an offensive outpour.
"We work really hard on our defense and the offense will come," Heard said. "If we work really hard together and get a stop, then our offense can come."
Charles led the Rockets with 15 points while Rylie DuVal added 12 points. Rebecca Carani finished in double figures with 11 points and Origel had 7.
Burlington Central coach Collin Kalamatas was proud of the way his players battled back in the game but didn't think the Rockets matched the Red Raiders' intensity until it was too late, something he hopes they can learn down the stretch before the playoffs begin.
"I'm really happy with the fight that we showed," Kalamatas said. "It's the two best teams in the conference duking it out. The good part is we get another crack at it in about a week and a half to see them again."
Burlington Central will host Prairie Ridge on Monday night while Huntley will travel to Hampshire. The two teams will meet again on Feb. 7 where the stakes might be even higher than they were on Saturday, but for now, both teams are just focused on the next upcoming games.
"There's a long way to go, there's six games left, anything can happen here down the stretch," Raethz said. "We need to continue to take each and every game and do our best. Hopefully we'll end up where we need to be."