Neuqua Valley's fast start too much for Burlington Central
Often when a basketball team runs out to a big early lead, it has to buckle up and hang on tight when the opponent wakes up.
That was not Neuqua Valley's problem Tuesday night in the opening round of the 13th annual Montini Catholic girls basketball Christmas tournament.
The Wildcats used a 13-2 run to start the game, which bled into a 14-0 spurt that lasted though the middle of the second quarter. Burlington Central pulled to within 8 early in the fourth quarter, but Neuqua Valley erased that with a 10-2 run that allowed it to prevail 55-40.
Juniors Caitlin Washington (24 points, 5 rebounds) and Kylee Norkus (19 points, 7 rebounds) did most of the damage for the Wildcats this night. Senior Page Erickson exploded for 13 points in the third quarter en route to 20 to pace Burlington Central.
What was working in the early stages of the game for Neuqua Valley (10-5)?
"I felt like we were very confident," Norkus said. "We weren't forcing a lot of shots. We were taking a lot of good shots and our turnovers weren't really there the first quarter."
Added Washington: "It was intensity for sure for us. I think we were moving the ball on the offense, making the right play and making the extra pass."
Norkus was a one-person wrecking crew in the first quarter, scoring 7, including a 3-pointer from the left corner near its conclusion. She would add 6 more in the second quarter to stake the Wildcats to a 28-16 halftime lead.
Then Washington, who had a relatively pedestrian first half, got going in the second with 3-pointers at 7:48 and 16.9 seconds. That sandwiched a pair of layups in the lane.
But the counter to Washington was Rockets' senior Erickson, who scored 13 of her team's 16 points in the third quarter. That included a 3-pointer at 5:52 and a pair of three-point plays in the last 2:31. Suddenly, Burlington Central was down just 42-32.
"I think it started on the defensive end, getting stops and our coach always talks about defense leads to offense," Erickson said of her team's bounce back in the third quarter.
No loss is fun, but Erickson's coach, Collin Kalamatas, enjoyed watching his star do her thing.
"Page has that potential to really light it up on the scoreboard," he said. "When she's locked in and she's aggressive on the hoop like she was today, it really opens her game up."
In fact, the Rockets (7-5) pushed the deficit to 8 early in the fourth quarter, but that was when Washington got busy. Her 3-pointer from the left corner at 6:28 sparked a 10-2 run and Neuqua Valley never looked back.
"Caitlin is a great story because she's come into this year mature, she's handled the situation perfectly and she's trying to get everyone involved," Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams said.
Senior Paige Greenhagel added 5 points, 4 rebounds and 2 blocks for Burlington Central. Freshman Nalia Clifford added 10 points for Neuqua Valley.