Burlington Central cruises into Plano semifinals
The defending Plano Christmas Classic champions and 2022 top seed looked every bit as good as advertised in Wednesday night's curtain-dropper in Reaper Gymnasium.
Burlington Central built a double-digit advantage less than three minutes in and never looked back en route to a 72-36 doubling-up of the Streator Bulldogs. Led by 6-foot, 9-inch senior Andrew Scharnowski's game-best 19-point effort -- 17 of those scored in the first half as the Rockets crafted a 35-point lead by the break -- Central moved on to an 8:30 p.m. Thursday semifinal matchup with Peoria Notre Dame.
"Coming in, we are the champs here," Scharnowski said, "but every day we come in, we're humble and we're ready to work, and I can appreciate that. We've got a lot of young guys, and they're all willing to give their best effort.
"We showed that today."
Scharnowski and the Rockets (9-3) simply played at a higher -- and faster -- level than the Bulldogs (7-6), fueled by a defensive press that created 10 Streator turnovers in the first quarter alone and ultimately 18 in the first half and 26 for the game.
"[It's just] crazy ball pressure, people flying all over the place, recovering, getting blocks, taking charges," Scharnowski said. "It's just energy, and it really helps, because it gets us going on offense."
"The speed at which they play … they make it seem like there's six of them out there," Streator coach Beau Doty said. "It looks like that on film from the top row of the bleachers. I can only imagine for our kids what it looks like."
On the other end, Burlington Central had little trouble cashing in on those extra possessions and transition opportunities. The Rockets shot 51.7% (31 of 60) from the field led by Scharnowski's 19 points, six rebounds, five assists and four steals; 13 points apiece courtesy of Nicholas Gouriotis and Myles Lowe (three steals); and a 10-point night from Jake Johnson.
The Burlington Central lead was never challenged even after Rockets coach Brett Porto pulled his starters up 40-plus two and a half minutes into the third quarter.
Streator found some small successes, led by physical point guard Christian Benning's 11 points and six off the bench from Cade Peterson, but never recovered from committing seven turnovers on its opening eight possessions, including a shot-clock violation. Zander McCloskey came off the bench to lead the team in rebounds with four.
For the game, the Bulldogs -- who face Northridge Prep in the fifth-place bracket Thursday at 5:30 p.m. -- shot 36.1% (13 of 36).
"You've got to have that mental preparation with every single practice, every single rep," Doty said. "They all matter. They all add up when you play against a team like this with the speed at which they play. Because [Burlington Central] is a 3A team, and we're a 3A team.
"This is the type of quickness Peoria Notre Dame and the Washingtons of the world, who are in our regional, play at. If we want to get where we want to get -- compete and have a chance to win a regional championship at a 3A level -- these are the types of teams we'll have to beat. That's why we're here, to play that competition."