Burlington Central pulls away from Neuqua Valley in 2nd half for 9th straight win
The defensive intensity and offensive execution Nolan Milas exhibited wasn't overlooked by Burlington Central coach Brett Porto.
The senior Rocket guard proved to be a spark during Central's 68-54 victory over Neuqua Valley on the second day of Central's MLK Tournament on Saturday and snapped the Wildcats' four-game winning streak.
The Rockets improved to 16-3 and advance to the championship game of the tournament at 2 p.m. Monday against Lyons Township -- the same team that beat Burlington Central in last year's title game.
Following a dunk from Drew Scharnowski, Milas followed with a layup, a defensive rebound the ensuing possession and sank a 3-pointer to put Burlington Central up 10 within the final minute of the third quarter.
"It did not go unnoticed," Porto said of Milas' mini run. "We do a little thing in [the locker room where] whoever our player of the game is, and it could be for a lot of reasons, they get to hang a sticker up that we have on our stat board and it was Nolan Milas today. It was a huge swing.
"He had a ton of confidence today; he was outstanding defensively and he got rolling in the second half."
Milas, who finished with seven points and two rebounds, and was showing defensive intensity on loose balls and on-ball defense.
"Coach always talks about knowing your role and I think my role, mainly, is defense," Milas said. "So, that's what I focus on more and then everybody [defensively] puts effort on Nic [Gouriotis], Matthew [Lemon], Drew [Scharnowski] and Jake [Johnson] because they're great offensive scorers. So, when I get open and they don't put [defensive] pressure on me, I can also capitalize on it."
Scharnowski, who finished with 32 points and 10 rebounds, sank a 3-pointer to close the third quarter to put the Rockets up 13 into the final frame.
Neuqua Valley pulled within eight points on four consecutive points from Christian Srbinov with 3:43 left, but the Rockets held on with a comfortable lead and four free throws from Scharnowski to clinch their ninth consecutive win.
The game was knotted at 30 at the half.
"I thought it was kind of two tales at the half," Porto said. "Both offensively and defensively, they made us pay for some poor execution. In the second half, we really tightened up our talk and our physicality on the defensive end and then offensively, they really moved the ball well and got it to the right spots."
"We knew they were going to be doubling Drew wherever he was, so coach was constantly talking about cutting back door because Drew is so tall, he'll find you anywhere on the court," Milas said on the late game execution. "He said be strong with the ball, look to cut and we'll get easy layups and we don't need to force anything."
Beyond Scharnowski, Burlington Central was paced by 10 points by Lemon, six points from Johnson and Caden West, and five points from Gouriotis.
Neuqua Valley (15-5) was led by Srbinov's 14 points and Luke Kinkade had 13 points.
"They just made shots. They were just better," Wildcats coach Todd Sutton said of the late game execution. "They were better than us."
"[It's been] many years since we've seen anyone that good," Sutton said of Scharnowski. "He's just a different level. He's playing chess and we're playing checkers."