Burlington Central clinches share of 3rd straight FVC title
Burlington Central's basketball team celebrated its Senior Night in style Friday night.
Led by seniors Drew Scharnowski (14 points, 6 rebounds), Nic Gouriotis (13 points), and Matthew Lemon (12 points), the Rockets (24-5, 14-2) clinched a share of the Fox Valley Conference title with a 66-40 homecourt victory over Crystal Lake South. The Rockets can win it outright with a victory at either McHenry or Huntley next week.
The Gators (21-8, 11-5) played on even terms with the Rockets for the first 8 minutes at 17-17, as senior Cooper LePage (game-high 16 points) and Brady Schroeder (8 points) combined for 14 first-quarter points.
However, Gouriotis opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer from the corner, igniting an 11-1 run that extended the Rockets' lead to 28-18 midway through the period after a driving layup from senior guard Nolan Milas (6 points, 3 assists).
"After that first quarter, (Coach Brett) Porto really challenged us, asking, 'do you want to win this game or not?'" said Lemon. "We were all out there trying to score but we weren't staying down and guarding.
"That really changed in the second quarter going forward."
Crystal Lake South closed to within 36-29 on LePage's 3-pointer with 6:26 left in the third quarter.
That was close as the Gators would get the rest of the way, as the Rockets responded with a 23-4 surge to open a commanding 59-33 lead with 4:39 remaining.
Lemon, who added 5 steals and 4 assists, began the run with one of his three 3-pointers, and sophomore Jake Johnson (10 points, 5 rebounds) tallied 5 points over the final 43 seconds of the third quarter.
The lead swelled to as many as 29 points at 64-35, as the 6-foot-9 Scharnowski put an exclamation mark on the evening's festivities with a resounding 2-hand dunk off a feed from Johnson with 3:23 left.
"We were hitting on all ends," said Scharnowski. "Everyone was scoring. We were sharing the ball well. There's not a better way to go out."
Defensively, the Rockets limited Crystal Lake South to 33 percent shooting (13-for-39) from the field -- and just 23 points over the final 3 quarters.
"With the rotations and different people coming in and out, the first quarter got a little bit helter skelter," said Porto. "Once we got locked in, I thought the defense and the communication on the defensive end was excellent.
"We wanted to make (AJ) Demirov and LePage really work, and we did a good job of that tonight. It wasn't just one person -- it was very good rotations and being in the right spot to help."
The Rockets also received contributions from seniors Mason Erickson, Quinton Erickson, and Mitchell Pedrigi.
"For the seniors, it (conference title share) probably means a lot," said Porto. "I think a lot of people counted them out after the last group graduated."
Demirov added 8 points for the Gators.
"We got cold and started turning the ball over," said Gators coach Matt LePage, whose team committed 17 turnovers. "We were not in a good way -- that's for sure.
"Maybe we did too much focusing on him (Scharnowski), but every time I read the paper, he's got 35 points. He's going to take a lot of your attention defensively, but their other guys made shots, too. That's what championship teams do."