Solid bench performance lifts Burlington Central to win

SHARE Solid bench performance lifts Burlington Central to win

The Burlington Central starters may have been a little out of tune on Friday night, but they got plenty of help from their buddies off the bench.

The Rockets’ reserves combined to score 35 points in a 55-43 home win over Rockford Christian.

The victory keeps Burlington Central (15-5, 5-1) tied with Genoa-Kingston atop the Big Northern East Conference with 5-1 records. Richmond Burton is 3-1.

The Rockets, who have practiced only once in the past week because of the weather, struggled through a sloppy first half and led just 22-19 at the break. In December, Burlington blew out the Lions (5-12) by 25.

“I expected we might struggle some,” Central coach Brett Porto said. “That’s bound to happen when you don’t get a lot of practice time in. But fortunately, we have a lot of guys we can turn to and several guys stepped up and made some big contributions.”

The Rockets’ top three scorers all came off the bench. James Raney had a team-high 12 points. Brett Rau added 11 and Ryan Fitzgerald finished with 10. Raney gave the Rockets a big lift in the first half with 10, including a pair of three-pointers.

Rau scored nine of his points in the second half, including a pair of baskets during a 12-4 burst to start the third quarter that put the Rockets up 34-23.

“We struggled finishing around the basket in the first half,” Rau said. “But we got it going in the second half. I like being able to come off the bench and provide the team a spark.”

The Rockets also went with a bigger lineup much of the second half as 6-4 Fitzgerald teamed with 6-9 Duncan Ozburn. Fitzgerald exploded with eight second-half points.

“That’s the first time we’ve gone with that combination,” Fitzgerald said. “I usually sub in for Duncan, but we’ve been working on it in practice. I like being out there with him. We were able to get some high-low action going.”

Ozburn had just six points, but led the Rockets with 11 rebounds and six blocked shots. The Rockets shot just 41 percent (21-of-51) from the field, but outrebounded Rockford Christian 38-26. Central also forced 20 turnovers while only committing 10 and held Rockford Christian to shooting 40 percent (16-of-40).

“We didn’t shoot the ball well, but we did a lot of other things to help us win,” Porto said. “I was real pleased with the effort, especially in the second half. I thought our decision-making was much better, and going with the two bigs in the second half worked out well.”

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