Burlington Central rides defensive effort to win

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Burlington Central wondered what it might look like with a full 32-minute effort in the postseason tournament, and Thursday night the Rockets found out.

Playing strong help defense the entire night, the Rockets shut down Rockford Lutheran’s big three scorers and Shelby Holt and Alison Pryor assumed control on offense as Burlington Central won 55-41 for the championship of the Class 3A Belvidere Sectional. It earned the Rockets their second straight supersectional berth at Hoffman Estates, this one Monday against Carmel.

“It was consistent tonight,” said Colby, who was the inside threat with 15 points and 11 rebounds to complement Holt’s team-high 18 points on the perimeter. ”We actually had momentum going into the half for once and now we stuck through it.

“We just came out (the second half) like we did at the beginning of the game. We kept shooting. We kept looking for openings.”

And finding them. The Rockets hit 19-of-44 from the field on the night (43 percent) and held the Crusaders to 15-of-47 (32 percent). They rebounded hard the entire game, controlling the boards at a 38-27 clip.

Central (26-4) took a 6-4 lead on a Kayla Ross steal and layup three minutes into the game and never trailed. The Rockets went on a 6-0 run starting the second quarter with Colby scoring four and Aly DeTamble a driving bucket, expanded it to 24-13 later in the quarter when Holt hit one of her four three-pointers, and then Holt hit the game’s biggest bucket just before the halftime buzzer after a three-pointer by Lutheran’s Ashley Kerestes, who had a game-high 20 points.

Ross made a lunging save on the baseline and flipped it over to Holt, who drained a three from the wing for a 29-21 halftime lead.

“It was definitely a momentum swing,” Lutheran coach Joni Carlson said.

Holt had been sick and played sparingly against Sycamore in the semifinals Tuesday, but made 4-of-8 treys Thursday.

“Shelby, her approach to the game tonight, that’s how you’ve got to approach a game,” Smith said. “She was mad. She didn’t play a lot last game She came out tonight and she got the job done.”

The Rockets hit 10-of-11 free throws in the fourth quarter to protect the 47-36 lead they’d built with four minutes remaining, as Sam Pryor went 6 of-6 at the line to finish with 10 points.

“I think they played very poised and hit some big shots and we didn’t, at times,” Lutheran coach Joni Carlson said.

Lutheran (19-11) had 50 points from their big three of 6-2 center Abby Woolacott, and guards Kailyn Strawbridge and Baillie McGirk in the semifinals, but against Central the three totaled 14. Ross held McGirk to four and Sam Cruz and DeTamble shut out Strawbridge.

“After playing St. Ed and their big (6-3) center (CeCe Rapp) in regionals, we knew what we had to do and that was keep it out of Lutheran’s post,” Ross said. “So we doubled it up and kept it outside.”

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