SYCAMORE — Burlington Central forced 10 turnovers and allowed Kaneland to take just two shots in the second quarter Friday, turning a close game after 8 minutes into a 66-39 win for a Class 3A Sycamore Regional Championship.
“We really locked in on that half-court,” said Nick Carpenter, who scored 16 for the Rockets and added six rebounds and three steals. “We were talking on defense. All our guards were pressuring the ball. They couldn’t really do anything. And that led to our offense really. Those fast breaks were created off those steals.”
Kaneland (18-9) scored the first four points and led 7-4 after a 3-pointer Nick Mitchinson. But the Rockets (30-3) responded with seven straight. Carson Seyller scored the last five of those, and he finished with 15 points, five rebounds and six steals.
The teams went back and forth, and Kaneland got the lead back to two after Troyer Carlson hit a layup with 1:21 left in the first, making in 15-13. He finished with a team-best 12 points.
But not only did Burlington Central get the last four points of the half, Kaneland went the next 8:34 without any points and 9:04 without a field goal as the Rockets scored 22 straight.
“We didn’t get many shots in the second quarter,” Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. “What was working, what was not working, we really didn’t get to that point cause we were turning the ball over. And that’s not been something we’ve done all year. We’ve had games where we turn it over but for the most part we’re a team that’s going to turn it over 12, 13 times in a game. We probably had 12 turnovers in the second quarter alone.”
It took the Knights 6:06 to get their first shot of the quarter as not only were the Rockets pressing but dominating the glass as well. They finished with a 34-23 edge in rebounds.
“We had so many offensive rebounds, so many defensive rebounds,” Carpenter said. “We had a bunch and that really contributed to us winning this game.”
Burlington Central grew the lead to 30 in the fourth quarter, triggering the running clock for the final 5:30.
“We’ve guarded like that for two years now,” Rockets coach Brett Porto said. “I’ve got a lot of veteran guys who have played for three, four years. That’s our bread and butter – being able to guard. We did a really good job and overwhelmed Kaneland at times.”
The Rockets will face Boylan Catholic at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the Crystal Lake South Sectional, with the winner facing either Wauconda or St. Francis in the championship game Friday.
“With this group, everyone missed out on playoffs last year,” Porto said. “So getting another couple days of practice and an opportunity on Tuesday was our main goal tonight and we took advantage of that. Hopefully we can keep it going.”
Gavin Sarvis added 14 points, five rebounds and four steals for the Rockets. Jacob Harrison scored 11 for the Knights. No Kaneland player had more than four boards.
After COVID-19 mitigations wiped out the postseason last year, Carpenter said he’s glad the Rockets get to keep on rolling.
“We worked so hard, we didn’t have this last year,” Carpenter said. “We just had a conference tournament. This is a special group so it’s good to get something to show for it.”
The season ended for the Knights, who were a win away from a share of the Interstate 8 title this year. With young guys like Carlson and Parker Violett coming back, Colombe said he’s not only happy for this year but excited for next.
“Three of our top four scorers are back, including our top two, which were sophomores,” Colombe said. “Sophomores and freshmen have good futures. We think the future is bright but there’s a lot of work to do.”