LOMBARD – Taylor Charles envisioned a different ending to her final game in Montini’s venerable gymnasium.
After playing two seasons for a pair of elite Montini teams, helping lead the Broncos to a third-place trophy in Class 3A in her sophomore season, Charles transferred to Burlington Central before her junior year.
With long-time coach Jason Nichols also leaving to accept the head women’s basketball coaching job at Morton College, the Broncos lost several talented players due to a transfer exodus.
As Charles walked off Montini’s court with 74 seconds left in regulation following Saturday’s 49-24 loss to Class 4A powerhouse Young in the 32nd Annual Coach Derril Kipp Hoopsfest, she admitted it was a strange feeling.
“I was thinking of all the memories I had here, and all the good times and bad times and all that time I spent here,” Charles said. “This is the last time (here) for me. Definitely, my senior year would’ve been a lot different if we all didn’t split up. We would’ve been a powerhouse but everybody is playing well and doing great. I love Burlington, and am happy with the decision I made. But it’s definitely weird to think about it.”
Charles, a Princeton recruit, finished with a hard-earned five points, 11 rebounds, four blocks and two steals — a far cry from her triple-double against McHenry on Friday night. Emma Payton led the Rockets with seven points on 3-of-6 shooting. Charles, who’s averaging 13.5 points, 12.1 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 3.5 blocks per game, shot 1-for-7 from the floor against the Dolphins. She buried a 3-pointer from the corner for the first points of the game, but missed her final six shots.
The Dolphins (12-5) were too physical, too athletic and too fast for the Rockets (11-7) to handle, with Skylar Jones (12 points, 6 steals) proving to be a menace with her quickness on defense.
“I learned a lot of things we need to work on today, especially against teams that are a lot more physical because we struggle with that,” Charles said. “Just playing a team like Young was certainly helpful. It was definitely a completely different game than (Friday). Being face-guarded, as I was against Young, was very hard, especially since they have such great athletes. I give major credit to them for their defense.”
The Rockets endured long droughts which hurt their chances for a big upset win, not scoring for a 10:30 mark in the first half and another 5-minute segment that spanned the second and third quarters. The Dolphins’ defense made simple tasks hard for the Rockets.
“Skyler Jones would appear out of nowhere, like a superhero out there on defense,” Burlington Central coach Collin Kalamatas said. “We just don’t see that in our league. This experience will help us in the playoffs in Class 3A. We weren’t discouraged with the result because we know this will prepare us.
“We learned Taylor can rely on her teammates to help her out, maybe setting more screens for her. She’s our leader and it was a night shots weren’t falling. She had five three-pointers yesterday.”
Olivia Vick scored a game-high 20 points for the Dolphins, who forced 21 turnovers and tallied 13 steals.
“We didn’t stop defensively and locked down on defense,” Young coach Kristen Harper said. “Tanila Marshall stepped up big time on defense on (Charles). Skylar Jones stepped up, and has really evolved mentally and doesn’t get down on herself. I’m super proud of her.”
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