BURLINGTON – Jacobs had not scored for 5 minutes, had struggled with turnovers and was scrambling, trying to stay in contact with Burlington Central.
A basket on the final possession of the first quarter could have given the Golden Eagles a boost, but it didn’t happen.
Central grabbed the rebound, forward Drew Scharnowski scored in transition, then Rockets guard Matthew Lemon stole the inbound pass and scored with 0.6 to go in the quarter.
Central widened the lead more in the second and third quarters and cruised to a 64-37 victory in Fox Valley Conference play Tuesday night. The win for the Rockets (23-5, 13-2 FVC) and Huntley’s loss to McHenry pushed their lead to two games with three left to play.
“Coach always says, ‘Play until there’s no time left,’ " Lemon said. “I knew there was going to be a couple seconds left, just steal the ball and get it up. You want to finish strong because you never know.”
Jacobs (13-15, 7-8) had led 6-4 on Ben Jurzak’s layup with 5:00 to go in the first quarter, but Central got three baskets from reserve Myles Lowe and a basket from Nolan Milas.
The Rockets rebounded Jacobs’ miss and Scharnowski, who scored a game-high 25 points, finished with 6 seconds to go before Lemon’s steal.
“We’re constantly pushing the ball, looking to score and it doesn’t matter the time, we’re always pushing it,” Scharnowski said. “Those big shots at the end of a quarter kind of takes it out of teams, their will to fight back.”
Jacobs coach Jimmy Roberts felt like a basket at the end of the quarter could have lifted his team.
“The start is extremely important. We were OK early, our shooters got a couple shots, they just didn’t knock them down,” Roberts said. “With all that, it was 14-6 at the end of the first quarter and we had the ball with about 15 seconds left. Those end-of-quarter possessions are important.
“We shot a 3 early, they got a run-out and a layup, we inbounded the ball directly to them and they got a layup and a foul. It went from a 14-6 game, our possession and a 3 in the air from our shooter, to all of a sudden it’s 18-6 with a pretty demoralizing end to the first quarter.”
The Eagles could not recover from that, and Roberts thought it allowed a good defensive team to get better.
“When you fall down like that and it’s a 12-point game, that gives them a little more liberty to fly around and gamble and we didn’t pass and catch it very well,” Roberts said. “Their gambling and flying around contributed to that. If it’s a five- or six-point game they may not fly around as much. That’s what can happen with them if it gets away from you.”
Scharnowski hit 11-of-12 shots, with his last 10 in a row, four of which were dunks. Two of those came on fast breaks with Lemon lobbing the ball to Scharnowski off the backboard.
Central coach Brett Porto liked what Lowe, his other big man, did as well.
“Myles came in and had some real nice minutes and had some high-lows and some good drives,” Porto said. “He’s been really progressing for us. He got a couple good buckets and Lemon with the heads-up steal and bucket there at the end. That definitely got us a little momentum going into the second quarter.”
Central can clinch a share of its third consecutive FVC championship with a win at home Friday against Crystal Lake South. The Rockets’ final two FVC games are against McHenry and Huntley.
“Coach Porto does a great job motivating us for every single game,” Lemon said. “We know we control our own destiny, just play every game like everyone is good. Don’t take any opponent lightly.”
The Rockets would like to win out in the FVC, then, if they win their second Class 3A regional in a row, they would play in their own sectional.
“I like where we’re at now, but things can change in one day, one week,” Porto said. “We just want to keep improving and getting better. If we can do that, hopefully some good things can happen for us.”
Burlington Central 64, Jacobs 37
Jurzak 6 0-2 15, Martucci 0 0-0 0, Schlicker 1 1-3 4, Howard 1 2-4 4, Owens 1 2-4 4, C. Roper 1 0-0 2, Thomas 1 0-0 2, N. Roper 2 0-0 6, Takasaki 0 0-0 0, Fessler 0 0-0 0, Bonkoski 0 0-0 0. Totals: 13 5-13 37.
BURLINGTON CENTRAL (64)
M. Lemon 2 1-3 5, West 3 1-1 7, Scharnowski 11 2-3 25, Gouriotis 1 0-0 3, Johnson 4 2-2 11, Milas 1 0-0 2, Pedrigi 1 0-0 2, Lowe 4 1-2 9, M. Erickson 0 0-0 0, L. Lemon 0 0-0 0, Q. Erickson 0 0-0 0. Totals: 27 7-11 64.
Jacobs 6 12 12 7 – 37
Burlington Central 18 18 18 10 – 64
3-point goals: Jacobs 6 (Jurzak 3, N. Roper 2, Schlicker), Burlington Central 3 (Scharnowski, Johnson, Gouriotis). Total fouls: Jacobs 11, Burlington Central 9.