Boys basketball: Burlington Central uses size advantage to pull away from Hampshire

Myles Lowe scores 24 points, Jake Johnson has 19 to lead Rockets

Burlington guard Caden West (2) drives the lane during a game at Burlington Central High School on Friday, Dec. 22, 2023.

BURLINGTON – Sometimes size does matter. Sometimes bigger really is better.

Burlington Central used its superior size to its full advantage Friday, pulling away in the fourth quarter to down Hampshire 52-40 in a Fox Valley Conference matchup in Burlington.

The Rockets were led by 6-foot-7 Myles Lowe, who poured in 24 points, and 6-5 Jake Johnson, who scored 19.

At the end, the Whip-purs had no answer.

Lowe dominated early, scoring 15 points in the first half, after which Central led just 24-23. Johnson then took over in the fourth quarter, scoring 11 points, including 5 for 5 from the free throw line.

“He’s hit some big fourth quarter shots for us,” said Central coach Brett Porto. “He’s taken the challenge and kind of wants the ball in his hands in the fourth quarter and that’s great to see.”

Hampshire (7-6, 4-3) led 28-26 late in the third period, but Bennek Braden made two free throws to tie it and Johnson added two more to give the Rockets the lead for good. Those foul shots started a 20-6 Rockets run that extended well into the fourth quarter.

Ryan Regalado led Hampshire with 11 points. Ryan Prowicz added eight and Daniel Luckett seven for the Whips.

“Definitely our defense,” said Lowe when asked about the key to the Rockets’ late rally. “We struggled on offense in the third quarter with turnovers. But defensively, we went on a long stretch without allowing a single bucket, and that’s when we were able to pull away and work them in transition off of our defense.”

Lowe said he worked with Drew Scharnowski, who led the Rockets’ FVC title-winning squad last year, and studied video of last year’s Hampshire game to study Scharnowski’s moves.

Central (7-3, 5-2) led by just two following a ragged third quarter in which the teams combined for 15 points and 17 turnovers. But the Rockets started to click behind Lowe and Johnson, who were just too much for the undersized Whip-Purs.

“It doesn’t matter what the game is, we don’t have a lot of size against any team we play,” said Hampshire coach Mike Featherly. “Our kids played so hard. We battled and battled. We just had too many empty possessions, especially in that third quarter. A lot of little things added up.”

Johnson definitely had the ball in his hands during the fourth quarter. With the Rockets up three, he completed a traditional three-point play, then quickly added a steal and layup for a personal 5-0 run and an eight-point Burlington lead.

With the Whip-Purs forced to foul, he connected on four straight late free throws to keep the visitors at bay.