Boys basketball: Burlington Central’s youngsters make their presence felt

Rockets beat Marian Central 82-45 in BC MLK Tournament

Burlington Central's Ryan Carpenter gets between two Marian Central defenders Monday, Jan. 15, 2023, during their game in the Burlington Central Martin Luther King Jr. boys basketball tournament.

BURLINGTON – Every year, Burlington Central boys basketball coach Brett Porto checks out what the Rockets have coming up through the ranks in fourth through eighth grades.

It’s easy to imagine Porto being thrilled watching last year’s eighth graders as they rolled through their season and the North Central Junior Conference Tournament undefeated.

Four of those players – Bennek Braden, Ryan Carpenter, Cash Cumpata and Patrick Magan – are making contributions with the varsity team this season. Each of those four made at least one 3-pointer Monday as the Rockets defeated Marian Central 82-45 in Central’s Martin Luther King Jr. Tournament.

Porto goes nine or 10 players deep in his rotation, with one of the freshmen usually starting, and the other three getting significant minutes off the bench. They are doing so for a team that is 12-6, 5-3 and tied for second in the Fox Valley Conference with Huntley and Jacobs.

Central had eight players with 3s in the first half – including the four freshmen – as it rolled to victory over the Hurricanes (4-16). Marian was playing without 6-foot-5 senior Christian Bentancur, who left Sunday for Hawaii where he will play in the Polynesian Bowl All-Star football game on Friday. Bentancur is averaging an area-best 20.8 points per game.

Porto figured last year that the four freshmen would be with the varsity team.

“Look for certain characteristics and traits. And that group, in general, not just them, displayed a lot of those traits skillwise,” Porto said. “They’re not done growing yet, but their shooting and passing stuck out with those guys last year.”

Carpenter scored 11 points, while Braden added 10 in the win over Marian. Each hit two 3s. Senior Myles Lowe led the Rockets with 13 points and LJ Kerr added 10.

Cale McThenia led Marian with 21 points.

“I kind of felt that I proved myself to my coaches and teammates (over the summer,” Cumpata said. “I just feel like I can bring a lot of energy and effort.”

Braden expressed similar thoughts.

“I feel like I’m a good 3-point shooter and I try to be the first one on the floor and hustle a lot,” Braden said. “It’s fun to help the team. We’re just looking to score and find our teammates when they’re open.”

Central’s Class of 2022 had Gavin Sarvis, Nick Carpenter (Ryan’s brother), Carson Seyller and Zac Schmidt, who were all on varsity by their sophomore year. Schmidt played his freshman season on varsity, while Seyller and Sarvis both were up for parts of that season.

“We played well over the summer to prepare us for this season,” Ryan Carpenter said. “We could really be good if everyone trains hard and keeps doing what we’re doing.”

For Porto, it is the best of both worlds.

“In the long run, you would hope it will make them and our team better each year,” he said. “In the short term, they’re helping us win basketball games now, so it’s kind of a win-win from that regard. They’re going to take lumps physically and see different defenses, but the hope is as they grow older there won’t be anything they haven’t seen on the court in any situation.

“That is tough to put a value on when you have people who are really smart and know where to get the ball and know what the other team is trying to do to you. That is one of those invaluable things that they’re learning right now.”

Marian also was missing starter Finn Pivnicka, who will be out indefinitely with a knee injury. Hurricanes coach Sean Stochl expects Pivnicka to be out three or four weeks.

Bentancur and McThenia, while being the Hurricanes’ tallest players, also are their most experienced and good ballhandlers. They bring the ball up the court, so most of that responsibility fell to McThenia on Monday.

“Now, Christian isn’t here and now those wings have to fill into a role of bringing the ball up the floor and somebody else has to go into a spot where they’re uncomfortable being,” Stochl said. “The guys aren’t really frustrated, but when you lose, it can be tough. It’s taxing. In hindsight, we’re just down people. Hopefully these games, with bigger schools are helping us get ready to tune up for conference.”

Burlington Central 82, Marian Central 45
McThenia 7 6-7 21, Todd 1 5-5 8, Quinn 1 0-0 2, Leitzen 1 0-0 2, Brandt 0 1-2 1, Kowalsky 2 2-2 7, Dovidio 1 1-2 3, Leonard 1 0-0 2, Lipinski 0 0-0 0, Young 0 0-0 0. Totals: 14 15-18 45.
West 1 0-0 3, Kerr 4 2-3 10, Lowe 6 0-0 13, Johnson 3 1-2 9, Cumpata 2 0-0 5, Magan 2 0-0 5, Shell 2 1-2 6, Braden 4 0-0 10, Carpenter 3 3-3 11, Moore 0 2-2 2, Goff 2 0-0 4, Lemon 1 2-2 4. Totals: 30 11-14 82.
Marian Central 21 9 7 8 – 45
Burlington Central 32 30 14 6 – 82
3-point goals: Marian Central 3 (McThenia, Todd, Kowalsky), Burlington Central 11 (Johnson 2, Braden 2, Carpenter 2, Lowe, West, Shell, Cumpata, Magan). Total fouls: Marian Central 12, Burlington Central 19. Fouled out: McThenia.
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