Boys basketball: LJ Kerr sparks Burlington Central past Jacobs in fourth quarter

Burlington Central's LJ Kerr (left) and Patrick Shell.

ALGONQUIN — Burlington Central junior guard LJ Kerr wasn’t pleased with the way he started Friday’s Fox Valley Conference road game against Jacobs.

“I had six points and three fouls heading into the fourth quarter,” Kerr said. “Then I picked up my fourth foul.

“Honestly, I wasn’t taking care of the ball. My head wasn’t in the game the way I needed it to be. I felt like I let my teammates down.”

So he took matters into his own hands.

Kerr tallied 11 of his game-high 17 points in the final 7minutes of the fourth, as the Rockets ran away down the stretch for a 59-44 victory.

Central (20-9, 11-5 FVC) led by just three, 41-38, after three quarters, but shot a red-hot 8 for 11 in the fourth, as the Rockets outscored the Golden Eagles, 18-6, in the fourth quarter.

Kerr also made eight of his last nine shots, after missing the first two he took in the first quarter.

“The way (Kerr) finished that game was more typical of how we’re used to seeing him perform all the time,” Rockets coach Brett Porto said. “He is aggressive and he’s a leader who’s a sparkplug for us. He’s not afraid to step up in big moments, either.”

Early on, it looked like the Rockets might run away with the game.

Central built a 24-9 lead midway through the second quarter, only to see Jacobs finish the first half on a 15-2 run.

A key reason was Ben Jurzak (10 points) and Max Fessler (four steals) elevating their games defensively for the Golden Eagles, who forced seven second-quarter turnovers — while also suddenly solving the Rockets’ pesky full-court trap.

As a result, the Rockets’ lead was trimmed to 26-24 by halftime.

Central opened the second-half scoring with a momentum-starting, one-hand dunk from junior Patrick Shell, who finished with 15 points.

It sparked an 11-4 Rockets run.

“I think we needed that after the way we finished the first half,” Shell said. “Anything to create some momentum. And credit to [Jacobs], they fought back hard.”

Indeed, even when the Rockets pulled ahead 37-28 midway through the third, the Eagles (12-16, 8-8) climbed back yet again.

A four-point play from Jurzak, and baskets from Emaan Thomas (seven points) and senior Treval Howard, who had 10 points and 10 rebounds, made it a one-possession game headed to the fourth.

But Jacobs went cold late, shooting just 3 for 13 in the fourth, missing all five of its 3-point tries and a pair of free throws.

The Eagles also lost to the Rockets 64-52 on Jan. 17, were without coach Jimmy Roberts Friday, who was out sick.

“We just didn’t get it done,” Howard said. “It was really on us. Bad turnovers. Missed assignments on defense.

“The good thing is, it’s all stuff we can control. We’re a good basketball team and we’ve proven that in our two games against them this year. But we let both games get away at the end.”

The Rockets have won six of their last seven, and Friday’s win marked yet another 20-win campaign, making them a model of consistency in the FVC.

They also start a pair of freshman (Ryan Carpenter and Bennek Braden) in their lineup, but it’s done little to stop their ongoing success as a program.

“Weve won 20 or more eight of the last nine seasons,” Porto said. “And the one season we didn’t was the COVID shortened year when we went 16-1.

“We have kids who hold each other accountable and keep not wanting to let each other down. This year, we’re younger and have had to play with two seniors. There’ve been ebbs and flows, but I like where we’re at right now.”