HAMPSHIRE — Andrew Scharnowski wasn’t going to let his last trip to Hampshire end in a loss.
The Burlington Central senior took control in Friday’s rivalry right from the start and helped his team pick up a critical Fox Valley Conference win by scoring 28 points in a 59-58 win.
“We let them come back, but we took care of the business,” Scharnowski said. “The Fox Valley is a cutthroat league. It just feels good to get the win.”
The Rockets held a 48-37 lead with 4:43 left in the game and seemed to have put the game away, but the Whips didn’t stop fighting. Hampshire made it a 57-52 Central lead with 1:33 left in the game before the Rockets committed a lane violation on a free throw attempt that gave the ball back to the Whips.
Gavin Khounnoraj hit a 3-pointer for Hampshire with 34.8 seconds left in the game to make it a 57-55 Central before Nicholas Gouriotis made a basket to make it 59-55. Hampshire’s Sam Ptak made a 3-pointer with a second left in the game but the Whips couldn’t stop the clock and finish the comeback.
“They hit some tough shots in scramble situations,” Central coach Brett Porto said. “We gave too many extra possessions by turning the ball over.”
Central (18-4, 9-1 FVC) controlled much of the game’s pace after Scharnowski scored 14 points in the first quarter. The Rockets extended the lead to 33-22 at the half before Hampshire made its first comeback attempt of the night.
The Whips brought the lead down to three midway through the third quarter but Central finally scored its first points of the third with 3:24 left on a pair of Scharnowski free throws. Central went on a 9-5 run to end the third and led 42-35 heading into the fourth.
Scharnowski added eight rebounds to his game-high 28 points while Gouriotis scored 15 points and brought in six rebounds. Even though Scharnowski wasn’t happy to give up a large lead late, he was proud that his teammates held on to earn the win.
“It’s that dog mentality,” Scharnowski said. “Everyone on this team comes in ready to work and we just really want to win.”
Ptak and Bailey Woods each scored 12 points to lead Hampshire (9-13, 5-5) while Joey Costabile added 10. Whips coach Harvey Featherly would’ve wanted to see his team complete the comeback, but he was proud to see his team fight back until the end.
“I’m proud of the fight that our guys showed,” Featherly said. “One of the things we were talking about all week was keep fighting. When things don’t go our way, you need to keep battling adversity and keep going. They did.”
Hampshire returns to FVC action Tuesday when it hosts Cary-Grove while Central hosts South Elgin in a nonconference game on Saturday.
The Rockets know wins like Friday aren’t only important to win a conference title. Holding on to win a game can make the difference in a long postseason run or a quick trip home.
“We’re going to see a lot of tough, close games later on in the season,” Scharnowski said. “It’s important to keep a level head, keep playing and get the win.”