BURLINGTON – Burlington Central boys basketball coach Brett Porto took a timeout with 3:10 remaining to challenge his team.
The Rockets had seen a 16-point, third-quarter lead evaporate and trailed Richmond-Burton by four points.
“He said, ‘This is a defining moment for our season,’” forward Bryce Warner said. “He asked for all our effort.”
Central responded in just the manner Porto hoped, grabbing the lead and holding on for a 69-65 win in a pivotal Big Northern Conference East Division boys basketball game Friday night. The Rockets (10-13 overall, 8-1 BNC East) own first place with three remaining games.
R-B (8-15, 6-2) still has a shot with four remaining games, including the regular-season finale at home against Central.
Central was led by Moter Deng with 14 points and Reed Hunnicutt with 13. Warner was tough inside with a game-high 14 rebounds. Central’s second-chance points were crucial as it outrebounded R-B, 38-29.
Central led 50-34 with 1:25 remaining in the third period, but R-B stormed back behind guard Chris Vlasak, who had three 3-point plays in the fourth quarter and led all players with 19 points. R-B took a 61-57 lead with 3:10 remaining.
East’s Crocker narrowly misses state cut: At Cherry Bowl in Rockford, St. Charles East junior Laura Crocker finished two pins shy of advancing to the second day of the IHSA state tournament. Her pinfall of 1,143 over six games ranked 31st among individuals from non-qualifying teams. The top 30 move on, and Crocker trailed Conant freshman Angela Anzalone (1,144) by the slimmest of margins.
“Pretty tough, but not much you can say. Laura did her best,” Saints coach Mary Ann Carrell said. “It was a tough crowd. The scores were pretty low. I’ve never seen them that low.”
Crocker averaged a 190.5 on the day, 38.5 pins behind individual leader Emily Malone, a Rockford Jefferson senior. Crocker’s top game was a 244 in the second game of the morning session.
St. Charles North senior Bobbi Jo Buhlman (1,064 series) and East sophomore Erin Heuer (1,061) also competed but did not advance.
Marian Central 60, Wheaton Academy 43: At West Chicago, Wheaton Academy dropped its regular season finale despite 10 second quarter points from Elizabeth Melby. The Warriors were outscored 15-5 in the fourth quarter of the Suburban Christian Conference game.
• Shaw Media’s Joe Stevenson contributed to this report.