GENOA – It took a while for the Burlington Central girls basketball team to find its rhythm but as each player settled in, the points soon followed.
It was a steady combination of Alison Colby working underneath the basket early combined with solid jumpshooting from Samantha Pryor that pushed the Rockets past Marian Central in Tuesday’s IHSA Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Sectional semifinal, 54-29.
The Rockets will face Sterling on Thursday in the sectional championship.
The Rockets found themselves tied at 12 apiece at the end of the first quarter with Marian Central after the Hurricanes went on a 12-4 run to end the frame. But as the second quarter began, the Rockets took control.
“I thought we attacked their zone much better from the second quarter on,” Rockets coach Mark Smith said. “They were really pressuring us up high and I thought we were a little more patient with our looks.”
Pryor came off the bench for the Rockets late in the first quarter and missed a buzzer-beater. She stayed in the game for the second, when she made her mark on the game.
The freshman knocked down three consecutive shots including a 3-pointer that punctuated a 9-4 run.
“I just wanted to help the team out and wanted to contribute,” Pryor said.
She ended with a game-high 16 points, seven of which came from the free throw line.
“When Pryor came into the game we were able to get the ball into the short corner which is where we wanted to get it,” Smith said. “With her out there we were able to do a lot more things. She has the ability to score a lot of points and she knows how to put the ball in the hole. She can hit a 3-pointer and she knows when to attack the basket.”
The Rockets took advantage of the Hurricanes’ lack of size in the second quarter. Smith wanted to see if putting 6-foot Rebecca Gerke and fellow 6-footer Alison Colby on the floor along with Pryor would generate enough offense.
He got his answer quickly as the trio combined for 11 of the team’s 14 second-quarter points as the Rockets headed into halftime with a 26-19 lead.
“We want to keep looking at Rebecca and Alison on the floor at the same time while Pryor shifts over to the 3,” Smith said. “I wanted to see what we could do offensively with those bigs in there at the same time and it went well. The [Hurricanes] showed some different looks defensively and I like what we got out of that lineup.”
Central was able to put Marian away in the late stages. The Rockets scored 22 points while holding the Hurricanes to just four in the final quarter.
Pryor scored nine points in the quarter while Kayla Ross excelled in transition and scored six points. Ross finished with 13 points on the night.
“Our pressure wore them down a bit and our girls did a great job,” Smith said. “In the fourth quarter we really turned the pressure up and we kept going. It was fun to watch, and we really played hard.”