Mighty Macs hand Burlington Central girls basketball first loss

CARPENTERSVILLE – Burlington Central girls basketball coach Mark Smith says it all the time to his team – you live and die by the 3-pointer.

The 3 was fruitful for a while but it came back to bite the Rockets in a 57-41 loss to Mother McAuley on Thursday in the first round of the 31st annual Charger Classic at Dundee-Crown. 

The Rockets (9-1) used 3-pointers in the second and third quarters to get back into the game after falling behind, 22-7, midway through the second quarter. But it was the nearly seven-minute drought in the fourth quarter without a field goal – much less a 3 – that spelled doom for the Rockets.

“We say it all the time; you live by the 3 and you die by the 3 – you gotta do inside, go to the basket and get to the free-throw line,” Smith said. “We know it and we know we get a little nervous and anxious out there and start jacking up 3s. When they go in it looks good, but like I said, live by the 3, die by the 3.”

While the Rockets waited for a basket to drop, Mighty Macs guard Elizabeth Nye finished off a banner performance for the Mighty Macs (9-2), scoring five of her game-high 26 points in the fourth quarter.

The senior also had 12 assists, including a no-look pass to Erin Drynan with 6:58 left that pushed the Mother McAuley lead to 44-32. 

“We knew going in that we needed to slow down or stop Nye and we didn’t, obviously, as she scored 26 points,” Smith said. “She’s a nice player but nothing we didn’t know. ... We like to pride ourselves on stopping people so we need to do a better job next time we play against someone like that.”

The Rockets dug themselves a huge hole at the start of the contest that they were able to shoot their way out of. Down 22-7 after the Mighty Macs began the second quarter with a 13-0 run, the Rockets used a pair of 3s from Sam Pryor and one from Shelby Holt to cut the lead to 24-18 at the half. 

Momentum looked to be swinging in Central’s favor in the third quarter after an Alison Colby three-point play brought the Rockets within 35-29.

Holt split a pair of free throws one possession later to make it 35-30 but Central would get no closer as Mother McAuley opened the fourth quarter on a 12-1 spurt that put the game out of reach.

“We knew they were a nice team, young team that played like veterans. We watched them play and had a pretty good idea that every kid on the floor is someone that could contribute,” Mother McAuley coach Ashley Clanton said. “That was kind of tricky – usually you can pick out one or two, but they really have a nice team that is pretty even all the way through.”

Smith acknowledged that his young team, which starts four sophomores and a junior, might have a had a bit of stage fright coming into the tournament. Despite their 9-0 record, the Rockets hadn’t seen anyone of Mother McAuley’s caliber.

“You’re on the big stage – you want to be here. You’re a little nervous and your heart races a little bit faster but we’re playing these to learn how to win these games,” Smith said. “That’s why we came here and we’ll see what our bounce-back is like tomorrow. We just have to be ready to play tomorrow and I think we will be.”

Holt and Pryor led Central with 11 points apiece while Colby chipped in seven.