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Burlington Central girls basketball thinks big-school tournament will pay off down stretch

Burlington Central’s Samantha Pryor (center) fights for a loose ball Saturday against St. Charles North’s Ashling Davern (left) and Morgan Rosencrants at the Dundee-Crown Christmas Tournament in Carpentersville.
Burlington Central’s Samantha Pryor (center) fights for a loose ball Saturday against St. Charles North’s Ashling Davern (left) and Morgan Rosencrants at the Dundee-Crown Christmas Tournament in Carpentersville.

Burlington Central girls basketball players descended on St. Charles Bowl for a surprise New Year’s Eve practice Tuesday morning.

Although she ultimately rolled the best of the 11 Rockets assembled, junior forward Alison Colby still admitted, “I think we left a few dents in the floor.”

The trip came on the heels of Dundee-Crown’s daunting Charger Classic, a tournament in which BC absorbed the first blemishes to its won-loss record this season. Picking up splits seemed a natural salve after Central finished 2-2 as the only Class 3A team among 16 in the Classic field.

“It’s going to help us a lot in the long run, definitely, with patience and maturity on the court,” Colby said.

BC, 11-2 entering tonight’s Big Northern Conference East home game against Richmond-Burton, started 9-0 behind much of the same nucleus that steered the program to the IHSA Class 3A Hoffman Estates Supersectional last season.

With a few exceptions, the Rockets closed most of those victories with the outcome far from doubt and each starter on the bench, including sizable spreads against Harvard (47 points), Genoa-Kingston (45), Rock Falls (44) and Crystal Lake Central (43).

“Not saying that they were easy, but we were more relaxed and the win came easier. We didn’t have to worry and really aim to score at the end,” Colby said. “It was kind of practicing plays and different situations, just to prepare us for when a tight game comes at hand.”

Mother McAuley offered more than a dress rehearsal Dec. 26 in Central’s Classic opener.

Navigating a shooting display from Mighty Macs’ guard Elizabeth Nye – who drilled five 3-pointers en route to 26 points – Central entered the fourth quarter trailing by seven. It never came closer, as McAuley sprinted to a 9-0 run to start the quarter.

More of the same happened in Monday’s consolation championship loss to Maine South. Central actually led by five early in the fourth quarter before a 12-0 Hawks run quickly reversed the momentum. The Maine South game came on the heels of BC’s six-point victory against St. Charles North in the consolation semifinals.

“Every game was close or it had good competition, so we had to play strong throughout all four quarters,” sophomore forward Sam Pryor said. “So we definitely had to learn to play well together down the stretch.”

Central won its first four postseason games by 10, four, 25 and 23 points before eventual 3A runner-up Vernon Hills scored a 38-31 victory in the supersectional last season. The Rockets played in the McHenry Tournament in December 2012, but coach Mark Smith was quick to act when Classic officials extended an invitation in the spring.

The Rockets aren’t done investing in their future, either, as visits to Class 4A programs South Elgin (Jan. 14) and Fremd (Jan. 28) await before the 3A postseason begins Feb. 17.

Fremd is 12-2 entering the weekend, including a fifth-place finish at the Montini Christmas Tournament. South Elgin, another Montini entrant, took Geneva to overtime earlier this season.

“Coach Smith does a great job preparing us,” Pryor said. “He teaches us to never take a team lightly, and I think that’ll come in handy during the season.”

The Rockets realized playing at Dundee-Crown would be a measuring stick before the tournament, and affirmed the same thing afterward.

A little less than 24 hours later, they went bowling.

“We’re trying to keep it fresh,” Smith said.

On a team that’s envisioned postseason success for almost a year, he might as well.

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