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Basketball

Burlington Central girls basketball rides Pryor, defense to 3A state berth

HOFFMAN ESTATES – Samantha Pryor had a defender in her face.

The Burlington Central sophomore gave a head fake, as though she were trying to physically shake the defender off of her. Then, using the tiny amount of additional space that move gave her, she calmly drilled a 3-pointer from the top of the key to give the Rockets a 17-16 halftime lead in a Class 3A supersectional at Hoffman Estates Monday night. It was one of three shots Pryor hit from behind the arc in the second and third quarters, which helped turn the tide of the game.

The Rockets went on to defeat Carmel, 41-29, sending Burlington Central downstate for the first time in school history. Central will play Montini on Friday afternoon in a 3A state semifinal at Redbird Arena.

“I dreamed about this game ever since our [supersectional loss] last year with Vernon Hills,” said Pryor, a 5-11 forward. “I still don’t believe it. … It’s crazy.”

The Corsairs (24-9) led 14-7 early in the second quarter, but the Rockets (27-4) went on a 15-2 run to take control. Pryor scored 11 of those 15 points.

“Our team just needed a little push,” Pryor said. “Everyone contributed. They had to give me the ball in an open look. I need my team.”

Pryor finished with 15 points to lead all scorers.

“We always talk about letting the game come to you,” Central coach Mark Smith said. “You want to do things you normally do and, you know what, she got a little space and she hit some big 3s.”

The Rockets led, 27-21, after three quarters. They were up 7 midway through the fourth quarter when Kayla Ross and Shelby Holt combined on some nice passing plays that produced 6 straight points to put the game away.

“We’ve been doing that all year,” Ross said. “It’s one of our plays. We saw they weren’t helping [on defense], so we decided to run it and it worked.”

Ross scored 11 points and Holt, a fellow sophomore, added nine.

The Corsairs did not have a single player hit double figures in scoring.

“Just a whale of a defensive game – 29 points in a supersectional,” Smith said. “Fantastic job. I couldn’t be prouder of the girls. They deserve everything they get. I’m so happy for them and the community. It’s just a great, great feeling.”

The Rockets will have a tall order in Friday afternoon’s state semifinal at Redbird Arena in Normal, taking on a Montini team that finished third in the state last year. The Broncos are 32-2 this season, with their only losses coming to Class 4A powers Wheaton Warrenville South and Whitney Young. But Central players weren’t thinking that far ahead Monday.

“Last year we were down here,” Ross noted, referring to the supersectional loss to Vernon Hills at Hoffman Estates. “We knew what we wanted to do [this year] and we accomplished it. I’m proud of my team.”

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