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Burlington Central

Smith’s clutch shot completes Wheaton Academy boys basketball’s rally

GENOA – Baskets were hard to come by Wednesday night in the second half of the IHSA Class 3A Genoa-Kingston Regional semifinal between Burlington Central and Wheaton Academy.

The two teams made a combined 12 buckets in the final 16 minutes of the game. Wheaton Academy connected at the right time, scoring the last five baskets to rally past Central, 45-44.

The Warriors will play top-seeded Sycamore on Friday for the regional title.

The Rockets, seeded third in the regional, led, 40-33, at the start of the fourth quarter. While No. 2 seed Wheaton Academy (20-8) finally found its scoring touch, Central’s offense went cold, collecting all four of its fourth quarter points from the free throw line. A Bennett Fuzak 3-pointer from the left wing with 1:38 left in the game brought Wheaton Academy within 44-43.

The Rockets’ Reed Hunicutt tried to answer the basket with a layup but turned it over in traffic with 35 seconds left in the game. The senior guard led all scorers with 17 points.

After a timeout, the Warriors inbounded the ball and worked the clock down.

With 8.2 seconds to play, Christian Smith scored his only basket, a floater in the lane, to put his team ahead, 45-44.

“I just want to get a shot off and see what would happen,” said Smith, the son of coach Pete Froedden. “If I missed, someone else could get a rebound and a put-back.”

“Was that the only time we led?” Froedden asked. “Our kids have a lot of guts. We played super, super tight. We never could get any kind of rhythm. We were just fortunate to get out of here with the win.”

The Rockets (18-9) attempted two more shots in the final seconds but both attempts were blocked.

“They are a good basketball team. They put pressure on us at the end and it was unfortunate to see some of those errors,” Central coach Brett Porto said. “But I am very proud of my team.”

Central appeared in command of the game for the first three quarters.

The Rockets raced out to a 7-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game.

Wheaton Academy tied the score at 13 with two minutes left in the first quarter, but Hunnicutt responded with two layups and a free throw to give Central an 18-16 lead after the first quarter.

The Rockets widened their lead to 27-21 at the end of half, limiting Wheaton Academy to four free throws in the second quarter.

The Warriors went more than 10 minutes without scoring from the field after a William Burdett basket at the end of the first quarter. Evan Williams (10 points) finally broke the field-goal drought at the 6:35 mark of the third quarter.

“I thought we frustrated them offensively,” Porto said. “I thought Reed was great on offense for us especially when we needed a basket.”

Gordon Behr led all Warriors scorers with 15 points. The 6-foot-8 senior also grabbed 12 rebounds for a double-double.

Sean Fitzgerald scored 11 points for Central while teammate Brett Rau added eight.

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