Burlington Central hoping for repeat title at MLK tournament

The Burlington Central boys basketball team seeks a repeat title at its own tournament over the Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.

The Rockets, who improved to 12-1 Tuesday with a 76-51 victory over Woodstock, welcome seven teams with various conference affiliations to Rocket Hill for four games in four days, beginning Friday night with two games at the high school gym and two at Central Middle School.

The field includes Elgin (9-6), Marengo (11-3), McHenry (8-6) Wheaton Academy (4-9), Genoa-Kingston (9-7), Hampshire (3-10) and Kaneland (4-10).

Central defeated South Elgin for the title last January. The Rockets average 66.3 points per game, led by 6-foot-1 junior guard Zach Schutta (18.1 ppg, 6.8 rpg), 6-foot-2 senior Joey Ratzek (12.9 ppg, 6.6 rpg), 5-7 senior point guard TaVontae Harris (7.6 ppg, 4.2 apg, 3.8 spg), 6-1 junior Michael Kalusa (9.5 ppg, 2.5 spg) and 6-2 sophomore Patrick Mayfield (4.6 ppg).

Central coach Brett Porto said one of this team's strengths is playing as a unit without concern for the aforementioned statistics. It's a team that spreads the court on offense and works the system until it gets a high-percentage shot.

Defensively, the Rockets like to pressure the ball to force contested shots, rebound aggressively and push the ball up the court.

It's a formula that has seen Burlington Central win 38 of 43 games over a season and a half.

"Part of it is the system and what we've been doing offensively and defensively for the last three years," Porto said. "The other part is we have a really good group of players moving through and buying into what we're doing on both ends of the court. They like being around each other and they want to get better because it's a driven group. It's really ideal when you have a group that's so focused on wanting to improve."

Central opens the tournament against Kaneland at 7 p.m. Friday.

At Lake Zurich: Geneva (16-0) puts its unbeaten record on the line this weekend at the 5th Annual Lake Zurich Martin Luther King Jr. Tournament.

The Vikings, who defeated Woodstock 49-38 Thursday to set a new school record for most wins without a loss to start a season, play two games Saturday and two on Monday.

The Saturday schedule includes a date with Richmond-Burton (8-7) at 12:30 p.m. followed by a 5:30 p.m. matchup against Niles North (9-5).

The Vikings complete pool play Monday against Mundelein (2-13) at 11:30 a.m. The championship game takes place at 5 p.m.

Other participants include host Lake Zurich (10-4), Addison Trail (9-5), Palatine (4-12), Vernon Hills (3-14), Carmel (5-11), and Streamwood (5-13).

"We just need to make sure we play Geneva basketball because there are at least a couple of games that are really going to challenge us, so that's good," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "A tournament like this is a little bit different. You have to have a bit of a different mindset. It's hard to scout because you're going to have teams playing very different styles and, in some cases, playing a few hours apart. You might see a team that's going to press you, you might see a team that's going to zone you. It really puts you on your toes to be crisp because there will be lots of challenges physically and mentally in this tournament."

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