Erickson's clutch play leads Burlington Central to regional title

Friday night's Class 3A regional championship between Burlington Central and Rockford Boylan was a very close contest down to the last three minutes of the game.

That's when Rockets senior Page Erickson stepped up her play, scoring 10 of her game-high 18 points and getting a key steal and rebound to help secure a 42-32 win and earn Central its ninth regional crown.

The homecourt victory advances the Rockets to the Glenbard South sectional where they will face Montini in the first semifinal game at 6 p.m. Tuesday. The Broncos eliminated Central from last year's tournament in a sectional semifinal.

The Rockets led 24-18 at the start of the fourth quarter and widened the gap to 30-20 at the 5:04 mark after Paige Greenhagel connected on two free throws. Rockford Boylan rallied with a 7-0 run to pulled within 30-27 with three minutes left. Erickson stopped the run with a layup.

A Titans 3-point basket by Kaylee Harter made it a two-point game, 32-30 with 90 seconds left. Erickson again provide the stopper with a bucket and free throw to widen the Rockets' margin back to 35-30.

"It was teetering back and forth. They cut it two and we got it back to five. When Page got the bucket and one, we gained confidence and exhaled a little bit," said Central coach Collin Kalamatas. "Our kids were able to play little looser and finish it off."

On Rockford Boylan's next possession, the Central senior poke the ball away, was fouled and converted both charity tosses for a 37-30 lead with 52 seconds left.

"During halftime coach said it was all about getting defensive stops so that's what I was really focused on," Erickson said.

After snaring an offensive rebound, Erickson again was fouled and again made both free throws.

Rockford Boylan (26-6) foul trouble aided the Rockets (22-10). The Titans' Lilly Esparza, a 6-foot-2 forward, sat out parts of the second and third quarter due to fouls. The junior fouled out a minute into the fourth quarter.

"The biggest thing for us was Lilly was getting in foul trouble. When she went out, they went on a 7-0 run to end the second quarter," first-year Rockford Boylan coach Aaron Westlund said. "When she sat in the third quarter, they went on another run. In the fourth quarter she was in for two possessions and commits her fifth foul with five and a half minutes left and it got out of hand for awhile."

"We got some breaks with their better players not being on the floor due to foul trouble," said Kalamatas. "Obviously (Esparza) fouling out was a game-changer."

Rockford Boylan's 2-3 zone frustrated Central shooters in the first half. The Rockets sank only three baskets in the first quarter for an 8-7 lead. Central led 19-10 at the half.

"That 2-3 zone they play is real tough. They have so much length with their guards and then you put a 6-2 solid defensive player in the middle," Kalamatas said. "We had just enough to pull it off."

Sam Origel scored 10 points for Central while Maggie Schmidt tallied 10 for Rockford Boylan.

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