Scharnowski dominates at both ends, leads Burlington Central over Huntley into FVC lead
Burlington Central defenders prefer to play aggressive and not worry about if their opponents get by and have an open path to the basket.
Because that open path is no guarantee of a bucket with the Rockets' 6-foot-9 Drew Scharnowski lurking around the hoop.
"That dog mentality. I wanted the ball," Scharnowski said. "I didn't want them to score. I was going in hard, looking to block every single shot."
Huntley had to deal with that Wednesday night, as Scharnowski swatted six shots and changed several others and the Rockets defeated the Red Raiders 61-51 in their Fox Valley Conference boys basketball game.
"Huntley does such a great job running their offense, so we wanted to be really aggressive on the perimeter, knowing that we had (Scharnowski) behind us," Rockets coach Brett Porto said. "We wanted to encourage them to come down there because what he does at the rim or around the rim is special. There's not a lot of people who can do that anywhere across the state."
Central (14-3, 7-1) grabbed first place in the FVC by a half-game over Huntley (13-4, 6-1) and Crystal Lake South (14-4, 6-1) with the victory. Scharnowski finished with 31 points, 15 rebounds and the six blocks.
Rockets guard Matthew Lemon gave his team a big boost in the first 3 minutes of the second half. The score was tied 26-26 at halftime and Lemon opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer. Scharnowski's dunk gave Central the lead for good at 31-30, then Lemon nailed another 3.
"All credit to coach Porto. He challenged us at halftime to keep confident and keep shooting the ball," said Lemon, who scored 15 points. "He asked me personally how many shots I had. I hadn't shot any 3s to that point. He told me to have faith as a shooter."
Lemon added 9 of 10 free-throw shooting for his total.
"We didn't execute our offense well, but a lot of that was their defense," Raiders coach Will Benson said. "Their half-court defense is really good. It's hard to shoot against those guys. Six 3s is not enough for us, because we're not going to score much in the paint."
Time after time, Huntley players looked like they may get a shot, and Scharnowski was quick enough to deny them.
Central grabbed a 48-39 lead early in the fourth quarter, but Huntley came back with 3s from Noah Only and Lucas Crosby to make it 48-45. The Raiders could not get closer.
Only, who is 6-3, started out on Scharnowski in Huntley's man-to-man defense, but picked up two fouls in the first quarter. Ian Ravagnie (6-4) switched to Scharnowski and also picked up two fouls, so Huntley went to a 2-3 zone.
"I think it's (harder) on offense (with Scharnowski), him being 6-9, and us not having taller big men," Only said. "It makes it hard to defend when they throw it to him down low. He could get easy buckets down there.
"That really hurt us when we had to sit down. He got some points that got him closer to 30. We said if we could hold him to his 20, we could win. He got those extra points."
Only led Huntley with 12 points, Crosby added 10. Central had a 40-29 rebounding advantage behind Scharnowski Nick Gouriotis, who grabbed 10.
Central is 46-7 in FVC games since the start of the 2020 season and is trying to win its third consecutive conference championship. Lemon thought the Rockets' defense made the difference Wednesday.
"We knew it was going to be super aggressive," Lemon said. "We had two really challenging physical practices the two days before and that really prepared us to see what it's going to be like. And we crashed (the boards), that's what put us through."