Burlington Central's rally falls just short vs. Lyons
Burlington Central found itself in a position which seemed unlikely several minutes earlier.
After chasing Lyons for 2 1/2 quarters, and trailing by 13 in the third quarter, the Rockets had the ball with 24 seconds remaining and were down by one point.
Central guard Matthew Lemon split two defenders in the Lions' zone defense and tossed up a runner with 5 seconds to go that rolled around and off the rim.
Lyons forward Brady Chambers rebounded the miss and was fouled, then made two free throws with 2 seconds left as the Lions successfully defended their Burlington Central Martin Luther King Jr. Tournament championship with a 60-57 victory Monday afternoon.
"Burlington is really good, and playing them here, at home, they play so hard," Lyons coach Tom Sloan said. "It's a great win for our guys. It looked like it had the potential to be a double-digit game for a while, but the whole time I knew they were going to keep coming after us and they made some shots."
Lyons (17-2) was led by Nik Polonowski with 14 points and four 3-pointers, Connor Carroll added 12 and Chambers scored 11 off the bench.
The Lions led by eight at halftime, and pushed it to 46-33 with 3:30 to go in the third quarter. Central (16-4) started chipping away and got the ball inside to 6-foot-9 Drew Scharnowski, who scored nine of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter.
"We came in knowing we had to play hard," said Rockets forward Nic Gouriotis, who scored 16 points and hit three 3s. "When we dug ourselves a hole there, we knew it was going to be tough. We had to go possession by possession, no one play was going to win it.
"We slowly kept getting back at it and that's why I'm proud of this game, because we kept fighting. We even had a shot to tie there."
Central coach Brett Porto set up a play with 24 seconds remaining that had a number of options. The Lions switched from man-to-man to zone for the last possession.
"We were on the verge of calling another timeout, but when Matthew split we had cutters and second chances," Porto said. "It rolled right off the rim, if that goes in they only have about 4 seconds left. You can't be upset about getting a decent look like that.
"The effort and execution was so much better in the second half. They're so long. We had a two-minute stretch there where we just couldn't get anything going in the first half and turned the ball over. That cost us in the long run, but you can't be upset with what we did in the second half, especially late in the fourth quarter."
Chambers got some key buckets in the third quarter, including a dunk, when 6-6 Graham Smith picked up his third foul while guarding Scharnowski.
"It was good coming in and helping out," Chambers said. "The last game, Carter Reid (a 6-6 forward) had a tough injury. He usually steps in and makes big plays, so I had to come in and make some big contributions."
Central eventually cut the lead to 56-55 with 1:59 to go, and Carroll hit two free throws to make it 58-55. The Lions hit 11 of 12 free throws for the game.
The Rockets got it inside for another Scharnowski basket with 1:04 left, then forced a turnover with 24 seconds remaining and called timeout, trailing 58-57.
"I just tried to clear my mind, not listen to any of the crowd and just focus on the free throws," Chambers said.
Chambers came up with the big rebound on Lemon's miss and made the last two free throws. Central inbounded to Jake Johnson, who tried a 3 just past half-court, but had it knocked away.
Polonowski and Jackson Niego made the All-Tournament team for Lyons, while Scharnowski and Lemon made it from Central.
"We missed some opportunities in the second half and Drew (Scharnowski), he's just really good," Sloan said. "He's a real load to handle around the basket. Within 3 feet it seemed like he was 8 for 8 and he got to the free-throw line a bunch. He was real tough."
The loss ended a nine-game winning streak for the Rockets, who are tied atop the Fox Valley Conference at 7-1 with Crystal Lake South, which they face Tuesday, and Huntley.
"We're definitely disappointed in the loss, but Lyons is a great team," Scharnowski said. "I'm really proud of the guys. It was a good tournament for us. Even though we lost today, we got better as a team throughout this whole weekend. I'm really looking forward to that Fox Valley matchup against Crystal Lake South (Tuesday night)."