Scharnowski's near triple double sends Burlington Central to regional crown

Behind a Herculean effort from 6-foot-9 senior center Drew Scharnowski, who nearly recorded a triple double with a game-high 35 points, 17 rebounds and 8 blocked shots, Burlington Central (28-5) captured its second consecutive Class 3A regional championship with Friday night's 68-54 victory over Wauconda in Wheaton.

With the win, the Rockets head to their own sectional tournament, where they will face Rockford Boylan (22-11) in Wednesday's 7 p.m. semifinals.

"I'm happy that we have sectionals at our place," said Scharnowski. "It's very exciting, and we're excited to keep playing."

After spotting the Rockets a 6-0 lead in the game's opening minute, Wauconda coach Ty Weidner called an early timeout - and his team regrouped and grabbed a 21-20 first-quarter advantage, thanks in part to 11 points, including three 3-pointers, from junior Tyler Tylka (13 points).

"I don't like to burn timeouts at the beginning of the game but we responded and battled back," said Weidner.

Trailing 23-22 in the second quarter, the Rockets took the lead for good at 24-23 on a layup from sophomore Caden West (8 points) with 5:02 remaining before halftime.

Scharnowski, who displayed his defensive prowess with back-to-back blocks in the second quarter, ignited his team - and the boisterous Rockets crowd - with a steal and end-to-end, two-hand dunk, and Patrick Shell's inside bucket extended the lead to 28-23 midway through the period.

"That seemed like the momentum changer," senior forward Nic Gouriotis said of Scharnowski's second-quarter blocked shots. "I think one of them shook the rim."

"It started on the defensive end and then everything started flowing on offense," said Scharnowski, who provided the Rockets' only 3-pointer of the half to make it 33-25.

Burlington Central led 35-29 at the break.

Led by junior Braeden Carlsen's 7 third-quarter points, Wauconda remained within striking distance throughout the third quarter, which ended with a pair of free throws from sophomore Jake Johnson (8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 steals) following a technical foul call on Weidner, as the Rockets headed into the final period with a 52-47 lead.

Burlington put the game out of reach with a 12-2 spurt over the next 6 ½ minutes, extending the margin to 64-49 on Scharnowski's tomahawk jam off a feed from senior guard Matthew Lemon (5 points, 5 assists) with 1:26 remaining.

"It's amazing to play with a guy like that," Lemon said of Scharnowski. "It's not just his performance - he's such a good friend and a great teammate."

Scharnowski, who connected on 17 of 24 shots from the field, exited the game to a standing ovation with 47 seconds left.

"It's a lot of fun playing in these environments," he said. "We have a great fan base. It (winning a regional) feels good, but the job is not finished."

"Any time we needed a play on both ends, Drew provided it," said Rockets coach Brett Porto, who captured his fourth regional title at the helm.

"I think a lot of people didn't expect us to be here. It's a testament to these seniors and how hard they worked."

Gouriotis, who shadowed Carlsen (20 points) most of the evening, added 8 points.

"I enjoy it," Gouriotis said of his defensive matchup on Carlsen, who scored 31 points against St. Francis Thursday night. "That's my favorite thing about basketball - I love playing defense."

Wauconda finished 16-13.

"Drew is a fantastic player," Weidner said. "It's hard to score in the half-court with him in there, so we wanted to get out and run. That's when we're at our best.

"They have a tremendous team."

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