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Burlington Central's Reed Hunnicutt drives to the basket earlier this season. Hunniccutt and the Rockets begin play at the Plano Tournament on Saturday. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media
Burlington Central coach Brett Porto may have been on to something when he said his Rockets were probably the best 0-7 team in the state after a loss against Elgin last week.
It figured to only be a matter of time before Burlington Central finally put things together, and sure enough the Rockets have found their footing with a 61-38 win against Rockford Christian last Friday and a 64-41 win at Genoa-Kingston on Tuesday.
Despite a 2-7 overall record, the two Big Northern East blowouts reinforce Burlington Central’s status as one of the league favorites. Now the Rockets hope to continue their recent momentum in a home conference game against Harvard on Friday before tipping off play at the 50th annual Plano Christmas Classic on Saturday against Newark.
“No one likes to start the season that way, but I think the kids are doing a good job of learning from it and getting better each day,” Porto said of the 0-7 start. “These last 10 to 12 days practice-wise it’s been a different mentality, and it’s finally been carrying over to the games.”
Burlington Central was not one of the 16 teams to receive a seed in the 24-team field at Plano. The top eight seeds earned a bye into Wednesday’s second round, and defending champion Belvidere returns as the No. 1 seed.
Newark, a perennially strong Class 1A team, owns the No. 14 seed. The winner between the Norsemen and Rockets advances to play No. 3 Yorkville next Wednesday.
“(The tournament) is a nice fit because it’s good to see some different brands of basketball and different team names that you’re not used to,” Porto said.
Senior Ryan Ritchie missed Burlington Central’s first four games with a right thumb injury but has averaged 15.6 points since his return. Seniors Moter Deng and Bryce Warner and juniors Reed Hunnicutt and Duncan Ozburn are four other key contributors in a deep Rockets rotation.
DeKalb Tournament outlook
Hampshire carries an eight-game win streak into its first game at DeKalb’s Chuck Dayton Tournament on Thursday.
The Whip-Purs open up against Marmion at 5 p.m. in Pool C. They continue pool play against Chicago Vocational on Saturday and Geneseo on Wednesday.
Senior Tyler Crater is averaging a team-best 19.1 points for Hampshire (8-1), which joins undefeated Winnebago and Chicago Vocational in the list of tournament favorites.
Marengo Tournament outlook
Westminster Christian carries a 4-6 record into Marengo’s E.C. Nichols Tournament. The Warriors snapped a four-game skid with a 56-38 win against Alden-Hebron last Saturday.
First up at Marengo for Westminster is an 11 a.m. game against Woodstock North on Saturday. They come back and play the host Indians at 8 that night before wrapping up play in Pool A against Antioch on Dec. 27.
Seniors Will Woodhouse and Colin Brandon have been the top scoring threats this season for Westminster, which is the only Class 1A team in the eight-team field at Marengo.