BURLINGTON – Marengo forward Ben Volkening spent the second quarter in denial against Burlington Central.
Time after time, the Rockets would drive toward the basket and Volkening was there to reject their shots. The 6-foot-7 senior had eight blocks at halftime, seven of which came in the second quarter.
“I was just trying to play hard and be in position to give my team the best opportunity to win,” said Volkening, who finished with 11 blocks.
The Indians were unable to fully take advantage of Volkening’s relentless defense, mainly because of their 14 first-half turnovers, and were tied with the Rockets at halftime.
Burlington utilized a different strategy, working in then out in the second half, hit four 3-pointers in the third quarter and defeated Marengo, 61-50, in their Big Northern Conference East Division boys basketball game Friday.
“They came out stronger,” Volkening said. “It seemed like they wanted it more than us. We tried to charge back and get in it. It was one of those nights.”
Marengo (8-5 overall, 2-2 BNC East) solved most of its ballhandling issues in the second half, but had trouble slowing down the Rockets (11-2, 4-0). Burlington guard Ta Vontae Harris, who led all players with 16 points, hit a 3 with 5:40 remaining in the third quarter that set off a run of four 3s.
At that point, Burlington had a 39-29 lead and things under control. Marengo managed to cut it to 48-43 with 2:51 to go in the fourth quarter, but could not get closer.
“We were playing too fast [in the first half],” Indians coach Nate Wright said. “Everything was just a second off with timing and where you need to be on plays. We hurried and turned the ball over and missed some layups. We could have been up 10 or 12 at halftime. We were tied [at 22-22] and it’s a dogfight.”
Burlington ran different defenders at Marengo guard Zach Knobloch and limited him to 13 points, eight less than his average. Knobloch finished with three 3s and 11 field-goal attempts.
“They were in my face, running fresh guys at me,” Knobloch said. “They made it tough, but it’s things I’ve seen. It was tough to get shots and when I did it was tough because they were right there.”
Burlington sealed the game with 13 of 16 free-throw shooting in the fourth quarter. Harris led the way, hitting 6 of 7 that quarter.
“The way we’ve been playing, the kids feel confident in the fourth quarter playing with the lead,” Rockets coach Brett Porto said. “It seems like we have five guys on the floor who want the ball in their hands and want to go to the free-throw line. That’s a nice feeling to have as a coach.”
Volkening grabbed 10 rebounds to lead the Indians. Mike Volkening led Marengo with 15 points. Burlington’s Ryan Fitzgerald added 11 points and had a game-high 13 rebounds.
It was another important step toward a division title for Burlington, although there are 10 remaining games.
“:The winner’s going to most likely have three losses,” Knobloch said. “We play in a tough conference, anything can happen.”
Blaine Borhart Marengo, Sophomore, Guard
Borhart scored five points and grabbed seven rebounds in the Indians’ 61-50 loss to Burlington Central Friday in a Big Northern Conference East Division game. He had three rebounds in the first quarter while helping Marengo build a 15-11 lead.
THE NUMBER 19
Blocks for Marengo’s 6-7 forward Ben Volkening in the last two games, with 11 coming against Burlington Central.
AND ANOTHER THING ...
Burlington Central played the way teams need to in closing out games in the fourth quarter, hitting 13 of 16 free throws and committing only two turnovers.
Burlington Central 61, Marengo 50
MARENGO (50) Nice 2 0-0 6, Knobloch 4 2-2 13, M. Volkening 5 3-4 15, B. Volkening 2 0-0 4, Bassuener 2 0-0 4, Borhart 2 1-2 5, Wightman 1 1-2 3, Nelsen 0 0-0 0, Wascher 0 0-0 0. Totals: 18 7-10 50.
BURLINGTON CENTRAL (61) Harris 3 8-9 16, Schutta 2 1-1 7, Mayfield 3 4-6 10, McCurdy 2 2-2 6, Fitzgerald 5 1-2 11, Kalusa 1 0-0 3, Ratzek 3 0-0 8, Wells 0 0-0 0. Totals: 20 16-20 61.
Marengo 15 7 10 18 – 50
Burlington 11 11 17 22 – 61
3-point goals: Marengo 7 (Knobloch 3, Nice 2, M. Volkening 2), Burlington Central 7 (Harris 2, Schutta 2, Ratzek 2, Kalusa). Total fouls: Marengo 19, Burlington Central 16. Fouled out: Knobloch, M. Volkening.