HARVARD – Harvard girls basketball coach John Lally realized early on against Burlington Central his Hornets were in trouble.
The Rockets' full court press pestered the Hornets' ballhanders in the backcourt and they struggled maintaining possession under pressure, resulting in easy points in transition for Central.
Sixteen of Harvard's 34 turnovers came in the first quarter allowing Central to sprint to a 22-6 lead, which swelled to 21 points by halftime. The Rockets never let up despite its comfortable lead en route to a 61-17 Big Northern Conference East Division win at Harvard.
"We knew coming in that this is the best team that nobody is talking about," Lally said. "This is probably your conference champion, in my opinion. Not to take anything away from Marengo or Richmond-Burton, but this team is loaded.
"We've labored against pressure all year. Our guard play has been a work in progress all year."
Central's continued pressure prevented Harvard (2-9, 0-3 BNC East) from settling in offensively and was forced to play out of its comfort zone – up tempo and fast paced.
"It's extremely frustrating because without the turnovers it would have been a lot closer of a game," said senior forward Randi Blazier, who finished with a team-high nine points. " ... Our coach always says there's no defense for a turnover."
Utilizing a 2-3 zone defense, the Hornets tried to neutralize the Rockets' size and outside shooting but they moved the ball too efficiently to slow them down. Four players scored at least 11 points for Central (8-1, 3-0) led by freshman guard Kayla Ross's game-high 16 points.
"We're trying to get them to communicate and talk and be aggressive," Rockets coach Mark Smith said. "They're already naturally pretty good basketball players so I've been blessed with some good talent and they bought into what we're doing."
Harvard needs to quickly forget the blowout loss and refocus for the Northern Illinois Holiday Classic, a 16-team tournament that begins Friday. The Hornets open pool play at 6 p.m. Friday against Lakes and face McHenry and Crystal Lake Central on Saturday. Harvard and Crystal Lake Central squared off in the season opener, a game the Tigers won, 54-33.
"We kind of view this, at this point, as more of a measuring stick of where we're at and where we can be going into the second half," Lally said. "The second half of our schedule gets slightly easier where we have a chance to start applying what we see."