BURLINGTON – Richmond-Burton showed plenty of mettle while battling back from a huge hole.
The Rockets’ full-court zone pressure was instrumental in sparking a comeback from a 16-point, third-quarter deficit to lead by four points with 3:10 remaining in the game.
At that point, R-B’s most noticeable deficiency – rebounding – again became an issue. Burlington Central, as it had most of the game, picked up vital second-chance points and held off R-B, 69-65, in their Big Northern Conference East Division boys basketball game Friday night.
“They just destroyed us on the offensive glass,” said R-B coach Brandon Creason, whose team was outrebounded, 38-29. “Even when we had the lead, we didn’t rebound well. We played hard, but we just didn’t rebound hard.”
Burlington (10-13 overall, 8-1 BNC East) takes a 11⁄2-game lead with three remaining games. R-B (8-15, 6-2) has one more remaining game and hosts Burlington on Feb. 22 in the regular-season finale.
R-B trailed 50-34 with 1:25 remaining in the third quarter, but finished the quarter with an 8-1 run, including two baskets in the final 9 seconds.
“Our defense gave us steals and we got into transition and that gave us good shots,” guard Brian Wells said. “We kept getting more steals and getting more confidence. We got those steals at the end of the third quarter and broke it down a little bit.”
Guard Chris Vlasak then took over with 13 of his game-high 19 points in the fourth quarter. He hit a 3-pointer, then converted three 3-point plays in a span of 1:04.
“At halftime, I had only two points,” Vlasak said. “I thought I needed to score for us to have a chance to win. It was good, but we were just atrocious on the boards. That’s what won the game for them. The second-chance points killed us.”
The most crucial basket may have come at 1:40 when Burlington’s Ryan Ritchie took a long 3 that did not draw iron, but James Raney was standing under the basket for the putback to tie the score at 63-63.
“It’s frustrating that what was killing us in the first quarter was killing us in the second quarter and was killing us in the fourth quarter,” Creason said. “A lot of it is we’re not very big, but we’ve rebounded better against bigger teams. It was hard to watch. We just stood and watched [on Raney’s rebound].”
Sam Kaufman scored 14 of his 16 points in the second half and Mike Kaska added 13 for R-B.
Moter Deng led Burlington with 14 points and Reed Hunnicutt added 13. Forward Bryce Warner scored nine points and grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds.
“That’s Bryce’s game, we expect that out of him,” Burlington coach Brett Porto said. “If we can’t find confidence after this, I don’t know what it will take. We’re responding now when people make runs.”