Turnovers, missed free throws spell doom for Burlington

Burlington junior Nick Webley dives for a loose ball, caused by Badger’s swarming pressure, Friday night at Burlington High School. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)


By Mike Ramczyk


BURLINGTON – It was simply one of those games for the Burlington varsity boys basketball team – a real stinker.

On Friday night at home, it didn’t matter that visiting Lake Geneva Badger had only one win on the season.

The young, scrappy Badgers wanted this one more than the Demons, and it showed early and often.

Badger featured four players in double figures and led wire to wire, enjoying several double-digit advantages in a mild upset, a 69-58 victory over the floored Demons.

Badger improved to 2-13 overall and 2-6 in the SLC, while Burlington dropped to 8-6 and 5-3. The Demons now sit two games behind first-place Union Grove with six conference games left.

Burlington travels to Union Grove Tuesday.

“We simply did not play well,” Burlington coach Steve Berezowitz said. “These guys are playing their hardest but we just have to find a way to play a cleaner game.”


Tyus Vinson blocks a Burlington shot Friday night. Vinson was one of four Badgers in double figures. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Pressure leads to sloppy ball-handling

After several blowout wins in Southern Lakes play and an impressive performance against Kenosha Tremper, along with a blowout loss at Westosha Central, Burlington has had to lean on inside scoring and rebounding without the experienced guard play of injured senior Nick Klug.

But on Friday, Burlington came back down to Earth, as Badger’s suffocating full-court zone pressure led to 29 Demon turnovers. Back-court hesitation and an inability to run the offense at times led to errant passes, as the energetic Badgers seemed to be winning every 50-50 ball and flying around the court.

Badger junior Kale Rodgers scored six consecutive points in the final two minutes to help Lake Geneva build a comfortable lead after a Sean Safar 3-pointer cut the Demon deficit to three points.

After the game, Rodgers said the Badgers haven’t shown this much energy and consistency with their full-court pressure all season. But on Friday, Rodgers said the Badgers badly wanted a victory after a season full of struggles and tough luck.

When Burlington was able to beat the pressure and run its offense, the Demons enjoyed wide-open layups, often sparked by strong interior play from bigs Brock Halbach, Dylan Runkel and Trent Turzenski.

With six minutes left, Badger’s Tyus Vinson erupted the Badger faithful with a thunderous two-handed dunk, and then Grant Dumez intercepted a pass at half court and swooped in for two to give Badger a nine-point lead.

But the Demons picked up the pace on offense and finally showed some life, as Safar swished a corner triple with less than five minutes to play.

However, Badger’s guard play was too much for Burlington to handle, as Rodgers, Dumez and sophomore Spencer Bishop kept making shots.


Brock Halbach registered 18 points and 14 rebounds to lead the Demons. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

Free throws, layups put away Demons

Bishop knocked down three triples in the second half, and Rodgers and Dumez were able to penetrate and score, often contorting around the Demons’ massive front line of three players 6-foot-6 or taller.

Grant Tully hit another triple late, and Safar’s offensive rebound and put-back cut the Badger lead to 59-53 around the two-minute mark.

That’s when Rodgers took over, driving for two layups, sandwiched around a Runkel bucket, and added two big free throws for a 63-55 lead late.

It didn’t help that Burlington missed several foul shots in the final minutes, and only connected on 10 of 18 for the game.

Conversely, Badger lived in the paint and got to the line 32 times, hitting 22 of them.

Berezowitz said the Demons rebounded well and had great success when they got the ball inside, but Badger’s traps and length in passing lanes made that difficult.

“We struggled with their pressure,” he added. “Twenty-nine turnovers puts too much pressure on other possessions. The kids tried their best tonight. As a group, we just didn’t play well.”

When asked what needed to be fixed after tonight’s loss, Berezowitz wouldn’t go that far.

“Fixed is not a word we will use. We will hit practice hard for next Tuesday’s game.”

Dumez led Badger with 18 points, and Bishop finished with 15. Rodgers added 14, and Vinson scored 12.

Burlington’s front line of Turzenski, Halbach and Runkel combined for 34 points, led by Halbach’s 18 points and 14 rebounds. Turzenski added eight rebounds.

Badger hit six 3-pointers, compared to two for Burlington, both of which came in the final five minutes.

Runkel added 10 points.

Things won’t get any easier Tuesday, as Burlington must face another strong back-court in Union Grove’s Jack Pettit and Riley Hale and the first-place Broncos on the road.

Four Broncos scored in double figures, led by 6-foot-5 Sam Rampulla’s 18, and the Grove rolled to a home victory, 66-47, over Delavan-Darien tonight.

Union Grove is 11-4 overall and 7-1 in the SLC, one half-game ahead of two-time defending champion Westosha Central.