Burling’s 19 boards lead dominant, physical effort

Jessa Burling manuevers through traffic Tuesday night. (Mike Ramczyk/SLN)

 

By Mike Ramczyk

sports@southernlakesnewspapers.com

Game after game, another tough opponent takes its shot against the surging Burlington girls basketball team.

And game after game, the Demons keep playing their best ball of the season and winning with ease.

Tuesday night against Wilmot was no exception, and now the Demons find themselves one game behind first-place Union Grove.

Host Burlington (14-6, 10-2 Southern Lakes) utilized menacing first-half defense, balanced scoring and rebounding to cruise to a 54-45 victory over the Panthers (9-3 SLC) in a battle for second place in the SLC.

The Demons’ revenge tour is complete, as they have now avenged 15-point losses to both Union Grove and Wilmot.

Now the Demons are one game behind Union Grove, which won, 54-51, Tuesday night against Waterford.

Both teams have two SLC games left. A tie with the Broncos would give Burlington a share of its first conference title in nearly 30 years (1991).

“We came out early, and the girls had a lot of energy and were able to build a big lead at halftime,” Burlington coach Mary Parker said. “We got some steals from getting a little more pressure from our zone than we usually do. That helped, as it made their girls have to throw over our taller girls.”

“We got some baskets in transition, and we got a lot of defensive rebounds in the first half, which was huge.”

The Demons finished with 41 rebounds, led by 19 from Jessa Burling.

 

Driving and kicking

Burling scored 14 points and notched seven steals, and her penetration inside the paint on offense opened things up for junior Caitlyn Matson, who connected on four triples and added 14 points.

Jackie Garwood chipped in 13 points and nine rebounds.

Burlington was able to dominate for a 30-15 halftime lead.

“Our zone defense worked out really well tonight,” Matson said. “We closed out hard on their shooters and had a lot of key rebounds.”

“It’s pretty cool to be this successful, and we’re hoping for a chance at first place. I think we can still get better.”

Burling, who has had a historic scoring season, has also imposed her will on the glass, as she bullied her way inside Tuesday night and got to the line 10 times, hitting six including two late to help clinch the win.

The senior point guard said the team is putting it all together, as evidenced by its overall five-game win streak and perfect 5-0 record in SLC home games.

“It feels quite surreal for us to take over second place,” Burling said. “All of the things we have been working on are transferring into games, which makes it really worthwhile.”

“Our biggest key offensively has been playing our pace. Working it around and finding the breakdowns has been the biggest way we have gotten our success. We’re starting to put it all together. Our biggest defensive key is to have high energy. Our best offense is our defense, and we always try to play with that mentality.”

 

Demons stave off late rally

With 8 minutes to play Tuesday night, Matson hit an elbow 3-pointer to push the Demon lead to 41-24, but the Panthers wouldn’t go away.

They amped up a full-court press to force some Burlington turnovers, and the lead was quickly cut to 10 after a 9-2 Wilmot run.

But Burling answered with a few free throws and a layup after snatching her own miss down low.

Wilmot big Morgan Zenon’s three-point play cut it to 48-41 with a minute left, and a Riley Alexander made it 52-45.

But Burling and Garwood iced the game with three of four free throws.

While Wilmot got a bit of a rhythm late, Burlington was in control all night.

Amelia Crabtree added seven points and three steals for the Demons, who committed 27 turnovers and shot 32 percent from the field and 50 percent from beyond the arc.

Burlington will need to win out and hope for Lake Geneva Badger to perhaps upset Union Grove for a shot at a conference title.

Parker said she prefers her team stays under the radar, but the Demons’ stellar play is getting plenty of attention, including a “Team of the Week” designation in Tuesday’s Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“It’s great for the girls, they’re putting the effort in,” she said. “They’re improving every single day in practice. We’re focusing on us and playing our best basketball moving into the tournament.”

“Early on, when we looked at some of our losses, we thought we could compete with them if we worked on a few different things. The girls are adjusting, and it’s paying off in

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