Larkin's Royals donned a regional crown Friday after a seven-year wait.
St. Charles North established an early lead in the Class 4A South Elgin boys basketball regional title game, but the Royals soon found their shooting rhythm, grabbed the momentum and turned a 2-point halftime lead into a 75-64 victory. The regional title is Larkin's first since the 2005-06 season.
“This is something we've been going for since coach (Deryn) Carter first came here four years ago and we finally accomplished it,” said senior guard Quentin Ruff, who led the Royals with 24 points to nearly offset a 28-point performance from St. Charles North senior Quinten Payne in his final high school game.
Larkin advances to face Rockford Jefferson in a DeKalb sectional semifinal on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Jefferson (20-12) defeated regional host Rockford East 53-49.
“Our guys did what they did all year, so we're proud of them,” said Carter, a former Larkin standout. “It's a good night. We'll take it and go back to work (today) for sectionals.”
No. 3 St. Charles North (18-11) built an 18-11 lead after one quarter, thanks to 3-pointers from guards Alec Goetz and Tony Neari, an inside bucket from senior forward Justin Stanko and 4 baskets from Payne, 2 of them putbacks. The North Stars made 7 of 11 shots from the field in the opening quarter while No. 1 Larkin (23-5) made just 4-of-18.
Roles reversed in the second quarter. The North Stars sank just 3 of 9 shots while the Royals canned 7 of 9 attempts, including all 4 from 3-point range, to take a 30-28 halftime lead.
“They just hit some big shots and we kind of went away from what was working, which was getting in the lane,” said Payne, who picked up his fourth foul with 2:28 left in the third quarter. “I give it to them, they can really shoot the rock and they pressure really well. That hurt us a little bit because they got a couple of steals on us. We were fine going into half, but coming out of the half they hit some shots on us and we didn't rotate very well.”
Larkin outscored the North Stars 25-13 in the third quarter, thanks to an 11-0 run that changed the game's complexion. In typical Larkin fashion, five players scored to fuel the 11-0 surge, including Brayden Royse, Kendale McCullum, Quantice Hunter, Ruff and junior Drew Jones, the latter of whom returned from injury to play significant minutes and score 11 points.
“I think we made better plays on offense in the second half, and we also played better defense and rebounded,” Jones said.
Larkin forced the North Stars into 6 third-quarter turnovers and increased its lead to 15 points multiple times in the fourth quarter. Larkin's victory completed a 3-game season sweep of the North Stars.
“They come at you in waves,” St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin said of the Royals. “They've got a ton of speed and quickness and they anticipate very well. We've seen teams that do the same and you tell yourself you can handle what they do, but, obviously, in 3 games we weren't able to.”
The North Stars shot 50 percent for the game (21 of 42) and won the rebounding battle 25-22, but they committed 18 turnovers compared to Larkin's 10.
“We played well and I'm proud of all our guys,” Payne said, “but it hurts to lose like that because it was a game I thought we could have had. We gave it all we had and at the end of the day we ended up losing, so that's what it is.”
Neari was the only other North Star to crack double digits in scoring (10 points). Meanwhile, Larkin senior guard Quantice Hunter (15 points) and McCulum (13 points) joined Ruff and Jones in double digits for Larkin.