Larkin tops Loyola, will play Barrington for Hinkle title

Damari Wheeler-Thomas set the tone and his Larkin teammates followed his lead.

Wheeler-Thomas, who made his first 5 shots of the game including a 3-pointer, scored 11 of his game-high 20 points in the first quarter.

The senior guard's early scoring surge propelled the Royals to an impressive 66-54 win over Loyola Academy in semifinal action of the Hinkle Holiday Classic hosted by Jacobs Monday night.

Larkin, the 2014 champion, advances to Tuesday's championship game at 7:30 play Barrington.

Wheeler-Thomas, a North Dakota State commit, made 8-of-12 from the field while dishing out 5 assists with 4 steals.

"It is all about making the right decision," said Wheeler-Thomas. "I know I need to be a leader on the floor. Our goal is to win this championship."

Larkin coach Deryn Carter realizes Wheeler-Thomas is a special talent.

"Damari got into a rhythm early and got us going," said Carter. "He is so tough to guard."

Thomas' 11 point first quarter helped lead to a 17-10 Larkin advantage after one quarter.

The Royals (13-1) seized control of the game in the second quarter. A 13-3 run to start the quarter extended Larkin's 7-point first quarter to 30-13 with 2:33 remaining before intermission.

Andre Blakley scored 5 points while Fernando Perez and Dontrell Maxie scored 4 apiece as the Royals held a commanding lead.

Pesky Loyola got to within 57-48 with 3:18 left on a 3-pointer by Connor Casper. The Ramblers couldn't get any closer.

Following Wheeler-Thomas in scoring for Larkin was Blakley with 15 points which included 2 3s.

"We have so many guys who can score," said Blakley. "It was nice to hit some shots and help the team win. Our goal is to win the championship of this tournament."

Perez added 14 while Maxie, a perfect 4-of-4 field, contributed 9 points with 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 dunks.

"This was a big win for us," said Carter. Loyola is a super awesome team who never quit. They hung in there for four quarters.

Alex Engro led the Ramblers with 15 points, 9 in the fourth quarter. Miles Boland, with a pair of treys, scored all 13 of his points in the third quarter.

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