Beating Larkin takes the kind of precision most high school basketball teams aren’t capable of producing.
This reality was on display again Thursday as Elgin put together a stellar effort from the opening tip and had its crosstown rival on upset alert in crunch time. One of the best efforts of the season from the Maroons ultimately wasn’t enough, though, as the Royals once again had too much firepower down the stretch while securing a 71-67 road win at Chesbrough Field House.
For the third straight game, Larkin got a huge effort in the second half from Kendale McCullum to hold off an Upstate Eight River challenger. The talented senior guard scored 10 of his 17 points and grabbed four of his eight rebounds in the fourth quarter as the Royals ran their winning streak against Elgin to five.
“We stayed under control, we didn’t listen to the fans and we blocked everything out,” McCullum said. “We kept our composure, didn’t force anything and just took smart shots.”
As is the case with most Elgin-Larkin basketball matchups, the entertainment value was high, with the teams combining for six baskets during one 50-second stretch in the fourth quarter. The Maroons bolted to a 12-3 lead out of the gate, but that proved to be the largest lead of the game for either team.
Elgin (3-7, 1-2) seized a 59-57 advantage with 3:26 left on Lavion Baldwin’s transition basket, but the next 90 seconds proved to be the Maroons’ undoing.
The Royals knotted the score on the next possession when freshman Christian Negron connected on his second putback try. The Maroons came up empty on their next two trips down the floor, and Larkin (8-1, 4-0) made them pay on both occasions as Derrick Streety drained a three-pointer and Kendale McCullum drilled a contestedpull-up jumper to make it 64-59 with 2:08 left.
“It’s a tough rivalry,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “Like we tell our guys, you want to win in March and you want to win when you play Elgin.
“Our guys showed a lot of poise throughout the game, and down the stretch they did what we expect them to do.”
Both teams had four players score in double figures. For Elgin, Isaiah Butler and Donte Harper led the way with 17 points apiece. Desmond Sanders added 15 points, and Baldwin came off the bench to score all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter.
“We can play with any team in the area, but we just need to close out games,” Sanders said.
Added Elgin coach Mike Sitter: “Holy cow, did we have good effort tonight. I’ll take that any night of the week. Larkin is a good team. We were in a tight game in front of a huge crowd, and I don’t know that we reacted as well at the end as they did.”
Negron led Larkin with 18 points despite sitting out the entire first quarter for a violation of team rules. He also racked up nine rebounds, three blocks and three steals in his crosstown showdown debut.
“You could see the impact (Negron) made when he got on the court,” Carter said. “He played at a high level today for sure.”
Streety added 14 points and Brayden Royse had 11 for the Royals, who now trail 79-45 in the all-time series against the Maroons.
LARKIN 71, ELGIN 67
Larkin (8-1, 4-0)
Negron8 2-8 18, McCullum 7 3-6 17, Streety 3 5-6 14, Royse 4 2-2 11, Boley 2 0-0 6, Jones 1 3-4 5. Totals 25 15-26 71.
Elgin (3-7, 1-2)
Harper 6 3-3 17, Butler 8 0-2 17, Sanders 6 1-1 15, Baldwin 4 0-0 10, Sitter 2 0-0 4, Douglas 1 0-0 2, Mari 1 0-0 2. Totals 28 4-6 67.
Larkin 10 18 16 27 — 71
Elgin 15 11 19 22 — 67
Three-point goals — Larkin: 6 (Streety 3, Boley 2, Royse). Elgin: 7 (Harper 2, Sanders 2, Baldwin 2, Butler). Fouled out — Larkin: None. Elgin: Butler.