Five games in, the Larkin boys basketball team is making people take notice.
The buzz began last summer when the Royals made a run to the finals of a summer-league tournament at Geneva. Larkin, multiple coaches in the Upstate Eight Conference's River Division predicted before the season began, would be a much-improved team in 2011-12.
Six days after winning a title at Woodstock's Hoops for Healing tournament, Larkin (5-0) toppled previously undefeated Bartlett (4-1) on the road Saturday to surpass last season's record of 4-23. It's the best start for the Royals since coach Deryn Carter's playing days in the late 1990s.
The scoring column is headed by talented junior guard Quantice Hunter (6-foot-1). He averages 14.4 points per game and leads the team with 12 3-pointers.
Hunter has lots of help, though. Sophomore point guard Derrick Streety (5-10) continues to improve. He is averaging 9 ppg in his second varsity season.
A key addition has been junior guard Quentin Ruff (6-0). Able to score from the 3-point line or penetrate, Ruff has connected on nine 3-pointers and averages 9 ppg. Seven different players have scored 10 points or more at least once, including freshman forward Daniel McFadden (6-4).
"It's not like we go into a game saying we're going to get one guy this or one guy that," third-year coach Deryn Carter said. "It's all about what's open."
For example, the Royals rode the hot hand of 6-5 senior forward Antonio Pipes early in Friday's win at Bartlett. He scored 8 of his 10 points in the first half as Larkin built a 16-point halftime lead.
"It just worked out that way," Pipes said. "It wasn't really planned. Guys just got me the ball and I scored off it."
The Royals have made 29 3-pointers. In addition to Hunter and Ruff's success from long distance, senior Ian Fluhler has drained six 3-pointers and Streety has another. Even 6-foot-4 sophomore Drew Jones, the son of Streamwood coach Tim Jones, knocked down a 3-pointer against Bartlett.
Larkin succeeds because it plays defense. The Royals have outscored their opponents by an average of 63 points to 44.2.
Larkin opens the UEC River race against visiting St. Charles North (2-4, 1-0) Wednesday at 7:15 p.m.
Tale of the tape: Hampshire coach Bob Barnett felt a long film session was in order after the Whip-Purs stumbled out of the gate. Hampshire slipped to 1-4 last Tuesday with a 31-30 home loss against South Elgin.
"Tuesday was very difficult for all of us, so all we did Wednesday was watch film," Barnett said. "We watched film of Huntley (a 54-49 loss), we watched film of Sycamore (a 57-51 loss) and we watched film of South Elgin."
The film festival had the desired effect in a 54-49 victory over visiting Burlington Central Saturday. The Whips cut down on turnovers and executed the high-low game with 6-6 senior Tyler Watzlawick and 6-6 junior Shane Hernandez. They combined for 24 points and 21 rebounds.
"I think that once they saw what we were trying to say to them, they kind of understood a little bit better because the first three quarters we played (Saturday) we played well," Barnett said. "A couple of film sessions and a couple of good practices and this is what you get."
Barnett said the plan was for his team to watch more film Monday in preparation for Friday's contest at Grayslake Central (3-3). That game marks Hampshire's debut as a member of the Fox Division of the Fox Valley Conference.
Meanwhile, Burlington Central (2-3) opens play in the East Division of the Big Northern Conference against visiting Marengo tonight at 7 p.m.
Elgin vs. South Elgin streaming: If you can't make it in person to Wednesday's Upstate Eight Conference crossover meeting between Elgin and host South Elgin, fire up the computer and watch from the comfort of your home.
Fans can got to www.useducationtv.com, click on Illinois and choose South Elgin High School. The video should be accessible shortly after 7 p.m.
Both teams look to get back to their winning ways after weekend losses. South Elgin (4-2) had won 3 games in a row until the Storm dropped a 45-42 decision Friday at Waubonsie Valley (4-1). Elgin (4-1) endured a 66-64 triple-overtime loss at Geneva Friday.
Harris out until January: Streamwood 6-foot-9 center Zach Harris is sidelined for 4-6 weeks after fracturing a foot during an intrasquad scrimmage. Streamwood (2-4, 0-1) hosts Geneva (2-3, 1-0) in an Upstate Eight River game Wednesday at 7:15 p.m.