Trailing Glenbard North by 12 points in the fourth quarter with a 6-game winning streak in jeopardy, the Larkin boys basketball team remained calm and confident.
"We were talking to each other and we knew it wasn't over," Larkin senior guard Quantice Hunter said. "I think because of our conditioning in practice we're able to wear out teams at the end."
The Royals indeed dominated the final six minutes of a 74-67 victory at the 38th Annual Annual Elgin Holiday Tournament Thursday to extend their streak to 7. Larkin (12-2) harassed Glenbard North (3-6) down the stretch with a pressing, trapping defense, forcing 7 fourth-quarter turnovers to ignite a decisive 24-7 finishing run during which every pass by the Panthers was challenged.
"When a team puts pressure on, you should be able to take advantage of that and get easy buckets at the other end, which we did a lot of first half, third quarter," said Glenbard North coach Joe Larson, whose team led 20-8 after a quarter and 35-27 at halftime. "You have to stay with that same aggressive mentality. I thought we played very passive there in the fourth quarter."
The win advances Larkin to the tournament semifinals against Batavia (5-7) today at 6:45 p.m. Batavia defeated Rockford East 69-63 in a mild quarterfinal upset Thursday. The Royals defeated the Bulldogs 56-47 on Dec. 8.
Glenbard North will face Rockford East in the consolation bracket today at 12:15 p.m.
Hunter (25 points) and junior guard Derrick Streety (18 points) each scored 8 points in the fourth quarter, and junior guard Kendale McCullum used his length and quickness to make 3 key steals and score 6 points in the final period. McCullum finished with 13 points, 9 rebounds and a game-best 6 swipes.
"I was playing help defense and I was communicating with my team, telling them where to go," McCullum said of his defensive posture. "When I saw them throw the pass, I knew it was coming, so I anticipated it and got the steal -- a couple of times."
McCullum turned one of his steals into a fast-break layup that drew Larkin within 63-62 with 3:32 to play. However, Glenbard North junior Chip Flanigan answered with a driving layup from the right elbow for the last of his 10 buckets, capping a 25-point, 16-rebound performance.
Hunter then went to work. First, he finished a baseline drive with a reverse layup. Following a Glenbard North miss, he notched a fast-break layup that staked the Royals their first lead of the game, 66-65, with 2:04 remaining.
McCullum followed with another floor-length push for a basket, avoiding the block attempt of Flanigan. After another Glenbard North missed layup, Hunter took an inbounds pass from McCullum under his own basket, scored off glass and immediately thanked McCullum with a hug.
Streety capped the run with 4 straight free throws to give the Royals a 74-65 lead, a dramatic turnaround from the 13-point deficit the Royals faced early in the third quarter.
"The good news is I don't think it was a case of our guys waiting to turn it on," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "They didn't (underestimate) them or anything like that. I just don't think we were playing well and they were playing well. But the last four or five minutes ... we'll take it, for sure."
Senior guard Quentin Ruff added 12 points for the Royals. Junior guard Pasquale Fidducia scored 19 points for the Panthers.