Despite the absence of injured Saints guard Kendall Stephens, Larkin did not take St. Charles East lightly in Thursday's Upstate Eight River boys basketball test in Elgin.
The Royals blitzed the depleted visitors with a 10-0 run to open the game and were never threatened again in a 67-53 victory, their 10th straight and second of the season against St. Charles East.
"We just had to come out flying, come out playing hard," said Larkin guard Quantice Hunter, who scored 4 of his game-high 21 points during the opening siege. "Even though they didn't have their star player, Kendall, we just wanted to play like it was just a regular, big game for us right here."
Larkin (15-2, 4-1) showed no rust from a 12-day layoff. Though St. Charles East (10-6, 3-2) won the rebounding battle 31-27, the division co-leaders forced 20 turnovers compared to 10 for the Saints, resulting in easy transition layups and 47-percent shooting from the field (27 of 58).
Larkin led 15-5 after a quarter and never led by less than 8 points the rest of the game. The closest the Saints drew was 28-20 on sophomore Jake Asquini's 3-pointer with 1:35 to play in the first half.
However, Larkin answered with a 6-0 run to close the second quarter, fueled by a Taylor Boley jumpshot and 2 buckets from Hunter. The Larkin lead ballooned to 65-42 midway through the fourth quarter via back-to-back 3-pointers by senior guard Quentin Ruff (12 points) and Hunter.
Saints coach Patrick Woods pointed to the slow start for his team's game-long struggle.
"That's the part I was really frustrated with, getting down 10-0 to them," Woods said. "I thought we actually had a couple of good looks, too, which we didn't finish. But transition defense, they were getting layups again. It was a disappointing start for such a big game."
St. Charles East was playing its second game this week since learning the Purdue-bound Stephens will miss the rest of the season due to labrum surgery. Junior guard Dom Adduci led the Saints with 17 points, including 3 straight 3-pointers in the second quarter, but the Royals made him earn his points on 6-of-17 shooting. Sophomore guard Cole Gentry added 11 points.
The Saints will attempt to right the ship following losses this week at Glenbard West and Larkin when they play at Naperville North on Saturday at 6 p.m.
"We lose a potential all-American player and we're trying to find our selves right now," Woods said. "Unfortunately, we're finding ourselves in the toughest week of the season. We just talked in the locker room about all the things we need to work on and get better.
"There's still a lot of season left. I mean, it's only our second loss in conference. It's not the end of the world. Unfortunately, we lost 2 to Larkin, but I still think you're going to see a lot of very good games throughout the conference, so I don't think our chances are over yet as far as conference is concerned."
Kendale McCullum scored 9 points, grabbed 4 rebounds and finished with 6 assists for the Royals, while junior forwards Drew Jones and Brayden Royse each scored 8 points and combined for 10 rebounds. Five Larkin players scored at least 8 points.
"The word for the year is sacrifice," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "We have four or five guys that on a different team could score more points, they could get more numbers, they could get more accolades. These guys don't play for that. They don't play for the credit, which is awesome."