Following a loss on its home court to Geneva Saturday, Larkin coach Deryn Carter put his teams through some tough practices this week, filled with plenty of competition and high intensity.
In other words, like any other week of practice.
The Royals returned to their winning ways Thursday, putting five players in double figures and leading throughout a 69-56 victory on Senior Night at Batavia.
"Nothing different really," Carter said. "We're attacking each other every day and trying to get better."
Larkin (17-3, 7-2) stayed tied in the loss column with Geneva (6-2) and St. Charles East (5-2) in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division race with St. Charles North (4-3) a loss back.
Kendale McCullum scored 14 points, joining Quantice Hunter (16), Quentin Ruff (10, Brayden Royse (10) and sixth man Derrick Streety (10) in a typically balanced Royals attack.
"We know how to play with each other," McCullum said. "We have great chemistry, we know who is hot and who is not so we keep everyone going at once. We really work at that."
Batavia (9-9, 3-5) had won 7 of its last 8 games -- the only loss in that stretch to the Royals. Larkin has now beat Batavia by similar 56-47, 57-43 and 69-56 margins.
"We may have won three times but they were never the same team. They keep improving," Carter said. "We challenged our guys to see if we made the same improvement."
Larkin won basically every phase of the game. The Royals shot better from the field (25 for 54 to 20 for 50), the free-throw line (16 for 21 to 13 for 18) while hustling to more rebounds (33-23) and forcing more turnovers (17-12).
"We talked about making sure we pressured but also rotate with that pressure and make them look for their third or fourth option offensively. I think we did a good job of that for the most part," Carter said.
"We score off our defense and it's tough to set up half court defense in transition. When they (Batavia) set in the half court they are as good as anybody in the area defensively so we had to try to get them playing fast."
Micah Coffey opened the scoring with a pullup jumper, which turned out to be Batavia's only lead. Ruff's 3-pointer put Larkin ahead to stay at 5-2, and the Royals quickly got the tempo where they like it -- fast -- while building leads of 13-6 after one quarter and 29-24 at halftime.
Coffey scored 13 of his game-high 19 points in the first half for Batavia, but two of the other starters -- seniors Mike Rueffer and Zach Strittmatter -- got into foul trouble and wound up combining for 4 points.
"They (Larkin) are a good team," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. "What they do they do real well. I have a lot of respect for what they do, they play hard, they act right on the floor, they create turnovers, they finish, they are unselfish."
Larkin hit another gear in a 40-point second half. Hunter and McCullum scored 25 of their 30 points after halftime as the Royals led 47-35 after three quarters and by at least 10 throughout the fourth.
Batavia got as close as 55-45 on Strittmatter's drive with four minutes left. Hunter's 2 free throws and an assist to Andrew Jones for a lay-in quickly dashed any last-minute Bulldog comeback thoughts.
"We valued the ball more in the second half," Hunter said. "We pushed the ball more in transition.
We definitely wanted to come out with more energy (than the Geneva loss). We wanted to first of all execute and then knowing it's their senior night and atmosphere we wanted to come out with more energy."
Luke Horton scored all 14 of his points in the second half for Batavia and Jake Pollack added 10 points, 2 steals and 2 blocks.
The Bulldogs will try to get back on track at the East Aurora Shootout Saturday against Oswego East. One of the Wolves' varsity assistants is 2006 Batavia graduate Steve Ideran, a starting guard on the Bulldogs back-to-back sectional finalists in 2005 and 2006 who was scouting his alma mater Thursday.
"I think we are a team that is going to bounce back Saturday and play well," Nazos said. "Larkin just beat us tonight."
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