Ask the Larkin boys basketball team what's going on Friday night in Elgin, the Royals will tell you what's up. They're well aware of their matchup with crosstown rival Elgin at Chesbrough Field House.
But think again if the Royals had the opposite approach for South Elgin, nor the idea of taking the Storm lightly.
Even with a freshman-laden Storm team 10 games under 500, Larkin considers South Elgin a rival and the Royals wanted to deliver a clear message.
Consider a 70-51 Upstate Eight crossover win in Elgin a message sent, as Kendale McCullum spearheaded a defensive attack and led the Royals with 18 points, 9 rebounds and 4 steals. Half of McCullum's points came in a second quarter where the Royals (19-3) literally ran away with it as they inflated a 1-point first quarter lead to 17 by halftime.
"People said all the good players go to South Elgin, so we see this game as a rivalry and we're always looking forward to seeing Elgin," McCullum said. "We were trying to show that Larkin is the basketball that's played, not South Elgin. So that's what we did, pressuring their guards, making them force turnovers and we did pretty good on that today."
McCullum, Quantice Hunter and Derrick Streety pressured the heck out of the Storm's guards by forcing 10 turnovers in the second quarter, 28 overall. McCullum had 3 of his 4 steals in that span and since Larkin only hoisted up 11 3-point attempts, nailing just 2, the Royals turned their defensive pressure into offensive aggression at the rim, going to the free throw line 7 times and converting 10 of 14.
Larkin also scored 14 points in the paint on 4 layups and 3 offensive rebounds. Taylor Boley's 3-pointer with 1:55 left was the only shot made from the perimeter and this was after a first quarter in which South Elgin's big men dominated the paint area.
"I thought we did a good job of not settling for jump shots, just attacking the basket," said Royals' coach Deryn Carter. "And with our numbers and athleticism, that's a good sign because we don't want to be a team that lives by the 3 and dies by the 3 by any means."
Larkin led 22-14 with 6:10 remaining in the first half when it went on a 10-0 run spanning 3 minutes. McCullum put back an offensive rebound and Drew Jones did the same on the next possession. McCullum followed with a layup, as did Brayden Royse and Streety was fouled on a layup which he converted off a steal to make it 32-14.
"Our shots were not falling today, we had to get inside the paint or get post touches, start close then out, try to get the fouls to get the free throws to get the shots to fall," McCullum said.
Larkin outrebounded the Storm (5-16) 40-32 and pushed the lead to 26 at one point in the third. Quentin Ruff and Streety scored 8 each for Larkin and Jones and Royse each had 7, while Royse had 6 offensive rebounds.
South Elgin led 6-2 to start, but trailed off as the Royals pressured their guards. Robert Grant led South Elgin with 20 points and 9 rebounds, but the Storm vanished after the first quarter.
"We did, that's when everybody started giving up, just playing by their self, playing their game, instead as a team," Grant said.
Storm coach Chaz Taft went further, saying: "Play 32 minutes of a ballgame, not in 8 minutes."
As for Friday night?
"Both games have been close, seesaw battles," Carter said. "(Elgin's) Arie (Williams) is tough to deal with once, twice ... three times is a nightmare so we'll work on some things to try to limit him. They're playing really well of late. It's going to be a great game."