Larkin's boys basketball team dominated early and held on late to secure a 55-43 victory over Cary-Grove on Tuesday at the Hoops for Healing tournament at Woodstock.
Surging ahead to a 17-point halftime lead, the Royals (2-0) used a tenacious defensive effort to keep the Trojans' offense looking for more, forcing over 10 turnovers in the first half and holding the Trojans to just 42 percent from the field.
Capitalizing on those turnovers were big men Andrew Jones, who had 12 points with 3 rebounds, and Christian Negron, a freshman who also had 12 points including a transition, two-handed dunk toward the end of the first quarter.
Cary-Grove (1-1) eventually found its rhythm and cut the lead to 8 late in the third quarter, and was only down by 10 going into the fourth, thanks to sloppy back end defense by Larkin.
"Forcing turnovers is a big part of what we do defensively, but when we didn't force them we gave up a lot of layups," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "We're doing a decent job pressuring, but the back end of our defense has a lot to improve."
One of the big reasons the Royals were able to hang during Cary-Grove's run was the play of senior Kendale McCullum, who had 15 points, with 13 of those coming after the break. McCullum is able to play more seamlessly with his big men early thanks to history with them both at Larkin and outside of it.
"I've been with (Andrew) since seventh grade and I've known Christian since elementary school and we've always just had that connection," McCullum said.
But, according to Carter, McCullum was just the first of many to step up for this deep Larkin team.
"We have a group of leaders who are seniors. I think that's one of our strengths. It's not going to be every day every game one guy," Carter said.
For Cary-Grove, it's unlikely that the Trojans will see a team as strong as Larkin was Tuesday until later in the season, something that coach Ralph Schuetzle knows will help his team.
"(Playing Larkin) is really going to help us come conference time because it doesn't get much better than this," Schuetzle said. "I've got to give our guys credit. Larkin is an outstanding team and we went toe-to-toe with them and that's all you can ask."
Jason Gregoire, who led the Trojans with 13 points, was held scoreless until the second quarter. Mike Kirch had 3 3-pointers in the third after missing his first 4 attempts in the first half, while Tyler Szydlo added 10 points for the Trojans.
Larkin had to know that they were in a ballgame," Schuetzle said. "We were going to fight and fight and not let up and they had to know that we weren't going to stop fighting."