The Larkin boys basketball team certainly feels lucky to get out of South Elgin on Tuesday night with a victory.
The Royals nearly blew a 16-point lead by turning the ball over 11 times in the fourth quarter and allowing the Storm to score 30 points in the quarter, but held on for a 74-72 Upstate Eight crossover victory.
"We didn't play our game very well," Larkin senior Brayden Royse said. "Bad offense, didn't talk well on defense. We just need to pick it up."
Larkin (19-3) led by 16, 64-48, with 5:16 remaining in the game. South Elgin (10-11) went on a 7-0 run, including getting a pair of baskets from Tyler Hankins, in the next minute and a half to get within 9, 64-55. Hankins, a 6-foot-8 sophomore, scored again with 1:50 remaining to make it 68-64 Larkin.
After the teams traded baskets, a Jake Amrhein steal and laying with 55 seconds to go to the Storm within 2, 70-68. The Royals' Kendale McCullum hit two free throws and South Elgin's Matthew Smith scored to keep it a 2-point game, 72-70, with 44 seconds remaining.
Larkin's Derrick Streety missed a pair of free throws, but Royse grabbed the offensive rebound. Taylor Boley hit two free throws with 22.6 seconds remaining to give Larkin a 74-70 lead.
The Storm had a couple chances but only could get a tip-in from Smith at the buzzer as Larkin held on to send South Elgin to its fifth consecutive loss.
"The last time we played them (a 88-61 loss) we took their punch and quit," South Elgin coach Matt Petersen said. "That was our No. 1 thing (Tuesday) -- no matter what punch they throw, you keep fighting. I couldn't be more proud of their effort."
The Royals used a 14-1 run to end the first quarter and take an 18-7 lead. The Royals, who can clinch the UEC River title outright with a win Friday at home against Elgin, maintained a large lead until South Elgin had a 15-2 spanning the end of the second quarter and the beginning of the third to get within 2, 35-33, with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter.
Larkin quickly regained control and increased the lead to 16 in the fourth quarter before South Elgin's comeback attempt.
"I did a poor job coaching," Royals coach Deryn Carter. "That's really all I can say. I can't blame our guys for not playing well when I'm not doing a good job on the sidelines."
Christian Negron led the Royals with 19 points and 11 rebounds. Royse added 14 points and 10 rebounds. Boley added 16 points, including hitting four 3-pointers, off the bench. McCullum had 13 points.
Hankins led the Storm with 22 points, including 13 in the fourth quarter. Smith added 17 points.