With a 15-point lead over Prairie Ridge at halftime on Saturday, the Larkin girls basketball team appeared to be on its way to a second win in the Burlington Central Thanksgiving Classic Tournament.
The Wolves had other ideas.
Switching defenses and aggressively attacking the basket, PR mounted a comeback and almost pulled it off.
The Wolves cut the margin to 3 points with less than 3 minutes to play in the game, but the Royals held on for a 57-47 victory.
After Nicole Dorn, who led PR with 15 points, sank a jumper that trimmed the Royals' lead to 50-47 in the fourth quarter, Larkin guard Marlee Kyles responded with a layup to give her team a 5-point advantage with 2:20 left in the quarter.
"They went to a zone and we struggle against zones. We've got to get back to practice and work as much on zone offense as we possibly can," said Larkin coach Steve Knapp. "They cut it to 3 and luckily, Marlee came down and made a great shot from the baseline to put it to 5. After that we settled down a little bit."
"I never get nervous in a tight game," Kyles said about her clutch basket. "I just tell myself to push through to win the game and do whatever it takes."
Unable to score on its next trip down the court and with 1:09 left to play, PR (1-3) was forced to foul Larkin's Haley Bohne (9 points). Bohne hit the first free throw but missed the second attempt. Nicole Anderson grabbed the rebound for the Wolves.
Bohne returned to the charity stripe 15 seconds later after the Wolves were unable to cut into the lead and fouled the junior again. She connected on both shots to open an 8-point Royal lead, 55-47.
"I had to do it for the rest of the team and knock the shots down," said Bohne about her free throws.
And for the third straight time, PR was unable to score and fouled Kyles.
With 26 seconds to play, the Arizona-bound senior sank the last 2 of her game-high 28 points to give Larkin a 10 point lead and the win. Kyles now has 1,389 career points, just 16 shy of tying Kiley Holtz's school career record of 1,405.
In the first half, the Royals handled PR's man-to-man pressure and stymied the Wolves' offense with their zone defense. Larkin led 13-5 after the first 8 minutes.
The Wolves switched to a zone defense in the third quarter and limited the Royals to 7 points. PR was only able to score 10 points in the period and trailed 45-33 to start the fourth quarter.
"Coach said at halftime that you got them under and you got to keep them under," Kyles said. "I think we didn't emphasize that enough in the second half."
Larkin (2-1) saw its lead shrink in the last frame as the Wolves went on a 14-5 run that ended with Dorn's jumper. Maddie Ljunggren (14 points) accounted for 6 of them on 2 of her 4 3-pointers.
"We weren't aggressive enough in the first half. We had a game plan going in, but we just didn't execute," said PR coach Rick Lima. "We had a little better intensity in the second half. We did change defenses, went to a zone which helped. It worked to our advantage in the second half to throw that at them."
Freshman Brianna Young scored 9 points for Larkin.