St. Charles East junior Justin Hardy ate into Larkin's lead and its resolve with rebound after rebound in Tuesday's 52-43 Upstate Eight River win in Elgin.
St. Charles East (6-2, 2-1) trailed by 4 points early in the third quarter until Hardy began converting his career high 19 rebounds -- "I want to say my previous high was 12 or 13," the 6-foot-5 forward said -- into outlet passes that resulted in fast-break points.
Following a Larkin missed shot, Hardy rifled a pass the other way that eventually found its way to 6-5 senior Jack Zylke, who scored 2 of his career-high 13 points to tie the game at 30-30. Zylke poured in 10 points in a third quarter the Saints dominated 18-9.
"I hit the first one and kept shooting and heating it up," said Zylke, whose previous high was 7 points. "I just kept letting it fly."
Hardy turned the next Larkin miss into another defensive rebound and an outlet pass to Zach Mitchell, whose transition bucket gave the Saints a 2-point lead.
Two more fast-break scores by Nathan Ortiz finished off an 8-0 run that turned a 2-point St. Charles East deficit into a 6-point lead.
"Their press was up really high on us, so when we could get the ball up the floor we had two-on-ones and sometimes two-on-zero," said Hardy, who also had 12 points and 3 blocks. "We were just trying to push the ball and get easy layups when we could."
There were plenty of opportunities for Hardy to grab rebounds due to Larkin's shooting inaccuracy. The Royals (4-5, 1-2) shot 16 of 61 from the field (26 percent), 4 of 19 from 3-point range (21 percent).
Senior guard Kashmir Ivy led the Royals with 17 points to go with 5 rebounds and 2 steals. Junior Jalen Shaw finished with 15 points, 7 rebounds and 2 blocks.
"I think some of our offensive inability turned into not getting back on defense, losing some energy defensively, which we just can't do," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said after his team's third straight loss. "We have to get our energy from the defensive end. That's what gives us a chance to be a good team. Right now we're just not consistent enough."
Down by 9 late in the third quarter, Larkin rallied within 41-39, capped by Anthony Lynch's free throw midway through the fourth quarter. Lynch finished with 8 points and 3 steals.
However, Hardy scored 3 buckets down the stretch to keep the Royals at bay, the last on a putback with 1:35 to play.
"He's really the center of our offense and our defense," Zylke said of Hardy.
"Everyone can score, but he gets fired up and he gets the team going."