With the playoffs looming right around the corner next week the Larkin girls basketball team picked just the right time to play possibly its best game of the season on Tuesday night. An impressive 61-54 win on senior night over visiting St. Charles North in Upstate Eight River Division action should provide the Royals with plenty of momentum moving forward.
Arizona-bound senior Marlee Kyles led the way for the Royals with 34 points to give her 1,957 for her career.
"To beat a team as good as St. Charles North is a huge win for our program," Larkin coach Steve Knapp said. "Maybe the biggest win in the two years I have been here. It couldn't have happened to a better group of seniors. Last year we lost on senior night and we certainly didn't want a repeat of that. This lets the kids know that when we execute like we did tonight we can play with anyone."
Kyles set the tone right from the start, knocking down a 3-pointer on the Royals' first possession. She finished the first quarter with 11 points as the Royals built a 20-12 lead. Kyles had three 3-pointers in the quarter. Haley Bohne and Haley Casebeer also had 3-pointers early on.
"Getting that lead is always a key for every team," Knapp said. "Marlee had it going right from the start and it was good to see some of the other girls get involved early, too, especially Haley Casebeer. She hasn't played for 3 weeks with a bad knee. So it was good to see her out there again."
The Royals (11-15, 4-8) led 33-23 at the half. However, there was possible trouble brewing with Kyles picking up her third foul with 1:26 left in the second quarter and heading to the bench.
Kyles had to play it safe through the third quarter and the early part of the fourth quarter, but the Royals managed to weather the storm. North did pull to within 4 points on three occasions in the fourth quarter, but Kyles answered back each time -- the first time with a baseline driving layup. the next time with a pair of free throws following a drive to the basket, then the final time with a 3-pointer that made it 52-45 with 3:08 left to play.
"Marlee is used to playing with fouls," Knapp said. "She is a competitor and very aggressive, so fouls are going to happen, but she played it smart in the third quarter and some of the other girls stepped up. But at the end you want the ball in the hands of one of the best players in the state. She really took it over there in the fourth."
Kyles secured the win with a 3-point play and 3 more free throws down the stretch to finish with 15 points in the fourth quarter.
"This is a huge confidence booster for us," Kyles said. "No one expected us to win, but it was so great to do this on senior night. I have lived in this gym the last four years. My family was here. My coach from Arizona was here. So this meant the world to me."
The North Stars (17-9, 7-4) came in having won their last 3 games and 6 of their last 7, but had a rough night shooting the ball. They were just 22-of-64 from the field, including just 3-of-24 from the beyond the 3-point arc.
"You are not going to win many games shooting the way we did tonight," St. Charles North coach Mike Tomczak said. "We were getting some good looks and had the players we wanted shooting the ball, but we couldn't have hit an ocean tonight. Give credit to Larkin, too because they came ready to play on their senior night. They put the pressure on us."
Kasey Lindstrom had 21 points to lead the North Stars in scoring. Elizabeth Olsem added 18 points.