ROCKFORD -- Coaches usually have a long list of issues to address after the first game of the season, but the Larkin boys basketball team played so well in Tuesday's 74-61 victory over McArthur (Fla.) at the Rockford Thanksgiving Tournament coach Deryn Carter was left with little to criticize.
The Royals jumped to a 23-12 lead after a quarter at Rockford East and led the Mustangs by no less than 9 points the rest of the way.
Larkin (1-0) was led by 6-foot-10 senior center Jalen Shaw's 21 points, 15 rebounds and 10 blocks, senior guard Anthony Lynch's 20 points and 5 assists and 9 points apiece from senior guard Kindrel Nomo and junior guard Pierre Black.
The only negatives? The Royals made only 17 of 32 free-throw attempts (53 percent) and allowed a 19-point halftime lead to be reduced to 9 with 10 minutes left.
"I told those guys there's a lot of messages and things you can learn from the first game, but if you're talking about missing free throws and finishing down the stretch and not turning a 20-point game into a 30-point game, that's good messages to be talking about as a team," Carter said. "They're a good team. They're athletic. We took their best shot from them and I thought we did a really good job."
Lynch scored 9 points in the first quarter and Shaw had 8 points, including 2 thunderous dunks, to spark the Royals. A 3-pointer by Victor Perez staked them to an 11-point lead after a quarter.
Meanwhile, Shaw dominated the lane. A senior with offers from Southern Illinois, Illinois-Chicago, SIU-Edwardsville and Manhattan, he blocked 4 first-half shots and affected the arc of several more. He notched a double-double before halftime (11 points, 10 rebounds) and capped Larkin's 39-point first half with a putback slam off Black's missed layup.
"Hey, it was a great time. I had to have fun tonight," Shaw said. "I worked hard. I gotta play hard."
Larkin's 39-21 halftime lead was trimmed to 45-36 with two minutes left in the third quarter, partly because the Mustangs' upped the defensive pressure.
Larkin ended the period with a 10-1 run to take a 55-37 lead. First, Lynch found Morris open for a 3-pointer. Morris, in turn, assisted on consecutive 3-pointers by Black on the next 2 Larkin possessions.
"It was just fun, man," Morris said. "With regard to all the big games and whatever, it was just fun to get on the court and compete against another team because we've been beating each other up for 12 practices, all fall and all summer. So, it was fun to compete against somebody else. We're all excited. We couldn't wait for that."
Larkin gets an early season test on Friday against highly regarded Whitney Young at Rockford Guilford at 1 p.m. The Royals enter with confidence with a win under their belt.
"We only had 12 practices but I think those practices paid off," Lynch said. "I think we're going to come back on Friday and compete against Whitney Young and I'm just ready for it."