With the seeding meetings for the playoffs taking place this week the Conant boys basketball team couldn't have picked a better time for a 58-50 road win against Larkin on Tuesday night.
"It's definitely a feather in our cap," Conant coach Jim Maley IV said. "We've had some big wins this year and this one is right up there. To be able to beat a ranked team like Larkin on the road is tough and should help us with our seeding position. Plus this gets us more ready for the playoffs because we are probably going to have to face a team like this later on."
Ryan Davis led the Cougars (18-7) with 23 points and 17 rebounds. Ben Schols added 20 points.
The 6-foot-9 Davis was locked in an even battle in the post in the first half with Larkin's 6-foot-11 Jalen Shaw. However, in the second half Davis got the upper hand as he scored 17 points on 7 of 10 shooting from the floor and 3 of 3 shooting from the free throw line.
"Jalen is a really good player," Davis said. "He's really lengthy and contests every shot. He was beating me at the rim the first half, so I adjusted in the second half by trying to get him a little farther away from the basket to create more separation. It was definitely a big win with the postseason coming up. It keeps us in the right direction and gives us some more momentum."
The lead exchanged hands 6 times before Davis converted a 3-point play early in the 4th quarter to give the Cougars the lead for good 39-37. Rajat Mittal followed with a free throw and Schols had a 3-pointer to extend Conant's lead to 43-37.
It was Schols' only 3-pointer of the night. Most of his damage came on cuts to the baskets. He was 7 of 10 shooting from the field.
"Coach has been on me to be more aggressive and hunt for my shot," Schols said. "I thought we did a good job of handling their pressure and finding the open shots."
Davis had 2 clutch baskets and a pair of free throws down the stretch. Schols added 3 free throws in the final minutes to help seal the deal.
"I thought we made good decisions late in the game," Maley said. "Ryan did a good job in his match up, but I thought other guys stepped up too. That's what we need if we want to be a team that can do some good things in March."
The loss for Larkin (18-7) comes on the heels of clinching the Upstate Eight River Division title,
Anthony Lynch led the Royals in scoring with 25 points before fouling out late in the game. Shaw finished with 11 points, 7 rebounds and 5 blocked shots.
"Top to bottom we were just bad, including me," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "They are a very good team and I don't want to take away anything from them. We just controlled the reasons why we lost. The preparation wasn't good. We probably had our worse practice of the season yesterday and it carried over to today. We have to be better than this come the playoffs or our season is going to end real quick. Maybe we needed this. I don't want to say it's a wake up call, but more of a realization.that we need to bring our A game every game."