DeKALB -- A graduate of Larkin, a basketball star there and now the Royals boys coach, Deryn Carter feels like he belongs at the Elgin school.
Now, for the first time, his basketball program belongs in Peoria.
Larkin beat Benet 53-46 Tuesday at the Class 4A Northern Illinois University supersectional to become the first Elgin-Area School District U46 boys team in the state semifinals since the 1955 Elgin Maroons took second place. The Royals will play another group of Maroons at 5:30 p.m. Friday in the Class 4A semifinals, the Belleville West Maroons.
"It's surreal, for sure," Carter said from the NIU Convocation Center press area. "It's going to be a little while to sink in, but it's gotta sink in pretty quick because we've eventually got to move on. We're going to enjoy the heck out of this, and we should because it's an unbelievable accomplishment."
Larkin (24-8) snapped Benet's 18-game winning streak and denied the Redwings a third supersectional victory in the last five seasons.
"I was talking with someone earlier in the day, they're like, first to 50 might win," Carter said. "I said, no, the first to 35 might. It was going to be a slow game."
Benet (27-5) committed an uncharacteristic 10 first-half turnovers as the Royals led 21-11. The Redwings shot 1 for 12 from the 3-point arc in that first half, and Larkin's Pierre Black and Anthony Lynch turned turnovers into points. Trailing 8-7 after one quarter, Larkin held Benet scoreless nearly the first five minutes of the second quarter.
"We knew they were a tough outside-shooting team so we were trying to go over screens," said Lynch, who scored 16 points. "It seemed like they were throwing lollipop passes sometimes where we could get into the lanes and stuff, and we just do what we know how to do, which is run."
Benet hit its stride in the third quarter, behind David Buh and Colin Crothers, and the battle was on.
"I think we obviously needed to be more aggressive as a team," said Buh, whose 19 points led the Benet. "I wanted to just try to do what I could do to help my team get back in the game both defensively and offensively."
Pulling within 30-25 after three quarters, Benet kept the heat on, but so did Black, with 3s on consecutive trips downcourt to give the Royals a 42-33 lead with 3:03 left in the game.
"I felt the shot today," said Black, who sored 18 points. "During the season it's been like that, but I just keep playing hard and if I'm not making shots I just play defense. But my shot was on tonight, and it helped me get a win."
Benet's Jake Ronneberg scored all 10 of his points in the fourth quarter, getting Benet back within 48-46 on his 3 with 38.9 seconds remaining to play.
"Larkin, they were denying Dave (Buh) and Jake (Petrovic) so it opened up a couple of driving lanes for me and I knew that coming down those final minutes we needed to be more aggressive as a team, and that just kind of opened up. I kind of let the game come to me and that was what was there," said Ronneberg, who joined Colin Crothers with 10 points for the Redwings.
Benet kept fouling Kindrel Morris, and after a rocky start from the line the fireplug guard hit his last four straight. Morris scored 11 for the game.
"I feel like I shot those last five that I made, I feel like I took a little bit longer and settled down," Morris said.
Benet coach Gene Heidkamp called the Redwings the "essence of a team."
"The first half was really, I think, the difference in the game," he said. "We really struggled in the first half, got down 10 points and we were struggling the whole way in the second half, but we cut it to 2 in the second half and just couldn't make enough plays."