Coaches Deryn Carter of Larkin and Brett Porto of Burlington Central were hoping Wednesday night's nonconference boys basketball game between the Royals and Rockets would yield positive results, regardless of the final score.
Sophomore Kendale McCullum had a breakout game with 16 points and Larkin shot lights out through three quarters, holding off the host Rockets 79-67 on Rocket Hill.
"Coach keeps telling me that my opportunities will come and to just keep doing what I do," said McCullum, who scored all of his points in the first half, 11 of them in second quarter when the Royals (15-10) put 31 on the board.
"I anticipate a lot and I know which way a guy is going to go. That helps me a lot."
Carter, whose team hosts Bartlett tonight in an Upstate Eight crossover, used Wednesday's game to get many of his players quality time, and he was happy to see McCullum, who was called up to the varsity in mid-January, step up.
"He likes to play an up and down game, that's just kind of who he is," said Carter, whose squad snapped a 3-game losing streak. "This was a good game for him."
The Royals held a 21-16 lead after one quarter but then hit 12 of 20 from the floor and 7 of 10 from the free-throw line in the second quarter to lead 52-34 at halftime. The Rockets (16-10) actually outscored their guests 33-27 in the second half, a fact not lost on Porto, whose team hosts Richmond-Burton Friday night with the Big Northern East title on the line.
"Our effort was there tonight, we just didn't do enough smart things offensively," said Porto, whose team was just 20 of 53 shooting. "But we were really excited to have Larkin come here and give us a chance to play a really good team before Friday night and then regionals next week. Nothing bad came from this game. We'll learn from it and hopefully use it to our advantage Friday and then next week."
Larkin led 70-52 after three quarters but the Rockets didn't fold. In fact, BC cut its deficit to just 11, 76-65, on Ray Hunnicutt's left-handed runner in the lane with 3:36 left to play. But after Hunnicutt missed two free throws that could have cut the lead to 9, senior Antonio Pipes scored in the lane, was fouled, and converted the 3-point play to put the Royals up 79-65 with 3:02 left. After that, the only scoring came from Central's Joel Lopez with 57 seconds to go.
"Defensively, whenever we got close we'd give up an easy look," Porto said. "We've got a couple young guards and sometimes we use Ray as a crutch. (Larkin) was able to speed him up a little too much at times."
Larkin's balanced scoring included 13 points from senior Ian Fluhler, as well as 10 each from Pipes, Quantice Hunter, Quentin Ruff and Blake Grantham. Pipes also pulled down 10 rebounds as the Royals beat the Rockets on the boards 44-30.
"You hope you're going to get better regardless of what you're doing or who you're playing," Carter said. "Anybody's lying if they say you're not looking to next week. Hopefully we got better tonight. We pushed the ball and got the tempo going our way."
Hunnicutt led the Rockets with 21 points, leaving him just 14 short of passing Gavin Scharier as the school's all-time leading scorer. Ryan Ritchie hit 4 3-pointers and added 19 points for BC.
So long to Jim: Burlington Central math teacher Jim Conro has been running the clock for basketball games on Rocket Hill for 39 years, a span that encompasses more than 1,000 games. Wednesday night was Conro's final game, as he will be retiring at the end of the school year. Public address announcer Mark Einwich and Burlington athletic director Steve Gertz honored Conro at center court before Wednesday's game, and the appreciative crowd gave the personable Conro a standing ovation.
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Larkin High School
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