The lost art of free throw shooting reappeared in Larkin's gym Tuesday night.
The Elgin girls basketball team made 12 of 14 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter, pulling away from rival Larkin for a 49-37 win in the first round of the Elgin City Classic.
"We told the kids that would be one of the keys," said Elgin coach Dr. Nick Bumbales. "Turns out it was."
Junior Maggie Powers made 6 of 6 from the line in the final 1:08, while junior Melanie Berg and senior Kristin Tayag were each 3 of 4 in the fourth quarter.
But the biggest plays of the game, those that clearly turned to momentum in the Maroons' favor, were made on defense by 5-foot-10 sophomore Abby Pierre-Louis.
With Elgin (5-13) holding a 36-34 lead with 3 minutes to play, Pierre-Louis stole crosscourt passes on consecutive passions and went coast-to-coast for layups that put the Maroons ahead 40-34 with 2:37 left. From there, Elgin's free throw parade began and the Maroons outscored Larkin 9-3 the remainder of the game without the benefit of a field goal.
"They left that whole side open and they were calling for it," said Pierre-Louis, who had 6 points and 9 rebounds as the Maroons outrebounded Larkin 48-35, including 20-8 on the offensive glass.
Larkin coach Ruben Flores said his team was running set plays on the two turnovers, but didn't execute.
"We just got beat at our own game," Flores said. "(Elgin) stayed in the zone and boxed out and we threw it away. We were trying to get the defense to come out on that side but we threw it away."
Neither team had more than a 3-point lead in the game until Elgin broke free from a 27-27 tie with a 6-point run and a 33-27 lead after a Jessica Ramirez putback with 2:01 left in the third quarter. But Larkin (1-15), which beat Elgin earlier in the season, got baskets from Amber McGhee and Quixmia Washington to close to within 33-32 entering the fourth quarter.
Berg made 3 of 4 from the line early in the final frame to make it 36-32 and Larkin got a bucket from junior Rachel Martinez to close to within 36-34 with 3:42 to play. But then Pierre-Louis' two steals and layups made it 40-34 and Elgin's free throw accuracy down the stretch gave the Maroons their second straight win. Elgin made 19 of 27 from the line for the game.
"Abby showed her athleticism," said Bumbales. "She's so quick that when she gets a head of steam going she's hard to stop."
Junior post Tamara Milosevic led the Maroons with 12 points and 12 rebounds, scoring all of her points in the first half. She also had 9 offensive rebounds in the first 16 minutes as Larkin played a box-and-one defense on Powers, who had 16 points in the teams' first meeting.
"They had no answer for Tamara in the first half," said Bumbales. "They played the box-and-one on Maggie and that left the middle open. We did a great job of offensive rebounding tonight. It was a solid team effort. We hit our free throws and we only gave up (14) points in the second half."
Powers and Tayag added 11 points each for Elgin, which has a bye tonight and will play Harvest Christian on Friday when the action shifts to Harvest's gym.
Washington led Larkin with 18 points and 8 rebounds and McGhee added 8 points.
"Give credit to Doc on working on the fundamentals and free throws," said Flores. "Maggie didn't miss a thing and the better team won tonight."
Westminster Christian 52, Harvest Christian 30: Claire Speweik had 14 points and Maddie Versluys added 12 to lead the Warriors (11-4) to a win in the opening game of the Elgin City Classic. Liz Meschewski added 11 points for Westminster, which plays Larkin tonight at Elgin Academy. Kylee Knox led Harvest Christian (2-13) with 17 points. The Lions will play Elgin Academy tonight.