Larkin denies DeKalb for sectional crown
In its run to a sectional final, the DeKalb boys basketball team shot lights out from long range to dispatch St. Charles North and Rockford Auburn.
Larkin keyed in on the Barbs' 3-point shooters on Friday in the Class 4A Huntley sectional championship, stymying the Barbs in a 70-56 win.
"That was the focus," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "We knew [Darrell Island] and [Lane McVicar] are really good, but we think they got to this spot because those guys were making a lot of shots around them. Our focus was to take away their shooters. For three quarters we did. In the fourth, they made some more shots because they were playing free. They had nothing to lose."
The Barbs (25-10) were 2 of 13 from long range through the first three quarters as the Royals (31-3) focused on staying in the faces of sharpshooters Sean Reynolds and Tyler Westberg. DeKalb had shot at least 54% in each of their last two games.
That defense helped the Royals build a 50-31 lead in the fourth before DeKalb's shots started falling. They were 6 of 10 from 3 in the fourth but never got closer than 12.
DeKalb coach Mike Reynolds said the Barbs didn't do enough inside to open up the shooters on the outside.
"The other night against Auburn we were able to play through contact at the rim and finish," Mike Reynolds said. "They had to suck in and we were able to get Sean and Tyler open. Tonight we couldn't finish through contact and therefore they never had to leave their help position to the very end."
In the regional final against the North Stars, Westberg was 9 of 12 from long range. That got the Royals' attention, said senior Fernando Perez Jr.
"We stopped their shooters from catching it and getting good looks," Perez Jr. said. "We felt like we did our job early and that's where the game turned. ... Those type of shooters, you give them any space they are going to hurt you. I think they had one person have like nine 3s in the playoffs. So we had to make sure to stay with the shooters."
DeKalb never led, and the game was only tied once, at 4-4. Perez Jr. and Damari Wheeler-Thomas handled a brunt of the scoring for the Royals, with Perez Jr. pouring in a game-high 25 and Wheeler-Thomas, a North Dakota State recruit, scoring 24.
"Give the credit to them, they were really, really good," Mike Reynolds said. "I thought [Wheeler-Thomas] controlled the game. That's what a Division I guard looks like. He controlled it, tried to get his teammates involved. We were choppy, they were able to take away our shooting for a while. We couldn't shake loose until the end."
The Royals became the second team to score at least 70 on DeKalb this year. Glenbard West put up more than 70 in a 73-36 win over the Barbs on Nov. 30. Glenbard West and Larkin will meet at 7:30 p.m. Monday for the Class 4A DeKalb supersectional at the NIU Convocation Center.
With Wheeler-Thomas getting a lot of attention this year, Carter said he was glad to see Perez Jr. step up on the big stage.
"Special players play big in special games, and he's a special player," Carter said. "He's so overlooked from the outside, but not inside our program. I'm proud as heck he gets to put on a display like this in a big show."
Jamarion Stubbs added 13 points and three steals for the Royals, while Dontrelle Maxie had four points, eight rebounds and five blocks.
McVicar led the Barbs with 18 points. Sean Reynolds and Westberg each had five after three quarters, but Westberg finished with 13 and Reynolds 11. McVicar added 10 rebounds and three steals while Demarrea Davis had eight rebounds for the Barbs.
"Our guys have been so special defensively all year long," Carter said. "They don't care what happens offensively, they share the ball on offense. But defensively they grind out and they compete. It's fun too watch."
Mike Reynolds said he's happy with how the year went for the Barbs, who won a regional for the first time since 2010 and won the DuPage Valley Conference for the third straight year.
"Four weeks ago we were struggling," Mike Reynolds said. "But we went on a big run here, won the DVC for the third year in a row, won a regional to get that off our back. There's 16 teams left in the state, you're going to play someone really, really good. It's nice to be mentioned as one of the really, really good teams and I think it's deserved.
"We made our mark," he said. "We got the third conference championship in a row, we got the regional, then we were in the Sweet 16. We made a big run but it would have been nice to get one more. ... DeKalb's not going away. We were able to beat the best team in Rockford on the way. We were able to beat the best team in St. Charles along the way. We got beat. They were better than we were tonight."