Larkin builds big lead, holds off East Aurora
Larkin dominated the middle quarters and that was enough. The Royals led 38-20 after 3 periods, then survived a furious East Aurora rally for a 49-41 victory Wednesday.
Victor Perez had 10 points and 7 rebounds for the Royals (2-5, 1-1) in the Upstate Eight matchup in Elgin.
The Tomcats doubled their point total in the fourth quarter outscoring the Royals 21-12 to make things interesting. Larkin didn't do itself any favors by missing 10 free throws in the fourth quarter. For the game, the Royals went 9-for-24 from the line, with Perez hitting 6 of 8.
"It didn't end well, but for most of that game we did a really good job of what we were trying to do," said Larkin coach Deryn Carter. "We'll take it. We'll definitely take it."
A 10-0 second-quarter run put Larkin up 22-11, but East Aurora cut it to 24-17 by halftime. The Royals came out of the locker room on fire, scoring the first 8 points of the second half.
Tomcats coach Rick Robinson subbed out all 5 starters at one point. That second unit gave the Tomcats a jump start, but Larkin still won the quarter, 14-3.
When the Tomcat starters came back, they returned with a vengeance. Starting forwards Jules Williamson (9) and Joshua Pryor (6) combined for 15 points in the period as the Tomcats pulled closer amid a flurry of clanked free throws by the Royals. Still, East Aurora didn't get the margin under 10 points until the final minute.
"The crazy thing is we've been shooting free throws really well all year," Carter said. "It just kind of happens. It's a snowball effect for sure. One kid went 0-for-6, and I think he was shooting 90 percent coming in."
With rotation regulars Pierre Black and Mirko Sarovic out with injuries, other guys stepped up for Larkin. Trace Boley scored 9 points off the bench. Jashon Johnson-Neals grabbed 11 rebounds to go with his 8 points, and Damari Wheeler-Thomas and Marcus Green added 7 points apiece for the Royals.
Pryor finished with a game-high 15 points and added 13 rebounds for East Aurora, while Williamson finished with 10 points.
Defensively, Larkin held the visitors without a 3-pointer while forcing 30 turnovers.
East Aurora jumped ahead 6-3, with Pryor scoring all 3 baskets. The game was tied at 8 late in the first quarter when a steal and transition layup by Trevell Cooks put Larkin ahead to stay. That 2-point lead ballooned to 11 in the second quarter and to 18 by the end of the third before the Tomcats started to chip away.