Larkin finds groove, beats West Chicago
It was a tale of two teams Thursday night at West Chicago High School. Both teams were the Larkin girls basketball squad.
The Royals were scoreless in the first quarter, trailed 19-8 at halftime and stalled out offensively. However, Larkin found its groove, and a 31-point second half propelled it to a 39-34 victory over the Wildcats.
"Our coach (Steve Knapp) said at halftime, 'Keep fighting, keep fighting.' We knew we had it in us," said junior Brianna Young, who led her team with 13 points.
A 20-point third quarter by Larkin (3-7, 2-2 Upstate Eight Conference) put it within range of the Wildcats (0-11, 0-3) at 32-28.
"The key was to get the ball to middle. That's how we could get the open shots," Young said.
The Royals' Aallyah Dixon opened the final quarter with a 3-point basket to make it 32-31. Then the scoring dried up for both teams until 4:14 remained in the contest, when Dixon hit a free throw to tie the game at 32.
Young's basket gave Larkin its first lead at 34-32 and West Chicago coach T.J. Nall called a timeout with 3:17 remaining.
About a minute later the Wildcats' Shailee Patel took the ball the full length of the court for a layup to tie the game at 34. Patel led all scorers with 29 points, including six 3-pointers.
"She's our rock, our scorer, our leader," Nall said.
Amber Allen's 3-pointer gave the Royals at 37-34 advantage and they held on to it and padded it with more free throws with less than a minute remaining.
"We were stagnant in the first half. We missed six or seven layups and missed nine free throws. We were really passive," Knapp said. "We went to a 1-2-2 press in the second half and that helped speed up the game and we got good looks. I didn't substitute the last 10 or 12 minutes of the game because the energy being shown."
That's not what West Chicago wanted. Because of injuries, only seven Wildcats were dressed for Thursday's game.
"We have to slow it (the game) down and be able to catch our breath and look for the good shot," Nall said. "We have to control the pace of the game."
The West Chicago coach said that while things haven't gone the Wildcats' way so far this season, it has not been for a lack of effort.
"They've done a heck of a job playing hard. It's a shame things haven't gone better," Nall said.
West Chicago's Monse Vargas led her team on the boards with 11.