Larkin knocks off UEC-leading Glenbard East
Larkin needed a shot just like the one DJ Jones provided Tuesday night against Upstate Eight-leading Glenbard East.
The Royals junior guard buried a 3-pointer from the right corner with 13 seconds to go, giving Larkin a much-needed 57-55 win for its young team that starts three sophomores and brings more youth off the bench.
"I know a lot of people doubted us because of our record and stuff but when we come play as a team we play way better," Jones said. "We played as a team, put all the little stuff aside, and got the W."
Larkin (3-15, 3-6) started fast, taking a 22-17 lead after one quarter capped by a 3-pointer at the buzzer from Damari Wheeler-Thomas.
The Royals took their biggest lead midway through the second quarter at 33-23 before the Rams (11-6, 7-2) closed the first half with the final seven points.
LaDaylin Dew's conventional 3-point play midway through the third quarter put Glenbard East ahead, 39-37, and the Rams wouldn't trail again until Jones' shot in the final minute.
Every time the Rams extended their lead, the Royals responded including a putback basket by freshman Armani Ivy to end the third quarter down 46-45. A hesitation move by Wheeler-Thomas kept Larkin within 50-49 before the Rams scored five straight points, the final two on Daron Hall's putback, to take their biggest lead at 55-49 with 3:09 remaining.
Jones cut the deficit in half with a 3-pointer, and Jashon Johnson-Neals scored inside to bring the Royals within 55-54 with 1:10 left.
Hall misfired on a jumper for the Rams, the Royals grabbed the rebound and took timeout with 22 seconds left. They got the ball up top to Jashon Johnson-Neals who drove and kicked to Jones in the corner for the go-ahead 3.
"Everyone on the bench is confident in him shooting that shot," Royals coach Deryn Carter said. "It's a testament to the work he's put in."
"I don't get nervous," added Jones. "I just have the confidence because Carter gives me the confidence. I just have to trust in him."
The Rams still had a chance to win, and they ended up with a nearly identical play to Larkin's. Hall drove and passed to Joe Hamilton who fired a corner 3 that went just long.
Wheeler-Thomas pulled down the rebound as time expired and slammed the ball to the ground as the Larkin bench came on the court to join in the celebration.
"We've been talking to the guys that we are close, we are close," Carter said. "Eventually you just have to get it done. Proud of them. very proud of them. So young, so hungry. Hopefully this gets them going."
Larkin won despite getting outrebounded 39-23 including 26-10 in the first half. The Royals made up for it with their pressure defensively, forcing 16 turnovers and getting up in the Rams to contest almost every shot (20 for 49 shooting, 40.8%).
"We're starting to take pride in the defensive end and that's where it all starts," Carter said.
Johnson-Neals led Larkin in scoring with 14 points, Fernando Perez Jr. had 13 points and 8 rebounds, and Wheeler-Thomas added 12 points, 5 rebounds and 2 steals.
Hall paced the Rams with 15 points followed by Terrence Spencer with 9, Dew 8 and Deon Cook, Hamilton and Jack Rivas all with 7.
"You have to give Larkin all the credit in the world," Rams coach Scott Miller said. "They came out and punched us right away. Played with a lot more energy than we did. We were slow on our rotations and caused us to get in foul trouble early."
The Rams went from the outright UEC lead to a logjam with 2 conference losses along with Glenbard South, Streamwood and East Aurora.
"We told them that if you are going to win conference you have to go on the road and win games like this and take care of business and we didn't do it tonight," Miller said.