Larkin blows out South Elgin in UEC opener
Larkin's basketball team began its Upstate Eight Conference season Thursday night with a resounding 78-56 victory over South Elgin.
Senior forward Fernando Perez Jr. paced the Royals (5-1, 1-0) with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-12 shooting from the field, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Perez Jr. scored 11 of his points during the Royals' 23-8 second-quarter surge that snapped a 12-12 deadlock after one period.
"We let the game come to us and locked down defensively," said Perez Jr., who added 7 rebounds and a pair of assists.
Larkin scored the first 7 points of the second quarter on a pair of Perez Jr. midrange jumpers, capped by a corner 3-pointer from sophomore guard Jakob Blakley, who finished with 20 points, including six 3-pointers.
The Royals extended their lead to 27-14 midway through the period, as Perez Jr. highlighted the 15-2 run with 5 consecutive points, including a 3-pointer.
"When your coaches let you do what you know you can do, you feel more confident in your abilities," said Perez Jr.
Larkin led 35-20 at halftime, outscoring the Storm (1-4, 0-1) 15-0 from beyond the arc.
"That was a huge concentration for us in practice -- to try and limit their threes because they can shoot it," said Royals coach Deryn Carter. "I thought we did a heck of a job defensively.
"We knew they (the Storm) would come out with a lot of energy and emotion with this being our first conference game. We had to hold serve -- take that first punch and deliver one of our own. We kind of did just that."
Senior guard Damari Wheeler-Thomas, who became the school's all-time leading scorer during last week's Rockford Tip-Off Classic, added 14 points, 6 assists and 4 steals along with solid defense against South Elgin all-UEC senior guard Drew Cwik (4 points).
"Damari locking down Cwik was big because that's what opened up the game for us," said Perez Jr.
Senior forward Dontrell Maxie chipped in with 9 points and 8 rebounds, while Jamarion Stubbs added 4 points, 4 assists and 3 steals for the Royals.
"I'm proud of the effort," said Carter. "I'm proud of the guys in the first conference game -- we'll take it. We've got a long way to go, and we've got to get a lot better, but we'll take this for sure."
Senior guard Brian Vesta led the Storm with 23 points and 10 rebounds, while Jadin Ashby added 11 points.
"Brian has been playing phenomenal basketball," said Storm assistant coach Ryan Storm, who was filling in for head coach Brett Johnson.
"We had a couple opportunities there where if we come up with some (loose) balls, maybe we get it (Larkin's lead) down. They're a tough team, and they're going to win their share of games this season, but I'm happy with how our team fought tonight."