Wheeler-Thomas, Larkin keep foot on the gas in win over Elgin
It doesn't matter who the opponent is for the Larkin boys basketball team this year.
The mindset has been and always will be taking one game at a time.
With high hopes for a deep postseason run come March, Larkin took yet another step toward those goals in a dominant 87-19 victory over Elgin Friday night in Upstate Eight Conference play.
This was the largest margin of victory in this rivalry dating back to 1990.
A very balanced offensive effort, led by Damari Wheeler-Thomas's 14 points, saw all 11 Larkin players that entered the game Friday night contribute to the scoring.
However, it was the suffocating defense that led the way for the Royals (16-1, 7-0 Upstate Eight Conference).
"We hang our hat on our defensive pressure," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "Without a couple of guys tonight, we're really proud of the defensive effort tonight. We'll take the win, move on from this and continue to try and get better."
Larkin forced 33 Elgin turnovers, which led to a number of fastbreak opportunities, including the 26-5 first quarter advantage.
The Royals were without Jamarion Stubbs and Jasavion Rogers Sowers Friday night for undisclosed reasons, but it didn't seem to inhibit them on either side of the ball.
A basket from Elgin's Victor Rivera at the 4:35 mark of the second quarter not only snapped a 22-0 Larkin run, but ended a 6:45 scoring drought for the Maroons.
"I think it was important tonight to just stick to the fundamentals on both sides of the ball," said Wheeler-Thomas, who scored 12 of his 14 points in the first half. "I would say it comes down to just wanting it more and working harder than any other team. When we're down in size, it makes putting pressure on the ball that much more important."
The Royals used that pressure to build a 48-10 halftime advantage and allowed Carter to play much of his reserves in the final 16 minutes.
Larkin didn't miss a beat, though, as it outscored Elgin 39-9 after the break.
"I think we just know that we're supposed to dominate games like tonight so we wanted to make sure and do that," said Larkin forward Dontrell Maxie, whose thunderous breakaway dunk propelled Larkin's 22-point second quarter. "I think that gives us an opportunity to work on things that we might not be as good at, so that come playoff time, we're ready for anything."
Though it has faced limited adversity thus far, Carter has seen his team's maturity continue to grow throughout the first 17 games.
He thinks that it doesn't matter who is filling the stat sheets for the Royals on any given night because they all have one common goal each time they step on the floor together.
"It doesn't matter who we're playing," Carter said. "We always just want to play one possession at a time and stack good possessions after good possessions. The goal for this group doesn't change. We don't play the scoreboard. There are no egos on this team. We hold ourselves to a certain standard of play and I'm proud of the way we did that tonight."
Rivera led the way with five points for Elgin in the loss.
Adrian York (12 points), Darnell Wilder (11) and Maxie (10) joined Wheeler-Thomas in double figures for the Royals, who will take on unbeaten Glenbard West on Wednesday.
Larkin girls 59, Elgin 33:
It was a dominant performance from the Larkin girls basketball team, as well, in the night's opening game as it cruised to a 59-33 victory over the Maroons.
Baylei Johnson finished with 25 points, while Chelsea Herrick added 11 points for Larkin in the victory.
Elgin's Jocelyn Bardesi led the way for the Maroons with 12 points.