Larkin's fast start breaks school records
Larkin was ranked ninth in the most recent Associated Press Class 4A poll and eighth by one of the Chicago daily newspapers.
Deryn Carter's group was 16-1 overall and 7-0 in Upstate Eight play after wins against Elgin and East Aurora.
Of note in those two conference games, Larkin broke the all-time record for largest margin of victory in the Larkin-Elgin crosstown series. Carter also believes the Royals are off to the best start in school history, as well as the owners of the most consecutive wins in a single season in school history.
The win over East Aurora was key, Carter noted, because both the Royals and Tomcats are embroiled in a race to the finish for the UEC title with Bartlett.
Damari Wheeler-Thomas had 23 points and 13 rebounds in the East Aurora game, while Fernando Perez had 17 points, as did Jakob Blakely.
"Damari Wheeler-Thomas has played at an all-state level all season," said Carter, whose team won the Jacobs holiday tournament. "Fernando has established himself as one of the best players in the area, and Jakob is playing like one of the best sophomores in the state. Dontrell Maxie has been awesome for us in the paint. His rebounding and physicality helps make us special."
Carter certainly likes the direction the Royals are headed. "We have been playing very well lately and have some really big games coming up in the next two weeks," he said. "I am very excited to see how we respond to the upcoming challenges."
In a season so far where many area boys basketball teams are enjoying riches, Kaneland has added itself to that category.
The Knights were riding a five-game winning streak heading into the week, sitting at 7-3 overall and 3-2 in Interstate Eight action.
Sophomore Troyer Carlson poured in 27 points in a recent win over Morris, and "continues to show he is one of the top guards in the area," coach Ernie Colombe said.
Senior Johnny Spallasso had 17 points in a win over Sycamore, "and is really developing offensively," Colombe added.
Sophomore Parker Violett has hit double figures in points and rebounds in several games and Colombe said he has a ton of potential. "He could become one of the top players in the area if he continues to put in the work," he said. "He doesn't know how good he can be yet."
Seniors Sam Gagne and Jacob Harrison also have been important contributors. "Sam and Jacob have helped stabilize us at both ends of the floor," Colombe noted. "They are both versatile guards who can defend. Jacob is a player who can score from beyond the arc and can also get to the rim."
Kaneland has had to stop twice due to COVID health and safety regulations. "Without any real chances to practice, all we can ask is the guys play hard and they have been," Colombe said. "We hope to see improvements as we put together some consistent days of practice. Right now, we are impressed by our squad's ability to overcome adversity."
Burlington Central update:
The Rockets were 7-0 and sitting atop the Fox Valley Conference to begin the week, ranked No. 7 in the most recent Associated Press Class 3A poll. Central, 14-2 overall, scored big wins over Yorkville Christian and Peoria Notre Dame to win the Plano tournament over the holidays.
Central's recipe for success through 16 games? Spreading the wealth. Senior Gavin Sarvis leads the team in scoring at 15.3 ppg (3.9 steals, 3.2 rebounds, 2.6 assists per game), but four other players are hovering in the 10-point-per-game airspace.
Senior Nick Carpenter averages 10.8 points to go with 6 rebounds, while senior Carson Seyller is at 9.8 points (2.5 assists). Senior Zac Schmidt is at 9 points, 4 rebounds and 2.2 assists and junior Andrew Scharnowski is at 8.1 points and 7.5 rebounds per game for the Rockets.
Also mark down the Red Raiders in that red-hot area team category. Huntly won the DeKalb tournament with a 4-0 mark over the holidays and then came back with Fox Valley Conference wins over McHenry and Crystal Lake South to move to 14-2 overall and 6-1 in the league.
"The championship was nice," Huntley coach Will Benson said. "I have never had a team win both their Thanksgiving and Christmas tournaments. Beating South was important because they had no conference losses and we have 1 to Burlington Central."
Aiden Wieczorek was the tournament MVP at DeKalb, while Ben Ahmer had 20 of the team's 47 points against McHenry. Nate Ary had 24 points against South.
"We are starting to do the little things more consistently," Benson said. "For example, we are playing attention to the scouting report defensively. Everyone that plays on our team has a role that is very important. We have a lot of guys who do certain things well and we are playing together as a team, so the pieces have fit together well so far. Our group also is very competitive day in and day out."
The Chargers continue to motor along, sitting at 10-4 overall and 5-2 in a competitive Fox Valley Conference after wins against Prairie Ridge (53-45) and Jacobs (56-26).
"We are playing together and continuing to grow as a team, which has been nice," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "We had a COVID episode during our Christmas tournament, which slowed us a bit, so every day we are together is a plus."
Huber noted Gabe Rivera, Jason Huber and Kennon Cook, in particular, have turned things up of late.
"Gabe has played really well the last few games," he said. "He made some big shots against Prairie Ridge when we needed them and his defense has been solid all season. Jason had two nice games against Prairie Ridge and Jacobs. His leadership has been fantastic all season, and he seems to give us whatever we need, whether it be scoring, rebounding, passing or defense. Kennon leads us in rebounds, his defense is improving and his presence elevates our team. He draws several double teams, and his unselfishness allows others to excel."
St. Charles North update:
Justin Hughes and Jude Love have been bright spots for coach Tom Poulin's squad of late. "Justin and Jude have been producing on the court, but more importantly, leading on a daily basis," he said. "They have been consistent in their approach to practices and games."
Love had 22 points and 11 rebounds in a recent win against Glenbard North.
North was 8-6 overall and 4-2 in DuKane action to start the week.
"Our biggest improvement has been attention to details on both ends," said Poulin, whose team scored a big 70-47 win over Danville at the Pontiac tournament.
The Maroons were 3-11 overall and 0-7 in Upstate Eight Conference play to start the week. "We are a young, experienced team working on getting better," coach Todd Allen said.
Harvest Christian update:
The Lions went 2-2 at the Marengo tournament and were off to a 2-0 start in Northeastern Athletic Conference play.
Ben Lothery and Kaden Meeker have led the way for Harvest. Meeker had 26 points in an overtime game against Schaumburg Christian. Lothery is averaging 19 points and was 15 points shy of 1,000 for his career to start the week.
"Our biggest improvement over the last few weeks is our defense," said coach Bryan Bradshaw, whose team is 7-6 overall. "We are changing it up and trying to keep teams off-balance."
St. Edward update:
A pair of recent wins over Montini and Glenbard South has the Green Wave sitting at 12-6 overall to start the week. St. Edward also was off to a 2-0 start in Metro Suburban Red Division action.
Earlier in the year, the Green Wave logged wins against Bishop McNamara and Genoa-Kingston, both having strong seasons, coach Andy Zielinski noted. St. Edward finishes the regular season against Bishop Mac.
While Robert Wilson has been the team's main scorer, senior Jacob Breier, 6-5 sophomore Kaden Dawson and Ben Zielinski have posted big games in some of the team's recent wins. Wilson is the team's leading scorer at 15 ppg, while Zielinski is at 10 ppg, and Dawson and Brier average 8 points per game.
"Recently, Jacob and Kaden have been stepping up," Zielinski said. "Kaden is young, but is starting to figure out how to play with physical teams."
Zielinski also likes the progress the team has made on defense. "We have been playing some pretty good defense," he said. "We are only scoring 52 points a game, so our goal is to keep opponents in the 40s. Offensively, the kids are buying into what it takes to compete with good teams. We have been a lot more patient and are getting good shots."
Aurora Central Catholic update:
The Chargers went 1-3 at the IC Catholic Prep/Westmont Christmas tournament and then had three games canceled last week due to COVID health and safety protocols. ACC was 4-13 overall to start the week.
"Our moments of good play started to turn into a stretch or two of good play and then COVID really slowed the momentum," coach Tim Swanson said. "We are starting back up again this week and hopefully don't have too big a step back."
The Trojans lost recent close games to Loyola Academy, Waubonsie Valley and Crystal Lake South.
Coach Adam McCloud lauded the recent play of Mike Clarke and Kyle Ochwat. "Both have been playing very well for us," he said. The Trojans (7-9, 2-4) recently lost on the road to Fox Valley Conference leader Burlington Central by 12 points without Clarke (injury) in the lineup.
Crystal Lake South update:
Matt LePage's Gators stood at 10-6 and 5-1 in FVC action heading into this week after winning at Cary (50-45) and losing to Huntley (66-59).
Cooper LePage (13.9 ppg), Isaiah Kirkeeng (13.3 ppg) and Arnav Jain (12.4 ppg) all average double figures for the Gators. LePage had 23 points and 5 assists against Huntley, while Zach Peltz, a 6-3 junior, had 13 points. "Zach has really improved lately," LePage said. Peltz is averaging 12 points and 4 boards over his last six games.
Freshman point guard AJ Demirov was moved up to the varsity during the holiday tournament and has logged multiple double-digit scoring games and helped the team with ballhandling duties, LePage noted.