Boys Basketball: Larkin wins Crystal Lake South ShootoutLarkin's Kendale McCullum pushes forward during the Gary Collins Shootout at Crystal Lake South High School in Crystal Lake, Ill., on Saturday, July 7, 2012.
| Andrew A. Nelles~For Sun-Times Media |
Updated: September 7, 2012 1:15AM
In addition to putting their conditioning on display, Larkin High School’s basketball players over the weekend showed they can compensate for the lack of a big pivot man.
The Royals played their up-tempo style despite extreme heat in non-air conditioned gyms and offset Crystal Lake Central’s good height advantage inside with their own quickness to finish their summer schedule with a championship over the Tigers in the Gary Collins Crystal Lake South Shootout. Larkin won Saturday’s title game 56-55 over Central behind a key reverse layup by Kendale McCullum.
“I’m happy with where we are,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “Some guys have stepped up individually, but as a team we really were showing we are taking the necessary strides. We’re getting there.”
McCullum’s drive for the winning points underscored the way the Royals found a way to beat Central and the interior 1-2 punch of 6-7 Kyle Fleck and 6-6 David Panicko. McCullum waited for the defense to form up top, then drove the baseline and even with defenders under the bucket, he slipped past to the opposite side of the hoop for a layup with 29 seconds left for a one-point lead. The Royals won it then when Central’s Corban Murphy missed two foul shots with 5.3 seconds remaining and Larkin’s Drew Jones hauled in the rebound. McCullum then missed two foul shots with four seconds left, but a desperation three-point half-court heave failed.
“We just attack,” McCullum said. “Bigger guys are always slower than us guards are. We haven’t seen big guys yet that are as fast as we are.”
Larkin went 6-0 in the tournament, beating Woodstock, Crystal Lake South and Central in the elimination round after going 3-0 in pool play. They did it without their own center available, 6-4, 225-pound sophomore Daniel McFadden. Nor did they have their starting point guard, Derrick Streety, who suffered an ankle sprain two weeks ago.
“We’ve got some guys who are going to battle down there,” Carter said. “They’re not tall, but their height can be deceiving. They played big and Central had as good of big guys as we’ll see. It was a good test for our guys to see what they could do with their (Central’s) size.”
Quantice Hunter scored 21 points, McCullum 14, and Quentin Ruff 11 for Larkin in the title contest, but the biggest factor in the title run was an intense defense that trapped at times and pressed at times despite the high heat in the gyms.
“Ask any of our guys right now and they’ll say they’re out of shape compared to the regular season, but they were good enough to get it done,” Carter said.
The final day of play proved a big one for the Upstate Eight River. Besides Larkin, St. Charles North went 3-0 in the consolation round after starting 1-2 Friday in pool play, and won the consolation title with a 63-34 rout of Deerfield.
Loyola-bound senior Quinten Payne led the way with his play-making skills.
“He’s piling up the assists,” North coach Tom Poulin said. “He’s always been a very good passer — we saw that in practice. But he really trusts this group of teammates.
“He’s passing up the good shots to make the pass for the great shots. He’s understanding that if you find teammates for a couple easy buckets, all of a sudden the defense forgets about you and you can be an even greater scoring threat. I think Quinten is having a great summer.”
North had bowed out in the second round of Geneva’s summer league playoffs, and finishes its summer schedule with a shootout this week at East Aurora.
Another expected area power, Huntley, had a bit of a disappointing finish with a 59-49 semifinal loss to Crystal Lake South. The Red Raiders played all their summer ball without 6-6 post player Amanze Egekeze due to knee tendonitis, and senior Bryce Only, who plays baseball for a travel team.
Egekeze, a junior, has visited a handful of Big Ten schools as he ponders his future beyond 2014.
“Every Big Ten team except Michigan State and Indiana have shown interest in me,” he said. DePaul and Toledo have offered him scholarships already. Several Big East clubs, including Notre Dame, are also showing interest. Egekeze said he has no timeline for deciding on his future.
Without Egekeze, Only and six of their top eight players for various reasons, the Red Raiders went 3-1 in the tournament.
“We got some kids who were juniors last year and are seniors now who stepped up leadership-wise and showed they could really score the basketball, and we had some sophomores who came in and got their first try at varsity ball and some showed they can contribute at this level and others showed they couldn’t,” Red Raiders coach Marty Manning said.
Jacobs went 2-4 in the tournament, while St. Edward was 1-3.