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St. Charles East fans cheers a basket for the Saints during Thursday's game against Larkin. | Michael Jarecki ~ For Sun-Times Media
Quantice Hunter knows exactly what he wants to accomplish this season for Larkin. The Royals are a scrappy, underdog team. No Division I players, no high-profile transfers. Their coach isn’t a legend and their school isn’t a perennial power.
So Hunter’s wish is simple: “We just want to leave this program in better shape than it was when we got here.”
With just one shot Tuesday night in St. Charles, the six-foot senior took a significant step toward doing just that.
Hunter’s NBA-length three with 1:16 to play drained the life out of St. Charles East’s home crowd and helped propel No. 21 Larkin to a 61-55 win over the No. 5 Saints.
“My coach, my whole team wanted me to take that shot,” Hunter said. “They told me that before the play even happened. They have the confidence in me, so I had the confidence to make it.”
Hunter’s shot broke a 51-all tie. Senior Quentin Ruff, who scored 13 in the fourth quarter, took over from there. Ruff got to the line for six free throws, and he sank them all to seal the win.
“I just took my time and stayed calm,” Ruff said. “I knew that my team was going to need some big things in the fourth quarter.”
St. Charles East star senior Kendall Stephens, a Purdue recruit, finished with 15 points. Stephens missed most of the first quarter after picking up two early fouls and never seemed to get back in the flow of the game.
“Foul trouble is not good, especially when you are a feel player,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “We did the best we could on Stephens. There is nobody in the conference that can guard him. All five guys had to be a part of it.”
It was a shaky game for Saints point guard Dom Adduci, who missed several practices this week with a nagging injury. The 6-1 junior is one of the area’s better point guards, but Larkin harassed him throughout the game. The Royals forced 18 turnovers.
“Our guys made plays down the stretch,” Carter said. “When they play like that they make the coaching staff look good.”
Even more costly, the Saints (4-1, 0-1 Upstate Eight River) committed two five-second violations on inbounds plays in the fourth quarter, taking the steam out of their comeback attempt.
Larkin (5-1, 1-1), which jumped into the Super 25 rankings on Monday, was upset by Streamwood on Tuesday.
“That loss helped us focus for today,” Hunter said.
“We knew we had a chance to come out and get a big win and put that behind us.”
Ruff finished with 24 points and Hunter scored 14.
Junior Kendale McCullum came off the bench to add seven points, five rebounds and four steals.
Sophomore Jake Asquini scored nine for the Saints. Junior AJ Washington scored eight, grabbed 12 rebounds and blocked four shots.