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Larkin junior Andrew Jones grabs during Friday's semifinal game against Batavia at the Elgin Tournament. | Michael Jarecki ~ For Sun-Times Media
With its outside shot not falling Friday, Larkin turned to a bruising style of basketball to earn a spot in the Elgin Tournament championship game.
The Royals attacked the basket, crashed the glass and used another strong fourth-quarter performance to pull away for a 57-43 semifinal win against Batavia.
Winners of eight in a row, Larkin (13-2) looks to finish what it started in the tournament’s first game at 9 a.m. Wednesday when it plays rival Elgin for the title at 8:15 p.m. Saturday. Larkin beat the Maroons 76-73 in double overtime Dec. 12.
“We told our guys that we wanted to open the tournament and end it,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “We’re three quarters of the way there, but there is one big one to get.”
Quantice Hunter posted a team-high 17 points and four steals for the Royals. Kendale McCullum (11 points, eight rebounds, four assists), Quentin Ruff (10 points, seven rebounds), Drew Jones (eight points, 12 rebounds) and Bradyen Royse (12 rebounds) also enjoyed productive games.
The gaudy rebounding statistics were the product of a rough shooting performance for both teams. Hunter sank Larkin’s first three-point attempt of the game, but the Royals missed the rest of their 13 shots from beyond the arc and finished 19-for-61 (31.1 percent) from the field for the game.
Batavia (5-8) pulled within 31-29 with 1:32 left in the third quarter, but Larkin responded with a 12-2 run that was capped by McCullum’s three-point play with 5:48 left.
The Royals picked up the pace and attacked the basket down the stretch, ending any chance of a Bulldogs upset with a flurry of three layups in 28 seconds to make it 53-40 with 1:11 left.
“When the shots aren’t falling, we just try to get in close, take a layup, hit a regular jump shot or get it done at the free-throw line,” McCullum said.
Batavia’s Micah Coffey hit five three-pointers in the first half but had only one after the break as he finished with a game-high 20 points. Zach Strittmatter added nine points and 10 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who were 15-for-51 (29.4 percent) from the field.
The defeat ended a three-game win streak for Batavia, which also lost to Larkin 56-47 on Dec. 8 in an Upstate Eight River game.
“We’re a work in progress and we’ve taken some strides here,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “I think the last couple weeks we’ve come a long way, but to be the team you ultimately want to be, you have to stop teams in transition and you have to rebound the ball.”
LARKIN 57, BATAVIA 43
Coffey 6 2-2 20, Strittmatter 4 0-0 9, Rueffer 2 3-3 7, Horton 2 0-4 4, Pollack 1 0-2 3. Totals 15 5-11 43.
Hunter 6 4-4 17, McCullum 3 5-6 11, Ruff 4 2-4 10, Jones 3 2-2 8, Streety 1 4-4 6, Royse 2 0-2 4, Kalusa 0 1-2 1. Totals 19 18-22 57.
Batavia 11 11 7 14 -- 43
Larkin 15 10 8 24 -- 57
Three-point goals -- Batavia: 8 (Coffey 6, Pollack, Strittmatter). Larkin: 1 (Hunter). Fouled out -- None.