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Larkin's Derrick Streety drives to the basket around St. Charles North's Erik Miller on Saturday in Elgin. | Sean King~For Sun-Times Media
Larkin’s guard quartet has more ways to break down a defense than the three-point shooting of seniors Quantice Hunter and Quentin Ruff, and showed it Saturday night against St. Charles North.
Juniors Kendale McCullum and Derrick Streety controlled the tempo, dissected North’s defense with drives to the hoop, and the Royals defense took North Stars off their game in the second and third quarters of a 76-56 homecourt win.
“It’s a luxury to have four good guards, but it’s an extreme luxury to have four good guards that are different,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “They look the same because of height and athleticism, but they all bring different elements to the floor.
“So it really gives you an opportunity.”
The Royals (18-3, 8-2) were all about opportunity Saturday as their win kept them tied in the loss column with St. Charles East for first place in the Upstate River, while pushing St. Charles North (11-8, 4-4) to the brink of elimination in the title chase.
McCullum’s 20 points led the way for Larkin.
“We were penetrating and kicking,” McCullum said of himself and Streety. “We worked at that in practice a lot.
“I like to get other players involved. I don’t look to score. I’m a pass-first person — I always come second.”
McCullum did that with four first-half assists as he and Streety were able to get inside and then move the ball to Drew Jones (11 points) and Brayden Royse (12 points). But the opportunities were there for both McCullum and Streety to get to the hoop, too, and they did.
Streety had seven of his 12 points in the second and third quarters and McCullum posted 14 of his points during the same span as Larkin outscored the Stars 46-28 the middle two quarters to take a 61-44 edge into the fourth.
The Royals forced 14 turnovers in the second and third quarters of a game that was played at a higher pace than North could play.
“We sped them up, we pressured them full-court and we got them out of their comfort zone,” Streety said. “That’s how we got them to turn the ball over a lot.”
The Royals focused their defense on stopping St. Charles North’s Quentin Payne and held him to 12 points. Alec Goetz had 11 and Justin Stanko 10 for the Stars.
“I just thought the last two nights, Thursday and tonight, defensively it’s as if we’ve gone backwards,” Stars coach Tom Poulin said. “We weren’t tough enough tonight between the ears and physically.
“I thought (Larkin would) go to every loose ball. If there were four hands on it, it ended up in theirs.”
Larkin hit 22-of-40 shots from the field from the second quarter on and held the Stars to 34 shots from the field over the final three quarters after they’d taken 17 in the first quarter.
“I really thought it was a pace we play at often,” Carter said. “I think maybe they got tired, maybe we made a couple more plays in the second half. But pace is huge in basketball and I thought the game was played at a pace that we liked.”