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Larkin's Quantice Hunter puts up a shot in front of Geneva's Connor Chapman on Friday. | Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Larkin left no doubt about its status as the best team in the Upstate Eight River on Friday night.
Behind a vintage performance where every player in the rotation fulfilled his role to the fullest, the Royals shredded host Geneva 72-52 to lock up sole possession of the UEC River championship.
The outcome was significant on several fronts as Larkin (21-3, 10-2) avenged a loss to the Vikings last month and ended an eight-game losing streak against Geneva that dated to 2008. The Royals came into the contest determined to claim the program’s first outright conference title since 1993, and they accomplished the task in dominating fashion.
“We knew we wanted to beat Geneva since Geneva had beaten us the last few years, but the first thing in our mind was to win conference,” Larkin senior Quantice Hunter said. “We didn’t want to share anything.”
Senior guard Quentin Ruff sank four three-pointers and scored 18 of his game-high 20 points in the first three quarters as Larkin steadily built a comfortable lead. Hunter then scored 10 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter to finish the job.
For Ruff, the performance made up for a subpar showing in the first meeting between the teams when he scored only one point in a 61-56 loss to the Vikings on Jan. 19. The sharpshooter sat out the entire first half of that game for a violation of team rules.
“I was just playing basketball tonight,” Ruff said. “The last game I missed the first half and it was kind of hard to mix in.”
Junior guard Kendale McCullum had a huge impact on the game as usual for the Royals as he finished with 10 points, seven assists and six steals. Hunter added four steals as part of a lockdown defensive effort as Larkin forced Geneva (16-7, 6-5) into 20 turnovers.
A 12-4 run to start the second quarter gave the Royals the lead for good, but the Vikings hung around and pulled within 54-45 on Connor Chapman’s basket with 5:58 left in the fourth. Any hope of a Geneva comeback quickly went by the wayside, though, as Larkin ripped off 11 unanswered points and opened a 65-45 lead on Hunter’s basket with 3:14 remaining.
“Larkin is a very good team and we knew they were going to put a lot of pressure on us,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “There were a lot of little things that we just failed to do tonight.”
Chapman and Nate Navigato led the Vikings with 11 points apiece. Chris Parrilli added 10 points for Geneva, which has lost three out of four.
Derrick Streety tallied eight points off the bench for Larkin, which shot a blistering 28-for-47 (59.6 percent) from the field. The Royals also got solid performances from post players Drew Jones, Brayden Royse and Daniel McFadden.
“I’m so proud of the guys,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “They all played their butts off whether they were playing two minutes or 25. This is a tough place to play, not to mention all the history behind us. All I can say is I’m proud.
“There’s a lot of work to do and a lot of goals to accomplish, but this is a big one.”
LARKIN 72, GENEVA 52
Larkin (21-3, 10-2)
Ruff 6 4-6 20, Hunter 5 5-7 15, McCullum 4 2-2 10, Streety 4 0-0 8, Jones 3 0-0 6, Royse 3 0-0 6, Barnhart 2 0-0 4, Daniel McFadden 1 1-1 3. Totals 28 12-16 72.
Geneva (16-7, 6-5)
Navigato 5 1-1 11, Chapman 4 3-3 11, Parrilli 3 3-3 10, Trimble 3 1-3 7, Cook 2 1-1 6, Bragg 1 0-0 3, Temple 1 0-0 2, Polishak 1 0-1 2. Totals 20 9-12 52.
Larkin 13 20 19 20 -- 72
Geneva 13 11 16 12 -- 52
Three-point goals -- Larkin: 4 (Ruff 4). Geneva: 3 (Cook, Parrilli, Bragg). Fouled out -- None.