ELGIN – Unlike in the first two games of the Elgin Holiday Tournament, the Batavia boys basketball team faced a familiar foe in the semifinal Friday night – Upstate Eight Conference River rival Larkin.
Unfortunately for the Bulldogs, the contest ended the same way their conference meeting with the Royals did Dec. 8, as Larkin downed Batavia, 57-43.
Batavia will play Centennial High School from Las Vegas, at 6:45 tonight for third place. Elgin beat the Nevada team, 60-58, in Friday’s second semifinal, setting up an intracity championship game.
Both Batavia and Larkin struggled to sink baskets, but the Royals found other ways to score points.
“They are a very good team and they did a lot of things well tonight, especially when they weren’t hitting their shots,” Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. “They found other ways to score. They got the ball up the floor quickly and scored in transition a lot and on put-backs.”
Another way was from the free-throw line.
Larkin (13-2) owed its 25-22 halftime lead to its accurate shooting from the free-throw line. The Bulldogs outscored the Royals 22-15 from the field in the first half but Larkin was a perfect 8 for 8 from the free-throw line. Batavia (5-8) was unable to convert any of its four first-half attempts at the line.
The Bulldogs also had trouble getting their inside shots to fall and had to rely on their perimeter shooting.
Six of their eight first-half baskets were from beyond the arc, with Micah Coffey making five of them. The junior guard, who led all scorers with 20 points, finished the night with six 3-pointers. Batavia managed only two 3-pointers in the second half.
“Sometimes we settled for bad shots. I thought we got the ball inside decent,” Nazos said. “We had trouble finishing early on and that snowballed a little bit. I thought we also did have some untimely turnovers.”
“They do a really good job of jumping and pressuring the ball and we handled it pretty well, and then our shots weren’t falling,” said Batavia’s Zach Strittmatter, who added nine points. “We did a good job of handling their pressure but we need to get better guarding on ball defense so they don’t break us down as much.”
Larkin looked like it was going to pull away in the second quarter. A Kendale McCullum (11 points) layup on a steal at the 3:32 mark gave the Royals a 21-11 lead. Coffey responded with a 3 from the left wing that sparked a 11-4 run to close the gap to three points at the half.
Both teams struggled in the third period, scoring a total of 15 points with the Royals maintaining a slim lead of 33-29.
The Bulldogs mounted another comeback attempt in the fourth quarter. Trailing 43-32 with 5:41 left to play, Batavia rallied to close the gap to 47-40 with a Luke Horton layup with three minutes to go. But Batavia was unable to sustain momentum.
Quantice Hunter led the Royals with 15 points. The Bulldogs had a three-game winning streak snapped.
“It’s still December and we are a work in progress,” he said. “We’ve taken some strides here. We not going to downplay that. We’ve come a long way in the last couple of weeks.”