BATAVIA – The Batavia boys basketball team has taken a shot at Larkin on the road, on a neutral site and, now, on the Bulldogs’ home court.
But Batavia still is unable to derive much satisfaction from its meetings with the Royals, falling, 69-56, to Larkin on Thursday night in Upstate Eight Conference River play.
“They’re a good team, obviously,” Batavia junior guard Micah Coffey said. “They’ve got a lot of quick guys. We had our chances, we just didn’t capitalize when we were within shooting distance and about to make a run. There’s stuff to learn from this game.”
Larkin’s win keeps the Royals (17-3, 7-2 UEC River) a half game ahead of Geneva (6-2 UEC River) in the conference race after the Vikings won at Elgin on Thursday.
Defense has been a strong suit for the Bulldogs this season but Larkin was able to score at a healthy clip, oftentimes in transition.
“I think they are a very strong defensive team, but I think what we do, is we score off our defense, and it’s tough to set up half-court defense in transition,” Royals coach Deryn Carter said. “When they set and they’re in the half court, they’re as good as anybody in the area defensively, so we had to try to get them playing fast.”
The Bulldogs were within 30-26 early in the third quarter on a Luke Horton basket but Larkin then slapped Batavia with an 11-1 run, drawing a fiery response from Bulldogs coach Jim Nazos in an ensuing timeout.
Batavia aimed to pound it inside to Horton regularly against the modestly sized Larkin frontcourt, but game circumstances forced the Bulldogs to switch gears, to Larkin’s benefit.
“If it’s a four or five-point game, we can really take our time, pound it in, play possession by possession, maybe get back to it, but once we got down to that 4 minute mark and we’re chasing 13, 14 points, you’ve got to play fast, too and [Larkin] does a really good job of it,” Nazos said.
Shaky ball-handling and decisions against Larkin’s press was a frequent source of irritation for the Bulldogs (9-9, 3-5), who had won seven of eight coming into play.
“If we want to be the team we want to be, we’ve got to be able to handle the ball with quickness like that,” Nazos said.
It was senior night for a Bulldogs team with a whopping 11 seniors on the roster ,but it was Coffey who kept Batavia competitive, finishing with a team-high 19 points. Horton scored all 14 of his points in the second half and Jake Pollack added 10.
Coffey scored the game’s first basket in a dim gymnasium as the lights sluggishly flickered toward full strength after the starting lineups were introduced. That was the Bulldogs’ last lead of the game as Larkin led by as many as nine points before settling for a 29-24 halftime advantage.
Coffey scored 13 points in the first half for the Bulldogs, who committed eight first quarter turnovers while struggling to acclimate to Larkin’s quickness.
Larkin placed five guys in double figures, led by 16 points from Quantice Hunter and 14 from Kendale McCullum.
The win was the 12th in 13 games for the Royals, whose 11-game winning streak was snapped Saturday by Geneva. Larkin handled Batavia in the semifinals of the Elgin Holiday Tournament in addition to winning its home conference meeting against the Bulldogs.