GENEVA – Having already defeated Larkin once this season, the Geneva boys basketball team needed “a monumental effort” to turn the trick again, in Vikings boys basketball coach Phil Ralston’s estimation.
Geneva wasn’t close to making that happen Friday, so instead, the visiting Royals celebrated a monumental achievement of their own.
Larkin blasted Geneva, 72-52, in Upstate Eight Conference River play to cement what is believed to be Larkin’s first outright boys basketball conference championship in 20 years. St. Charles East needed to win out and have Larkin lose Friday to have a chance to tie for the title.
“It means a lot – I won’t lie to you,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. “I know some coaches will say conference isn’t [a huge deal]. It means a lot to us. It means a lot to what we’re trying to build, and it validates a lot of hard work that some seniors and juniors have put in. Hopefully the freshmen and sophomores in our program will realize what the hard work in our program will give them.”
Larkin (21-3, 10-2 UEC River) turned in a vintage performance, unnerving Geneva with fierce defensive pressure and benefiting from a productive blend of transition baskets, drives to the rim and 3-point marksmanship.
Geneva (16-7, 6-5 UEC River) played Larkin even at 13-all through the first quarter but stumbled from then on, and faced a 33-24 deficit by halftime.
The Royals led by as many as 17 in the third quarter before the Vikings temporarily regrouped late in the third quarter and early in the fourth.
Geneva junior Chris Parrilli provided six points over consecutive possessions during the comeback attempt, hitting a 3-pointer, then drawing a foul on another 3-point try, making all three free throws.
Ralston bemoaned the delayed response to Larkin’s surge.
“You can’t be  down and then decide ‘Oh, now we’re going to play hard,’ ” Ralston said. “That’s the wrong time to do it.”
The Vikings twice came within nine points early in the fourth quarter before Larkin put the game away for good with an 11-0 burst that padded its lead to 65-45.
The Royals looked the part of a team that had every intention of sewing up a conference crown.
“They never let up. They were always pushing hard,” Parrilli said. “They knew what they wanted to do, and they did everything they could, executed everything and hit some shots.”
Geneva (22 turnovers) squandered twice as many possession as Larkin but Carter said his team’s dominance Friday was more multilayered than the turnover contrast.
“We’ve created turnovers against them in the past but in the half court, when they get into the half court, they’ve taken advantage of us and they’ve executed at a great level,” Carter said. “I thought we did a better job in the half court defensively.”
Senior guard Quentin Ruff scored a game-high 20 points for the Royals.
Like Larkin, Geneva placed three in double figures, but Connor Chapman and Nate Navigato were high scorers with 11 apiece. Navigato also grabbed seven rebounds, while Parrilli scored 10 points.
Friday marked the first Geneva loss to Larkin since Ralston came to town in 2008. It might have been a fitting night for the streak to end as Larkin underscored its recent ascent with the conference championship.
“If someone’s going to hand out a coach of the year award, I think Deryn has done a tremendous job,” Ralston said. “You take a look at where the program was five years ago, and for him to get these boys that he has playing at a high level like they are, I think it speaks volumes.
“This was a nice breakthrough year for them, and they certainly have earned everything that they’ve gotten so far.”