SOUTH ELGIN – St. Charles North boys basketball coach Tom Poulin had a simple, one-word response for how best to subdue Larkin’s transition feeding frenzy.
“Scoring,” he said.
Poulin figures North will need to be on the mark at the offensive end to keep Larkin from wreaking havoc in the open court of tonight’s IHSA Class 4A South Elgin Regional championship game.
The Upstate Eight Conference River champion Royals showed throughout the season they’re capable of pushing the pace, including in a pair of double-digit conference wins against the North Stars.
“If we take early, quick shots from deep that lead to long rebounds, or forced shots that they can get the rebound and go with it, then you’re in trouble,” Poulin said. “You’ve got to put the ball through the hoop, and you’ve got to control the tempo against them. Otherwise, it’s going to be a track meet, and we’re not going to beat them in a track meet.”
In sizing up North’s two lopsided losses to Larkin this season, Poulin acknowledged the North Stars generally have not played good basketball, but added that’s “because of them.”
Just the same, Poulin said the North Stars have demonstrated they can hold their own against high-level opposition, most notably in going 3-1 at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. That should embolden North that it can knock off Larkin despite this season’s dreary history against the Royals, Poulin said.
“We want them to fall back on their experience,” Poulin said. “Some huge wins against very, very good teams. I could list a lot of teams that I would say we weren’t the favorite against that we got a win against, and/or competed very, very well. So we’re going to fall back on our experience and trust in that experience that it’s prepared us.”
North and Larkin were both impressive Wednesday in dismantling crosstown rivals in their respective regional semifinals, with Larkin pounding Elgin before North did the same to St. Charles East.
The Royals (22-5) are a perimeter-oriented squad led by the high-motor quartet of Quentin Ruff, Quantice Hunter, Kendale McCullum and Derrick Streety. Larkin fell twice to UEC Valley champion Neuqua Valley in a one-week span to close the regular season but the Royals otherwise have shown few cracks.
North senior Quinten Payne, coming off a 26-point night against East, is eager for the North Stars’ third chance at Larkin.
“We’ve been working all year for this, the highs, the lows, the wins, the losses,” Payne said. “I think we owe them a little something. … When we played at their place, we played a good first half, and then it [unraveled] in the second half. We owe them 32 minutes of good basketball.”
Poulin came away from Wednesday’s win encouraged by the play of North’s bench, which he hopes remains a factor in the North Stars’ favor tonight.
“We didn’t have any drop-off,” Poulin said. “I really like our depth. When we’ve played our best, we’ve gone deep in the lineup. It’s showing right now at this time of year.”