ELGIN – The St. Charles East boys basketball team made a late return to the floor after halftime, striding back toward its bench with less than a minute to go before the start of the third quarter.
There was plenty for the Saints to discuss in the locker room, and not much of it was upbeat.
East saw its game against defending Upstate Eight Conference River champion Larkin unravel during a disastrous second quarter, creating a hole the Saints couldn’t escape in Thursday’s 82-65 loss.
“We definitely were mad at ourselves because we feel we didn’t play our best basketball – we know we didn’t play our best basketball – in that first half,” East senior guard Dom Adduci said. “We definitely wanted to come out with a lot of intensity, which we did, but it was only for a couple spurts. We need to focus on maintaining that throughout the game.”
After trailing by 18 to start the second half, East made up 11 of those points during the third quarter, surging to within 59-52 on a Jake Asquini 3-pointer late in the quarter.
But a cold start to the fourth quarter provided Larkin (5-0, 1-0 UEC River) the cushion it needed to finish off the Saints.
Adduci continued to showcase an ultra-aggressive scoring mindset as a senior, scoring a career-high 33 points on 11 of 21 shooting from the floor. Most of his shots came off fierce drives into the lane.
“He took one or two bad shots, but overall getting to the basket, I’ll take him going to the basket any day of the week,” East coach Pat Woods said.
Adduci picked up his fourth foul on a disputed call 30 feet from the basket late in the third quarter, which might have contributed to the Saints’ stunted momentum going into the final quarter.
Adduci kept East competitive early, scoring 12 of the Saints’ 16 points as East trailed, 17-16, at the end of the first quarter.
But after the Saints (2-3, 0-1 UEC River) took an 18-17 lead on an AJ Washington layup early in the second quarter, the Royals shredded the Saints the rest of the period to the tune of a 43-25 halftime lead.
Larkin placed five in double figures, led by senior point guard Derrick Streety (23 points). The Saints’ defense seemed a step slow at times, but Woods was most dissatisfied with the rebounding totals.
Larkin out-rebounded East, 37-23, exactly the kind of statistic Royals coach Deryn Carter has in mind for his squad this season. Woods lamented 15 offensive rebounds for Larkin.
“We’ve got good size, and then we’ve got the best rebounding guard in the league in Kendale [McCullum],” Carter said. “So we’ve got four guys who can really smell that ball and try to go get it. We’ve got to rebound at a high level in order for us to be as good as we want to be. We’ve done that in the first five games.”
Washington had 12 points, six rebounds and three blocked shots for the Saints. Junior guard Cole Gentry scored seven of his nine points in the third quarter.
Heralded freshman big man Christian Negron (nine rebounds, two blocked shots) and the rest of Larkin’s crew on the interior proved to be difficult matchups for the Saints.
“We’re in the process, I think we’ll end up being a good team, but obviously we’re not there yet,” Woods said. “We have some work to do.”
And not much time to do it, at least as it pertains to East’s first crosstown showdown Saturday against a St. Charles North team that is off to a strong start. Adduci and company watched North play during last week’s Thanksgiving tournament at East.
“We went out to scout them a couple times,” Adduci said. “We feel like we’re really prepared for them and we know what they’re going to do. We want to come out, run through all their stuff tomorrow [in practice] and come out strong.”