St. Charles North didn't close the gap on Larkin in the Upstate Eight Conference River race Saturday, but the North Stars still hope something constructive comes from their 62-55 loss.
Larkin swept the regular season series against North and realistically ended the UEC River race with the win but the teams share the IHSA Class 4A St. Charles North Regional next month.
Although postseason seedings have not come out, North and Larkin likely would not meet until the regional championship game if both teams can handle their semifinal opponents. That would be a rematch of a regional final last season at South Elgin, won by the Royals.
While Larkin surely would be a heavy favorite if the teams met for a third time this season, the way North trimmed its deficit against the Royals from 18 points to five during the second half Saturday emboldened North.
"That second half I think proved to us we can beat them," North forward Erik Miller said. "They're a beatable team. They're very good, but when we play consistent at our high level, I think we may have success in the regional. I think that second half was very good for us."
Larkin led by 14 at halftime before scoring the first four points of the second half, at which point the North Stars regrouped nicely, frazzling the powerhouse Royals for stretches of the second half.
"The second half I thought we did a much better job of being us," North coach Tom Poulin said. "For the kids to see, hey when we do this, even Larkin has a difficult time defending you [is helpful] … but it will take our best game to get to the regional final, and then to beat them, it'll take our best game.
"But I think it will be good to have some success on film, and just to have another game against us as opposed to other opponents. We've got two now of them just against us, and just to see how how they attack us when they're on offense makes us better."
Even if second-place teams Geneva or St. Charles North win out in conference play, Larkin (18-3, 9-0 UEC River) only needs to win one of its final three UEC River home games – against Elgin on Friday, last-place Streamwood on Feb. 11 and Geneva on Feb. 14 – to clinch its second straight outright conference title.
Rotation tightening for Warriors
With it being Pete Froedden's first year coaching at Wheaton Academy, it's taken Froedden a little longer to develop a strong feel for his personnel.
"We're getting closer," said Froedden, whose team is unbeaten in Suburban Christian Conference Blue play. "We played probably 11 to 12 guys early in the year and we're probably down to closer to nine or 10 now. It varies based on matchups and based on past performances but as you know, the closer you get to the end of the season and tournament time, you kind of have to narrow it down and get guys who are producing more on the floor more often."
Big man Chandler Fuzak saw limited time in the Warriors' recent win against Marmion and went scoreless but Froedden said there's no reason to read too much into it.
"Chandler's fine and he's going to be a big impact and big influence now and what we do moving forward," Froedden said. "He's going to be a reason that we do well this year, and we're looking for big things from him. He grows each and every day so we're tickled to death with him begin a Warrior and him having a great career with us. His deal is like all of our guys, working hard every day and trying to get better."
Adjust your calendar
Saturday's postponed game between Kaneland and host DeKalb has been moved to 7 p.m. today.
Aurora Central's game against Wheaton Academy was rescheduled from Saturday to Feb. 10. Tonight's ACC-Marian Central game in Aurora was moved up to a 6 p.m. start due to the possibility of snow.
IN THE GROOVE
John Pruett, Kaneland, Sr., F
What he did: Pruett notched a career-high 29 points in Kaneland's 65-55 road win Friday at St. Edward.
What the Vikings did: Playing at a favorable tempo, the Vikings limited an explosive St. Charles East offense to 49 points Saturday as Geneva surged to a 67-49 win in St. Charles. The Vikings limited East standout Dom Adduci to eight points.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
The Royals remain UEC River royalty.
Larkin ended the conference suspense early this season after an impressive St. Charles sweep Thursday at East and Saturday at North.
The back-to-back conference champions' next UEC River goal is to run the table, with a Feb. 14 home game against Geneva the Royals' toughest remaining conference matchup.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
How the local teams stack up Saturday at Batavia's annual Jim & Sylvia Roberts Night of Hoops showcase.
This year's version features four varsity matchups instead of three: Mooseheart-Bartonville Limestone at 3 p.m.; Benet-Stevenson at 4:30 p.m.; West Aurora-St. Patrick at 6:15 p.m. and Batavia-St. Joseph at 7:45 p.m.
COACH SLY SAYS
East and North found out this week they're not good enough to beat Larkin. At least not right now.
Both teams had a shot at Larkin on their home courts in must-win conference games, and, bottom line, neither the Saints nor the Stars were up to the task.
The worse news is Larkin is lurking in March as both East and North are part of the same regional with the Royals, to be hosted by North.
The good news is both teams have a month to identify whatever solutions they can to close the gap on the Royals. A tall order, but East and North have shown this year they can compete (and beat) good teams. Just not Larkin ... not yet, anyway.