ALGONQUIN – Considering where Prairie Ridge had come from, battling back from a 14-point deficit against Larkin, down four points in the last two minutes was encouraging.
Then, the Wolves got the ball to senior guard Michael Bradshaw for an open 3-point look in the left corner. Bradshaw had just hit a 3 from the key less than a minute before.
“I’ll take my chances with that,” Prairie Ridge coach Corky Card said.
Bradshaw’s shot careened the rim, but rolled out on the far side. Larkin was able to put the game away in the final minute, 62-55, in their Pool III game at Jacobs’ Hinkle Holiday Classic Monday at the Eagles’ Nest. The victory, along with South Elgin’s win against Barrington, assured Larkin (11-1 overall, 2-0 Pool III) will be in the championship bracket, even with one pool game remaining.
“I got a good look, it was a good pass from Steve [Ticknor],” said Bradshaw, who led the Wolves (6-4, 1-1) with 18 points. “I got to knock that down. We came back against a good team, I just wish we could have pulled it out.”
The problem for Prairie Ridge came midway through the second quarter when Larkin reeled off 16 unanswered points, turning a 19-17 deficit into a 33-19 lead. Bradshaw’s 3 at the buzzer started a run for the Wolves, who eventually cut it to 36-33 in the third quarter before the Royals closed the quarter with a 48-35 lead.
Prairie Ridge came up with six Larkin turnovers before the Royals got a shot in the third quarter.
“To start the third quarter, we buckled down and played some hard defense,” said Wolves sophomore guard Payton Otto, who scored 14 points. “They’re a really good team. They’re quick, their bigs play well, they’re a good shot-blocking team, very athletic. That’s one of the better teams we’ve faced.”
Larkin coach Deryn Carter took blame as Prairie Ridge closed on the Royals in the fourth quarter. Carter drew a technical foul with 3:56 remaining and a 55-43 lead. The Wolves cut that to 55-53 before freshman Christian Negron scored on a layup.
“I got the ‘T’ and the momentum changed,” Carter said. “So that was my fault. I’ll take that one. It was good enough.”
Kendale McCullum led Larkin with 17 points, while Andrew Jones added 11 and Negron had 10 points, six rebounds and four blocked shots.
“We started off [the second half] a little lackadaisical and we weren’t doing things we were doing in the first half,” McCullum said. “Coach took us out and put the other guys to calm us down more. We came back in and played well.”
Ticknor added 11 points and seven rebounds for the Wolves, who had 24 turnovers while Larkin had 25.
“It was not a well-played game,” Card said. “They did a nice job pressuring us and we hit some open shots and went after them. The intensity was decent on both sides, but it was not great defense. It was difficult to get a rhythm into.”