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Saints hold off scrappy Royals down stretch

St. Charles East 53, Larkin 48

East (6-9, 4-1)

Fisher 5 0-0 10, Ditusa 1 0-2 3, Stephens 5 7-8 18, Hondlik 2 5-8 9, Ray 0 0-4 0, Woods 1 1-2 3, Spencer 2 3-8 7, Ludke 1 0-0 2, Zajicek 0 1-2 1. Totals: 17 17-34 53.

Larkin (4-14, 0-5)

Sarangaya 4 0-1 11, Fluhler 2 2-2 6, Mahone 3 0-0 6, Grantham 1 0-0 2, Streety 4 0-0 8, Pipes 1 0-0 2, Cooks 2 3-7 7, Hunter 1 0-0 3, Mosley 1 0-0 3. Totals: 19 5-10 48

L . 13 . 16 . 10 . 9 - 48

S . 12 . 17 . 15 . 9 - 53

3-pointers: East (2) Stephens, Ditusa. Larkin (5) Sarangaya 3, Mosley, Hunter.

Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM

ELGIN — Admittedly, St. Charles East didn’t expect Saturday’s game against Larkin to come down to the wire.

It did, and the Saints felt lucky to escape with a 53-48 Upstate Eight Conference River Division victory over the upset-minded Royals.

The teams went toe-to-toe throughout the whole game, but Larkin committed late turnovers and couldn’t execute when it needed to most. Meanwhile, the Saints did everything in their power to keep the Royals in the game, going just 17-for-34 from the free-throw line.

“If you’re going to be a good team you need to knock those down,” said East coach Brian Clodi, whose team went 3-for-8 from the line in the fourth quarter. “We did a good job getting to the line. We were definitely the aggressor, but it deflates what you’re trying to do on offense if you can’t go to that charity stripe and at least make one.”

A mental blunder late in the game sealed Larkin’s fate. Down three with less than two minutes remaining, the Royals made the Saints go through their motions on offense before finally stealing the ball with 1:15 left. However, seconds after creating the steal, the Royals turned the ball over with a bad pass. The ball went out of bounds and East hit one of two free throws to make it a two possession game.

“We’re not used to being in that position; we’re not used to being in a close game,” said Larkin coach Deryn Carter. “During the final three minutes of the game we didn’t execute very well against their zone. Our guards did a good job getting shots, so it’s not so much we were taking bad ones or missing, we just didn’t execute well enough.”

Carter was also livid about his team giving up buzzer-beater layups to end the second and third quarters.

Down 13-12 after one quarter, East sophomore guard Kendall Stephens helped get his team on track, scoring 11 of his team’s 18 points during the quarter as the Saints and Royals headed into halftime tied at 29.

Stephens finished with a game-high 18 points to go along with three blocks, three rebounds and a steal.

“Playing against those Elgin teams, they’re always scrappy,” Stephens said. “We came in thinking it was gonna be easier than what it was and obviously it wasn’t.”

Larkin (4-14, 0-5) took a 35-33 lead midway through the third quarter after a basket from Adarion Mahone (6 points, 4 rebounds). However, the Royals turned the ball over on three of their next five possessions and eventually went into the fourth down 44-39 after layup at the buzzer.

Larkin shot a better-than-usual 40 percent (19-for-47) from the field and grabbed a 32-19 rebounding edge. Vincent Sarangaya hit three 3-pointers and finished with a team-high 11 points. Derrick Streety had eight points.

East (6-9, 4-1) finished 17-of-33 shooting (52 percent). Charlie Fisher tallied 10 points. Johnny Hondlik had nine points and seven rebounds.

“As competitive as I am, you gotta take the positives out of this,” Carter said. “That’s a good team. We match up size wise and I think that helps. We were right there the whole time. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives.”

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