ROCKFORD — Freeport quickly showed how it needs to play Friday.
But the Pretzels also showed what they can’t afford to let happen in a 72-61 loss to Elgin Larkin that dropped Freeport to 0-3 in the season-opening 205 Tip-Off Classic.
The Pretzels jumped out to a quick 8-0 lead over a Larkin team that is rebuilding after taking fourth in the state in Class 4A last year. The Pretzels are short, with no player taller than 6-foot-3, but playing a similar-sized team, they had no trouble getting the ball inside, with Deron Lacy, Kijuan Burns and Keandre Wade all scoring within 5 feet of the basket for that quick lead.
Freeport continued to get the ball inside all afternoon, but when the Pretzels started to miss, the Royals beat them down the floor for easy points on the other end.
“We have to get back on defense,” said Burns, who scored a game-high 20 points. “The layups hurt us. After our missed layups, they were out on fastbreaks already. We have to work hard to get back. And we have to make our layups.”
Larkin (1-1) shot 3-for-11 the first quarter, but then poured in 27 points in the second quarter to take a 37-31 halftime lead. The Royals outscored Freeport 12-2 in fastbreak points that quarter, many of them free throws as they were 12-for-14 from the line that quarter.
“They shot way too many free throws in the first half,” Freeport coach Ryan Pierce said. “That’s what had them in front. What led to it was we were chasing from behind too much, both in transition and also in the half court.
“In the end, they had too many easy baskets that they made and we had too many contested shots that we missed. Most of them were pretty decent shots. We just have to be better basketball players and be able to finish. We got the right shots to be able to score 80 points today, but we only got 60.”
Wade (eight points) put in an offensive rebound to give Freeport its biggest lead at 54-50 with 5:10 to play, but Larkin then scored on a layup, a three-point play on another layup, a steal and a 3-pointer to go up 60-56.
“We had a four-point lead and we talked about controlling the five minutes that were left, but instead we continued to play like we played when we were down,” Pierce said. “As soon as they got a lead, the smallest of leads, they took control of the game. They got the shots they wanted from the guys they wanted from the spots they wanted and we couldn’t catch them.”
The Pretzels continued to get the ball inside all game. That helped them outrebound Larkin 18-7 on the offensive glass and 45-33 overall, but the Pretzels missed too many layups, shooting 24-for-62. And Larkin made 24 of 30 free throws.
“Most of them are shots we want to take,” Pierce said. “Some of them, guys can slow down a step. Same shot, same spot, but take your time.”
“We really wanted to finish it, but it didn’t go our way,” Burns said. “We went too fast. It’s still the beginning of the season. They will drop as we get deeper into the season.”
Matt Trowbridge: 815-987-1383; firstname.lastname@example.org; @matttrowbridge