WEST CHICAGO – Geneva boys basketball coach Phil Ralston is unsure if sophomore guard Nate Navigato will continue to come off the bench as he did Monday night against Marmion at the West Chicago Thanksgiving Classic.
The 6-foot-6 Navigato certainly didn’t hurt his chances after his double-clutch, baseline knuckleball jumper splashed home with 1.5 seconds remaining to give the Vikings a 44-42 win.
“This is one of those grinder games where good teams find a way to win,” Ralston said. “I like the effort. I told the kids early last week that we have a lot of good basketball players on this team, and everyone is going to have their chance to shine. A game like this gives us a lot of data when we didn’t play as well as we wanted.”
The accumulated data began to trend for the better after a sluggish first quarter for the Vikings. After trailing, 16-8, Geneva regrouped defensively and held Marmion to 26 points the rest of the way in both teams’ season openers.
Senior forward Connor Chapman was a big part of an early Vikings’ third-quarter run that saw Geneva tie the game at 30. Chapman scored on a mid-range jumper before assisting on two Vikings scores.
“We said we needed to get the ball inside. If there was one criticism, it was that we didn’t get Chapman enough touches inside,” Ralston said. “We did get shots when we needed them most. We didn’t come out with a great effort in the first quarter. It was nice to see that when we got down, the kids battled back.”
The game was nip and tuck for most of the fourth quarter. Marmion had a pair of opportunities to take the lead but twice missed a pair of 1-and-1 opportunity – including a Jordan Glasgow miss with 54 seconds to go.
The Vikings corralled the rebound and played keep-away in the half court. With 10 seconds to go, a play designed to go elsewhere found a cutting Navigato, who pump-faked, got his defender in the air and proceeded to hit a leaning, double-clutch baseline jumper.
The game-winner was part of a game-high, 14-point effort off the bench for Navigato.
“I was supposed to be in the four spot but me and Chapman got mixed up so I just took it,” Navigato said. “I was off balance and I think [the defender] got a finger on it, but it still went in.”
The Cadets can point to a five-minute stretch at the start of the fourth quarter where they only scored four points and allowed Geneva to crawl back into the game. Marmion also fell short at the free throw line when it counted most.
“We would like to be able to put that game on ice. I think we’ll be able to tell the maturity of our team when we can run the clock and hit free throws,” Marmion coach Ryan Paradise said. “We missed those two free throws, but that’s not the reason why we lost that game. On the offensive end, we didn’t have much flow, especially in the third quarter.”
Marmion can also point to a bench that only produced four points, compared to 25 for Geneva. The Cadets were led by Glasgow and Colin Kavanaugh, who each had nine points.