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Geneva boys' defense is catalyst in rivalry win over Batavia

GENEVA – Batavia boys basketball coach Jim Nazos bemoaned his team’s inability to generate easy points against Geneva’s thorny defense, but his counterpart, Phil Ralston, wasn’t entirely ready to soak up the compliment.

“There weren’t many great looks at the basket that they had, but I thought there were times where we left the wrong guy open for shots, like (Micah) Coffey,” Ralston said. “Almost every three that he hit, we gave him too much space, so I think we need to get better at that.”

After his Vikings continued their perfect season, Ralston can afford to nitpick. The Vikings opened Upstate Eight Conference River play Friday with a 49-38 win against Batavia in front of a large rivalry crowd.

One of those three-pointers by Coffey that Ralston referenced tied the game at 32 with 5:20 left in the fourth quarter. But Geneva (6-0, 1-0 UEC River) then slapped the visitors with a 9-0 run that included a corner three-pointer from junior point guard Cam Cook to make it 38-32 Vikings with 4:35 to play.

Another Geneva stop was followed by a cutting basket for sophomore Nate Navigato, and junior Chris Parilli finished the burst by splitting a pair of free throws.

“We weren’t executing any sets well tonight, and we just told them, get into your base offense, get into your entries, and try to get the ball inside,” Ralston said. “We knew we had them in foul trouble.”

Batavia (2-2, 0-1 UEC River) was whistled for seven fouls in the third quarter before Geneva was called for one, and Nazos was displeased by the Vikings’ offense gaining traction in the quarter after a Zach Strittmatter jumper gave Batavia a 22-19 lead early in the quarter.

“I thought that was a bad tone to set for the half right there,” Nazos said of his team’s defensive slippage early in the third quarter. “We’re going to be a team that thrives on getting stops.”

Offensively, the Bulldogs were led by 13 points from senior point guard Mike Rueffer and 12 from Coffey, with all but four of those combined 25 points coming from three-point land. The Bulldogs’ offensive woes were exacerbated by misfiring on all six of their second half free-throw attempts.

“We got nothing easy all night,” Nazos said. “Everything we got, we really worked for. We were never able to get out into something on a break, something easy there.”

The game turned physical for portions of the fourth quarter. Geneva senior center Connor Chapman was called for a flagrant foul when his attempt to clear a rebound turned into an elbow to Rueffer’s face.

“We don’t mind a physical game,” Chapman said. “If it gets tight like that, I think our advantage is being physical.”

The Vikings were balanced offensively. Navigato (12 points, eight rebounds), Parrilli (11) and Mike Trimble, Chapman and Cook (eight each) accounted for 47 of the 49 points for Geneva, which will put its perfect record on the line again today against visiting South Elgin.

It was the Vikings’ defense, though, that most impressed Nazos in his first game coaching in the Batavia-Geneva rivalry.

“We knew they went to the dribble-drive, so we just tried to pack the lane and make them beat us by shooting,” Chapman said. “They hit a couple big shots, but we were able to contain them for the most part.”

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