ST. CHARLES – As Geneva’s premier offensive weapon, sophomore Nate Navigato serves as Chris Parrilli’s defensive prey in practice, sharpening Parrilli’s tenacity for defensive assignments against opponents’ top scorers.
“It’s hard,” Navigato said of dealing with Parrilli in practice. “He gets kind of annoying after a while. But it helps. He’s a good defender. He’s our best defender. He amazes me.”
Parrilli played his defensive role to near perfection Friday, taking the lead in forcing St. Charles North standout Quinten Payne into an uncharacteristically quiet night as Geneva controlled the Upstate Eight Conference River contest, 51-40.
The Vikings continued their dynamite start to the season, improving to 10-1 overall, 4-1 in the UEC River against one of the tougher teams on their schedule so far.
“Man, our kids played a great game,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “This might have been probably our signature game so far this year. I was very proud of the effort.”
That was especially the case defensively. Payne, usually one of the most active, energetic players in the area, didn’t attempt a single shot in the first half, and finished the night with six points on three shot attempts, two coming late in the fourth quarter.
North coach Tom Poulin acknowledged the North Stars aren’t used to seeing the specialized defenses employed by the Vikings, including a triangle-and-two and a 1-3 chase, with Parrilli serving as the chaser. Poulin said the North Stars (6-4, 3-2 UEC River) have other scoring options, but little offense materialized after solid starts for senior forward Justin Stanko and junior guard Alec Goetz.
“That doesn’t always work,” Ralston said of the Vikings’ defensive gimmickry. “Certainly Payne has had good games against us in the past, but that was kind of our philosophy tonight. We wanted someone else besides him to beat us tonight.”
In a revealing concession to Geneva’s defensive mastery, Poulin sat three of his top players – Payne, Goetz and point guard Tony Neari – for more than four minutes to start the fourth quarter, largely to try and encourage the Vikings to revert to a more traditional defensive scheme.
But North, which trailed, 37-28, entering the fourth quarter, came up empty on each of its first six possessions of the quarter, and the Vikings remained in control despite their own dry spell during that stretch.
Late in the third quarter, North drew as close as 31-28 on two Stanko free throws, but after Geneva junior Jason D’Amico split a pair of free throws, the Vikings nabbed an offensive rebound, and senior Mike Trimble canned a three-pointer to make it 35-28. Junior Kyle Brown added an inside basket as the Vikings expanded their lead to close the third quarter.
Navigato led Geneva with 18 points, including a 30-foot bomb off an inbounds pass that came with less than a second left in the first quarter, supplying the Vikings an 18-11 lead.
“I didn’t know [how far away I was] until I caught it, and then I realized how far I was, so I just knew I had to put extra oomph on it,” Navigato said.
Senior center Connor Chapman added 12 points for Geneva. The Vikings were able to work for higher percentage shots than North, which mostly was stuck on the perimeter.
Poulin said the team that took the floor Friday night was unlike the one he had prepared throughout the week.
“Our practice gym was loud and vocal, and we were beating the cutters,” Poulin said. “Tonight, we were getting screened on the weak side, we were chasing cutters consistently. It’s the polar opposite of [last Saturday’s] Elgin effort and focus defensively.”
Senior forward Kyle Swanson led North with 10 points, while Goetz and Stanko added nine each.