AURORA – The Geneva boys basketball team had the pieces in place early in the fourth quarter to earn a quality victory over a defending state champion Thursday afternoon.
But then the bottom dropped out, and the Vikings were left scratching their heads about what went wrong after a 54-49 loss to defending Class 3A champion Peoria Central at the East Aurora Holiday Tournament.
“We’re disappointed obviously at how this happened,” Vikings coach Phil Ralston said, “but I told our kids ‘Hey, don’t let this happen again.’ We need to learn from this.”
After Peoria Central tied the game for the fifth time in the third quarter at 37, Geneva pieced together a 9-0 scoring run to grab a 46-37 lead with 7:14 left in the contest. But the Vikings (11-3) scored only three points the rest of the period, all on free throws, and allowed the Lions (3-6) to erase the advantage by going on a 17-3 run the rest of the way.
“Everything including the kitchen sink was going in for them and our kids didn’t respond,” Ralston said. “We had a couple of shots that could’ve gone in, but they didn’t go down for us.”
Neither team could gain much of an advantage in the first half as they traded baskets down the floor for most of the first quarter. Early foul trouble against Geneva sent the Lions to the free throw line frequently.
After Peoria closed within 20-19 on a free throw with 1:28 left in the first half, the Vikings took a 25-21 lead into halftime when sophomore Nate Navigato, who scored 13 of his team-high 20 points in the first half, connected for a jumper and buried a 3-pointer on the left wing.
The loss was the second in two days for Geneva in pool play at East Aurora.
“This team and Neuqua Valley [Wednesday] are two of the tougher teams we’re going to face all year,” Ralston said, “and we went toe-to-toe against both of them.”
After Myles Boone gave the Lions a 52-49 lead on one of two free throws with 12 seconds left, Geneva had one last opportunity to tie the game on a 3-pointer coming out of a timeout, but Chris Parrilli’s shot rimmed off, and the Lions padded their final margin with a pair of free throws.
Parrilli added 11 points for the Vikings, while Boone led Peoria Central with 22 points.
The Vikings close pool play this afternoon against Aurora Central Catholic, which was whipped by Neuqua on Thursday, 66-46.
“We’re pretty close to being able to take that next step, but we need a little more focus,” Ralston said. “We had them right where we wanted them, but couldn’t get it done.”