GENEVA – The close games – and there have been a handful for the St. Charles East boys basketball team – keep trending the Saints’ way.
East claimed another dramatic, emotionally draining battle of wills Friday, overcoming a blown lead late in regulation to defeat Geneva, 58-53, in double overtime.
This might have been the Saints’ most meaningful escape job yet. The win moves East ahead of Geneva in the Upstate Eight Conference River standings and leaves East and Larkin as the last two-loss teams in the conference standings.
In the span of a month, East (13-7, 6-2 UEC River) has won games on a half-court heave at the buzzer, a more traditional game-winning 3-pointer and missed free throws with less than a second left.
Friday’s win at Geneva was as twist-filled as any of them.
“I credit the past experiences to helping us,” said East junior guard Dom Adduci, who scored 10 of his 12 points in the overtime periods. “When Geneva came back, we kept our cool, we stepped up and we produced.”
East surrendered a six-point lead in the final 40 seconds of regulation as a pair of missed front ends of one-and-ones opened the door for Geneva forward Nate Navigato to bring down the house. Navigato splashed home a 3-pointer from the left wing with 9 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 41.
“It was nuts,” Navigato said. “Two overtimes, that was the most exciting game I’ve ever been in. It was just a shame we didn’t come out on top.”
East couldn’t hoist a shot before regulation ended, and the rivals went to overtime, with Geneva down a big man after starting center Connor Chapman fouled out in the last minute of regulation.
A pair of sophomores – East’s Jake Asquini (19 points) and Geneva’s Navigato (17 points, seven rebounds) – led their teams and the two took turns canning clutch 3-pointers in the last minute of the first OT.
Navigato’s 3 after Kyle Brown’s offensive rebound put the Vikings (15-5, 6-3 UEC River) ahead, 46-43, with 54 seconds left in overtime, but Asquini answered from the corner to tie the game at 46 with 37 seconds left in OT.
Asquini, fresh off a strong game against Streamwood on Thursday, drilled five 3-pointers on the night to give East a jolt off the bench.
“It’s a good little relief for Dom and Cole [Gentry] to have him to kick out to because if you want to help on Dom or Cole, we find Jake, Jake’s going to knock it down,” East coach Pat Woods said. “He’ll just keep getting better and we have two more years with him, so that’s good.”
The Vikings turned the ball over on the ensuing possession and Gentry’s long 3-pointer wouldn’t fall to move the game to double OT.
Adduci, who struggled much of the night against heavy attention from the Vikings’ defense, scored eight of his team’s 12 points in the second overtime, including a 3-pointer for a 53-50 Saints lead with 1:59 to go. He also notched two critical steals.
Adduci felt obligated to finish strong after his missed free throw contributed to Geneva’s regulation rally.
“When I hit that 3, it was probably the most exciting thing I ever felt because I definitely knew I let my team down and I needed to pick them back up, and that’s what happened,” Adduci said.
The Vikings had to alter their offensive sets with Chapman sidelined in the OT sessions but Geneva coach Phil Ralston thought his squad was out-scrapped at key times in overtime.
“In these situations where it’s a tight game, I told the guys repeatedly, you’ve got to make your own magic happen,” Ralston said. “It’s not like they’re going to come out and give it to you. They’re going to try to do it, and Adduci did it. … They made plays, and our last two possessions under 1:30, we got nothing.”
East pressed much of the night, typically with feast-or-famine results.
“We gamble sometimes, we’re giving up some layups as you saw, but they weren’t able to really get into their offense very many times down the court, which they like to do,” Woods said. “Geneva is so good at running that half-court offense and we didn’t want to defend in the half court, essentially, so we made it kind of an up-and-down game.”
The first half unfolded strangely. The Vikings failed to score a field goal until sophomore Pace Temple’s layup with 5:07 left in the second quarter.
But, with Adduci resting for East, the Vikings caught fire late in the half, scoring five straight times down the floor and eventually taking a 19-17 halftime lead on Navigato’s long 3-pointer 6 seconds before the break.
The game was tied at 30 heading into the fourth quarter.
No room to breathe – just the way the Saints like it.
“It gets the crowd going,” Asquini said. “Keeps them up.”
Senior Mike Trimble scored 11 points for Geneva.
Gentry had 13 points for East, which swept the season series with the Vikings for the second straight year.