BARTLETT – The Geneva boys basketball team started fast and watched two potential game-tying shots fall short as the Vikings held Friday for a 36-34 win against Bartlett to cap the regular season.
With 7 seconds left in the game, Bartlett junior Mitch Reid missed a jumper in the Hawks’ first attempt to tie the game.
After Geneva senior Connor Chapman missed two free throws, Hawks junior Kevin Wantroba missed another jumper as time expired.
Sophomore forward Nate Navigato scored his team’s first seven points as Geneva led, 9-1, early, and he led all scorers with 23.
Navigato said he looked forward to the challenge of facing Bartlett guard Lance Whitaker, who is a University of Illinois-Chicago recruit and one of the top guards in the conference.
“Just knowing that he was one of the top players in the conference and the whole area, having a chance to play against those type of players is good,” Navigato said.
Bartlett (19-9) struggled with Geneva’s zone defense as the Vikings (19-8) forced the Hawks into 14 3-point attempts in the first half and 28 overall, of which they connected on seven.
The Vikings also keyed on Whittaker, holding him to three points at the half and seven overall.
Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said the team’s inability to hit the open 3-pointer and Geneva containing Whittaker on offense decided the Upstate Eight Conference crossover.
“We had some jumpshots that didn’t fall.” Wolfsmith said. “ ... Lance did what you’re suppose to do against a team that face-guards you and does a box-and-1. … He was unselfish, shared the ball and set picks. We have other guys that can shoot, but we didn’t knock the shots down consistently enough to make them pay on defense.”
Navigato had 13 of his 23 in the second as he and Chapman led the Vikings offensively. Chapman added nine points and several critical offensive rebounds, including a put-back lay-up with 3 minutes left in the game to give his team a two-point lead.
Bartlett was led by senior Marcus Aluquin with 11 points.
Vikings and coach Phil Ralston said the win can help prepare his team for the playoffs.
Geneva opens Monday against Wheaton Warrenville South in the IHSA Class 4A Wheaton Warrenville South Regional.
“We wanted to look at this as a springboard into our regional. ... [We allowed] too many offensive rebounds, especially in the first quarter. Despite that, I thought we did a great job of covering shooters and we did a great job on Whitaker,” Ralston said.
Ralston added that he was happy with how his young forward, Navigato, rose to the challenge against Whitaker and the Hawks.
“He didn’t shy away when Whitaker was guarding him … he looked for his shot and he was patient,” Ralston said.