CHAMPAIGN – One day after thrashing rival Batavia by 21 points, the Geneva boys basketball team looked flat against Bloomington.
Down by 13 points midway through the third quarter, Geneva junior Nate Navigato wouldn’t allow his team to lose.
Navigato put the team on his back in the second half and finished with a career-high 41 points in a 61-57 win against the Purple Raiders at the Country Financial Centennial Shootout at the University of Illinois on Saturday.
Navigato was an efficient 10 for 12 from the floor, but made an equal impact from the charity free-throw line hitting 19 of 23 attempts. Navigato scored 33 of his points after halftime.
“He played a whale of a game,” Geneva head coach Phil Ralston said. “He’s already got three offers and close to 20 schools looking at him. Anyone who saw him tonight knows why; he pretty much has the whole game.”
The Purple Raiders looked as though they might run away with the game, pushing their lead to 39-26 early in the third quarter. But Bloomington had no answer for Navigato, and he brought Geneva (6-1) back into the game.
“Coach always tells me that if you’re not shooting when you’re open, you’re being selfish by passing,” Navigato said. “I take that to heart, and if I’m open, I have confidence that I can score.”
The junior earned a layup and the foul to bring the lead to 39-28 and an ensuing technical foul on Bloomington’s Jacob Romani gave the Vikings two additional free throws and the ball.
From that point on, Navigato went on a personal 15-2 run to put the Vikings ahead, 43-41. The two teams traded blows down the stretch, but a technical on Bloomington head coach Michael Mosley gave Geneva the lead to end the game.
The Vikings jumped out to a quick 12-5 lead behind six points from Navigato, though the Purple Raiders would respond in the second quarter and make a run to take the lead before halftime. Bloomington went on a 17-7 run in the second quarter and was fueled by Geneva turnovers against the Purple Raiders’ full-court press.
But there was too much Navigato down the stretch, and the Vikings pulled out a win after not playing up to Ralston’s standards for much of the game.
“We took a timeout and I told the kids we’ve abandoned everything we said we were going to do in this game,” Ralston said. “We said one of our keys was to get the ball inside on them, and Nate took over from there.”
Antonio Sims led Bloomington with 20 points and four steals.