ELGIN – Geneva’s starting lineup Saturday night had an 11-inch cumulative height advantage over Elgin, so the Maroons decided to open the Upstate Eight Conference River boys basketball game in a tightly packed 2-3 zone defense.
The Vikings responded by hitting on six 3-point shots in the first quarter – including Cam Cook’s 30-footer at the buzzer – to open up a 20-13 lead on their way to a 75-63 victory.
“We knew what we were doing and we knew what we had to do,” said Geneva guard Chris Parrilli, who connected on three shots from beyond the arc in the opening quarter. “We came out slow last night [in a loss to St. Charles East] and we knew we had to change that tonight. We couldn’t have another night like that, so we just worked the ball around great, found the open guy, and we were able to hit shots in the beginning and just kept the lead.”
Geneva’s success from outside forced Elgin (3-6, 1-1) to loosen up the zone a bit to better guard the perimeter. That helped cool down the Vikings from beyond the arc, but it also allowed them to get the ball inside more often to their trio of 6-7 forwards – Nate Navigato, Loudon Vollbrecht and Mike Landi.
Navigato was held to three points in the first half, but he scored 10 points in the third quarter to help Geneva (7-2, 2-1 UEC River) extend its lead from 11 points at the half (32-21) to 18 points (56-38) entering the fourth quarter.
“Overall this game, our 3-point shot wasn’t falling,” Navigato said. “I just knew that if I could score inside, then maybe it would open up. The inside was there and I kept going to it and it worked.”
Navigato finished with 19 points, including five from the free throw line in the final minute of the game to help seal the victory after the Maroons had pulled to within eight.
Landi scored 10 points and grabbed six rebounds, contributing to Geneva’s 42-24 edge on the glass. Vollbrecht added nine points, with five of those coming as a result of offensive rebounds he corralled. Navigato wound up with eight boards, all in the second half. The 6-2 Parrilli nabbed eight rebounds to go along with 17 points.
Senior guard Justin Durante tallied 12 points for the Vikings. He and Parrilli traded outstanding passes to each other that resulted in fourth-quarter layups.
“They started to bring the pressure up a little more at the end of the game, so we just made sure we stayed calm,” Parrilli said. “He’s always great at cutting to the basket, so I try to do that as well and he’s great at finding people.”
Elgin got 23 points from 6-1 senior Isaiah Butler and 16 from 6-4 senior Desmond Sanders, the tallest player on the Maroons’ roster.
“They really have some good players,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “The Sanders kid – he hit a couple really big 3s to kind of keep it close.”
Ralston was pleased with the play of some players who didn’t necessarily pile up statistics, but still were important to the success of the team.
“I give a tremendous amount of credit to some of the guys we had coming off the bench,” he said. “We had four guys in foul trouble and we had guys like Jason D’Amico come off the bench, Daniel Santacaterina came off the bench, and they gave us some quality minutes to kind of help us withstand the storm there. Even Jack Dreyer. Jack Dreyer was another kid that came off the bench. It was nice that they came in and we didn’t lose any of our momentum.”