AURORA – Although the Geneva boys basketball team’s lead against East Aurora was disappearing quickly, the Vikings couldn’t be too upset with themselves.
Several of the baskets the Tomcats made to draw closer came with quite a degree of difficulty, especially from beyond the 3-point arc.
“For the most part, I thought we played good defensively,” Geneva junior Nate Navigato said. “I mean, they pulled up from everywhere, and they were hitting, especially at the end. That’s what got them back in the game. I’m not so sure how you’re supposed to guard that.”
Eventually, the Tomcats’ crowd-pleasing theatrics waned, and Geneva notched a 61-52 win Monday in the championship game of the East Aurora Holiday Tournament.
East Aurora (4-9) drew within 48-47 with 4:43 to play in the fourth quarter on a Fred Reynolds layup. But the Tomcats went dry offensively for almost four minutes afterward, failing to score until a pair of Adrian Smith free throws brought the Tomcats’ deficit to 55-49 with 47 seconds to play.
The Vikings made 11 free throws in the fourth quarter to keep the Tomcats at bay.
“I was actually happy to see that they did make a run at us because I wanted to see how our guys were going to withstand that,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “For them to cut it to one and then all of the sudden you’ve got their whole crowd into it, and they’re focused. It got loud in here, and our guys didn’t blink.”
The Vikings (12-3) went 4-0 at East Aurora and won their second holiday tournament of the season after also finishing first at West Chicago’s Thanksgiving tournament.
Geneva led, 29-23, at halftime. The 6-foot-7 Navigato made his first five field-goal attempts of the second quarter, mostly on lightly contested attempts around the rim.
Ralston would have liked to exploit the Navigato matchup even more but was generally pleased his team kept the game’s pace manageable.
“If we were going to get into a track meet with them, running up and down the floor, they would beat us probably 95 out of 100 times,” he said. “Maybe 99 out of 100. Maybe even 100 out of 100. It would not be good odds.”
The Tomcats hoisted 25 3-point attempts on the night, making eight. Junior Delvion Pugh’s hot hand late played a leading role in the surge for East Aurora, which played inspired ball throughout the tournament after the recent death of assistant coach Troy Smith.
Navigato, named the tournament’s MVP, led Geneva with 21 points. His 3-pointer late in the third quarter supplied Geneva its largest lead at 43-31.
Senior guard Justin Durante added 13 points for Geneva, which will begin the 2014 portion of its schedule Saturday at the United Center, where the Vikings take on Kaneland.
The victory marked Ralston’s 100th since arriving at Geneva for the 2008-09 season.
It was a festive way to ring in the occasion as the Vikings snipped the nets after winning the tournament championship, the program’s first Christmas tournament crown since taking the Chuck Dayton tournament in DeKalb in Ralston’s first season.
“Since I’ve come to Geneva, I’ve talked about cutting down nets,” Ralston said. “You want to win championships and when you win a championship, you want to be able to cut down a net. So that was nice of East Aurora to allow us to do that. I thought that was very classy of them.”
Senior guard Chris Parrilli also was a first team all-tournament pick for Geneva.