GENEVA – The wins are piling up for the Geneva boys basketball team just like last year, but unlike last season, so have been the points for the opposition.
While the Vikings have enjoyed plenty of success this season, coach Phil Ralston has taken note of climbing field goal percentages and points per game for opponents compared to last year, and his unease spiked last week when a shaky defensive outing was costly in a loss to St. Charles North.
One week later, the Vikings' renewed defensive focus was evident as Geneva had an easy time Friday against rival Batavia, winning, 57-44.
The Bulldogs had just nine points at halftime, as the Vikings' student section made sure to point out.
"We studied them, we watched film on them and we've already played them once," Geneva junior forward Nate Navigato said. "We knew all their sets, and we just really executed it tonight."
Ralston said opponents have averaged almost 10 points a game more this season than last, and are shooting more than 40 percent from the floor compared to about 35 percent a year ago.
That's been a puzzling development considering the Vikings boast quality individual defenders in Chris Parrilli and Pace Temple, not to mention ample size in the paint.
For whatever reason, though, the Vikings' collective defensive identity has been lacking – until Friday.
"We felt we had to have a real hard look at what we do and how we're doing it, and maybe refocus," Ralston said.
The Vikings (14-4, 4-3 UEC River) held Batavia (6-10, 1-5 UEC River) to 4 of 19 shooting from the floor in the first half while converting 14 of 19 of their own shots offensively. It added up to a 31-9 halftime bulge for the Vikings.
As poorly as his team played offensively, Batavia coach Jim Nazos thought the Bulldogs' lack of aggressive defense set the tone.
"There's a lot of parts to an outcome like that in the first half," Nazos said. " … We were almost afraid to be ourselves and go all out and really get to a certain point and pressure the ball a certain way, be at a certain spot right now. Yeah, there were some shooting lulls that played a part in that, some turnovers and some things, but I really believe it's the first part that leads to the second."
Geneva, which whipped the Bulldogs, 68-47, in early December, never gave the visiting Bulldogs fans much to cheer about, aside from a Tucker Knox dunk in the third quarter. A foul-intensive second half was largely uneventful.
"We went into the locker room all pumped up and excited on adrenaline, obviously," Geneva senior Justin Durante said. "We come out holding them to just single digits in the first half, which is amazing in itself. In the locker room, we were all going nuts. We just tried to calm down and say we've got to keep it up, keep up the intensity, don't get screwy."
Navigato contributed 12 points and 10 rebounds while teammates Cam Cook and Parrilli added 11 points each for the Vikings.
Brothers Micah Coffey (14 points) and Canaan Coffey (10) paced the Bulldogs.