GENEVA – Coach-speak and player-speak both reverberated Tuesday after Geneva capped a girls-boys basketball doubleheader sweep with a tight victory against Glenbard North.
Well, maybe Vikings boys coach Phil Ralston’s words really were English-teacher speak. That’s what Ralston is when he’s not steering the Vikings to control the tempo as they did in a 55-53 win.
“We’re hoping that this is going to help give us some legitimacy in our sectional,” Ralston said after the Vikings improved to 15-4.
Fair enough, but how does the guy who hit the pair of clinching free throws with 6.2 seconds to play feel?
“I think we can hang with anybody,” Geneva junior forward Nate Navigato said. “If we play and we pay attention to detail, we can hang with anybody. We can do what we want.”
The Panthers (12-4) watched the Vikings take control when it counted after the Geneva girls snapped a two-game skid with a 47-28 win in the doubleheader opener.
Geneva possessed the ball for most of the final 44.8 seconds of the boys game, corralling the rebound and calling timeout after its first attempt at grabbing a late lead – a Chris Parrilli drive down the left wing – was unsuccessful.
That set up an inbounds play with Parrilli taking the ball under the basket with the score tied at 53. Although Ralston later suggested that the shot angle wasn’t ideal and Navigato might have left a smidge too early, Parrilli got him the ball on the baseline. Then Glenbard North senior Chip Flanigan committed a foul as Navigato rose to shoot.
There was no one defending Navigato as he collected his game-high 24th and 25th points from the line.
“At first when I was a sophomore and I hit those big ones, I kind of got really nervous,” Navigato said. “Over time, it gets better, and I feel more comfortable with them.”
The Geneva girls never trailed in the opener of the rare midweek doubleheader – “Definitely weird having it on a Tuesday night,” senior Sidney Santos said – but still came untracked later than they would have liked.
Despite shooting 28 percent in the first half, the Panthers were within 18-12 with 3:41 remaining before the break. A 9-1 run largely fueled by rebound put-backs pushed Geneva’s cushion to 14 by halftime.
Glenbard North outscored Geneva, 10-7, in the third quarter. While the Panthers (6-12) didn’t exactly snag momentum with that maneuver, they kept the Vikings from doing the same.
“We didn’t start out too hot there, but we know that,” Santos said. “We just need to keep focused for every game we play. We already played them before and we knew that we had won before, but that doesn’t matter. So next time, we have to come more ready to play.”
Geneva (15-6) defeated Glenbard North by 27 at the Glenbard East Thanksgiving Tournament in its second game of the season.
Two months later, the Vikings are a far different bunch. Point guard Michaela Loebel (knee) could be out for the season, causing Santos (14 points) to shift away from the post and prompting coach Sarah Meadows to promote freshman center Grace Loberg (13 points).
“You know, it’s good to get a ‘W,’ ” Meadows said. “It wasn’t really a pretty ‘W,’ but it’s still a ‘W,’ and we needed that after the weekend,” which included losses to Batavia and Champaign St. Thomas More.
The Geneva boys, meanwhile, have won six of seven, beating a handful of teams slated for the Class 4A East Aurora Sectional in the process. Those teams include the host Tomcats and Neuqua Valley.
With the Panthers coming off recent wins against powers Naperville Central and Hinsdale Central, the Vikings certainly boosted their postseason resume for the looming seeding meeting. Parrilli followed Navigato with 10 points, and Pace Temple added nine.
Geneva shot an efficient 52.5 percent (21 for 40) while challenging Glenbard North with a handful of defensive looks, beginning with man-to-man before running its gamut of zones.
Flanigan (18 points) and Justin Jackson (13) finished in double figures for the Panthers. Jackson’s jumper from the free throw line was no good as time expired.
“Boy, did they give us a battle,” Ralston said. “Great, great team.”