GENEVA – As is the case with most wins, the Geneva boys basketball team walked off the floor after defeating Elgin, 69-61, with their heads held high.
But it was during the game that Vikings’ coach Phil Ralston thought his team was looking down too much as Geneva often tried to dribble around Elgin’s trap defense, which forced 26 Geneva turnovers. While Elgin was quick defensively, Ralston pointed to spurts in the second and fourth quarters as to how Geneva should have broken down the Maroons’ relentless defensive attack.
The Vikings (16-4, 5-3 Upstate Eight Conference River) scored the first nine points of the fourth quarter – all but one on point-blank lay-ups – to pull away from the pesky Maroons. Nate Navigato scored seven of his team-leading 18 points during the early stages of the fourth quarter to help Geneva open up a double-digit advantage.
“They did some nice things defensively, but I think we were very careless; 26 turnovers – a lot of it had to do with us being careless with the ball,” Ralston said. “I thought we passed out of it and did some nice things to pass the ball – made two, three passes and got layups. I think it was more or less the problems we had with careless passes.”
Elgin’s scheme defensively was to try and trap a Geneva ball-handler after he crossed the midcourt line. Once trapped, a third Elgin (6-12, 2-4) defender would look for the Geneva player most likely to get the next pass and go for a steal. Along with steals at the initial trap, Geneva was frustrated with the third Elgin defender who made steals and subsequent outlet passes for easy layups.
The Maroons nearly pulled even with that formula, getting back-to-back steals and layups from Isaiah Butler to pull within 44-43 with 2:04 to go in the third quarter. Geneva responded with an 8-2 run over the last minute of the quarter with a Chris Parrilli back-door layup extending Geneva’s lead back to 52-46 after three.
“We didn’t handle the pressure as well as we wanted to, but we did some nice things as well,” Parrilli said. “We had a lot of back-door opportunities and started playing smarter offensively. We started moving the ball better against their trap and started looking for other guys. We saw a lot of good opportunities over the top and we just need to keep doing that.”
The Vikings finally solved the Elgin trap in the fourth quarter, shooting a perfect 8 for 8 from the floor while shoring things up defensively themselves. During Geneva’s 11-2 run to start the fourth quarter, the Elgin offense settled for five straight 3-pointers that missed as the Vikings opened things back up.
A Parrilli back-door layup from Pace Temple gave Geneva its biggest lead of the night, 67-51, and put the finishing touches on what was a great fourth quarter for the Vikings.
“We finally found it there in the fourth quarter as we got our bigs in it because we definitely had the height advantage,” Temple said. “It was close and credit to them. We just started to relax and really find our rhythm and get it to our scorers.”
Butler led all scorers for Elgin with 22 points, with 14 of those coming in the second half.
Parrilli shared team-high honors with Navigato, scoring 18 points, while Justin Durante added 12.