AURORA – The sixth-seeded Geneva boys basketball team has taken down the No. 3 and 2 seeds in the 23-team IHSA Class 4A East Aurora Sectional in its last two outings.
The surging Vikings’ degree of difficulty only rises tonight as No. 1 seed Benet provides the opposition in the sectional championship game.
After winning its first regional title since 1986 last week – defeating host Plainfield East, then Bolingbrook – the Vikings’ season already was a resounding success, and coach Phil Ralston’s team added another layer of luster with Wednesday’s thrilling, 70-68 sectional semifinal win over West Aurora.
“Every game that we’ve had [past regionals] is gravy,” Ralston said. “I like gravy. I like getting extra helpings of gravy. So this is a gravy game to us [against Benet]. It’s all this is. It’s us going out there, we’re going to play, have fun.
“Everything we’ve done in the offseason was to get out there and play on that floor [at East Aurora]. The kids have done that, and you know what they’ve done, they’ve given themselves the opportunity to play for a sectional title.”
Geneva (25-5) actually has fewer losses than Benet (22-7) but the Redwings have played one of the most grueling schedules in the state, and have won each of their first three postseason games by double figures.
Benet’s marquee player is bruising, 6-foot-9 Xavier recruit Sean O’Mara, meaning Geneva posts Loudon Vollbrecht and Mike Landi will likely need to put their 10 combined fouls to good use.
“O’Mara’s a great player, but we’re going to be ready for that [game],” said Geneva senior Chris Parrilli, who knows some of Benet’s players through the Mercury Elite AAU program. “We know we can handle anything now.”
Parrilli’s tie-breaking, short jumper with 3 seconds to play Wednesday netted the Vikings their first sectional win since 1981.
“From my standpoint, all the pressure’s on Benet,” Ralston said. “For us, we’re just going out there and having fun. We’re going to compete and have fun. That’s all we’re doing.”
The Vikings’ prospects for upending a third straight higher seed – and earning a spot in Tuesday’s Hinsdale Central Supersectional – would be boosted if junior guard Pace Temple can maintain his offensive surge.
Temple scored a career high 24 points in Friday’s win against Bolingbrook, then pumped in 19 more in the West Aurora win. Temple, who came off the bench for much of the season, is providing Geneva another quality secondary scoring threat behind standout junior Nate Navigato.
“That’s more gravy for Pace,” Ralston said of Temple’s scoring uptick. “ … His defense is so outstanding. You saw it [against West Aurora]. Tell me of a better on-the-ball defender right now. I’m not sure you could come up with one.”