Less than 24 hours after suffering a 55-30 loss to state-ranked Peoria Central, Geneva ran into another highly talented team in Pleasure Ridge (Ky.) Thursday afternoon.
While there were several positive signs to be found, the Vikings (6-6) dropped a 76-50 decision to Kentucky's fifth-ranked team on the third day of the 46th annual East Aurora Holiday Basketball Tournament.
Pleasure Ridge (11-3) came out smoking, hitting 4 of its first 5 shots from beyond the 3-point arc, while building an 18-6 lead through the first 5 ½ minutes.
Antonio McDaniels connected on back-to-back 3-pointers, while teammates Cortez Macklin and Spencer Sumpter also found the range early from the outside.
Ryan Willing's 3-pointer at the buzzer helped pull the Vikings within 20-13 after 1 quarter.
After a driving layup by Mark Becker (6 points) kept the deficit at 7 in the opening minute of the second quarter, McDaniels (18 points) answered with a layup off a Geneva turnover and Macklin (game-high 21 points) added his second 3-pointer to push the Panthers' lead back to double digits.
Meanwhile, Max Clemons, the Panthers' leading scorer during the first 2 days of the tournament, acted more in the role of a distributor than a shooter.
Geneva trailed 37-24 at halftime, as the Panthers shot 50 percent (6-of-12) from beyond the arc.
"We knew they had a couple kids who were capable of it," Vikings coach Phil Ralston said of the Panthers' 3-point shooting. "But they had a little bit more firepower on the perimeter than we knew about. They didn't show that in the previous two games."
Senior guard Brendan Leahy got hot for Geneva in the third quarter, making all 5 of his field-goal attempts, including a 3-pointer that cut the deficit to 37-29.
But the Panthers answered every rally the Vikings could muster, quite often with a 3-pointer of their own. Another long-range shot by McDaniels extended the margin back to 40-29, and after Mike Trimble's 3-pointer a few minutes later enabled Geneva to fight back within 11 again at 47-36, reserve guard Richard Clemons came down and nailed 1 of the Panthers' nine 3-pointers.
"Defensively, I can't complain too much because they just hit shots," said Ralston. "If a team is going to hit shots like they did on the perimeter, we bow our heads to them and say, 'hey, you're a really good team.'"
Leahy led Geneva with 17 points on 7-of-9 shooting from the floor, while Trimble added 7 points.
"I thought we battled with them," said Leahy, who suffered a scary fall late in the third quarter but returned to the court in the fourth period. "We hung with them for three quarters but the wheels started to come off toward the end."
While committing 26 turnovers, the Vikings shot 50 percent (18-of-36) from the field.
"That was much better than what we did yesterday (against Peoria)," said Ralston, who came away impressed by Pleasure Ridge. "That was an extremely good team. They've got us beat at every position by size, quickness, and skill. Our kids played hard and we're proud of that.
"We're probably not going to see two teams like that back-to-back the rest of the year. We may not even see two teams like that the rest of the year."
Geneva will play in today's (4:30 p.m.) fifth-place game.