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By halftime on Monday Geneva owned a double-digit lead over Batavia, having held the Bulldogs to 8 points.
The Vikings had seen this act before. Just 10 days prior they'd enjoyed a nice lead only to see their nemesis rally to win on its senior night.
Lesson learned. This time, at the Class 4A Metea Valley regional in Aurora, No. 14 seed Geneva beat No. 19 Batavia 55-46.
The Vikings, who led 21-8 at halftime, advance to face Metea Valley, the regional's top seed and third overall in the East Aurora sectional complex, at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.
"I give them credit for coming out fired up. They had no reason not to give everything they had," said Geneva's Phil Lorenz, who made 7 of 10 free throws in the game's last 4 minutes, 46 seconds, when Geneva (15-12) entered the bonus. The Vikings hit on 17 of 25 fourth-quarter foul shots.
"We kind of weren't together at first, but I guess we pulled through," said 13-point scorer Lorenz. "They just fouled us and we were making our free throws."
Batavia (7-19) didn't make much anything in the first half. Against a couple different zone defenses interspersed with a brief man look, Geneva forced 3-of-20 first-half shooting and allowed but 4 points in each of the first two quarters.
Cole Gardner, Batavia's 6-foot-6 center, led the Bulldogs with 6 first-half points and guard Mike Rueffer had 2 free throws. Geneva's Brendan Leahy led five different Vikings scorers with 9 of his 16 points in the first half. Guard Ryan Willing and big 6-foot-5 junior Connor Chapman each added a pair of buckets.
"We really tried to pressure their guards, get a couple more turnovers on them. We changed our defense to try to get out on their shooters a little more," said Leahy, who grabbed 3 steals.
"I really feel like that rattled them a little bit. Once again we limited Cole's touches on the inside, which is a big key when you want to beat Batavia."
Vikings coach Phil Ralston knew Batavia wasn't going to run and hide.
"Absolutely not, absolutely not," he said. "That's what our halftime talk was about, is the fact that we had a 13-point lead last time at their place and we gave it away. Even after talking about it at halftime we did it."
The attitude in Batavia's locker room remained positive, Gardner said, and with the big guy scoring inside, Zach Strittmatter getting his midrange jumper into the flow, and 3's by Rueffer and Micah Coffey, the Bulldogs scratched within 36-26 entering the fourth quarter.
"We knew that if we'd get the ball inside that we'd get some open shots on the wings," said Gardner, the Eastern Michigan football recruit who ended his prep career with 14 points and 7 rebounds.
"That's what we did when we played them at senior night, and that's what we wanted to try to do again. We started hitting some threes and that kind of opened up everything else," Gardner said.
Rueffer, who led Batavia with 16 points, converted a three-point play to get Batavia within 40-37 with 2:33 to play, and Strittmatter made it 41-38 with a free throw with 1:55 left. The junior forward scored 10 points.
As the teams went to dueling full-court presses, Lorenz hit a couple free throws and Leahy stole a pass to negate a good Batavia scoring chance.
Batavia's Jake Pollack canned a 3 and Rueffer again scored a three-point play to pull within 47-44 with 47.9 seconds left, but Geneva's Ben Rogers, fresh off the bench, calmly made 2 free throws.
Gardner scored Batavia's last basket to make it 51-46, and in the last 20 seconds Geneva closed it out with two Leahy foul shots and a Lorenz steal and layup.
Neither the game nor the season went as Batavia coach Jim Roberts would have preferred. The Hall of Famer praised both his team for rallying and his opponent for persevering.
"As I told our guys, you can have two options in a situation like that," Roberts said. "You can either go belly-up or come back and scratch and claw. I thought we did that, but we had a couple empty possessions, and your margin for error is very slim when you're in a situation like that. But give credit to Geneva, they put us in there, and they withheld us."