With the way Phil Ralston and Jim Nazos stress defense, Geneva's 49-38 win over Batavia Friday could be a sign of the grind-it-out games to come as the long-time rivalry enters a new stage under the first-year Bulldogs coach.
The Vikings (6-0, 1-0) stayed unbeaten, holding Batavia (2-2, 0-1) to 4-of-21 shooting in the deciding fourth quarter and to just 2 baskets in the final 5:15 after Micah Coffey's 3-pointer had tied the game at 32-32.
Four players -- Mike Rueffer (13), Coffey (12), Luke Horton (7) and Zach Strittmatter (6) combined for all Batavia's points as the Bulldogs shot just 31 percent from the field (15 of 49).
"We got nothing easy all night," Nazos said. "Everything we got we worked for. We didn't get out on a break."
"We knew they went to the dribble drive so we tried to pack the lane and make them beat us by shooting," Geneva center Connor Chapman said. "They made a couple big shots but we were able to contain them for the most part."
Batavia also missed all 4 of its free throws in the fourth quarter and hit just 1 of 5 for the game. Geneva got to the line 30 times and made 18; Batavia was called for the first 9 fouls of the second half to put the Vikings in the bonus early.
"That happened really quick and fast and it is what it is," Nazos said. "We don't want it to happen obviously."
Mike Trimble split free throws to put Geneva ahead 33-32, and Chapman grabbed the rebound on the missed second free throw and also was fouled. He hit both for a 3-point lead, then Cam Cook's 3 put Geneva up 38-32.
"We just went away from our sets and we weren't executing any sets well tonight. We just told them to get in your base offense, and try to get the ball inside," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "We knew we had them in foul trouble. We told them we had to keep on feeding them the post."
The Vikings' defense did the rest allowing only a 3 to Rueffer and Coffey's 3 at the buzzer.
"There are strides being taken here defensively but we have to help ourselves getting the ball up the floor quicker and I thought they had too many second-chance opportunities," Nazos said.
Batavia lead 20-19 at halftime after digging out of an early 12-2 hole. Rueffer nailed back-to-back 3s early in the second quarter and then Coffey drained another to put Batavia ahead 16-14.
Geneva had one of its best stretches of offense to open the third quarter getting a bucket from Nate Navigato, then Navigato fed Chapman for another score and Cook hit a 3 to put Geneva ahead 26-24. Batavia would not lead again.
"I thought we had trouble stopping them at opportune moments," Nazos said. "I thought that was a bad tone to set for the half."
Navigato led Geneva with 12 points and 9 rebounds, the boards helping his team to a 30-22 advantage. Chris Parrilli came off the bench with 11 points, and Cook, Trimble and Chapman all scored 8.
Ralston praised Parrilli and several of the contributions from his bench, including a key block from Nate Brown. Ralston was concerned that Justin Durante might have suffered a concussion after a collision.
"I thought all the kids that played did some things in the moments they had," Ralston said.
Chapman was called for a flagrant foul early in the fourth quarter after grabbing a defensive rebound and then knocking Rueffer to the floor. Ralston said the referees made the correct call on the collision but should have called a foul earlier when Chapman was bumped before his elbow hit Rueffer.
Geneva will put its perfect record on the line Saturday against South Elgin in the Mack Olson gym.
"We were around .500 last year and we felt pretty good with that and this year feel so much better not having a loss yet," Chapman said. "We're just playing well together as a team, talking out there and doing whatever it takes to get the win."
With a nearly full gym at Geneva, Nazos got his first up-close look at the Vikings-Bulldogs rivarly. He's certainly been in his share of games like it at Wheaton North against Wheaton Warrenville South
"It's a great rivalry," Nazos said. "There's hype, there's everything that goes into it here. It's one of the best in the state. We have two towns that are right next to each other. It's an electric atmosphere and it's great to be part of."