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For every adult who moans and complains that kids today just don't know their history, maybe it's a good thing for Geneva basketball fans that there's some facts these Vikings don't recall.
A year ago the Vikings were poised to upset No. 3 seed Metea Valley in the regional semifinals only to see a string of missed free throws in the closing minutes cost them the win.
Mike Trimble played in that game, and on Thursday night in the Class 4A Wheaton Warrenville South regional semifinals No. 12 seed Geneva was locked in another nail-biter with No. 5 Hinsdale Central.
Trimble drew a foul with 3:27 left in the game and went to the line for a 1-and-1 with his team down 44-43. Trimble calmly made both, which stood up as the 13th and final tie or lead change of a hard-fought 55-49 Geneva victory.
The Vikings (21-8) advance to Friday's regional championship game at 7:30 p.m. against West Aurora (21-6) looking for their first title since they were a much smaller high school playing Class A basketball in 1986.
This is Geneva's first appearance ever in a Class 4A regional championship game; its last appearance came in a 2006 loss to Batavia when there were still two classes.
Afterward Trimble was asked if any thoughts of last year's regional loss crossed his mind.
"I did not think about that," Trimble said, smiling. "Probably would not have helped if I did."
Trimble scored all 9 of his points in the second half. After a trio of sophomores — Nate Navigato, Pace Temple and KJ Santos — combined for 18 points as the Vikings took a 24-21 lead despite getting 0 points from their seniors, Trimble stepped up in the second half.
"At halftime I knew I had to do something," Trimble said. "It was a close game, I had to contribute. I did not want it to end that way. I wouldn't have been able to sleep tonight if I knew it was going to end like that."
Temple got the start for Geneva and opened the scoring with a 3-pointer, the start of an 8-for-14 night shooting 3s for the Vikings. They also shot over 50 percent from the field at 18 for 35, slightly better than the Red Devils' 18 for 39 and turned the ball over only 9 times against Hinsdale Central's aggressive, trapping defense.
Temple hit another 3 to put Geneva up 12-11 after one quarter. Santos, who only was called up to varsity a couple games ago, hit back-to-back 3s to give the Vikings their largest lead of the game at 18-11.
"We hit a lot of 3s today," Navigato said. "That was the key. We were confident."
Hinsdale Central (18-7), which led just once in the first half, fought back from a 24-21 halftime deficit into a 28-28 tie early in the third quarter as its own sophomore, 6-foot-7 Matt Rafferty, came alive inside.
A steal from Rafferty led to a transition layup for Chase Hamilton, who gave the Red Devils a lift with 14 points off the bench. Hinsdale Central took its biggest lead at 33-30.
Navigato had the answer for Geneva with a long-range 3, one of several timely shots the Vikings hit when momentum seemed to be slipping away.
"They took that lead, the concern is you are losing your focus, kids will feel like it's slipping away from them, and we called timeout and got them focused again on what the mission was," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "The resolve defensively was tremendous."
Hamilton and Chris Parrilli traded 3s to send the game to the fourth quarter tied at 36.
Geneva's second-leading scorer, Connor Chapman, battled foul trouble all game against Rafferty. He made 2 free throws for his only points of the game to put the Vikings up 38-36, and Trimble's 3 extended the lead to 41-37.
Brian Owens brought the Red Devils back with the last of his three 3s, and a Hamilton jumper put Hinsdale Central ahead for the final time at 44-43 with four minutes left.
After Trimble's free throws regained the lead for Geneva, Parrilli assisted Navigato on a perfect backdoor cut to make it 47-44.
Rafferty's basket brought the Red Devils back within 1, and after Cam Cook was whistled for traveling, the Red Devils' 3 for the lead rimmed out. The Red Devils had another chance to tie after Cook's free throw but were called for moving screen.
Geneva ran 50 seconds off the clock and then Parrilli again connected with Navigato on a cut to the basket for a two-possession lead at 50-46 with a minute left.
"Ball movement is key in our offense," Navigato said. "If we don't have that our offense breaks down."
The Red Devils only made one free throw in the final minute as free throws from Cook, Temple and Navigato finished off what Ralston called one of the biggest wins to date in his tenure.
"This is right up there," Ralston said. "Certainly I don't want it be the best.
"To these kids they don't know better but to everyone else who has been around high school basketball winning a semifinal in 4A is really like winning a regional. That's a tremendous accomplishment for the program. These boys have helped step us in the right direction but we definitely have to come ready to play tomorrow. We celebrate this one for about 20, 30 minutes on the bus ride home and then it's back to work."
Navigato led Geneva with 17 points. Trimble scored 9, Cook 8, Temple 7, and Parrilli and Santos 6 each.
"I thought Santos did a great job coming off the bench and giving us some solid minutes defensively," Ralston said. "Navigato, Trimble, Parrilli and Pace Temple were out of the world tonight. They played some of their best basketball tonight.
"We had a great win tonight, this was a really good win against a great team. I'm very proud our kids were able to disrupt a team that much with our defense. It's amazing what we've been able to accomplish defensively this year."
After a poor rebounding effort Monday against Wheaton Warrenville South, Geneva stayed within 23-21 of the Red Devils despite 11 boards from Rafferty. Trimble led Geneva with 5.
Rafferty (15 points), Hamilton (14) and Owens (11) all reached double figures for the Red Devils.
"It seemed like every time we would have a run they seemed to hit a clutch 3," Red Devils coach Nick Latorre said. "They are good, they shot it well and they definitely earned the victory. We just didn't get stops when we needed to and they made key shots when they needed to. I thought that was the difference in the game was their knack for knocking down shots a the right time."