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When it comes to getting the basketball season started with a bang, Geneva and Marmion know how to do it right.
A year after Nate Navigato hit a buzzer-beater to give the Vikings the win in his first varsity game, Geneva overcame the Cadets' 7-0 start, a double technical in the fourth quarter and watched as Marmion nearly erased a 14-point third-quarter deficit before holding on for a 65-60 victory.
"We know that this would make their season," Geneva guard Chris Parrilli said. "We talked about how we couldn't win the tournament today but we could definitely lose it."
The defending champions of West Chicago's Wildcat Turkey Classic, Geneva (1-0) trailed 30-27 at halftime before scoring the first 12 points of the third quarter. After making just 11 of 29 shots in the first half against Marmion's zone, the Vikings improved to 12 for 20 in the second half.
Senior Justin Durante led Geneva's balanced attack with 15 points, Navigato scored 14, Cam Cook 13 and Parrilli 9.
"We knew we had to play a lot better defense," Parrilli said. "We played terrible defense in the first half. We knew we had to come out a lot more energetic and keep crashing the boards. We knew we would hit more shots, we just wanted to play a little more together."
Trailing 48-34 after Genvea sophomore big man Loudon Volbrecht (6 points, 5 rebounds) completed a 21-4 surge with a pair of free throws, Marmion (0-1) quickly struck back with 7 points in the final 30 seconds of the third quarter.
Jordan Glasgow scored, then came up with a steal while Geneva was holding for the last shot and made two free throws. After the Vikings missed a jumper in the closing seconds, the Cadets rebounded and threw long to Corey Friel who swished a 30-footer at the buzzer to bring the Cadets within 48-41 going to the fourth quarter.
Danny Bicknell and Friel both made 3s that cut Geneva's lead to 54-49. After a Tyler Maryanski putback, Geneva was hit with two technical fouls -- the second on coach Phil Ralston -- and Michael Sheehan made 2 of 4 free throws to bring Marmion within 54-53 with 4:32 left.
Geneva, though, never gave up the lead. The Vikings made 7 of 10 free throws down the stretch and also got driving baskets from Parrilli and Navigato.
"I'm not happy with a lot of things but happy we at least walk out with a win," said Ralston, who was most concerned with the holes in his team's defense that allowed Marmion to make 12 of its 21 first-half shots, and also the technical.
"My take on it is I'm hoping this isn't where referees are going to give free shots at coaches wherever they see fit," Ralston said. "I think my guy gets jacked from behind and runs into one of their players and they 'T' up my guy on the play. That's what I saw. and we're not even given a chance to get an explanation on it. Now you see that officials getting that latitude, 'Oh, coach questioned my call, I'm going to start lighting him up.' Congratulations, you just gave me my first technical in six years. I'm a little irritated about that, you can probably tell."
Sheehan led all scorers with 19 points, 15 in the first half. Tyler Maryanski and Jake Esp added 11 and 10 points, respectively.
"The first game of any season you never know how you are going to show, you never know how guys are going to react when the lights are on," Marmion coach Ryan Paradise said. "There's no scouting really. A lot of it is on the players. I was just thrilled with the way our guys competed. After having some guys banged up and not being able to practice, I'm pleased with a lot of things."
Paradise said Glasgow, Maryanski and sophomore Matt Fletcher have all missed a lot of practice.
"I didn't think we took very good shots and we didn't rebound well, but I think those will come with time and understanding where we should be," Paradise said.
Parrilli grabbed 8 rebounds to pace Geneva's 37-18 advantage on the glass. Both teams took pretty good care of the basketball with a combined 16 turnovers.
"That (rebounding) was our saving grace," Ralston said. "Marmion showed us where we need to work a little more. You try to put in as much as you can to get ready for five teams. You know you are not going to be perfect. You know the offense is going to be rusty. That's why we emphasize our defense. The disappointing aspect to me is we weren't very good defensively. That's not Geneva defense, that's for sure."