Geneva led King for 31 minutes and 52 seconds of Tuesday's second-round clash at the West Chicago Wildcat Turkey Classic.
Unfortunately for the Vikings, King was ahead for the last eight seconds.
Jaguars guard Zion Morgan stripped the ball from a Geneva ballhandler, then found Delon Statam with a long pass downcourt that Statam converted into a breakaway layup with eight seconds left in the fourth quarter. The basket pushed King in front 68-66, and the Jaguars held on for victory when Geneva's ensuing 3-point attempt and follow-up tip-in both rimmed out as time expired.
The win breathed new life into the Chicago Public League school (1-1) after a tournament-opening loss to Lake Zurich Monday marred by five players fouling out.
On the other hand, the Vikings (1-1) struggled to deal with the disappointment of seeing a game slip through their fingers that they controlled from start to nearly finish. The main culprit for Geneva was committing 29 turnovers, including 22 in the second half, against the Jaguars' switching 2-1-2 and 1-2-2 full-court zone defensive pressure and traps.
"It was a result of us not acting like a veteran team," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "Facing their pressure, we made silly passes, took quick shots, played with a lack of poise and threw up desperation layups instead of pulling the ball out and setting up our offense. We also went 1 for 5 at the foul line down the stretch. The biggest problem was turnovers. Whenever you turn the ball over 29 times, you take 29 possessions away from yourselves. That's 29 possessions where we couldn't score. It doesn't matter how good you shoot the ball. It's very hard to overcome that many lost possessions."
Geneva handled King's full-court pressing style with little resistance for much of the first half. The Vikings' game plan was to patiently run their disciplined half-court offense to slow down the Jaguars while keeping King out of the lane and contesting shots on defense. Geneva executed its strategy to near perfection in the opening quarter, bolting to a 20-6 lead. The Vikes shot 9 for 11, pounded the ball inside repeatedly and limited King to 3-for-11 shooting and no fast-break points.
"Geneva is a very good team," King coach Culumber Ball said. "I'd be surprised if they aren't ranked at some point this season. They're well coached, have good shooters, are big inside and can score in a variety of ways. They came out with a lot more intensity than we did."
The Jaguars substituted five reserves into the lineup to start the second quarter, and the second unit sparked the team, forcing six turnovers, speeding up the pace of the game and helping King draw within 35-28 at halftime. King continued harassing Geneva ballhandlers and swarming passing lanes in the second half, eventually erasing a 63-50 fourth-quarter deficit by outscoring the Vikings 18-3 in the final 3:27. The Jaguars caused seven turnovers in that span.
"Our guys played with great heart. They never gave up even when we trailed by double digits," Ball said.
"Geneva beat us good last year in this tournament," said Morgan, who paced King with a career-high 21 points. "Today we wanted to show the kind of team we really are. Geneva is a really good team and was favored to win the tournament, so we were eager to pull the upset."
The loss spoiled a career-best 27-point performance by Nate Navigato. The 6-foot-7 forward poured in nine second-quarter points and 14 in the third quarter, hitting 10 of 14 shots, 4 for 4 free throws and a trio of 3-pointers.
"Nate did a lot of outstanding things tonight," Ralston said of the versatile junior, who already owns scholarship offers from Northern Illinois and UIC. "It's a shame on a night when a player of Nate's caliber has a career game that we couldn't do the things necessary to win. When your best player has a career game, you should win."
Geneva will look to bounce back and keep its tournament title hopes alive against Lake Zurich at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday.