Aggressive man-to-man defense and Elgin boys basketball have long been synonymous, but times change.
With referees blowing whistles far more often this season due to the increased emphasis on hand checking and body contact, the Maroons allowed 58.6 points per game through their first seven outings, necessitating change.
Elgin coach Mike Sitter has resorted to a 2-3 zone defense, the same scheme many coaches have opted to play by default, saying "Until we get better at man-to-man and get fundamentally sounder, we'll have to play zone once in a while."
Elgin (3-6, 1-1 Upstate Eight River) first used the 2-3 zone Friday during a 73-58 win at Streamwood and stuck with the same scheme Saturday against visiting Geneva (7-2, 2-1), which prepared throughout the week to face Elgin's man-to-man. The versatile Vikings adjusted on the fly, bombed away from 3-point range over Elgin's 2-3 zone and built a healthy lead they never relinquished in an eventual 75-63 victory.
Geneva senior guard Chris Parrilli drained all 3 of his 3-point attempts in the first quarter, senior guard Cam Cook buried two more and 6-7 junior Nate Navigato sank another as Geneva took a 20-13 lead after a period, propelled by 6-of-8 shooting from beyond the arc.
"We didn't really expect a zone, but we weren't going to shy away from anything," said Parrilli, who finished with 17 points. "We just ran our sets well and played as a team right from the get go."
The Vikings shared the ball (14 assists on 27 field goals), limited their turnovers (11), shot 50 percent from the field (27 of 54), and won the rebounding battle 44-24, thanks to a significant height advantage at every position. The Geneva victory came less than 24 hours after a 61-57 home los to St. Charles East.
"Our offensive execution was very good," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "We've been harping about our communication on and off the floor. I think the communication was significantly better than it was (against St. Charles East). These are all plusses. Elgin really has some good players. We were concerned coming into this game because their backs are against the wall."
Geneva built a 32-21 halftime lead, partly by limiting the Maroons to 6-of-27 shooting in the first half. The Vikings played a diamond-and-one defense with senior guard Justin Durante shadowing Elgin leading scorer Isaiah Butler, who nevertheless finished with a game-best 23 points on 8-of-17 shooting. "We took some bad shots in the first half," Elgin senior Desmond Sanders said. "They're big, so coach said let's try to get some good shots and make the first shot a good shot, get some reversals. But things happened and it didn't work that way."
Elgin stayed within 43-33 when Sanders sank a 3-pointer with 3:42 left in the third quarter, but the Vikings countered with a 9-0 run to take command. Durante sank a jump shot, then a 3-pointer, Navigato cut to the basket and caught a smart pass from Parrilli for a layup. Parrilli capped the push by turning a steal into a breakaway layup and a 52-33 advantage. Geneva led 56-41 at the end of three quarters.
Sanders (16 points) sank his fourth 3-pointer of the game to cap a 9-0 Elgin run that drew the Maroons within 62-54 with 2:13 to play, but they drew no closer.
Navigato led Geneva with 19 points to go with 8 rebounds, 3 assists and 3 blocked shots, 6-7 junior Mike Landi posted 10 points and 9 rebounds, Durante finished with 12 points and 6 rebounds and 6-7 sophomore Loudon Volbrecht contributed 9 points and 4 rebounds.
Senior Donte Harper had 9 points and 3 rebounds for Elgin, which next hosts rival Larkin (7-1, 3-0) on Thursday at 7:15 p.m.