With three 6-foot-7 players on Geneva's frontline, Streamwood had to pick its poison Friday: pack in its defense to defend the basket or try denying the Vikings' stellar 3-point shooters.
After giving up 44 points in the paint in a 66-47 loss to the Vikings in December, the Sabres chose the former option, hoping to mask their size disadvantage with no starter taller than 6-2.
The decision proved fatal.
Geneva responded with four 3-pointers in the first quarter by Nate Navigato to build a double-digit lead on its way to a 75-42 victory.
The Vikings' performance certainly impressed the three newest members of Geneva High School's Athletics Hall of Fame. Jeff Ainsworth, Jim Klein and Jackie Santacaterina were inducted into the GHS Hall of Fame at a special halftime ceremony Friday.
Ainsworth, a member of Geneva's class of 1968, was a two-year starter and an all-conference and all-area selection on the Vikings' football team and a three-year conference champion and sectional qualifier with the wrestling team. He was named outstanding athlete of the year in 1968 before starting for two years at offensive tackle for Northern Illinois University.
Klein was an all-conference wideout and team captain for the 1988 football team that reached the state semifinals and placed fifth in the 100-meter dash at the 1989 Class A state track meet. A 1990 GHS graduate, Klein played football at the University of Illinois, catching the winning touchdown pass that defeated Michigan and ended a 22-year winless drought for the Illini in Ann Arbor, Mich.
Santacaterina was a four-year starter, three-year all-conference and all-area performer and a two-time all-state player and conference MVP on the girls soccer team. She also started for three years with the girls basketball team, earning honorable mention all-area honors. The 2006 Geneva graduate went on to earn all-Big Ten soccer honors at the University of Illinois and has played professional soccer since 2010.
All three inductees hold college degrees. Ainsworth also owns a master's degree, and Klein earned a PhD.
Prior to the ceremony, Streamwood employed a 3-2 zone defense in the first half to try to negate Geneva's height inside, but the Vikings (18-4, 7-3 Upstate Eight Conference River Division) countered by finding Navigato open behind the arc. The all-area junior forward poured in 12 first-quarter points and finished with 19 despite sitting on the bench for most of the second half.
"We came out hard and fast early for a 10-0 lead," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "I was surprised they gave Navigato such open looks for 3s. I think our patience on offense and our execution got us a lot of good looks against their zone."
Navigato's marksmanship forced the Sabres (2-22, 0-9 UEC River) to extend their zone defense in the second quarter and switch to man to man in the third quarter. Geneva took advantage, erupting for 46 points over that span on 18-for-29 shooting. The Vikings scored in a variety of methods, going 4 for 7 from 3-point range, getting out in transition for 10 points and pounding the ball inside for points around the rim. Geneva closed the first half with a 13-0 run to lead 41-14 and led by as much as 64-31 on a 3-pointer by senior guard Chris Parrilli, who delivered 10 of his 15 points in the third quarter.
The victory was Geneva's 10th in 11 games, with the only loss 59-55 in December to Upstate Eight River champion Larkin. The Vikings believe they can advance at least a round deeper in the IHSA state playoffs this season after losing in the regional finals to West Aurora in 2013.
"I think we're coming together as a team," said Navigato. "If we play together, continue working hard and doing the little things, we can go a long way in the postseason. We want to get farther than we did last year."
Senior forward Antonio Harris paced Streamwood with 13 points. Jacob Siewert added 8 points. The Sabres' schedule offers little mercy; Streamwood visits Larkin on Tuesday.
Meanwhile, Geneva visits Quincy Saturday to help prepare the Vikes for the playoffs. Quincy has the fourth-winningest basketball program in the country and holds the IHSA record for most state trophies won with 13.
Quincy's gym is considered one of the state's most hostile environments for opposing teams.
"When you sell season tickets for home games and people are leaving their season tickets in their will to loved ones, you know you have a successful program," Ralston cracked.