Even when they missed the Geneva boys basketball players could do no wrong from the free-throw line in a 59-56 win at Larkin Friday.
The Vikings won the Upstate Eight River contest by shooting 14 of 17 from the stripe while Larkin made only 8 of 18.
On one of the rare occasions the Vikings did miss from the line, things still worked out in their favor.
Sophomore Jack McDonald gave Geneva (7-0, 2-0) a 48-47 lead when he sank the front of the bonus with 2:14 to play. Though his second shot didn't fall, McDonald's teammates grabbed the offensive rebound and got the ball back to him 22 seconds later for an open 3-pointer on the right wing that staked the Vikings to a 4-point lead.
They went on to sink 6-of-6 free throws down the stretch and senior guard Matt Johnston delivered his second two-handed slam dunk of the game to keep the Vikings undefeated.
"We just got our energy up and we played our ballgame, not Larkin's," said Johnston, who finished with 8 points, 3 rebounds and 2 blocks. "We just let the offense come to us and we scored and outplayed them in the end."
Larkin (4-4, 1-1) won the rebounding battle 24-22 but it wasn't enough to offset Geneva's effectiveness at the free-throw line.
"They missed 3 (free throws) and one of them they got an offensive rebound on and turned it into 3 points, so really they went 17-for-17 at the line," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "That hurt us."
The fourth quarter began with Larkin holding a 36-33 lead after having rallied from a 12-2 first-quarter deficit. Cole Navigato and Dom Navigato sparked an 8-3 Geneva run at the outset as Cole scored 5 points, separated by Dom's 3-pointer.
The fourth quarter featured five lead changes and four ties, the last of which came at 47-47 when Larkin junior guard Anthony Lynch drove the lane for a basket with 2:22 to play, which set up McDonald's 4-point possession. Lynch finished with a game-high 22 points, 12 in the fourth quarter.
"My teammates tried to find me for open shots and it gave me more confidence," Lynch said.
Though the Vikings remained unbeaten overall and moved into a tie for first place in the UEC River with St. Charles North (6-1, 2-0), coach Phil Ralston wasn't ready to pin medals on chests so early in the campaign.
"We're a work in progress," Ralston said. "There were moments tonight you saw Geneva basketball the way it's supposed to be played. There were also a lot moments tonight where we need to get the AED machine ready for me because I'm about to have a heart attack with some of the plays we decide to make."
Cole Navigato and McDonald each had 16 points and Dom Navigato added 12 points, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Pierre Black hit three 3-pointers en route to 11 points, Kashmir Ivy added 10 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals and Jalen Shaw finished with 10 points and 4 rebounds for Larkin.