It's not like the crowd ever has trouble getting into a Batavia-Geneva game, but the Vikings sure knew how to give them a little extra juice on their home court Friday night.
In the middle of a back-and-forth battle with 14 ties or lead changes, Matthew Johnston soared out of nowhere to slam home an alley-oop dunk late in the third quarter, giving Geneva a 2-point lead.
Batavia went ahead one last time, and this time it was Cole Navigato's turn to send the student section into a frenzy with a dunk of his own, putting Geneva ahead to stay 41-39 in a game it went on to win 59-51.
Sophomore Jack McDonald had the assist on both jams.
"That's huge," McDonald said. "It was back and forth the whole game. Once they threw those down our crowd got into it.
"That alley-oop was something else. I tossed it and I thought there's no way because he's (Johnston) so far back. He just got it and threw it down and it was crazy."
For all the flash of the alley-oop, Geneva had plenty of substance. The Vikings ran their sets to near perfection in the fourth quarter, repeatedly ending up with Cole or Dom Navigato with the ball on the low block.
Batavia, playing without its 6-foot-6 center JT Dietz (flu), had no match down low.
"We told the guys one of the keys to the game is we had to get the ball inside and in the fourth quarter that was the difference," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "We didn't do it enough in the first three quarters. Fourth quarter was get the ball inside and make them stop us there and by and large they didn't."
Geneva (9-0, 3-0 in the Upstate Eight Conference River) matched its best start since 2000. The Vikings had a moment of silence before the game for 1969 Batavia graduate Craig Sager.
Batavia (4-5, 1-3), which has led in the fourth quarter of all five losses, scored the first 5 points. Geneva hit back with an 11-0 run before consecutive spin moves by Eric Peterson and Colin Cheaney helped the Bulldogs take a 16-13 lead after one.
Geneva clamped down defensively holding Batavia to 7 second-quarter points to lead 25-23 at halftime. Jordan Moore ended a tight third quarter with a 3-point play on a nifty feed from Devion Davis putting Batavia up 37-36 going to the fourth.
After Cheaney scored inside, Cole Navigato tied the game with a 3-point play, dunked for the lead, and assisted a cutting Mitch Mascari to make it 45-41. Geneva capitalized on four empty possessions by Batavia by sinking free throws -- the Vikings made 15 of 15 in the fourth quarter and 21 of 22 in the game. Geneva also outrebounded Batavia 27-18.
Cole Navigato scored 24 points, Dom Navigato 11 and McDonald 10.
"Give Batavia credit," Ralston said. "They were crushing us on screens. Our guys really had to fight through them. They made no part of this game easy.
"When it came down to crunch time these guys are starting to figure out how to play Geneva basketball. The fourth quarter the way we were able to grind our possessions, take the kind of shots we wanted, I think that was absolutely pivotal to pulling out the win."
Cheaney paced Batavia with 14 points and Peterson and Davis both scored 11.
"Geneva stuck with things," Batavia coach Jim Nazos said. "I think in the middle of the fourth quarter there were about three possessions in a row that went their way. They made it go their way. I still think we've very close to being a great team."