Geneva put the finishing touches on a perfect 2016 with a 69-55 win over South Elgin Friday night in the championship game of the 89th annual Chuck Dayton Holiday Classic in DeKalb.
All-tournament players Matthew Johnston and Cole Navigato scored 21 and 18 points, respectively, in the Vikings' victory over their fellow Upstate Eight Conference member.
"I thought this was the best we've played as a team the whole season," said Navigato, who won tournament MVP. "We really shared the ball well, found the open guys. Great job rebounding. They are very aggressive. We haven't played a team that aggressive."
South Elgin (7-4) led once, 3-0, before a basket by Mitch Mascari and Johnston's breakaway dunk started a 12-0 Geneva run. Mascari and Jack McDonald hit 3s in the surge, and Geneva never trailed again.
The Storm kept the game close in the first half, tying the game at 21 on Kreon Roberts' 3 and again at 23 on another Roberts bucket. Johnston drained a 3 from the corner to put the Vikings back on top, and Dom Navigato capped the half with a putback while being fouled just before the buzzer for a 32-27 halftime lead.
Geneva (13-0) broke the game open early in the third quarter thanks mostly to Johnston, who knocked down three 3s in the first four minutes of the quarter. Cole Navigato followed with a steal he took in for a layup, forcing a Storm timeout with 4:08 remaining down 45-31.
"Whatever Matt was drinking today I want a sip of that," Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. "He was outstanding tonight. From the outside, from the inside, great defense on their best player."
The Vikings built their biggest lead at 54-38. Collin Uveges, who made the all-tournament team for South Elgin, drove for a basket to close the third quarter.
Uveges scored again early in the fourth. After Logan Atkins converted a shot, the Storm were within 56-46.
Geneva only made 1 more field goal over the next five minutes, but 9 of 12 accuracy at the line kept South Elgin from getting closer than 10. Johnston then concluded the scoring with a slam at the buzzer.
"It was a hard game," Ralston said. "South Elgin has some good athleticism. They made no part of tonight easy. And I think that's good. You want that in a championship game. I liked how our guys had composure in this game and it all started with our three returning starters. When things started hitting the fan our kids were able to settle it down a little bit."
Dom Navigato added 14 points and Mascari scored 12 while Atkins (16), Uveges (14) and Roberts (11) led South Elgin.
"We needed to play a team like this to know what we need to do to get better," South Elgin coach Brett Johnson said. "We played our hearts out. We did everything we were asked to do. Geneva executed everything they were supposed to and we weren't able to guard all the time. They made shots and we didn't. They rebounded the ball and we didn't. Those are things we can fix and learn and that's the most important thing right now. Today I thought we played as well as we could."