Neuqua Valley tips Geneva in East Aurora showdown
Assigning top scorer Connor Raridon to defend Geneva's Nate Navigato meant a lot of other Neuqua Valley players had to produce.
With Buffalo-bound Navigato scoring 29 points to Raridon's 6 against a box-and-1 defense, Geneva won that trade off -- but not the bottom line.
Getting 18 points and 6 steals from point guard Demond George, 16 points from Joe Sieger and 11 from Jacob Eminger, Neuqua beat the Vikings 62-58 Monday in an East Aurora Holiday Tournament semifinal.
"We had planned on other guys stepping up and making plays and they sure did," said Neuqua coach Todd Sutton. "It wasn't going to be Connor's night, we knew going in, but we knew other people were going to have a lot of open shots."
Shortly before drawing his fifth foul Raridon scored to put Neuqua up 58-55 with 28 seconds to play. Navigato made 2 free throws, which were answered by George for a 60-57 Wildcats lead with 16.7 seconds left.
Rather than allow a game-tying 3-pointer Neuqua fouled with 4.7 seconds left. Geneva's Sean Chambers made his first free throw and intentionally missed the second but the Vikings were called for a lane violation that turned the ball over to Neuqua Valley. George made 2 more free throws, helping Neuqua to a perfect 15-for-15 on the night.
"We were hoping to get the rebound, put it back up, hopefully draw a foul or something, at least tie the game," said Geneva's 6-foot-8, 295-pound Loudon Vollbrecht, who scored 16 points despite constant Neuqua double-teams to help 175-pound Zach Lendino down low.
"I was going to get it and then put it back in and we were going to win," said Navigato, who hit five 3s.
Neuqua Valley (12-1) held the lead most of the first three quarters, 9-8 after one quarter, 25-22 at halftime. George's quick hands and doubling on Vollbrecht and Navigato forced 12 first-half Geneva turnovers, 20 for the game.
"We just haven't done a good enough job of running offense -- Geneva offense, the way we're capable of it," said Vikings coach Phil Ralston. "The frustrating part for me is it's not like we don't have players that can do it. It's just we're not doing it."
Geneva (9-2) got a third-quarter spark. An 11-0 run recaptured the lead for the first time since early in the second quarter and had the Vikings ahead 47-39 at 7:08 of the fourth quarter. All this with George on the bench.
"My left ankle's been real sore," George said. "I rolled it during the Waubonsie Valley game so Coach just wanted to get me a long breather so I could come back in the fourth and finish it out."
That he did. A Logan Wallace basket stopped the bleeding then came 3s from Sieger, Eminger and one from George that tied the score 54-54 with 2:37 left. George then plucked his sixth steal and laid the ball in with 53 seconds left.
"Now we're going to be in the championship, but it almost felt like this was the championship tonight. It was really a big-time game," Sieger said.
Neuqua Valley will play at 7:15 p.m. Tuesday for the title against East Aurora, a 61-47 winner over Wheaton Academy. Defending tourney champion Geneva will face Wheaton Academy at 5:45 for third place.
East Aurora 61, Wheaton Academy 47:
East Aurora (5-8) won other battle of 2-0 teams in tournament pool play, advancing to its own tournament championship a second straight year. Wheaton Academy (4-9) will play Geneva in the third-place game.
Facing a team of "fast-twitch guys," as Wheaton Academy coach Pete Froedden said, the Warriors were affected by the Tomcats' pressure, but after trailing 39-26 after three quarters moved within 7 points as late as 1:23 left in the game.
Christian Smith led Wheaton Academy with 13 points followed by Tommy Blum with 10 and Bryce Sandberg with 9. East Aurora's Adrian Smith scored a game-high 22 points.
"I'm proud of my guys," Froedden said. "We weren't playing like this early, and the stuff we're not doing real well now is fixable from a coaching standpoint because our guys are playing so hard."
Urban Prep 69, Aurora Central Catholic 48:
Urban Prep got to the loose balls early, and Aurora Central coach Nathan Drye thought that set the tone for his Chargers, who will play for seventh place at East Aurora against Chicago DRWT Prep.
"We spent the whole game chasing because of the first five minutes where we came out timid and it was over from there," said Drye, whose Chargers fell to 3-7.
Four Charger turnovers helped Urban Prep (8-6) go up 12-5, and though Brett Czerak caught fire to help ACC get to 21-16 after one quarter, Urban Prep opened the second quarter on a 10-2 run.
Mario May, who made five 3-pointers Saturday against Neuqua Valley, hit 3 in the third quarter, yet Urban Prep led 51-36 entering the fourth quarter.
May led the Chargers with 11 points and Mac Cowen scored 10. Urban Prep got 24 from Jaquan Johnson.
"I thought Will Courter (4 points) played well," Drye said. "I thought he went right at him, he rebounded and scored so that's encouraging."