Something special about Geneva's McDonald-Mascari duo
Geneva senior co-captains Jack McDonald and Mitch Mascari are nearly as unbeatable on the basketball court as they are inseparable pals off it.
Geneva is 23-1 and leads the new DuKane Conference by a game over Wheaton North with four league games left.
The Vikings lost a conference matchup at Lake Park by 6 points on Jan. 11. Otherwise, they have run the table. Two big reasons?
Jack and Mitch.
Mitch is the ruler of 3-point land. The 6-foot-5 guard with a velvet-soft shooting touch makes 42 percent of his long-range shots.
"He's the best shooter I've played with," Jack said. "He can shoot it from anywhere on the court and he's really done a good job of diversifying his game. He can get to the hoop now, he can pass the ball, play defense, he can do it all. But his shooting is unreal."
Jack is the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a sharp blade. The point guard slices up defenses with the remorselessness a hibachi chef shows shrimp. He became Geneva's career assists leader as a junior and has been adding to that record since.
"He's been gifted with the ability to just see the game and know the game," Mitch said. "He was able to destroy senior guards as a sophomore, which is insane."
Watch Geneva play and it won't take long to see Jack or Mitch -- or both -- do something special.
"It's basically every game," fellow senior Garret Sneed said. "Mitch is shooting from behind the volleyball line, which is unreal. And Jack, with some of his passes behind the back, you're just oohing and aahing the whole game, even on the court. Playing with them is so fun. It's always entertaining. You never know what they're going to do."
Basketball was woven into the fabric of the Jack-and-Mitch friendship from the beginning. They met at a 2011 party held by mutual family friends of Bill and Kathy McDonald and Tom and Bev Mascari.
Jack had played one season for the Geneva feeder system fourth-grade team at that point. Mitch had gotten his feet wet with a house team and wanted more. At the party, the boys gravitated toward the basketball hoop.
Bill McDonald saw Mitch playing and suggested that he join the Geneva fifth-grade feeder team and play with Jack.
"I was recruited," said a laughing Mitch as Jack told their origin story before Thursday's practice.
With the exception of their seventh-grade season, Jack has since been Mitch's point guard. They even played AAU ball together last summer on the same Mercury Elite team, furthering their chemistry.
Together, they have won 69 varsity games at Geneva, including 26 straight wins to open their sophomore campaign. They are on the cusp of a second conference title in three years.
Each has scored 1,000 career points. Mitch was named Daily Herald areawide MVP for last week's performance in three wins. Jack won the same award earlier this season. Both were all-conference and all-area honorees as juniors.
"Their stats speak volumes as to what they've done on the court," Geneva coach Scott Hennig said, "but they've done so much off the court in terms of being great community members, great kids in the classroom, great community leaders for our high school kids.
"One thing I always enjoy is seeing them be great leaders for our younger kids. Jack has an eighth-grade brother and both of them help out at feeder practice and do little things off the floor, volunteer. It's cool to see because you really don't see that too much anymore. They're just nice kids. They're both going to be great husbands and great fathers. That's what it's all about."
The on-court partnership of Jack and Mitch will end sometime next month. Jack will play next year for NCAA Division III Augustana, he announced on Monday. Mitch has yet to decide between 10 Division II offers. He also has received some Division I interest.
"I tried to get him to come with me but he's not budging," Jack said.
First, the duo has unfinished business. Geneva was defeated in regional title games each of the last two years.
"We want to win conference, then just take it one game at a time in the state tournament," Jack said. "Hopefully, we can make a deep run."
Geneva's seniors were eighth graders in 2015, when the Vikings reached the Final Four in Peoria. Matching that feat is a topic the close friends occasionally talk about when hanging out watching basketball games at each other's houses on weekends.
"In a perfect scenario we'd go down to Peoria," Mascari said. "That's the end goal. Even a supersectional would be great, but I think both of us really want to get down to Peoria to show people what we could do against those great teams."