Garth's clutch 3-point play lifts Geneva over St. Charles East
Whenever Geneva forward Kross Garth gets in foul trouble, he relies on his past to help his way through it.
"I've been in foul trouble a decent amount," said Garth. "I've learned to let it breeze by my head. When I get back on the court, I just pretend like nothing happened and move on to the next play."
The 6-foot-6 senior found himself on the court at the most important time, scoring 5 points over the last 2 minutes -- including his game-winning 3-point play with 7 seconds remaining -- to help lift the Vikings (7-0, 2-0) to a thrilling 55-52 DuKane Conference victory over host St. Charles East (5-4, 1-2) Friday night.
Garth, who sat out a good portion of the first half after picking up his second foul with 2:40 left in the opening quarter, played the final 7:30 with 4 fouls and finished with 11 points and 5 rebounds.
Senior point guard Jack McDonald scored a game-high 21 points for the Vikings, who played their first game in 13 days due to the week-long District 304 teachers' strike.
"Putting basketball aside, it was not a good situation," said Geneva coach Scott Hennig. "I know as a teacher in that building how excited I was to get back just to see the kids and interact with them.
"We came back and practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. St. Charles East is always a big prep with so many good players. I'm proud of our guys."
Led by McDonald's 12 first-half points, the Vikings built a 32-23 lead before Saints junior guard Luke Matheny (7 points, 3 steals) drained a buzzer-beating 3-pointer to make it 32-26 at the half.
However, the Vikings outscored the Saints 12-4 over the first 4 ½ minutes of the third quarter, extending their lead to 14 at 44-30 on a driving layup by Mitch Mascari (12 points, 5 rebounds).
St. Charles East refused to budge, scoring the last 6 points of the third quarter on Aidan Sullivan's 3-point play and Jake Champine's 3-pointer.
That momentum spilled into the fourth quarter, as their eventual 20-2 surge enabled the Saints to grab their biggest lead of the night at 50-46 on a pair of free throws by Champine with 4:45 left.
"I thought we put ourselves in a great spot," said Saints coach Patrick Woods.
Baskets from McDonald and Garth tied the game at 50-50 with 2:02 remaining. The contest remained deadlocked at 52-52 following a reverse layup by the Saints' Cody Mitchell (10 points, 8 rebounds) and McDonald's pull-up jumper for the Vikings with 55 seconds left.
"I thought we played really well in spurts," said Hennig. "Toward the end, we didn't look very good and then we turned it on again. I'm just proud that we survived. This is a tough place to play. I've been at Geneva nine years and even our best teams have come over here and struggled so to get out of here with a win -- kudos to our kids."
The Saints shot just 2 of 18 from beyond the 3-point arc.
"We took the ball inside and we shot well from the free-throw line (14 of 16) but we're not hitting our threes right now," said Woods. "However, the bottom line is we had four turnovers in pur last six possessions."
Nate Ortiz led the Saints with 19 points.