Geneva starts fast again, runs streak to 15
In any given winning streak, no formula can arguably be considered a 'one size fits all'.
For Geneva though, it's been a pretty simplistic one. The Vikings jump out to a sizable lead, play tough defense and let senior point guard Mick Lawrence facilitate down the stretch.
"A fast start has really been a big emphasis," Lawrence said following a 59-50 victory over St. Charles East on Tuesday. "Last year, I feel like maybe we came out with slow starts and [it's] been an uphill race from there. This year, we've just been coming out jumping on teams and it's just maintaining the rest of the time. It's what we're better at."
The Vikings (19-3, 7-1) have won 15 consecutive games dating back to their last loss against Wheaton Warrenville South on Dec. 7.
"Nothing has really changed," said Lawrence, who had 17 points, eight assists and six rebounds. "We've just been doing the same things we've been preaching since day one and we've just gotten really good at it. [Opposing] teams really don't know what to do with us right now on defense or offense. We're just sticking to our basics and we're just out-working teams."
With a seasoned veteran point leading the way, it makes a winning streak more attainable to sustain. Add in a bevy of complimentary role players and consistent play over 32 minutes, it all can come together. Geneva, to this point, is proof.
"We've been blessed over the years with a kid like Mick," Geneva coach Scott Hennig said. "I don't think he's appreciated as much [on the outside] as some other guys we've had; people think: Pace Temple, Jack McDonald, Cam Cook, [Nate] Valentine. Since I've been here, we've been blessed. Mick played really well [tonight]...I thought we played well. I thought there was a stretch there in the third quarter where we really tightened up defense."
Geneva took a 39-26 lead into the fourth quarter after Lawrence hit a three before the buzzer. It was all made possible on Tommy Diamond's tough rebound and his ability to roll the ball out to Lawrence as he's falling to make it happen.
The Vikings eventually built a 20-point lead after a flurry of baskets from both Diamond (17 points, five rebounds) and Tanner Dixon (13 points, three rebounds). Yet, the Saints (9-12, 3-4) were able to start mounting a legitimate bid for an upset that was sparked by Drew Clarke's 3-pointer with 4:23 remaining.
Later, with three minutes left, Brad Monkmeyer buried a 3-pointer and hit two ensuing layups. Eddie Herrera then added another 3-pointer to make it 56-46 Vikings with 1:40 left. Diamond countered with two free throws, which were matched by Monkmeyer. After a Genever turnover, Steven Call added two more free throws to pull within 58-50 with 39 seconds left.
Lawrence converted 1-of-2 free throws and a missed Call 3-pointer with 17 seconds left effectively shut down the upset bid.
"We got the looks we needed, we just can't make them," East coach Pat Woods said. "A lot of that has to do with the mentality of where we're at. We've got to be tougher and stronger and that's what we're not, so but we can get there. They're great kids, they play really hard, they don't give up. We'll figure it out."
The Saints were led by 11 points from Call, which were all scored in the second half, and four rebounds. Monkmeyer had seven points and three rebounds. Jack Borri had eight points and five rebounds, Trent Bush and Clarke each had six points, while Herrera had four points and two rebounds.
"I thought early in the third quarter, we stopped [Geneva] and couldn't convert on the offensive end," Woods continued.
Geneva's next test is Friday at Wheaton Warrenville South (20-2, 8-0). The game has implications with both DuKane Conference play soon to be winding down, and the postseason with both teams within the same sectional.
Lawrence isn't looking too far ahead.
"We're just all locked in. Right now, we're thinking about tomorrow's practice and then the next day," Lawrence said. "We're just going to go into it confident and try to do what we've been doing in these games leading up to it."