Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Geneva downs second-seeded Lake Catholic

Sure, the sixth-seeded Geneva Eagles could be considered the Cinderella team of the Division II Lakeside District Tournament.

But, that wouldn’t be quite accurate, especially after an impressive win over No. 3 Harvey in a sectional championship game last week and more recently the Eagles’ 79-68 win over No. 2 Lake Catholic in Thursday’s district semifinals.

“That was an exciting night for us,” Geneva coach Eric Bowser said. “Geneva came out and supported us so well. The gym was rocking and the boys played so hard. It was a great win for us.”

Geneva’s upset win over Lake Catholic shouldn’t have come as a surprise as the Eagles have been playing their best basketball down the stretch.

They entered February with an 8-8 record but have been perfect since then. Thursday’s win was the team’s eighth straight.

“Early in the season, we had a lot of situations where it felt like we were trying to do too much and once they realized that if you move the basketball and wait for the right opportunities you can take good shots,” Bowser said. “The guys played hard and did the right things tonight.”

Grant Mihalick led the Eagles with 17 points. Nick Stoltz, Brandon Smith, Vinnie Varckette and Dawson Schafer also scored in double figures with 16, 12, 11 and 10, respectively.

That balanced scoring has been consistent throughout Geneva’s winning streak.

The Eagles also have played solid defense and despite giving up 23 points to Luke Eller and 22 to Sean Fitzgerald, the Eagles did enough to keep Lake Catholic out of rhythm.

“We knew we weren’t going to be able to lock Luke Eller down completely with our size disadvantage but we were able to get in there and bang around a little bit and cause him to miss a few shots,” Bowser said. “We put one of our better defenders on him and we were able to slow him down a little bit and those two things kind of helped on the defensive end.”

Varckette did an admirable job on Eller with support from several teammates.

“He’s one of our guys we know we can trust to lock down their guys,” Bowser said of Varckette. “When he needed some rest, Blake Peat jumped over on him for a little while and Brandon Smith spent some time on him. It’s a nice group of kids where we have some flexibility to do some of those things.”

Next up for the Eagles is top-seeded Villa Angela-St. Joseph, who ousted Perry on Wednesday, 59-54.

Tip-off is scheduled at Lakeside for Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

“We got the guys up there to watch them (on Wednesday),” Bowser said. “We got a pretty good look at what they do and what they did with Perry. Obviously, we’re going to have to find a way to stop the dribble penetration. We have to make sure we close out on shooters and size-wise, they’re bigger than us so we have to keep working in the post and keep making those doubles when it’s appropriate. The most important thing is to not turn the ball over. That was one of the best stats of the night for us. At halftime, we had only had three turnovers. That’s a number that we need to keep in check if we want to do well.”

Geneva 79, Lake Catholic 68

Geneva (17-8): Stoltz 18, Mihalick 17

Lake Catholic (18-6): Eller 24, Fitzgerald 22, Frazier 10

Geneva 17 18 20 24 — 79
Lake Catholic 15 14 18 19 — 68

Steve Hare
Steve Hare is the Chagrin Valley Conference's Sports Information Director. He also created and publishes, an online publication dedicated to providing hyperlocal coverage to area high school athletic programs. Hare began covering high school sports for the Lake County News Herald in 1997. Hare attended Willoughby South High School through the middle of his senior year, then graduated from Berkshire High School in Burton in 1986. He played football, wrestled and was an all-Geauga county baseball player (1986). He lives in Chardon with his wife Paulette and their children.

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