Jacob McConnell's buzzer-beater was kind of the perfect culmination of the Maple Leafs first game on the basketball court.
Jacob McConnell’s buzzer-beater was kind of the perfect culmination of the Maple Leafs first game on the basketball court.
It wasn’t expected, it wasn’t always pretty, but it was enough for a 46-45 victory in the season opener against Rockridge in the Central Bank Thanksgiving Tournament, on Nov. 20.
With under 13.4 seconds remaining, Geneseo had the ball after a pair of Rockets’ free throws gave them their first lead of the game, 45-44.
However, Geneseo kept hope alive with three offensive rebounds including McConnell tip-in for the game-winner as time expired.
“I knew there was no time left,” McConnell said. “If I came down with the ball it was going to get blocked, so I just put it back up.”
A rash of mistakes allowed Rockridge to hang around in the game, but Geneseo was able to overcome its inexperience by making plays when they needed to make them.
“Just the way we drew it up,” said Geneseo Coach Brad Storm jokingly about the final play. “It’s basically a case of a lot of guys with not a whole lot of experience who just hung in there. We made a lot of mistakes and (Rockridge) was the more mature team, and it showed.”
With only a handful of players returning with experience, Geneseo’s Isaiah Rivera and Jarron Nordstrom did their best to carry the team.
Rivera scored 17 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and Nordstrom finished with 10 points and three boards.
Storm sees the Maple Leafs starting from scratch this season.
Nordstrom is the only senior with varsity experience, and he had his season cut short after just five games last season.
In addition, Rivera might be Geneseo’s most seasoned varsity player entering just his sophomore year.
However, the Maple Leafs’ inexperienced varsity players found ways to make an impact.
The Leafs’ Griffin Tracey made a 3-pointer to extend Geneseo’s lead in the fourth quarter to 43-39 with 2:50 remaining.
Geneseo’s Ty Johnson made a pair of free throws in the fourth quarter and showed touch sinking a shot off an assist from Rivera with under five minutes left.
Johnson finished with seven points, and Tracey added six points and tacked on a pair of steals.
GHS’ McConnell knocked down the game-winner after stepping in for Nordstrom after he fouled out in the fourth quarter.
“All throughout the game, different guys stepped up and did different things,” Storm said. “Then they would turn around and show their immaturity and then follow that with a good play.
“It was just not a lot of consistency, and that’s what we are going to have to get. We are going to try to use this tournament to gain some experience and get ready for our first conference game.”
The Maple Leafs’ Rivera was dynamic despite drawing extra attention from Rockridge all night.
Rivera got Geneseo off to a hot start capped by a contorting reverse layup after gathering the ball deep underneath the basket.
While Rivera was making highlight reel plays including a breakaway dunk on a steal the first quarter, the junior forward believes its the little plays that matter most on the court.
“When we make good defensive plays it brings us a lot of energy,” Rivera said. “Not everybody watching may know, but the team knows and that makes a great defensive play.”