Geneseo ends boys basketball season with win over rival Sterling

by Claudia Loucks correspondent
Bristol Lewis
Anthony Pierce
Kyle Traphagan
Kade Ariano

GENESEO 55 – STERLING 52

The Geneseo Maple Leafs finished their Covid-shortened season on Friday, March 12, in their home gym with a win over Western Big 6 rival Sterling – 55-52.

Coach Brad Storm had only praise for his team and said, “I’m proud of the way our guys were able to withstand the defensive pressure that Sterling applied in the closing three minutes of the game. They forced us to bend, but not break, with the ability of their guards to attack the ball and utilize their quickness to create turnovers with out fouling.”

Storm said at practice on Thursday, March 11, just one night prior to the Sterling matchup, “We asked our guys on Thursday to commit to making basketball their #1 priority for 24 hours through the game Friday evening. I don’t think we had a great practice on Thursday, but I felt that mentally they would come ready to compete one last time. It was the last game of the season, and for our seniors it was the last basketball game of their high school experience. Plus, it was against Sterling which always seems to add a little something extra.”

The Leafs got off to a good start and that helped build Geneseo’s confidence, as well as belief against Sterling which was coming off recent games with big wins over Quincy, Galesburg, at United Township as well as a very competitive game against Rock Island.

“In our first game held at Sterling weeks earlier, we felt we had opportunities slip away from us when we led for much of that game,” Storm said. “Sterling has such quick, aggressive perimeter players that it gave us troubles, which showed up again in this game as they took a 2-point lead into the locker-room at half.”

In the third quarter, both teams went back and forth with mini runs, but in the fourth quarter Geneseo stepped it up early and took a 7-point led. However, Sterling wasn’t done. They cranked up their pressure even more and created some turnovers to cut the lead to just 1 point.

Coach Storm said, “Our guys showed a lot of growth in their mental game because they didn’t fold. We hit some big shots and got some key stops, and finished the game off with some huge free throw makes by seniors Kyle Traphagan and Kade Ariano that kept the Golden Warriors at bay for us to earn the exciting win.”

Bristol Lewis led the scoring with 18 points and 6 rebounds; Anthony Pierce had 12 points; Traphagan had 10 points and 4 assists; Ariano totaled 9 points and 10 rebounds; Nathan VanDeWoestyne had 4 points and PJ Moser added 2 points.

GENESEO 54 – ROCK ISLAND 76

Rock Island arrived at Geneseo on Tuesday, March 9, with the knowledge that they had “unofficially” earned the Western Big 6 conference title and had been playing very well. It was only their opening loss to United Township that was keeping them from an undefeated WB6 season.

When Geneseo played the Rocks earlier in the season, they pretty much ran over the Leafs and in the second contest, Geneseo was ready to show how they had grown since that earlier matchup.

Coach Brad Storm said he felt his team did show growth…”Our players were battling a lot going on with some injuries at all levels, starting school back up four days a week, most of them starting football practice that they had attended prior to basketball practice each day, and the effects of the weeks of intense games and practices day after day. Not to mention a big, athletic, confident and talented Rock Island team.”

The Leafs got off to a rather slow start as did their opponent…”However, they made a run at the end of the first quarter to distance themselves and then continued that by outscoring us by 4 points in the second quarter,” Coach Storm said. “We were aggressive and we cut the lead, forcing them to call a timeout.”

Both teams ended up scoring 21 points in the quarter and Rock Island finished the quarter strong.

“I think we ran out of gas against their depth and size and quickness as they outscored us 19-12 in the final frame,” Storm said.

Bristol Lewis continued his strong sophomore season by collecting 21 points and 5 rebounds. Other players on the board were Kyle Traphagan 13 points; Anthony Pierce 8 points; Thomas Henson 5 points; Nathan VanDeWoestyne 4 points, PJ Moser 3 points and Kade Ariano had 5 rebounds to tie for team high.

SEASON OVERVIEW FROM COACH BRAD STORM

“We went from thinking there wasn’t going to be any season to all of a sudden being told we were going to have one, starting pretty much immediately. We were coming off a Regional Championship season, but were a very different team and really needed an off-season together. Obviously, we didn’t get that, and I don’t think players were ready mentally or physically to start a season on short notice, especially one that was going to be so intense.

Our goal was to progress and improve as much as we could in a shortened season with 3 intense conference games a week and just 3 practices a week to prepare for opponents as well as to try to improve. It was a case of ‘learning on the fly’ season.

From how we looked in the first game of the season at Moline to how we finished the season, I don’t think any team in the conference improved as much as we did. Our guys battled through different types of adversity from illnesses to injuries to practicing multiple-sports each day, and going back to 4-day in-class school. That was a lot for guys to deal with. I was very proud to coach this group and watch them improve. We did a lot of talking about how to handle things and hopefully the experience is something that will help them develop into even better young men.”