Geneseo Maple Leafs win at DeKalb tournament

Claudia Loucks
Nathan VanDeWoestyne
Bristol Lewis

When the Geneseo Boys’ Basketball Team left for the Chuck Dayton Tournament in DeKalb, they had just come off a losing streak of eight games and most likely did not have high expectations of winning in a tournament where they would be facing larger schools.

They may have surprised themselves.

After a tough week of large losses at Galesburg and to Davenport North at the Genesis Iowa/Illinois Shootout, heading to the prestigious Chuck Dayton Tournament in DeKalb did not seem like the recipe for the Maple Leafs to get back on track.

Losing eight out of nine games, and with a 3-8 record going into the tournament with mostly much larger Class 4A schools, Geneseo went in looking to improve and to diagnose other areas needed for improvement. Instead, something clicked and the Maple Leafs came away with a 3-1 record and a Consolation Bracket Championship trophy.

Geneseo Head Varsity Coach Brad Storm said, “We knew we would see some good teams up in DeKalb. It’s a tough tournament. We really needed to find a way to play better, for the boys to buy into how we wanted them to play. Getting beat up with a running clock is tough sell to get kids to buy in. And, we were worried we could find ourselves in similar situations over the Christmas tournament days.”

“But, we felt that despite those big losses the week before, as a coaching staff, we were seeing some minor progress,” Storm said. “And we were staying up there all three nights for the tournament and figured at worst we could bond as a team and discuss some things to focus on to get better no matter how the games went.”

Geneva was the opening round opponent for Geneseo. The school with 1,000 more students than Geneseo was seeded fourth for the tournament, and the Vikings more than lived up to that seed by losing in the tournament Championship.

“The first game, we knew we had our hands full,” Coach Storm said. “And, while it was frustrating going against a talented, physical and relentless opponent, we actually did better than we had against similar teams like Moline and Davenports North.”

He said, “The guys were down, but we talked about the process of getting better, and how we have to build on little victories to keep improving. Despite losing by 24 points, we started to do some things against a good team that we hadn’t done before.”

GENEVA 61 – GENESEO 37

Geneva opened up a double digit lead in the first quarter, and slowly built on it throughout the game. However, Geneseo made each quarter a little more difficult for

Geneva to continue to push the lead. After being outscored 23-9 in the first quarter, the Maple Leafs were outscored by Geneva by only 10 points the rest of the way and in the third period each team scored 12 points.

Bristol Lewis led Geneseo in scoring with 10 points and four assists. Thomas Henson had seven points and five rebounds. Nathan VanDeWoestyne added six points and five rebounds. Anthony Pierce scored five, Andrew Cotty, 4; Mason Lovig, 3; and Easton Smith hit a free throw for one point.

“I think we got a bit shell-shocked to start the game,” Coach Storm said. “Seeing that pressure, along with some lack of confidence in ourselves coming in, led to a bad start. However, something started to change in the second quarter. We started finding ways to play with a good team like that. In the third quarter, we played them even coming out of the locker room. I tried to express to them after the game that we are getting better. It was hard to see in a 24 point loss, but a week earlier we probably would have had a running clock put on us. Geneva was really good.”

GENESEO 57 – DEKALB (2) 45

Due to Covid knocking out two games in the tournament, DeKalb was forced to create a second team to fill one of the spots. Fortunately for them, they have a really deep varsity team and some really good young kids, so it was a very solid JV team, Coach Storm said.

“Several of the players on that team also played in the games with the DeKalb varsity, which finished third in the tournament,” Storm added.

Geneseo jumped out to a 17-11 first quarter lead, but DeKalb fought back and outscored the Maple Leafs 14-12 in the second quarter to make it a 31-23 score at halftime.

The third quarter belonged to Geneseo with a new level of intensity being displayed, and the fourth quarter was played pretty equally as the game finished.

“I guess you could say we had a ‘do-better-talk’ at halftime,” Storm said. “I wasn’t happy with our effort, and they weren’t happy with the results. However, if something was going to change in our season, we had to make changes in how we had been playing. Our guys were selling themselves short, but I didn’t know how to get more out of them. Logic wasn’t working, and I wasn’t sure they really wanted coaching or wanted to do what we were asking them to do. So, I tried to get that across to them. The second half was much closer to what we were looking for, and a much needed win was the result. At that point, we coaches could only hope that it would jar something loose in them.”

Bristol Lewis scored 25 points and had nine rebounds and four assists. Tayt Hager also hit double figures with 11 points. Andrew Cotty scored seven, Anthony Pierce had five; Thomas Henson had four points, Nathan VanDeWoestyne scored three points and Mason Lovig scored two points, but also had six rebounds and two assists.

“I thought Tayt did a great job looking for scoring opportunities without forcing things, and hit some shots when we needed them,” Storm said. “Mason and Andrew are turning into the defensive players we hoped they would be. Nathan is getting to where he is making shots and being a defensive force inside. Thomas is starting to figure out what works for him and what his strengths are and Anthony started showing signs of the past prior to the ACL injury.”

“We normally know what type of performance we will get from Bristol with all the work he has put into his game,” Storm added. “And, we hope that we can get Brock Seei

back healthy to give us more depth and that some of the others can continue to develop so they can play a bigger role. Zack Rokey played some key minutes in this tournament when we really needed him to come in and be steady. He hasn’t played in a few years so adjusting to varsity, especially on the defensive end, takes some time.”

GENESEO 57 – DUNDEE-CROWN 41

The win on Tuesday, Dec. 28, matched the Maple Leafs with the #8 seeded Dundee-Crown Chargers. D-C lost by one point in the first game, as they were missing a couple players due to Covid.

The school of over 2,500 students in Carpentersville had been enjoying a good season, and defeated Freeport to get to this game. But, this game belonged to the Maple Leafs from the start. With a level of energy not yet seen this season, Geneseo came out and dominated the Chargers from the start. After one quarter, Geneseo led 17-5 and by halftime held a 33-17 lead. Geneseo upped the lead to 17 points after three quarters and got it up to 20 in the fourth quarter. As benched played equally the rest of the way, D-C hit a later three-pointer to make the final 16-point margin.

“I went in after the game and asked the guys who this team was,” Coach Storm said. “The defensive effort was awesome. Dundee-Crown had some really good potential scorers and we just took almost everything away. D-C was clearly frustrated with what we were able to do to them. No question, our defensive was the star of the day. It created some points for us, but more importantly we never let them get a real run going.” Storm said, “They did a good job of trying to take Bristol Lewis out of the game, knowing he has been our leading scorer every game. And, they did a good job in terms of scoring. But, as I told Bristol after the game when he came out as subs went in, this might have been his best game overall and he only scored six points. He controlled the game. He set guys up for scoring opportunities, he rebounded, and he defended. Everyone knocked down shots and he just kept finding them as he drew multiple defenders.”

Geneseo shot 8-18 from beyond the arc and D-C shot 8-27 against the aggressive Maple Leaf defense.

Nathan VanDeWoestyne led in scoring with 16 points and he also had seven rebounds. Anthony Pierce finally got his offensive game going with 13 points and also in double figures again was Tayt Hager with 11 points. Thomas Henson had nine points and seven rebounds. Bristol Lewis took only six shots and finished with six points, but had nine assists and six rebounds and a couple steals.

Andrew Cotty scored two points, ad along with Mason Lovig, helped hold D-C’s leading scorer to a team high nine points.

CONSOLATION CHAMPSIONSHIP GAME: GENESEO 49 – BELVIDERE NORTH 47 (OVERTIME)

Belvidere North lost to United Township in their opening game, and then rattled off blowout wins over Chicago Ogden and LaSalle-Peru to find them in the Consolation Championship game vs. the Maple Leafs.

“We were concerned about Belvidere North because they came into the tournament doing very well against some really good teams, and had been putting up a lot of points with a few different scorers and had some really solid role players,” Storm commented. “Plus, they played a really aggressive pressing style with a lot of ball pressure everywhere on the court. That has been a big problem area for us this year.”

The Maple Leafs continued their new-found level of intensity and confidence as they jumped out to a 12-4 led to start the first quarter. The teams played pretty equally in the second quarter with North hitting a three-pointer at the halftime buzzer to cut the lead to six points at 23-17. Both teams were playing hard defense, Geneseo in the half court and the Blue Thunder in the full court. While the pressure from North caused some turnovers, Geneseo made good on many of the possessions they did keep, shooting over 65 percent holding Belvidere North under 40 percent.

Coach Storm said, “We talked at halftime about limiting turnovers and handling the pressure, but it’s a lot easier said than done. Pressure seems to speed us up, causes us to make poor decisions, and makes us dribble way too much. That said, we have gotten better against it because it seems like we see it so often.”

North came out as the aggressor in the third quarter and quickly erased the deficit as they forced some turnovers and got some easy baskets. Geneseo gathered themselves to retake the lead, but neither team was able to build a sizeable lead the rest of the way. Geneseo led 35-33 after three quarters.

As the game went back and forth, it came down to the final; possessions and neither team cashed in.

Coach Storm said a very questionable call went against the Maple Leafs as they had the opportunity to hold for the last shot in regulation. Instead, North got that opportunity, actually had two opportunities. A three-point attempt from their leading scorer came off the rim into the hands of a teammate who could not convert the layup, sending the game to overtime.

North scored first on a three-pointer, and held a lead with just three minutes remaining. From there, Bristol Lewis took over on offense and the defense led by Mason Lovig in those final three minutes was the difference.

Lewis hit a key basket and two free throws to give the Maple Leafs the lead. Still, North kept battling and had an opportunity to tie or win the game at the end of overtime. However, Mason Lovig was so tight on their sharpshooter that his three-point attempt had no chance and battles for the rebound caused the remaining seconds to run out, giving the Maple Leafs the hard fought win and title.

Bristol Lewis secured an All-Tournament selection with 25 points, 11 rebounds and three assists for the game. Thomas Henson had a great game as well with 10 points and eight rebounds. Anthony Pierce had six points; Tayt Hager and Mason Lovig each had two points.

Storm said he was very proud of his team, “We came in 3-7 on the season and left 6-9 by playing against some tough competition. We grew on the court, and we grew off the court. While the four days were exhausting, it ended up being very well worth the efforts. Now, we need to build on what we have done, and continue the process. We know that we have some tough games coming up – including right away Tuesday and Friday. However, if we just keep improving like we did over the past two weeks, we are going to get a lot better.”