BASKETBALL

Leafs finding the winning formula

Chris Steele
Sam Welch dribbles at the top of the key during Geneseo's game against Kewanee.

The Maple Leafs boys’ basketball team relied on the fundamentals to give them an advantage during Geneseo’s 44-39 road win against Morris on Jan. 8.

Geneseo iced the game with clutch free-throw shooting, and a solid defensive performance helped Geneseo overcome some rough stretches on offense.

After leading by 12 points starting the fourth quarter, some lapses allowed Morris to make it a one possession game (40-39) with 1:38 remaining.

“We had to really bear down and take care of business by making free throws, taking care of the ball and playing solid defense,” Geneseo coach Brad Storm said.

Jacob Pauley buried one from the line, and Anthony Bravata drained three free throws to close out the game.

Despite holding Morris to just 10 points in the first half, Geneseo was unable to put the game away leading 19-10 at the break.

Geneseo began to built a comfortable lead in the second half, but began to see the game slip through their fingers in the fourth quarter.

While Geneseo struggled from the line early in the game, the Leafs were able to put away the victory at the line once Morris started fouling to get the ball back.

Geneseo finished the game 18-of-22 from the free-throw line.

Finishing the Romeoville holiday tournament with a 2-2 record, a young Leafs team has showed some signs they are good late game finishers.

“I hope it means they are starting to get a feel for how to win games,” said Storm of the recent stretch of games.

Will Daniels scored 15 points, and Bravata finished 7-of-9 from the line with a team-high 17 points.

Sam Welch scored four points, and Conner Welch grabbed four rebounds.

Geneseo’s defense has been sporadic this season, but playing as a unit has led to better results keeping the ball out of the lane.

“Instead of one guy worrying about one guy, it was all five of our guys worrying about their team,” Storm said. “We did a good job of switching out onto shooters and not letting them get on track until late in the fourth quarter.”

Geneseo’s Quentin Radue was able to breathe life into the Geneseo offense by distributing the ball and penetrating the defense.

The Leafs’ Radue finished with six points and six assists.

“I think it was just a matter of him getting back into the speed of things,” Storm said. “Sometimes he was going way too fast and, because of that, he was forcing turnovers.

“He’s slowed down, and he picks and chooses when to go full speed. He sees the floor really well and handles the ball pretty well and can make some passes.”

With a rough slate of games upcoming, Geneseo will see if they can put it all together.

The Leafs travel to Ottawa Friday, Jan. 15 at 7:30 p.m.

The Pirates are another NIB 12 team heating up, defeating Sterling 59-56 with a 3-pointer at the buzzer on Jan. 8.

Geneseo’s road trip continues at Rock Island on Saturday, Jan. 16 starting at 7:30 p.m.

Rocky is ranked sixth in the Illinois Class 4A Associated Press statewide poll.