Maple Leafs let late lead slip away

Chris Steele
Matthew Ganson, right, drives inside and Cayson Frerichs lays in a shot during the Maple Leafs' Senior Night game against Kaneland.

Geneseo basketball coach Brad Storm can live with opponents making shots.

However, when those shots are wide open, it becomes frustrating.

Kaneland spoiled Geneseo’s Senior Night handing the Maple Leafs a 63-58 defeat in Geneseo on Feb. 24.

The Knights made 5-of-5 from the floor in the fourth quarter, and Kaneland finished the game making 19-of-23 from the free-throw line.

“In a close game one or two possessions is huge,” Storm said. “There were some breakdowns defensively that upset me more than the fact that they were knocking shots down. You can’t control that, but you can control how we defend.”

Geneseo led 42-39 to start the fourth quarter, but Kaneland went on a 5-0 run to put the pressure back on the Leafs.

Geneseo’s Isaiah Rivera cut through the lane for a layup to tie the game at 44 with 6:15, but the Knights responded with a 3-pointer on the next possession.

The Maple Leafs’ Matthew Ganson made a 3-pointer to close the gap to 52-49 with 4:15 remaining.

The two team traded baskets the rest of the way until Kaneland broke Geneseo’s press for an easy lay-in to take a 60-55 lead with 23 seconds remaining.

The Leafs had the same problems on defense in the first quarter. Geneseo’s offense was on fire to start the game, but Kaneland scored easy buckets in transition and shot 7-of-8 from the floor to take a 19-16 at the end of the first.

Geneseo started the second half clicking on offense.

Jacob Pauley drained a 3-pointer to hand Geneseo a 39-31 lead in the third quarter but fatigue became a factor in the fourth quarter.

Playing shorthanded the rest of the season, Geneseo’s seven-man rotation battled to stay poised under the strain of extra minutes.

A senior, Ganson thinks the Maple Leafs will be able to push themselves to go further once regionals begin and it’s win or go home.

“It’s a gut check,” Ganson said. “I think every single one of the guys on the team values those moments, and we want it to go on as long as possible.”

Pauley scored 19 points to lead Geneseo in scoring, and Rivera finished with 14 points.

Ganson scored 11 points, and Rice finished with 10 points.

Noah Aper and Cayson Frerichs each scored two points.

Geneseo plays the Class 3A Peoria Notre Dame Regional semifinal against Peoria Richwoods on March 1.

The winner of the semifinal game will face Sterling in the regional championship game on Friday, March 3 at 7 p.m.