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Cole Gentry sets pace for quicker St. Charles East

St. Charles East senior point guard Cole Gentry added another impressive performance to his resume Saturday against Geneva.

Gentry had 29 points and seven steals in the No. 23 Saints’ 77-69 Upstate Eight River victory over the No. 21 Vikings in St. Charles.

‘‘He’s one of the best guards in the state,’’ St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods said.

Geneva was able to control the game early, beating St. Charles East’s pressure to the post for scores.

The Vikings climbed out to an early 17-7 lead behind 6-8 forward Loudon Vollbrecht (23 points). But the Saints (7-1, 4-0) went on an 8-0 run to cut the deficit to 19-15 at the end of the first quarter.

St. Charles East’s aggressive defense was able to control the pace in the second quarter.

After three straight Viking miscues, a layup by junior Evan DiLeonardi gave the Saints a 28-27 lead midway through the second.

The Vikings’ 6-7 forward Nate Navigato made an off-balanced 3-pointer at the buzzer to give Geneva a 37-34 halftime lead.

Gentry and the Saints picked up the pace after halftime and took over the game.

Following a Voll-brecht turnover, Gentry hit a 3-pointer and 6-8 forward Jack Bronec put back a rebound to give St. Charles East at 42-41 lead.

The Saints dominated from there, outscoring Geneva (6-1, 2-1) 22-6 in the third quarter, and taking a commanding 56-43 lead into the fourth.

St. Charles East forced 20 turnovers, many in the backcourt, leading to easy shot opportunities. The Saints’ defensive pressure also kept the towering Vikings (five rotation players 6-7 or taller) away from the basket.

‘‘We made some adjustments at halftime,’’ Woods said. ‘‘We were able to use our own size advantage. We were okay being patient. Vollbrecht killed us in the first half. We doubled him more in the second. Our half-court defense really improved, and we didn’t have to just rely on the press.’’

Once the Saints grabbed the lead, they were content to run the clock and make the larger Viking defenders come out and guard them on the perimeter.

Geneva showed some life in the fourth quarter behind Vollbrecht and Navigato (26 points), but couldn’t get any closer than 75-69. Gentry had 13 in the final quarter.