Geneva is one of the tallest teams in the state. The Vikings have two 6-8 players, three 6-7 and three 6-6. That size and the all-around skill of senior Nate Navigato has established them as one of the area’s better teams.
But forget all the size; high school basketball is about guards, and Saturday saw the return of the player the Vikings have been waiting for: junior guard Pace Temple.
Temple, also a wide receiver for the Vikings, injured his left MCL in the state quarterfinals against Cary-Grove in November. Temple is one of the top football players in the western suburbs. While Geneva is loaded with post players, it is very thin at guard.
“I don’t really like sitting still in general,” Temple said. “So Neuqua [Valley] and [St. Charles] East were hard to watch.”
Those games were Geneva’s only losses this season. The Vikings are now 11-2 and 4-1 in the Upstate Eight River after a 57-45 win over visiting Larkin on Saturday.
Temple scored eight points and grabbed four rebounds. He came in off the bench in the first quarter.
“If it had not been up to a doctor I think [Temple] would have tried to play two or three weeks ago,” Geneva coach Phil Ralston said. “He’s probably one of the best competitors I’ve seen in my life.”
No. 22 Larkin (12-5, 4-3) held Navigato scoreless in the first half and led 25-23. Navigato drained a 3-pointer with 5:36 to play in the third quarter that ignited a 15-0 run to close the quarter. The Vikings led 44-32 and never looked back.
“Sometimes halftime is a great thing, sometimes not so much,” Larkin coach Deryn Carter said.
Navigato finished with 17 points and four rebounds.
“This was an uncharacteristic game for Nate,” Ralston said. “I think he’s allowed to have one every so often.”
Bennett Fuzak, a 6-7 junior, scored 12 and 6-8 junior Loudon Vollbrecht added 10 points and 14 rebounds. Vollbrecht is wide and heavy but surprisingly light and fast on his feet.
“It seemed like he was a vacuum cleaner under that basket,” Ralston said.
Tanner Gardon, a 6-7 senior, led the Royals with 15 points and six rebounds. Highly regarded sophomore Christian Negron added five points and 10 rebounds. Keyvon Kyles and Charles Sanders each had six for Larkin.
“It’s tough to keep [Navigato] bottled up the whole game,” Carter said. “He’s a good player. He hit some big shots in the third quarter.”