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The winningest high school basketball programs of the decade: No. 11 Geneva

The Sun-Times is counting down the 50 high school basketball programs with the most wins during the decade.

Genva’s Jack McDonald (3) runs and grabs Mitch Mascari (22) after hitting a three-pointer and to beat Wheaton North.
Genva’s Jack McDonald (3) runs and grabs Mitch Mascari (22) after hitting a three-pointer and to beat Wheaton North.
Sun-Times file photo

When high school basketball fans think back to the 1980s, programs like Quincy, Providence St. Mel, East St. Louis Lincoln and the arrival of city powers King and Simeon are easy to think back on.

The 1990s brought us memorable basketball giants in Peoria Manual and Thornton, a few steamrolling Proviso East teams and the continued dominance of King.

The first 10 years of the 2000s included Glenbrook North, Peoria High and the beginning of a Simeon juggernaut.

Earlier this year we broke down the decade’s best teams and best players. Now, with every season of the past decade complete, it’s time to look at the Chicago area programs who won the most.

This list is comprised of the 50 winningest programs over the past 10 years, starting with the 2010-11 season and concluding with the 2019-20 season. Every team in every class throughout the Chicago area will be broken down in a variety of ways. But total wins, with winning percentage used as tie-breaker, determined the rankings.

We present No. 11 Geneva today and will add one program a day going forward.

11. GENEVA: 223-88

Decade’s biggest storyline: Geneva opened its doors in the early 1900s. Aside from some great teams in the early 1960s under coach Mel Johnson, Geneva basketball remained pretty irrelevant until this past decade.

The 2014-15 season put Geneva basketball on the map. The Vikings won 30 games and the sectional championship was the first one in 52 years. Geneva beat Lake Park in the super-sectional to reach Peoria, finishing fourth in the state after falling to Normal in the Class 4A state semifinals and to Bolingbrook in the third-place game.

The team featured great size in Nate Navigato, who was 6-7 and the star of the team, 6-7 Bennett Fuzak, 6-8 Loudon Love, 6-8 Mike Landi, 6-9 Chandler Fuzak, 6-5 Stephen Moyer and a backcourt with additional size in 6-3 Pace Temple.

Underrated highlight: There was a stepping stone, a hurdle to get over early in the decade before all the high-level success and repeated 20-win seasons. That came in March of 2014 when the Vikings, as a No. 6 seed, won their first regional championship in 28 years –– and did so in dramatic fashion.

Geneva trailed third-seeded Bolingbrook by 11 points with five minutes to play before stunning the Raiders 66-63 to claim its first regional title since 1986. The Vikings then beat West Aurora 70-68 on a Chris Parrilli game-winning shot in the closing seconds to advance to the sectional championship where it fell to Benet.

This was a breakthrough team and season that set the tone as Geneva averaged 25 wins a year to close out the decade.

Player of the Decade: Nate Navigato (2015)

All-Decade Team: Nate Navigato (2015), Pace Temple (2015), Loudon Love (2016), Mitch Mascari (2019) and Jack McDonald (2019)

Geneva’s Nate Navigato (25) goes to the basket against Normal.
Geneva’s Nate Navigato (25) goes to the basket against Normal.
Sun-Times file photo

Other decade highlights:

-While the breakthrough team of 2013-14 and the 2014-15 team that finished fourth in the state got the ball rolling, the 2018-19 team is a memorable one. By that time the Vikings had upgraded its schedule, moved into the newly formed DuKane Conference and still set the school record for wins with 32.

With McDonald and Mascari leading the way, Geneva finished 32-2 and won regional and sectional titles. The Vikings lost to Rockford Jefferson in the super-sectional.

-For a program devoid of any kind of championships prior to the decade, Geneva won seven straight Thanksgiving Tournament championships from 2012-2018 while playing at West Chicago and Crystal Lake Central.

In addition, the Vikings won Christmas holiday tournaments at East Aurora (2013), DeKalb (2016) and the Wheeling Hardwood Classic (2018). That impressive run at Wheeling included beating Niles North, St. Viator and Fremd in the final three games.

-Coach Phil Ralston, who helped elevate the Geneva program in his nine years on the job, departed for Glenbrook South following the 2016-17 season. Scott Hennig was an assistant under Ralston for eight seasons before taking over the job in 2017.

-Navigato, who went on to have solid career at Toledo, broke the school’s all-time scoring record in 2015.

-Navigato, McDonald and Mascari all scored 1,000-plus points in their careers.

-McDonald broke the all-time assist record.