Geneva returns to full health, takes down Naperville Central

In the fourth quarter, everything started clicking for the Vikings, who beat the visiting Redhawks 49-38 in a Class 4A regional semifinal Tuesday.

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Geneva’s Michael Lawrence (2) splits two Naperville Central defenders on the way to the basket.

Geneva’s Michael Lawrence (2) splits two Naperville Central defenders on the way to the basket.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

Ideally, the first 30 games of the season would be spent working toward this week. Teams want to peak as the playoffs start.

Geneva, however, hasn’t had that luxury. The Vikings have struggled with illness for the last month and entered the playoffs finally healthy but lacking sharpness.

That’s where Jimmy Rasmussen comes in. The 6-1, 200-pound senior plays with heart and determination. His effort helped keep Geneva close early as Naperville Central got off to a hot start Tuesday.

‘‘I just try and play every possession to the best of my ability,’’ Rasmussen said. ‘‘I like guarding the best player and being as tough as I can be.’’

In the fourth quarter, everything started clicking for the Vikings, who beat the visiting Redhawks 49-38 in a Class 4A regional semifinal.

‘‘[Rasmussen] has been tough all year, tough his whole career,’’ Geneva coach Scott Hennig said. ‘‘Just that physicality. Seniors step up and win games.’’

Michael Lawrence led the Vikings (23-9) with 16 points, including seven in the stretch of the fourth quarter in which Geneva took control.

‘‘We started limiting bad turnovers and clamped down on [Naperville Central senior Simon Krugliakovas],’’ Lawrence said. ‘‘We knew he was their offense, so we kind of tried to put him on lock, and the rest was easy going.’’

Krugliakovas, who has a 40-point game this season, is the primary scorer, ballhandler and playmaker for the Redhawks. He finished with 16 points.

‘‘This is the first time in three weeks we’ve had all of our starters,’’ Hennig said. ‘‘We are finally getting back to our defensive intensity.’’

The Vikings won 15 consecutive games from mid-December to mid-January before all the sickness set in. Rasmussen said precautions are being taken to keep the flu away for the next few weeks.

‘‘No using anybody else’s water bottles,’’ he said. ‘‘None of that.’’

Senior Tanner Dixon added 12 points and Rasmussen eight points and seven rebounds for Geneva.

The Vikings’ tallest players are 6-3, but they are strong and wide and feed the post consistently.

‘‘[Tommy Diamond] and [Dixon] do a good job of being crafty down there,’’ Rasmussen said. ‘‘We like to pump it inside.’’

Naperville Central (7-21) was better than its record indicated this season, and there is some hope for the future. Jackson First, a 6-3 junior, was effective in the post with 14 points and 12 rebounds.

Geneva will move on to face the Glenbard West-Glenbard North winner in the regional final Friday. The Vikings will have the homecourt advantage in that game with hopes of moving on to the Bartlett Sectional.

‘‘I’d love to get another crack at Wheaton-Warrenville South,’’ Hennig said. ‘‘Batavia has been scaring the heck out of me. Benet is obviously the front-runner, but the sectional is wide-open.’’

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