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Early injuries have helped make Geneva a deeper team
By Dave Oberhelman | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 1/12/201 11:59 PM

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As far as how injuries have affected Geneva's boys basketball team, it seems the Vikings fell on a double-edged sword.

Coach Phil Ralston would naturally have liked to have had Ben Rogers, Phil Lorenz and Mike Trimble active the whole season to this point.

The fact that each of them are back to join Mark Becker, Brendan Leahy, John Swiderski, Ryan Willing, dueling big boys Connor Chapman and Drew White and the rest of the roster only makes Geneva that much stronger.

"I really believe that as badly as I felt for Phil and obviously for our other injuries, to Mike Trimble and Ben Rogers, that in some sense it strengthened us as a team because other guys had to step up," Ralston said.

"I'm hoping that as long as our focus remains together that it will help us down the stretch."

Rogers, a versatile 6-foot-2 swingman who can cover point guards and post players, hurt a foot Dec. 10 against St. Charles East.

Trimble broke a hand four days after practices started. Lorenz, the starting point guard, broke a finger two days later.

In his 11 prior seasons Ralston had never had a player break a finger or a hand. In his 12th he got both within a week.

Trimble's return coincided with a 57-56 overtime win against Waubonsie Valley. Lorenz helped the Vikings go 2-2 at East Aurora over the holidays.

Last Friday at Larkin, Geneva shot 65 percent from the floor in a victory that upped their record to 8-6 after starting 1-3. The Vikings are 3-1 in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, tied with favored Elgin, which Geneva beat in three overtimes on Dec. 2.

The complete roster helps Geneva in several ways, including as Ralston said, that others had to initially step up.

The depth eases substitution patterns without losing quality on the floor. It also keeps players fresh to play the type of defense Ralston demands.

It keeps opponents from keying on one scorer. Though Leahy is the consistent top scorer, Willing, Chapman, White, Becker and most recently Lorenz have all reached double figures.

"One of our big sales pitches to the kids is we have an equal opportunity offense," Ralston said.

"We're happy with where we're at, but we're still striving to try to improve as a team," he said. "It's nice that we finally are healthy for the last couple of weeks, hopefully that will remain the case.

"Now our big goal is to make sure everyone fits together without losing anything that we've been able to accomplish thus far."

Free for all:

In last week's notes Aurora Christian coach Steve Hanson was quoted as saying that the winner of the Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division may take up to three losses.

Marmion coach Ryan Paradise goes a couple steps further.

"We could have the winner being almost .500, maybe a little above in the league, and have everybody else being second and tied because any given night anybody could beat anybody.

"It's a fun way to play, but you don't know how things are going to shake out," said the Cadets' second-year coach.

This Friday, for instance, Paradise's 2-2 squad visits 3-1 Wheaton Academy while, on the other side of Wheaton, 3-1 St. Francis hosts 3-1 Aurora Christian.

Aurora Central Catholic is 1-3 but the Chargers figure to get better against the league's lone down team, 0-4 Marian Central. Plus, last week ACC coach Nathan Drye said forward Paul Kaminsky (thumb) should be ready to go, with shot blocker extraordinaire Robert DeMyers (fibula) not far behind.

The dogfight at the top of the division is much different from what Wheaton Academy enjoyed the last two seasons in the SCC Gold. The Warriors won with unbeaten 10-0 records.

They were the definite favorite. At this point, there appear to be several favorites in the SCC Blue.

"We haven't played everybody yet, but I don't see any favorites at this point," said Paradise, who gets Pete Stefanski back from a sprained ankle. "But that doesn't mean we couldn't get hot, or somebody could get the injury bug."

Rubber band men:

How resilient will West Aurora be after losing its first game in the DuPage Valley Conference, last week to Naperville North?

Time to find out.

"Everything I've seen so far, I have no reason to think otherwise," said Blackhawks coach Gordie Kerkman.

Before losing to Naperville North, now the DVC leader at 5-0, West Aurora had lost only to a pair of highly regarded teams Bogan at the Rock Island Thanksgiving Tournament, and Curie at Pontiac.

The Blackhawks (12-3, 4-1) reeled off six straight wins after their first loss and three straight after their second.

Kerkman identified several reasons for the loss to Naperville North closing out on shooters, shot selection and defending the opponent's ballhandler.

On the other hand, West Aurora has grabbed an average of 27.8 rebounds to opponents' 20.8. Five players have an average of at least 3.5 rebounds a game Spencer Thomas, Jontrel Walker, Josh McAuley, Chandler Thomas and the leader, Juwan Starks, at 7.1 a game.

"Our rebounding has been a little bit better than what I anticipated, in comparison to what we did this summer," Kerkman said.

West Aurora looks to regain momentum Friday at West Chicago. The Wildcats are 3-10 overall and 0-5 in league play but have lost four games decided by 3 points or less, and took St. Charles East into overtime. Naperville North beat West Chicago 42-41.

"I think they are better than their record," Kerkman said.

"We've got to take care of the basketball, and I think our shot selection's got to be better."