WW South snaps Geneva's 15-game streak, takes control of DuKane race
Extra incentive wasn't needed for Wheaton Warrenville South Friday.
What was at stake - putting the Tigers firmly in the driver's seat for the DuKane Conference title - was plenty enough.
With its convincing 56-24 win over visiting Geneva on Friday, the Tigers took command of the conference race with a two-game lead. And in the process, the Tigers snapped the Vikings' 15-game winning streak dating back to their December loss to WW South.
Geneva (19-4, 7-2) was without standout point guard Mick Lawrence, unavailable with an illness, in the rematch, the Tigers (21-2, 9-0) showcased their typical defensive intensity and methodical offense on the other end to take full advantage and hold Geneva to a season low in points.
WW South, which has won 10 straight games itself, appears primed for a second consecutive DuKane title with five conference games remaining.
"Coach [Mike Healy] told us our strength the past [few] years has been defense, you know?" Tigers senior Braylen Meredith said following his 14-point, five rebound effort. "So coming into this game, he said we need a fast start and that's defense and make the play on defense [so] we'll be able to just kind of take the game from there. We needed some points at the beginning of the game, too, to just get us started."
Tigers guard Luca Carbonaro, who finished with 18 points, proved to be the steady offensive spark for WW South to sustain that game plan.
The Tigers took a somewhat modest 22-11 lead into halftime, but were able to comfortably pull away with a signature defensive effort in the third quarter when WW South forced five turnovers and then poured on the offense led by the crafty sophomore.
The Tigers led 39-18 entering the fourth quarter.
"[The defensive intensity] was great," Carbonaro said. "Momentum was huge. The fans were great, but we just propel off that. We just need a stop: Kick, ball deflection, whatever it is. We just love playing defense and it was just outstanding tonight."
Carbonaro put the cap on the night by splitting a double-team and hitting a jumper with minimal space between the defenders with 3:06 left. Shortly after, the benches were emptied, signaling the game was effectively finished.
"He's really been able to shoot the ball," Meredith said of Carbonaro. "Whenever I might get double-teamed or something, I kick it out to him because I know I can trust him to make those shots. He's really stepped it up and he's really been a shooter for us."
" ... He's special offensively," Healy added. "He's got a chance to be really special."
Moore added eight points, while Nick Brooks scored four points for WW South.
Geneva, with the target of a long streak off its back, can effectively hit the reset button before what projects to be an eventful postseason run.
"I give [Wheaton] credit. I felt like Meredith and [Carbonaro], man, they hit a lot of shots," Geneva coach Scott Hennig said. "I don't think Meredith missed from the high post. Luca hit those three 3-pointers in the first half. I told my staff at half it's kind of like playing us [at full strength] a little bit, like Wisconsin: When you get down 10, you feel like you're down 20. They're just so patient. They beat us up a little bit on the glass, which I think hurt."
Tommy Diamond led Geneva with eight points. Tanner Dixon followed with seven points, while Jimmy Rasmussen had six points and three rebounds.
"I don't know if it was one thing. Obviously, not having Mick, who is our best player - all-conference kid, three-year starter - hurts," Hennig said. "You know, I thought the guys were up for the challenge. I didn't think the start was terrible. The end of the first half hurt and then [third quarter] spurt. Before you knew it, we were down 20."