Lake Park continues its scrappy defense in win over Geneva

Two DuKane Conference games in the books, two impressive defensive performances by Lake Park.

Tuesday night in Roselle, the Lancers defeated visiting Geneva 53-36, with 9 of the Vikings points coming in the last few minutes when the game was out of reach.

Last Friday, also on their home court, Lake Park allowed Batavia only 23 points in a 37-23 win.

It doesn't hurt at all that the Lancers take the court with a starting lineup consisting of five seniors.

“I think we're just playing fundamental basketball,” said Lake Park's Camden Cerese, one of the stellar upperclassmen for the Lancers.

“We're staying in the gaps, staying on the help side. This game we had a few dumb fouls, but that's something that we can control.”

Cerese tallied a game-high 22 points, while Gabe Jensen and Hudson Kirby each scored 11 for Geneva.

Lake Park hit its first 5 field goal attempts in the game and didn't look back.

“I don't think that we could get over the hump,” said Vikings coach Scott Hennig of the fast start by the home team.

“They (Lake Park) have a lot of size and experience. I thought we had a few missed opportunities, and we missed five or six free throws, which hurt.

“We had some pretty good looks, we just couldn't knock them down.”

In addition to defending, the Lancers were also shooting the ball lights out. They finished 7-of-11 from 3-point range, with Dennasio LaGioia hitting 4 of the long-range shots.

“LaGioia and (Tommy) Rochford hit some big 3s for us,” said Lake Park coach Billy Pitcher. “And we were scrappy defensively.

“They (Geneva) also missed some shots they normally make. That helped us out, and we did a good job of getting the first rebound most of the time.”

Lake Park's Matthew Geraci had a steal in the final minute of the first half, and fed Cerese for a coast-to-coast layup that gave the Lancers a 24-13 halftime advantage.

Geneva came out on the attack in the third quarter, and when Kirby sank two free throws, the deficit for the Vikings was just 32-25.

Moments later, though, Cerese nailed a 3-pointer from the top of the key to push the Lancers' lead back to double digits.

“What we focus on, when a team goes on a run,” said Cerese, “is to try to slow it down, get a good possession, and try not to give them open looks on 3s. We make it tough on them.”

Cerese then scored the first six points of the fourth quarter and Lake Park extended the advantage to 48-27 with 4 minutes left.

Geneva couldn't get any closer to the final score.

“Defensively at times we turned them (Lake Park) over tonight,” said Hennig, “but they're solid. They have three or four guys that have played a lot of varsity basketball and I think that showed.”

In addition to Cerese, Geraci, LaGioia and Rochford, Jeremy Zakic was the other senior who started the game for Lake Park.

Pitcher added that 6-8 senior Pavle Magazin is usually in the starting lineup, but was out Tuesday due to injury.

LaGioia finished with 12 points while Rochford had 10 points and 6 rebounds.

“With those six guys, we basically have six senior starters, and it helps to have that experience,” said Pitcher. “We feel confident in those guys.”

On the other side of the coin, Geneva went into battle with two sophomores and two juniors in the starting lineup, and another sophomore the first one off the bench.

“We're a young team,” said Hennig, “so we're learning on the fly.

“The kids are playing hard, they're receptive to coaching, and they're doing what we ask. It's a really fun group to be around.”

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