By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
It’s rarely a compliment to call something ugly, but that’s exactly how Geneva boys basketball coach Matt Vespa described Riverside’s style after the Beavers conquered his Eagles, 77-62, in Premier Athletic Conference action on Friday night at Geneva.
Riverside (1-3, 1-2) took a nine-point lead through over the course of the first eight minutes seemingly without a run. The Beavers did score outscore the Eagles (0-7, 0-4), 8-0, in the span of a minute late in the period, but it was hardly a spurt that seized momentum.
Joe McDonald both connected on 3-pointers and Maxx Brubaker netted a pair of free throws to expand a 12-11 edge with 3:05 remaining to 20-11 with 2:04 left.
“That’s what they do,” Vespa said. “I mean this is the nicest way possible, they ugly the game up. You think you’re getting good shots, scoring some points. You look up and they’ve pulled ahead. That’s their style and they’re pretty good at it.”
The Beavers were 9 of 19 shooting (47.4 percent) in the quarter while Geneva was 5 of 8 (62.5 percent). Both teams attempted just two free throws. The Eagles, however, turned the ball over 10 times.
Riverside never advanced the advantage to more than 12 and it was never less than eight as they went into the break up, 34-24.
“That’s a problem,” Riverside coach Adam May said. “That’s the championship mentality. And we try and teach the a championship mentality. You have to put teams away. You can’t be a championship team without that mentality.
“I think we were the better team, but we didn’t act like it. Once you get a team down, you have to take it to another level. We ended the first quarter up 10 and we went into the half up 10.”
After getting that lead, the Beavers sent a stream of shooters to the free-throw line to maintain that edge the rest of the night. Nine players went to the stripe at least once — six of them went at least twice.
“I don’t know if it’s that we lost a little of that fear, that little bit of being afraid to fail. You can’t attack if you you’re afraid to mess up. If you’re not afraid, you can put pressure on the defense instead of it putting pressure on you.”
The Beavers were 25 of 40 (62.5 percent) at the line as a result of the Eagles’ 26 fouls in the game.
“They’re a very aggressive team, the way they press and deny the full length of the court and even in the half court,” Vespa said. “I don’t know if weren’t playing aggressive enough or not, but we just weren’t getting calls. Give them credit. That’s they’re style. That’s not the reason we lost, but it surely didn’t help.”
On the other end, the were just 8 of 16 from the line and Riverside was called for 10 less fouls.
Riverside scored on three consecutive possessions just once until there were but a few minutes remaining in the game with the result already in hand.
The same could be said about Geneva, which was unable to make any kind of dent in the deficit.
“They made some big shots,” Vespa said. “We gave them a bunch of chances. We’ve got them down for 19 offensive rebounds. When a team is patient on offense, you can’t give them second chances. That’s been a problem for us all season.
“There were times it felt like we were going to make a run, but they answered with a big shot every time. That’s been our MO the last couple games. We can’t make a run. That’s a skill we need to learn.”
There were six Beavers who scored at least seven points and three who were in double figures.
“That’s when you’re getting to be a good basketball,” May said. “I’m a firm believer that five players scoring 10 points is better than two scoring 20. There are multiple players we can put on the floor. We’re a lot deeper this year. It’s good they can step on the floor and score. It makes my job a heck of a lot easier.”
McDonald led the way with 18, Brubaker had 15 and Rinella added 12. Ricky Fiore scored nine off the pine and Austin Hess and Ronnie Krsolovic each added seven.
Zac Sweat’s 22 paced the Eagles while Kovach had 13.
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.