By ROB DiPOFI
For the Star Beacon
With weather forecasters predicting an abundance of snow and high winds for Ashtabula County on Friday, people were being asked to take necessary precautions to keep themselves safe.
In fact, there were some in the media who felt the impending weather conditions might even trigger some power outages for some county residents.
For a while Friday night, it appeared that those predictions were coming to fruition as there was a power outage, so to speak, and it was inside of the Geneva High School’s gymnasium as the visiting University School Preppers (5-1 overall, 5-0 PAC) shot the lights out in their 67-35 win over the Geneva Eagles (0-7, 0-5 PAC).
US got things rolling right away in the first quarter, with sharpshooter Sam Bentz (15 points) leading the charge. In that opening stanza, Bentz hit three of his five 3-pointers and US took advantage of some early miscues to race out to an 18-4 lead after one quarter of play, a lead it would not relinquish.
The Preppers never looked back and extended the lead to over 20 points in the second quarter of play. Coach Terry Lipford was pleased with his team’s start (6 first-half 3s, and over 50 percent shooting).
“We shot the ball well to start the game,” he said. “It was nice to see us flow offensively but our defense was very solid. We played all man-to-man defense, doing nothing exotic, and that was effective as well.”
Geneva’s decision to come out in man to man could not be faulted with University boasting three starting players at 6-foot-5 or taller (Bentz, Xavier Bonner, Matt Gibbons). Forcing the Preppers into a perimeter-oriented game didn’t seem to phase the visitors.
“University poses a tough matchup for us,” Geneva coach Scott Torok said. “We needed to manage the game early and be patient, but some early turnovers and second chance points put us in a quick hole. We struggle in those situations.
“It didn’t help that they hit everything from the field.”
After US nailed those early shots, Geneva intensified things out on the perimeter and US again capitalized, getting some good looks on dribble penetration and hitting the boards on the offensive glass. Those factors permitted them to maintain their sizable margin throughout the remainder of the second quarter.
US began the third quarter with a 35-11 lead and it fluctuated between 20 and 30 points for the remainder of the game. Geneva did try to chip away at the deficit, with seniors Matt Mackynen (8 points, 4 rebounds) Vern Thompson (8 points) and David Smalley (8 points) getting a couple of buckets each to cut it under 20 with a little less than four minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
However, US finished the game as it had started, with a flourish, scoring the game’s last 10 points and when the buzzer sounded it was a 30-point win for Lipford’s first place squad.
The US coach maintains that this type of effort will be required to secure a Premier Athletic Conference title.
“We are off to a good start at 5-0 in the PAC but we also know we have to go to North and to South, with neither being an easy task,” he said. “We cannot take things for granted as this league is well-balanced and the competing teams have good coaches. There’s work to be done.”
DiPofi is freelance writer from Geneva.