By BOB ETTINGER
For the Star Beacon
The Geneva boys basketball team gave coach Scott Torok a pretty nice gift to celebrate his 50th birthday Wednesday night. The Eagles beat Chardon, 54-48, to claim their first victory of the season.
“(The win’s) a tribute to the guys,” Torok said. “They haven’t quit. They keep coming back. They finally got that W.
“They haven’t given up.”
Not that Torok’s greedy, but he is hoping for another gift when the Eagles take to the court again.
“I told them it was my birthday on Friday, too,” he said.
The Eagles (1-15, 1-10 in Premier Athletic Conference) had been looking forward to playing the Hilltoppers (2-13) for a while.
“Something had to give,” Torok said. “They’ve been licking their chops for this one. Chardon’s been struggling, too.”
Geneva managed to avoid a couple of the pitfalls that have been plaguing the team all year.
“The bottom line is we were in this game early and we haven’t been in many games early,” Torok said. “That was a good thing.”
Turnovers were also kept to a minimum.
“One of the things that’s been our Achilles’ heel has been turnovers,” Torok said. “We only had 14 tonight and we battled on the boards.”
The Eagles led, 11-8, through eight minutes and were tied, 25-25, at the break. They led, 35-33, after three quarters and outscored the Hilltoppers by four in the final period.
Geneva was 18 of 24 (75 percent) from the free-throw line.
“It was a dogfight,” Torok said. “I told them before the game that we’d been struggling from 2-point land and we’d been struggling from 3-point land so we had to get to the line. We hit 18 (free throws) tonight. That was the difference.
“We were patient and ran our offense. We ran the offense, got good looks and got to the foul line.”
Vern Thompson netted 22 points to pace the Eagles.
“He did what he does best,” Torok said. “He got to the basket. He was driving the lane and he got good looks there. He got in the paint for us.”
Zac Sweat added 10 points and Eric Juncker had eight.
On the other side, Geneva held the Hilltoppers in check, for the most part. Zach Weiland led the way with 14 points and leading scorer Ben Furlich netted only nine.
“Furlich had 32 against us the first time,” Torok said. “Kudos go to Zac Sweat. He held him to only nine tonight.
“We knew Furlich was their main guy. We defended well as a team. Any time you hold a team under 50, you have a chance. We did that tonight.”
Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula.