Boys Basketball

Nathan Valentine’s buzzer-beater boosts Geneva past Bartlett

Valentine scores 28 points, hits eight 3-pointers in 42-39 Vikings’ win

Valentine’s Day came a little early for Geneva’s boys basketball team Wednesday night.

Senior guard Nathan Valentine canned a 3-point basket from just inside the volleyball marked line at the buzzer to give the Vikings (2-0) a hard-fought, 42-39 non-conference victory over host Bartlett (1-1).

Valentine, who finished with a game-high 28 points, received a late pass from senior teammate Brian Wrenn, and knocked down his eighth 3-point field goal of the game to cap the Vikings’ comeback from a five-point deficit in the final three minutes.

Due to COVID-19 protocol, there were no fans in attendance to celebrate the game-winning shot with Valentine, who didn’t seem to mind too much.

“I’m fine with that,” said Valentine. “I do it for the team, I do it for myself, and I do it for everyone around here. It’s great to have fans but this is bigger than that to me.”

Vikings coach Scott Hennig was happy to have Valentine on his side.

“He’s a good player — a good shooter,” said Hennig. “Heck, he scored 28 of our 42 points.”

With the first week of the season finally in the books, Hennig realizes his team is still a work in progress.

“We’ve got some limitations that we’re finding out,” Hennig said. “It’s game two. We’ve had eight practices. I knew we had some guys back but we’re just figuring things out.”

Quin McNeive added eight points and five rebounds for Geneva.

Trailing 31-27 after three quarters, Bartlett went on a 12-3 run to take a 39-34 lead following freshman Kelton McEwen’s 3-pointer with 2:37 remaining.

However, the Hawks struggled with execution from there, including defensively on the Vikings’ final possession.

“We knew he (Valentine) was going to take that last shot,” said Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith. “We got caught on the pick and we didn’t jump out and help him.

“We’re a young team and we’ve got to learn how to close out games. That’s a veteran team (Geneva) coming back. They knew how to close that game out. Up five with two and a half minutes left, we were in the driver’s seat at that point. Hopefully, it’s a learning curve for us.”

McEwen paced the Hawks with 15 points — all on 3-pointers — while Ian Smith added 10 points and junior center Conrad Luczynski finished with 4 points, 10 rebounds and 3 assists.

“It’s good to be back out on the floor,” said Wolfsmith. “It’s good to be back playing a semblance of the season. It’s kind of rough but it is what it is.”