Thursday, March 13, 2008
By Rich Emert, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Reprinted with permission by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Most college basketball teams don't take a two-week hiatus in late February and early March, but that's what the Geneva College men did before resuming practice earlier this week.
"In [NCAA] Division III, you only have so many weeks for the season. It's 19," Geneva coach Jeff Santarsiero said. "So, we had to take the time off, which was fine."
Geneva finished the regular season Feb. 23 with a home victory against rival Westminster. That gave the Golden Tornadoes a 13-12 record and made them eligible for the National Christian College Athletic Association tournament. Geneva joined the Presidents' Athletic Conference this season but as a provisional member is not eligible for postseason play.
The Golden Tornadoes accepted an at-large bid to the NCCAA national tournament last week. The eight-team tournament is Tuesday through Thursday in Oakland City, Ind.
That means Geneva will go 24 days between games.
"It is a long time in between, but when the alternative was not to play again until November ... We feel as if our guys will be ready," Santarsiero said.
He would be the first to say a 13-12 record doesn't look great on a piece of paper. But Geneva's regular season was better than the one-game-over-.500 mark.
The Golden Tornadoes lost seven games by nine points or less -- two by just one point and two others by two points -- and won three of their final four during the regular season.
"We really haven't played that badly," Santarsiero said. "And this is a chance for our seniors to play a couple more games, not that beating Westminster in our last game would have been a bad way to end the season."
Greg McDivitt, a 6-foot-7 senior from Windham, Ohio, has been Geneva's main man this season. He is averaging 16.4 points and 7.9 rebounds a game, but the player who has come on is 6-0 junior point guard Justin Nardi, a Blackhawk High School product.
Nardi is averaging 9.5 points a game and has handed out 115 assists.
"He has taken a leadership role," Santarsiero said. "He's become more of a scorer."
In a 77-68 win against Thomas More, Nardi had 16 points and handed out eight assists.
Another local player who is playing well is 6-5 senior Zac Northen from West Allegheny. He is averaging 9.2 points and 4.7 rebounds a game.
"Zac has really stepped up his game this season," Santarsiero said. "Especially on offense, he's hit some big shots for us."
With just three seniors on the roster, Santarsiero is grateful for the opportunity to keep the season going. He said playing three more games will help next season's team.
"That doesn't mean we aren't going out there with a purpose," he said.
"It's a good situation because with our record no one is expecting us to win it, so we can be relaxed and just have fun. Maybe we can be like Cinderella."
As of yesterday, Geneva didn't know who its first-round opponent would be. The team is scheduled to leave Sunday for Indiana.
"I'll be running around trying to find tape [of who we play] once they announce the pairings," Santarsiero said. "But that's half the fun in getting a chance to keep playing."
Geneva’s biochemistry major is approved by the American Chemical Society and offers rigorous preparation for graduate or allied-health schools.