Beaver Falls, PA – The Geneva College men’s basketball team is preparing for the second of the Presidents’ Athletic Conference schedule beginning on Saturday afternoon. If the Golden Tornadoes were to receive a mid-term grade, it would be hard not to hand out an “A” to head coach Jeff Santarsiero’s group that currently sits at 12-4 while riding a three-game winning streak along with winning six of the last seven games.
The Golden Tornadoes are coming off an 81-66 victory over Waynesburg University on Wednesday night in a game that featured a 17-2 second half run by Geneva to take over the game. There have many such runs for the Golden Tornadoes in the first 16 games of the season that have helped match the second best start under Jeff Santarsiero since taking over the job in 1996. “We knew coming into the season that we had the pieces for a successful season,” says Santarsiero. “We had to learn our roles and we had to learn how to close out games. Our post-season run at the NCCAA (National Christian College Athletic Association) national tournament last year went a long way in helping this team learn how to be successful.”
While Wednesday night’s victory came away from the friendly confines of Metheny Fieldhouse, the Golden Tornadoes have enjoyed much success this season on their home floor. Geneva is 7-1 in Beaver Falls with the only loss coming at the hands of Bethany in early December. Since that loss, Geneva has run off three straight victories at home including back to back wins a week ago against rivals Grove City and Westminster. “We know how important it is to protect your home court,” says Santarsiero. “We have to work so hard to get any wins on the road that it is imperative to get every win you can get in familiar surroundings.”
Geneva features the top offensive team in the PAC with an average of 79.9 points per game. The Golden Tornadoes have been held under 70 points only twice all season and both were losses to Bethany and Saint Vincent. When Geneva scores at least 80 points in a game, it is a perfect 8-0 on the year. One of the main reasons for the offensive success is the play of leading scorer Richard Colick. Averaging a team best 17.2 points per game, Colick is shooting a ridiculous 56% from three point range. The Golden Tornadoes have three of the top long distance shooters in the league in Colick, Bryan Hill (42%) and David Phillips (39%). Hill leads the conference with 51 three-pointers on 122 attempts. Both Hill and Colick were honored this season for surpassing the 1000 point plateau for their careers as two of the most prolific scorers in school history. “We have really shot the basketball extremely well this year,” says Santarsiero. “I believe it is a product of good offensive execution. We are getting a lot of open looks and the guys are taking advantage of their opportunities.”
Another guy taking advantage of his opportunity is junior forward Lambros Svingos. Averaging 11.4 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, Svingos has been a solid force in the post for the Golden Tornadoes all season. Making the offense run is senior point guard Brandon Sopko. Sopko is not a huge scoring threat at 5.6 points per game but he does lead the conference with 6.1 assists per game. “Brandon has been fantastic all season,” says Santarsiero. “The prototype point guard, he makes our offense work.”
While Santarsiero loves to have his team push the ball and light up the scoreboard, it is talk of the defensive effort that really gets the juices flowing. “The biggest difference for our program this year is on the defensive end of the floor. We have really stressed defensive principles and it has paid off in a big way. There are going to be nights when shots don’t fall but hard work and solid defense should never slump.”
Playing in its final year of NCAA Division III provisional status, Geneva is still not eligible to compete for the PAC title or move on in any type of NCAA regional competition. As has been the case for the past three years, Geneva will be seeking a berth into the NCCAA national tournament. Geneva went 2-1 at the NCCAA nationals a year ago and finished fifth overall. This year could be even more exciting if the Golden Tornadoes can keep up their current pace.
Geneva will travel to Washington & Jefferson on Saturday before returning to Metheny Fieldhouse next Wednesday night to take on Thiel College.
Geneva College is a comprehensive Christian college of the arts, sciences and professional studies. Founded in the tradition of the Reformed Christian faith, Geneva prepares students to serve Christ in all areas of society: work, family and the church. Geneva College’s philosophy of education is based on the Foundational Concepts of Christian Higher Education. Geneva is a founding member of the Council for Christian Colleges & Universities (CCCU).
Geneva students have the opportunity each summer to attend Au Sable Institute of Environmental Studies to develop practical methods of caring for the environment.