BETHANY, WV - What a difference a week can make!
A week ago, Geneva was staring a school record losing streak in the face. The streak reached 16 games on Wednesday on a half-court shot at the buzzer at Washington & Jefferson and the school record was just 17.
Since then, though, the Golden Tornadoes have won three straight on the road after upsetting top-seeded Bethany 61-59 in the Presidents’ Athletic Conference quarterfinals. Bethany ends the season at 21-5 while Geneva improves to 7-20.
“This is one of the biggest wins for Geneva in the time I’ve been here, a really sweet win,” said Geneva coach Jeff Santarsiero, who came to Geneva in 1987. “We had some big wins under coach (Jerry) Slocum, but this was the ninth-seed beating the top-seed at their place.
“We’re like Georgia going through the SEC Tournament a few years ago.”
Geneva will play in the semifinals Thursday at 14-11 Thomas More (Crestview Hills, KY).
Geneva put the PAC on notice from the start as senior Jordan Harbison (Portersville Christian School) hit a three-pointer just 36 seconds into the game and the teams traded the lead much of the first half. Bethany’s biggest lead was five but Geneva led at intermission 36-31.
“Jordan’s threes were big and so were Jordan Lawrence’s,” said Santarsiero. “We played well in all aspects.”
The Golden Tornadoes built on the lead, reaching a 12-point lead at 52-40 with 11:19 left on a three-pointer by freshman Chaese Vaudrin (Uniontown, OH). Bethany, though, staged a comeback and took the lead 56-55 with 4:42 left on a pair of free throws by Lawrence Weldon.
“We knew they’d make their run,” Santarsiero said. “We handled it.”
Harbison, the PAC leader in three-pointers, gave Geneva a 58-57 lead on his sixth three-pointer of the game with 3:14 left and Bethany would not score another field goal. The Bison took a 59-58 lead on a pair of free throws by Kevin Jackson with 2:50 left but senior Jacob Grim (Mohawk) scored the layup with 17 seconds left.
“The last two games have been Grim’s games,” Santarsiero said. “It had been all free throws in the last minutes but we ran a play, cleared out for him, and he finished well. There was about 10 seconds left on the shot clock.”
In those final 17 seconds, Geneva senior Zach Hayward (Blackhawk), who passed for 417 yards in a win against Bethany as the Golden Tornadoes’ quarterback, had a steal and Vaudrin closed the scoring with a free throw.
“Zach had a big rebound and the steal,” said Santarsiero of Hayward, who led the Golden Tornadoes in rebounding with six.
Harbison was the only Genevan in double figures with 18 points while Weldon had 16 for Bethany.
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