Posted Online: Dec. 26, 2012, 9:23 pm

Leafs go 0-3 in pool play

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By Marc Nesseler,

DeKALB -- The Geneseo Maple Leafs could be, and possibly even should be, 3-0 and pool-play champs at the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament at DeKalb High School.

Instead, they are 0-3 and playing for the pride of trying to win their final two tourney games.

The end, and capper, of that three-game frustration came Wednesday night in a 35-33 loss to the Hampshire Whip-Purs.

Hampshire, at 11-1, won the Leafs' pool, a pool that has half of the tournament's final four. The other semifinalist is Marmion Academy, a team that defeated Geneseo by four in double-overtime. The other pool loss? It was their biggest loss, by seven, to Chicago Vocational in a game the Leafs were in until the final minute.

"No question we could be and should be 3-0," said Leafs coach Brad Storm. "The frustrating part is that we just haven't had the urgency to get it done. Any of those three losses we should have won.

"It's just like the other two losses we had; the guys agree, the games we lost, we could have won. We could be 11-0 but we have not had that urgency. That's something I cannot do for them.

"That's the difference between being 11-0 and being 6-5, the difference between playing for a tournament championship and playing for ninth place."

Geneseo never led against Hampshire, yet remained close throughout. The Whip-Purs' biggest lead was 11 at 16-5, but the Leafs pared that to 20-13 by halftime and 28-21 by the end of three quarters.

It became a four-point game twice in the final three minutes, and Geneseo trailed by the final two-point margin when Austin Frank hit two free throws with 37 seconds left.

That, though, is when that sense of urgency refused to rear its head. Geneseo let 30 seconds slip by before fouling, and that was just their fifth foul of the half. It needed three fouls at that point to send Hampshire to the line.

The Leafs got in another foul with five seconds left, but the Whip-Purs managed to run out the rest of the clock with passes.

"The tough part is that we just got done talking about that in the timeout" with 37 seconds left, said Storm. "We said to either be aggressive to get the steal or foul. We need to pay attention to details."

The fact that Geneseo had a shot to win was unfathomable given its offensive struggles. The Leafs shot just 18 percent (4-of-22) in the first half, and were just over 25 percent (11-of-43) for the game.

Outside of Grant Burress's 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, no Leaf made more than one field goal.
Until Franks' free throws with :37 left, there was no Leaf with more than four points. Frank finished with six.

Yet, the Leafs stayed close to Hampshire by doing a lot of things right. They committed just seven turnovers for the game, and were strong defensively. They held the Whip-Purs' 1-2 inside combination of Tyler Crater and Shane Hernandez to 7-of-22 shooting. Crater finished with 11 points; Hernandez, who had four fouls in the first half, had just five.

Hampshire guard Ryan Cork had a game-high 13 points, but even then the Leafs made a correction, identifying the shooter and holding Cork to just a field goal in each of the final three quarters.

"We did some things better," said Storm. "I keep telling them, they are good enough; they need to believe me.

"The only thing they are not doing is finishing enough to get wins."

Geneseo next will face Machesney Park Harlem (2-1) in pool play, at 2 p.m. today. The eight teams not in the Gold bracket were paired by blind draw so that teams that will meet in conference play would not be matched. Thus, the Leafs would face either DeKalb (0-3) or Thornridge (1-2) on Friday.

Thursday’s games
Rochelle vs. Schurz, 11 a.m.
Sterling vs.  Vocational, 12:30 p.m.
Harlem vs. Geneseo, 2 p.m.
DeKalb vs. Thornridge, 3:30 p.m.
Moline vs. Hampshire, 5 p.m.
Marmion vs. Winnebago, 6:30 p.m.