ALGONQUIN – As an homage to her number in her other favorite sport, Geneva senior guard Katelyn Allen takes four breaths before she sizes up each trip to the free-throw line.
She obeyed that tradition before hitting the two biggest free throws of her career on Thursday night, finding additional time to sneak a glance at her anxious teammates on the bench.
“I just looked over at all our seniors and was like, ‘We’re not done yet,’ ” she said.
Allen kept the Vikings’ postseason pulse going for at least one more game, coolly scoring the final two points of a 55-53 victory against Cary-Grove for the IHSA Class 4A Jacobs Sectional title.
Geneva (25-6) seized the lead with 3.6 seconds left, surviving a tense final 12 minutes that saw the team squander a double-digit advantage before its late recovery.
Call it a near-repeat of Tuesday’s sectional semifinal win against Rockton Hononegah. Maybe one of these cushions will stand up when the Vikings take on Zion-Benton in the Barrington Supersectional at 7:30 p.m. Monday for the right to advance to Redbird Arena.
“We definitely have been on a roll early in games and we’re getting good looks at the basket,” senior point guard Kat Yelle said, “but we need to focus. That’s happened to us twice this week, so we definitely need to work on it.”
Cary-Grove (27-4) took its time coming to terms with the loss, as most of its veterans sat or embraced on the bench long after the gym emptied. The Trojans rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to take a 49-47 lead with 2:59 to play.
Senior post Claire Jakubicek (23 points) and her sophomore sister, Olivia (14) did most of the damage, returning to the inside-heavy approach that first allowed the Vikings to pad their lead.
Geneva preyed on the Trojans’ predictability in the second quarter, clamping down on the Northern Illinois-bound Claire Jakubicek and turning its pressure into points. The Vikings shot 8-for-10 in the period, rolling behind junior Ashley Santos, who hit six straight shots spanning the first two quarters.
Given a chance to pull away entering the final quarter, the Vikings sputtered. With Santos on the bench with foul trouble, Geneva watched a nine-point lead shrink to four as the Trojans channeled their own pressure and found one of the Jakubiceks inside.
Much like Tuesday, that’s when the Vikings responded, calling on Yelle (17 points) Santos (16) and Allen (12) to close the game.
“As momentum was going their way, we just kept coming together,” Santos said. “We’ve had close games throughout the season, and we have faith in each other.”
If it wasn’t already strong in Allen, that confidence is growing. The South Carolina Upstate soccer recruit scored a career-best 23 points against Hononegah and was playing through a quieter night until the closing seconds Thursday.
Allen humbly discussed her heroics for a second night, but couldn’t press on without crediting Santos, who swooped in front of Olivia Jakubicek’s inbounds pass for a steal with 13.7 seconds to play to keep the game knotted at 53-all.
With two fouls to give, Cary-Grove slowed the Vikings’ own strategy until Allen flashed open on the left side of the paint. Accepting a bounce pass from Sammy Scofield – the key component to drawing contact, the Vikings said – Allen was fouled by Olivia Jakubicek and went to the line.
Allen’s mother usually has to remind her to breathe. This time, she remembered.
The rest of the Vikings, meantime, were in full throat as players posed for pictures and greeted throngs of fans. Winners of 10 straight, Geneva has reached the supersectionals for the third straight year and is seeking its second state tournament berth in that span.
“We’re coming together, we’re believing in each other and it’s all happening at the right time,” Yelle said. “We want to keep this going.”
Run to the Class 4A SuperSectionals
St. Charles East Regional
Wednesday, Feb. 16
Geneva 82, St. Charles East 45
Thursday, Feb. 17
Geneva 52, St. Charles North 31
Geneva 70, Rockton Hononegah 60
Geneva 55, Cary-Grove 53
Geneva vs. Zion-Benton, 7:30 p.m.
Tickets available today
Tickets for the Geneva girls basketball team’s IHSA Class 4A Barrington Supersectional on Monday will be available at the Geneva athletic department office from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today and during the Vikings’ boys basketball team’s game against St. Charles North tonight.