LOMBARD – Statistically, the long-awaited debut of Sidney Santos with the Geneva girls basketball team was nothing special, but for the 6-foot junior, being able to actually play in a game was special enough.
“It was very nerve-wracking,” Santos said after Geneva’s 52-34, season-opening victory against Rosary on Saturday in the first round of the Rachel Bach Tournament at Glenbard East. “It was my first high school game ever, so I was really nervous. It was good to get the jitters out. I know we can play better than what we did and we’ll definitely pick it up Monday, but it was so much fun to finally play with this team.”
As a freshman, Santos tore the ACL in her right knee on her first day of practice with the Vikings and missed the entire season. As a sophomore, she suffered a recurrence of the injury during the offseason and again missed the entire season.
“Great for her,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said of finally seeing Santos in action. “We had talked this week that she probably was going to have a ton of emotions today and just enjoy it. She’s finally out here and played well. She’s a great teammate. It was good to see her out there.”
Santos scored two points, grabbed five rebounds, and had a block and a steal. She got into early foul trouble, which was par for the course for the Vikings on the day.
“At the end of the first quarter, we had every starter with two,” Meadows noted. “We can’t have that, so we’ve got to do a much better job with that.”
The Royals scored their first six points from the free throw line and nine of their 15 first-half points came from the stripe.
“I know I could do better,” Santos said. “Some fouls were dumb. But my team definitely stepped it up when I didn’t play a lot in the first half.”
Geneva got solid contributions from a number of players off the bench. Madeline Dunn, a 5-9 junior forward, scored four points and secured six rebounds. Anna Finch, a 5-6 junior swing player, tallied five points and snared seven boards.
The taller Vikings dominated the glass, outrebounding the Royals 49-26.
Rosary (1-1) doesn’t have a 6-footer on the roster, but coach Jessie Wilcox wasn’t about to use that as an excuse.
“Their height advantage, I wasn’t too worried about because their tall girls like to face up and play from the outside a lot,” she observed. “Rebounding really comes down to heart and to work ethic. That’s one thing that this program is going to learn real quickly under a new coaching system – that they’re going to have to work harder.”
Senior forward Karly Tate and junior guard Emily Bakala each scored 10 points for the Royals. Sophomore Quincy Kellett led Rosary in rebounding with eight.
Geneva led from the opening tip, which 6-foot senior Sami Pawlak knocked to Kelly Gordon, who hit Michaela Loebel with a quick pass for a layup. Loebel scored 13 points and came up with a rare double-double by accumulating 10 steals.
“I thought we all came out ready to play,” Loebel said. “We all had an intense look right from the start and, though there were some sloppy parts that’s normal for a first game, I think we came out with all the energy we could.”
The Vikings jumped out to an 8-0 lead and led 36-15 at the half. They increased their lead to 26 points midway through the third quarter when Morgan Seberger scored with a driving left-handed scoop shot and then fed Finch for a bucket. Seberger led all scorers with 14 points, hitting a trio of three-pointers.
“Morgan was hitting some shots and Michaela – I think every shot she shot went in today,” Meadows said. “She played great.”
Loebel was among the Vikings happy to see Santos finally in the lineup.
“It was awesome,” Loebel said. “I use to play with her on my old AAU team and I love playing with her. She gets me going and she just pumps the team up.”
Both squads return to the court Monday as the tournament continues with Rosary taking on Downers Grove North at 6 p.m. and Geneva meeting Glenbard North at 7:30 p.m.