ST. CHARLES – St. Charles East coach Lori Drumtra can’t remember the last time the Saints toppled area stalwart and Upstate Eight Conference River Division defending champion Geneva.
The Vikings have been one of the more dominant girls basketball programs around and have had their way with many teams, including East recently.
A strong second half and matching 25-point efforts from Carly Pottle and Paige Jordan propelled the Saints to a thrilling 81-75 overtime win over Geneva to take an early lead in the division.
“It’s a great confidence builder. I can’t remember the last time we had a win against Geneva,” Drumtra said. “I think once, ages ago. Just for our confidence, I think this will serve us well. We have some tough ones coming up.”
The Saints have been a second-half team of late, winning their past three contests with strong second-half pushes. Thursday’s game was no different as East trailed 35-23 at the half.
Geneva’s 12-point halftime lead slowly evaporated as Jordan, Pottle and Amanda Hilton were lethal from 3-point range in the second half.
“The second half, maybe that’s what defines us as a team this year,” Drumtra said. “This team this year comes out strong in the second half. We have done that and we certainly did it tonight. I’m kind of in awe here. It’s a great confidence builder for us.”
Pottle, who single-handedly kept East (5-4, 3-0 UEC River) in the game for the first three quarters with 22 points, gave way to Jordan, who began to heat up in the second half.
Jordan provided East with its first lead of the contest, converting on a tough 3-point play with 2:59 to go in the fourth quarter that gave the Saints a 65-64 advantage.
Sami Pawlak, who led Geneva (6-3, 2-1) with 20 points, knocked down a jumper on the other end to give the Vikings a short-lived 66-65 lead. Jordan split a pair of free throws with 1:24 to go that tied the score at 66. East quickly reclaimed the ball on a Geneva turnover and held for a final shot.
Holding for a final shot, the ball found Hilton, who was fouled with 1.2 seconds to go. Both of her free-throws were short to forced overtime.
The Vikings took a short-lived lead at the start of overtime before Jordan hit back-to-back 3-pointers, including one that followed three other East tries on the possession, which opened up a 74-68 Saints’ lead.
“I’ve always been told to have a short memory and to only remember the ones you’ve made,” Jordan said. “I just launched them and they felt right and when it went in it just felt like the greatest shot I’ve ever made. We’re given the green light [to shoot] pretty much anytime. When we have those plays called we know we can make those shots.”
East’s second-half run wasn’t a surprise to Geneva coach Sarah Meadows, who knew the Saints would come out firing after the intermission.
“They’ve done that all season; they are a second-half team and we told our kids the last three days that if you’re winning at halftime, the game will not be over,” Meadows said. “They last two games, they have played have been close and then they just turned it up. We’re better than that.”
Pawlak provided much of Geneva’s spark in the first half as the Vikings led by as many as 16 points late in the second quarter. It was East’s defensive change to a man-to-man defense that frustrated the Vikings in the second half.
“She’s [Pawlak] aggressive and is able to create. After she [Pawlak] hit about her fourth jumper, they switched to man after that,” Meadows said. “This conference championship is for sure up in the air. Every game will be tough.”
Abby Novak provided scoring punch for Geneva late, tallying 12 of her 18 points in the second half.