NAPERVILLE – Geneva girls basketball coach Sarah Meadows and DeKalb counterpart Chris Davenport both branded Vikings senior post Sami Pawlak a “beast” Friday night.
Pawlak’s 19 points and 22 rebounds warranted such endearment, but either way, she would rather be called a winner.
The Barbs took that title with a 53-51 overtime victory in the Benet/Naperville North Holiday Tournament, edging the Vikings as both teams struggled with free throws down the stretch.
“I don’t think it was anything we did wrong, it was just not enough,” Pawlak said. “We were playing as hard as we could, but I think we need that one little spark at the end that will put us over the edge.”
Geneva (8-6) finished 18 for 28 from the free throw line, while the Barbs converted just 10 of 26 foul shots.
DeKalb (12-1) led, 45-43, for much of the final quarter. Both teams had opportunities to pull ahead or away before Sidney Santos found a cutting Pawlak for the tying layup with 18 seconds to play in regulation.
Pawlak snagged a steal and raced to midcourt on the Barbs’ final possession before overtime, but was unable to release a shot before the buzzer. A few minutes later, she whipped an overhead pass to the same area as the Vikings sought a desperation shot at the end of overtime.
DeKalb sophomore post Madelyne Johnson swooped into traffic to intercept, putting the stamp on an already physical game.
“That’s basketball,” Johnson said. “You play to play. You want to fight and both teams were fighting, so, I mean, that’s what happens.”
Meadows appreciated her team’s pluck just two nights after challenging the Vikings’ energy in an Upstate Eight Conference River Division loss to Streamwood.
Seated in the first row of Geneva’s bleachers on Wednesday, she also said senior sparkplug Kelly Gordon may not return to the lineup until after the tournament as she battled walking pneumonia. With her father’s blessing, a still-sick Gordon played much of the second half and overtime against DeKalb, providing strong defense and five rebounds.
“I was so glad she was playing,” Pawlak said, “because we were all kind of worried if she’d be able to.”
Abby Novak shined on both ends of the floor, limiting speedy DeKalb guard Brittney Patrick while scoring 15 points. Morgan Seberger offered some pop from the perimeter, swishing three three-pointers among her 13 points.
DeKalb’s Rachel Torres scored 16 of her team-high 18 points after halftime. Johnson (13 points) also finished in double figures.
Novak scored in transition on the opening possession of overtime, and Geneva led as late as 51-50 when Pawlak split a pair of free throws with 56.7 seconds left. Torres followed with the go-ahead basket about 20 seconds later. Geneva had a chance to to take the lead when it took over possession with 18.7 seconds remaining, but turned the ball over in the paint.
Geneva installed the 6-foot Santos as its primary ballhandler after its most recent overtime game, a Dec. 6 loss at St. Charles East. The team has had a full complement of games since, without much chance to practice.
“We’ve just got to get a little bit more disciplined on offense,” Meadows said. “We’re just kind of running around. We’ll work on that more over break.”