NAPERVILLE -- With injury and illness sidelining some of her teammates, the importance of Abby Novak to the Geneva girls basketball team seems to grow with each passing game.
Saturday night, the 6-foot sophomore post player scored 10 points and grabbed five rebounds to help the Vikings (9-6) defeat the host Huskies, 43-32, in the Naperville North/Benet Holiday Tournament.
“Abby’s a huge part of our team,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “And, honestly, the nights when she’s off, we struggle. We’ve got to have four kids going – Morgan [Seberger], Sidney [Santos], Sami [Pawlak] and Abby. And now that we have Sidney out [at point guard], Sami and Abby have to go to work.”
Pawlak certainly did her part, with her usual double-double – 11 points and 15 rebounds – and has helped Novak became more involved with the offense.
“I feel like I’m starting to click with more players,” Novak said. “Like Sami Pawlak – she reads me so well. We play so well together. And Sidney Santos – she knows where I am at all times. So, I’m clicking more with everyone.”
Novak also did a nice job handling the ball against Naperville North’s full-court press, especially after the small, quick Huskies (6-7) forced the Vikings into seven first-quarter turnovers. The Vikings were clinging to a 9-7 late in the period when Meadows called a timeout and loudly told her team to “chill out!”
“We just want to go, go, go,” Meadows said. “And before we had to mix-and-match a bunch [due to injury], we could do that. But we can’t do that anymore. We’re a different team, so we’ve just got to slow down, run through it, see what we have, wait for the double, kick it out, and just play more team basketball."
The Vikings came out of the timeout and got a basket from Pawlak on a nice pass from Santos (8 points, 7 rebounds). That started Geneva on a 17-6 run that helped them take a commanding 26-15 lead at the half.
The Huskies fought back after the half behind the play of senior point guard Zoe Swift (12 points) and pulled to within seven, 33-26, early in the fourth quarter. But Novak scored inside and Seberger (7 points) connected from the outside to push the margin back to double digits.
“I think we finally played as a team and we all clicked together,” Novak said. “It was so hard losing last night that we all just wanted to come out with a win tonight.”
Novak was referring to an overtime loss to DeKalb in the tournament. The Vikings’ victory Saturday moves them into the tournament semifinals next week at Benet.
“This win tonight was very important for us,” Meadows said. “We needed it, especially because we want to play Wheaton Warrenville South and Benet Thursday, Friday, hopefully, if that works out, and we’d love to see DeKalb again if it works out that way, and it may. So this was a must win for us and they responded.”