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Changed Geneva girls basketball claims UEC River sweep over Batavia

Geneva's Kelly Gordon (20) puts of a shot during the Vikings' 56-46 victory over Batavia on Friday in Batavia.
Geneva's Kelly Gordon (20) puts of a shot during the Vikings' 56-46 victory over Batavia on Friday in Batavia.

BATAVIA – Sidney Santos the point guard whipped the ball to Abby Novak the shooting guard.

Sami Pawlak played with 10 healthy fingers.

Coach Sarah Meadows rarely explored her padded seat on the bench.

All right, so some things about the Geneva girls basketball team looked similar to the Vikings’ first meeting with Batavia this season, but there wasn’t much beyond Meadows’ fiery comportment Friday night.

The Vikings’ 56-46 Upstate Eight Conference River Division victory against the Bulldogs matched the same end result as six weeks ago. How Geneva got there was another story.

“We changed so many things,” said Santos, a 6-foot junior who opened the season as a post. “Abby’s now in our starting lineup. We have more defenses. Pressing. I bring up the ball. It’s changed so much. This half of the season, even our mentality has changed, and we’re ready to improve and show people who we are.”

Geneva (11-8, 5-2 UEC River) has known only the top of the conference heap since the UEC expanded into two divisions for the 2010-11 season. The Vikings still are a game behind St. Charles East and Streamwood in their bid for a third straight league title, with one meeting remaining with both teams.

Batavia (13-8, 4-3), which blitzed East by 25 points on the same court Tuesday, has significantly whittled its deficits against Geneva from the first two River seasons.

After losing by an average of 26.5 points the past four meetings, the Bulldogs played within four points of the Vikings on Nov. 30 before hanging tough again Friday. A pair of Hannah Frazier free throws brought Batavia to within 46-43 with 4:18 remaining.

After that, Geneva used its blend of size and quickness to control offensive rebounds and pull away.

“It’s just a huge rivalry. It’s not just a game to anyone, there’s so much more behind it. And we just can’t break the seal,” Bulldogs junior guard Liza Fruendt said. “We take away from this to practice harder, and it’s just only going to prepare us for a sectional and a regional championship.”

Fruendt had a game-high 25 points, climbing within six of 1,000 for her career.

Only two other Bulldogs scored. Freshman Hannah Frazier notched a double-double with 12 points and 10 rebounds, while senior Miranda Grizaffi had nine points, all on 3s.

Batavia coach Kevin Jensen – whose practices regularly include a handful of boys players because his roster only goes eight deep – consistently pitted the 6-1 Frazier against 6-2 junior Erin Bayram in workouts this week.

Geneva has adapted its post-heavy lineup after speedy guard Michaela Loebel suffered a season-ending ACL tear in November. The Vikings’ starting size includes Morgan Seberger (5-11), Pawlak (6-0), Novak (6-0) and Santos.

“For as smooth and as easy as we felt things went for us and everything went our way on Tuesday night, some of the shots that we had that were similar tonight didn’t fall,” Jensen said. “Both layups and threes. And that was a little bit of us being off and, quite frankly, it’s maybe just as much or moreso their size, their ‘D.’ ”

The Bulldogs shot 24.1 percent (15 for 62) from the floor. Geneva countered with a 39.2 percent night, going 22 for 56.

After sputtering a bit before halftime, Pawlak (17 points, 11 rebounds) and Santos (16 points, nine rebounds) responded after the break. They also collaborated on a key basket moments after Frazier’s free throws put the Bulldogs within 46-43.

Batavia trailed, 24-14, at halftime after managing one Fruendt field goal in the second quarter.

Breaking Batavia’s press midway through the final quarter, Geneva quickly got the ball downcourt to Pawlak on the left wing.

Sensing Santos – who played with a twisted left ankle for much of the game – on her trail, Pawlak dished to her teammate, who swished an easy jumper from just outside the key to stretch the advantage to five points.

And climbing.

“It’s not really a play,” Santos said. “I just always know when I’m by Sami that she’s a great passer and she can find me. We work well together.”

Geneva didn’t always have its synergy during an up-and-down start to the season. What better place to get it brewing again than Batavia?

“I’m really proud of our team. This is how we should be playing,” Pawlak said. “This is how we like to play, and I couldn’t ask for more.”

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