GENEVA – St. Charles East and Geneva collaborated on another gritty, overtime girls basketball game Friday, six weeks after the teams’ first OT nail-biter.
The Vikings flipped the script on the Saints this time, scoring a 75-69 win in OT that brought both sides closer in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division race.
A rubber match might be on tap in next month’s Class 4A postseason, but players will cross that bridge if it comes. For now, the first two meetings – plus the last few weeks of the conference race – are dizzying enough for the Saints and Vikings to digest.
“They’re always a good team. They’re always a good game. We started off slow, and the key was getting mentally prepared,” Vikings junior Sidney Santos said. “We really didn’t want the same outcome we had last time.”
Geneva (12-8, 6-2 UEC River) assured that wouldn’t be the case by outscoring East, 13-7, in overtime, overcoming a career-high 33 points from Saints junior guard Amanda Hilton. The Saints (12-10, 7-2) and Vikings now are chasing idle Streamwood – 6-1 – in conference play, at the top of the standings.
The top of the key was an equally dramatic place, as Saints senior Carly Pottle swished a trey with six seconds left in regulation that tied the game at 62-all.
Vikings senior post Sami Pawlak missed a potential game-winning basket in the final seconds amid contact in the paint.
“It was like deja vu, honestly, when we went back into overtime,” Pawlak said. “It was a fast game, so to pull it out in the end was very positive.”
Both teams adopted aggressive styles after putting one another in the bonus down the stretch. Geneva (17 for 24, 70.8 percent) finished slightly better than East (20 for 31, 64.5 percent) from the foul line.
The Vikings trailed, 34-22, in the final minutes of the first half before closing on an 8-0 run before intermission.
Recently pressed into duty as a point guard after some lineup reshuffling, the 6-foot Santos shifted much of her focus inside after the half en route to a team-high 22 points. Her post game helped Geneva to a 56-49 edge with 4:07 to go in the game.
Still, she wasn’t alone. Fellow starters Pawlak (14), Abby Novak (12), Morgan Seberger (11) and Kelly Gordon (10) also finished in double-figures. At 5-9, Gordon is the shortest of the versatile group.
“They were very good down low and they also have good shooters outside, so it was kind of hard to contain them,” Hilton said, “but I thought we did a really good job.”
East erased a 12-point halftime deficit in the teams’ first meeting this season to win, 81-75, in overtime in St. Charles. Guards Paige Jordan and Pottle contributed matching 25-point games for the Saints, whose second-half charge only continued what has been a recurring theme this winter.
A few weeks later, East encountered a new wrinkle in its season narrative, as Jordan opted to leave the team. Saints coach Lori Drumtra compared the departure to an injury and didn’t doubt the team’s ability to recover. Why wouldn’t an experienced group be so equipped at midseason?
“At this time of the year, you should have that poise, so I’m really glad to see that,” Drumtra said. “Because we’ve got to play hard the rest of the way, and the girls know that. Even though we don’t like the outcome of this, I look at it as a positive, the way they played.”
The Saints – who also saw Pottle (14 points) and Laney Deckrow (10) in double figures – are set to host Streamwood on Tuesday night in a bid for the season sweep. Three days later, Geneva will look to avenge a home loss to the Sabres when it travels to Streamwood.
Hilton hopes the Saints can remain in the thick of things. She didn’t need Friday to know the drama is far from over.
“In those intense moments, I love them and I strive off of them, which kind of keeps me going, too,” Hilton said. “So it’s kind of an in the moment thing. I’ve got to help my team as much as I can.”