OAK PARK – With less than three minutes gone in the first quarter of Geneva’s girls basketball game against Fenwick on Wednesday, most of the Vikings starting five were doubled over, clutching at their shorts and gasping for breath.
That didn’t change much over the course of the night as Fenwick eventually pulled away for a 78-63 win in a game that was closer than the score indicated.
Without point guard and primary ballhandler Sidney Santos, who was held out as a precaution because of an ankle injury, the Vikings were faced with trying to cross the mid-court line against a relentless Fenwick press.
For much of the night, Geneva (12-10) was up to the task, entering the fourth quarter tied with Fenwick at 49.
But the Friars’ high-paced attack finally tired out Geneva and led to a 12-2 run to start the fourth quarter as Fenwick (18-3) pulled away.
“We didn’t have anything to lose, really, coming into this game,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “Our kids showed up and played with a lot of heart and played their butts off. They never quit. In the fourth quarter, we got tired and they started hitting some shots. It just got away from us.”
Meadows tried to help the Vikings prepare for what they knew was about as fast a team as they had seen all season.
Not only does Fenwick utilize a tough press, it also pushes the ball up the court at a frenetic pace looking to score in transition.
For three quarters, Geneva clamped down defensively while getting its own baskets in transition as the Vikings entered the fourth quarter in good shape.
Kelly Gordon’s bucket early in the fourth quarter knotted the score at 51 before Fenwick responded by taking a commanding 67-51 lead.
Geneva’s Abby Novak finally scored for the Vikings with 4:22 to go in the quarter, but the damage had been done. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Jennifer Mackowiak stretched the Friars’ lead to 16 and put an exclamation point on the outburst for Fenwick.
“I was out of breath in the middle of the first quarter – I didn’t realize how fast the pace would be,” Novak said. “We tried to condition and stay with them as best we could. We just ran out of gas in the fourth quarter. We were energized and thought we had them but they came back and showed that they really wanted it.”
The Vikings put themselves in position to win going into the fourth quarter after holding Fenwick to just nine points while overcoming a 40-32 halftime deficit.
Geneva went on a 15-5 run midway through the third quarter and eventually took the lead, 49-45, after a Madeline Dunn layup.
Everything fell apart at the start of the fourth quarter as Fenwick began getting steals off its press and began sinking 3s – something it had trouble doing for much of the game. In all, the Friars knocked down five 3s in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
“We knew we were coming into this game as underdogs but we would much rather be in that position,” Geneva senior post Sami Pawlak said. “We knew coming in that we were post-heavy and they were guard-heavy, so each team would have a mismatch. They weren’t making a lot of their 3s and we were getting a lot of the rebounds early.”
Pawlak was her usual busy self, scoring 16 points, only three of which came after halftime.
Novak helped carry Geneva in the second half, scoring 10 of her 16 points in the second half. Gordon pitched in 11 points for the Vikings.
Jade Owens led a balanced Fenwick offense with 16 points as 10 players scored.
Meadows said that Santos, a junior, should be ready to go for Friday’s key Upstate Eight Conference River Division game at league-leader Streamwood.