STREAMWOOD – Aiming to disperse the postgame crowd from the gym foyer Friday, a Streamwood High School employee barked, “Move along folks! This isn’t Occupy Streamwood!”
If the Geneva girls basketball team hadn’t left moments earlier, it could have voiced a convincing argument to the contrary.
The Vikings moved into position for a possible tie for the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title by harnessing their speed and depth in a 54-43 victory. With top scorers Sami Pawlak and Sidney Santos on the bench after fouling out in the fourth quarter, reserves such as Ellen Dwyer, Madeline Dunn and Bella Medina provided poise in their stead down the stretch.
“Ellen and Bella and Madeline – all of them – they have so much heart,” Pawlak said. “I trust them on the court completely, just as much as anybody else. The tension was obviously getting a little heated, but they saved us.”
Pawlak (14 points) and Santos (10) stockpiled enough early points to put the Vikings (13-10, 7-2 UEC River) in strong position.
Geneva used its quickness to burst to a 17-4 lead just 4:39 into the game. The Vikings efficiently moved the ball past the Sabres (18-5, 8-2) and consistently hit layups and mid-range jumpers, finishing 15 for 26 from the floor in the first half.
In the first quarter, Abby Novak flashed open under the basket on most possessions. In the second, Pawlak and Santos frequently had plenty of space to create around the free-throw line, but usually stayed put to hit shots from just inside the paint.
Why was the middle so open?
“I don’t know,” Pawlak grinned, “but I’m grateful it was. We spread things out more and started moving the ball more quickly and were playing more together, which really helped.”
Geneva led, 35-19, at the break, when Streamwood coach George Rosner quickly called for “88,” Streamwood’s full-court press.
The move nearly turned the game, as the Sabres moved for the season sweep after winning in Geneva in mid-December.
The Sabres kept swarming the 6-foot Santos, now the team’s primary ballhandler after Michaela Loebel’s season-ending ACL tear in November. A few moments after Santos fouled out with 6:01 to play, Streamwood’s Kimberly Jimenez swooped in for a steal and brought her team to within 47-39.
“We’re not going to give up. We’re not going to quit,” Rosner said. “If we play that kind of defense earlier, we win the game.”
It only took one lapse for Geneva to climb back ahead by double digits. After the Jimenez basket, senior forward Kelly Gordon raced up the floor for a layup. The bench erupted for “KG,” who missed the first Streamwood game with walking pneumonia.
Later, Gordon shrugged about the play, along with her eight points and six rebounds, saying, “It’s my job to bring the energy to the court.”
Novak and Morgan Seberger (10 points apiece) followed suit, making it easier for Geneva’s reserves to respond in the closing minutes.
“It’s a hard position to be in,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “I mean, this was a fun atmosphere to play in, so it was good to see some of those young kids composed and finish the game.”
Streamwood got double-digit scoring from Jessica Cerda (14 points) and Hannah McGlone (12), whose late eruption kept the Sabres afloat. McGlone scored 10 points in the final 6:26.
The Sabres remain in the hunt for the program’s first outright conference title – the 1987-88 team tied for the crown – but will need outside help as the Vikings try for their own tie.
Entering the season, Geneva had just one conference loss since the beginning of 2008-09. Larkin, Elgin and St. Charles North – a combined 5-23 in the River – remain on the schedule.
“I think it’s a good comeback for us,” Gordon said. “We dug ourselves a little bit of a hole early in the season, and especially with Michaela out, I think our heads all were in the wrong place. But we’re starting to pull together, and there’s more to come.”