BATAVIA – Seniors Erin Bayram and Liza Fruendt invoke the importance of hustle to their younger teammates throughout each Batavia girls basketball practice.
Friday’s Upstate Eight Conference River Division opener against Geneva proved no different, and the Bulldogs’ comprehension paved the way to a signature early-season win.
Bayram and Fruendt were sixth-graders the last time Batavia earned a victory in this series. By defeating Geneva, 59-51, Batavia relegated the 2007-08 regular-season finale to history, the answer to a trivia question.
“Down the stretch, I was just looking at all the players and saying, ‘Calm. Calm,’ ” Bayram said. “We all had calm faces on and we were just doing our best and playing our hardest, and we knew that the outcome would be what it’s supposed to.”
Geneva (4-2, 0-1 UEC River) might have kept its recent stranglehold on the rivalry if not for a series of cold spells from the floor. The Vikings shot 18 for 60 (30 percent) while converting just 9-of-26 free throws. Those struggles only increased the value of Fruendt’s game-high 31 points.
Batavia (4-1, 1-0) frustrated Geneva with quick perimeter defense, even from posts Bayram and sophomore Hannah Frazier. The Bulldogs really dug in from the second quarter on after switching from man-to-man to a 2-3 zone.
“We’re a long team. We just play 100 percent at all times, and I think that’s what makes us very good at ‘D,’ ” Bayram said.
Vikings coach Sarah Meadows didn’t disagree, but she still scratched her head, even as Morgan Seberger (13 points) and Abby Novak (11) finished in double figures.
Geneva, which led, 14-12, after the first quarter, experienced the opposite affliction Tuesday during an overtime victory at UEC crossover foe South Elgin. Geneva enjoyed offensive success when the Storm opened in a zone, but then froze upon seeing man-to-man later in the game.
“We’re not able to adapt to whatever the defense is that they’re giving us when they change it, so we’ve got to work on that,” Meadows said. “If I were another team, I’d switch defense every other play, then we’d be a wreck, honestly.”
Fruendt sparked Batavia from the start, scoring 21 of her points in the first half on 8-for-14 shooting – including 3 of 7 from long range.
“I just had trust, you know. This is what I know how to do,” Fruendt said. “How many years have I trained to be in a big game like this? How many shots have I put up to put in a game like this? So, you just have trust in yourself, and if you do, good things will happen.”
Sophomore Bethany Orman chipped in with 10 points and “grew up very, very fast” in coach Kevin Jensen’s assessment.
Orman’s 3 from the left wing midway through the fourth quarter gave Batavia a 48-44 lead, capping a 7-0 run in 1:06 that began with four points from Frazier. Later, her ballhandling and point defense after Fruendt fouled out with 1:53 left helped the Bulldogs hold on.
Fruendt leaned into the huddle before leaving the floor and finding a seat on the bench, sensing something special was on the brink. A four-year standout, she had been part of regular season losses to Geneva by 35, 25, 23, 23, four and 10 points.
Thus came the message: “Keep playing hard.”
“I can’t even begin to explain,” Fruendt said. “It’s all about our trust in our team right now. My team pulled it out for me at the end, and we did it as one. We did it as one the whole entire game. That’s what was going to win us the game, and that’s what won us the game.”
The rematch is set for Jan. 17 at Geneva.