LOMBARD – Different players stepped up at different times for the Geneva girls basketball team Friday to help the Vikings claim a 58-45 victory over South Elgin in the Montini Christmas Tournament.
Early on, Geneva turned to 6-foot-2 freshman Grace Loberg, who has become a major force in the middle for the Vikings since being called up from the sophomore squad two weeks ago. She scored 12 of Geneva’s first 14 points in the first quarter as the Vikings (10-3) jumped out to a five-point lead, benefiting from interior passing by Sidney Santos and Abby Novak.
“We knew we had to attack and get in to the basket,” Loberg said. “Sidney passes the ball amazing every time, so it makes my job five times easier.”
Loberg finished with 19 points, seven rebounds and seven blocked shots. She had led the team in scoring in each of her five games on varsity.
“She’s so much stronger than I originally gave her credit for,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “There’s three kids on her and she’s still ripping that ball out and being able to finish.”
Junior guard Kate Rogers hit a 3-pointer late in the first quarter to put Geneva up, 21-12, but the Storm (8-6) closed the gap to 23-19 midway through the second quarter. That’s when Santos stepped up, converting an old-fashioned 3-point play on a baseline drive and hitting a pair of free throws to push the lead back to nine. She scored six of her 10 points in the second quarter as the Vikings took a 34-25 lead into the half.
Loberg hit a short jumper in the paint to give Geneva a 44-27 lead in the third quarter, but South Elgin scored the next six points to cut the deficit to 11. It was then Morgan Seberger’s turn to shine. The senior guard hit a 3 from the left wing at the end of the quarter, then was fouled on a drive to the bucket at the start of the fourth. She hit the ensuing free throw to restore the 17-point lead.
Those were the only six points Seberger scored, in part because she was the focus of the Storm’s defensive game plan.
“We were going to try and box-and-one Seberger and not let her get any shots off,” South Elgin coach Tim Prendergast said. “But they were doing a good job of getting the ball into the middle. Then we had to go man and there were a lot of mismatches out there.”
Geneva junior forward Janie McCloughan made her presence felt in the fourth quarter, scoring four points and grabbing three rebounds in a span of two minutes as the Vikings pushed the lead to 20. McCloughan finished with nine points and seven rebounds while Novak ended with 10 points and five boards.
It was a more convincing victory than the first time the two teams played this season, when the Storm took the Vikings to overtime before losing at South Elgin.
“We’ve gotten so much better in the half-court offense,” Meadows said. “We were throwing the ball all over the place the first time we played them. And we did a different defense. We tried to play them in man last time. We played a 1-2-2 [this time].”
The victory sends Geneva into today’s 1:15 p.m. consolation bracket championship against Zion-Benton.
Neuqua Valley 71, Batavia 57: Elsewhere in consolation play, Neuqua Valley pulled away from Batavia late in another Upstate Eight Conference crossover match-up.
In their predominantly yellow uniforms with dark navy numerals, the quicker Wildcats resembled buzzing bees, harassing the Bulldogs into 29 turnovers and drawing frequent fouls. Neuqua Valley (12-4) made 29 of 32 free throws (91 percent).
It was a tight, back-and-forth game early. Erin Bayram (15 points, 10 rebounds) scored on an offensive rebound to put the Bulldogs up early, 14-10. That was their largest lead of the game. Their last came on a put-back by freshman Mackenzie Foster 1:50 before halftime.
The Wildcats led by three at the half and maintained a slim lead throughout the third quarter. Liza Fruendt (19 points) scored from beyond the arc with seven minutes to play to cut Batavia’s deficit to 55-51, but the Bulldogs (11-4) could get no closer.
Sophomore Hannah Frazier had another solid game for the Bulldogs in the low post, scoring 15 points and securing 12 rebounds. Jensen said Batavia did a good job much of the game reversing the ball and getting it inside for easy shots.
“Again, same thing as last night [against Trinity], there’s just not a lot of room for error,” he said. “I told the girls, I like where we’re at. I don’t want to give the same speech two nights in a row, but we’re playing really good teams.”
Senior Malia Smith led a balanced Neuqua Valley attack with 15 points. The speedy 5-8 guard also nabbed six rebounds.