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Geneva girls basketball’s far-reaching press paves way to win

GENEVA – Geneva girls basketball players and coaches uttered “so long” enough times Friday night that one might have drawn an unpleasant air without proper context.

No, the Vikings weren’t obnoxiously wishing anyone goodbye after hosting St. Charles North in Upstate Eight Conference River Division play. “So long” simply served as the Vikings’ most common self-description.

Being “so long” allowed Geneva to irritate North with its 1-2-2 diamond press, the ultimate gateway to a 61-43 victory in which the Vikings led by as many as 30 points.

“Our team is long, so we just have to try to get as many touches on the ball as we can and use that to our advantage to get steals and make points,” Geneva freshman post Grace Loberg said.

Continuing with the length theme, North (8-10, 2-3 UEC River) met for an extended period of time in the visitors’ locker room after committing 29 turnovers and struggling to build on its momentum from a split in the recent Dundee-Crown Charger Classic.

Then again, the return of 6-foot-2 senior center Liz McNally – initially thought to be out for the season with spinal nerve damage – quickly turned coach Sean Masoncup’s postgame demeanor. Her size should attract attention in the paint and help junior forward Nichole Davidson (game-high 24 points) operate in more space on the perimeter.

McNally, who played limited minutes Friday as she rebuilds her stamina, was cleared for partial duty last week and for full basketball activity two days ago. Her spine is not fully healed.

“She’s just basically toughing it out, because it can’t get worse,” Masoncup said. “It’s her senior year, and she’s like, ‘You know what, I’m going to do it.’ ”

The injury news isn’t as optimistic for Geneva (12-3, 4-1). Senior point guard Michaela Loebel, out with knee discomfort since late December, recently began physical therapy and will be re-evaluated in six weeks, a timetable coach Sarah Meadows admits “could be” season-threatening for a player who missed most of 2012-13 with a torn ACL.

Still, Geneva planned proactively for any Loebel absence – extended or not – by immediately promoting Loberg, a 6-2 force who starred at outside hitter during the volleyball team’s breakthrough run to a sectional title in the fall.

Loberg quickly emerged as a scoring threat as she helped Geneva through holiday tournament play, and the extra practices since only have boosted her comfort level.

“Absolutely. We’re jelling really great. She’s such a good athlete that she just got it so soon,” said Vikings junior forward Janie McCloughan, who scored a team-high 21 points. “I don’t know anyone else who could adjust as quickly as she did to the pace of varsity, and she’s doing just great.”

Loberg added nine rebounds, and joined Morgan Seberger with 15 points. Seberger helped diversify the Vikings’ otherwise transition-heavy attack with three 3s. Her 3-pointer with 1:51 remaining in the third quarter gave Geneva a 51-21 lead.

Ashling Davern added nine points for North, which has a week off before its conference road trip continues with visits to Streamwood and St. Charles East next weekend.

“We’re going to be all right, OK, once we get everything going. And we’re fine,” Masoncup said. “But today was a nice learning experience. It actually was a good thing. We needed it. We had a nice long talk and we’ll go from there.” 

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