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Geneva girls basketball struggles down stretch at McDonald's Shootout

VILLA PARK – Geneva girls basketball players exited a Willowbrook conference room Saturday after assessing a second draining defeat in less than 24 hours.

The latest loss came at the hands of Champaign St. Thomas More at the McDonald's Shootout, a 65-57 game that ultimately led the Vikings to make like More, a man of instrospection.

The Vikings had a few lingering thoughts of allowing 51 points to Batavia's Liza Fruendt in a home loss to the Bulldogs the night before as they took the court. Now that the trying stretch was over, Geneva still could feel good about having a pulse on what needed fixing.

"We still have heart in this game. We just need to focus more down the stretch of the game," senior guard Morgan Seberger said. "Just have ourselves get together as a team and have not just one player help us finish a game. We need all of us as a team to finish."

Geneva (14-6) boasted four double-figure scorers against Batavia, but still lost by seven. On Saturday, Seberger (21), Janie McCloughan (13) and Abby Novak (10) pulled double duty only to see the efforts of another opposing star add up again.

Geneva fell behind, 9-0, in the first 1:34 and trailed, 13-2, moments later as the Sabers' Tori McCoy – a 6-foot-4 post announced as the No. 1 sophomore in the country during pregame introductions – heated up.

McCoy finished with a game-high 25 points, 17 rebounds and five blocks. In the end, her greatest worth to the Vikings figures to be the on-the-job training she provided Geneva freshman center Grace Loberg, a recent varsity call-up who has developed quickly.

"Oh, I think Grace's potential is huge," Vikings coach Sarah Meadows said. "We've got to get her a little stronger and we've got to get her to want to push. The Tori girl is physical and Grace can get there. She's just not used to it quite yet. So if we can get her to push and elbow a little bit. I mean, she's go good with her body and she's so long and has such great body control."

Geneva's bench could have benefited from similar restraint down the stretch. A double technical and ejection of a Vikings assistant with 7:10 to play began to turn the tide after Geneva coaches took exception to a non-call in the paint.

St. Thomas More (19-2) swished three of the four ensuing free throws to take a 45-44 lead. Geneva's last lead came at 53-51 on two Loberg free throws with 3:32 to go, but the Sabers closed the game on a 14-4 run.

Liz Bristow (16 points) and Randa Harshbarger (13) also finished in double figures for the Sabers, a Class 2A power that defeated Neuqua Valley and Fenwick earlier this season.

"Basically, almost any nonconference I can get, I'm going [3A] or [4A]," St. Thomas More coach Chris Menning said. "It's been great. Everybody's been awesome up here in allowing us to come up and be a part of it. So hopefully we'll be able to continue to do that."

Geneva kept McCoy off the scoreboard in outscoring the Sabers, 18-5, in the third quarter. While the Vikings were unable to keep the momentum and their 44-40 lead entering the final quarter, it was something to feel upbeat about.

"To be honest, I think we just hit shots and we looked for the open girl. Overall, I think we passed it better, we got a wide open shot, we nailed the shot," Seberger said. "It was good that we got an 18-5 [run] in the third quarter, but it [stinks] that in the fourth quarter we were up and we just couldn't finish."

Fremd 55, Burlington Central 35: Central, a 3A supersectional qualifier last season, was unable to keep pace with traditional 4A power Fremd, which led by 12 points at halftime and 21 after three quarters.

Aly DeTamble led the Rockets with 11 points.

"I'm glad we got invited here," Rockets coach Mark Smith said. "I'm proud of our effort."

Central (15-4) was coming off Friday's 35-34 home win against Rockford Christian that kept the team unbeaten in the Big Northern Conference East. Each of BC's losses have come against Class 4A schools.

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