ST. CHARLES – The Geneva girls basketball team is used to winning. The Vikings had captured five straight conference championships and were gift-wrapped an opportunity at a sixth after conference-leading Batavia was upset by St. Charles North on Thursday night.
With North on a high after the big win over Batavia, Saturday night's contest figured to be a competitive game, but Geneva used its superior size and quickness to blitz the host North Stars, 58-35. The win gives the Vikings a share of the Upstate Eight Conference River crown with Batavia, which downed Streamwood on Saturday to close the conference season.
A huge first half from Janie McCloughan helped Geneva race to a 40-13 lead at the break as the Vikings (19-5, 10-2 UEC River) easily coasted to the win. The junior forward scored 20 of her game-high 24 points in the opening half and sat out most of the second half for the Vikings.
“When we make good passes we always seem to get layups, and that’s something we definitely emphasize,” McCloughan said. “We needed this win to boost our confidence; it was a good game to go into the postseason for us.”
McCloughan said she never had scored 20 points in a half before, but was given the opportunity by the Vikings’ propensity to break North’s press. At one point in the second quarter, McCloughan scored four straight points – all on point-blank lay-ups – that helped the Vikings race out to a 33-9 lead with 3:45 to go.
The last layup came on a play in which the ball only touched the floor twice, with McCloughan taking a feed from Sidney Santos and banking the ball off the glass for two. The personal 8-0 run forced a timeout and earned Geneva a standing ovation from the Vikings’ faithful.
Despite only scoring four points on the night, Santos dictated play on both ends of the floor, running the point for the Vikings offensively while playing on the low block defensively. With a height advantage over North’s guards, Santos often made flat-footed, overhand, back-door passes that gave Geneva easy lay-ins.
“The last time we played against her (Santos) we did a pretty good job against her but she’s pretty humble as good as she is and I think that’s a testament of who she is as a person and their program,” North coach Sean Masoncup said. “I think it’s dang-near impossible to game-plan for that type of player. She’s just a really good player.”
Any chance of North (13-12, 7-5 UEC River) chipping away at Geneva’s lead went away early in the second half as the Vikings scored the first six points of the half while forcing three straight North Stars turnovers. After McCloughan scored her last basket of the night with 3:46 to go to give Geneva a 47-18 lead, Vikings coach Sarah Meadows began plucking her starters off the floor.
The Vikings shared for the UEC River title despite losing both games against Batavia, which had control of the conference but dropped late-season games to St. Charles East and North.
“This has been handed to us and we’ll take it. I just told the girls yesterday that the opportunity has been handed to you and to take care of business,” Meadows said. “I’ve had most of these kids for four years but they are just good kids and do the right things. On the court in practice doing the right thing and just good, solid kids – I’m really happy for them.”
North was coming off a high with one of its bigger wins in recent memory after upsetting Batavia on Thursday, but no player scored in double-figures in the loss. Nichole Davidson, who scored 24 points in the last meeting between the two schools, was held to eight points on the night.
“They are just so big, long and athletic we just don’t have the shooters that they do and Sarah does a great job with them,” Masoncup said. “I think we were a little too complacent after Thursday. When you win a game that’s big, you have to learn to re-focus. We didn’t shift that quality into the next game.”