ADDISON – Geneva senior guard Michaela Loebel climbed to the top of the ladder positioned under the far basket in Addison Trail’s gym Thursday night.
Braced knee and all, she stood near the top for some posterity poses as the rest of her girls basketball teammates hollered.
The Vikings were moments removed from easing past Batavia, 48-24, for the Class 4A Addison Trail Sectional final, and here was arguably their biggest concern finally surfacing.
“Really wobbly,” Loebel said. “That’s where I was like, ‘Whoa.’ ”
Geneva (26-5) cut down the nets shortly after accepting their plaque for downing the Bulldogs (21-10), who swept the season series. Both teams shared the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title, and, for a time, jaws dropped in amazement.
“I guess it is a huge surprise factor, because they have amazing players,” Vikings senior point guard Sidney Santos said. “But we worked our butts off. We came in, we believed in each other and that proved it out on the court. So that’s all I can say.”
Winners of 13 straight, Geneva is bound for Monday’s Judson Supersectional against Rockford Boylan (27-4) thanks in large part to its defense against Bulldogs senior point guard Liza Fruendt, the UEC River Player of the Year.
After striking for a school-record 51 points in the team’s game in Geneva last month, Fruendt was limited to 10 Thursday.
Loebel, a Nebraska soccer recruit accustomed to conditioning, shadowed Fruendt for much of the first half. Sidelined for much of the past two seasons with knee injuries and only recently returned to the rotation, she shared defensive duties with Taylor Williams and Bella Medina.
Her physical therapist – “ATI, man,” Loebel said – and the growing, teamwide vibe were at the top of Loebel’s list of people or things to thank.
“Oh yeah. Our whole team, adrenaline,” she said. “Everyone on the bench and just the fans, we run on that. The cheering. The atmosphere. So everyone’s great.”
Geneva capitalized on the size of its frontcourt – including Grace Loberg (6-foot-2), Abby Novak (6-0) and Janie McCloughan (5-10) – even as both teams struggled from the field. Geneav shot 15 for 51. Batavia was 8 for 31.
“I think there has to be a perfect storm of things that a team has and can do to shut down Liza and take away our post players,” Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen said. “And they have.”
Geneva led, 16-11, at halftime and 32-17 after three quarters. While Batavia finished 0 for 10 from 3-point range, Vikings defenders further frustrated the Bulldogs by sealing up driving lanes.
The Vikings alternated man-to-man and zone defenses depending on possessions. They even used lots of the boys team’s 1-3 chase, which coaches helped players learn during Wednesday’s practice.
“The plan was to faceguard [Fruendt] and not let her get the ball, and we all had to help over on everyone else and make the rest of the team prove that they could beat us,” Santos said.
Loberg, a freshman called up after Loebel’s injury, had 13 points and 11 rebounds. McCloughan (12) and Morgan Seberger (11) also finished in double figures. Seberger hit two 3s after halftime to help Geneva pull away.
Only four Bulldogs scored. Hannah Frazier (eight points) followed Fruendt, who scored five points in a Thanksgiving tournament game earlier this season, Jensen said.
Admitting he didn’t have a full scope of the program’s record books, Jensen offered the season as one of Batavia’s best. The Bulldogs accomplished a number of team goals – including 20 wins and the program’s first regional title since 1990.
“I don’t want to disrespect any other team that’s come through Batavia,” Jensen said. “But I, quite frankly, told the girls that at this point, what we’ve done, we’re at least in the conversation of the best team that Batavia’s had.”
Five seasons ago, Geneva lost just twice and finished fourth in 4A. Several marquee players contended with injuries in the interim, but now the Vikings are just one win away from a return to state.
“Without a doubt,” Santos said. “We’ve had the Geneva curse since I was a freshman, and we deserve this. We worked so hard to get here.”