The season hasn't hit the halfway point yet, yet the Geneva girls basketball team already has suffered enough close losses to last a year -- and then some.
The latest came Friday night at Naperville North against a 12-1 DeKalb team. Sami Pawlak scored in the closing seconds of regulation to force overtime, then helped the Vikings to a 3-point lead midway through the extra session.
It wasn't enough. DeKalb tied the game at the free-throw line, then a pullup jumper in the lane by Rachel Torres with 36 seconds to go gave the Barbs the lead for good in their 53-51 victory.
Geneva (8-6) concludes pool play at the Benet/Naperville North Invitational Saturday night back at Naperville North against the host Huskies.
The Vikings' loss Friday was their second in overtime. DeKalb joins Crete-Monee, Montini, St. Charles East and Streamwood as defeats that could have gone the other way, with coach Sarah Meadows saying the team's energy level was "1,000 times better" than the Wednesday loss to Streamwood.
"We had so much more heart, this one was a fun game to play in," said Pawlak, who had both coaches using the same word -- beast -- to describe her play after a relentless 19-point, 21-rebound effort.
"We played really strong. We just need to finish. I don't think it was anything we did wrong, it was just not enough. We just need that one little spark at the end to put us over the edge."
DeKalb (12-1), whose only loss came to Whitney Young, started a freshman, two sophomores and a junior and only used six players. The Barbs finished the game with all five starters on the court with four fouls -- but nobody disqualified -- in a game the teams combined for 50 free-throw attempts.
"We dealt with a lot of foul trouble," DeKalb coach Chris Davenport said. "We're not real deep. I thought we fought through it and made the adjustments.
"We toughened up a little bit tonight. Mental toughness at times is one of our issues. We have some young kids on the floor. I thought we got a lot tougher at the end of the game."
The game was tight from the first quarter on. DeKalb's 8-0 run early in the second quarter opened up the biggest lead for either team at 18-11, but the Vikings responded with the next 11 points capped by one of Morgan Seberger's three 3-point baskets and led 25-21 at halftime.
The Vikings turned the ball over on their first two possessions of the third quarter -- they had 21 turnovers in the game including three especially costly ones in overtime -- as DeKalb quickly tied the game and eventually regained a 7-point lead at 39-32.
Again Geneva battled back, pulling within 39-37 going to the fourth quarter on a pair of free throws by Abby Novak and another Seberger 3.
A steal and layup from DeKalb freshman Brittney Patrick put the Barbs up 45-39 with 6:30 left in the game. The Barbs did not score again in regulation, missing 6 straight free throws at one point.
Geneva pulled within 45-43 on four free throws from Madeline Dunn and Pawlak, then both teams went into a dry spell that saw nobody score for over a five-minute stretch.
"We just couldn't get off that number," Meadows said.
Geneva finally did just in time to force overtime when Santos penetrated, the defense collapsed on her, and she dished one of her 5 assists to a cutting Pawlak who scored with 14 seconds left making it 45-45. DeKalb's chance at a game-winner on a drive into heavy traffic in the lane didn't come close.
Pawlak assisted Novak on a basket off the opening tip in overtime to quickly put the Vikings up 47-45, and Geneva still led 51-50 on a Novak free throw with 56.7 seconds to go.
After Torres put the Barbs up 52-51, Geneva had two chances to regain the lead but missed a shot on its first try, then turned the ball over on its second in the final seconds.
The Vikings hit 16 of their first 19 free throws in the game then faltered late hitting just 2 of their final 8 to finish 18 for 27.
"Maybe some fatigue," Meadows said. "It's probably more in the mind. I don't want to say that's why we lost the game. If we hit those do we win? Probably, but there's three other quarters before that. But those are big free throws, absolutely."
In addition to Pawlak's 19 points and 21 rebounds, Novak scored 15 points, Seberger 13 and Kelly Gordon returned from walking pneumonia earlier than expected to chip in 4 rebounds as Geneva outrebounded DeKalb 40-30.
"Number 31 (Pawlak) is a beast," Davenport said. "That kid is strong and threw us around."
Meadows also praised Novak, 8 inches taller than the Barbs' Patrick, for staying with DeKalb's lightning quick point guard.
Torres led DeKalb with 18 points and Madelyne Johnson scored 13.