Ladies and gentlemen, get out your pencils and paper as I try to dissect the logjam that is the Upstate Eight Conference River Division girls and boys basketball standings.
Make you sure you have an eraser as well.
With 2 weeks of the regular season remaining, the UEC River girls basketball race is up for grabs.
While Streamwood (16-4) sits in the driver's seat with a 7-1 conference record, 3 other teams -- St. Charles East (7-2), Geneva (6-2), and Batavia (5-3) are hoping to find the eject button on the Sabres' dashboard panel.
Some of the madness should be settled by the end of the weekend.
In fact, tonight's game between Streamwood and St. Charles East (12-10 overall) might help sort out a few things.
If the Sabres, led by the 3-pronged attack of 6-foot junior center Hannah McGlone, 5-7 senior guard Deja Moore, and Chicago State-bound 5-9 senior guard-forward Jessica Cerda, atone for their lone UEC River loss (61-50 to St. Charles East on Dec. 11 in Streamwood), they'll extend their lead over the Saints to 2 games.
However, if the Saints can knock off the Sabres, they'll move into a first-place tie with Streamwood and Geneva in the loss column with home games remaining against Batavia (Saturday) and Elgin (Feb. 2).
The matchup I'm most interested in watching tonight features Saints junior guard Amanda Hilton, coming off her career-high, 33-point effort against Geneva last Friday, against the Sabres' ultra-quick Moore.
Geneva (12-9 overall) will be an interested observer in what takes place tonight at St. Charles East.
Paced by Nebraska-Omaha-bound senior forward Sami Pawlak and 6-1 junior Sidney Santos, who has moved to the point guard position with the loss of Michaela Loebel to an ACL injury, the Vikings will prepare for Friday night's showdown at Streamwood with a nonconference battle at Fenwick Wednesday.
Geneva has gone 5-5 in its latest 10-game stretch that began with a 53-45 loss to Streamwood (Dec. 12) and concluded with Saturday's 68-58 setback at the hands of Romeoville at the McDonald's Shootout.
"We've got to show up and play games -- we can't just show up and be content," said Vikings coach Sarah Meadows. "It's gut-check time for a lot of these kids. We've got a huge week coming up."
Another player Meadows knows she can count on for leadership is 5-9 senior forward Kelly Gordon, who had 14 points and 10 rebounds against Romeoville.
"Kelly's a workhorse," said Meadows. "She's not a dominant player. She's not going to take over a game but she's going to do every little, small thing that is really hard work."
A win over Streamwood would put the Vikings in good position, considering the combined conference record of their final 3 opponents is 5-22.
Although Batavia (14-8 overall) needs some help in its conference title chase, it could play the role of spoiler with road games left against St. Charles East and Streamwood (Feb. 2).
Led by junior guard Liza Fruendt, who recently surpassed the 1,000-point mark, the Bulldogs handed the Saints their worst loss of the season, 74-49, earlier this month.
Boys race: On the boys' side, the UEC River race got even tighter following Geneva's 61-56 road win over Larkin (16-3) Saturday night.
With 1 month remaining, 5 of the 7 UEC River teams remain in title contention: Larkin (6-2), Geneva (5-2), St. Charles East (4-2), St. Charles North (4-3), and Batavia (3-4).
Coach Jim Nazos' Bulldogs likely need to run the table and win their last 5 conference games, beginning with Thursday's home clash against the first-place Royals. Batavia (9-8) has suffered a pair of losses to Larkin (16-3), the last coming (57-43) in the semifinals of last month's Elgin Holiday Tournament.
Fresh from last Friday's emotional 56-55 victory over cross-town rival St. Charles North, St. Charles East (11-7) also faces a tough test with 6 conference games left, including a pair of back-to-backs against Streamwood/Geneva (Thursday/Friday), and Streamwood/Batavia (Feb. 8-9).
The Saints may have lost the services of Purdue-bound Kendall Stephens to season-ending shoulder surgery, but they're plenty dangerous with the likes of junior guard Dom Adduci and emerging sophomore point guard Cole Gentry.
Despite last weekend's heartbreaking loss, St. Charles North (10-7) still controls its own destiny in the UEC River with upcoming games against Larkin (Saturday), Batavia (Feb. 1), St. Charles East (Feb. 2), and Geneva (Feb. 15).
Fueled by up-and-coming sophomore standout Nate Navigato, Geneva faces important back-to-back games against Elgin (Thursday) and St. Charles East (Friday) before a final 3-game stretch that includes home contests with Larkin (Feb. 8) and St. Charles North (Feb. 15).
Larkin, meanwhile, has just 4 conference games remaining and has already swept the season series from St. Charles East. Coach Deryn Carter's Royals will finish conference play on Feb. 8 and then keep an eye out for the scores during the final week of the regular season.
Kudos to Q: It's time to give a special shout out to St. Charles North senior guard Quinten Payne for his handling of last weekend's disappointing 1-point overtime loss to St. Charles East.
Payne, who led the North Stars with 26 points, missed a pair of free throws with four-tenths of a second remaining in the extra session but stood and fielded every question asked by reporters following the game.
"There's nothing we can do about it now," said Payne. "When we play them the next time, I'll bury the free throws.
"What's great about basketball is that there's always another game," he added. "It wasn't the end of my career. Nothing bad happened -- they just didn't fall."
As far as North Stars coach Tom Poulin was concerned, Payne was the right guy for the moment.
"You wouldn't have wanted anybody else on the foul line," said Poulin, "not just tonight but the next time."
Awesome atmosphere: It may have been "Camouflage Night" last weekend at St. Charles East but the Saints' student section went far from hidden.
After Saints coach Patrick Woods burned his final timeout, St. Charles North's Payne stepped to the free-throw line with less than a second remaining and the game hanging in the balance -- while the Saints' side of the bleachers raised the decibel level to near-deafening status.
"It was electric out there," said Adduci, who scored a game-high 27 points and hit the game-winning 3-pointer with 24 seconds left in overtime.
"I didn't even hear the horn go off at the end of regulation or the first overtime," said Woods.
The cross-town rivals will meet for the third time on Feb. 2 at St. Charles North -- with a possible fourth meeting looming in the South Elgin Class 4A regional tournament.
"That was a great game," Poulin said of his team's 56-55 loss. "I'm sure that was a blast to watch. You want to come out on the other end and we really feel like we should have had the game in regulation. We had multiple chances and so did they. That's why it was such a good ballgame.
"We get them again in February and it's probably going to be just like that -- down to the last possession," added Poulin.
You can reach Craig Brueske at email@example.com.
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