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The Streamwood girls basketball team usually likes it when an opponent plays a zone defense.
But Friday night was not a night the Sabres would hit the like button.
Geneva, which played a man-to-man defense against Streamwood in a 53-45 loss to the Sabres on Dec. 12, came out in a 2-3 zone Friday at Streamwood and challenged the Sabres to knock down outside shots.
Geneva overcame two starters fouling out and a 3-for-11 free throw performance in the fourth quarter to hold off the Sabres, 54-43, in an Upstate Eight Conference River Division game. The win brought the Vikings (13-10, 7-2) back into a virtual tie for the River lead with the Sabres (17-5, 8-2). The Vikings still have River games with Larkin today, then Elgin and St. Charles North next week while Streamwood plays Larkin and Batavia next week.
"We played them man the first time and we had no energy," said Geneva coach Sarah Meadows. "We stressed in practice this week that this is it, if we want to win the conference we had to win this game."
"When you play a zone like that if we hit a few shots it doesn't look so good," said Streamwood coach George Rosner, whose team is vying for the program's first conference title since 1987-88. "We usually like it when teams play zones against us."
Vikes' senior Sami Pawlak couldn't have agreed with her coach more about the urgency of this game.
"We really needed this game," said Pawlak, who had 14 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists before fouling out midway through the fourth quarter. "We knew the last time something was off about us. We knew we could have played better."
Geneva may not be able to play much better than it did in the first quarter Friday. The Vikings hit on 9 of 17 shots, only turned the ball over once and limited Streamwood to 4 of 12 shooting with 5 turnovers in taking a 21-9 lead after one quarter. Geneva extended its advantage to 35-19 by halftime, shooting 15 of 28 in the first 16 minutes and only turning the ball over four times.
"I think Sidney Santos being at the point guard made that difference," said Meadows. "The first time we played (Streamwood) it was only her second or third game back."
Streamwood turned up the screws on defense in the second half, holding the Vikings to 19 points, but most of the Sabres' offensive possessions took 30-45 seconds and their shooting didn't improve, thus cutting into the Geneva lead became a challenge.
"(Geneva) really came out and played outstanding basketball," said Sabres' coach George Rosner. "They had a great first quarter and we were bad. We let them get way too far ahead. Out shots didn't fall and we had unforced turnovers. It was a mess."
Trailing 45-30 entering the fourth quarter, Streamwood mounted a comeback of sorts, and Rosner felt when his team got to within 8, 51-43, with 2:07 to play that it still had a chance.
"I thought when we cut it to eight we still had a shot," he said. "But our possessions took too long, especially a couple of key ones down the stretch. We were trying to get it inside to Hannah (McGlone) and work inside-out and we just didn't do it."
With the 8-point lead, Geneva was able to work the clock, and the Sabres didn't score again in the final 2:07. Senior Kelly Gordon, who had two key baskets early in the quarter, made a free throw with 1:41 left and junior Morgan Seberger sealed the win with 2 free throws with 12 seconds to play.
"Morgan stepped up big at the end and KG was huge at the end," said Meadows, who added that Gordon (8 points, 8 rebounds) missed the first game against Streamwood with an illness.
Santos and sophomore Abby Novak (6 rebounds) added 10 points each for the Vikings, who finished the night shooting 22 of 46 and outrebounded Streamwood 40-25.
"Abby Novak came into her own, really," Meadows said.
Senior Jessica Cerda had 4 3-pointers and scored 14 points to lead the Sabres, while McGlone had 12 points, 4 steals and 3 blocks.