Despite being outsized, St. Charles North came into Geneva aiming to play big against the Vikings, who were looking to clinch the Upstate Eight Conference River Division title.
And for 24 of 32 minutes, they hung with the Vikings in a very physical game. But in the third quarter, Geneva outscored the North Stars 19-9 and that proved to be the difference in Geneva's 62-55 win.
With the victory, combined with Batavia's 65-40 win over Streamwood, the Vikings (16-10, 10-2) clinched the UEC title outright.
The North Stars took a 27-26 lead going into halftime thanks to their ability to force turnovers and Alex Silverman's 10 first-half points. But the Vikings responded in the third quarter by switching on defense from a 2-3 zone to man and they held the North Stars (8-17, 4-8) without a field goal until Silverman's layup with 1:15 remaining.
"We came out in a press and that made them play a faster than they wanted to. That helped us gain a little momentum," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows explained.
The Stars continued to battle, sinking four straight free throws to pull within 33-31 with four minutes left in the third. But then the Vikings scored the next 10 points over their following five possessions, including four points apiece from Sami Pawlak and Sidney Santos.
"We were mentally very strong in the first half, we just let them go on a run," St. Charles North coach Colleen Backer said. "And when you're facing an 8 to 10-point deficit, it's hard to come back."
The North Stars trimmed the lead down to 54-48 with three minutes left before Ellen Dwyer's baseline jumper sealed it.
Nicole Davidson paced the North Stars' offense in the second half, when she scored 11 of her team-high 17 points. Silverman scored 10 of the North Stars' first 15 points and finished the game with 15.
For the Vikings, Santos finished with a game-high 18 points and Sami Pawlak added 14. Morgan Seberger finished with 13, including a pair of 3-pointers.
Santos is especially proud of her team's resilience after losing two early UEC games and coming back to win the conference.
"I am just so happy for our team," Santos said. "We dug ourselves a huge hole early and we came back. We picked ourselves up."
The North Stars play at Burlington Central on Tuesday night and then at East Aurora Thursday in the fifth-place UEC crossover game.
The Vikings will play in the Upstate Eight Conference crossover championship game at Neuqua Valley on Friday night.