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Loberg emerging as breakout star at Geneva
 

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Loberg emerging as breakout star at Geneva
  • Grace Loberg

    Grace Loberg

 

When senior Morgan Seberger scored 16 points in Geneva's victory over Zion-Benton last Saturday to win the consolation title at the Montini Christmas Tournament, it snapped an impressive -- and quite rare -- streak by Grace Loberg.

Loberg, Geneva's 6-foot-2 freshman center, had 13 points in the win -- the first time in her six games since getting called up from the Vikings' JV team that she didn't lead the team in scoring.

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Geneva is 5-1 since adding Loberg to the lineup and 11-3 overall. She started with 15 points against Streamwood in her varsity debut and followed with 22 points against Larkin in two Upstate Eight Conference River wins.

Geneva then traveled the Montini tournament and a step up in competition with a loss to Huntley, but Loberg again led the way with a double-double, 14 points and 10 rebounds.

The Vikings won their final three games at the tournament, and Loberg played three more strong games. She had 17 points 11 rebounds and 4 blocked shots against St. Joseph, then had 19 points, 8 rebounds and 8 blocked shots against South Elgin before her 13 points, 11 rebounds and 3 steals against Zion-Benton.

Suffice it to say, there isn't a coach in the state who wouldn't like to be able to bring up a player from the JV and make even a small impact in varsity rotation -- let alone a starter and then a starter who immediately becomes the team's leading scorer.

"To be our leading scorer, she has done a phenomenal job, more than we could ask for," Geneva senior Sidney Santos said. "The things she does for our team is unbelievable."

Loberg is in the middle of one of the best freshman seasons any Geneva athlete has enjoyed. In the fall she helped the school win its first volleyball sectional championship.

She said after volleyball ended she had a two-day break before starting basketball practice, which was one of the reasons Geneva coach Sarah Meadows and her staff wanted to let Loberg start with the JV team. Loberg also jumped back into club volleyball with Fusion South, and is currently at volleyball practice three nights a week in addition to her high school basketball season.

"It's busy but I like to be busy," Loberg said. "It's hard to keep up with homework. I learn to manage my time well."

Loberg said there isn't a question she hears more than what sport she likes better between volleyball and basketball. (For the record, Loberg said: "I like them both equally. It's hard to chose.")

While looking every bit like a future high Division I college volleyball player, Loberg said she is enjoying playing basketball in high school. Perhaps she will follow the path of another two-sport star at Geneva who just finished up a record-setting college volleyball career at Michigan State, Lauren Wicinski.

"They (my basketball teammates) are awesome and I love Meadows," said Loberg, who played Lady Lightning club basketball last summer but isn't sure if she will again.

Loberg has been impressive on both ends of the court. On defense she has quickly become a presence, blocking shots both near the basket while also reaching out to swat longer jump shots that most players would not be able to get to.

"I am trying to stay as tall as I can," Loberg said. "I'm tall and I have long arms so I try to use that to my advantage."

Offensively, Loberg has quickly developed a chemistry with Santos, whose excellent court vision and passing skills are proving to be a great match when finding Loberg for high-percentage shots near the basket.

Meadows only expects that to improve.

"They are working well and we haven't even got to practice together," Meadows said. "Once we get some more practices in and everybody has been playing together more, hopefully it will come together even more."

Loberg credited her teammates with making her move up to varsity easier.

"The (varsity) game is definitely a lot faster and you have to be a lot tougher," Loberg said. "The team is helping me get in the flow of the game so much better."

On the mend: Loberg's first game with Geneva coincided with a knee injury that sidelined senior Michaela Loebel.

Loebel was in street clothes for the entire Montini Tournament, and Meadows isn't sure when her point guard might be back.

"We're taking our time with her," Meadows said. "We're just kind of waiting. I think it feels better but some of it comes with the mental game too. Just being cautious. She's on hold. She's going to get some other doctors' opinions and go from there. We're going to take our time and see what the doctors say. We don't know."

Having played all but four games of last year without Loebel, Geneva at least has the experience of knowing what it is like.

That sure doesn't make it easier without Loebel's quickness, defense, passing, penetrating and scoring.

"She and Sid (Santos) are the glue for the team," Meadows said. "It took us awhile to get in a grove when she left (last year). First game against Neuqua Valley, we couldn't get it across half court. We've been there but it's still getting kids to switch roles. Sidney's role has totally changed again. Abby (Novak) is now out (at guard). It takes awhile to click and we are. But next week when we get some practices in it will help for sure."

Team player: St. Charles East (7-8) and St. Charles North (8-9) both went 2-2 at their respective tournaments at Wheaton North and Dundee-Crown.

After Kyra Washington scored 3 points in a loss to Lyons to open the tournament, Saints coach Lori Drumtra said the junior could score more if she looked for her shot.

Washington came back with 11 points, 14 points and 16 points in the final three games of the tournament.

"She's a smart player," Drumtra said. "She passes well, she's incredibly unselfish. I wish she was a little more selfish sometimes. Because I do think she could score. I told her, 'Kyra, there's very few players who can stop you.' She gets the rebounds, she's happy with the assists, she's a great teammate."

Finally, some rest: After playing four games at Oswego and four more the following week at Montini -- almost all against top-flight competition -- there wasn't a team around more ready for a break than Batavia.

Coach Kevin Jensen gave his team five straight days off following a loss to Huntley in the seventh-place game last Saturday.

"We want them to get away, recover, rest, clear their head and not think about basketball and then we'll get back after it on the (Jan.) 3rd," Jensen said.

While Batavia (11-5) went 1-3 at Montini, the Bulldogs still saw a lot of good things. Their losses came by 2 points to Trinity and then Neuqua Valley and Huntley.

Neuqua Valley, for example, beat Batavia by 30 points last year. This year it was a 4-point game late until the fourth quarter when free throws pushed the final margin to 14.

"Step forward," Jensen said. "We made some huge steps. We'll still have some growing pains here and there but we did a lot of greatly good things. Our youngsters are stepping up."

"Now I have something to go back to practice and say, "This is why we have to do X, Y, Z this fast. This is why we can't slow down when we do some of our up and down the court drills. We have to learn how to finish fast. The speed level is the biggest thing. With all due respect to all the other teams in our league, there's nobody that can match that. There's talented teams but no one can match that. The idea is hopefully that makes us better."

One of those Batavia youngsters is freshman Mackenzie Foster, who often is the first player off the bench and quickly brings energy to the court.

"Her athleticism is through the roof," Jensen said. "She has that aggressive gene. I've been real pleased with her effort out there. She's still learning the game Xs and Os wise. What's a good shot and what's not a good shot. But when in doubt she's going toward the rim. She's been guarding people's best players or second-best players and doing a pretty good job."

The countdown continues: Batavia senior Liza Fruendt averaged 22.8 points a game at Montini after scoring 27 a game at Oswego. That brings her season total to 384 points in 16 games, an even 24 points per game.

Fruendt has scored 1,539 points in her Batavia career, just 54 points behind Katie Issel's 1,593 for the school's all-time record. Fruendt could set the record in upcoming games against St. Charles East or Geneva.

"This is what should be happening for her in her senior year," Jensen said. "She's worked so hard. I am proud of her and (senior) Erin (Bayram). This year could have gone differently with two seniors and a bunch of sophomores around it. And they have basically pulled those girls in and said you are in our family and we are going to do this together and we've had a blast so far. Forget about the record. We have fun every day. That's been huge for us."

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