Geneva looked at Saturday's trip to the 24th annual McDonald's Shootout at Willowbrook High School as a chance for a signature win, and an opportunity to quickly put Friday's loss to Batavia behind them.
Playing the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A, St. Thomas from Champaign, the Vikings had their shot. They fought back from a 9-0 deficit to start the game to lead 44-40 going to the fourth quarter.
It didn't last. A pair of technical fouls on a Geneva assistant coach early in the fourth quarter, then a 14-4 run by St. Thomas to end the game were the differences in the Sabres' 65-57 victory.
"We were hoping we were going to get this game as a statement game," Geneva senior Morgan Seberger said. "It stinks we worked so hard and can't finish."
St. Thomas (19-2), the runner-up in Class 2A last year, features 6-foot-4 Tori McCoy, who was introduced as the No. 1 sophomore in the country.
She didn't disappoint, finishing with 25 points, 14 rebounds and 4 blocked shots, completing quite the back-to-back challenges for the Vikings after Batavia's Liza Fruendt scored 51 points against them Friday.
However, Geneva's 6-2 freshman Grace Loberg didn't back down with 8 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocked shots.
"That was fun to watch those two go at it," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "I thought Grace handled herself very well against her. I felt there were some fouls that could have been called that weren't, and probably on the other side too, but they choose when they let us bang and they choose when they don't. It's so inconsistent. It's frustrating for the kids."
Geneva (12-5) fell behind 13-2 as St. Thomas repeatedly broke through the Vikings' press for layups. Meadows took the press off, and Geneva got back into the game. A Seberger 3-pointer and her assist to Janie McCloughan brought the Vikings within 18-14 after one quarter.
McCoy got into a little early foul trouble, including one of two charges taken by Sidney Santos, but still had 16 points, 11 rebounds and 3 blocked shots by halftime as St. Thomas led 35-26.
The Vikings rallied in the third quarter. Abby Novak got the Vikings going with a baseline jumper. Seberger swished a 3 and scored on 3-point play to pull Geneva even at 38-38, one of 8 ties.
McCloughan drove for a basket on the next possession to go up 40-38, one of 8 lead changes.
"We just hit shots and looked for the open girl," Seberger said. "We passed it better. When we got a wide-open shot we nailed the shot. It stinks going into the fourth quarter we were up and couldn't finish."
Moments after Santos was whistled for her fourth foul early in the fourth quarter and McCoy blocked a shot on the other end, a Geneva assistant coach was called for 2 technical fouls. Randa Harshbarger made 3 of 4 free throws, turning a 44-42 Geneva lead into a 45-44 deficit.
The Vikings regained the lead twice at 47-45 on McCloughan's 3-point play, and again at 53-51 on a pair of Loberg free throws with 3:23 left on McCoy's fourth foul.
From there, Geneva made just one more shot, by McCloughan, while the Sabres scored 14 points. Geneva also turned the ball over 5 times in the final quarter.
"With our foul trouble unfortunately I had to take a more passive defensive approach in the third quarter," St. Thomas coach Chris Menning said. "I committed to as long as we weren't down 10 I was going to keep our man-to-man for the fourth quarter knowing they struggled with that at the beginning of the game. I had a lot of faith in my kids. It was good to to see the kids respond in a right situation."
St. Thomas, who has also played 4A schools Neuqua Valley (win), Fenwick (win) and Young (loss), got 16 points from Liz Bristow and 13 from Harbarger.
Seberger followed up 18 points Friday with 21 more including four 3-pointers and 5-of-6 at the line.
"I thought Morgan played a great game," Meadows said. "It's been tough the last two days. I feel like we're right there in this game. We played a fantastic third quarter. I wish we could have played that way the entire game."
McCloughan added 13 points and 6 rebounds and Novak scored 10 points.
"We really thought it would be a big win for us," Meadows said. "We didn't feel like we were expected to win this game even though they are 2A and we are 4A. We thought it would be a big 'W' for us. We were fighting hard."