Emotions run high for every player when Senior Night arrives, and you can take those emotions and multiply them by about a hundred for Geneva's Michaela Loebel and Sidney Santos.
Santos and Loebel have played a combined seven seasons of varsity basketball for the Vikings, yet have been on the court less than half that time dealing with one devastating knee injury after another.
Loebel, who missed nearly her entire junior season with an ACL, came back to the lineup this year only to again go down with a knee injury. She hasn't played since Dec. 13 against St. Charles East.
Leaving a hole in their lineup without their point guard, Loebel missed 13 straight games until returning to the court Friday night for her Senior Night against Streamwood.
She was one of eight Geneva seniors who enjoyed a 57-38 victory, though the score could have been 3-2 and not taken away the thrill for Loebel to be back in uniform and on her court one more time.
"It was amazing, that's really all I can say," Loebel said. "I had a smile on my face probably the whole time I was in."
Loebel assisted on the first basket of the game to Madeline Dunn. Geneva coach Sarah Meadows quickly pulled Loebel, keeping her on the court for no more than 90 seconds at a time throughout the game.
Loebel, a Nebraska soccer commit, returned late in the first quarter. Geneva tried to free Loebel for a 3-pointer, hoping she could put her name back in the scorebook just like Erin Kozlow did last year with a 3-point basket in her first game back from an ACL injury.
Loebel's 3-pointer didn't drop, but seconds later she was doing what she does best, stealing the ball from Streamwood and going the other way for a left-handed layup.
Only that was a bit of a no-no for Loebel, still far less than 100 percent.
"I wasn't supposed to go in for the layup," Loebel said. "Let's just say I shot with my eyes closed on that."
Loebel, who didn't take another shot, came to the bench after the quarter to hugs, high-fives, pats on the back and smiles from all her teammates.
"We were all terrified," Santos said. "She had a Streamwood player charging at her. But she made the layup. It was awesome. She wanted to play tonight and she did a fantastic job."
Santos has written her own comeback story, missing her first two years at Geneva with ACL injuries, then spending most of the last two playing out of position at point guard to help stabilize the Vikings without Loebel.
So it was no surprise Santos was again setting up her teammates again Friday, finding them for 7 assists while adding 6 rebounds, 2 steals and a block.
"It was emotional because I absolutely love my teammates more than anything," Santos said. "I couldn't have asked for a more perfect Senior Night. The atmosphere, our fans, the way everybody played, it was perfect."
Meadows started Loebel, Santos, three-year starter Morgan Seberger and seniors Bella Medina and Dunn, and she quickly subbed in three more seniors Mary Burke, Amelia Grady and Anna Finch.
Streamwood (10-11, 5-5) led 5-2 with 3:32 left in the first quarter when Meadows put her regular starting lineup in, and by midway through the second quarter that group had blitzed the Sabres with a 22-2 run to turn the 5-2 deficit into a 24-7 lead.
The Vikings led comfortably the rest of the way, 32-14 at halftime and 48-24 after three quarters. Meadows continued to give her seniors most of the playing time, and the biggest cheers of the night came on Loebel's layup, and when Burke drained a baseline jumper, Finch sank a free throw and Grady connected on a jumper in the lane.
"I don't even know how to describe it," Loebel said. "It was perfect. We have so many seniors and yet we got everybody in and everybody played great. The fan support was incredible. The best Senior Night we could ever imagine."
Santos concurred, with Loebel's return making the night even better.
"I haven't played with her really since eighth grade," Santos said. "Being able to play with her one last time on my Senior Night was the toping on the cake. It was absolutely phenomenal."
Eleven players scored for Geneva (17-5, 7-2), led by Grace Loeberg with 18 points, Janie McCloughan's 13 and Dunn with 8.
Streamwood made just 9 of 41 shots from the field. The Sabres, who had 10 players score and made 16 of 18 free throws, were led by Kiana Jeremiah with 8 points.
"We weren't aggressive enough," Streamwood coach George Rosner said. "When you miss as many shots as we did in the first half you have to get more offensive rebounds. That first half we shot and it was one and done. They were determined she (leading scorer Hannah McGlone, 4 points) was not going to get the ball down low. We were just struggling."