One of the best things about sports is its unpredictability.
I'm sure plenty of football fans felt that Seattle could win Super Bowl XLVIII on Sunday but how many people figured the Seahawks would win by 5 touchdowns -- and limit the normally high-scoring Denver Broncos to single digits (8)?
On the local level, a few more unpredictable things occurred last weekend, most notably in Batavia as the Bulldogs' girls basketball team suffered its first Upstate Eight Conference River Division defeat of the season.
Playing without senior leading scorer Amanda Hilton (sidelined with a knee injury), St. Charles East upset Batavia 53-48 last Saturday on the Bulldogs' home court.
Led by juniors Katie Claussner (22 points) and Kyra Washington (17 points, including five 3-pointers), the Saints (11-13, 5-6) put a damper on Batavia's Senior Night festivities while also leaving the conference title race a little tighter.
Heading into the final week of the conference season, Batavia (16-6, 8-1) owns a 1-game lead over 3-time defending UEC River champion Geneva (17-5, 7-2) with 3 games remaining.
Ironically, both Batavia and Geneva will decide the conference race away from home this week.
Batavia, which handed Geneva both of its conference losses, visits Elgin (Feb. 4), St. Charles North (Feb. 6) and Streamwood (Feb. 8) while the Vikings play at Larkin (Feb. 5), Elgin (Feb. 6) and St. Charles North (Feb. 8).
"It was a bump in the road for us," said Batavia coach Kevin Jensen of his team's first conference loss. "I told the girls that it's going to make our path a little bit harder but at the same time everything we've talked about (accomplishing) we can still do."
Jensen also realizes there is little wiggle room remaining.
"If there was any room for error, that is gone or it is very, very slim now," added the coach.
Jensen hopes the loss serves as a reminder to his team of just how fickle the 1-and-done nature of the postseason can be when regional tournament time begins in a couple weeks.
"I hope it's (the loss) a galvanizing thing and we come together," said Jensen.
"We won't have a lot of time to think about it because we play Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. That might be the best thing for us."
If the Bulldogs are going to capture the conference championship outright, they'll need to shoot better than they did against St. Charles East.
"We were 10-for-23 from the free-throw line and I had us 11-for-29 on our layups," said Jensen. "That's nearly 50 points we left out there on the floor."
While the pregame ceremony honoring Division 1-bound seniors Erin Bayram and Liza Fruendt was a fitting tribute to the only 2 girls who stuck with basketball from their eighth-grade team, Batavia can now focus solely on the games again.
"I think the emotional day might have gotten the best of several of us, including myself, which I regret," said Jensen.
"There are pretty good odds that we were all kind of on edge. You want to do well for everybody. Other than that, I think it was nice for the girls. They mean so much to our team, our program and to the school."
On the boys' side, it was a lost weekend of sorts for St. Charles East and St. Charles North in terms of their conference title hopes.
Prior to the weekend, both the Saints and North Stars trailed UEC River-leading Larkin (18-3) by 2 games.
St. Charles East (12-10, 6-4) now finds itself in fourth place following home losses to Larkin (64-55) and Geneva (67-49).
The Saints' anemic second-half offensive production (25 points) proved costly during last Thursday's setback at the hands of the defending conference champion Royals (18-3, 9-0).
"Unfortunately, we played ourselves out of a conference title," said Saints coach Patrick Woods, whose team scored just 14 more points in the combined losses (104) than it did last month in a win over St. Charles North (90 points).
"Now we're just going to try to get better and win as many games as we can here before the playoffs roll around."
The Saints were limited to 32 percent shooting from the field against a quick-on-their-feet Royals' defense.
"It's disappointing because I know we're a better team than we played," said Woods. "I don't know if it was the pressure or what. If you want to win championships though, you have to rebound and you have to play defense."
After being outrebounded 46-32 by Larkin, the Saints were destroyed on the boards -- 47-16 -- by Geneva.
It appears the Saints will also continue to live and die on the 3-point shot. When they're hitting their outside shots, they're a handful to deal with. When they're not, it's another story.
St. Charles North (12-7, 6-3) finds itself tied for second with Geneva in UEC River play following Saturday's 62-55 loss to Larkin.
North Stars coach Tom Poulin came away very impressed with the Royals' sweep through St. Charles.
"That says a lot about them," said Poulin. "That says a lot about their coaches to have them prepared because that's not easy to best both of us in three days. That tells you how good they are."
Trailing 34-20 at halftime, the North Stars fell behind by 18 points before eventually outscoring the Royals 35-28 in the second half.
Close, but no cigar.
"What we did in the second half was a little more like we would like to play," said Poulin. "We made the extra pass. We attacked. The second half, we did a much better job of being us. It will be good to have some success on film."
Outside of Larkin, the biggest weekend winner may have been Geneva (17-4, 6-3), which earned its first win in 6 years over St. Charles East.
Coach Phil Ralston's Vikings have won 9 of their last 10 games and battled Larkin to the wire before falling short 59-55 back in December.
The teams will meet again on Feb. 14 in Elgin.
The St. Charles teams may get another shot at Larkin but that will not come until next month's Class 4A regional tournament at St. Charles North.
"We're going to use the remainder of the year to get better and get prepared for regionals," said Woods. "We're resilient. I think we'll battle back."
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org
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