Geneva claimed its sixth consecutive conference championship Saturday night with a convincing 58-35 victory at St. Charles North, earning a title the Vikings didn't see coming just a couple weeks ago.
A streak that began with Geneva's 2008 state team continued in most unlikely fashion this year. The Vikings found themselves two games behind Batavia with four Upstate Eight Conference River Division games remaining after the Bulldogs completed a season sweep with a 75-68 win at Geneva on Jan. 17.
But while Geneva (20-5, 10-2) ran the table on its remaining River games, Batavia stumbled twice against St. Charles East and St. Charles North, leaving the Vikings with a golden opportunity Saturday night to share the title with the Bulldogs.
"The conference was put into our hands and we just had to grab it," Geneva junior Janie McCloughan said. "We definitely didn't think this would happen. It's definitely an accomplishment."
Geneva beat St. Charles North by 18 points in the first meeting, and the Vikings were up 18 points in the rematch early in the second quarter. McCloughan helped make sure the game was never in doubt, scoring the first two baskets on putbacks on her way to a 20-point first half on 10-of-14 shooting from the field.
The Vikings led 19-7 after one quarter and 40-13 at halftime to take any suspense about how the conference race would end. It was quite a contrast to earlier Saturday when Batavia rallied from a 9-point halftime deficit to squeak out a 46-45 win at Streamwood to earn its share at 10-2.
"I told the girls yesterday the opportunity has been handed to you and you have to take care of business, and they did a great job," Vikings coach Sarah Meadows said. "It's been handed to us and we'll take it. They (Batavia) are going to say they beat us twice and that's all right, they did, but we beat teams that beat them."
One of those being St. Charles North (13-12, 7-5), who was coming off a 53-49 win over Batavia on Thursday but was never close Saturday. Morgan Rosencrants, who scored 20 points against Batavia, had her lone bucket to trim the Vikings' lead to 8-5 midway through the first quarter.
Geneva outscored the North Stars 17-2 after that basket to lead 25-9. St. Charles North turned the ball over 15 times in the first half, and made just 12 of 37 shots from the field (32 percent) and 7 of 19 at the line (37 percent).
Both coaches had their starters out for all of the fourth quarter and a good portion of the third.
"I think we were emotionally exhausted after Thursday," North Stars coach Sean Masoncup said. "We haven't had that type of win here in a long time.
I think we were a little too complacent after Thursday. It's a process. We have to learn how to become winners. And when you win a game that's big you have to be able to refocus. Today we didn't shift our mentality into that next game."
Masoncup also was quick to credit Geneva. McCloughan was the only player on either team in double figures with 24 points. Twelve different Vikings scored.
"They are so big, long and athletic we just don't have the shooters Batavia has," Masoncup said. "Most other teams that zone us we can do some things with but they are just so long and athletic that it's tough. And Sarah does a great job with them. She had them fired up. They work has a team. Just a tough matchup for us."
While Batavia and Geneva both are awarded a share of the conference title, by virtue of their head-to-head sweep the Bulldogs will play in the Upstate Eight first-place crossover game against Valley champion Neuqua Valley next Friday. The Vikings host Bartlett Thursday in the second-place crossover.
That's just fine with the Vikings.
"I've had Morgan (Seberger) and Michaela (Loebel) for four years, Sid has been here four years," Meadows said. "They are just good kids. They just do the right thing. They are at practice doing the right thing, off the court they do the right thing. They are just good, solid kids, and work hard day in and day out. So I'm very happy for them."