The third year of the Upstate Eight Conference's girls basketball crossover matchups takes place the next two nights, with the River teams hosting the Valley this season.
This is the first year Geneva hasn't played in the first-place crossover game. That matchup, Neuqua Valley (12-0 in the UEC Valley) at Batavia (10-2 in the UEC River), is the only one that will be played Friday, and the all-conference team will be presented.
Geneva tied Batavia with a 10-2 River record but the Bulldogs' 2-0 head-to-head record gave them the nod for the first-place game, a rematch of Neuqua Valley's 71-57 win at the Montini Christmas tournament.
The complete list of matchups, with all of these games played Thursday night, are, second: Bartlett (9-3) at Geneva (10-2); third: South Elgin (9-3) at St. Charles North (7-5); fourth: Metea Valley (5-7) at Streamwood (6-6); fifth: Waubonsie Valley (4-8) at St. Charles East (6-6); sixth: West Chicago (2-10) at Larkin (2-10); and seventh: East Aurora (1-11) at Elgin (1-11).
Postseason time: The crossovers give teams a final tune-up before next week's regional play.
St. Charles North takes a No. 9 seed into a matchup against No. 8 Bartlett at the Class 4A Glenbard East regional, with No. 1 seed Wheaton Warrenville South likely awaiting the winner.
That was a matchup North Stars coach Sean Masconcup wanted to avoid.
"I was disappointed," Masconcup said. "I thought we were better than a nine. But I get it. I am still confident we can make a dent in the postseason. The only team I didn't want to see was Wheaton Warrenville South, them and Geneva. I think it's a lot about reputation when it comes to seeding.
"This is our rebuilding year. Next year and the year after are our years to make some waves around here, and I think we will. I'm returning everybody. Not one senior plays a ton."
Geneva will go for its sixth straight regional championship, trying to win one for the first time in that stretch as the underdog based on the seeds. The Vikings are seeded No. 5 headed to the Wheaton North regional where the host Falcons are No. 4.
"I thought we would be four or five and we'd be at Batavia or Wheaton North," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "I hope we see Wheaton North in the championship. They are scrappy, he's got those kids playing hard. It should be a good game."
The top area seed in the Class 4A Addison Trail sectional went to Batavia at No. 3, behind No. 1 WW South and No. 2 Downers Grove North. The Bulldogs get to play on their home court as regional host.
St. Charles East also is in the Batavia regional with the 11 seed. If the Saints can knock off No. 6 Willowbrook, they could get a chance to repeat their recent 53-48 win at Batavia.
Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said his team needs to battle harder than it did in losses to St. Charles East and St. Charles North.
"I think we have to learn to have a little more fight with our loose balls and rebounds," Jensen said. "It's been that way the last couple games. I see somebody else race in for a rebound and we're stuck in the mud just a little bit."
Defensive stopper: St. Charles North guard Ashling Davern earned praise from both coaches following last week's win over Batavia.
Davern face-guarded Batavia star Liza Fruendt wherever she went. Fruendt still scored 17 and 20 points in the Bulldogs' two games with Batavia, off her season average of 25 points a game.
"Ashling Davern is just playing lights-out defense," Masconcup said. "In my opinion she's the best defender in the conference."
"That girl has done a very nice job both games," Jensen said.
Davern's teammates were also impressed.
"She's in her face and it's the best defense you could possibly play against Liza," North Stars sophomore Morgan Rosencrants said.
Tough to officiate: At the start of the season one of the main storylines was how the officials would call the game. Would the whistles continue to blow every time there's contact?
"You could probably have called a foul every time she (Fruendt) touched it," Jensen said following the St. Charles North game. "I know they can't but as fast as she is I don't know how you keep up with her if you are not having hands on her. She's got to get through that. I'm not worried about that. But when she gets bumped she's so athletic it doesn't look like she got bumped. A bump, contact, she doesn't fall down and it's not a foul I guess."
Geneva's glue: For the second straight year Geneva senior Sidney Santos leads the area in assists. Her teammates know if they get open Santos is going to find them.
Janie McCloughan scored 20 of her 24 points in the first half Saturday night at St. Charles North and was quick to credit Santos.
"We have a ton of amazing passers especially Sidney Santos," McCloughan said. "She's always so good at finding the open man."
Meadows knows how much her team struggles when Santos isn't on the court.
"She's honestly the glue," Meadows said. "If she's not there we fall apart. It's like a puzzle that's not glued together the pieces just crumble. She fills that role perfectly. We don't need her to score 10, 15 points. It would be nice but we don't need her to do that. She holds everyone together."
Masoncup said he's just glad Santos is a senior -- and that after 18- and 23-point losses Geneva is off the schedule.
"She's a great player and she's pretty humble for as good as she is," Masconcup said. "It's dang near impossible to try to game plan against that type of player.
"They are all good. That Janie girl is one of the fastest, hardest workers I've seen. We like to pride ourselves on being the hardest working team in the gym and she outworked us."