Geneva's girls basketball team appears to be peaking at the right time.
The Vikings (21-5) extended their winning streak to 9 heading into postseason play next week with a 56-45 victory over Bartlett (16-11) in Thursday's Upstate Eight Conference crossover contest between the second-place finishers from the River and Valley Divisions, respectively.
Freshman Grace Loberg turned in another superb all-around performance as she finished with 24 points, 14 rebounds, 7 blocked shots and 3 steals for the Vikings.
"Grace is playing well for us," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said of her team's 6-2 center. "The hands she has -- I don't know how sometimes she catches what she catches. She's able to jump, catch, land and go back up -- and she's 14 years old."
Loberg scored 5 of her 10 second-quarter points during a 38-second stretch to close out the first half, as the Vikings turned a 24-23 lead into a 29-23 halftime advantage.
Playing at the top in Geneva's diamond-and-1 press, Loberg used her long reach to her advantage while disrupting the Hawks' offensive game plan.
"Just when you think they were going to have a wide-open layup, our kids are able to reach up there with their length and knock it (the ball) out of bounds," said Meadows, whose team forced 17 first-half turnovers.
"We've talked about our inconsistencies throughout the season and it has been a goal to improve on that," said Bartlett coach Denise Sarna. "Geneva is a very good team. I think they make a lot of people turn the ball over."
Led by senior guard Ally Giampapa (team-high 19 points, 4 steals), the Hawks stayed within striking distance for 3-plus quarters.
The fourth of Giampapa's five 3-pointers and a baseline jumper from Shelley Lyjack closed the gap to 36-30 midway through the third quarter.
Geneva answered with a 6-0 run of its own, fueled by Loberg's fast-break layup off a long, picture-perfect pass from Morgan Seberger and Madeline Dunn's putback from her own miss that extended the lead to 42-32 after 3 quarters.
"Madeline did a great job on the boards," Meadows said of Dunn's 9 rebounds. "I really think kids have bought into what we expect out of them and what we want. Madeline is a good example of that. She's just a hard worker. She was diving on the floor and crashing the boards."
Bartlett cut the deficit to 42-34 on a layup by Liz Arco (10 points, 11 rebounds) on the Hawks' opening possession of the fourth quarter but the Vikings salted the game away with a 7-0 surge that included layups from Janie McCloughan (9 points) and Loberg and Seberger's 3-pointer.
Seberger added 13 points, 5 steals and 4 rebounds in her final home game.
"It's crazy -- I've been here all four years playing under (Coach) Meadows," said Seberger. "It's unbelievable to step one last time on the home court and pull out a great win."
Fellow senior guard Sidney Santos finished with 4 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals.
"That's totally Sidney," Meadows said of her unselfish play. "She wants a ‘W' and will do anything she can to get it."
Ashley Johnson added 9 points for the Hawks, who open Class 4A regional tournament action against St. Charles North Wednesday at Glenbard East.
"We made some mistakes tonight but we recovered and hung in there," said Sarna. "We continue to talk about how rebounding is so important, and what a better team to go against than a strong rebounding team like Geneva."