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Batavia, Geneva aiming for sectional surprises
 

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Batavia, Geneva aiming for sectional surprises
 

Back on a cold November night in 2006, Batavia and Geneva met in the Class 6A football semifinals with a berth in the state championship game on the line.

It certainly was a memorable night -- not just for the Bulldogs' win and first trip to state but the size of the crowd and electric atmosphere at Burgess Field -- and now the school's two girls basketball programs are each a win away from perhaps the biggest game in the rivalry since.

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The Vikings and Bulldogs both enter Tuesday night's Class 4A Addison Trail sectional as underdogs based on their seeds, but both have reasons to believe they can pull off the upsets and set up a dream Batavia-Geneva matchup Thursday night with the sectional championship on the line.

The No. 5 seeded Vikings (23-5) open the sectional at 6 p.m. Thursday against a recent nemesis, No. 1 seed Wheaton Warrenville South (28-3).

No. 3 seed Batavia (20-9) follows Geneva to the court at 8 p.m. against No. 2 Downers Grove North (26-2).

Led by DePaul-bound Meghan Waldron, the Tigers have beat Geneva two straight years in the sectional semifinals -- 62-53 last season at 54-37 two years ago.

"Oh my gosh do we ever. Yes, we have some history with those guys," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "The last two years they've blown us out. ... It'll be a big night."

The Vikings enter the game red hot, winners of 11 straight and having just scored 75 points to beat Wheaton North on its home court Thursday and win a sixth straight regional championship.

Junior forward Janie McCloughan scored 20 points against the Falcons. She pointed to a 20-point first quarter and getting the lead as a key to the win.

"We kept stressing that we had to come out from the beginning and we did that and we were all so pumped and we kept feeding off of each other and it was awesome," McCloughan said. "It was an awesome first quarter. When we dig ourselves a hole it's all that much harder to win."

"The girls really stepped up and put a great game together," Meadows said. "We knew we had to have a good start right away."

Grace Loberg returned from an ankle injury to score 13 points and Michaela Loebel had 12 points as she continues to battle back from a knee injury.

Sidney Santos delivered a stat line Geneva fans have become used to -- 9 points, 5 assists, 4 steals, 2 blocked shots -- while drawing unprompted praise from Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton.

"I told Sidney Santos after the game, I've been around -- I'm 34 now -- I've been around basketball about 30 years and she probably is the smartest basketball player I've seen play," Eaton said. "She's the real deal. I watch her direct traffic out there, calling offenses, putting kids in a spot where she sees the weakness. She's a tough matchup. She's tough, she's strong, she can shoot it, she can post you up. And I think what really plays to her game is her intelligence. She's smarter than a lot of people in the game."

Eaton has as good of perspective as any on the Geneva-WW South matchup having played the Tigers twice in DuPage Valley Conference play.

WW South held Bartlett to 20 points in Friday's regional championship game. They led 39-10 after three quarters.

"Geneva has so many options," Eaton said. "I thought our kids played about as well as we could. We got them into foul trouble, and there's a couple of things that we could've executed maybe a little bit better defensively with pinching the post. But they make you do things you really can't cover. They're a great team and they've got so many options, so they're going to make a nice push. It'll be interesting to see how they do against Wheaton South. That'll be a great game."

Batavia vs. Downers North: Having just defeated Willowbrook to win its first regional championship in 24 years, the Bulldogs get a look at their second straight team from the West Suburban Conference.

Sophomore Hannah Frazier had 22 points and 14 rebounds against Willowbrook and said after getting that elusive regional championship, Batavia is looking forward to seeing how long it can keep its season going.

"We're looking to go pretty far," Frazier said. "Let's just play ball. We have a lot of confidence from this game. I feel now we can do anything and we can beat anybody."

Batavia's odds of doing that certainly improve with Frazier playing like she did Thursday.

"That's what we knew she could do," Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. "She's a big-time player. She's an outstanding athlete. She sure looked like a Division I player tonight.

"As a coach I have to tell myself she might look like she's 19 or 20 years old with her size and her physique, she's built pretty well, but she's a sophomore, she's going to go through sophomore struggles like anyone else. But she was a big-time player tonight."

Oak Lawn and Hinsdale Central are the only two teams to beat Downers Grove North.

Batavia lost more than that in the final three weeks of the regular season to St. Charles East, St. Charles North and Neuqua Valley.

"We've worked so hard all season, and when we went through that lull when we lost to East and North, there's so many things ahead that's going to be great," senior Liza Fruendt said. "We said we were going to get there by working hard and that's what we did."

"I think we just had faith in the process," Jensen said. "Keep practicing hard. We never changed anything. We just kept trying to do all the right things. In the grand scheme of things teams have good games and bad games. Even in losses we didn't have too many bad games. I didn't feel like it was time to panic."

Fruendt scored 34 and 24 points in Batavia's two regional wins last week and enters the sectional closing in 1,900 career points.

While the Trojans bring the better record into the sectional, Batavia hopes the quality of opponents it has played pays dividends.

"I think we've accomplished one of our main goals that we weren't positive we were going to get and now that we got it we can seize the moment," Fruendt said.

However this week goes, it has been a season filled with some impressive milestones -- a 20-win season, a regional championship, a conference co-championship and two wins over Geneva.

Jensen wants to build on the success, get more young Batavia kids excited about girls basketball and have a run like Geneva is on with six straight regional championships.

"The hope is we can turn this over and keep it going," Jensen said. "We had our Bulldog Buddy Club, elementary school kids, and one of the kids told (senior) Erin (Bayram) that she is supposed to write about her hero, and I wrote about you. I told Erin, ‘She's watching you like you are a WNBA star.' That's hopefully what we build. Those girls are dreaming about putting on this jersey and wearing these numbers. Some girl in grade school wants to wear Liza's number, wear Hannah's number, wear Erin's number."

Orrin Schwarz contributed to this story.

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