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Batavia coach Kevin Jensen had some good-natured advice for his counterpart Sarah Meadows at Geneva before a memorable night of action tipped off Tuesday at the Class 4A Addison Trail girls basketball sectional.
“I told her not to lose her voice tonight because I didn’t want her quiet on Thursday,” Jensen said.
Suffice it to say, Meadows won’t be quiet Thursday night — nor will the hundreds of fans from Batavia and Geneva who will be packing the Addison Trail gym for one of the biggest games ever played in any sport between the neighbors and longtime rivals.
No. 5 seed Geneva (25-5) will put its 13-game winning streak on the line against No. 3 Batavia (21-9) at 7 p.m. Thursday after the two teams knocked off the top-two seeds Tuesday in a pair of hard-fought, last-second wins.
“I had no idea it would happen like this but I’m excited,” Batavia senior guard Liza Fruendt said. “I’m sure they are playing really good right now, and I think we are playing really good right now. It’s going to be a fun game and I’m sure this gym is going to be insane.”
Batavia adjusted the time of its boys basketball game Thursday night to give those players — nobody has been cheering harder for the girls team than Micah Coffey — and fans a chance to get to Addison.
Geneva’s fans have shown up in droves for years to support its girls basketball team.
“This is so much fun,” Jensen said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to coach a couple times in a sectional, play in a sectional, it’s a different feeling even to me more so than regional from the regular season. The sectional, it’s just a different feeling. It’s so much fun. I’m glad we are still going. Our motivation has been another day together.”
The winner advances to the Class 4A Judson supersectional Monday against either Huntley (27-3) or Rockford Boylan (26-4). Huntley defeated both Geneva and Batavia at the Montini Christmas Tournament.
In some ways it’s a matchup of David vs. Goliath — only Goliath isn’t the Batavia team that swept this year’s season series.
Geneva is trying to win its fourth sectional championship in the last six years.
Batavia will be playing in its first sectional title game.
“It’s unbelievable,” Geneva senior Morgan Seberger said. “Just to get the win (over No. 1 seed WW South) as a senior, me Sidney (Santos) and Michaela (Loebel) have been talking about it since we were freshmen, going downstate. We have two more games. We just look at it that we keep getting better each game.”
Geneva has been doing just that, not losing since St. Thomas More from Champaign defeated the Vikings on Jan. 18 at the McDonald’s Shootout.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our team because we did it together,” Santos said. “Our fan section is by far the best. We couldn’t have done it without everyone here tonight.
“We’ve got to take it each game at a time. Each game is a huge game. Every team we play is going to want it so badly so we have to step up.”
That third Geneva senior — Loebel — continues to give her team a huge lift after returning from a knee injury Jan. 31.
After scoring 12 points in the regional championship win over Wheaton North, Loebel hit a key 3 early in the fourth quarter and drove for another much-needed basket a few minutes later while playing aggressive defense against the Tigers’ best players.
“She has full confidence in herself, we have full confidence in her and it’s so amazing to be playing right now with her on the road to state,” Santos said.
Meadows had considered putting Loebel in the starting lineup Tuesday with Abby Novak sick.
“She said she didn’t want to, she wanted to be the kid that comes off the bench,” Meadows said. “There’s so many kids who want to start and the lights on me, she’s not like that. She’s going to do whatever we need for us to win games. The timing, we really needed that 3.
“She’s our spark right now. She loves being in that position and that’s exactly what she brings.”
With Loebel back in the rotation, Geneva will match up against Batavia for the first time with all its weapons on the court. Loebel missed the second meeting and Grace Loberg was still playing JV the first game.
The Vikings certainly look imposing with that full group, needing contributions from all in their 55-54 win over a Wheaton Warrenville South team that had beat them the past two sectionals.
“I called a timeout specifically. I said this has happened two years in a row, you’ve got three minutes to decide if it’s going to happen again and they responded,” said Meadows.
Shortly after that pep talk from Meadows, Loberg made a shot she might be able to do again if she tried 1,000 times. She wrestled away the ball from Tigers star Meghan Waldron and the ball popped out and up, floating up toward the rim and falling through the hoop for a 54-51 lead.
“It looked like I kind of contributed to that going in,” Waldron said.
“She just said she just threw it up,” Meadows said. “She comes back after the timeout and says ‘How did that go in?’ I have to see that on film, I have no idea how that went in.”
When a shot like that drops, maybe it just feels like it is your year. But the Bulldogs also have reason to think that in their season full of firsts.
Batavia’s two wins against Geneva — 59-51 and 75-68 — were its first in six years over the Vikings. Fruendt scored 31 points in the first meeting and then a school-record 51 in the second.
That 51-point game brought even more attention to a senior season that has seen Fruendt pass Katy Issel as the school’s all-time leading scorer and also pass her brother Nick to take second place for any player, boy or girl. She has scored 30 or more points in eight of 29 games and at least 20 points in 25 of the 29 games while averaging 25.2.
Jensen wants to make sure Fruendt doesn’t feel like she has to do too much Thursday.
“They (Geneva) are so darn big,” Jensen said. “It’s just a matter of can we play well like we did before. Liza doesn’t have to feel like she has to go off. If we can just get those points somehow, it doesn’t have to be from her, it can be distributed any way, play pretty good defense, limit the damage they can do on ‘O.’ We’ll see what we can do.”
Frazier also is averaging in double figures including 22- and 21-point games in her last two.
The sophomore post scored the game-winning basket Tuesday against Downers Grove North by following her own miss for a three-point play with 14 seconds left.
“She has grown up a lot the last week,” Jensen said. “She’s been big for us.”
Frazier and Boston University-bound Erin Bayram will need to be at the top of their games going against Geneva’s mix of athletic, tall and talented players like Loberg, Janie McCloughan, Santos and Novak.
“They are a tough team battling with inside but Erin and I try to hold our own and hope for the best,” Frazier said. “It’s cool to make history. We just want to keep winning to stay together. It is about advancing but it’s also about not ending this season.”
That’s something Batavia and Geneva can agree on — as much fun and as many thrills as the teams have provided their fans this year, nobody wants to see their season end Thursday.