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Sometimes a coach's greatest attribute is patience.
Due to an assortment of injuries and other variables, Geneva girls basketball coach Sarah Meadows has seemingly waited all year to put a complete roster full of players on the floor.
Judging from the Vikings' 48-24 Class 4A sectional championship victory over Batavia Thursday night at Addison Trail, that patience definitely has paid off.
Freshman center Grace Loberg, who began the season on the junior varsity team, scored 13 points and grabbed 11 rebounds, while Janie McCloughan and Morgan Seberger added 12 and 11 points, respectively, as the Vikings won their 13th consecutive game and captured their fourth sectional title in 6 years.
Geneva also received huge contributions from seniors Sidney Santos (6 points, 5 assists, 4 rebounds), Michaela Loebel (2 points, 4 steals) and junior Abby Novak (4 points, 6 rebounds).
The Vikings (25-5), who will take on Rockford Boylan (27-4) in Monday's supersectional at Judson University, may not be operating at 100 percent just yet but it is a big improvement from where they were during their 2 regular-season losses to the Bulldogs.
"Everybody is back," said Meadows. "The kids who are hurt are the kids playing. Sidney's knee is so swollen right now but she's playing through it. Michaela coming back -- she's playing through it. Abby has been sick for the last four days -- she's playing through it.
"It just shows their character and their heart," added the coach.
Loebel, sidelined with a knee injury for nearly 2 months, energized a suffocating team defensive effort against the Bulldogs (21-10).
The Vikings' focal point was Batavia senior guard Liza Fruendt, who had torched them with 82 points in their 2 previous regular-season meetings.
Fruendt, who had to work hard just to get the ball, finished with a team-high 10 points.
"I think that's what happens when you beat them twice," said Fruendt. "They had a full squad tonight and they had won 13 in a row."
"We doubled every ball screen for her," said Meadows. "We jumped it right away to get the ball out of her hands and we had great help on the back side."
"The plan was to face-guard her and not let her get the ball," said Santos. "We all had to help and make the rest of the team prove that they could beat us."
Relying on athleticism, length and superior depth, Geneva limited the Bulldogs to 25 percent shooting from the field (8 of 32) and held them without a 3-point basket (0 of 11).
"It was totally different from our last two meetings," said Seberger, who drained a pair of 3-pointers during the Vikings' 16-6 third-quarter surge. "We keyed more on Liza and that was really the biggest person we needed to worry about. She scored 51 points on us last time and we knew she was not getting that again."
It didn't look like the Upstate Eight Conference River Division rivals would combine for 51 points for a while Thursday night.
Geneva, which led 6-4 after 1 quarter, carried a 16-11 advantage into the locker room at halftime despite anemic shooting of its own (18 percent -- 6 of 33 from the field).
"We looked at our shots and we were getting what we wanted -- we just weren't making them," said Meadows. "I was much calmer knowing we were solid defensively. I knew the offense would come and it did."
After the Bulldogs closed the gap to 18-13 on a pair of free throws from Bethany Orman (5 points, 7 rebounds) early in the third quarter, the Vikings responded with a 20-4 run that featured a pair of 3-pointers from Seberger, a 3-point play from Loberg and 2 baseline jumpers by McCloughan.
"It's such an exciting feeling," said Loberg, who helped lead the Vikings' volleyball team to a sectional title last fall. "I'm so happy for all the seniors and (Coach) Meadows."
Sophomore Hannah Frazier added 8 points and 8 rebounds for the Bulldogs, who were making their first sectional championship appearance.
"I don't want to disrespect any other team to come through Batavia but I told the girls that at this point with what we've done we're at least in the conversation of the best team that Batavia has had," said Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen.
"Winning a conference title -- whether it's shared or not -- winning a regional and getting to a sectional final, I think it's something for all those girls to be proud of," he added. "Everything that we set out to do we did. It was a heck of a journey."
Especially for Missouri State-bound Fruendt, who finished her remarkable 4-year varsity career with a school-record 1,921 points.
"If it's going to happen to anyone and as much as it is a rivalry, I do have a lot of respect for that team," Fruendt said of the Vikings. "Sometimes you have bad nights but there's nothing you can do. That is a good team.
"It's a cool experience for Erin (Bayram) and I because we get to look back knowing that we started something that can be really special for years on out now."