For a half, Batavia's girls basketball team stayed close in its first meeting of the year with rival Geneva. Then the host Vikings settled in, Batavia never found a groove and the contest ended in a 54-25 Geneva victory.
The victory stretches No. 3 Geneva's record to 8-0 and 4-0 in the Upstate Eight Conference River Division, though it took a while for the Vikings to look truly dominant. Though they led the entire contest, the halftime margin was only 24-15.
"At the half, we talked about how we had four keys to the game, and the first two were wanted to have an up-tempo game but controlled up-tempo," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "And then we wanted to limit turnovers and we were turning the ball all over in the first half."
Geneva emerged from its halftime chat with Meadows and put the game away, outscoring the Bulldogs 22-7 and committing only 1 turnover. Batavia opened with a Hailey Orman 3-pointer, but that was the last field goal the visitors got until late in the fourth quarter when Kaley Lorenzo scored.
"Coach Meadows kept telling us that this was Geneva vs. Batavia," Geneva junior Margaret Whitley said. "She told us it's not just a regular conference game. It's a bigger deal, and we remembered last year, when we lost on a buzzer-beater. So we wanted to push the tempo the entire game."
Key in Geneva's third-quarter onslaught was Whitley's shooting. The junior scored 11 of her game-high 21 points in the quarter including back-to-back-to-back 3-pointers that took the lead to 39-20 and put the game beyond reach.
"It's exciting," Whitley said. "Even when you miss, you have to remember to keep positive and keep shooting. The atmosphere can kind of get to you, but you just have to keep going."
While the Vikings hit six 3-pointers in the game, their midrange offense was key. Without driving inside, they shot time after time and hit jumper after jumper from 10-12 feet. On a balanced night, Stephanie Hart was the team's second-leading scorer with 6 points, all in that same key third quarter.
"We run that Marquette offense that gives our guards a chance to create on their own," Meadows said. "They come off the dribble and can take that free throw jump shot, and it was working, they were making it, so we just stayed with it."
Geneva played the game without star center Grace Loberg, the Wisconsin volleyball recruit who was playing in the Under Armour all-American game in Columbus, Ohio. Madison Mallory scored 5 points while Emma Harkleroad added 4 points in the team's inside role.
"We for sure missed (Loberg), on the inside defensively," Meadows said. "I thought Emma Harkleroad did a great job for us."
Batavia (5-6, 2-2) committed 25 turnovers, which limited offensive opportunities. In the first half, the Bulldogs only had 12 shots but hit 7 of them. Those numbers dipped to 2-of-13 in the second half.
"They punish you for every single mistake," Batavia coach Kevin Jensen said. "I asked the girls if they remembered a turnover we committed where they didn't score or an offensive rebound which they didn't convert into points. Once in a while against a lesser team, you get away with and we didn't get away with any of it tonight."
Ava Sergio led the Bulldogs with 8 points while Orman added 6 points.
"It takes so much more energy against them to keep it close and to execute your offense," Jensen said. "I thought our girls played as hard as they can play. I can't ask for much more than that."