By John Lemon and John Leusch
Class 4A state semifinal
Geneva (27-4) vs. Fremd (28-6)
When: 7:15 p.m. Friday at Illinois State University
Road to state: Geneva defeated Hoffman Estates 64-17 and York 54-30 to win the Hoffman Estates regional, Wheaton Warrenville South 54-33 and Rolling Meadows 66-40 to win the Glenbard West sectional, and Maine West 65-46 to win the Addison Trail supersectional.
Fremd defeated Barrington 46-28 and Grayslake Central 56-27 to win the Barrington regional, Libertyville 58-40 and Hersey 49-30 to win the Libertyville sectional, and Rockford Boylan 55-45 to win the Dundee-Crown supersectional.
Name Ht. Yr. PPG. Pos. Name Ht. Yr. PPG.
Stephanie Hart 5-8 Jr. 8.2 PG Hayley Williams 5-7 Sr. 6.9
Margaret Whitley 5-8 Jr. 14.2 SG Midori Williams 5-8 Sr. 9.3
Brie Borkowicz 5-6 Jr. 4.9 G Emily Klaczek 5-8 Fr. 7.0
Maddy Yelle 5-9 Jr. 4.8 G-F Missy Adrian 5-10 Sr. 6.8
Grace Loberg 6-2 Sr. 14.0 C Grace Tworek 6-2 Sr. 16.0
Scouting Geneva: The Vikings enter on a 13-game winning streak after a 61-49 loss to St. Charles North on Jan. 17, a game Hart was out of the lineup sick. Since then Geneva has won every game by at least 19 points -- and in that game, Monday's supersectional victory over Maine West -- the Vikings led by 30 points in the fourth quarter. Opponents have had no answer for Loberg, a Wisconsin volleyball recruit who had 21 points and 17 rebounds in the sectional championship, then scored 27 points with 18 boards in the supersectional. "She was a leader and she played like it was going to be her last game," Whitley said after the supersectional. "She played phenomenal and carried us throughout the game. We rely on her and look up to her and she played unbelievably." Loberg enters the weekend with a school-record 1,073 rebounds plus 1,487 points. Whitley and Hart are both three-year starters with plenty of postseason experience and can provide outside shooting when defenses collapse on Loberg. Whitley sank 85 shots from 3-point range at a 47-percent clip. Geneva can throw multiple defenses at opponents; its 2-3 zone has been effective recently. Junior Madison Mallory (5.7 ppg) and freshman Lindsay Blackmore (3.9 ppg) also will play key minutes for the Vikings.
History lessons: This is Geneva's third state appearance in the last nine years. Coach Sarah Meadows was an assistant on the 2009 team and the head coach when the Vikings made it in 2014. Overall she brings a 146-40 record in her six seasons. Geneva has never won a state game, losing 63-42 to Young and 59-40 to Wheeling in 2009, and 51-43 to Rolling Meadows and 45-34 to Marian Catholic in 2014. "I think in the past we've just been happy to get there," Meadows said. "My mentality now is I don't want to just be there. We want to win a game there. We have a chance to make history and that's huge. We said before our first regional game this team could do something really special and after that we don't talk about it. As you keep playing our kids get more focused. They can see it, they want it. You can see that in Grace. She has been playing lights out. This has been a big goal for us."
Meadows isn't the only one with state experience. Loberg started as a freshman in 2014, tying for a team-high 12 points with 9 rebounds in Geneva's state semifinal loss, then grabbing a team-high 12 rebounds in the third-place game. Like Meadows, she is taking a different attitude to state this time -- especially after Geneva's volleyball team lost in this year's supersectionals to eventual state champion Mother McAuley. "As a freshman we got fourth and I was just so new to everything," Loberg said."But now after four years of trying to get back there in basketball and volleyball, this is going to mean so much to me. I fully understand how cool it is to get to go there."
Whitley's older sister Taylor played on Geneva's 2009 state team, finishing as the school's all-time leading scorer. Now a girls varsity basketball coach in South Carolina, Taylor sent her sister a text that Margaret read just before Monday's supersectional. "It was the last thing I looked at, the last thing I remember," Margaret Whitley said. "She told me to leave it all on the floor. Be the hunters and not the hunted and I think that's how the team went on the court, like it was going to be our last game and play as hard as we possibly can."
Scouting Fremd: Fremd's six losses are to Rock Island (49-42), Rolling Meadows (42-37), Benet (62-60), Benet (46-35), Rockford Boylan (42-41) and Hersey (36-33), a defeat in which the Vikings avenged 15 days later, 49-30, in the sectional championship. With Tworek the only starter back from the back-to-back 4A state runners-up teams, Fremd steadily improved throughout season. "Our other kids had to wait patiently to get the chance to play but a lot of them had seen some playing time and been around in this postseason atmosphere." said Fremd coach Dave Yates. "We were winning in either the third or fourth quarters of our all our losses. So it shows how this group slowly but surely was figuring out how and what they had to do to win games." Tworek (343 rebounds, 5.1 blocked shots) will play at Harvard and Adrian (112 rebounds, 81 assists) at Bradley. Both are strong inside while the Williams twins (combined for 100 3-pointers) and Klaczek (11 3-pointers, 107 rebounds, 67 assists) control the perimeter. "Our point guard Hayley (Williams) is an unsung hero," Yates said. "She has a three to one ratio for assists to turnovers."
History lessons: Fremd is making its fifth appearance in the state finals, its first coming in the first year of the state tourney in 1977 when the Vikings finished third under Hall of Fame coach Carol Plodzein. She also led the Vikings to the Elite Eight in 1989. Yates is the only other coach in Fremd history, taking over 11 years ago. He owns a 251-90 record, including second-place finishes to Class 4A champ Benet the last two years. Yates' 2015 team defeated New Trier 57-28 before falling to Benet 61-39, Last March, the Vikings topped Whitney Young 47- 40 in the semifinals before losing 42-39 to Benet for the title. It marked the fourth straight time that the Mid-Suburban League was represented in the 4A title game as Rolling Meadows was second in 2013 and 2014 to Whitney Young and Marian Catholic. Yates has become the first person in the MSL to coach a Final Four team three straight years and Tworek is the first player to start in three straight Final Fours. "We haven't been on the radar of everyone this season," Yates said. "I think the Hersey game (49-30 win in the sectional) gave us confidence and made us realize that 'hey, we are getting hot at the right time.' And then our supersectional game (over Rockford Boylan) will help, too, because they (RB) made a run at us in the second half and we answered. We are learning real quickly." At Tuesday's teleconference, reporters learned about Yates' superstition which has extended from conference games to the state playoffs. "I always have to wear a sports coat for our conference games (Fremd has won 43 in a row dating back to the 2012-13 season)," he said with a laugh. "If I don't, I have a weird feeling it will be the game we lose. And now that has come into play in the state playoffs. You'll see I'll come out wearing it, and then literally take it off at tip-off. Obviously, I've got issues."
-- John Lemon and John Leusch