NORMAL -- Geneva junior Margaret Whitley found it tough to score Friday night at Redbird Arena.
Until it really mattered, that is.
Whitley's left-handed bank shot from just inside the free throw line with 3.2 seconds left to play lifted the Vikings' girls basketball team to a 34-33 win over Fremd in the second Class 4A state semifinal.
"I don't even remember what I did to score," Whitley said. "I just wanted to get the shot or a foul. It was awesome. At the end of the game you want to make history. Our goal was to get here and win a game."
"We got caught on the switch," said Fremd coach Dave Yates. "Missy (Adrian) did a great job on Whitley the whole game. There was a little scramble there and (Whitley) hit a bank shot to bear us. Credit to her."
And now Geneva (28-4) has a chance to add to the history its already made by reaching a state title game for the first time in program history. The Vikings, who finished fourth here in 2009 and 2014, will face undefeated and third-ranked Edwardsville (32-0) at 7:15 p.m. Saturday for the title.
Meanwhile Fremd (28-7), which lost to Benet in the championship game the past two years, will play Montini (32-2) for third place at 5:30 p.m. Edwardsville downed Montini 37-35 in Friday's first semifinal.
"It's one thing to make it to state. We've made it before, so this time we said let's do something special," said Geneva coach Sarah Meadows. "Now we did and we'd like to make even more history. It's very special for the Geneva girls basketball program to be playing for the state championship."
Geneva didn't show any jitters early on, jumping to an 8-3 lead. But Fremd tightened up the defense and got its offense going, putting together a 10-0 run to take a 13-8 lead a little over a minute into the second quarter.
But Fremd senior stalwart Grace Tworek was whistled for her second foul with 6:13 left in the quarter and sat the remainder of the half. Geneva was able to get back into the game but a Midori Williams 3-pointer helped Fremd to an 18-13 halftime lead.
Geneva opened the second half on a 9-0 run to grab a 22-18 lead on Whitley's only 3-pointer of the night with 5:25 left in the third quarter and from that point there were four ties and five lead changes the rest of the way.
Midori Williams, who scored 14 points, knocked down a 3-pointer with 3:25 left in regulation to give Fremd a 33-30 lead but Geneva senior Grace Loberg scored in the paint at the 1:42 mark to make it 33-32.
Fremd turned the ball over on the ensuing possession but Geneva couldn't score. Unfortunately for Fremd, it missed both ends of a one-and-one with 23 seconds left and Loberg grabbed the board. Geneva protected the basketball then Whitley, who finished with 9 points, made the biggest basket in Geneva girls basketball history to send the Vikings to the state title game.
"I looked up and saw 11 seconds left then I saw Marg dribbling and then she hit the shot. That's about what I remember," said a smiling Meadows, whose team won despite being held to its lowest point total of the season.
"I thought it would be a low-scoring game," Meadows said. "When you get here it's all about stops. We talked about being patient. We needed that fast start in the third quarter just like we had the fast start in the first quarter."
Loberg, the Wisconsin volleyball signee who led Geneva to the supersectional this past fall, led the Vikings with 12 points and 8 rebounds as Geneva enjoyed a 30-21 advantage on the glass.
"It stunk so much to lose in volleyball," Loberg said. "But this is my main focus now and I want it more than anything."
Adrian added 6 points for Fremd and Tworek was limited to 5. Fremd, which had only 23 shot attempts in the game, making 9, was hampered by 22 turnovers.
"We don't typically turn the ball over like that," said Yates. "(Geneva) did a good job of putting pressure on us.
"But I'm really proud of these guys. To have Grace in foul trouble and to weather that and get the lead, I was really proud of that. I thought we did enough things to win that game but we also left the door open for (Geneva) to do some things. That team's been putting up 60-70 points and rolling everybody in the playoffs and we held them to (34). Our defense kept us in the game."
Added Tworek: "Nobody really expected us to be back here. We gave Geneva a good run and I'm proud of everyone."