Geneva repeats the feat with thriller against Montini
NORMAL -- History repeated itself in more ways than one Saturday night in the Class 4A girls basketball state championship game.
Geneva pulled off its Redbird Repeat, thanks to Stephanie Hart, who delivered an encore for the ages.
After making the game-winning shot with 4 seconds left in a 41-40 win over Edwardsville to win the 2017 state title, Hart knocked down a 14-footer from the baseline with 3 seconds to go Saturday, giving the Vikings a stunning 28-26 win over Montini.
"It's unbelievable," Hart said. "It's just the best thing ever. (Coach Sarah) Meadows drew up a play and we knew the corner had been open when we overloaded and I knew we had a little bit of time left and I might as well try to get up a shot.
"My shot was off the entire game. I just tried to go back and shoot normal form."
Until Hart's last shot dropped, Geneva (31-3) had not led since Lindsay Blackmore's 3-pointer late in the first quarter made it 5-4.
"In big moments she just shows and she just goes out and does what she does," Geneva senior Maddy Yelle said. "And she did it twice and we won because of it."
Yelle, who gave up several inches while battling Montini's 6-foot-3 Aaliyah Patty and 6-5 Lindsey Jarosinski, might have had the most unusual reaction to Hart's heroics.
"I honestly didn't know we were tied," Yelle said. "And then she shot it and I looked at the clock and then time ran out and we won. I'm just so proud of her. I can't explain what this feels like."
Montini (34-3) took advantage of its size advantage to lead nearly the entire game, 7-5 after one quarter 21-15 at halftime and 26-22 going to the fourth.
Patty topped all scorers with 12 points and 12 rebounds, and Jarosinski was second on Montini with 4 points and 6 rebounds. The Broncos outrebounded Geneva 30-20.
Normally a deadly 3-point shooting team, the Vikings made just 4 of 22. Their two leading scorers, Whitley and Hart, combined to shoot 4 for 21 from the field.
Yet they found a way to stay close, then eventually scrap and claw their way back. Yelle played as big of role as anyone, coming up with 4 steals including 3 that led to breakaway layups -- much needed easy baskets on a night nothing came easily.
"First half we couldn't get a shot to fall," Geneva's Madison Mallory said. "In the third quarter we said we are not going to give up and keep shooting like we normally do. And Stephanie hit that last shot like always. It's just tradition I guess. She's just so good."
Whitley, who won the Queen of the Hill 3-point contest earlier in the day, made her only 3-pointer in 9 attempts to open the third quarter, then Yelle's steal and layup got the Vikings within 21-20.
Francesca Kokkines made 3 free throws and Patty scored on a putback as Montini pushed its lead back to 26-22 going to the fourth quarter.
But Geneva shut Montini out over the final eight minutes. Yelle's layup made it 26-24, and Whitley's banker in the lane tied the game at 26-26 with 4:15 to go.
Both teams turned the ball over, Montini missed 2 free throws, and Geneva regained possession with 2:07 to go.
Yelle missed a shot but Montini was called for a foul on the rebound. Geneva held the ball for 1:25, and in the final 20 of those seconds the Broncos, who only had 3 team fouls, started to foul intentionally.
Montini still had a foul to give when Geneva inbounded with 6 seconds to go.
"They were supposed to foul," Montini coach Jason Nichols said. "She just whiffed. She went for a steal instead of letting her (Hart) catch it, put it on the floor, foul. They are kids. Kids make mistakes, coaches make mistakes. We're all human. Tough one."
Kokkines added 5 points for the Broncos, who missed all 10 of their 3-point attempts and hit just 6 of 11 free throws.
"If you told me we hold them to 12 points in the second half, I'd be like we win by 10," Nichols said. "Offensively they beefed us up. They fought. There's no doubt about it. They fought hard.
"Our kids battled. Every game was always going to be close so we had to be perfect with the little things, turnovers, free throws, defensive rebounding. Some of that cost us tonight."
Montini turned the ball over 19 times. Yelle led the Vikings with 10 points, Blackmore scored 6 and Whitley 5.
"They (Montini) are an awesome team, we have been playing them so many years," Hart said. "They are an incredible team. We just kept working hard."
"I can't think of a word to explain this," Yelle said. "Doing this a second time against a team we have always lost to means so much."
Hart finished with just 4 points, yet once again came through with the state championship on the line.
"That's what she does," Meadows said. "She is chill, calm, composed the whole time. I don't expect her to miss that shot any day.
"It's incredible. When that shot went in I was, 'Oh my gosh. Did that just happen?' "