Defending 1A champs throttle Geneva
Conventional wisdom often suggests smaller downstate communities being at a major disadvantage against counterparts from Chicagoland.
But that was certainly not the case Saturday evening in one of the marquee girls basketball games of the Coach Kipp Hoopsfest at Willowbrook in Villa Park.
Schlarman, the Danville-based reigning Class 1A state champion, erased any issues regarding its legitimacy as one of the best teams in the land by thoroughly dominating two-time defending Class 4A state champion Geneva with a 65-33 victory.
"We knew what we were getting into," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said.
There is arguably a proviso as Schlarman returned its entire starting lineup while the Vikings lost all five starters from a year ago to graduation.
But there was no denying the Hilltoppers' sustained brilliance against the undermanned Vikings, who were missing two starters.
Schlarman (19-2) connected on 25 of its 37 field-goal attempts in the one-sided game for a 68-percent shooting clip.
Anaya Peoples led three teammates in double figures for Schlarman with a game-high 21 points on 10-18 shooting from the floor.
A Notre Dame recruit, Peoples was ably supported by Capria Brown, a Xavier-bound guard who had 19 points.
Geneva was certainly energized for the game between defending state champions as Cassidy Navigato drained back-to-back 3-pointers to start the contest.
But the Geneva guard would only manage one more field-goal attempt in settling for her 6 points.
"Their defense definitely picked it up on us," Navigato said. "I started to get denied. They're very athletic and very fast."
The Hilltoppers repeatedly burned the Vikings (14-8) in transition.
Nowhere was the differential more telling than Schlarman scoring 20 points off the Vikings' 17 turnovers.
Geneva could manage only 3 points against the Hilltoppers' 8 miscues.
"We know we are faster than a lot of teams we play," Brown said. "We try to push the ball and score a lot of points."
But Geneva still hung tough in the opening eight minutes.
Kate Palmer, who led Geneva with 11 points, had seven in succession to end the opening quarter.
"We played a fantastic first quarter," Meadows said. "Even at halftime I didn't think (the spread) was that that bad."
Schlarman ended all doubt by outscoring Geneva 22-8 in the third to build upon its 37-23 cushion at halftime.
Lindsay Blackmore and Sophie Sharpe scored 5 points apiece for Geneva.
"I can't fault the kids' effort," Meadows said. "We knew we would have to sprint back (on defense). It's a lot tougher than said."