Bartlett knocks out 2-time defending state champs
Bartlett threw the first punch, deflected a counter blow from Geneva, and left the Class 4A Batavia sectional semifinal with a 60-52 victory Monday night, meaning there will be a new state champion after the Vikings had brought home the last two.
As they have all year, a sophomore, Lexie Sinclair, and a freshman, Mackenzie Hare, led the way for the Hawks. Sinclair scored the first 6 points leading to a Geneva timeout just 90 seconds into the game.
She finished with a game-high 26 points. Hare added 15 points and three 3-pointers, and Bartlett never trailed in front of a nearly packed Batavia gym with large turnouts from both fan bases.
"We had a lot of energy coming out," Sinclair said. "Coach (Brad) Hunt has told me I have to be a leader on the team. And if I make my first couple shots, my teammates do a really good job finding me."
No. 3 seed Bartlett (29-4) will play for the sectional championship at 7 p.m. Thursday against fourth seed Wheaton Warrenville South (22-8), a 39-28 winner over Lake Park in the first semifinal Monday.
Savannah Standefer chipped in 7 points off the bench for Bartlett and Dani Hedeen's 6 points included a key baseline jumper in the fourth quarter with Geneva (20-12) trying to come back.
"We all kept our composure and know how to execute at the right times," Standefer said. "This whole night was just great energy."
After Sinclair's 6 quick points to start the game, Hare knocked down back-to-back 3s for a 12-3 lead.
Geneva turned the ball over on its first four possessions for a similar slow start to its regional title win Thursday over Glenbard West. Bartlett led 16-10 after one quarter.
"We started off slow and in a sectional semi you can't do that," Vikings coach Sarah Meadows said. "You can't do that against good teams."
Standefer opened the second quarter with a 3-pointer after the Hawks kept the possession alive by hustling for two long rebounds. Sinclair capped the half with a floater in the lane to go to halftime up 28-20.
Geneva appeared to take the momentum back in the third quarter when Katie Montgomery, who had to be helped off the court late in the second quarter after a hard fall, returned and scored the first four points of the half to pull her team within 28-24.
Geneva had a chance to pull closer but missed 2 free throws and a couple shots under the basket. While Lindsay Blackmore sank all 10 of her free throws, the rest of the Vikings hit just 9 of 21.
Sinclair stopped the Geneva run with a 3-pointer, Hare drove from one end to the other for a conventional 3-point play, and Sinclair's spin move helped the Hawks weather Geneva's rally and lead 41-34 after three quarters.
"We tried to come back in the third quarter," Meadows said. "They held us off. They hit shots when they needed shots."
The Vikings got as close as 41-36 in the fourth before another big shot from Sinclair, this time a 3 from the top of the key. Hare's shot from nearly the same spot with 5:02 remaining opened up a double-digit advantage at 49-38.
Despite some shaky free throw shooting of its own (16 for 29), the Hawks never saw their lead shrink under 7 points -- and that came with 9 seconds to go.
"My girls know how to be composed," Hunt said. "We pride ourselves on defense and for the most part we did a good job."
As for a sophomore leading the way?
"She's got 60 games under her belt," Hunt said. "She's not inexperienced and she's the real deal. She's really good."
Blackmore led Geneva with 19 points and 17 rebounds. Montgomery added 12 points, and Cassidy Navigato, the only senior in Geneva's lineup, scored 7.
While Geneva won't spend early March at Redbird Arena like the last two seasons, the Vikings will have four starters back who helped this year's team win 20 games and play in the sectionals for the 11th straight season.
"It's fine," Meadows said. "We return a bunch of kids and we'll learn from this. It's a great experience for them. Good luck to Bartlett."
Hunt's Hawks have now beat three of the top teams in the DuKane Conference -- Batavia, Wheaton North and Geneva -- and will get a crack at the conference champ WW South on Thursday.
The Hawks said beating the two-time defending state champs meant a little extra.
"They are a different team than the two state champion teams but Sarah does an amazing job and that staring five is legitimate and four of them are coming back next year so she'll be just fine for a long time," Hunt said.
"I'm just proud of my girls."