Looking back at a memorable basketball season
Another Illinois high school basketball season is in the books but the ink remains wet and the memories still fresh in my mind.
I must say it was one of the strangest seasons I can remember -- one that included a teachers strike, the much-dreaded polar vortex, a record-setting campaign for an area team and some fantastic basketball action throughout the Fox Valley.
Here's a rundown of the 2018-2019 boys and girls basketball season:
Geneva 55, St. Charles East 52 (boys), Dec. 14.
Playing its first game in 13 days due to a weeklong District 304 teachers strike, Geneva rallied for a 3-point road win against St. Charles East in DuKane Conference action. Senior forward Kross Garth's 3-point play with 7 seconds remaining snapped a 52-52 deadlock as the Vikings came back from a 50-46 deficit midway through the fourth quarter.
"I'm just proud that we survived," said Geneva coach Scott Hennig. "This is a tough place to play. I've been at Geneva nine years and even our best teams have come over here and struggled so to get out of here with a win -- kudos to our kids."
South Elgin 59, Streamwood 55 (boys), Jan. 17.
Playing each other for the third time in 41 days, South Elgin avenged a holiday tournament loss at Jacobs to Streamwood with a come-from-behind, Upstate Eight Conference homecourt victory.
Senior guard Drake Montgomery filled the stat line with 25 points, 7 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals as the Storm went on an 11-1 surge over the last 5 ½ minutes to seal the decision.
Ironically, it was a rare 3-point shot by 6-foot-7 senior center Vincent Miszkiewicz (23 points, 14 rebounds, 8 steals) that gave South Elgin the lead for good at 52-50 with 4:02 remaining.
"I'm proud of him (Miszkiewicz)," said Storm coach Brett Johnson. "He's not afraid to shoot that shot. It went in and then we executed down the stretch."
Batavia 52, Geneva 46 (girls), Feb. 1.
Seniors Hailey Orman (15 points), Ava Sergio (14 points) and Geddy Rerko (11 points, 8 rebounds) helped lead the Bulldogs to a hard-fought, 6-point road victory over the 2-time defending Class 4A state champion Vikings.
The second half featured 3 ties and 7 lead changes, the last coming on Rerko's 3-pointer from the corner that gave Batavia a 44-42 lead with 4:30 remaining.
Batavia trailed 26-21 at halftime.
"It felt good to hang on to this one," said Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen.
It felt even better for Sergio.
"Personally, I've never beaten Geneva," she said. "I knew we could do it. We wanted it so badly."
With the game time moved up 2 ½ hours due to an impending polar vortex (temperatures plummeted to minus-30 degrees in some area locations), Geneva outscored St. Charles North 18-8 in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 54-42 homecourt victory on Jan. 29.
Playing despite suffering a gash near his right cheekbone (that eventually required 7 stitches later that night) midway through the third quarter, senior guard Jack McDonald finished with 17 points, 4 assists and 3 rebounds for the victorious Vikings.
Unfortunately, the poor weather kept many fans away as the Contest Gym was perhaps 20-25 percent filled.
"It felt like a practice setting, especially in the first half," said McDonald. "It was a weird feeling."
Geneva scored the game's first 21 points, including a 19-0 lead in the opening quarter, during its 49-25 girls basketball victory over host St. Charles East in mid-December.
"It all starts on the defensive end," said sophomore guard Kate Palmer, who scored a game-high 17 points for the Vikings.
St. Charles North coach Tom Poulin recorded his 200th career victory in mid-December when the North Stars defeated Jacobs 37-30.
"I waited a long time just to get a shot," said Poulin. "To get an opportunity and now to have 200 (wins), it's great.
"I want to thank all of the current and former players, coaches and parents for their support over the past 13 years."
Geneva seniors Mitch Mascari and Jack McDonald received game balls for reaching the 1,000-point mark prior to the Vikings' early February game against rival Batavia.
Then the Vikings dismantled the Bulldogs, 54-21.
"I was really proud of our guys, especially these seniors," said Geneva coach Scott Hennig.
Vincent Miszkiewicz, South Elgin; Keenon Cole, Streamwood; Kross Garth, Geneva; Cody Mitchell, St. Charles East; Will Wolfe, Aurora Christian.
Mitch Mascari, Geneva; Jayden Johnson, Batavia; Patrick Mayfield, Burlington Central; Drake Montgomery, South Elgin; Jack McDonald, Geneva.
Hailey Orman, Batavia; Lexie Sinclair, Bartlett; Mackenzie Hare, Bartlett; Lindsay Blackmore, Geneva; Tori Henning, Aurora Christian.
Victor Perez, Larkin; Lucas Heflen, St. Charles North; Taaj Davis, Aurora Christian; Jonas Cebulski, ACC; Josh Preston, Geneva.
Ashley DiOrio, St. Charles East; Erin Golden, Batavia; Annie Tate, St. Charles North; Emma Ludwig, St. Charles North; Kate Palmer, Geneva.
Jaeshon Thomas, Aurora Christian; Will Wolfe, Aurora Christian; Connor Linke, St. Charles North; Jayden Johnson, Batavia; Collin Woods, Hampshire.
Lexie Sinclair, Bartlett; Lindsay Blackmore, Geneva; Erin Golden, Batavia; Emma Ludwig, St. Charles North; Mackenzie Hare, Bartlett.
You can reach Craig Brueske at firstname.lastname@example.org