New-look Lake Park defeats Geneva
Earlier in the season, Geneva's defensive game plan against Lake Park might well have succeeded.
But these are not January's Lancers.
Lake Park won the second girls basketball sectional championship in school history, defeating its DuKane Conference co-champion 64-45 Monday night at Hoffman Estates.
"It's amazing," said Lake Park senior Darrione Rogers, a DePaul recruit. "We're one step closer to achieving our goal, which is going downstate. It's a great feeling."
"It's crazy," Lake Park sophomore point guard Sara Balli added. "We never thought in a million years this would happen. It's a dream of ours. We're so happy this happened. We've worked so hard all year. This is what we've been waiting for. We won and we're just so happy. We're so excited. We're ready to go win a supersectional."
The Lancers (25-8) will meet Dundee-Crown (29-6) at 7 p.m. Monday at the Class 4A South Elgin supersectional, with the winner advancing to the state semifinals March 6 in Normal.
The last time the league rivals played, Geneva elected to guard Rogers with just one player for most of the game, winning in Roselle. This time the Vikings (25-7) swarmed Rogers with two or three defenders every time she touched the ball.
"We wanted to not allow Darrione to get 40 points again," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "She's done it twice, almost, against us. So we tried to take her away and we wanted the other kids to step up. And they did."
Rogers was held to 15 points, about 11 below her season average. She also had 13 rebounds and 6 assists, and those assists tell a big part of the story of the game.
Freshman Gabi Burgess also scored 15 points, as did freshman Ellie Helm. Balli scored 14. Junior Emma Thorne scored 5 points and grabbed 15 rebounds to go with her usual tough defense.
"Look at this stat line," Lake Park coach Brian Rupp said. "It's all right there. ... I mean they're all doing their part right now. They're doing what they're supposed to be doing.
"This has been our struggle all year long trying to get even a second scorer, or a second and third scorer. And we're getting that consistently out of Gabi and Sara right now. And even tonight in a game like that were they were all over Darrione, it relieves pressure for her."
Geneva never led, and the game was never tied after the 3:39 mark of the second quarter. Lake Park pulled away for a 28-20 halftime lead, then expanded it in the third quarter, leading 45-31 going into the fourth.
Geneva pulled within 10 points on a Grace Hinchman 3-pointer with 4:46 to play.
"I know exactly that point," Meadows said. "We were within 10 and we actually had two opportunities to score. Missed them both. And we actually got stops on the other end, so it's like if we make those two we're down 6 and the game feels completely different."
Instead Burgess scored at the 3:38 mark, Emma Thorne made a free throw and Helm hit a 3 to make the Lancers' lead comfortable again.
"They're a good team," Rogers said. "We knew they were going to come in and fight, so we knew it wasn't gong to be an easy walk, but we came and we gave it our all and we came out on top."
Geneva played without senior Lindsay Blackmore, a Colgate recruit, due to a broken wrist suffered last week.
"It's a shame that you lose your best player," Rupp said. "I mean she was their best everything: rebounder, she's a shot blocker. She was awesome. But you play the team in front of you and you just keep fighting. And we fought like (heck) tonight. We fought. And they fought."
Zosia Wrobel led Geneva with 13 points, hitting three 3-pointers. Katie Montgomery added 10 points.
"They had girls step up and hit shots, and I think we struggled a little bit on offense to begin with," Montgomery said.
"They're driven right now. Driven," Rupp added about his Lancers. "They don't want to stop. They're believing in one another and they believe that they can beat any team right now. And we're just taking this, one of those things, one game at a time and they're enjoying the moment. That's what's going on with this team right now."