Geneva hands Wheaton North a critical DuKane loss
Kate Palmer had the two most unenviable jobs in the Geneva gym Thursday night.
Palmer, Geneva's senior guard, had to chase Wheaton North's Claire Hyde for four quarters. And handle the Falcons' vaunted pressure.
On top of that, maybe score a little.
"KP handled her business tonight on defense, and on offense," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "I mean, she battled. Chasing her around all night and then to have the composure to handle the ball."
She sure did.
Palmer harassed Hyde, a 5-foot-4 junior and one of the best guards in the area, just enough. Palmer scored 12 points, all in the second half, and Geneva overcame Hyde's 33 points -- and a nine-point third-quarter deficit -- to beat Wheaton North 57-52, snapping the Falcons' eight-game winning streak and in all likelihood spoiling their bid for a share of the DuKane Conference title.
Defending Hyde is nothing new for Palmer. The Vikings played the Falcons three time last season, all Geneva wins. Hyde scored 25 points in the teams' first meeting this year, a 54-41 Wheaton North win.
"I've been guarding her for the last couple years, she's a great player. It was just hanging on the whole game, trying to get her frustrated anyway I could," Palmer said. "I had great help from my teammates, getting out on screens, overall playing tough and keeping my head in the game."
That was not easy, the way Hyde was going.
Hyde scored 19 points in the first half, as Wheaton North led 23-22 at the half. On her fifth 3, Hyde banked in a shot from the top of the key, and was fouled with just under two minutes left to close Wheaton North within 51-50.
But she missed the free throw, and Geneva held the lead the rest of the way. Wheaton North (12-3, 10-3) entered the night tied for St. Charles North for the DuKane lead, with Geneva (11-3, 10-3) a game back, with one game left.
"Wow, what can you say, 33 of our 52, that's asking lot," Falcons coach Dave Eaton said. "She's obviously a really good player. She had 33 when everybody was focused on her. I thought she played awesome, I wish we just could have had a little bit more."
While Hyde was carrying the Falcons, Geneva's was a collective effort throughout.
Kelly McCloughan scored 12 points. Cassidy Arni added 11 points, 6 rebounds and a number of big assists, Leah Palmer 9 points and Zosia Wrobel 7 points and 9 rebounds. On top of that, Geneva turned it over just 15 times, its handling of Wheaton North's pressure a stark difference from the teams' first game.
"Composure, that's the bottom line," Meadows said. "We did not have it in the first game, we knew we didn't have it in the first game and our kids answered."
The Vikings needed that composure after Wheaton North scored the first eight points of the third quarter, Julia Simon scoring the first six and assisting a Hyde basket, to build its biggest lead at 31-22.
After a timeout, Palmer hit a 3-pointer, her first basket of the night, to start a 9-0 run to tie it. Hyde answered with a deep 3, but moments later McCloughan gave Geneva the lead for good, 35-34, with 1:30 left in the third quarter on a feed from Arni.
"It was definitely a big shot. I think it kind of turned us around," said Palmer, who later was 5-for-6 from the free-throw line in the fourth quarter. "We got on a big run. Help my team anyway I could. Got a good crosscourt pass and I took the shot."
Palmer has been known more as a shooter over the course of her Geneva career, but she was asked to play the point on Thursday against a difficult Wheaton North defense -- a task she handled with aplomb.
Afterward, Palmer and the rest of the Geneva girls gathered on the court for an extended time, taking pictured with parents after their last home game.
"She's really not a point guard but we just said to her you became a point guard tonight," Meadows said. "She handled her business, for sure. It was awesome."