Madden's clutch plays lift Geneva to another thrilling win over Naperville North
Geneva junior guard Caroline Madden's impact in Thursday's game against Naperville North can't be accurately measured by points.
Madden scored just two points, though it did come in a key segment of the game with 8.7 seconds left in regulation.
But Madden's made three pivotal plays -- a charge, steal and offensive rebound -- in the final 90 seconds to lift Geneva to a thrilling 50-46 victory in the semifinals of the 2nd Annual Morton College Girls Basketball Christmas Tournament.
The Vikings (11-2) advance to the title game for the second straight season, set to battle the winner of the Fremd and Benet game at 8:15 p.m. on Friday.
Madden was the unsung hero in the Vikings' quest to atone for last season's tourney title defeat to the Vikings. She stopped a Naperville North potential go-ahead possession by taking a charge with 1:26 left, chased down a loose ball to snare a steal with 12.7 seconds to go and snagged an offensive rebound off a missed free throw by Cassidy Arni with 8.7 ticks. She was fouled and hit both free throws to seal the victory.
"I was thinking I needed to make those two free throws and was really focusing on that because we would have a four-point lead," Madden said. "When I don't score, I just try and focus on my defense and get rebounds and make an impact on other ways."
Madden achieved her goal, saving the Vikings from a potential Huskies' comeback. Senior forward Lauren Slagle, a Grand Valley State recruit, finished with 17 points, Arni collected 12 points, Rilee Hasegawa had 10 points and Leah Palmer tallied nine points.
"We're excited to be in the title game," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "I thought we were a little bit of a rocky mess. Caroline is not going to blow a stat sheet away, but she's a kid you can't not have on the floor. She does so many important things to help us win."
Naperville North (10-6) missed an opportunity to reach the title game and even up the season series with the Vikings. Abby Drendel paced the Huskies with 15 points, Layla Henderson had 11 and Abby Homan contributed 10 points.
In the first meeting between the two schools, Geneva pulled out a thrilling 52-51 overtime home win on Nov. 29 thanks to a big overtime by Palmer.
"I just feel like we lost our composure a bit, but we battled back after digging ourselves a hole early in the game," Naperville North coach Erin Colletti said. "We knew (Geneva) has great size with Slagle and Arni and our dominant rebounders. That was tough for us not to clean up possessions and get boards."
The Vikings followed a simple recipe for success in the opening minutes: Pound the ball inside for high percentage shots. The formula worked to perfection for most of the first quarter, helping the Vikings grab leads of 12-1 and 14-5 behind strong efforts from Palmer, Slagle and Arni.
The Huskies, after a solid close victory over Hersey in the quarterfinals, weren't bothered by the double-digit deficit.
They played better interior defense and rode their defense to a quick comeback, despite not tallying their first field goal until Kendall Johnson's 3-pointer with 42 ticks left in the opening quarter. The Huskies ripped off nine unanswered points to tie the game at 14-all following Henderson's steal and coast-to-coast layup early in the second quarter.
The game turned into a back-and-forth affair with the Vikings seizing a 27-24 lead at halftime on the strength of 10 points from Slagle and nine via Arni. The Huskies battled back behind a shower of 3s in the second half, cutting an eight-point fourth quarter deficit to one (47-46) following a 3-pointer by Drendel but failed to score another point in the final two minutes.
Slagle said the Vikings took advantage of their size.
"I wasn't really looking to be the leading scorer and looking to get rebounds and putbacks and that led me to scoring and my teammates getting open shots," Slagle said. "We're looking to get a win in the championship game this year."