Geneva's pressure rattles Lake Park
Leah Palmer gets a full-view picture of the floor while directing traffic in Geneva's defensive press from the back row.
It starts with guards Caroline Madden and Rilee Hasegawa at the top. Palmer, Lauren Slagle and Cassidy Arni follow suit behind them, active hands in passing lanes and all.
The end result Tuesday was 27 Lake Park turnovers in Geneva's 78-40 victory in the Class 4A Glenbard West sectional semifinal.
" ... It's awesome, especially because [the guards] can jump those passing lanes very well," Palmer said following her 17-point, seven-rebound effort that included nine points in the third quarter. "Especially Cass and Lauren, they're really long, so of course they're always getting deflections."
Geneva (28-3) advanced to play Batavia, who stunned St. Charles North 52-50 in the other semifinal, in Thursday's sectional final. The Vikings swept both regular-season meetings with the Bulldogs on their way to an undefeated run through the DuKane Conference.
Geneva will be playing for its first sectional title since 2018, the year it won its second straight state championship. Batavia is searching for its first sectional title in program history.
"We have a talk right before postseason starts and it's like 'Let's go'," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "Let's play as long as we can and I feel like our kids have really bought into that, playing really well together, sharing the ball and [being] unselfish."
Geneva forced 17 first half turnovers and had a 41-22 lead by the break. The Lancers (17-15) weren't able to get their first points of the second quarter until Michela Barbanente's one free throw with 4:46 left in the half to make it a 20-point game.
The Vikings, though, kept their foot on the gas offensively and ripped off a 15-0 run in the middle of the third quarter to continue their dominance.
Arni added 15 points and five rebounds for Geneva, while Slagle had 13 points and three rebounds and Hasegawa nine points and four rebounds.
"I think [Geneva brought their press] to another level," Lancers coach Brian Rupp said. "They just have that: 'We're going to try and win a state title' sort of attitude today and we did a lot of things wrong at the start. We were trying to reach and keep it close and that press took us out of that pretty quick."
Lancers senior Grace Cord had 13 points, while Gabi Burgess finished with four points. Barbanente had 10 points and six rebounds.
"You got to hope they miss some shots every once in awhile and we could barely even get a shot off for [awhile]," Rupp said. " ...[Our seniors] Grace, Gabi and all the seniors. They definitely are leaving this program better than they found it. That's for sure."