Geneva surprises No. 2 Neuqua Valley
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Sidney Santos and Geneva saw no need to review tape of their first game with Neuqua Valley.
"We knew that was not our team," said the Vikings junior. "It came at a bad time."
Times are better now.
No. 16 Geneva turned the tables on a 23-point loss the day after Thanksgiving in a big way Friday in Naperville, surprising No. 2 Neuqua Valley 54-46 in a matchup of Upstate Eight Conference division champions.
Geneva (17-10) bore no resemblance to the team overwhelmed by Neuqua 45-22 in November, with good reason.
That game came two days after the Vikings lost point guard Michaela Loebel to a torn ACL.
"And we were missing this one," said Santos, pointing to Sami Pawlak, injured in November.
This Geneva team has now won five straight, handed Neuqua (24-3) its first home loss and looks like the last 10-loss team an opponent wants to draw in its playoff bracket.
"We're a totally different team than the first time we played them," Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. "We've looked forward to this game for a while, we've been waiting for that big win and it couldn't come at a better time."
Santos is a big reason for Geneva's transformation, particularly against a high-pressure team like Neuqua. The 6-footer anchors the Vikings' zone, but moved to more or less a "point forward" position two weeks after the first Neuqua game. On Friday she had a most unusual double-double, dishing out 10 assists with 10 rebounds while scoring just 2 points and going 0-for-7 from the field.
"She's probably the most unselfish kid I know," Meadows said. "Anything you ask of her, she'll do it."
Neuqua led 24-22 at the half, but Geneva immediately grabbed control out of the break.
Morgan Seberger drilled 3-pointers on the Vikings' first two possessions, and after Allison Hedrick's three-point play for Neuqua Pawlak hit a pair of free throws to give Geneva the lead for good.
The disparity at the free-throw line, ultimately, was a deciding factor tilting Geneva's way.
Geneva hit 20 of its 27 attempts, while Neuqua made just 5 of 17.
Neuqua's struggles extended to the field, the Wildcats going without a field goal in the fourth quarter until Najee Smith's basket off an inbounds play with 4:08 left. By that time, Neuqua found itself down 9.
"Geneva's a good team, they played hard and they got after us," Neuqua coach Mike Williams said, "but we've got to make shots. We just couldn't make a basket and that's what we've been doing all week is running them and making them shoot when they're tired."
Neuqua is known to wear teams down with its depth and pressure, but not this night.
Hedrick, honored as the Upstate Eight Valley Player of the Year at halftime, had 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 steals before fouling out. Myia Starks added 9 points and Nikki Lazar 11 rebounds.
"We kept waiting for that run and it never came," Williams said. "It's OK. Long season. We'll be fine."
Seberger scored 13 points, Kelly Gordon 11 and Pawlak 10 for Geneva, which turned it over just 3 times in the decisive third quarter after coughing it up 16 times in the first half.
"First half we were a little intimidated but coach calmed us down and we calmed each other down," Santos said. "This is a huge confidence boost going into the playoffs. We wanted this one so bad."
Follow Josh on Twitter @jwelge96
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