Batavia, Geneva advance to sectional championship game

Geneva’s Leah Palmer banked in a buzzer beater from near half court to end the first half with the Vikings trailing St. Charles North during Tuesday’s Class 4A Batavia semifinal game.

She’s so money.

Palmer scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Vikings to a 42-36 victory.

Geneva (23-8) advances to Thursday’s sectional championship at 6 p.m. against host Batavia (27-5), which beat St. Charles East, 63-51, in Tuesday’s earlier semifinal.

“She just does everything on both ends of the court and is just a fun basketball player to watch,” Vikings coach Sarah Meadows said. “She trusted her teammates to knock down those shots. She (was) playing that high post and dishing the ball to them. It was huge.”

Peri Sweeney, Keira McCann and Kinsey Gracey drained 3-pointers for the Vikings in the third quarter.

“In all of our big wins people have stepped up and made big shots,” Palmer said. “We perform at our best when they’re shooting great and they’ve done a great job all season.”

They were Geneva’s only 3-pointers in the game along with Palmer’s shot from the Bulldog at half court.

“The last time we saw them they hit 10 (three-pointers),” North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said. “This time they hit four. That’s an improvement. But when you take something else away, you give them something else and (Leah) Palmer was on the glass and really looking to attack and she did a great job. Credit to her.”

Gracey’s 3 came with just 1:05 left in the third quarter giving the Vikings a 31-25 advantage.

“We switched our offense in the third quarter to give just a little bit different of a look,” Meadows said. “We moved Leah (Palmer) to the high post which I think helped us a little bit and then we got out of that in the fourth quarter, but that third quarter was really big for us, those couple of adjustments made a big difference.”

St. Charles North (27-5) had the game moving at its preferred pace for the opening half.

“North is a very, very, very good basketball team and very good at setting the pace,” Meadows said. “They force you to do what they want to do and that’s what we talked about at halftime. We were letting them dictate what we wanted to do. We weren’t playing aggressive, we weren’t running the floor, and we needed touches in the middle and I think our kids listened to that and did a nice job of making those adjustments.”

St. Charles North appeared to have a 19-14 lead heading into halftime, before Palmer’s heave.

“A contested half court shot, I’ll take my chances,” Tomczak said. “But at the end of the day we needed a couple more boards and a couple more baskets inside and we didn’t get them. But it’s a night to celebrate our seniors and everything they’ve accomplished. I’ll miss them very much.”

Riley Barber’s jumper near the free-throw line with 3:02 left in the game allowed the North Stars to draw even at 33-33, but the Vikings proceeded with an 8-0 run all supplied by Palmer.

Palmer made her final seven free throws after splitting her first eight attempts to finish 11 of 15 from the free-throw line.

“At first I was disappointed with myself,” she said. “I feel like I developed so much as a player so I had to get past that mentally, because it was mental and in the end I focused and fixed it for the end.”

Laney Stark had 12 points and Reagan Sipla added 10 points for the North Stars.

Batavia 63, St. Charles East 51:

Batavia took charge in the third quarter of Tuesday’s Class 4A Batavia sectional semifinal game against St. Charles East.

Addison Prewitt and Kylee Gehrt each drew charges and Hallie Crane drained a pair of 3-pointers in the third quarter as the Bulldogs pulled away from the Saints, 63-51.

The Bulldogs will take their 12-game winning streak into Thursday’s sectional championship game against Geneva at 6 p.m. The Vikings survived a defensive battle against St. Charles North in Tuesday’s other semifinal, 42-36.

“Charges really help boost us and change our momentum,” Prewitt said. “How we risk our bodies for our team that just really helps bring us all up.”

Batavia (28-5) was holding onto a 36-30 lead early in the third quarter, but jumped ahead 44-30 after an 8-0 run sparked by back-to-back three-pointers from Crane.

The junior finished with 15 points and seven rebounds in what she called her best game of the season.

"She’s a dynamic player and that was a huge piece we missed last year with her missing the year with a knee injury,” Bulldogs coach Kevin Jensen said. “With all the different things she can do she’s a special player.”

After knocking down her first three to give the Bulldogs a 39-30, Crane was itching for another attempt and got it less than a minute later.

“I just felt kind of locked in,” she said. “And it kind of fuels me to move onto the next play and keep pushing. I felt like we could keep going and going.”

The Bulldogs needed other players to step up because they knew the Saints would do everything they could to try to limit Brooke Carlson - the program’s all-time leading scorer - from beating them.

“I think our game plan was to stop Brooke (Carlson) and I think out of her 21 points, 13 of them were free throws,” Saints coach Katie Claussner said. “We executed the game plan and we said before coming in that someone was going to have to step up and beat us and unfortunately that’s what they did. (Addi Lowe) made some (one) threes, (Gehrt) made some threes. It was just their night.”

Gehrt’s three-pointer with 2:12 left in the third quarter came right after she drew a charge. It gave her 10 points for the game while providing the the Bulldogs with 47-32 cushion.

“That was a great one there because there was a transition and there’s a whole different feeling if they get that transition layup,” Jensen said. “Instead, it’s like a five-point swing. We put a lot of value in that. We talked about that. It’s an energy play.”

St. Charles East (19-13) had already lost twice to the Bulldogs earlier this season, including a 68-56 decision on Feb. 1. The Saints didn’t go away easily, pulling to within 57-49 with 1:55 remaining, but wouldn’t get any closer.

Lexi DiOrio, Carmen Aguilera and Addie Schilb each scored 12 points for the Saints while Corinne Reed had eight points and 11 rebounds. Prewitt added nine points for the Bulldogs.

“This season could have gone one of many ways,” Classier said. “I was the third coach in who knows how many years and they could’ve easily denied everything I wanted to do and instead they embraced all the changes we wanted to make and they’ve made this program something the girls want to be a part of. Future generations want to be a part of (Saints basketball) and they are laying the foundation of that. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

St. Charles North’s Elle Fuhr looks to shoot the ball during a Class 4A Batavia Sectional semifinal game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network
St. Charles East’s Corinne Reed comes down with the rebound during a Class 4A Batavia Sectional semifinal game against Batavia on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network
Batavia’s Addi Lowe drives toward the basket during a Class 4A Batavia Sectional semifinal game against St. Charles East on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network
Batavia’s Addison Prewitt shoots the ball during a Class 4A Batavia Sectional semifinal game against St. Charles East on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network
Batavia’s Addison Prewitt gets between St. Charles East defenders Sofia O’Sullivan and Alyse Price during a Class 4A Batavia Sectional semifinal game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024. Sandy Bressner/Shaw Local News Network
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