Freshman Grace Loberg playing on one leg. Michaela Loebel making her first appearance after missing all but a handful of games. Three players with three fouls in the first half. Wheaton North’s Chrissy Baird scoring inside and Emmy Gryna hitting from outside.
No. 18 Geneva had a lot of obstacles to overcome Thursday against the hosts at the Class 4A Wheaton Regional.
“We knew coming into the game they were a team that would never give up,” Geneva’s Sidney Santos said. “They would fight to the end. But the biggest thing was how we believed in each other. We know that whoever steps up on the floor would step up for us.”
Wheaton North (19-10) overcame deficits of 14-3 early and 53-39 late, closing to within 58-52 with 5:51 remaining, but Geneva (23-5) held on to advance to Tuesday’s sectional semifinals at Addison Trail with a 75-63 victory.
Junior forward Janie McCloughan led Geneva with 20 points. Loberg, who turned an ankle playing volleyball over the weekend, added 13 points and 12 rebounds, and Loebel came off the bench to score 12 points.
“I don’t know how many kids can not pick up a basketball for two months and then dominate a game in her position,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said about Loebel.
Loebel provided two of the bigger moments of the game to start the third quarter. Her back-to-back three-pointers extended what had been a tenuous 39-37 lead to 45-37.
“I’ve been training with the team and doing physical therapy,” said Loebel. “Everybody was so encouraging. I was surprised (to hit the two three-pointers), to be honest. We did the three-point shooting contest before the game and I barely made it through.”
Wheaton North made two more runs after Santos’ three-pointer extended Geneva’s lead to 53-39 with 2:57 left in the third quarter. A three-pointer by Gryna, a coast-to-coast drive by Baird and a short jumper by junior Emari Jones got the Falcons within six points.
A Morgan Seberger three-pointer and consecutive baskets off steals by Abby Novak and Loberg pushed the lead back up to 13, but Wheaton North answered with a three and a two from Jones and a bucket and free throw by Baird to get within 65-60 with 2:52 remaining.
But that was as close as Wheaton North would get.
“There were two big moments that stood out in my mind,” Meadows said. “Loebel stepping up when Sidney got her third or fourth foul, and Seberger hits that big three. They had a little bit of momentum, but she nails it and gets her going.”
“Those are the two things that stick out in my head,” the coach added. “And let’s not to forget Loberg, who’s playing on one leg.”
Baird led Wheaton North with 23 points and nine rebounds, Gryna finished with 15 points and Jones had 12 points.