Wheaton Warrenville South never trailed Tuesday night.
That’s not to say the No. 6 Tigers didn’t sweat.
There was a lot of perspiring going on in the fourth quarter of the Class 4A Bartlett Sectional semifinal, most of it by the top-seeded Tigers, who held on to beat Geneva 62-53 after nearly blowing a 16-0 lead.
WW South (28-3), which extended its winning streak to 14 games, will take on crosstown rival Wheaton North, which edged Schaumburg 57-54, in Thursday’s sectional final. The Tigers beat the Falcons (23-7) twice in the regular season.
“Geneva is a great team,” WW South coach Rob Kroehnke said. “There was no way we were going to be up by 80 at the end of this game. We’ve been in these games before where we’ve started great and we knew they were going to come back.”
That’s exactly what happened. The fourth-seeded Vikings (19-11), who came into the contest having won seven straight and 10 of their last 12, wasted no time in cutting into a deficit that stood at 19-4 after the first quarter.
Morgan Seberger scored 11 of her 17 points in the second quarter, including three three-pointers, to pull Geneva within 31-19 at the half, then combined with Sidney Santos to drain five more treys after intermission.
Eventually, the WW South lead was twice trimmed to four points, the last being 54-50 when Sami Pawlak made two free throws with 1:25 left in the game.
But the Vikings would get no closer as the Tigers’ Kelly Langlas and Meghan Waldron each made a free throw and then Waldron made a steal and layup to bump the lead to 58-50 with 46 seconds remaining.
A final three from Santos cut the gap to 58-53 but the Tigers scored the last four points on two Melinda Franke free throws and a jumper by Alyssa Zappia.
“The kids made plays when we needed plays,” Kroehnke said. “This time of year that’s what it’s all about.”
Despite Geneva’s valiant comeback, Langlas had confidence in her team.
“We just knew that we had to pick it up and not let up,” Langlas said. “We knew it was our game if we wanted it.”
Langlas was a big reason why the Tigers will be trying to win their first sectional title since 1997. The senior guard, who missed all of last year with a knee injury and only returned to the starting lineup a month ago when Sierra Bisso suffered a torn ACL, had 15 points and eight rebounds.
That included six points and two steals during the first quarter when the Vikings were focused on stopping Waldron. Langlas made her first six shots from the floor and finished 6-for-8 to go with a 3-for-4 effort from the line.
“That absolutely was her best game of the year,” Kroehnke said. “She’s still recovering from her injury. That was great.”
“I just tried to play like normal,” Langlas said. “Meghan gets me open as she does all of the other players.”
Waldron, a junior who has committed to DePaul, wound up with a game-high 28 points to go with seven rebounds, but it was her four steals that ignited the early run.
“The first quarter just killed us,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “We had four turnovers right from the get-go. It was 6-0 before I could even blink and it was all on the turnovers they turned into layups and that just takes the wind out of you.”
The turnovers seemed to infect Geneva’s shooting as the Vikings went 1-for-15 from the floor in the opening period.
“It was just a slow start and we can’t have that against a team of this caliber,” Meadows said. “[But] I felt like [the momentum] was almost in our favor toward the end of the half and we just carried it through to the second half. We probably needed about three or four more minutes.”
Pawlak and Santos both had 13 points and seven rebounds for Geneva, which also received 10 points from Abby Novak. Zappia tallied eight points for WW South.