Geneva recently ended a four-game losing streak that began when Grace Loberg missed three games at the Montini tournament.
So the Vikings found themselves in familiar territory Friday when their 6-2 sophomore forward went down with an ankle injury late in the second quarter against Upstate Eight River rival St. Charles North.
This time, however, the Vikings were able to weather the loss of their athletic inside presence.
Janie McCloughan scored eight of her game-high 22 points in the fourth quarter, Abby Novak added 11 points and 11 rebounds and freshmen Margaret Whitley and Stephanie Hart each had nine points as No. 16 Geneva held on to defeat St. Charles North 60-58.
“With Grace getting hurt and Abby in foul trouble at the end, I got into a little foul trouble, too, so it really makes you have to be smart about things,” McCloughan said. “In a way, that actually helps us, playing with pressure like that, so that if we’re ever in that situation again, that will help us.
“I’m really glad we were able to finish because we’ve been in that situation much more than we’d like.”
St. Charles North (11-7, 5-3) hit five of its first six 3-point attempts to take a 15-12 lead with 1:32 remaining in the first quarter. But 16 seconds later, Geneva’s Kate Rogers answered with her own 3-pointer to spark 17-6 run that gave the Vikings a 29-21 lead 2:50 into the second quarter.
Hart’s 3-pointer with 3:06 remaining in the second quarter gave Geneva (14-4, 8-0) its biggest lead of the first half at 34-23, but the Vikings’ mood was tempered a few moments later when Loberg had to be helped off the court after injuring her left ankle while gathering a rebound.
“They responded, which is exactly what we wanted them to do,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “We talked about it at halftime. We knew we weren’t going to have Grace and everybody would have to do a little bit more.”
Trailing 37-29 at the break, the North Stars quickly took advantage of Loberg’s absence and tied the game at 39 on a conventional three-point play by Morgan Rosencrants. Fueled by McCloughan, Geneva countered with a 20-10 run capped by the 5-10 senior’s two free throws with 4:05 remaining.
“These kind of games are always really, really important for us,” McCloughan said. “I played AAU with a lot of these girls and am friends with them outside basketball, so there’s a little friendly competition there and it just makes it a lot more fun.”
Geneva appeared comfortably ahead leading 59-49 with just over four minutes remaining, but St. Charles North limited the Vikings to just four free throws while closing to within 60-58 with 31.6 seconds remaining on a basket by Rosencrants.
The North Stars had a chance to tie or take the lead at the end, but Nichole Davidson was called for an offensive foul driving through the lane in the final seconds.
“Too bad,” St. Charles coach Sean Masoncup said. “We got a good look at the end that could have gone either way. That’s a tough call to make, especially when there was much as contact as there was. We competed all the way down to the wire. we just have to make a few more plays next time.”
Davidson led St. Charles North with 23 points and Claire Jakaitis added 14.
“There were two great basketball teams taking punches and giving punches,” Masoncup said. “We’ll see them again later on this year.”