There was a state final like intensity surrounding the rematch of last year’s supersectional matchup between number one Maine West and number three Geneva.
Though Geneva led by as many as 18 points in the second half, they required a Madison Mallory last second jumper to hold off a furious Maine West comeback attempt, to give the Vikings the 55-53 win in what could be a preview of the class 4A state finals.
“These are the games that really benefit us,” said Geneva guard Stephanie Hart. “In postseason we play more teams like Maine West. As the season goes on we can also see what we need to improve on when we play teams like that again.”
Maine West found themselves in a hole right from the opening tip. The ominous start saw the Warriors miss three shots on their opening possession, including a wide open layup, a sequence that foreshadowed the rest of the first half.
The Warriors were unable to put any points on the board until five minutes into the third quarter, and shot 1-11 in the opening frame and 6-30 in the first half, giving Geneva advantages of 15-4 and 27-17.
“We were timid,” said Maine West coach Kim deMarigny. “We were’t expecting the ball to go in for us, and when it didn’t go in we they were like, oh we’re going to lose anyway. We had a nice heart to heart talk at halftime and we decided we had nothing to lose and everything to gain.”
Things didn’t get any better for Maine West in the third quarter as Allison Pearson and Angela Dugalic were glued to the bench with foul trouble.
During this stretch, Geneva extended their lead to as many as 18 points with their usual three point shooting barrage. This time it was Hart who led the way, scoring 10 of her game high 19 points in the third quarter.
Down 14 points entering the fourth quarter, Maine West slowly started to play their way back into the game behind a hot shooting start from Catherine Johnson.
Johnson hit her first two threes of the quarter to pull Maine West within 10 points, and additional defensive pressure put not only prevented Geneva from getting clean looks, but also forced Geneva to turn the ball over.
“That was senior leadership, and that was a captain stepping up tonight,” said deMarigny of Johnson. “She knew what needed to be done, she was taking control on the court and that’s what we really needed her to do.”
With the game winding down, Maine West still found themselves in a 7 point hole with just 1:20 left in the game, but three straight misses on the front end of one and ones by Geneva left the door open just enough.
Another clutch three by Johnson, followed by a driving layup by Rachel Kent left Maine West within just two points, and a Geneva turnover gave the ball right back to the Warriors with just 15 second remaining.
Maine West tied the game up for the first time since it was 0-0 with an Angela Dugalic running hook shot, but Geneva’s upperclassmen came through with a heads up play to close the game.
Maine West ties it up but Geneva comes right back for the log two. 1.5 seconds left. pic.twitter.com/yhSZeukClF
— IL Preps Insider (@ILPrepsInsider) January 7, 2018
The Vikings quickly took the ball out of bounds while Maine West was still scrambling to get back on defense, finding Mallory in the front court for the long two pointer to seal the 55-53 win for Geneva.
“We we’re actually trying to call a timeout, but I should have known better since we play better without them,” joked Geneva head coach Sarah Meadows. “We have five seniors who start and we had the most experience out there. Our big game experience was huge tonight, we talk about how these are the games we want to play in and you learn so much about your team.”
In addition to her game winning shot, Mallory was Geneva’s second leading scorer with 11 points to compliment Hart’s 19.
Dugalic, Johnson and Alisa Fallon all scored 13 points for Maine West, with Dugalic adding 11 rebounds, and Fallon with 8.