By STEVE GOLDMAN
It wasn’t far into Saturday afternoon’s game that the Geneva girls realized that it wasn’t going to be a day when points came easily for them. So they put the defensive clamps on South, and nevertheless wrested a 44-29 home win.
“We knew tonight after the first couple minutes that it wasn’t going to be our night offensively,” Geneva coach Nancy Barbo, who team went 3:58 into the contest before scoring, but shut out the opposition in the first quarter, said. “So defensively we had to buckle down a little bit tighter and hope that we could at least get stops.
“I was happy with all the shots that we took. It wasn’t like we were taking bad shots. Even when we got offensive rebounds — putbacks — we weren’t making anything. So it was a struggle.”
With the win, Geneva (16-1, 9-1) clinches at least a share of the Premier Athletic Conference title. The Eagles will win the league outright if they prevail in either of their two remaining PAC games, which are against Lakeside (next Saturday) and Riverside (Feb. 13), or if Madison loses to Chardon (next Saturday) in its lone remaining league PAC matchup.
Geneva’s Natalie Thomas scored 15 points and pulled down 12 rebounds, far more than anyone else on the floor, as the Eagles led in that department 40-29. Teammate Becky Depp led everyone with 19 points and added four steals and three blocked shots. Sarah Depp stole the ball five times for Geneva.
“That’s nice that (Thomas) steps up when she knows we need it,” Barbo said.
“She’s a good post player,” South coach Erin Errter said. “She knows how to position herself to get rebounds. She’s a tough player.”
The Eagles hit just 14 of their 52 shots (26.9 percent), and turned the ball over 20 times, but held South to 28.9 percent while forcing 28 miscues. They also went to the line more often, going 13-of-17 from the stripe as compared to five-of-six. The Rebels (5-14, 2-9) didn’t score until just more than a minute into the second quarter, after falling behind 9-0. They missed all eight of their shots and turned the ball over 10 times in the first period, which ended at 6-0.
Mo Stohlman led the Rebels with eight points. Teammate Carrie Luck blocked four shots.
“We work very hard on defense,” Ertter said. “That’s what keeps us in all of our games is our defense. We’re a little challenged in our offensive sets right now. We get shots; we got some shots from the outside, we got shots from the inside. We have to finish those. And then we’re looking at maybe six or seven more points.
“It’s just that little push — and it’s all offensive. We have the kids who can do it, it’s just (that) they’ve got to finish.”
“I knew that they would (make us work very hard to score),” Barbo said. “They’re a good, athletic team. They’re very aggressive.”
South never got closer than seven after the 9-0 beginning, but it stayed in the contest for a very long time. After a 16-9 score at the break, the margin varied between eight and 12 until Lindsey Mayle hit a triple for her only points, and Becky Depp converted a driving layup, to stretch it from 27-17 to 32-17 at the end of the third quarter.
The Rebels answered with the next seven points, making it 32-24 as the 5:30 mark approached. But with less than five minutes left, Thomas followed in a shot, and after Stohlman hit the front end of a one-and-one, Thomas hit two free throws, Sarah Depp one of two foul shots and Becky Depp a 3-pointer to push to 40-25.
“Their zone was just very extended, and for us to even run any sets against it was hard because they were so spread out,” Barbo said. “So I knew we just had to try to break it down with the dribble.”
South rotated seven players, and only six in the first three quarters.
The game was delayed for about 12 minutes when most of the lights in the gym went off at the 2:43 mark of the second quarter.
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.