The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

March 1, 2014

Hail, Geneva!

Geneva plants top seed East Tech for district title

For the Star Beacon

SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — At the beginning of the season, not many people gave the Geneva girls a chance to do too much in terms of success.

The Eagles have been proving everyone wrong for weeks now. On Friday, they continued to do so with their biggest accomplishment this year to date, by knocking off top-seeded East Tech, 45-38, to win the Division II district championship at Lakeside Gymnasium.

“It feels unbelievable,” Geneva coach Nancy Barbo, who also guided the Eagles to their only other district title in the 2009-10 season, said. “Nobody expected a whole lot from this group, I don’t think, and I think they exceeded every expectation and then some. And I’m just so proud of ’em, and I love ’em to death.”

Second-seeded Geneva (17-6), has now won 11 consecutive games. It will face Akron St. Vincent-St. Mary — a 39-31 winner Richfield Revere on Friday night — in a regional semifinal contest on Tuesday, at Barberton at 8 p.m.

“It’s a pretty awesome accomplishment, considering there is only one other team in Geneva history that’s gone to regionals,” sophomore star Lindsey Mayle, who scored 18 points, dished out 4 assists, blocked 3 shots and handled the Scarabs’ pressure, said. “It was just great to prove people wrong. People didn’t think that we were going to be as good as we were this year.”

The Eagles believed, though. Barbo related that she had thought that they could do it as long as they stayed healthy.

“I know it’s a long haul, and we suffered through some losses early on,” Barbo said. “And these girls could have gone in two directions. And they went the direction to get us here.”

Geneva kept East Tech (21-5) out of its deadly transition game, and made it tough on the Scarabs in their halfcourt offense. It held East Tech to 24.5 percent shooting (13 of 53), including a paltry 3 of 18 in the first half.

“(Keeping them out of transition) was our game plan,” Barbo said. “We knew their strengths. They’re really good at what they do, and we needed to do our best to try to limit it.”

“They outrebounded us; that’s the main thing,” East Tech coach Melvin Burke said. “They kept it in the paint. And we didn’t shoot well.”

Thus, the Eagles were able to take charge early, scoring the first 10 points and pushing to 15-3 on a driving layup by Mayle late in the first quarter.

“We needed to come out that way,” Barbo said. “That was a must-do. And I knew if we did, we could weather anything.”

“That kind of set a tone and gave us momentum,” Mayle said.

“But we knew not to let it get to our heads,” post Sarah Juncker, who contributed 8 points and 11 rebounds, added.

“We were trying to go individually (at the start) instead of team at that point,” Burke said. “We discussed that all week long, but for some odd reason unforeseen, we went individually instead of team.”

The margin varied between 8 and 13 until Geneva stretched it to 15 points three times in the third period.

The Scarabs made a run, but the Eagles were up to the task. Morgan Daniel (all 10 points in the second half) hit a 3-pointer and basket to spur a 7-0 spurt to cut it from 35-20 to 35-27 early in the fourth frame. Moments later they got within 6 at 37-31. They reached as close as 43-38 when Daniel made two of three foul shots in the waning seconds.

“We fought back as we do, but I’m proud of ’em,” Burke said. “But we lost to a good team that does a great job; they were well-prepared.”

Annaliesa Fistek had 9 points and Emily Ball 7 points for Geneva.

Juncker related that Natalie Thomas, a star post who graduated from Geneva last spring, was her role model.

“I’ve had a lot of up-and-down games,” she said. “I’ve just got to do my job.”

“(Juncker) is key,” Barbo said. “And when she’s consistent in the rebounding edge, and just when we are consistently getting her touches, we are a much better team.”

Shantell Bostick had 10 points, Jayla Sanford 7 points, Dyna Lurns 8 boards and Corrine Caldwell 7 caroms for the Scarabs.

Following the contest, the Eagles presented the game ball to Tim Mayle, Lindsey’s father, who is battling a serious illness. They then cut down the net.

“My sophomores have been playing against Lindsey since the fifth grade,” Burke said. “She handled a lot of pressure, and she did well.

“It takes a good guard to handle the pressure we gave her, and she did an excellent job.”

“I can’t believe  the poise that she demonstrates under such physicality, and just mental, emotionally as well,” Barbo said. “The things that she has handled are very impressive for a 15 year-old.”

“Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose,” Burke said. “I told my girls in (the locker room), you’ve got to be a big girl because in  competition you might get hit on the chin sometimes. Tonight, we got hit on the chin by a very well-coached, good team.”

Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.