By STEVE GOLDMAN
For the Star Beacon
PAINESVILLE TOWNSHIP —
The Geneva girls ended their Premier Athletic Conference slate the same way they began it — with a narrow win against Riverside. Except that this time, they had to climb out of a hole to do it.
In a low-scoring battle, the Eagles overcame a 10-point first-half deficit on Wednesday then held off the Beavers down the stretch for a 38-36 win on an occasion when Riverside held its Senior Night.
Geneva (19-1, 11-1), which is ranked fourth in the Associated Press Division II poll, had opened its PAC campaign by defeating Riverside in overtime way back on Dec. 1 by a 52-46 count. The Eagles, who had wrapped up the outright league championship on Saturday, have won nine-straight games since losing at North on Jan.5.
“I told them tonight that they proved that they can come back from behind,” Geneva coach Nancy Barbo said. “We had proven that we can keep a lead, but we haven’t come from behind too many times this year. Tonight we had to, and it was early on that we did it, but at least we were able to do it.”
“It’s good going into the (Division II) tournament knowing we can come back from a deficit like that,” Geneva’s Becky Depp, who tied with teammate Lindsey Mayle with a game-high 12 points, said.
“We haven’t really been challenged like that before, where we’re down by a lot,” Mayle said. “And we fought back.”
Despite the loss, Riverside coach Brindi Kandel could also see potential benefits for her own team concerning the Division I tournament. The Beavers have now concluded the regular season, and will face Mayfield In a sectional semifinal matchup at Perry on Wednesday at 6 p.m.
“This game is definitely one that’ll get us ready,” Kandel said. “We had to do some late-game situation stuff. I thought when they went into the stall, we did a nice job denying and getting some deflections. So we were able to get the ball back a couple times; now we just have to improve on executing at (the offensive) end. And that definitely gets us ready for tournament.”
With Alexis Parsons scoring six points, Riverside (12-10, 5-7) got off to an 18-8 lead within the first minute of the second quarter. But Geneva shut the Beavers out from that point until just more than a minute into the second half. In the meantime, it tallied the final 12 points of the first half, with Mayle and Depp each scoring five points, to grab a 20-18 edge.
Riverside broke the drought on a spinning layup by Katie Klingman (8 points, 9 rebounds, 4 blocked shots) and went on to take the lead two more times. However, the Eagles regained the advantage at 27-24 when Emily Ball hit a 3-pointer for her only points of the night with less than three minutes to play in the third quarter.
Depp hit a triple to push the advantage to 32-28 with less than seven minutes left in the game. From there, the teams took turns scoring two points as the lead varied between two and four until the finish.
More than three minutes remained when Geneva scored for the final time, with Alyssa Scott finding Mayle (4 assists) for a backdoor layup to make it 38-34. After getting possession back via a steal, it was able to eat about a minute off the clock, but following a Riverside foul and timeout, Parsons (10 points) stole the inbounds pass and converted it into a layup for what would prove to be the game’s final points.
The Eagles ran off more than 30 seconds before missing a shot, but an attempt at a reverse layup by the Beavers bounced off the rim. A traveling violation gave Riverside another chance, but Geneva was able to tie the ball up and regain possession with 42.2 seconds left.
The Beavers gained one final opportunity when Klingman rebounded a missed one-and-one with 13.9 seconds left. But after a timeout with 8.6 seconds to go, the Eagles’ staunch defense didn’t allow a good shot, and forced Kortlyn Carr to fire in desperation from the left corner, far off the mark.
Natalie Thomas had eight points, 11 rebounds and six steals for Geneva. Megan Carabotta scored eight points and Abbey Militello blocked two shots for Riverside. Klingman and Carr combined to score all 10 of the Beavers’ points in the third period.
The Eagles went 13 of 45 (28.9 percent) from the floor as compared to 16-of-42 (38.1 percent) for the Beavers. But they hit four 3-pointers while Riverside had none, and made eight of their 12 free throws as compared to four-of-eight for Riverside, which missed all three of its foul shots in the final quarter.
“I think any time a team has an off night, you have to attribute that to the other team’s defense,” Barbo said. “I think (the Beavers) were just a little bit more aggressive on defense, they took us out of some of the things that we (tried to do), and we didn’t respond. We just kind of stood around and let them take us out of what we do instead of making adjustments. And then we made adjustments, and we started clicking a little bit better.”
“I’m proud of the girls’ effort overall,” Kandel, who specifically mentioned limiting the 3-pointers scored by Depp and Mayle, said. “They did some things defensively that we really worked on in practice. We just needed a couple more executions offensively down the stretch.”
Goldman is a freelance writer from South Euclid.