The three area girls basketball teams who have survived and advanced to their respective district tournaments all have something in common. Geneva, Madison and Pymatuning Valley all played their opponents in the district semifinals earlier this season.
The Eagles opened the season with a win over Lakeview to open the season. The Lakers dropped Champion in overtime just as the page turned to start the new year. The Blue Streaks hung with Mentor for two and a half quarters before eventually falling to the Cardinals.
Given those results, don’t expect any of the three area teams to do anything much different this time around... .
For that matter, don’t expect the Lakers’, Eagles’ and Blue Streaks’ counterparts to change their respective plans of attack much either.
“We’ll do what we have to do to win,” Lakeview coach Adam Lewis said. “We’re not going to reinvent the wheel. We got where we are by playing our style and we’re comfortable playing that style against Geneva.”
“Jeff (Compan) does a fabulous job with his kids,” Champion coach Jeff Thompson said. “You’re not reinventing wheel. You go with what got you there. You try to play to your strengths and minimize your weaknesses.”
Here’s a look at each of the three matchups:
(1) Geneva vs. (4) Lakeview
Barbo has been a thorn in Lewis’ side. The Eagles (21-2) have beaten Lakeview in all four of the teams’ previous battles, three of which have come at the gym in Andover Township.
“We’ve definitely made sure the girls are aware Lakeview will come in with a little more, I don’t want to say motivation, but with a fire in their eyes because of the past situations,” Barbo said. “We made sure our girls know they’ll be throwing everything they have at us just to prolong their season and put us behind them.”
Barbo was on to something with her assessment.
“This is my fourth year and Geneva ended our season the last three years,” Lewis said. “We’re 0-4 against Geneva right now because they beat us earlier in the season.
“(Our players) know about that. We talk a lot about Geneva. They’re well aware (Geneva’s) ended our season the last few years. We were glad to get them on our schedule at the beginning of the year so that they know what we’re getting into.”
That said, Lewis respects the Eagles.
“Geneva is a solid program,” he said. “They do a lot of things very well. They did those things well at the beginning of the season and they’re still doing them well now.”
The reward for winning Thursday would be a date in the district semifinal with the (2) winner between second-seeded Chagrin Falls and third-seeded Lake Catholic.
Geneva has put together quite a run and has been about as consistent as is possible.
“I talked to the girls about some of the past teams I’ve had and told them that the betters ones I’ve known what we were going to get game to game, not so much in scoring, but hustle plays and rebounding,” Barbo said. “This is one of those teams. I know what I’m going to get from them game to game and I hope that leads to some consistency.”
Lakeview (18-5) was pushed to the limit by Perry in its sectional championship, finally winning, 56-54, in overtime. The best slice of what kind of team the Bulldogs have been, though, might be their home-and-home series with Jefferson in All-American Conference play.
In the first matchup at Falcon Gymnasium, the Falcons dictated the tempo and had control of the contest until a late 11-0 run gave the Bulldogs the victory. In the second contest between the two, the Bulldogs asserted their pace and coasted to the win.
“For us, it’s a matter who shows up,” Lewis said. “We haven’t been the most consistent team this season. The girls have to show up and play four good quarters.”
The Eagles will present a unique problem for Lakeview, defensively. Any one of four starters — and maybe even two or three players off the bench — can get hot and carry the offense at any given time.
Guards Becky Depp and Lindsey Mayle have been dual threats all year. Both can hit the 3-pointer from just about anywhere. However, if a defender rushes out with the singled-minded approach to stop the jumper, they will both drive past that defender for a layup.
“Both of them have come a long way,” Barbo said. “At the beginning of the season, they were really just willing to settle for that outside shot. I think they both realized that the 3 is good, but when it’s taken away, they have to drive. Both of them are good free-throw shooters and hopefully that will get them to the line, too.”
When teams decide to spread out and defend the perimeter, Natalie Thomas will score in the post.
“Natalie never stops working,” Barbo said. “The other teams defense might take breaks, but Natalie never does. She’s open more than we see, but she knows in due time she will get that look.
“They’re such good friends, I’ve seen her, as they’re running down the court, communicate that they need to look for her. If they don’t, she’s content to just work off the boards and get those looks.”
In Geneva’s 62-38 victory over Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin in a sectional championship, Sarah Depp proved to be of the same mold as Becky Depp and Mayle and picked up the mantle for the Eagles when the other two struggled for opportunities.
“She’s always had that ability,” Barbo said. “We’ve been talking to her about being ready to go. Against NDCL, she took advantage of openings and it worked out. It was a nice time to recognize that.”
At times during the season, Emily Ball, Alyssa Scott and Annaliesa Fistek all have given the Eagles a shot in the arm when it was needed.
“The three of them have come along nicely this season,” Barbo said. “They’ve contributed highly in many games. It changes from game to game, but they’re very good at waiting for their time and making the most of their opportunities.”
Defending Geneva will be a problem for the Bulldogs.
“Geneva is a very balanced team,” Lewis said. “If you look at their scoring, they have three or four girls at or near double figured every night. It’s going to have to be a total team effort. We can’t have missed assignments or mental lapses.
“We have to play four quarters.”
The Bulldogs are not nearly as diverse. Junior guard Allie Pavlik scores nearly half of Lakeview’s points.
“It’s hard to say we’re not a one-dimensional team,” Lewis said. “I’d have to say we are one-dimensional. But we use that teams key on one player as motivation for the other girls. They have to step up.”
The Eagles will primarily use Emily O’Dell with Lyndsey Armstrong and Sarah Depp taking over at times to try and shut Pavlik down.
“They’ll have a little help from their teammates,” Barbo said. “One thing about (Pavlik) is she’s a great overall athlete. She doesn’t just score inside the offense. She scores by getting steals.
“On offense, we’ll have to work to take care of the ball to prevent steals and we’ll have to work to keep her from scoring in transition.”
Pavlik knows what’s in store against the Eagles.
“Allie knows Geneva’s MO is to shut down (their opponents best scorers),” Lewis said. “She’ll try and not give in to the hype and do what she can to get other people touches.”