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Girls basketball: Geneva rolls into sectional on winning streak

Geneva's Sidney Santos shoots over NeuquValley's Bryce Menendez during Feb. 8 game.  | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media

Geneva's Sidney Santos shoots over Neuqua Valley's Bryce Menendez during a Feb. 8 game. | Corey R. Minkanic~For Sun-Times Media

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Class 4A Bartlett

Today’s games

Geneva vs. Wheaton Warrenville South, 6 p.m.

Schaumburg vs. Wheaton North, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday’s game

Semifinal winners,
7:30 p.m.

Updated: March 20, 2013 6:35AM

Geneva girls basketball coach Sarah Meadows knew when junior point guard Michaela Loebel went down with a season-ending knee injury early in the season there was too much talent on her roster for the Vikings not to bounce back.

It took some time, but the Vikings have found their stride at just the right moment.

The Vikings have won seven straight games, including the Upstate Eight River title and a regional championship, putting them in Tuesday’s Class 4A Bartlett Sectional semifinal against DuPage Valley Conference champion Wheaton Warrenville South at 6 p.m. Schaumburg battles Wheaton North in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m.

“We had a key injury, and since that happened, we tried different things with different people and we have a combination that’s working and clicking,” Meadows said. “I kept telling the kids to be patient, it will all come together.”

The first domino to fall was asking junior center Sidney Santos to move to point guard to replace Loebel. Santos plays small forward during the AAU season, giving her some experience on the perimeter, and is one of the rare players with the physical ability to make such a drastic move at a moment’s notice. After missing her first two high school seasons with knee injuries, she made the transition seamless.

“She was ready,” Meadows said. “She’s probably one of the most unselfish players I’ve ever coached. She’ll do whatever the team needs.”

Sami Pawlak has been her usual productive self in the post, averaging a double-double and flying all over the court for loose balls. Also helping has been the emergence of juniors Morgan Seberger and reserve Madeline Dunn. With Loebel out, it was only natural that some other players on the roster have had to emerge, and those are the two players Meadows points to as helping fill some of that void.

The Vikings started the season 9-8 before figuring things out. They are 10-2 since then and last week’s regional title win over St. Charles East may give an indication of how the team has evolved. The first time they played, the Saints won in overtime. The second time, it was the Vikings winning in overtime. Last week, Geneva won 63-39.

“The key difference on Thursday was our defense, it was phenomenal,” Meadows said. “We had a different mentality because it was a regional title game and we had to have that. The kids understood.”

The challenge Tuesday is Wheaton Warrenville South. The Tigers are 27-3 and finished the DVC slate with a perfect 14-0 record. They are led by senior Diamond Thompson, a 6-foot-4 center who transferred from Montini and is committed to Notre Dame, and junior Meghan Waldron, who has already surpassed 1,000 points in her career and committed to DePaul two weeks ago.

“They have two studs,” Meadows said. “They have tall kids, and we’re not really used to that. It’s going to be a tough game. They got us at Christmas (58-47), but I think we’re a totally different team right now.”

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