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Columnist
A lot to like about these 2 programs
By John Lemon | Daily Herald Columnist
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Published: 2/18/2011 1:54 AM

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Thursday marked the fourth time in less than a year 364 days to be exact that I've watched St. Charles North's girls basketball team play Geneva.

I've enjoyed every one, and not just for the high caliber of basketball. This is turning into a matchup that brings out sportsmanship on both sides. The kind of sportsmanship you hope all the area athletes, coaches and fans are both learning and displaying but, unfortunately, you don't always see.

It all starts with the two coaches, Geneva's Gina Nolan and St. Charles North's Colleen Brennan, whose team came up on the short end the second straight year but had nothing but glowing things to say about the Vikings afterward.

"I wish Geneva the best of luck," Brennan said. "We really do love playing this team. I love how they play, I love how they are coached. I hope they are very successful this postseason."

The Vikings' 51-32 victory for the Class 4A St. Charles East regional championship didn't have the last-second drama as last year's 47-45 championship game.

But it had plenty of emotion. Nolan shed tears talking about how much this group of players has meant to her as she's returned to coaching after battling cancer. It's an inspirational return to so many and I'm first in line.

"Every day is special basketball or not," Nolan said. "It's nice the time I've had with these kids and how much they have supported me. It means a lot. To accomplish it (a third straight regional title) through all we've been through together on and off the court is great."

Nolan pointed to a John Wooden quote she said sums up what Geneva has done this year. Nolan heard the quote from Geneva baseball coach Matt Hahn: "Winning takes talent but repeating takes character."

"I'd like to think our girls and our program has a lot of character," Nolan said. "In those adverse times in games that's what gets us through relying on each other. We've had to rely on each other for a lot more than basketball this year."

Brooke Binette is one of eight Geneva seniors.

"We knew this year we had a disadvantage because we were smaller and Coach Nolan just got back but we knew wanted to play hard for her and ourselves and we want to make it as far as we can."

Brennan has only known Nolan for two years but has quickly become a big fan.

"We developed a strong rapport and kept in touch," Brennan said. "I just have a lot of respect for her. I'm excited for them. That will be our focus now, we want them to do well."

No doubt, sportsmanship at its finest on both sides.