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St. Charles East stuns Geneva in OT
By John Lemon | Daily Herald Staff
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Published: 12/6/2012 11:52 PM

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Paige Jordan looked up at the St. Charles East scoreboard in disbelief.

Who could blame her? The Saints had just accomplished something nobody could remember doing before, if they had ever done it.

That’s what you get when you look up and see an 81-75 final score, with that win coming in overtime over the premier area program, Geneva.

Saints coach Lori Drumtra said her team has never scored 81 points, and she couldn’t recall the last time they had beat the Vikings, who have dominated the Upstate Eight Conference River Division since joining it.

So that should more than explain why when that final buzzer sounded the Saints swarmed each other, hugging and celebrating like they had just won a regional — maybe state — championship.

“It means the world,” Jordan said. “Now we have to do it one more time to prove this wasn’t a fluke. Now we put ourselves on the map. Now I think teams are going to look at us in a different light and know when they walk into our gym that they are going to have to bring their ‘A’ game because we won’t quit until the buzzer sounds.”

Geneva (6-3, 3-1) learned that lesson the hard way, despite coach Sarah Meadows stressing to her team this week in practice that St. Charles East (5-4, 3-0) is a second-half team.

The Saints have won their last three games with big second halves, none finer than the 16 minutes — plus 4 more in overtime — that they turned in Thursday against Geneva.

Trailing by 16 points in the second quarter and 35-23 at halftime after 8 different Vikings scored in the first half as they carved through the Saints’ full-court pressure for several high-percentage looks (15-of-24 shooting from the field), St. Charles East welcomed back Amanda Hilton in the third quarter.

A three-year starter, Hilton sat the first half per team rules for being out last weekend at a soccer tournament. She said she stayed after practice Wednesday putting up extra shots, and she gave her team a big lift with 18 points in the final 20 minutes.

“I knew since I was coming off soccer I needed to get my shot going,” Hilton said. “I practiced it and it fell. It was a really, really good game and just competitive both ways so I’m glad we stuck with it.”

After Carly Pottle opened the third quarter with a 3-pointer, Hilton hit a pullup jumper — the start of a torrid pace by both teams that saw the Saints outscore the Vikings 27-19 to pull within 54-50 entering the fourth quarter.

Hilton scored 9 points in the third quarter alone and Pottle had 11, while the Vikings were hitting right back. In one exchange Jordan drove for a pair of baskets to pull the Saints within 42-40 only to see Morgan Seberger nail an NBA-distance 3, then Pottle answer with a 3 on the Saints’ next trip, then Sami Pawlak find Abby Novak on a backdoor cut for a 3-point play leaving Geneva up 48-45.

Hilton found Pottle for another 3-point shot only to see Sidney Santos hit a long 3 of her own. Jordan penetrated for a 3-point play only to be matched by Seberger’s 3, then finally a Hilton layup just before the third-quarter buzzer sounded.

“They weren’t exactly what I drew up,” Drumtra said of some of the tough shots Jordan, Pottle and Hilton kept hitting. “I think they were just reacting and playing. We definitely upped the pressure in the second half, that is the story of the last three games we’ve played.

“I’m kind of in awe here myself. Great confidence-booster. I can’t remember the last time we’ve had a win against Geneva.”

The fourth quarter saw more of the same. This time it was Pawlak who came out on fire scoring Geneva’s first 12 fourth-quarter points, sinking one jumper after another until the Saints changed from a zone to a man. After Jordan’s 3-point play put the Saints ahead 65-64 — their first lead since 6-4 — with 2:59 remaining, Pawlak scored again on an assist from Santos to put Geneva up 66-65.

Jordan tied the score at 66 with a free throw with 1:24 left. Neither team scored again, Hannah Nowling stealing the ball to allow the Saints to hold for the last shot.

Hilton was fouled with 1.7 seconds left but missed both free throws sending the game to overtime.

“I just told her to shake it off,” Drumtra said. “It’s a hard free throw to make. That’s who I’d want at the line.”

Seberger drove for a layup to put Geneva up 68-66 in overtime. That turned out to be the Vikings’ last lead as Jordan drilled a 3-pointer from the wing for a 71-68 lead, then after the Vikings missed 4 times including a block from Kyra Washington, Jordan hit a deep 23-footer on a third-chance possession for a 74-68 lead with 1:25 left, and Geneva never got within 5 points again.

“I’ve always been taught to have a short memory and never remember the last shot you took, always remember the ones you make,” Jordan said. “I got the play set up for me so I knew I had a lot of support, my teammates and coaches all believed in me so that really helped. I just launched it and it felt right and when it went in it felt like the greatest shot I’ve ever made. Those two 3s are really going to go down (as my favorite shots).”

Jordan and Pottle both scored 25 points for Saints — Jordan 14 in the overtime and fourth quarter — while Washington grabbed 11 rebounds as the Vikings won that battle 44-29. The Saints made up for it by turning the ball over just 11 times to the Vikings’ 22 including 7 in the fourth quarter and 3 in OT.

“Hilton only played a half and scored 18 points,” Meadows said. “What a great basketball player but we’re better than that.

“Sami had some huge shots. Her jumper looked really nice tonight. We had some silly turnovers and they just kept the momentum and their kids can shoot. Those three kids can score.”

Pawlak hit 10 of 13 shots from the field to lead Geneva with 20 points. Novak came off the bench with 18 points and 8 rebounds, Seberger scored 13 and Santos filled up the stat sheet with 10 points, 10 rebounds, 7 assists, 2 steals and 2 blocked shots.

The Vikings shot just under 50 percent at 31 of 63 while the Saints made 28 of 64 from the field including nine 3-pointers for a win they won’t soon forget.

“We haven’t beat Geneva in years and they always kill us and we knew this was our year and we knew we could come out and beat them,” Pottle said. “We did the best we can and came through.”