The Geneseo girls’ basketball team opened the Northern Illinois Big 12 season with victories over Rochelle and Sterling.

The Geneseo girls’ basketball team opened the Northern Illinois Big 12 season with victories over Rochelle and Sterling.

Rochelle at Geneseo

The Lady Leafs’ guards were the difference in Geneseo’s 67-55 victory to open play in the NIB 12 West, in Geneseo, on Dec. 8.

With Anna McAvoy sitting out the game with an injury, Geneseo guards took on an even bigger role in the offense.

Leading 16-12 after the first quarter, Geneseo guards Keeli Frerichs and Mariah Smith helped the Lady Leafs break the game open.

Smith drove through the lane and made a layup in traffic to give Geneseo a 21-12 lead.

Frerichs followed by attacking the basket for a jumper in the post, and Smith scored on a layup after Heather Dietrich stole a pass in transition for a 25-12 lead.

The Maple Leafs kept the game in cruise control leading 35-22 at halftime.

Geneseo continued to expand their opening a 57-39 lead by the end of the third quarter.

The Leafs’ Hannah Himmelman was difficult for Rochelle to guard without fouling.

Himmelman finished with a team-high 15 points, and she made 7-of-8 from the free-throw line.

Smith finished with fourteen points off the bench including a pair of 3-pointers to help give Geneseo’s strong interior players room to work.

A senior, she opened things up from the outside with perimeter shooting hitting a pair of 3-pointers and finishing with 14 points.

Smith believes Geneseo’s depth gives everyone a chance to step up and help the team on any given night.

“It helps bring a spark to the team,” Smith said. “It really helps get them going, and that’s what we need is for somebody to bring that spark and help the team out.”

Cutting to the basket Frerichs ways outstanding at driving to the hoop, and she finished with 13 points.

A sophomore, Frerichs has blossomed since the start of the season, and she believes Geneseo’s effort on defense has to lead to an increase in scoring for her.

“Our steals really motivate the team,” Frerichs said. “Especially me, to go in transition, stay wide and take the ball to the hoop if we can. Even with outside shots going in it’s nice to get layups because those are an easy two points.”

Geneseo’s Josie Brown continued to shoot well finishing with 13 points, and Jane Thomas added six points.

The Leafs’ Breanna Smith made a nice contribution off the bench to give Geneseo size.

A 6’1” forward, Breanna Smith added four points along with a few offensive rebounds.

Sterling at Geneseo

Geneseo Coach Scott Hardison said he saw the frustration from Frerichs early in the season after making the jump to varsity as a sophomore.

Following Geneseo’s 54-39 victory over Sterling, Hardison was ready to shake her hand and tell her she had proven she was more than a sophomore, in Geneseo, on Dec. 12.

“The juniors and the seniors get mad at me when I tell all the juniors and seniors come over here — and Keeli,” Hardison said. “They say don’t call her a sophomore, she’s not. They want her here and she’s proven that on the court.”

Frerichs finished with nine points, and she was dynamic driving to the basket and dishing the ball.

The Lady Leafs’ Himmelman scored a team-high 14 points.

Himmelman helped put the game away in the third quarter by scoring eight points to help Geneseo outscore Sterling 16-10 in the third quarter to take a 48-28 lead.

While Himmelman has been a constant, Geneseo’s guards are taking things to a new level.

Brown scored seven points and believes the Lady Leafs’ guards can have someone different step up on any given night.

“Whoever is shooting the ball and making it just get them the ball,” Brown said. “I think it’s a big part of who we are.”

A senior, Dietrich made a 3-pointer to end the third quarter, and she finished with seven points.

Mariah Smith continued to give Geneseo some outside shooting make a 3-pointer, and she finished with five points.

Jane Thomas knocked down a three-pointer, and she finished with five points.

In her return to the lineup, Geneseo’s McAvoy finished with five points, and Adia Raya made a jumper to finish with two points.