Lady Leafs give Yorkville fits on the court

Chris Steele
Sydney Himmelman, right, shoots over Yorkville defenders during Geneseo’s game against the Foxes.

Geneseo girls’ basketball coach Scott Hardison doesn’t believe in moral victories.

However, the Lady Leafs’ lockdown brand of defense made Geneseo look like they could hang with any team.

The Northern Illinois Big 12 East leading Foxes (13-2) pulled away from Geneseo in the second half, winning 55-33 on Jan. 8.

Yorkville’s high octane offense wants to get out and run, and Geneseo forced the Foxes to play a half-court game.

The Foxes were ice cold shooting the ball and struggled to get the ball inside to post player Katie Nolan.

“That’s the best we competed for a half,” Hardison said. “I thought we play really good defense. We didn’t allow them to get first shots, and didn’t allow them to run.

“Nolan didn’t do anything in the first half. That’s a credit to Lindsey (Francque) and Sydney (Himmelman) and our guard pressure on the outside.”

A junior, Himmelman showed flashes of the elite player she can be in the first half.

In a sequence, Himmelman grabbed a missed shot for an offensive rebound scoring on the put back.

On Yorkville’s next possession, Himmelman blocked a shot in the lane creating a one-on-one chance for Tarah Fisher in transition.

Fisher made a crafty move faking out the Yorkville defender underneath the basket for an easy layup.

Yorkville took a timeout leading 11-10 but bounced back and led 22-13 at halftime.

“What we need for her to be a good player is to have that for four quarters,” Hardison said. “It’s not an effort thing. It’s just her getting used to it, and her showing her potential. We need to see more of that consistently.”

The Foxes’ half-court offense only worked in spits and starts, but Yorkville’s defense shut down every passing lane.

Geneseo struggled against Yorkville’s length and reach, which made it seem like they had an extra player on the floor on defense.

The Foxes adjusted at halftime, and Geneseo’s offense couldn’t keep pace in the second half getting outscored 33-20.

Nolan’s skill, size and speed inside wore down the Leafs interior defense.

With the Foxes’ two six-foot post players (Nolan and Lindsay Harrison), Yorkville was able to get looks close to the basket.

Yorkville lived at the free throw line in the third quarter making 10-of-13 from the line to help pad their cushion.

The Foxes began to cruise after getting a big lead getting subs into the game.

Yorkville had 11 players score in the win, while injuries continue to mount for the Lady Leafs.

Gradert suffered an injury to her knee, and sophomore Anna McAvoy hit the floor hard but was able to walk off after getting attention from the trainer.

Geneseo lost Kendra Snider to a torn ACL following the Ottawa Tournament, and the Lady Leafs are looking to its sophomore players to help fill a thinning roster.

“This is their first foray into varsity basketball’s speed,” Hardison said. “We have to introduce them, and unfortunately, it’s throw them in the deep end and hope they don’t drown with the other four girls on the floor.”

Geneseo’s Jane Thomas has already showed her basketball acumen, and getting everyone involved only helps build for future years.

“(Thomas) knows where the hoop is and that’s a unbelievable skill,” Hardison said. “It’s something you can’t coach. She knows how to put the ball in the hoop, but if we can develop the rest of her game around that Jane will be a tough player for us in the next two years.”

The trick will be finding consistency so they can replicate the first half against Yorkville for an entire game and put themselves back in the race for the NIB 12 West.

“We still have a chance to win our side of the conference,” Hardison said. “If we take care of business, we still have a shot and that’s where our focus is right now.”