Lady Leafs fall short of title

Chris Steele
The Lady Leafs cheer during a big second half against Macomb at the Class 3A Geneseo Regional. Pictured are, from left: Kammie Ludwig, Kaitlyn Webster, Maddi Barickman, Hannah Himmelman, Assistant Coach Ryan Kelly and Josie Brown.

The Lady Leafs’ basketball team earned its first regional win since 2014 and competed in the regional championship game.

Class 3A Geneseo Regional Geneseo (2) vs. Macomb (10)

Was it Abbi or Maddi Barickman who just scored?

Lady Leafs’ identical twins were a blur in the first half scoring in bunches during Geneseo’s 90-44 victory over Macomb at Geneseo High School on Feb. 13.

Feeding off each other, Maddi scored 22 points in the first half, and Abbi tacked on seven first-half points.

“She’s my best friend so we pick each other up,” Maddi said. “We know each other’s ups and downs, so seeing her go off was a proud sister moment.”

Maddi finished with a game-high 21 points, and Abbi finished with nine points as Geneseo had all 13 players score in the game.

It was a historic win for the Lady Leafs who reached 25 wins in a season for just the third time in program history (1987, 1995 and 2019).

The win notched Geneseo second 10 game winning streak of the season as Geneseo rolled to their first regional victory since 2014.

After being upset in the regional semifinals 63-57 a year ago against Peoria Notre Dame, Geneseo had a different mindset during the semifinal game this season.

“We knew we had to come in with a lot more confidence than we had last year,” guard Keeli Frerichs said. “We didn’t want to underestimate the other team, and the energy we had on the bench and the floor made it so much better.”

A freshman, Kammie Ludwig scored 11 points and grabbed five rebounds, and Ali Rapps finished with seven points.

Josie Brown finished with seven points and four rebounds, and Hannah Himmelman scored six points tallying nine rebounds.

Geneseo’s Kaitlyn Webster and Lauren Pardoe each scored six points, and Frerichs scored five points and added five rebounds.

Taylor DeSplinter scored six points and grabbed five rebounds, and Eden McAvoy finished with two points and tallied five rebounds.

The Lady Leafs’ Adia Raya and Anna Pierce each scored two points.

Class 3A Geneseo Regional Championship Geneseo (2) vs. Canton (3)

The Opportunity rover on Mars was designed to last only three months, and it managed to last 14 years.

Similarly, the Lady Leafs’ seniors were rising stars setting a new standard while making anything seem possible.

Geneseo’s (25-6) run came to an end falling 56-50 in the regional championship against Canton at Geneseo High School on Feb. 15.

During their prep careers, Tori Verbeck, Brown, Himmelman, Raya and Webster provided hope and stability to the Geneseo program which made it hard for Lady Leafs’ Coach Scott Hardison to say goodbye after the game.

“It was a conversation about how those five players and (Manager Avery Spranger) are going to go out into the world and be successful people,” Hardison said. “I’m going to be able to say someday that I coached them. The journey was the best part of this.”

After Brown made the first of two free throws, Geneseo grabbed the offensive rebound on the second free throw but missed an easy shot in inside 10 feet.

With Canton still leading 50-44, the Little Giants took a timeout with 2:48 remaining and found their footing.

Canton’s Faith Demler scored a three-point play the old fashion way expanding the lead to 53-44 to help secure the first regional title in program history.

Geneseo uncharacteristically shot poorly from the free-throw line finishing 12-of-21 from the free throw line.

Second chance points defined the game with Canton making the most of offensive rebounds while limiting Geneseo’s chances.

“They owned the boards,” Hardison said. “If this was a normal game that’s what I would talk about afterward. This game was won on the offensive and defensive boards. They got them and we didn’t. It’s something we have to work on. It’s where they won the ball game.”

Maddi Barickman led Geneseo with 11 points including a pair of 3-pointers.

Himmelman and Ludwig each scored 10 points, and Brown finished with nine points.

Frerichs tallied seven points, Webster finished with two points and Rapps made a free throw.

In the sectional semifinal, Morton topped Canton 71-59 during the Class 3A Chillicothe Illinois Valley Central Sectional Semifinal on Feb. 19.