Girls Basketball: Leah Palmer leads Geneva late over Batavia

Vikings’ senior scores 30 points, grabs 11 rebounds in 52-44 win

Geneva’s Leah Palmer (22) shoots a three pointer over Batavia’s Kylee Gehrt (21) during a basketball game at Geneva High School on Friday, Dec 15, 2023.

GENEVA – Whatever Geneva needs from Leah Palmer on the basketball floor, she’s ready to deliver it.

Palmer, a senior, scored 30 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in a gritty 52-44 win over Batavia on Dec. 15.

The key third of the trio that powered Geneva to fourth place in the state last season alongside Lauren Slagle and Cass Arni, Palmer now is firmly the Vikings’ leader in every fashion on the floor.

“Embracing that role, I feel like I’ve grown as a player a ton so far already,” Palmer said. “I’m learning so many different things – how to facilitate the ball, pass the ball, be a better ball handler and also score at different levels so it just overall makes me a better player.”

Scoring 30 points is one thing. Providing essential defense, getting key rebounds and taking care of critical free throws down the stretch adds to her resumè as a dominant force for the Vikings.

“I feel like when I start hustling, that’s when I play my best,” Palmer said. “The points will always come, but when I hustle and get those rebounds, I can get those easy putbacks and it helps with the scoring a ton.”

Batavia coach Kevin Jensen sees Palmer as “more of a complete player now.”

“Before, it was somebody – even though she would do some of these same things – she was mainly looking for her shot (in previous seasons). A little bit more from the perimeter because she had a couple more inside,” Jensen said. “Now it’s whatever her teams needs, she’s going to do. ... Rebounds the heck out of the ball. If we keep her off the glass, just her alone, there’s a difference-maker (in the game).”

The Vikings led by 12 midway through the third quarter, but a 10-0 Batavia run fueled by two Hallie Crane 3-pointers helped close the gap to 32-29 with 1:47 left. Palmer hit two free throws, which was answered by Brooke Carlson’s layup for Batavia. Caroline Madden sank a 3-pointer for Geneva for a 37-31 lead going into the fourth quarter.

Batavia’s Kylee Gehrt (21) shoots the ball in the post against Geneva during a basketball game at Geneva High School on Friday, Dec 15, 2023.

Palmer hit a 3-pointer with 2:15 remaining to give Geneva some breathing room at 45-39. Kylee Gehrt and Carlson combined for three free throws for Batavia, but Palmer assisted on a crucial 3-pointer to counter those scores. Carlson kept Batavia alive with a layup, but Palmer saved her best for last. Palmer split two free throws with just under a minute left, corralled a crucial rebound on a barrage of Batavia misses and hit the final two free throws to ice the game.

“I’ll say that our two words this week and tonight were toughness and composure,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “I felt like if we could do those two things, we were going to be OK and I think all of our kids played super tough, we rebounded the heck out the ball, we had to do that. We handled their pressure and they thrive off of defense. If we could be composed, that would set us apart.

“That last timeout, we just said it’s all about composure. And then she knocked down the free throws and got the rebounds. ... She wants it badly. It’s just for these kids because they’ve played forever together. They’re best friends and it’s fun.”

Geneva (7-3, 4-0 DuKane Conference) also was paced by Kinsey Gracey’s nine points and three rebounds. Madden had six points and four rebounds.

Batavia (9-2, 3-1) was led by Carlson’s 20 points. Addie Prewitt and Addi Lowe had six points apiece.

“Defensively, there were parts where we shined and parts where we didn’t do enough on their best player (Palmer),” Jensen said. “Once again, we worked really, really hard at it but they are just so relentless on the glass and first, second, third efforts to get every loose ball that they can. Even with a tough shooting night because they were playing so well defensively, we’re right there if we can isolate a couple more of their rebounds.”