Girls basketball: Leah Palmer’s double-double leads Geneva past St. Charles North

Vikings advance to Class 4A sectional final

Geneva’s Leah Palmer reacts to making a half-court shot at the buzzer before halftime during a Class 4A Batavia Sectional semifinal game against St. Charles North on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.

BATAVIA – Geneva’s Leah Palmer banked in a buzzer beater from near half court to end the first half with the Vikings trailing St. Charles North during Tuesday’s Class 4A Batavia semifinal game.

She’s so money.

Palmer scored 22 points and grabbed 14 rebounds to lead the Vikings to a 42-36 victory.

Geneva (23-8) advances to Thursday’s sectional championship at 6 p.m. against host Batavia (27-5), which beat St. Charles East, 63-51, in Tuesday’s earlier semifinal.

“She just does everything on both ends of the court and is just a fun basketball player to watch,” Vikings coach Sarah Meadows said. “She trusted her teammates to knock down those shots. She (was) playing that high post and dishing the ball to them. It was huge.”

Peri Sweeney, Keira McCann and Kinsey Gracey drained 3-pointers for the Vikings in the third quarter.

“In all of our big wins people have stepped up and made big shots,” Palmer said. “We perform at our best when they’re shooting great and they’ve done a great job all season.”

They were Geneva’s only 3-pointers in the game along with Palmer’s shot from the Bulldog at half court.

“The last time we saw them they hit 10 (three-pointers),” North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said. “This time they hit four. That’s an improvement. But when you take something else away, you give them something else and (Leah) Palmer was on the glass and really looking to attack and she did a great job. Credit to her.”

Gracey’s 3 came with just 1:05 left in the third quarter giving the Vikings a 31-25 advantage.

“We switched our offense in the third quarter to give just a little bit different of a look,” Meadows said. “We moved Leah (Palmer) to the high post which I think helped us a little bit and then we got out of that in the fourth quarter, but that third quarter was really big for us, those couple of adjustments made a big difference.”

St. Charles North’s Laney Stark gets the ball to the basket away from Geneva’s Lucie Garnier during a Class 4A Batavia Sectional semifinal game on Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2024.

St. Charles North (27-5) had the game moving at its preferred pace for the opening half.

“North is a very, very, very good basketball team and very good at setting the pace,” Meadows said. “They force you to do what they want to do and that’s what we talked about at halftime. We were letting them dictate what we wanted to do. We weren’t playing aggressive, we weren’t running the floor, and we needed touches in the middle and I think our kids listened to that and did a nice job of making those adjustments.”

St. Charles North appeared to have a 19-14 lead heading into halftime, before Palmer’s heave.

“A contested half court shot, I’ll take my chances,” Tomczak said. “But at the end of the day we needed a couple more boards and a couple more baskets inside and we didn’t get them. But it’s a night to celebrate our seniors and everything they’ve accomplished. I’ll miss them very much.”

Riley Barber’s jumper near the free-throw line with 3:02 left in the game allowed the North Stars to draw even at 33-33, but the Vikings proceeded with an 8-0 run all supplied by Palmer.

Palmer made her final seven free throws after splitting her first eight attempts to finish 11 of 15 from the free-throw line.

“At first I was disappointed with myself,” she said. “I feel like I developed so much as a player so I had to get past that mentally, because it was mental and in the end I focused and fixed it for the end.”

Laney Stark had 12 points and Reagan Sipla added 10 points for the North Stars.