GENEVA – Lauren Slagle’s maturation as a basketball player is unfolding for all to see.
Whether it’s the Geneva senior muscling for 11 rebounds, pump-faking a first step drive on the baseline and finding an open teammate or finding her scoring rhythm anywhere in the post, Slagle’s polished all-around game can be easy to pick up on.
“That’s actually the word that we keep using as a coaching staff. She’s maturing as a player,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said after the Vikings’ 65-44 victory over St. Charles North on Dec. 9 in the DuKane Conference. “We think [it’s] every single game.
“And doing little things like help-side defense, crashing the boards. She’s one of the most athletic kids on the floor and she can get out and run. We want her to rebound and go and she’s coming.”
Slagle, who poured in 21 points, corralled 11 rebounds and had a pair of blocks, began offseason work with the goal of improving her rebounding.
“I was looking at my stats last year and my biggest goal was rebounding,” Slagle said. “So I came to the [season] and was like I need to out-rebound and I need to rebound for my team. I feel like those rebounds slowly gave us points [on Friday]. I feel like those rebounds are making our transition [offense] better.”
Cassidy Arni exploded for 15 first-quarter points Dec. 9, while Slagle seemingly rode a steady wave all game long.
Perhaps Slagle’s best stretch of minutes came on a multiple moment sequence in the middle of the third quarter.
The 6-foot senior forward first scored on a driving layup. After a North Stars’ miss in the other direction, Slagle cleaned up a Geneva missed shot and added the putback. Slagle later hit a pair of free throws and again had another rebound/score combo for a 47-27 Geneva advantage with 3:11 remaining.
Slagle later showcased her passing ability on a pump-fake drive along the baseline. After clearing just enough space and drawing defenders, Slagle kicked it out to sophomore guard Perry Sweeney for a 3-pointer and a 50-30 Vikings’ lead.
Arni had 23 points and four rebounds. Rilee Hasagawa followed with seven points. Kinsey Gracey had five points and Caroline Madden had six rebounds for the Vikings (7-2, 3-0).
“I think our team’s chemistry is playing into a factor [for my collective solid start to the season],” Slagle said. “Especially with me and Cass. Cass and I play so well together. We have a great chemistry. I think our team, the reason why we play so good is because we’re truly friends on and off the court. And it shows.”
Arni also sees the connection that extends beyond their high school team.
“We played for a while together on AAU [M14],” Arni said. “We’ve always been a little duo. But she always catches my crazy passes and it’s really nice having someone [like Lauren] that I can just lob it up and she’ll always get it.”
The North Stars (7-2, 2-1) managed to weather an 18-5 first-quarter deficit to claw back to within 10 with 5:50 remaining in the third quarter.
St. Charles North forward Katrina Stack led the way with 17 points, while Alyssa Hughes followed with 12 points. Elle Fuhr had six points and five rebounds and Julia Larson had seven points for the North Stars.
“We’re not going to make any excuses and that’s not going to start now [on a flat start to the game],” North Stars coach Mike Tomczak said. “I thought they played hard. I thought in the first quarter, when you play elite teams – we have a number of elite teams on our schedule – and you miss half a dozen layups at the rim in the first quarter, you’re going to have a long night.
“You don’t deserve to win those games. Now, we fought back and made it competitive, but when you start that way on the offensive end and miss the ones you have to make against great teams, you’re going to have a tough night.”