NORMAL, Ill. (AP) — Senior center Grace Loberg scored 17 points and grabbed 9 rebounds to lead Geneva past previously undefeated Edwardsville 41-40 Saturday to capture the girls 4A championship.
Loberg had the numbers, but guard Stephanie Hart’s put-back in the paint with less than two seconds left pulled out the stunning last-minute victory.
Edwardsville (32-1) was looking to become the ninth big-school girls’ team in 40 years of championship history to finish a season unbeaten and win it all.
But Hart and Geneva (29-4) had other ideas.
Hart missed the front-end of a one-and-one free throw chance with her team ahead 39-38 with 36 seconds left in the game. Edwardsville immediately made her pay when Rachel Pranger was fouled and hit both free throws to put Edwardsville up by one point with 23 seconds left to play.
With 8 seconds left, Geneva’s Margaret Whitley missed a layup. Hart grabbed the rebound, fought off two defensive players and went up for the shot.
It rolled around the rim twice and dropped in.
A court-length pass by Edwardsville with less than a second left on the clock was intercepted at half court by Loberg, who was immediately mobbed by her teammates.
It’s the first state championship for Geneva and third appearance in the state finals. The Vikings finished fourth in 2009 and 2014.
“These are tough kids,” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows said. “We asked a lot of them all season, and they always did what we asked of them.”
Edwardsville coach Lori Blade was not available for comment after the game.
“Wow. I’m so unbelievably happy right now,” Hart said moments after the game ended. “I mean, it really hasn’t hit me yet, I guess.”
“It’s my last time wearing a Geneva jersey,” Loberg said. She is an All-American volleyball player who will attend the University of Wisconsin next year. “I wasn’t going to stop until we achieved what we wanted to achieve.”
The score was tied at 23-23 at halftime. The lead changed hands only twice in the game, with Edwardsville leading for only 18 seconds in the final minute of the game.
Geneva shot 15-34 from the field, while Edwardsville went 15-39.
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