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Leah Palmer leads Geneva to regional title

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senior guard Leah Palmer He knew he had to change his approach for Geneva this season.

Taking over as the Vikings’ leading scorer, Palmer didn’t have the luxury of being in front of upperclassmen like Cassidy Arni, so she realized from the start that this would be her show.

“Mentally, I’ve gotten a lot better at it,” Palmer said. “I just want to go out and start as hot as I can. I’m just worried about coming out with some energy and helping my team as much as I can.”

Help? Palmer didn’t really need that Thursday night.

He had a good first half against the host Hilltoppers, recording 18 points and 10 rebounds in the first half of the 45-32 victory in the Class 4A Glenbard West Regional championship game.

Palmer scored a double-double with 21 points and 10 rebounds for Geneva (22-8), which will play against St. Petersburg in the Batavia Regional semifinals at 19.30 on Tuesday. He broke out with 35 points against St. Charles North (27-4). Defeated host Lake Park 22-22 for the regional championship.

Fairy Sweeney Nine points were added to the Vikings. Sophia Brown led Glenbard West (26-7) with 11 points.

Summarizing the first half, Palmer scored 10 points in the first quarter and assisted Geneva’s other basket. He later added eight more points and an assist in the second quarter.

So Palmer scored or assisted on all 23 points and the Vikings took a 23-16 lead at halftime.

Geneva’s Leah Palmer (22), Glenbard West’s Makenna Yeager and Lily Hubbuch move toward the basket while defending during the Class 4A Glenbard West Regional championship game on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Glen Ellyn. (James C. Svehla / The Beacon News)

“Extraordinary” Geneva coach Sarah Meadows aforementioned. “He’s a great basketball player, period. He is capable of doing this. I feel like people are surprised and they say: ‘Why?’ He is very good.

“Honestly, it’s pretty much what we expected.”

The hot start was a sign of how Palmer is working on that different mentality.

“I knew Glenbard West would show up physically, and they did,” he said. “They came out and made a lot of shots, so I wanted to do everything I could to keep my team in the game.

“We couldn’t make shots, so I wanted to be the guy to help us move forward so we didn’t have too many deficits.”

Glenbard West made a concerted effort to slow Palmer down in the second half, but that led to more assists. Geneva started the third quarter with an 11-2 run.

Geneva's Hope Ieler, Leah Palmer and Glenbard West's Makenna Yeager fight for a loose ball during the girls Class 4A Regional final basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  (James C. Svehla-Beacon News)
Geneva’s Hope Ieler, center, Leah Palmer, right, and Glenbard West’s Makenna Yeager fight for a loose ball during the Class 4A Glenbard West Regional championship game on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Glen Ellyn. (James C. Svehla / The Beacon News)

Palmer brought the score to 34-18 with two points and two assists. The Vikings led by as many as 20 points in the fourth.

“It had a face shield, it was difficult to open,” Palmer said. “They were very helpful, which was great because I was able to pass that on to my teammates. I was able to find them.

“If I have three girls with me, I’ll find the open teammate.”

Meadows said Palmer’s death was an underrated part of the game.

“They pressured him and then he gave the ball away,” Meadows said. “It’s like: ‘If they’re going to double-team me, make a layup.’ That’s a really good part of his game.

“He sees the ground and understands it.”

Geneva's Leah Palmer celebrates with her teammates after their win over Glenbard West in the girls Class 4A Regional final basketball game on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Glen Ellyn, Illinois.  (James C. Svehla-Beacon News)
Geneva’s Leah Palmer, 22, and her teammates celebrate with a plaque after hosting the Hilltoppers in the Class 4A Glenbard West Regional championship game on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Glen Ellyn. (James C. Svehla / The Beacon News)

Glenbard West coach Kristi Faulkner Palmer said it was too much to handle.

“He’s a great player,” Faulkner said. “We had a hard time containing him. We had a game plan and we gave them credit. He played really well.”

Vikings on Tuesday in St. He will face a familiar foe in Charles North. The two teams split their two regular season matches.

But Meadows believes Palmer will rise to the challenge as interest grows.

“He’s a player,” Meadows said. “He is a competitor. He wants this. It feeds on this. “He wants the best of the best and he won’t back down from that.”

Paul Johnson is a freelance reporter for The Beacon-News.

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