GENEVA - A good veteran basketball team will find ways to win basketball games, even on days it isn't at its best. There's no real explanation as to how it happens, it just does.
The Geneva girls fell into that category on Saturday afternoon with a 60-54 non-conference win over Howland to remain unbeaten.
"Give all the credit to them," Geneva coach Nancy Barbo said. "They came in and they hustled. They beat us in every category except on the scoreboard."
The Eagles (7-0) led by as many as 15 early in the second quarter, but Howland whittled away at the lead until it trailed by just two, 51-49, with 2:57 remaining in the contest.
Two free throws from Lindsey Mayle extended the lead to four a minute later.
Gabby Cvengros cut it back to two, 53-51, with 1:32 left, but the Tigers could not get over the hump.
Geneva scored the next six points from the free-throw line to seal the victory.
"Free throws win games," Barbo said. "I wasn't happy overall with the we played the entire game. Howland came ready and played hard. I was disappointed with the energy and effort."
The Eagles were 16 of 25 (64 percent) from the charity stripe in the contest and connected on 13 of 18 attempts (72.2 percent) - at one point knocking down eight in a row - in the final six minutes. Geneva did not record a field goal in that 6-minute span.
"They didn't miss," Howland coach John Diehl said. "They made something like six in a row."
Becky Depp was 7 of 8 from the line in the final period, Lindsey Mayle was 4 of 4 and Sarah Depp was good on one of her two chances.
Becky Depp's eight first-quarter points had Geneva in front, 16-6, through the first 8 minutes. The Eagles were 6 of 12 from the field in the period, taking advantage of some nifty teamwork.
"They pass the ball very, very well," Diehl said. "You can tell they've played together a long time. They're an excellent passing team.
"You can tell they've played together a long time. They all read the defense very well."
A jumper from Annaliesa Fistek, a bucket from the paint by Thomas and a drive through the lane by Mayle had expanded the lead to 22-7 with 6:21 to play in the half for the Eagles.
"I was pleased," Barbo said. "It was a little glimmer of what I want to see from them on offense during that stretch. All I kept emphasizing was to get the ball from one side to the other. We just went too quick to the basket too often (the rest of the game)."
Five different players tallied a bucket for Howland over the final five-and-half minutes of the period as the Tigers had cut their deficit to 27-19 at the half. Howland netted six of the final seven points to close out the first 16 minutes.
Trisha Ginnis scored six of her 10 points in an 11-2 run in the middle of the third to get Howland within a point, 33-32, with 2:53 to play in the quarter. But Becky Depp tallied five points and Mayle scored on a drive to push the Geneva lead back to eight, 40-32, with 1:31 to go in the quarter.
The Tigers were back within two, 51-49, after Cvengros was on the way to scoring. The bucket counted, but she missed the free throw. Jada Pagan, however, got the rebound and scored to give Howland new life.
"I'm happy with the way we played," Diehl said. "That's a very good team and we kept it interesting to the end."
Becky Depp led all scorers with 24 points, Thomas had 14 and Mayle added 10 for the Eagles.
Cvengros paced the Tigers with 15 points, while Trisha Ginnis had 10.