Geneva High School girls basketball players Natalie Thomas and Becky Depp began their varsity hoops careers as members of the 2009-10 Eagles squad that advanced to regional tournament play for the first time in program history.
Now seniors, the dynamic duo have their sights set on helping this year's team make more postseason history.
"From that [prior] experience, Natalie and Becky have been driven to take us there again," 17-year head coach Nancy Barbo said.
The two senior leaders have helped lead Geneva (20-2, 11-1 Premier Athletic Conference) to the team's second-consecutive outright conference title and have helped the Eagles earn recognition as one of the state's best Division II squads this winter.
Geneva, ranked fourth in the season's final Associated Press state media poll, defeated Notre Dame-Cathedral Latin 62-28 on Feb. 21 to win a sectional tournament championship and to advance to play Cortland Lakeview in an Andover District Tournament semifinal contest on Thursday.
Depp is the team's leading scorer, averaging 13 points per game, and Thomas' 10.6 points-per-game average is third-best on the team, but the Eagles possess multiple offensive weapons. Freshman Lindsey Mayle is averaging 13.3 points per game, and according to Barbo, each member of the team has developed a role on the team.
"Each of our players has stepped up big for us at some point this season," Barbo said.
For proof, look no further than Sarah Depp, Becky's twin sister, and fellow senior Emily O'Dell.
"Many times, Sarah has provided us with an offensive punch when our main guard scorers were struggling or were being face-guarded by opponents," Barbo said. "Sarah [and Emily] have also been used to defend opponents' best players."
The Eagles' mettle has been tested this season, as their three-straight overtime wins against conference rivals Painesville Riverside, Madison and Eastlake North in December prove.
Shooting 70.7 percent from the free-throw line as a team has helped Geneva thrive in close games.
Any sense of overconfidence that could have been building heading into the postseason because of the team's sparkling record and late-game success, though, was quickly eliminated when the Eagles were defeated by Cleveland Heights in their final regular season home contest.
"We wanted that game to be a special memory for our [five] seniors who have given so much to our program," Barbo said.
Geneva is now focused on replacing that disappointing memory with a positive one that features a deep tournament run.
Earlier this week, Barbo answered questions about the Eagles and their season thus far for WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site.
WKYC's usatodayhss.com Web site: What has been your team's motto this season?
Geneva girls basketball coach Nancy Barbo: We have not had a true motto this season. However, I would say, "Play hard, play smart and play together" has been verbiage we've constantly used.
WKYC: What are three adjectives that describe your team and/or its play this season?
Barbo: Three adjectives to describe our team this season are tough, unrelenting and together.
WKYC: What have been your team's greatest strengths this season?
Barbo: Our team's greatest strengths this season have been our belief in each other, the number of girls who have the ability to score and our free-throw shooting.
WKYC: What has been your team's biggest weakness this season?
Barbo: Our biggest weakness has been being inconsistent on the offensive end.
WKYC: What must happen for your team to be able to make a deep tournament run?
Barbo: In order for us to go far in the tournament, we need to keep focusing on the defensive end and holding teams below their [scoring] average. Offensively, we need to limit our turnovers and move the ball to get good looks at the basket.
WKYC: When the season is long over, what will you remember most about this year's squad?
Barbo: The thing I will remember about this team is the fight they put forth every time they step out onto the floor to play. This team truly has a never-say-die attitude.
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