Class 3A Glenbard South sectional.
Regional hosts: King, Queen of Peace, Nazareth, De La Salle.
Top seeds (by regional): Montini, St. Joseph, Glenbard South, Riverside-Brookfield.
Outlook: Montini can make history if it plays into March. The two-time 3A state champions can join Bolingbrook (2009-2011) and Teutopolis (1988-1990) as the only girls basketball teams to win three straight titles. Just don't tell Broncos coach Jason Nichols that. "You can't win (state) unless you get there," Nichols said, "and our goal is to get there right now. We're just taking it one game at a time." Besides senior Tianna Brown and junior Nikia Edom, Montini's young players will face unchartered waters in the playoffs with seven sophomores and freshmen. Montini seeks its eighth straight sectional title; seven shares Bolingbrook's state record. The toughest competition could come from St. Joseph, who beat Montini 39-34 in December in Lombard. Montini was missing point guard Kelsey Bogdan in that game, and since then the Chargers roster has been ravaged by injuries and other losses. No. 3 sectional seed Glenbard South (15-11) brings in a much younger team than last year behind sophomores Tomei Ball and Stefani Bazigos, and not near the record as last year's, but have a much easier path out of regionals than a year ago. The Raiders split two games with No. 4 sectional seed Riverside-Brookfield this year. Nichols knows his team is very capable of, and should, win this sectional again -- but with youth comes greater highs and lows and more uncertainty. "We have to limit those self-inflicted unforced turnovers," he said, "and we have to rebound the basketball well at the defensive end. If we do that we are capable of beating anybody in the sectional and the supersectional. For us it's the little things."
Advancement: The King regional winner will meet the De La Salle regional champ in one sectional semifinal Feb. 21 opposite the Queen of Peace regional winner and Nazareth regional champ. The Glenbard South sectional winner will meet the Fenton sectional champ at the Hinsdale Central supersectional Feb. 27.
Class 4A Neuqua Valley sectional
Regional hosts: Bolingbrook, Lockport, Waubonsie Valley, Oswego.
Top seeds: Bolingbrook, Benet, Waubonsie Valley, Neuqua Valley.
Outlook: Bolingbrook (22-1), which seeks its record fourth straight state championship, is the prohibitive favorite to win this sectional and meet Whitney Young in a supersectional. Connecticut recruit Morgan Tuck, recently named a McDonald's All-American, leads an imposing cast of eight senior Division I signees. Benet, the last team to beat Bolingbrook in a sectional game back in 2004, is enjoying one of its best seasons since then under veteran coach Peter Paul. The Redwings (22-6), led by sisters Sidney and Christen Prasse, ran off an 18-game win streak which included wins over Fenwick, Geneva and Waubonsie. But two losses last week has Benet somewhat limping into the postseason, hurt by the limited availability of 3-point ace Madeline Eilers (ACL). "We played a quarter well last Friday against Hinsdale South," Paul said. "That is the type of team we need to be consistently throughout the playoffs, and hopefully we can make a run." A potential rematch with Waubonsie awaits in the sectional semis, but getting out of regionals won't be a picnic. Romeoville (21-4), led by junior Bolingbrook transfer Kierra Currie, or Plainfield East and fantastic freshman Faith Suggs, would both provide tests. "We have to come out and play Benet type of basketball," Paul said. "We have eight seniors that would like to go out the way they are accustomed to."
Waubonsie (23-2) enters the postseason playing some its best basketball, with wins over Bartlett and at Geneva in recent weeks. The Warriors veteran, physical lineup, led by seniors Tami Morice, Becky Williford, Erica Jordan and Rachael Ross and junior Gratia Brooks, hopes to advance to the sectional final for the second time in three years. "Having these girls for three years, I'd like to get as far as we can go," Waubonsie coach Kim Connell said. Waubonsie will need to beat either Naperville North, who they defeated in November, or Oswego East in a regional final to get another crack at Benet. The Warriors balanced lineup has all five starters averaging between 8 and 10 points per game. "We're playing more consistent now, getting scoring out of everybody," Connell said. "You always hope that when the season ends you are playing your best basketball."
Neuqua Valley (21-6) seeks its first regional title since 2006, and the opportunity to play in a sectional on its home floor. Megan Doody-led Neuqua hopes to be healthy this week, as sophomores Nikki Lazar and Malia Smith both tweaked their ankles recently. First up for the Wildcats is Oswego, who Neuqua beat 62-35 in December -- but that was without Oswego's best player Paige Harmon. "The biggest thing for us is we cannot have a slow start," Neuqua coach Mike Williams said. "We always have a great second half but our ability to get off to a good start and stay consistent is key."
Tonight's other regional semifinal pits a pair of surging teams. DVC co-champion Naperville Central (19-8) has won nine straight since a 44-38 loss to Neuqua Valley. Drake recruit Emma Donahue, who has scored 49 points over the Redhawks' last two games, is a load inside and gets good help down low from junior Victoria Trowbridge. Metea Valley (15-12), 7-1 over its last eight games, can counter Naperville Central's size down inside with juniors Lori Obendorf and Anna Petersen, and senior Amira Turner. Bria Walker is a streaky shooter for Metea. "It will be a good matchup," Redhawks coach Andy Nussbaum said. "The bottom line is we have to go out and perform." Naperville Central owns a 45-25 win over Metea, but that was way back on No. 18. "We expect Metea to be a better team than they were the first time," Nussbaum said, "but we are a better team too. Our girls have an understanding of what's at stake."
Advancement: The Bolingbrook and Oswego regional winners meet in one sectional semifinal Feb. 21 opposite the regional champs from Lockport and Waubonsie Valley. The Neuqua Valley sectional winner plays in the Hinsdale Central supersectional on Feb. 27 against the Lyons Township sectional champ.
Class 4A Hoffman Estates sectional.
Regional hosts: Bartlett, Geneva, Addison Trail, Conant.
Top seeds (by regional): Bartlett, Geneva, Wheaton Warrenville South, York.
Outlook: Top sectional seed Bartlett (26-1), whose only loss came at Waubonsie Valley, is the favorite to win its first sectional since taking second in Class AA in 2005. The path was cleared considerably with Trinity and Fenwick bumped to the Lyons Township sectional. Bartlett's all-senior starting lineup is led by Indiana recruit Haley Videckis. With Geneva (22-5) going without Marquette recruit Ashley Santos, out for the year with a torn ACL, No. 3 seed Wheaton Warrenville South (25-3) could be Bartlett's toughest opponent before Redbird Arena. The Tigers, led by sophomore point guard Meghan Waldron and senior Kasey Gassensmith, are a good bet to win their first regional since 2007. DVC foes Glenbard North and Wheaton North are potential regional final opponents, and WW South swept them both by convincing margins in conference play. "Everybody is 0-0 now, so there are no easy games," cautioned Tigers coach Rob Kroehnke. "We need to take care of what we're doing. Hopefully we can make a little run." Kroehnke doesn't hide that he'd love a shot at Bartlett. "I'd love to get that opportunity," he said. "They're really good. There's no way around that." Elsewhere, a potentially intriguing regional final could happen at Conant. No. 4 seed York (16-12), recent winners of the West Suburban Silver behind guard Anna Bell Lansdowne, could meet No. 5 West Chicago (14-12) and its good guard trio of Claire Monroe, Allie Tapanes and Laura Panicali. West Chicago has beaten York the last two years in the regional semifinals.
Advancement: The Bartlett and Conant regional winners meet in one sectional semifinal Feb. 20 opposite the regional champs from Geneva and Addison Trail. The Hoffman Estates sectional winner plays in the Elgin supersectional on Feb. 27 against the McHenry sectional champ.