Class 4A Oswego sectional
Top four seeds: Bolingbrook, Neuqua Valley, Naperville Central, Romeoville
Regional hosts: Yorkville, Metea Valley, Benet, Lemont
Players to watch: Kennedy Cattenhead, Bolingbrook; Christen Prasse, Benet; Faith Suggs, Plainfield East; Kierra Currie, Romeoville; Lori Obendorf, Metea Valley; Victoria Trowbridge, Naperville Central; Allison Hedrick, Neuqua Valley.
Outlook: Bolingbrook has owned this sectional, winner of a record eight straight. Is this the year it ends? The Raiders (20-5) aren't as loaded with Division I recruits and could be vulnerable in a sectional seven-strong with quality teams. Still, best not to bet against Bolingbrook. If they get there, a sectional final between Bolingbrook versus Allison Hedrick-led Neuqua (24-3) would be rife with emotion; three Bolingbrook kids played for Neuqua last year. Upstate Eight Valley champ Neuqua could have to beat Metea (21-6) a third time on the Mustangs' home floor to win a regional. Metea is, though, down two starters out with torn ACLs. Even trickier, Naperville Central (23-6) might need to win at Benet to get through regionals. The Redhawks beat Benet in November, but that was without Christen Prasse. Benet (18-9) is battle-tested, playing one of the toughest schedules around, and showed how dangerous it is when hot from 3 by beating Marist last week. Conference rivals Romeoville and Plainfield East could meet for a fourth time in a regional final.
They said it: "I think more than in recent years there's a little more of an 'anything can happen' feeling to our sectional. But I still think Bolingbrook is the team to beat." - Naperville Central coach Andy Nussbaum
Class 4A Bartlett sectional
Top four seeds: Wheaton Warrenville South, Willowbrook, Wheaton North, Geneva.
Regional hosts: WW South, Schaumburg, Elk Grove, St. Charles East.
Players to watch: Meghan Waldron, WW South; Mandy Traversa, Wheaton North; Angela Bruno, Willowbrook; Sami Pawlak, Geneva; Liza Fruendt, Batavia; Diamond Boyd, Elk Grove.
Favorite: WW South
Outlook: The theme here could be, "Can we take the next step?" WW South, which lost in overtime to Bartlett in last year's sectional final, seeks its first sectional title since 1997 and first state appearance since placing second in 1985. Despite losing starters Maggie Dansdill and Sierra Bisso to torn ACLs, the Tigers (25-3), led by DePaul-bound Meghan Waldron, have won 24 of their last 25, went unbeaten in the DVC and already own two wins over Wheaton North and a win over Geneva. Feel-good story Willowbrook (21-5) and Wheaton North (20-7), which won 20 games for the first time since 1997, seek their first regional titles since 1996 and 1997, respectively. To do it Willowbrook could have to beat West Suburban Silver champ Proviso West, and Wheaton North might need to beat Elk Grove (18-10) on its home floor. Geneva (17-10) is the 10-loss team nobody wants in its bracket, evidenced by an impressive win at Neuqua last Friday. The Vikings could need to beat St. Charles East on its home floor to win a regional; the two Upstate Eight River rivals split two overtime games this year, each winning at home.
They said it: "Wheaton South has got to be the favorite. They're as healthy as they're going to be. The top 7-8 teams are looking really tough, though. - Wheaton North coach Dave Eaton.
Class 3A Nazareth sectional
Top four seeds: Montini, Glenbard South, Nazareth, Latin
Regional hosts: Crane, Prosser, St. Joseph, Wheaton Academy
Players to watch: Kateri Stone, Montini; Malayna Johnson, Montini; Stefi Bazigos, Glenbard South; Tyisha Saunders, Marshall; Kate Slattery, St. Francis; Chanel Brown, St. Joseph.
Outlook: Has Montini already booked its trip to Normal? The No. 1-ranked Broncos (29-1) seek to do what no girls basketball program has ever done, win four straight state championships. The Peoria Manual boys of 1994-97 are the only Illinois basketball program to do so. Montini, winner of a record eight straight sectional titles, is the overwhelming favorite here and to return to Redbird Arena. Led by a dominating defense that has held powers Whitney Young, Rolling Meadows and Fenwick to season lows, Kateri Stone, Malayna Johnson and Montini have won 16 straight games since a blip in the radar against Peoria Richwoods Dec. 22. Glenbard South (19-7), banged up late in the year, is 100 percent healthy again with glue girl Tomei Ball over mononucleosis. The Raiders could get a tough regional final against Suburban Christian Gold co-champ St. Francis, which Glenbard South beat 43-37 in December. Latin (21-3), bumped up to Class 3A, made a 2A sectional final last year. Marshall is the last team to beat Montini prior to state, in the 2009 supersectional.
They said it: "We're not saying anything about (winning state). We're focused on winning five games. The only way you can get downstate is to win five games. If you don't get down there, you can't win it. We know we're going to get everybody's best shot. I'm just hoping the girls have the right mindset. I think they're ready." - Montini coach Jason Nichols.
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