Scouting girls basketball sectionals
Class 4A Libertyville sectional
Where: Libertyville High School
When: Monday (semifinals at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.); Championship at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Monday semifinals: No. 1 Rolling Meadows (26-3) vs. No. 5 Stevenson (20-8), 6:30 p.m.; No. 2 Fremd (25-7) vs. No. 3 Zion-Benton (19-9).
How they advanced: Rolling Meadows d. Hersey 53-37 to win the Mundelein regional; Stevenson d. Palatine 46-35 to win the Wheeling regional; Fremd d. Prospect 71-56 to win the Fremd regional; Zion-Benton d. Grayslake North to win the Grayslake North regional.
Meadows vs. Stevenson matchup: Stevenson Hall of Fame coach Tom Dineen and Meadows coach Ryan Kirkorsky go back a ways -- to Buffalo Grove High School. Dineen was Kirkorsky's health and physical education teacher at BG. "Ryan did a great job at Elk Grove (previous four seasons) and obviously he is doing extremely well at Meadows," Dineen said. "We've got our hands full." Dineen knows the Mustangs are full of weapons, including three Division I recruits in Jackie Kemph, Northwestern recruit Alexis Glasgow and Jenny Vliet. They also have a D-I Illinois State track and field recruit in Morgan Keller. "Meadows reminds me a lot of my last team at Buffalo Grove, said Dineen, referring to his explosive 2008 state finals team that included Division I players Maggie Mocchi (Northwestern), Allison Mocchi (Northwestern) and Ellen Ayoub (Loyola). "There are a lot of similarities." Coincidently, the Mocchis will be involved in Monday's game. They are Dineen's assistant coaches. Sophomore Taylor Buford led the Patriots with a career-best 22 points and 11 rebounds against No. 4 Palatine. In that game, Stevenson played without North Suburban all-conference guard Sophia Way (leading scorer at 11.4 ppg), who Dineen says has had a "lingering concussion" and is game-time decision Monday. "She takes care of the ball for us and does so many little things." Meadows defeated Stevenson 77-46 in each team's season opener. "We don't want to end the season with them, too," said Dineen, whose 2000 state champ BG team lost to Washington by 30 points at home during the regular season then defeated the same team in OT in the state semifinals. "Rolling Meadows is an outstanding team and Ryan has done a great job. We're much better than when we played them the first time." Kirkorsky has high praise for Dineen, who was a student teacher at today's host school before landing his job at Buffalo Grove High School. "He obviously had a lot of success at Buffalo Grove and has continued that success at Stevenson," Kirkorsky said. "I know he is one of the best coaches in the state and you expect his team will be a lot better than the first time we played them." Dineen plans a few different things. "I've read a few books since then," he said laughing. "We've got to do some things differently than back in November." The Pats are happy to be playing at this stage of the tournament. "To win 20 games and a regional championship with this group is a real nice accomplishment," Dineen said. "We're excited to be in the sectional. Last year was the first time we did that since I've been at Stevenson. The girls were excited to do it but didn't perform that well (in sectional). This season, it has been an expectation. They're excited and they are going to be ready. We've got nothing to lose. On paper, we're not supposed to win, but don't tell our kids that. We're going to give it our best shot and we will be prepared." Like Stevenson, the Mustangs' defense can not focus on one player either. "They have weapons all over the floor," Kirkorsky he said. "Their kids, especially the younger ones, have gotten a lot better as the season progressed. They are not anywhere near the team we saw at the beginning of the season."
Fremd vs Zion-Benton matchup: One year ago, Fremd fell to the Hall of Fame coach Tanya Johnson and her Zee-Bees 66-49 in the regional title game. This year, the Vikings would like to change that result in a sectional semifinal. The've already seen Zion once this season -- a 62-47 victory at the Montini tourney. "They remind me of last year," said Fremd coach Dave Yates. "They are very strong inside and have real athletic guards. We have to take care of the basketball and the big question is how we defend them because they've got two really good inside players." In the December win over to Z-B, Fremd did not have starters Haley Gorecki and Marilyn Lortz, both sidelined with ankle injuries. "They (Zion) dominated inside in the first half," Yates said. "But I thought we played better inside in the second half." Yates hopes playing a tougher schedule this season has the Vikes better prepared. "I'm glad we've seen them once," Yates said. "And we've seen a lot of other tough teams unlike last season when we had not played as many teams as athletic or physical." Four-year starter Ashley McConnell had her career high of 38 points against Z-B in December. The Vikings are Mid-Suburban League champs for the second time in three seasons. "I really think since the second half of conference play we've been playing better basketball and better defense," Yates said. "I think that is partly due to us getting better with every game since Haley (Gorecki, who missed 13 games) came back from her injury. We've gotten better in each game at figuring out things and getting back into our roles. Hopefully, we'll continuing playing well."
Class 4A Bartlett sectional
Where: Bartlett High School
When: Tuesday (semifinals at 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.); Championship at 7:30 p.m. Thursday.
Tuesday semifinals: No. 1 Wheaton-Warrenville South (27-3) vs. No. 4 Geneva (19-10), 6 p.m.; No. 10 Schaumburg (16-13) vs. No. 3 Wheaton North (22-7), 7:30 p.m.
Schaumburg vs. Wheaton North matchup: Coach Ashley Berggren brings Schaumburg into the sectional as the Cinderella team with its No. 10 seed. But the Saxons are believing in themselves after a 60-55 overtime win over Proviso West and an easier 60-39 victory over No. 3 Willowbrook which gave Berggren her first regional crown in five seasons as the Saxons coach. It's Schaumburg's first sectional appearance since 2008. Wheaton North edged Elk Grove 60-58 in overtime to win the Elk Grove regional as Falcons' standout Mandy Traversa scored 30 points. "We've got to figure out a way to contain her," said Berggren, who also played in three sectionals as a player at Barrington High School from 1992 to 1994. "If we continue to play great team defense, we can continue to be successful." The Saxons' last two wins have come after two losses to end the regular season. "This is how we should be playing now -- Schaumburg basketball," Berggren said. "We struggled in our two games (Hoffman Estates and Prospect) before the regional, but now we are ready to compete and showing what we are capable of doing." Amanda Kelly scored 19 points and Jada Blackwell added 17 against Willowbrook. Riley Williams added 9 while Carly Brossard had 8 rebounds for the Saxons, who handed MSL champ Fremd one of its two losses in the West.
-- John Leusch