The three smallest schools in Elgin will embark on the girls basketball postseason when Class 1A and Class 2A regionals open on Monday night.
Westminster Christian, which advanced to a Class 1A supersectional last year before losing to eventual state champion Freeport Aquin, will play in Class 2A this season,, while Harvest Christian and Elgin Academy remain in Class 1A.
Westminster brings another sparkling record, 20-4, into the postseason, Two of those losses, to Class 4A Schaumburg and Class 3A Hampshire, have come in the last 3 games for the undefeated Northeastern Athletic Conference champs.
But while Westminster rolled through its regional tests of the past two years, this year will be no easy task for the Warriors, who are seeded second behind the host school at next week's IC Catholic regional.
"We've seen (IC) a fair number of times and they are a very good basketball team," said Westminster coach Ken Flickinger, whose team opens regional play with a Wednesday semifinal against third-seeded Chicago Douglass. "(IC) is very well-rounded and solid defensively. They make you work for every inch of the floor. We'll have to play good basketball if we want to win."
The Warriors have been led throughout the season by eight seasoned seniors and sophomore standout Maddie Versluys, who recently scored a school-record 32 points in a win over St. Francis.
Senior McKaila Hays went over 1,000 career points in that St. Francis game and is the program's second leading all-time scorer as well as the career leader in 3-pointers and assists. Seniors Claire Speweik, Liz Meschewski and Kinsley Donahue, among others, give the Warriors an experienced group that is intent on having more postseason success.
"This year will be tougher," said Flickinger of moving up to Class 2A. "So far my observation of 2A is that it's a little bigger, a little stronger. We've played teams in other classes and our kids are excited about our chances. With eight seniors, they recognize this is their chance. They're showing a lot of leadership in\ practice and that's filtering over to the rest of the team."
IC comes into the regional 20-6 and finished 8-2 in the Suburban Christian Gold, winning the division title for the second straight year. The Knights, who won the Class 2A state volleyball championship in November, are led by a trio of seniors -- Abby Radoha, volleyball standout Rory Manion, and Grace Vitek. Virek averages 10.3 points per game, Manion 8.8 and Radoha 7.5.
"We are getting great contributions from all aspects of our team and are peaking at the right time," said IC coach Aubree Lawrence. "We remain humble and focused going into the regional."
The regional opens Monday with No. 4 seed Walther Christian facing No. 5 Chicago Academy. That winner plays IC in Wednesday's first semifinal with the championship game set for Friday night.
The IC regional winner advances to the Chicago Marine Military Academy sectional to play the Chicago Christ the King regional winner. Also in that sectional will be regional winners from North Shore Country Day and Francis Parker.
Harvest Christian would like another home game.
The Lions will host a Class 1A sectional but in order to play in it, they will have to first beat Elgin Academy on Tuesday then, most likely, tradition-rich Hinckley-Big Rock in its own floor in the Thursday title game.
"We're looking forward to it," said Harvest coach Kelly Friestad, a 2004 graduate of Newark High School who played several high school games in the H-BR gym. "Hinckley-Big Rock is a good team with a good basketball tradition. They are very fundamentally sound and they play good defense. We hope we can play right with them and we'd love to be playing at our own place in the sectional.
"It's do or die time so we have to come out and play well against Elgin Academy on Tuesday."
The Lions have been led all season by the scoring of junior Kylee Knox, the leading scorer in the Fox Valley area who recently went over 1,000 points for her career.
Elgin Academy, led by senior Susie Cain, comes into the regional 4-15.
Hinckley (14-13) is led by seniors Lauren Paver, Andrea Binkley and Caitlin Flanigan. The Royals have 13 regional titles in program history and won the Class 1A state title in 2009 and 2010.
The regional opens Monday with No. 4 seed Mooseheart taking on Ni. 5 Faith Lutheran of Crystal Lake. That winner faces H-BR in Tuesday's first semifinal with the championship game Thursday. The regional winner takes on the Morgan Park Academy regional winner at Harvest on Feb. 18.