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Class 3A Hoffman Estates supersectional
When: Monday, 6 p.m.
The matchup: Burlington Central (26-4) vs. Carmel Catholic (24-8)
How they got here: Burlington Central defeated Hampshire 59-35 and St. Edward 43-35 to win the Aurora Central Catholic regional, then beat Sycamore 42-28 and Rockford Lutheran 54-41 to win the Belvidere sectional. Carmel downed Elmwood Park 65-18 and St. Viator 61-42 to win the St. Viator regional, then defeated Antioch 59-46 and Vernon Hills 47-35 to win the Ridgewood sectional.
Outlook: Most observers would have told you Burlington Central was destined for a rematch with Vernon Hills in this supersectional. But then came Carmel Catholic.
The Corsairs, who have been toughened up by the East Suburban Catholic Conference, knocked off defending state runner-up and top seed Vernon Hills in the Ridgewood sectional final and now coach Kelly Perz says her team is relaxed and ready to take its shot at the next step.
Meanwhile, Burlington Central comes into Monday night's game with a bit of a chip on its shoulder after losing to Vernon Hills 39-31 last year.
All five Rocket starters as well as their top two players off the bench have the experience of last year's game on their side. The Corsairs' top six players are seniors.
What it all adds up to is what should be an entertaining battle, one predicated on defense.
"We're a defensive team," said Perz. "We pressure teams and try to make them do things they don't want to do."
Likewise, Burlington Central likes to pressure the basketball as much as possible, with 5-foot-7 sophomore Kayla Ross having shut down opponents' leading scorers night after night.
But that's one thing that concerns BC coach Mark Smith about Carmel -- there's more than one scorer. Senior guard Kathleen Felicelli (5-8) leads the team at 16 points per game but 5-10 senior Candy Kloss, 5-10 senior Leah Lach and 5-4 senior Nicole Bitter have all proven they can score on any given night.
Felicelli led the way against Vernon Hills with 17 points and the Corsairs showed they can play some defense, too, as Lach held Vernon Hills standout Sydney Smith to just 6 points.
Carmel did lose 6-foot junior Emma Rappe to a broken finger in the regional final but senior Paige Gauthier stepped in in the sectional and did a credible job. Senior Alexa Svoboda along with juniors Karoline Yacono and Sam Melillo give the Corsairs some depth off the bench.
"The injury hurt us. (Rappe) is a great player," said Perz. "We just told the team it's an opportunity for someone else to step up and contribute. They really took it in stride and were positive about it and just went back to work.
"Their age is starting to show and that's great to see."
Smith, whose team has won 11 straight, certainly recognizes and respects the experience Carmel brings into the game but knows even though his team has only one senior on the roster, it too has some experience on this stage that Carmel doesn't.
"Those kids have played together and that experience factor is something," he said. "They're very balanced ... a little like us in who is going to score tonight? They don't have a kid who we're going to put Ross on and say stop her. They have four kids who can score and that will be a challenge.
"They play in a tough conference and they're well-coached. They have a tradition up there of playing pretty good basketball. You don't know. We could come in nervous and then having seniors helps, but having the experience of playing in that game in that gym last year helps, too."
Perz, whose team lost to North Chicago in a regional final last year, believes her team's brutal schedule has proved to be a postseason catalyst of sorts.
"There was a point during our season where we were getting pounded by 20 points night in and night out," she said. "It was tough then but it's paying off now. We're mentally tougher and we're not intimidated by anyone."
Burlington Central has also made its way through the postseason with tough defense and balanced scoring. As sophomore Sam Pryor (14.4 ppg) has drawn the attention of most defensive schemes, junior Alison Colby (8.4 ppg) and sophomore Shelby Holt (8.4) led the way in the sectional title game with 15 and 18 points respectively, Holt hitting 4 3-pointers. Ross averages 7.1 points and the Rockets have hit 158 3-pointers on the season. They also allow an average of just 35 points per game.
"There are no bad teams now," Perz said. "We've watched them and have tape on them and they are very good. They are very athletic and they spread the floor very well."
With the program's first sectional title in the rear view mirror, Perz says her team is relaxed and ready for Monday.
"I don't think my kids feel any pressure and there's no expectations," she said. "We've never been this far so you just go out and play your butts off and see what happens."
Advancement: Monday's winner advances to the Class 3A state semifinals at Redbird Arena in Normal to play the winner of the Hinsdale Central supersectional game between Montini and De La Salle at 12:15 p.m. on Friday, March 7.
Burlington Central (26-4)Central 69, Larkin 46
Central 59, CL Central 16
Central 41, Sycamore 37
Central 58, Harlem 52
Central 69, Rock Falls 25
Central 47, Hampshire 36
Central 41, Rockford Christian 35
Central 71, Genoa 26
Central 77, Harvard 30
Mother McAuley 57, Central 41
Central 56, Dundee-Crown 44
Central 53, St. Charles N. 47
Maine South 44, Central 38
Central 51, Richmond 28
Central 80, North Boone 27
Central 54, Kaneland 33
South Elgin 47, Central 45
Central 35, Rockford Christian 34
Fremd 55, Central 35
Central 53, Richmond 24
Central 63, Genoa 29
Central 63, Marengo 19
Central 71, North Boone 39
Central 57, Marengo 28
Central 76, Harvard 25
Central 50, Glenbard West 34
Central 59, Hampshire 35
Central 43, St. Edward 35
Central 42, Sycamore 28
Central 55, Rockford Lutheran 41
Carmel (24-8)Carmel 42, Grayslake North 40
Carmel 72, Grant 55
Carmel 62, Prairie Ridge 62
Carmel 62, Highland Park 49
Carmel 70, Mundelein 47
Carmel 74, Marian Central 35
Resurrection 48, Carmel 44
Carmel 49, Benet 46
Carmel 58, Lakes 29
Carmel 66, Marist 61 (2 OTs)
Wheeling 45, Carmel 42
Carmel 51, Warren 47
Carmel 53, Deerfield 51
Carmel 56, Palatine 35
Carmel 51, Grayslake Central 41
Joliet Catholic 64, Carmel 47
Fenwick 57, Carmel 48
Carmel 60, Loyola 53
Bishop McNamara 53, Carmel 50
Carmel 40, Elk Grove 25
Marian Catholic 60, Carmel 29
Carmel 41, Libertyville 28
St. Viator 54, Carmel 51
Carmel 63, Waukegan 26
Carmel 66, Wauconda 51
Carmel 70, Nazareth 50
Providence 40, Carmel 39
Carmel 68, Harlan 52
Carmel 65, Elmwood Park 18
Carmel 61, St. Viator 42
Carmel 59, Antioch 46
Carmel 47, Vernon Hills 35