Class 2A state semifinal
St. Edward (27-5) vs. Bloomington Central Catholic (21-10)When and where: 7:15 p.m. Friday, Redbird Arena, Normal
TV: Live on Comcast SportsNet
How they got here: St. Edward defeated Chicago Academy 85-29 and Guerin 59-29 to win the Guerin regional then downed Chicago Clark 79-20 and Chicago Latin 63-42 to win the Guerin sectional before beating Illiana Christian 49-46 to win the Concordia University supersectional. BCC beat Downs Tri-Valley 70-26 and Champaign St. Thomas More 60-43 to win the Olympia regional, then the Saints defeated Clifton Central 56-52 and Monticello 56-32 to win the St. Thomas More sectional before downing Teutopolis 70-47 at the Parkland College supersectional.
State tournament history: St. Edward is in the state final tournament for the first time since 2007. The Green Wave won the Class A state title in 1985, finished third in 1986, second in 1988 and fourth in 1991. BCC is in its seventh state final tournament. The Saints finished fourth in Class A in 1983, won the 2A title in 2010, finished second in 2011 and third in 2015.
The coaches: Michelle Dawson is in her 13th year at St. Edward with a record of 206-159. Debbie Coffman is in her 19th year at BCC with a record of 447-121.
Outlook: On paper, at least, St. Edward has some obstacles to overcome as the Green Wave attempt to win the program's second state championship and first since 1985. The first of those is truly being the "visiting" team as Bloomington Central Catholic High School is located just 5 miles from Redbird Arena. "It's definitely a home game for them," said St. Edward coach Michelle Dawson, who was a junior on St. Edward's 1991 state team. "We'll have to have a mental toughness. It's a bigger facility than we've ever played in and we'll have to adjust to the amount of people Bloomington Central Catholic brings with them. They've had success and they're a good quality program so we will need a new level of mental toughness. We've talked about taking it all in and how this experience will create memories for the rest of our lives, but we have a job to do."
The Saints, who finished fourth in the Class 3A volleyball tournament in November, started the season 2-7 before finishing third at the State Farm Classic, which was played in part at Redbird. They have won 19 of their last 22 games. "That was the turning point for us," said BCC coach Debbie Coffman of the State Farm tournament. "That's when we knew things were turning around." BCC's balanced attack is led by sophomore guard Lauren Shanks (13.0 ppg) and 6-foot sophomore Bailey Coffman, the coach's daughter, who averages 10.7 points and 5.7 rebounds. She had 9 blocks in the sectional final and 10 in the supersectional. "They'll be a challenge," said Dawson. "(Coffman) and (Sarah Brady, 9.6 ppg) are good shooters and they have a nice trap they try to run. We'll have to work on keeping our composure and limiting our turnovers. They're a solid well-coached team."
St. Edward, which is on a nine-game winning streak, has been led all season by senior guard Maddie Spagnola, an AP first team All-Stater. Spagnola, who has just under 1,600 career points, averages 21.2 points per game and has 96 3-pointers for the season. Senior forward Katie Castoro averages 10.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. She made the game-sealing free throws Monday night when the Wave, down by 14 at halftime, completed their comeback win over Illiana Christian. Junior guard Yssa Sto. Domingo averages 8.8 ppg and is the team's defensive catalyst. "(Spagnola) is a very good player and they have some 3-point shooters we'll have to keep our eyes on," said Coffman. "They play a very aggressive man-to-man defense and we'll have to be able to handle that."
Taking it all in: Prior to Thursday's practice at Redbird, Spagnola and the Green Wave were relaxed, smiling and having fun. "It's mind-blowing," Spagnola said of playing in the state finals. "It's overwhelming. We've worked so hard to get here. Tonight (Thursday) is all about the mental preparation for this. We need to not get wrapped around all (the distractions)."
The alumni factor: IHSA assistant executive director Beth Sauser, nee Hasenmiller, will never let on, but you could see some alumni pride in her Thursday when St. Edward took the floor for practice. Sauser, who is in charge of girls basketball for the IHSA, is a 1987 St. Edward graduate who was a standout on the 1985 state title team and 1986 third-place team before going on to a stellar career at DePaul.
Advancement: The winner of the state semifinal will advance to the state championship game at 7:15 p.m. Saturday to play either Byron or Central-Southeastern. The losers play at 5:30 p.m. for third place.
Class 1A state semifinal
Harvest Christian (29-3) vs. Annawan (26-8)When and where: 11 a.m. Friday, Redbird Arena, Normal
TV: Live on Comcast SportsNet
How they got here: Harvest Christian defeated Westminster Christian 75-28 and Elgin Academy 70-12 to win the Harvest Christian regional, and Chicago Hope 58-25 and Walther Christian 58-47 to win the Harvest Christian sectional before beating Heyworth 54-39 to win the Pontiac supersectional. Annawan defeated LaMoille 77-32 and Amboy 49-35 to win the Annawan regional, then downed Newark 57-34 and Ashton-Franklin Center 48-34 to win the Serena sectional before defeating Galena 55-44 to win the Oglesby supersectional.
State tournament history: This is Harvest Christian's first appearance in a state final girls basketball tournament. Annawan finished third in Class 1A in 2013 and won the Class 1A championship in 2014.
The coaches: Rich DeTamble is in his third year as Harvest Christian's head coach with a record of 78-18. Jason Burkiewicz is in his 7th year at Annawan with a record of 191-37.
Outlook: Harvest Christian takes the next step Friday when the Lions play in the Final Four for the first time, and they do so against an experienced and talented team from Annawan that was ranked No. 9 in the final AP poll of the regular season. Annawan is in Henry County in northwest Illinois and the Bravettes play in the Indian Trail Conference. The school enrollment is 120. But don't let that small enrollment fool you -- the school is known for its athletic success in both its girls and boys programs and this girls basketball team has one of the best players in the state in any class. Jayde VanHyfte, a 6-foot-1 junior committed to Arizona State, was a unanimous AP All-State selection. She averages 23.4 points and 11 rebounds per game and shoots 52 percent from the field -- all of this after coming back from an ACL injury that claimed most of her sophomore season. "She's without a doubt the best player we've faced all year," said Harvest coach Rich DeTamble. But DeTamble says his team won't be intimidated by one player. "Annawan has the experience and the star player but we believe the team aspect can beat one player," he said during his team's practice at Redbird Thursday. "This group of girls truly has no fear. I don't think anybody expected us to be here and it's an eye-opener. It makes you feel super privileged to play basketball here."
VanHyfte has a young supporting cast around her that includes five freshmen and three sophomores. The Bravettes have no seniors on their roster. Junior guard Jordyn Sierens averages 8.8 ppg, freshman forward Kendall Gripp 7.6, freshman guard Keagan Rico 6.7 and junior guard Kaley Jackson 6.0. "We knew we'd get Jayde back but we had a lot of question marks," said Annawan coach Jason Burkiewicz, whose team started the season 2-6 but has now won 19 straight. "Our man-to-man defense has really carried us through the postseason and Jayde has been on a mission this year."
Just as Harvest Christian has been. After reaching the Elite Eight in 2015 the Lions were upset in a sectional final last year and have been on a mission to reach the Final Four ever since. Now that they're here, DeTamble says his team is having fun but staying focused, and he's not overly concerned about the shock and awe factor many teams experience when playing at Redbird for the first time. "We've been through the mill and we've played in enough places that I don't see a difference," he said. "We're tough player-for-player and athlete-for-athlete and nobody goes as deep as us. People underrate us."
The Lions, who have won 24 straight games, are led by junior guard Alyssa Iverson, an AP first team All-State selection who averages 19.5 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists per game. Katie Kaldenberger, the only senior on the team, scores 6 points per game and the 6-2 center leads the Lions with 50 3-pointers. Freshman reserve Maddy Martin scores 7.4 ppg, junior guard Isamar Garcia 6.9 and sophomore Jenn Kasper 5.2. Defensively the Lions thrive on steals and transition baskets. "They do a lot more pressing and have had some success with it," said Burkiewicz of the Lions. "We'll have to handle it. We feel we can attack pressure well. It could be a situation of which team can outlast each other. Like most 1A teams, we're not real deep."
The lone ranger: Harvest senior Katie Kaldenberger is the only senior on either team and she's savoring completing her high school career at the state finals. "It's great," she said Thursday after the Lions' practice at Redbird. "We've put in so much work, we really deserve to be here. It hit us hard when we lost in the sectional finals last year and we've worked harder than ever. We're just going to come out with confidence and I think we can succeed. We want to have fun but right now the most important thing is this is the state championship."
Comparing: Harvest and Annawan do have a little history. They played each other last year in the Chicagoland Shootout at Fremd, with Annawan winning 80-39. This season, the Lions and Bravettes have one common opponent -- Newark. Annawan defeated Newark twice, 47-39 and 57-34, and Harvest beat Newark 58-45.
Moving up: Due to the IHSA's "success factor", Harvest Christian will move up to Class 2A next year, according to Lions' athletic director Dave Lockwood.
Advancement: The winner of Friday's state semifinal will play for the Class 1A state championship at 12:45 p.m. against either Mendon Unity or Hardin Calhoun. The losers play at 11 a. m. for third place.