Scouting Fox Valley girls basketball postseason
When the Class 4A and 3A girls basketball postseasons tip off next week, area fans can only hope the playoffs are as entertaining as the regular season has been.
Basically every conference race, from the Fox Valley to the Upstate Eight to the Kishwaukee River to the ridiculously tight DuKane, came down to the last week -- with both the FVC and DuKane decided by the final game.
If that's any indication for the regionals and sectionals the next two weeks, there should be plenty of upsets, buzzer-beaters, drama and fun.
"Our sectional is loaded," said Bartlett coach Brad Hunt whose team is the third seed at the Class 4A Batavia sectional. "There's 10 teams that if they get on a roll can win that sectional. You are going to have to end up playing all the teams anyway so let the cards go and let's play ball."
Sounds good. Let's start by taking a closer look at each sectional.
Batavia sectional: Two-time defending state champion Geneva earned the second seed behind Rolling Meadows.
It's obviously an entire different Vikings squad with five new starters. Geneva (18-11) struggled late in the season, losing three straight DuKane games to go from first place to a tie for second behind Wheaton Warrenville South.
Geneva features one of the best players in the sectional in junior forward Lindsay Blackmore (17.4 points per game, 8.5 rpg, 2.0 spg, 1.7 bpg). Sophomore guard Kate Palmer emerged as the team's second-leading scorer at 10.2 ppg but finding a consistent third scoring option hasn't been easy with nobody else averaging over 5 points a game.
The Vikings will try to win their 11th straight regional, which they get to do on their home court starting against either St. Charles East or Hoffman Estates. If they get past that game they will either try to avenge a 42-31 loss to No. 10 seed St. Charles North (15-12) or repeat a 51-50 win over No. 6 Glenbard West (20-6) in the regional final.
Batavia (16-14), finally healthy after playing much of the season without four-year starters Geddy Rerko and Hailey Orman, has its hands full at the Rolling Meadows regional. When the seeds were determined, Batavia had its starting lineup for only seven of its 26 games.
First up for the No. 9 seeded Bulldogs is No. 7 Lake Park, who won a pair of games against Batavia in conference play -- one by 2 points and the other in overtime behind 45 points from DePaul commit Darrione Rogers.
Win the regional semifinal and Batavia likely would take on No. 1 Rolling Meadows (20-7) on its home court. No team is more prepared for a challenge like that than Kevin Jensen's squad who has scheduled as many top opponents as they can find.
Junior point guard Erin Golden (13.4 ppg, 8.0 rpg, 2.9 apg) and senior post Ava Sergio (13.1 ppg, 4.9 rpg, 2.1 bpg) have provided a strong 1-2 punch all season while waiting for their injured teammates to return.
"I feel this group can match up with pretty much anyone in our sectional," Jensen said. "At least we know what we're going against (Lake Park). We felt we played well both times. I practically have their entire season on tape.
"There's some really good teams in this sectional. There will be some fun games. Really good teams. The goal is to try to get one more game at home."
Upstate Eight champion Bartlett (26-4) hosts a regional. The Hawks could play fifth seed Wheaton North in the regional final. The same two teams met in the semifinals of the Falcons' Christmas tournament with the Hawks winning 78-70 in overtime behind 21 points from both sophomore Lexie Sinclair and freshman Mackenzie Hare.
"I thought we could be anywhere from a 1 seed to an 8 seed," Hunt said. "I think we fell right where we probably belong."
Belvidere North sectional: As wide open as the Batavia sectional looks, there's a couple state-ranked teams to look out for in Rockford Boylan (25-1), ranked No. 5 in the state's AP Class 4A rankings, and Rockton Hononegah (23-4), ranked 10th in the same poll.
If Hampshire wins its regional opener with Rockford Auburn, the Whips likely will face Rockton Hononegah in the regional finals on Rockton's home court.
That's not an easy draw for Mike Featherly's squad, led by sophomore center Kelby Bannerman and senior guard Ally Cermak. The Whip-Purs (26-5) are coming off an emotional 43-38 win Friday night over Dundee-Crown in front of a huge home crowd to win the Fox Valley Conference championship outright.
"I think we can make a little bit of noise," Featherly said. "We're a tough team, a gritty team."
Dundee-Crown (22-8), who played Boylan to a 38-36 loss at Thanksgiving but was blown out by Hononegah 74-45, won't have to worry about those two until sectionals.
The Chargers, one of the more balanced teams around with Payton Schmidt, Katelyn Skibinski, Alyssa Crenshaw and Gianine Boado, earned the top seed at the Cary-Grove regional where the other five teams are all Fox Valley Conference schools that Dundee-Crown went 10-0 against this year.
"We know going into this postseason we have to control the control-ables," Chargers coach Sarah Miller said. "We have to do the little things for four quarters."
South Elgin (18-11), runner-up to Bartlett in the Upstate Eight, has an excellent chance to win a regional at Elgin. Dan Mandernack's Storm will play either Elgin or Streamwood in their regional opener, and a win would send them to the finals against either No. 3 Barrington or No. 8 Larkin.
"Every game we've lost has been to teams ranked in the Daily Herald or Associated Press," Mandernack said. "Those games helped us. We're exited for it."
Plainfield North sectional: West Aurora (22-9) is the fifth seed and opens against either No. 12 Waubonsie Valley or No. 21 Lemont, with No. 4 Joliet Central and No. 1 Minooka potential future opponents if first-year coach Teresa Waldinger's club can keep advancing.
Waldinger said defense will be key for the Blackhawks.
"We have to make sure we step up and play solid defense," said Waldinger, whose team is led by guard Dajour "Cinnamon" Miles.
"She's phenomenal on the defensive end," Waldinger said. "Cinnamon, when she wants it she gets that fire and goes and it's just fun to watch."
Class 3A Rochelle sectional: Glenbard South (18-7), who finished third in the Class 3A state tournament last year and returns all-state post and Drake commit Maggie Bair, awaits Burlington Central in the Plano regional finals if both schools win their first game.
"They have experience going downstate, they've got an all-state player," Rockets coach Mark Smith said. "I used to worry about that stuff (draws). In the end you have to beat teams. You get a lucky or bad draw, that's just the way it goes sometimes."
The Rockets (21-7), who shared the Kishwaukee River title with Marengo in their final season before leaving for the FVC, play Plano (19-11) in their first regional game.
While Bair is a matchup problem, the Rockets counter with two standouts of their own, junior forward Kathryn Schmidt (15.0 ppg, 46 percent on 3-point shots, 5.3 rpg in 15 games) and sophomore point guard Elana Wells (13.8 ppg, 4.1 apg, 3.8 spg).
It's been an up and down year for Schmidt, who went over 1,000 career points in the Rockets' season opening Thanksgiving tournament.
But she suffered a concussion later in the same tournament. Schmidt returned a few games later only to injure her knee Dec. 20 against Dundee-Crown and miss the next nine games.
Schmidt is again back in the lineup and the Rockets are 4-0 since including wins over Sycamore (23-7) and West Aurora. She scored 27 points in the regular season finale vs. Woodstock North.
Wells has been a terror for opponents on both ends of the court.
"She's a great player," Smith said. "She's focused and ready to go. She's a one-man press break."
Kaneland (18-11) also hopes to make some noise. The Knights host a regional and play either St. Edward (12-16) or IMSA in their first game.
"Defensively we have stretches where we feel we can lock some teams up," Kaneland coach Ernie Colombe said. "There's still a learning curve, we're still getting better."
If the Knights do end up with top seed and undefeated Sandwich (29-0) in the regional final, Colombe said to expect a press that creates a lot of turnovers and sets up much of their offense.
With a scoring average at 14.3 points per game, Delani Kosner is the go-to player for Aurora Central Catholic (14-15) who plays rival Rosary (6-17) on Monday at Plano with the winner taking on Glenbard South.
"She's been working on trying to get to the basket," first-year Chargers head coach Levada Smith said. "I've always told her if her shot is not falling get to the basket. If you want to be scoring find different ways to score."