Playoff payoff

Playoff payoff

(Regionals start Feb. 5)

Teams to watch

1. St. Joseph-Ogden – Team no stranger to success since current senior Ashley Runck has been in high school. The Spartans have won 102 games during her four-year career and hope to add more.

2. Westville – Three-time Vermilion County champs have an inside threat (Terra Ramsey), outside threats (Kelsey Russell and Meghan Goodlove) as well as the ultimate role players (Erin Hughes and Candy Lewis).

3. Bismarck-Henning – Never discount a team that can put the defensive clamps on like the Blue Devils do.

4. Oakwood – If you think the 17-9 Comets are good now, wait until next year when all but one of the starters return.

5. St. Thomas More – It's not how you start. It's how you finish and the 16-9 Sabers are one of the hottest area teams, compiling a recent eight-game winning streak.

Area's top players

1. Ashley Runck, St. Joseph-Ogden – The offensive and defensive catalyst for a team that has been consistently ranked among the state's Top 10 all season.

2. Terra Ramsey, Westville – Three-sport All-Area star has extended her shooting range to the perimeter.

3. Heidi McKean, CPCI – Area's most aggressive player is now her school's top all-time point maker, boys or girls, and her 46-point game Thursday was the area's best by either gender this season.

4. Stephanie Denius, Oakwood – To borrow a phrase applied to ex-Illini Dee Brown, the junior is a 'one-person fast break.'

5. Jara Bachtold, Prairie Central – The senior doesn't get a lot of publicity but is a scorer and passer who can't be overlooked.

Class AA girls' basketball

(Regionals start Feb. 12)

Teams to watch

1. Mahomet-Seymour – Nathan Seal continues to turn out competitive teams that are on the verge of a state ranking.

2. Danville – With a veteran group, the Vikings have shown one of the area's best turnarounds since the 2005-06 season, nearly doubling their win total.

3. Champaign Central – The Maroons have struggled as a team, but with Hope Elam on the court, Central seldom will be out of a game.

4. Urbana – If healthy by the postseason, the Tigers could be a factor. Just ask Danville.

5. Centennial – Wouldn't it be grand if the Chargers pulled an upset – or two – to conclude Tim Fairchild's coaching career?

Area's top players

1. Hope Elam, Champaign Central – Perhaps the area player with the most talent since current WNBA member LaToya Bond was at Urbana.

2. Laura Morris, Mahomet-Seymour – One of few AA athletes who excels equally in three sports.

3. Rachael Follmer, Centennial – A bright spot for a team trying to avoid its first winless season since the second year of the program's existence in 1975-76.

4. Megan Roegge, Urbana – Junior was enjoying a breakout season until being sidelined with mononucleosis.

5. Chelsey Miller, Danville – One of the sparks who have kept the Vikings in contention for a Big 12 crown.

Class A boys' basketball

(Regionals start Feb. 19)

Teams to watch

1. St. Joseph-Ogden – What a winter! The Spartans are state-ranked in boys' basketball, girls' basketball and wrestling, compiling a cumulative record of 58-8.

2. Monticello – The Sages have no shortage of scorers.

3. Chrisman – To beat the high-scoring Cardinals requires a valiant defensive effort with an emphasis on the perimeter.

4. Bismarck-Henning – The Blue Devils have a talented cast surrounding 6-foot-10 Trey McCorkle.

5. GCMS – Coach Ryan Tompkins' Falcons are quickly finding success in a new conference.

Area's top players

1. Nick Michael, St. Joseph-Ogden – Living proof that good things come in threes.

2. Trey McCorkle, Bismarck-Henning – At 6-foot-10, an intimidating force inside.

3. Ryan Koncel, Monticello – Smooth operator who makes his teammates better.

4. Jordan Kindred, Chrisman – Latest in a litany of outstanding long-range marksmen from the school.

5. Will Fombelle, Atwood-Hammond – Area scoring leader seeking to average a double-double for the second consecutive season.

Class AA boys' basketball

(Regionals start Feb. 26)

Teams to watch

1. Champaign Central – Four underclassmen who stand at least 6-5 are among the team's top five rebounders.

2. Centennial – Ten of 13 squad members have attempted three-pointers.

3. Danville – Vikings are back to full strength for the stretch drive.

4. Mahomet-Seymour – The number of Class A schools on the schedule could hurt the team's chances at the regional seed meeting.

5. Urbana – The Tigers' top nine scorers are all seniors.

Area's top players

1. Verdell Jones III, Champaign Central – The player you want to have the ball with the game on the line.

2. Donald Stewart, Champaign Central – His combination of offensive, defensive and rebounding prowess earns him a high ranking.

3. Ryne Brownfield, Urbana – Equally effective on the boards as from the three-point line. He passes another test, too, leading the Tigers in assists as well as scoring and rebounding.

4. Mikel Brigham, Danville – Sophomore center an emerging star for the future. He's made 32 of 45 shots (71.1 percent) in his four starts.

5. James Kinney, Centennial – Joins with teammate Michael Locksley to form a potent and formidable backcourt.

Class A wrestling

(Regionals start Feb. 3)

Teams to watch

1. Argenta-Oreana – A team with just one senior (215-pound Luke Force) is 14-0 in dual meets.

2. GCMS – Regular lineup features freshmen or sophomores in nine of the 14 weight classes and now includes seven total 20-match winners.

3. St. Joseph-Ogden – The Spartans sport three unbeatens, Lukas Graves, Blake Speckman and Mark Gones, as the postseason draws closer.

4. Monticello – Thirteen Sages have reached double figures in wins; six have hit the 20-win plateau.

5. Bismarck-Henning – Blue Devils have five career 100-match winners, seven 20-match winners this season and two others on the verge.

Area's top wrestlers

1. Mark Gones, St. Joseph-Ogden – Nineteen pounds heavier than last year, when he placed fourth at state, the unbeaten senior is top-ranked in Class A at 171 pounds.

2. Seth Moody, Westville – State runner-up as a junior, the 215-pounder is ranked first this year in Class A and shouldn't be taken lightly.

3. Kyle Dooley, Monticello – Only a junior, but already a 100-match winner and a state finalist a year ago, the 140-pounder is rated second in his weight class in Class A.

4. Damon Duitsman, Bismarck-Henning – A transfer from Danville, the senior 145-pounder trails only a 2006 state champion in the state rankings.

5. Dustinn Brown, Unity – Back from a suspension, the junior 112-pounder is 7-1 and is seeking a berth in a state championship bout for the second consecutive year. He's currently ranked fourth.

Class AA wrestling

(Regionals start Feb. 3)

Teams to watch

1. Mahomet-Seymour – The Bulldogs are unbeaten in duals against area schools and stand 14-4 overall.

2. Champaign Central – The Maroons are getting closer to the return to an era when the school was a state power.

3. Centennial – The Chargers' postseason prospects took a major hit when co-captains William Chung and David Mitev were sidelined for the year with illnesses.

4. Urbana – The future looks promising with seven of the Tigers' top nine winners still underclassmen.

5. Danville – The Vikings have talented individuals, just not enough yet to be competitive as a team.

Area's top wrestlers

1. Andrew Brewer, Mahomet-Seymour – Was one match away from winning a state medal as a freshman. Now the sophomore is ranked fourth at 160 pounds in AA.

2. Nick Bryson, Urbana – Tigers' top winner as a senior has had just five of his first 30 matches at 140 settled by fewer than eight points.

3. Sam Ferguson, Centennial – Senior 215-pounder is going out with a flourish, leading the team in wins, setting the school career takedown record (277 before Saturday) and moving into second for career pins (55), eight behind the all-time leader.

4. Kaleb Ingersoll, Champaign Central – State qualifier last year as a sophomore, the 119-pounder is chasing a second straight 30-win season.

5. Brandon Ward, Champaign Central – Freshman has had an outstanding debut, winning 26 of his first 28 varsity matches at 171 pounds.

Boys' swimming

(Sectionals start Feb. 17)

Teams to watch

1. Centennial – Twin City championship makes Chargers the front-runners.

2. Champaign Central – The Maroons hope to make a huge splash in the postseason.

3. Urbana – Don't forget the Tigers were state-ranked (16th) in the preseason.

4. Danville – The Vikings are getting more competitive each season.

5. Schlarman – The Hilltoppers still are building depth in their program.

Area's top swimmers

1. Chester Dols, Urbana – The area honor roll leader in three events and the runner-up in two others.

2. Jayson Shine, Centennial – Good enough to qualify for state as a junior, he hopes to compete as a senior.

3. Artem Rogachev, Urbana – The returning state qualifier could be a medal contender if he can return to full form after recent illness.

4. Cody Showers, Danville – One of two four-year swimmers in the Vikings' program.

5. Michael Lacine, Champaign Central – Versatile Maroon performing far beyond his years as a sophomore.