Fred Kroner: Title chases continue
Central’s Maroons hit their peak at the sectional, posting the second-best team score of any sectional champion. To reach that pinnacle, the team had season-best performances from each entry. Six swimmers and a diver qualified for state. Central had three runner-up finishes in which the individual was less than three-tenths of a second from the state-qualifying standard: (Brandon Bell in the 200 freestyle, Scott Wierschem in the 100 freestyle and Riley Kemper in the 100 backstroke). Of the school’s 21 sectional entries, 19 placed among the top six in the 19-team event, and all 21 secured top-eight finishes. “Our guys put together an awesome performance,” co-coach Will Barker said. Next up, the state meet that starts Friday at Evanston.
Two area teams from the Sangamon Valley Conference are Elite Eight members, St. Thomas More in 2A and Cissna Park in 1A. Each has super-sectional showdowns Monday night. The Sabers (30-2) play a Riverton team (25-4) that has been dressing eight players during the postseason. Top-ranked STM has just four athletes who’ve played in every game: Leah Allison, Elizabeth Bristow, Randa Harshbarger and Courtney Wax. Harshbarger holds the school career record for scoring and assists. Cissna Park, the No 3 seed in its regional, has a five-game postseason winning streak. Addison Stoller is the team’s top tournament scorer (19.0), though Lexi Knake (9.2) and Madison Overbey (9.2) have been steady. Next up: No. 1 Annawan at Illinois Wesleyan.
In five days, there will be — at most — four Class 1A teams and four Class 2A teams from the area still practicing for upcoming games. State-ranked Arthur-Lovington has the homecourt edge in a six-school regional with five LOVC teams, plus Central A&M. Ridgeview is the top seed at Farmer City and, on Saturday, beat the second-seeded Blue Ridge team 80-39. Milford was rated the team to beat at Catlin, but any of the top five teams are definitely viable contenders. St. Thomas More (2A for girls, but 1A for boys) is the top seed at Fisher. Area top seeds at 2A regional sites are state-ranked St. Joseph-Ogden, which is hosting its own tourney, and Okaw Valley Conference tourney titlist Sullivan, which is at the Paris Regional.
The team-dual series resumes Tuesday. Area qualifiers Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley/Fisher and LeRoy will compete at Gibson City (6 p.m. start), but not against each other. No. 12 GCMS/Fisher takes on No. 4 Petersburg PORTA, which it lost to 36-31 in December. No. 14 LeRoy takes on No. 19 Illini Bluffs in a first-time matchup. Both winners advance to state, which will be Saturday in Bloomington. At individual state last weekend, LeRoy had six competitors and Illini Bluffs two. LeRoy’s placers were Alex Matlock and Caleb Wilson. IB had no placers. PORTA had four state qualifiers and no medalists. GCMS/Fisher had three qualifiers and a champion in 285-pound senior Josh Wallick. PORTA is highest-rated team in the lower state bracket.