Go big or go home: Area teams ready for playoff runs

Go big or go home: Area teams ready for playoff runs

CLASS 4A

No. 1 Danville (25-2)

First up is ... the winner of a regional quarterfinal between No. 7 Centennial and No. 10 Pekin at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Danville.

Outlook: The Vikings don't have it easy in their own regional, which isn't completely in Danville to begin with. As has happened in the past, a Wednesday semifinal game between non-local outfits — in this case, No. 4 Moline and No. 5 Normal Community — is being shifted to Peoria for the sake of travel. So scouting becomes a little more difficult than necessary for Vikings coach Ted Houpt should his crew top Centennial or Pekin. Regardless, Danville is the favorite to win its regional. Possible sectional matchups linger against Normal West and Belleville West, but should the Vikings win those, a state berth is likely.

Centennial (15-11)

First up is ... No. 10 Pekin in a regional quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Monday in Danville.

Outlook: The Chargers didn't play the host Vikings very closely during the regular season, but don't underestimate coach Tim Lavin's crew, which has won five straight affairs. A win over Pekin is well within reason. It'll take the Chargers' best effort to douse Danville.

CLASS 3A

Champaign Central (18-8)

First up is ... the winner of a regional quarterfinal between No. 8 Richland County and No. 9 Charleston at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Paris.

Outlook: Coach Jeff Finke's Maroons have earned a favorable draw in the regional round, as No. 4 Unity is still getting star J.T. Wheeler back into game shape and the rest of the competition doesn't stack up to Central. Springfield Lanphier offers a possible nasty matchup in the sectional semis, and Springfield Southeast on the other side of the bracket is equally challenging. If the Maroons can top those two teams, they can beat anyone in Class 3A.

Mahomet-Seymour (19-10)

First up is ... the winner of a regional quarterfinal between No. 7 Mattoon and No. 10 Rantoul at 7 p.m. Tuesday in Mahomet.

Outlook: As long as Cory Noe is playing, the Bulldogs have a fighting chance against many enemies. That's not to knock the other M-S players; Noe is simply the straw who stirs his team's drink. Take a 50-48 loss to lowly Charleston, in which Noe didn't compete, as an example. The Bulldogs split regular-season meetings with No. 3 Mt. Zion, a possible regional-final foe. Things will get especially challenging right out of the regional with either Springfield Southeast or Decatur MacArthur.

Unity (15-8)

First up is ... the winner of a regional quarterfinal between No. 6 Effingham and No. 11 Paris at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Paris.

Outlook: If Wheeler can find his typical groove, the Rockets will be in much better shape. They've lost three of their last four, in which Wheeler either didn't play or was just getting back in action after a high-ankle sprain. Unity is more than Wheeler, but like with Noe in Mahomet, he's a critical factor for the Rockets' success. Regardless, a regional final with Central poses a stiff test for coach Matt Read's players.

Urbana (8-18)

First up is ... No. 3 Mt. Zion in a regional semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday in Mahomet.

Outlook: The Tigers haven't been lighting up the win column of late, but it's not for a lack of trying. Since Feb. 2, four of Urbana's five defeats have come by 10 points or fewer, including a two-point setback against Mahomet-Seymour. So could the Tigers upset Mt. Zion and M-S? It's not out of the realm of possibility.

Rantoul (7-21)

First up is ... No. 7 Mattoon in a regional quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Monday in Mahomet.

Outlook: The Eagles are on a major skid entering the postseason, having lost 12 in a row. Mattoon, however, was the last team Rantoul defeated. So perhaps a victory is in the cards.

Clinton (14-11)

First up is ... No. 7 Decatur Eisenhower in a regional quarterfinal at 7 p.m. Monday in Decatur.

Outlook: The Maroons have won their last two tilts and could dispatch Eisenhower. Springfield Southeast is an entirely different animal in the regional semis.

Prairie Central (8-18)

First up is ... No. 5 Pontiac in a regional quarterfinal at 7:30 p.m. in Herscher.

Outlook: Pontiac has defeated the Hawks by double digits twice this season, so the lower-seeded team will need some magic to start the playoffs strong.