STM, LeRoy eye state!
Three area girls' basketball teams are still playing, one each in Class 1A, 2A and 3A. The next game played by each will be against the school ranked No. 1 in the state's final regular season poll. Prep sports coordinator Fred Kroner, who said there's a reason those programs are top-rated, offers his thoughts on the upcoming showdowns:
LeRoy (26-3) vs. Annawan (30-1)
Class 1A Illinois Wesleyan Super-sectional
LeRoy has relied on the scoring prowess of seniors Molly Marcum and Ashley Walker in the school's most successful postseason run ever. Annawan's attack is centered around 6-footers Celina VanHyfte, a 1,000-point scorer touted as one of the top players in the greater Moline area, and Jordan Jackson, another 1,000-point scorer who will play college volleyball at Western Illinois University. To reach the Final Four, LeRoy needs to hit some perimeter shots, keep its turnovers to a minimum and find a way to neutralize its size disadvantage inside. Any way it's sized up, the Panthers will be the underdog against a school that last played in the sectional in 1978.
St. Thomas More (27-5) vs. Quincy N.D. (30-1)
Class 2A Millikin Super-sectional
The Sabers did not crack the top 10 rankings this year, but proved the pollsters wrong by advancing to the Elite Eight. Regardless of the outcome, this is a program on the rise that could be a state fixture for at least the next three years. St. Thomas More played a demanding schedule, but so did QND, which has 20 straight wins. No advantage there either way. Each team has a terrific trio of scorers. The difference is QND has two 6-footers with more than 1,000 career points, including Jordan Frericks, who is being courted by Iowa. STM freshman Lexi Wallen will one day be a 1,000-point scorer as should sophomore Randa Harshbarger, but for now they face a tall task against the defending state champions.
Centennial (27-5) vs. Springfield (26-4)
Class 3A Taylorville Sectional
7:30 Tuesday night
It's a rematch of last year's sectional championship game, won by Springfield by 16 points in Champaign. The Senators' Zahna Medley — a News-Gazette All-Stater and a Texas Christian recruit — is a year older and better, but so is the entire starting lineup for the 10th-rated Chargers. It's a shame this game falls so early in the postseason series. For the short-handed Chargers to win, they need more of the aggressive penetrating play their guards displayed in the regional finals, they need their best free throw shooting game of the year and they need to avoid foul trouble. If they hit that trifecta, the super-sectional is an attainable goal. Springfield is seeking a fourth straight state trophy.