Robin Scholz/The News-Gazette St. Thomas More's head coach Jon Marston in a prep girls basketball game at St. Thomas More in Champaign on Monday, Jan. 20, 2020.

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Small-school programs will start their respective postseason runs next week, with regional quarterfinals slated for Monday, semifinals across Tuesday and Wednesday, and finals across Thursday and Friday. Preps coordinator COLIN LIKAS breaks down the chances for each area team to make waves in playoff action (records do not include regular-season games played this Friday or Saturday):


Maroa-Forsyth Regional

No. 1 Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin Blue Devils (26-5)

Players to watch: Sierra Bryant (Sr.); Ryley Cash (Sr.); Emily Meidel (Sr.).

Regular season: Knocking off Oakwood in the Vermilion County Tournament final for the first time in four consecutive matchups was big for the Blue Devils, who suffered two of their losses to Indiana foes.

Outlook: Meidel gives BHRA a good shot to win pretty much any game it’s in, and Bryant has come on strong in various facets. The favorite to take this regional.

No. 4 Unity Rockets (19-9)

Players to watch: Elyce Knudsen (Sr.); Chloee Reed (Jr.); Maddie Reed (Soph.).

Regular season: Knudsen set the all-time Unity basketball scoring record Monday, and the Rockets hold quality victories over Villa Grove/Heritage, St. Joseph-Ogden, Olympia and Paxton-Buckley-Loda.

Outlook: Unity will go as far as Knudsen takes it. Rockets’ 48-36 loss to BHRA on Dec. 26 could weigh heavily.

No. 5 Oakwood Comets (22-6)

Players to watch: Aaliyah Denius (Jr.); Aubrey Wells (Sr.); Katelyn Young (Sr.).

Regular season: Victories versus Tri-County and BHRA great, losses to Salt Fork and Milford not as positive, but a 3-1 State Farm Holiday Classic effort was strong.

Outlook: Young, a Murray State signee, can change any game’s complexion with her size and athleticism. Oakwood is the regional dark horse.

No. 8 Monticello Sages (11-17)

Players to watch: Jayna Burger (Sr.); Cloe Clark (Sr.); Renni Fultz (Soph.).

Regular season: Sages played close with Unity, Villa Grove/Heritage, St. Teresa, St. Joseph-Ogden and Unity, topped Paxton-Buckley-Loda and Tuscola.

Outlook: Closing out defining wins hasn’t been easy in 2020, and the Sages will need at least a couple to push ahead.

No. 11 Westville Tigers (7-22)

Players to watch: Hadley Cox (Soph.); Hunter Lange (Sr.); Daphne Williamson (Sr.).

Regular season: Four of Westville’s triumphs have occurred since the calendar turned in 2020, before which it was 3-13.

Outlook: The Tigers’ top win came against a rival with six victories on the season, so Westville will need a hot run in this loaded regional.

Sullivan Regional

No. 4 Sullivan Redskins (21-6)

Players to watch: Lilly Null (Soph.); Avery Still (Sr.); Emily White (Jr.).

Regular season: Sullivan contested a loaded schedule, securing wins over Mattoon, Altamont and St. Teresa. Five of its six losses were by fewer than 10 points.

Outlook: Undefeated No. 1 seed Paris also occupies this regional and has bulldozed most of its opponents. The Redskins will face a stiff test to win their own event.

St. Joseph-Ogden Regional

No. 2 St. Joseph-Ogden Spartans (19-10)

Players to watch: Ella Armstrong (Soph.); Katie Cramer (Sr.); Hannah Dukeman (Sr.).

Regular season: SJ-O played a brutal schedule and lost each of its last four, also went 3-1 in the State Farm Holiday Classic.

Outlook: Dukeman’s late return from wrist surgery could mean big things for the Spartans if the Ball State softball signee is able to get back into game shape. SJ-O still can win this regional regardless.

No. 3 Villa Grove/Heritage Blue Devils (24-5)

Players to watch: Kyleigh Block (Jr.); Aliya Holloman (Sr.); Jordyn Ray (Sr.).

Regular season: Two of VG/H’s defeats came at the hands of 1A Tri-County and another against an Indiana school, but one also happened courtesy the regional host.

Outlook: The Blue Devils possess a variety of weapons on both sides of the ball and can pile up points. That could make the difference when the week is over.

No. 6 Schlarman Hilltoppers (15-6)

Players to watch: Emma Bogen (Sr.); Capria Brown (Sr.); Tannah Ceader (Jr.).

Regular season: It took time for Schlarman to adjust after losing four senior starters and its head coach, but the two-time defending 1A state champs won 10 in a row prior to Friday’s game with Oakwood, including quality victories over Joliet Catholic and Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin.

Outlook: Overlook Schlarman at your own risk. Brown, a Dayton signee, leads a group that viably could win this regional.

No. 7 Tuscola Warriors (16-9)

Players to watch: Sophie Kremitzki (Soph.); Marissa Russo (Jr.); Brynn Tabeling (Jr.).

Regular season: Results have been uneven since an 8-3 start, but wins over Unity and Sullivan and close games with Tri-County, Villa Grove/Heritage, St. Joseph-Ogden and Paxton-Buckley-Loda show potential for this relatively young group.

Outlook: Tuscola’s underclassmen will need to continue playing older than their age in this gauntlet of a regional in order for a championship to be up for grabs.

No. 9 Clinton Maroons (17-14)

Players to watch: Mallory Cyrulik (Soph.); Kaitlyn Rauch (Soph.); Destiny Schlesinger (Sr.).

Regular season: Clinton has been just a few plays away from big wins against Tuscola, Sullivan and St. Teresa and also owns a solid victory over a strong Pana team.

Outlook: If Cyrulik gets rolling offensively, look out for the Maroons. They’re better than their record and could make noise.

No. 12 Georgetown-Ridge Farm Buffaloes (0-21)

Players to watch: Cheyanne Hasselbring (Sr.); Ashlee LaGrand (Sr.); Sheyenne Peterson (Sr.).

Regular season: G-RF was in search of a win entering Friday’s finale with Chrisman.

Outlook: Buffs had to go somewhere for postseason play, and it’s unlucky they were dropped in this daunting regional.

Hoopeston Area Regional

No. 1 Prairie Central Hawks (26-5)

Players to watch: Becca Conlisk (Sr.); Elly Haberkorn (Sr.); Madison Kinkade (Jr.).

Regular season: The Hawks own no bad losses, and only a 54-37 defeat against Pana is lopsided. A 5-0 season-opening Prairie Central Turkey Tournament got things started on the right foot.

Outlook: A group heavy on varsity experience and scoring options should, at the very least, secure a regional plaque.

No. 4 Watseka Warriors (21-8)

Players to watch: Kennedy McTaggart (Jr.); Kinzie Parsons (Jr.); Natalie Schroeder (Jr.).

Regular season: Late triumph over Paxton-Buckley-Loda has a one-senior club trending in right direction, as did a nine-game January win streak.

Outlook: Watseka offers a threat to Prairie Central’s title chances, especially if the Warriors rebound as they’re capable of.

No. 6 Hoopeston Area Cornjerkers (12-16)

Players to watch: Lexie Breymeyer (Jr.); Sadie Drayer (Sr.); Ali Watson (Jr.).

Regular season: Hoopeston Area lost six of its last seven to close the regular season but did play Watseka within eight points.

Outlook: Watson and Breymeyer can put up huge scoring and rebounding numbers, but they’ll need to be near-perfect for the Cornjerkers to contend.

Pontiac Regional

No. 3 Paxton-Buckley-Loda Panthers (21-8)

Players to watch: Mackenzie Bruns (Sr.); Baylee Cosgrove (Jr.); Losa Suaava (Fr.).

Regular season: The Panthers split two games with Unity and lost a pair of close ones with St. Joseph-Ogden, but also knocked off Tuscola and Urbana.

Outlook: Both No. 2 Fieldcrest and No. 5 El Paso-Gridley will be stingy outs, so PBL must bring its A game to this field.

No. 10 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley Falcons (7-21)

Players to watch: Ryleigh Brown (Jr.); Hannah Hathaway (Sr.); Abby Spiller (Sr.).

Regular season: GCMS has fallen from its 2A regional title victory of the previous season, owning no win streaks in 2019-2020.

Outlook: Getting past No. 8 Pontiac is feasible, but hefty difficulty awaits past that regional quarterfinal game.


Neoga Regional

No. 1 Tri-County Titans (24-5)

Players to watch: Tayler Barry (Jr.); Bella Dudley (Soph.); Melia Eskew (Jr.).

Regular season: Tri-County has played a rugged schedule filled Class 2A and 3A foes and harbors two wins over both Danville and Villa Grove/Heritage.

Outlook: The reigning 1A fourth-place outfit has the pieces to create another extended postseason stay for itself.

Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond Regional

No. 3 Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond Knights (17-11)

Players to watch: Jolynn Barbee (Jr.); Mackenzi Bowles (Jr.); Makenzie Brown (Jr.).

Regular season: A 2-4 start has given way to more frequent success in Arthur, including a double-digit triumph over 20-win Arthur Christian School.

Outlook: ALAH’s biggest potential stumbling block seems to be No. 2 seed Central A&M, which wiped out the Knights by a 53-27 margin on Feb. 1.

No. 5 Arcola Purple Riders (14-11)

Players to watch: KayLee Hohlbauch (Jr.); Ella Hopkins (Jr.); Taylor Spelman (Sr.).

Regular season: Arcola’s 2020 has been filled with streaks — a winning stretch of four followed by a losing stint of three.

Outlook: Getting past Chrisman in the regional quarterfinals would mean a rematch with ALAH, which defeated Arcola on Thursday.

No. 11 Chrisman Cardinals (0-19)

Players to watch: Kendl Lemmon; Hannah Mitchell; Makenzie Mitchell.

Regular season: Chrisman may enter the playoffs on a high note, if it was able to defeat Georgetown-Ridge Farm on Friday.

Outlook: Arcola has too many offensive weapons for the Cardinals to slow in the regional quarterfinal.

St. Teresa Regional

No. 4 Cerro Gordo/Bement Broncos (10-19)

Players to watch: Riley Brandenburg (Jr.); Graycie Copsy (Jr.); Ella Mann (Jr.).

Regular season: The Broncos are struggling, falling in five of their last six tries.

Outlook: CG/B did enough in the first half to garner a better seed, but recent results suggest a short postseason stay.

No. 7 Blue Ridge Knights (11-19)

Players to watch: Katie Bowns (Jr.); Jenna Mozingo (Jr.); Jaclyn Pearl (Soph).

Regular season: A nine-game losing streak in December set back the Knights, but they’ve rallied with four victories in their last seven attempts.

Outlook: DeLand-Weldon is a clearable hurdle in the regional quarterfinals. No. 1 St. Teresa would pose too much of a test.

No. 9 DeLand-Weldon Eagles

Players to watch: Hannah Cunningham (Sr.); Peyton Lappin (Sr.).

Regular season: D-W experienced minimal success against teams with strong records, playing closest with Judah Christian (50-39 loss on Dec. 10).

Outlook: The Eagles could take down Blue Ridge in the first round, but will need a strong effort to get that done.

Lexington Regional

No. 2 Milford Bearcats (17-9)

Players to watch: Jakki Mowrey (Sr.); Abby Tovey (Soph.); Kaylee Warren (Sr.).

Regular season: A 40-27 win over Oakwood was the resume-maker for Milford, which dropped two of its last three games.

Outlook: It’s hard to decide a favorite in this bracket, but either the Bearcats or No. 3 seed Lexington could snag this crown.

No. 6 Judah Christian Tribe (16-13)

Players to watch: Jenna Barnhart (Sr.); Lyndon Pelmore (Sr.); Sa’kinah Williams (Jr.).

Regular season: Inconsistent success, low scoring outputs have been hallmarks of Judah’s campaign, though Williams did reach 1,000 career points during it.

Outlook: Finding enough offense to knock off either or both Lexington and Milford seems too much of a stretch.

No. 7 St. Thomas More Sabers (8-14)

Players to watch: Alaina Bowie (Sr.); Bridget DeLorenzo (Jr.); Kennedy Ramshaw (Fr.).

Regular season: First-year coach Jon Marston joined very late in the offseason, but the Sabers have clicked a bit down the stretch with five wins in 2020.

Outlook: STM is capable of pestering Milford in a potential regional semifinal game, but winning would be a tall task.

No. 10 Armstrong-Potomac Trojans (5-19)

Players to watch: Kyla Bullington (Fr.); Carlyn Crozier (Soph.); Mattie Kennel (Soph.).

Regular season: A-P owns a nice victory against Judah Christian, but the Trojans have won just once outside the Vermilion Valley Conference otherwise.

Outlook: Offense has been tough for A-P to muster this season, and STM has the ability to limit opponents fairly well.

No. 12 Cissna Park Timberwolves (6-23)

Players to watch: Mikayla Knake (Fr.); Bonnie Russell (Jr.); Alexis Seggebruch (Soph.).

Regular season: Cissna Park has been better than during a 2-13 first half, coming out ahead in three of its last six games.

Outlook: The Timberwolves could pull an upset, given they lost to Judah Christian by just two points in December, but will need to be at their best.

Iroquois West Regional

No. 1 Ridgeview Mustangs (23-4)

Players to watch: Kelly Jones (Sr.); Emma Nunamaker (Sr.); River Rosales (Sr.).

Regular season: Ridgeview mostly cruised until the McLean County/Heart of Illinois Conference Tournament, which set off a January run of three consecutive setbacks.

Outlook: The Mustangs carry a ton of varsity experience and talent, which should pull them through to a regional title.

No. 4 Salt Fork Storm (18-12)

Players to watch: Kayleigh Davis (Sr.); Mackenzie Russell (Jr.); Carsyn Todd (Jr.).

Regular season: Salt Fork stunned Oakwood back in December before a stretch of eight losses in nine games.

Outlook: A potential regional semifinal matchup with Fisher intrigues, and the Storm can book a spot in the title game.

No. 5 Fisher Bunnies (13-15)

Players to watch: Kylee Bishop (Sr.); Sidney Hood (Sr.); Brianna Keeton (Sr.).

Regular season: After starting the season 1-7, Fisher went on a tear versus league and non-league opponents alike, but then lost six of its last seven.

Outlook: Fisher-Salt Fork would be a quality regional semifinal, and the Bunnies making the final would be significant.

No. 8 Uni High Illineks (16-11)

Players to watch: Dina Hashash (Soph.); Lara Marinov (Soph.); Emma Murawski (Fr.).

Regular season: Uni High improved from its single-digit win total last season, but has struggled in a majority of its games against foes with winning records.

Outlook: Iroquois West offers a good test for the Illineks in the regional quarterfinal. Ridgeview would prove too much later.

No. 9 Iroquois West Raiders (8-23)

Players to watch: Shelby Johnson (Jr.); Abby Kocher (Jr.); Shea Small (Fr.).

Regular season: IW snared an important win over Clifton Central back on Jan. 21, but that’s the Raiders’ only in-state victory since Dec. 21.

Outlook: IW will need to be in peak form to take down Uni High.

Argenta-Oreana Regional

No. 6 LeRoy Panthers (7-20)

Players to watch: Kiera Spratt (Sr.); Layna Spratt (Sr.); Charly Warlow (Sr.).

Regular season: LeRoy played OK down the stretch — even if the record doesn’t suggest it — and hasn’t been far off picking up more than the one win it has in 2020.

Outlook: The Panthers should handle No. 11 Normal Calvary in their opener and dumped No. 3 Heyworth, a potential semifinal rival, back in December, so LeRoy could surprise.

No. 8 Argenta-Oreana Bombers (6-16)

Players to watch: Cassi Newbanks (Jr.); Gabby Williams (Sr.).

Regular season: A-O scored victories over Cerro Gordo/Bement and Cumberland before slipping later, losing six in a row prior to a Saturday tilt with Maroa-Forsyth.

Outlook: With home-court advantage, the Bombers should at least advance past No. 10 Cornerstone. Beating No. 2 Warrensburg-Latham would be a stiff challenge.

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).

Prep Sports Coordinator

Colin Likas is prep sports coordinator at The News-Gazette. His email is clikas@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@clikasNG).