The girls basketball postseason begins as early as Saturday for some Herald-News area teams, with most teams beginning play early next week.
In Class 4A, Joliet West will host a sectional, at which champions from regionals at Lincoln-Way West, Sandburg, Joliet Central and Andrew will compete. The Joliet West Sectional will take place Tuesday, Feb. 20 with the semifinals, and the championship will be Thursday, Feb. 22.
The Tigers find themselves playing in the Joliet Central Regional as the No. 10 seed in the sectional. They will play No. 7 seed Bloom Township at 7:30 on Tuesday, Feb. 13, in the second of two semifinals. The 6 p.m. game that day will feature second-seeded Lincoln-Way East against the winner of Saturday’s Joliet Central-Eisenhower game. The title game will be Thursday, Feb. 15 at 6:30 p.m.
Joliet West has a record of 14-12 and has been improving as the year has gone on under first-year coach Bre Blackmon.
“We are peaking at the right time of the year,” Blackmon said. “Everyone on the team understands their role, and they are playing their role. When we stay within ourselves and don’t try to do too much and stick with our roles, we can be tough to beat.”
Lincoln-Way East sports a 24-5 record and features 6-foot-6 Hayven Smith, who recently scored her 1,000th career point and will play for University of Illinois next season.
“We have played extremely well this season,” East coach Jim Nair said. “We are an experienced team that is hungry after an early exit last postseason.”
In the Andrew Sectional, Lincoln-Way Central, the No. 4 sectional seed, will play No. 15 Andrew on Tuesday at 5:30, with No. 5 Stagg taking on No. 12 Lockport at 7 in the semifinals. Lincoln-Way Central completed a perfect 8-0 slate in the SouthWest Suburban Red this season.
“Looking back at our regular season, we grinded through some tough games in some great tournaments and showcases with a Top 20 strength of schedule in the state (according to MaxPreps) and also got the job done in several close matchups,” Central coach Dave Campanile said. “It was a season of some big wins over Stagg (twice), Lincoln-Way West (twice), Marist and winning the WJOL Thanksgiving Championship, but some narrow, late-game losses to Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor.
“Led by our four seniors, we were able to earn and secure the No. 4 seed in our sectional and are looking to winning our third regional title in a row.”
In the 4A Sandburg Regional, No. 3 seed Romeoville takes on No. 13 Marist on Tuesday at 6 p.m., while No. 6 Sandburg takes on No. 11 TF South at 7:30.
In the Lincoln-Way West Regional, top seed Homewood-Flossmoor will play the winner of Saturday’s Thornwood-Shepard matchup in the first Tuesday semifinal at 6, while eighth-seeded Lincoln-Way West will play No. 9 seed Rich Township at 7:30.
In the Oswego Sectional, top-seeded Bolingbrook, currently ranked No. 3 in the state in the AP poll, will play in the Plainfield South Regional. The Raiders will play the winner of Saturday’s game between Plainfield Central and Metea Valley on Tuesday, with eighth-seeded Plainfield South, which set a school record for wins this season, playing 10th-seeded Naperville North in the nightcap.
“Our regular season went well,” first-year South coach Alana Warren said. “A complete 180 turnaround with basically the same roster shows how hard these girls worked in the offseason. Going from fifth in the conference last year and only winning four games to locking in second and only losing four games in conference is a true testament of the talent that has always been here.
“This group of seniors are leaving the program on a high note. They are leaving the winningest group with 20 wins and have laid the groundwork for the future. The postseason should be fun. They are a competitive team, and that always gives a team a chance.”
No. 4 Minooka will play No. 5 Pekin on Tuesday at 7:30 in the Pekin Regional.
In Class 3A, Providence Catholic will host a regional in the Thornton Sectional. The third-seeded Celtics will play No. 13 Morgan Park on Tuesday at 6, with No. 6 Hillcrest taking on No. 11 Oak Forest at 7:30.
“We feel we have done the hard work in playing a tough schedule (despite a few more losses) in preparation for postseason,” Providence coach Eileen Copenhaver said. “Our team has learned valuable lessons by playing solid opponents who test our defense, expose weaknesses, and push us on both sides of the ball. Our players have responded by tightening up skills and coming together as a team.
“We are looking forward to the challenges ahead.”
In Class 2A, Joliet Catholic is in the Chicago Christian Regional, the No. 5 seed opening Tuesday against No. 4 Seneca.