Marian Catholic will be trying to repeat the magic. Joliet Catholic, to make history. De La Salle, to pull off a miracle.
There are no guarantees.
That’s pretty much what your humble girls hoops observer sees when he looks at the prospects for our three Southland teams in their respective supersectionals on Monday.
Marian Catholic (26-4) is making a return trip to Illinois Wesleyan, where a year ago it rolled to a 56-37 victory over Peoria Richwoods en route to the Class 4A state title.
This time the opponent is Edwardsville, which has been nearly perfect in roaring to a 28-1 record. The Tigers are led by 6-3 senior Kortney Dunbar and 5-11 Aliyah Covington, but it was another senior, Kennedy Martin, who had 17 points in a come-from-behind 49-44 victory over Bradley in the Edwardsville Sectional final.
“They’re 28-1 for a reason,” Marian Catholic coach Dan Murray said. “Dunbar and Covington are outstanding players, but they’re much more than those two.
“They execute very well, and defensively they do a nice job. They’ve got some height and some length. They’re just going to be a really tough matchup. Hopefully, we’ll come out and play well. I’d imagine it will be a really good game.”
That may be Marian’s best hope. Because as she showed time after time last postseason and in Thursday’s heart-stopping overtime win over Oak Lawn, Ashton Millender is at her best when the clock is running out of ticks and the game is on the line.
“She didn’t show me anything [new],” Murray said. “You hate to say you come to expect it. But that’s how steady she is. She didn’t particularly shoot the ball very well most of the night, but when we needed her in overtime she stepped up huge for us.
“That’s why she’s the player that she is, and why she’s made all the memorable moments she has at Marian.”
Joliet Catholic (26-2) is taking aim at its second trip to state and first since 1985 at the Class 3A Lewis University Supersectional. The Angels will meet Washington (26-3), which defeated Notre Dame 65-42 to win a sectional title for the first time since 1977.
Washington’s leading scorer is 5-11 junior Jess Learned, who had 19 points and seven rebounds against Notre Dame. The Panthers also have offensive balance with seniors Maddie Lee and Hayley Reneau and sophomores Hannah Heinz and 5-10 Tia Sherman.
Jasmine Lumpkin, Nicole Ekhomu and company will have their hands full.
“They do some things nicely,” Angels coach Ed Schodrof said of Washington. “They’re a good man-to-man team. They play very hard, I think that stands out above everything else. They’ve got a lot of heart.
“We’re playing well. I think we have to play with confidence.”
Then there is De La Salle. Coach John Smith described the 18-6 Meteors as “floating on Cloud Nine” after Akilah Fletcher and Alesia Stewart led them past Phillips 51-45 in the Class 3A Solorio Sectional final.
The cloud on Monday will float down to Hinsdale Central, where Class 3A powerhouse Montini (31-2) is waiting with the solid senior threesome of Sara Ross, Kateri Stone and Kelly Karlis.
Toto, this isn’t Solorio anymore.
“We know what kind of challenge it’s going to be,” Smith said. “But we’re preparing to basically try and shock the world. Nobody gave us a chance to be in this game. Now that we’re here let’s not just be in the game but stay in the game.
“The girls are glad to be a part of history over here, going as far as any team in the school history. There is a lot of energy.”