The Alleman Pioneers are the only Western Big 6 Conference girls' basketball team left standing.|
The Pioneers (17-14) play in tonight's Class 3A Washington Sectional semifinal against Bartonville Limestone (19-8), and it will be like looking in the mirror.
Both Alleman and Limestone were searching for their identity and hovering around .500 heading into Christmas. The Rockets have gone 10-3 since the Manual Holiday Tournament, while the Pioneers have gone 9-6, losing to four state-ranked teams during that stretch.
The Pioneers have done it by growing confidence throughout the bench, and while adding Zoe Kelso back into the lineup helps, the Pioneers were on the right track when she returned near the end of the season. Sophomore point guard Izzy Anderson is playing well beyond her age, while junior Erin Morrisey and senior Anne Bohnert both garnered all-WB6 honors.
Anna Wetherell fills the stat sheet, doing all the little things while also finding a way to score. The bench, as always it seems for the Pioneers, makes significant contributions, with Abbey Johnson, Maddie McGuire, Billie Franks, Daria Guzzo, Raven Wyatt and Karli Anderson all a big piece for why they are still playing.
"We've build confidence in ourselves," longtime Pioneer coach Jay Hatch said. "I hope we're confident. Not knowing much about Limestone, I don't know if that's good or bad. We just have to focus on ourselves and what we do best."
The Rockets are led by their senior stars Reilly Dunne and Morgan Schwindenhammer. They tend to do a lot of damage rebounding and getting second-chance points. It will be up to the Alleman bigs to keep them off the boards.
Limestone, like Alleman, didn't have to upset the No. 1 seed in their regional. Peoria Notre Dame knocked off Canton, and the Rockets slipped past the Little Giants in the regional title game.
Unlike the other side of the bracket where Morton and Ottawa will meet in Tuesday's other semifinal, Alleman and Limestone have had a drought when it comes to winning regionals.
The Pioneers last won a regional crown in 2010. This is their fourth since winning the state championship during the 2004-05 season. That was also the last time Alleman won a sectional title.
The Rockets hadn't won a regional title since the 2000-01 season and haven't captured a sectional crown since playing in the state championship game and losing in 1992.
"By seeds and stuff weren't supposed to be around now," Hatch said. "The kids are enjoying the process. It's been a while since we've won a regional."
3A Washington Sectional
Monday: Alleman vs. Limestone, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday: Morton vs. Ottawa, 7:30 p.m.
Thursday: Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Pontiac Super-Sectional (Elite 8)
Monday, Feb. 25
Friday, Mar. 1
State 3rd Place
Saturday, Mar. 2
Saturday, Mar. 2
Carbon cliff, IL Details
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