Girls Basketball: State finals ‘different’ this time for Young1/16/12 Villa Park Willowbrook High School hosted the 22nd annual McDonald's girls basketball shootout tournament on Jan 13,14 and 16. Montini played Whitney Young on 1/16. Whitney Young's Janee Thompson with the ball during the game. The final score was Whitney Young 64 and Montini 56. | Tamara Bell~Sun Times Media
Updated: March 1, 2012 5:52PM
NORMAL — The IHSA deprived basketball fans around the state from witnessing one of the best girls high school games ever played and two of the best teams in state history from going toe-to-toe at Redbird Arena.
But Young coach Corry Irvin, whose team reached the semifinals at Redbird Arena by defeating three-time defending state champion Bolingbrook 74-65 in a four-overtime instant classic Monday, is not so sure she’ll miss seeing the red and black at Illinois State.
“It will be different,” said Irvin, whose Dolphins had been denied a state title each of the last three years by Bolingbrook. “I don’t know what it’s going to be like. Everything will be different. We play at a different time this year.
“I will probably miss them (Bolingbrook) a little bit,” she added. “But I won’t miss them that much.”
Powered by seniors Janee Thompson and Alexis Lloyd and junior Linnae Harper, No. 1-ranked Young (32-0) heads into today’s state semifinal against Bartlett as the prohibitive favorite to win the 2012 Class 4A state title.
Thompson, who scored 34 points including 17 in the fourth quarter and four overtimes Monday, isn’t taking anything for granted.
“It was a huge game (Monday), but now we got to finish downstate,” she said. “We’ve got to complete it and win downstate.”
While Young goes for its second title in five years, Montini is seeking its third consecutive Class 3A state title, albeit with a different cast from the team that rolled over Springfield and Hillcrest to win it all in 2010 and 2011.
“I know Hillcrest is the favorite to win it,” Montini coach Jason Nichols said. “Hillcrest returns everybody from last year, we return one starter. We beat them the last two years. They’re going to be like a bunch of wolves in the forest, looking to get some payback.
“We’re just happy to be here,” he added. “We’ll enjoy our time here, go do some sightseeing and have a little fun and see what happens.”
Here’s a look at Friday’s semifinals:
Springfield (29-4) vs. Vernon Hills (26-5), 12:00 p.m.
The smallest player on the floor could have the biggest impact. Springfield’s 5-foot-6 senior all-state choice Zahna Medley averages nearly 25 points per game for the Senators, who finished third the last two years. A pair of sophomores – Lauren Webb and Sydney Smith—and 6-2 junior Meri Bennett-Swanson lead the Cougars, who are making their debut on the big stage at Redbird Arena.
Montini (31-5) vs. Hillcrest (27-3), 2:00 p.m.
The Hawks might have been looking ahead to this rematch when they fell behind downstate Morton 20-13 at halftime of their supersectional Monday at Pontiac. There will be no excuses today. Seniors Shannise Heady and Samirah Ali and junior Dana Gettis lead the Hawks, who must contend with Montini’s TIanna Brown and 6-4 junior Malayna Johnson inside and Kateri Stone and Nikia Edom outside.
Bartlett (31-1) vs. Whitney Young (32-0), 6:30 p.m.
Waubonsie Valley defeated Bartlett 58-45 back on January 27 to prevent a matchup of unbeatens. All-area selection Haley Videckis (18 points, 7 rebounds per game) and 6-0 senior guard Kristin Conniff, who combined for 122 three-pointers, do the bulk of the scoring for the Hawks. But Bartlett’s biggest concerns have to be its ability to handle Young’s pressure and hold its own on the boards.
Edwardsville (33-1) vs. Loyola (26-7), 8:15 p.m.
The Tigers crushed Marist on the boards, which has to concern Loyola coach Jeremy Schoenecker, whose team only has one player taller than 5-10. Edwardsville’s 6-2 junior Emmonnie Henderson, who is being pursued by some of the top college programs in the country, led the Tigers’ 42-23 edge in rebounds against Marist to go along with a game-high 16 points.