GIRLS BASKETBALL: State of the Interstate Eight
Basketball officially has entered the second half of the season, and everything is taking shape as teams have begun to smell the sweet aroma of tournament play.
But that’s still about a month and a half away, and there’s a ton of basketball to be played with plenty of games that have conference-title implications.
During the next couple weeks, I’ll be diving into each conference for both boys and girls as conference races are heating up.
Let’s start with the Interstate Eight Conference on the girl’s side.
There’s one thing that is perfectly clear: Sandwich is the top dog — no ifs, ands or buts.
The Indians are 20-0 overall and 7-0 in conference play for a reason, and I witnessed why with my own two eyes. They play outstanding full-court pressure defense, capitalize on turnovers and are aggressive when going for offensive rebounds.
Although there are only nine girls on the roster, there’s no drop off no matter who is on the floor. They’re No. 9 in Class 3A for a reason.
Just below the Indians is Plano, at 16-4 and a perfect 6-0 in conference play.
Those two teams meet Feb. 7, most likely for the conference title unless the Reapers slip up against Herscher or Peotone in the coming weeks.
Speaking of Peotone, the Blue Devils have had one of the most roller-coaster seasons with their shooting woes.
They’ve had multiple games with the team shooting well below 35 percent, yet they sit at 14-7 overall and 6-2 in conference play after a victory against Coal City.
However, with a loss to Sandwich last week and no other team looking capable of beating the Indians, maybe the ship has sailed. Then again, the Blue Devils still have Plano coming to town Jan. 28, so there might be some time left to make a move.
Underneath Peotone in that fourth spot is the Herscher Tigers, at 11-10 and 6-2 in the conference.
This probably has been the most challenging season Herscher has endured in the past five years, but it still is floating right along despite injuries to Mya Johanson and Mattie Brown.
However, the Tigers continue to fight and still have a chance at the Interstate Eight crown with Plano and Sandwich looming ahead. It will be a tough task to knock both teams off, but it’s possible.
Right below them is Reed-Custer, which has enjoyed quite the turn-around season. But that’s only a shock to those who don’t follow the Comets.
They set their goals high, and with good reason, considering who returned this year. They are 17-7 and 5-3 inside conference play after Thursday’s loss against Sandwich.
A conference championship might be out of the picture, but there’s still a lot for the Comets to accomplish before tournament. They will need to rest after back-to-back games resulting in tough losses.
Lisle is next, and below them is Wilmington, which at 10-10 and 3-6 in conference play, is enjoying quite the uplifting season.
Second-year coach Eric Dillon has the Wildcats playing very well and believing in themselves, leading to their first double-digit win season since the 2008-09, according to the IHSA website.
Coal City has suffered through one injury after another to its starting guards, which explains its 6-11 overall and 2-6 conference record.
Although a high-scoring offense hasn’t been the Coalers’ forte, what they do possess is a gritty defense that makes you work every single point and rebound.
Had they been 100 percent all season, they unquestionably would be in the middle of the pack instead of at the lower end of the totem pole.
After Streator and Westmont in the standings is Manteno, which sits in last place at 5-18 overall and 0-8 in conference play.
The program has fallen on hard times during the past 10 years, with only one double-digit winning season (2012-13, according to the IHSA website).
With players such as Maddie Lacer and Kenna Selk continuing to fight along with a couple of promising underclassmen, next year could be the start of something.