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By Isaac Trotter|For the Press
First Round Byes
#1 Ridgeview: Ridgeview began their season on a 16-game winning streak and are now Class 1A’s 8th ranked team. They’ve lost two of their past three games and sit at 17-2 on the season. Heyworth was able to defeat the Mustangs 54-41 which dropped them to 9-1 in conference play. Freshman Grace Ward has led the Mustangs resurgence as she leads her team in scoring at 11.1 points per game. Ward teams up with senior sharpshooter Jordyn Talley and forms a dynamic scoring duo. The solid play of Mya Tinsley and Stacia Landry make Ridgeview very dangerous. The top of the HOIC is loaded so if the Mustangs can get past either GCMS or Fisher, there could be a rematch between Fieldcrest and Ridgeview in the semifinals. Ridgeview squeaked past Fieldcrest in their first matchup 52-44.
#2 Eureka: Eureka’s transition to the HOIC has been seamless as the Hornets are 18-2 on the season and are first in the standings with a perfect 9-0 conference record. Eureka is led by Tessa Leman and Natalie Bardwell, who scored 18 and 17 points respectively in their 58-51 victory against Fieldcrest. They also have a 19 point victory over Heyworth and an eight point win against Tremont who they could face in the quarterfinals. The road to the championship is hard for Eureka, but they are more than capable of running the table and bringing home the hardware in their first Mclean County Tournament appearance.
GCMS vs. Fisher
#8 Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley: GCMS heads into the tourney on a little slump as they’ve lost six of their last seven games. Sitting at 6-12, the Falcons desperately need a pick-me-up win against Fisher in their opening contest. They were able to defeat the Bunnies 50-32 in their first matchup and they’ll need good performances from Megan Moody, Claire Rutherford, and Maci Bielfeldt if they want to advance to a quarterfinal bout with Ridgeview.
#9 Fisher: Fisher will be looking for some revenge against their rival GCMS as they were stomped 50-32 back on December 17. Their first round matchup against the Falcons will hopefully show some improvement for Ken Ingold’s squad as they will try and advance to face the top-seeded Ridgeview Mustangs. The Bunnies are 8-12 and 3-5 in conference play and will need good contributions from Alivia Spenard and Becca Clanton if they want to upset GCMS.
Fieldcrest vs. Lexington
#4 Fieldcrest: Fieldcrest is yet another solid team that will be in contention for the McLean County championship. They are 14-6 on the season but own a victory over the second-seeded Eureka Hornets 56-49 in their holiday tournament game. Claire Weers is the top scoring option for Fieldcrest as she had 14 points in a game against Eureka and 15 points in a win against Blue Ridge. Gwen Lohr-Fandel and Kianna Klendworth are also strong players. Fieldcrest shouldn’t have a problem defeating Lexington in Round 1, but Flanagan should be awaiting them in what could be a fantastic quarterfinal game. It would be the
third contest between Flanagan and Fieldcrest as each team has defeated each other once.
#13 Lexington: Not many things have gone right for Lexington this season. They are winless as they enter the tournament and their luck doesn’t get any better as they’ll face a Fieldcrest squad that defeated them 50-27 this season. They were competitive with Blue Ridge as they lost 51-47 last Monday, which could be a sign of things to come, but they likely will be in the consolation bracket after their game with Fieldcrest.
Flanagan-Cornell vs. Dee-Mack
#5 Flanagan-Cornell: Flanagan’s rollercoaster season has seen them defeat teams like Fieldcrest once and EPG twice, but also get beat handily by Ridgeview and suffer ten-point losses to Eureka and Heyworth. They sit at 10-9 and 5-4 in conference play as they prepare for Dee-Mack - who they beat 53-33 back on December 15. Rachael Quaritsch is the player that Flanagan can put their tournament hopes on. Her 21 points propelled the Falcons to a victory over Tri-Valley last Monday. They should take care of the Chiefs and set up a third contest against Fieldcrest for the opportunity to play in the semifinals.
#12 Dee-Mack: Dee-Mack is 7-9 and 2-6 in HOIC play but they’ll be riding high after a comeback victory over the Fisher Bunnies last Monday. They will be on a two game winning streak when they face Flanagan in Round 1. Flanagan walloped the Chiefs by 20 in their last meeting and Dee-Mack is probably looking at a matchup in the consolation rounds against Lexington who they’ve defeated twice so far this season.
Tremont vs. LeRoy
#7 Tremont: Tremont is only 8-11 on the season but they have an impressive 6-2 record in conference play. They defeated LeRoy 44-33 last Monday and will have five days to prepare for the Panthers again. If Tremont can take care of business against Danielle Cooley’s squad, they could present a tough matchup for Eureka in the quarterfinals. Eureka defeated the Turks by just eight points early in December but Tremont has won three out of their last four games and they’ll be hungry to repeat as tournament champions for a third consecutive season. Tremont has all the keys for the deep tourney run because of their strong point guard, Joelle Ulrich, and their fantastic shooter, Stephanie Williams. The Turks could easily be the seven seed that runs the table to the championship much like the Blue Ridge boys did three years ago.
#10 LeRoy: Danielle Cooley’s girls had dropped eight games in a row before a conference matchup with Blue Ridge on Thursday night. LeRoy sits at 5-12 and they have a 3-7 mark in the HOIC. Their first round foe is Tremont in a rematch of last year’s tournament championship, and the Panthers just lost to the Turks 44-33 last Monday. LeRoy has three scorers in Danielle Hanshew, Megan Woltkamp and Skielyr Trenkle who can keep the Panthers in any contest. If all three are on their game, LeRoy could advance to a quarterfinal bout with Eureka.
Heyworth vs. Tri-Valley
#3 Heyworth: Heyworth is an impressive 17-1 on the season as their lone defeat was at the hands of Eureka back on December 1. They will enter the tournament on an 11-game winning streak and would like nothing more than to have a rematch with Eureka in the semifinals of the tournament. They will need to beat the winner of El Paso-Gridley or Blue Ridge to advance to the semis. Stephanie Brown, Somer Marlett and Chassidy Hays all are capable scorers for Heyworth and they’ll try to lead their team on a deep tourney run.
#14 Tri-Valley: Give credit to the Vikings as they have persevered through another winless campaign but continue to battle night in and night out. They will face a really tough Heyworth team in round 1 that beat them 61-14 in their game a couple weeks ago. Lisbeth Kussman and Hannah Rudsinski will continue to lead Tri-Valley who will likely fall to the consolation bracket where they could have an opportunity to win their first game of the season.
EPG vs. Blue Ridge
#6 EPG: El Paso-Gridley has had a similar season to Flanagan and their records are identical at 10-9. They are 6-3 in conference play as they’ve beaten all of their opponents in the lower half of the conference, but they have yet to beat a team above them in the standings. Maegan Stone is a top player for the Titans as she scored 10 points in a win against GCMS and Gracie Feeney is a defensive whiz who had a game-high six steals against the Falcons. El Paso will host Fieldcrest in a tune-up before the tournament starts, but they cannot look past their opening round matchup with Blue Ridge. The Knights are a dangerous #11 seed that should give EPG a great fight.
#11 Blue Ridge: Blue Ridge sits at an impressive 10-8 but are only 2-6 in conference play, making them one of the lower seeds. The Knights have dealt with a ton of injuries but they will have some reinforcements for their opening round contest against EPG as Specht is set to return from a foot injury. Specht is the strong inside presence to guard Josie Grammer’s outside shooting and scoring ability. Grammer leads the Knights in scoring with an average of nearly 16 points per game and Specht averages just over 11 points per game. If the Knights can get some scoring from their supporting cast of Haley Ester, Hannah Brackenhoff and Becca Crook, they could advance to the quarterfinals for the first time in three years.