Four high school girls’ basketball teams, including St. Joseph-Ogden,
will descend upon the Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley gymnasium on Monday
By Thursday night, only one will get to hoist a Class 2A sectional plaque in the air, pose for celebratory photos with teammates and get ready for an Elite Eight showdown the following week.
Second-year SJO coach Kevin Taylor sure hopes his Spartans are the ones basking in the euphoria of a sectional championship later this week.
SJO is back in the sectional stage of the postseason for the second straight year, but these Spartans will strive for the program’s first sectional title since 2007.
And SJO (25-4) will see a familiar opponent at 7:30 p.m. on Monday in sectional host GCMS (24-5). The two teams met back on Nov. 15 in Gibson City, with SJO winning easily 66-39. That victory pushed the Spartans into the title game of the season-opening Lady Falcon/Bunnie Tip-Off, which SJO won en route to a 9-0 start to the season.
That was the first loss of the season for GCMS, and the Falcons went into December with only a 4-3 record. But GCMS has been nearly unbeatable since and carries a five-game win streak into Monday night after winning its first regional title since 2005.
“GCMS has some size down low, and we will need to be ready to defend against that and rebound as well,” Taylor said. “They also have a couple outside shooters who we don’t want to let have open looks from the outside.”
The Falcons will play on their own home court on Monday, adding another aspect the Spartans will have to overcome.
“It makes it that much harder playing the home team in sectionals, but it is nice that we have already played four games there this season,” Taylor said. “I am sure they will have a big crowd there, but I think we will have a good crowd, too, so it should make for an exciting atmosphere.”
If SJO is able to leave Gibson City with a win on Monday night, they’d return for a 7 p.m. tip on Thursday in the sectional championship game. Bismarck-Henning/Rossville-Alvin (27-6) and Watseka (25-3) meet at 6 p.m. on Monday in the first sectional semifinal game, with Monday night’s winner meeting on Thursday for a spot in the Pontiac Super-Sectional on Feb. 18. SJO hasn’t played Watseka this season, but does own a 57-37 win at BHRA on Jan. 5
SJO comes into Monday night on a 12-game win streak, having last lost on Dec. 29 to Kankakee Bishop McNamara during the third-place game of the State Farm Holiday Classic Small School tournament. Since then, the Spartans have won every game, with their average margin of victory at 24.7 points.
Seniors Bree Trimble and Peyton Crowe have led SJO in scoring all season long, with senior Maclayne Taylor and junior Hannah Dukeman, among others, providing a solid complementary balance to Trimble and Crowe.
“This team is exciting to watch because they all work so hard and are very talented,” Kevin Taylor said. “They understand what we need to do as a team and have really become a family. We have a mixture of young and veteran players that combine to play an exciting style of basketball. This group has a chance to be special.”