The 2012 IHSA Girls Basketball State Finals shift to the large schools this weekend, as the Class 3A and Class 4A tournament unfolds at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal on Friday and Saturday, March 2-3. The 2012 edition of the tourney marks the 36th annual season of the tournament, the 21st straight year that Redbird Arena has served as the host and the fifth year of the four-class system. The games will air live on the IHSA TV Network (click for local listings) and will also be carried live on the internet on IHSA.tv. Lee Hall and Sarah Kwasinski bring viewers the 3A March Madness action and Dave Bernhard and Patricia Babcock McGraw step in to call the 4A games. Matt Rodewald will handle the sideline duties, along with the Class 3A and 4A finals of the Country Financial Three-Point Showdown on Friday and Saturday’s Queen of the Hill Three-Point Showdown, which features the winners from all four classes facing off.
Three of the four qualifiers in Class 3A have been a part of the state final field the past two seasons, including two-time defending champ Montini. Hillcrest and Springfield bring veteran groups back to state for the third and fourth consecutive seasons, respectively, and join first-time qualifier Vernon Hills in trying to dethrone the Lady Broncos. Whitney Young has already guaranteed a new champion in 4A, as the Dolphins knocked off three-time defending state champ Bolingbrook in the Super-Sectional round on Monday. Edwardsville has its own history with Bolingbrook, having lost to Raiders in the past three Super-Sectionals, before breaking through to return to state this year. Bartlett makes its second state final appearance in school history this season, while Loyola is back for the first time since 1999.
SPRINGFIELD SENATORS (29-4)
Springfield senior guard Zahna Medley (24.9 ppg) has led the Senators to the state finals in each of her four seasons, resulting in a fourth-place trophy and a pair of third-place finishes. The All-State guard has one last shot at playing for a state title before leaving to play basketball at TCU next season and has averaged 15.1 points per game in her six state tournament games at Redbird Arena. Medley is surrounded by a young supporting cast of contributors, including 6-1 Meghan Fetter (8.4 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and 5-10 Ashton Williams (9.4 ppg, 5.1 rpg), a pair of juniors who provide an inside presence for Springfield.
VERNON HILLS COUGARS (26-5)
Vernon Hills reaches the state finals in just the 12th year of the school’s existence, a unique ride in a season of firsts that included the program’s first Regional, Sectional and Super-Sectional titles. Four-year varsity player Julie Pecht has been a part of over 70 victories, as the program grew from 14 wins her freshman year to 26 this season. Meri Bennett-Swanson (12 ppg, 6.0 rpg), a 6-2 junior center and three-time All-Conference pick, has gone over 1,000 points in her career to become the school’s career scoring leader, while sophomore guard Sydney Smith is the team’s top scorer in 2012 at 12.8 points per game.
MONTINI LADY BRONCOS (31-5)
The Lady Broncos cruised to their second consecutive Class 3A state title a year ago behind a senior-laden cast, but have managed to reload in 2011-12 to make the school’s fourth trip to the state finals in the past five years. Senior forward Tianna Brown (10.3 ppg) is the team’s leading scorer and lone senior, while junior Nikia Edom and sophomore Kateri Stone each contribute over nine points per game. The Lady Broncos have a deep bench that is highlighted by the ability to get big behind a pair of 6-4 reserves that include Malayna Johnson, younger sister of Michala, the state’s first girl’s basketball player to play at UCONN.
HILLCREST LADY HAWKS (27-3)
Hillcrest faces Montini for the third consecutive time in the state finals after coming up short against the Lady Broncs in each of the past two state championship games. All-State senior guards Samirah Ali (10. 3 ppg, 160 assists) and Shannise Heady (14.9 ppg) started in each of those past two championship games and look to close out their decorated careers with a state title. Heady, a Seton Hall commit, has over 1,500 career points and has been a part of over 100 wins in her four-year varsity career. Three other Lady Hawks average eight points per game or better, including 6-2 senior center Jahmia Phillips (8.6 ppg, 7.8 rpg).
BARTLETT HAWKS (31-1)
The Hawks and head coach Denise Sarna return to the state finals for the first time since Sarna’s Hawks fell to Peoria Richwoods 52-48 in the Class AA state championship game in 2005. This year’s group is led by 6-0 senior All-Stater Haley Videckis, an Indiana University commit averaging 18.3 points and 6.0 rebounds per game, who can play inside and outside (72 made 3’s). Videckis teams with senior guard Kristin Conniff (14.7 ppg) to form a formidable one-two scoring punch, while Bartlett starts three players who are 6-0, including senior Lisa Palmer (8.0 ppg, 6.2 rpg), and have used their length to help hold postseason opponents to a scoring average below 40 points per game in five State Series contests.
WHITNEY YOUNG DOLPHINS (32-0)
Whitney Young’s classic four-overtime win over Bolingbrook in the Super-Sectional round avenged three straight state final defeats to the Raiders and marked the school’s first win against Bolingbrook since the 2008 state championship game. First Team All-State guards Janee Thompson (19.0 ppg) and Linnae Harper (18.5) hope to bring home Whitney Young’s second state championship in school history, while also completing a perfect season against a schedule that has included several top teams from out-of-state. While Thompson and Harper push the pace from their guard spots, Whitney Young boasts plenty of size in 6-5 sophomore center Khaalia Hillsman and 5-10 senior forward Alexis Lloyd (16.0 ppg), an Honorable Mention All-State selection.
EDWARDSVILLE TIGERS (33-1)
Edwardsville returns to the state finals for the first time since 2007 behind legendary head coach Lori Blade, who won two state titles in Class A at Carrollton (2000-01, 2001-02) and surpassed 500 career victories earlier this season. All-State junior forward Emmonie Henderson (15.6 ppg, 6.4 rpg) looks for a basketball state title to go along with her state track & field crowns in the shot put (2010, 2011) and discus (2011). The Tigers use a balanced offensive attack that features five other players who average 5.2 points per game or more, including 6-4 senior center Leigh Kesper (7.2 ppg) and 5-11 junior Ashia Jones (7.1 ppg).
LOYOLA ACADEMY RAMBLERS (26-7)
The Ramblers picked the right time to play their best ball of the year, as the squad reaches the state finals for the first time since qualifying in three consecutive seasons from 1997 to 1999, including back-to-back state titles in 1997 and 1998. Junior guard Anna Schueler is Loyola’s lone scorer averaging double-figures (11.3 ppg) this season and is also a standout for the perennially powerful Rambler girl’s lacrosse program. With most of the team’s regulars standing under 5-10, inclduing 5-7 senior guard Lauren Kriz (9.4 ppg), the Ramblers depend on their quickness and athleticism to make plays on both ends of the court.
Redbird Arena (Normal)
Friday, March 2
Class 3A Semifinals
Springfield vs. Vernon Hills - Noon
Montini vs. Hillcrest - 2:00 p.m.
Class 4A Semifinals
Bartlett vs. Whitney Young - 6:30 p.m.
Edwardsville vs. Loyola Academy - 8:15 p.m.
Saturday, March 3
Class 3A Finals
Third-Place - Noon
Championship - 2:00 p.m.
Class 4A Finals
Third-Place - 6:30 p.m.
Championship - 8:15 p.m.
Games available on IHSA TV Network. Click here for carriers and channels or check local listings.
Finals also available on www.ESPN3.com
Internet Only Broadcast
WFMB 1450 AM (Springfield)
RESULTS & LIVE STATS
IHSA Girls Basketball Page
COUNTRY THREE POINT SHOWDOWN
Thursday, March 1
5:00 p.m. - 3A/4A Prelims
Friday, March 2
1:45 p.m. - 3A Finals
8:00 p.m. - 4A Finals
Saturday, March 3
Queen of the Hill (each class champion)
1:30 p.m. - Finals
$10 per session (general admission)
HISTORY & RECORDS
Class 3A Road to Redbird
Class 4A Road to Redbird