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Lady Bruins setting sights on regional title that got away

A year ago, the St. Bede Lady Bruins took the No. 1 seed into the Princeton Regional and didn’t make it out. This year’s senior class would like to make amends.

The Lady Bruins will once again take the top seed into the postseason as the team to beat at the Hall 2A Regional. They are joined there by No. 2 Ottawa Marquette, No. 3 Princeton, No. 4 Hall and No. 5 Bureau Valley.

“Last year was definitely really hard. If we go out and win regional this year, it would kinda erase the memory of last year,” St. Bede senior standout Mo Dean said. “(Last year) is on my mind a lot. If we got a chance to redeem ourselves, I’d definitely feel a lot better.”

While St. Bede’s record (15-15) is not where it’s been in recent years, they earned the top seed by going 4-0 against the regional field.

“It is good going into a field where you have played everyone and have a feel for your game against theirs,” SBA coach Tom McGunnigal said. “Even though it’s been a while since we played Marquette, we have been able to see them a few times since then, and if we get the match-up, we can feel good going into it.

“Our overall record certainly was not where it has been when we’ve seeded in years past, but that’s where playing the field gives you the good comparative when the seeding was done.”

Marquette coach Todd Hopkins, whose Lady Cru fell to St. Bede 50-42 on Dec. 10, sees the Lady Bruins as a heavy favorite.

“They have beaten everyone in the regional. It would take a monumental performance to beat St. Bede,” he said.

The regional tips off at 7:30 p.m. Monday with a rematch between Hall and Bureau Valley. The Lady Devils defeated the Storm 36-29 on Nov. 26, but Hall coach Mike Struna, who triples as the Hall superintendent and principal, said the Storm are vastly improved since that late November meeting.

“I saw BV play recently, and they had a big lineup on the floor, which I think will be a tough match up for us,” he said. “We will have to cut down on our turnovers and shoot the ball well from the outside to win.”

BV coach Tiffany Gonigam is excited to meet up with Hall again.

“I thought the first game was back and forth, and we got forced into a lot of turnovers; our team has changed quite a bit since then, and I’m looking forward to seeing how far the girls have come since the beginning of the year,” she said.

The Hall-BV winner advances to play St. Bede at 6 p.m. Tuesday. St. Bede beat Hall 66-24 on Jan. 5 but has not played the Storm.

Game 2 Tuesday will also see two teams squaring off for the second time this season. Marquette defeated Princeton 43-27 on Jan. 8 at Ottawa in a game the Lady Cru led by 15, but the Tigresses were able to cut into their lead to start the third quarter. Senior guard Marissa Gama led the Cru to victory with 16 points.

“We’ll need to track down Gama much better than last time as she hurt us on threes. We gave them a much better showing in the second half, and we’ll need to do that from the start this time,” PHS coach Kevin Hieronymus said. “Coach Hopkins, like Gunny at St. Bede, always has his teams ready to go for the postseason.”

“That should be a great game between Princeton and Marquette. Princeton has been playing very good basketball of late, and we have been struggling,” said Todd Hopkins, whose team played state-ranked Peoria Christian to a 32-28 battle in the Tri-County Conference championship game.

Class 1A: Putnam County (22-4) takes the No. 1 seed into the Midland Regional at Varna, reached the 20-win plateau for the first time in 20 years. The Lady Panthers draw the winner of Monday’s Henry vs. DePue game at 6 p.m. Tuesday. Flanagan/Cornell is the No. 1 seed. the winner advances to the Oglesby Sectional being hosted by IVCC.

The Annawan Bravettes will take to their home court to kick off what they hope is another extended postseason run. The Bravettes bring in an 18-2 record, ranked second in Class 1A behind defending state champ Freeport Aquin. Lincoln Trail rival Wethersfield, which is receiving votes in the AP poll, is the No. 2 seed. Annawan beat Wethersfield 58- 44 for last year’s sectional crown.

LaMoille/Ohio will face Little Ten rival Leland/Earlville in the first game of the Serena Regional at 7:30 p.m. Monday. It will also be the rubber game of their season series. L/E defeated the Lady Lions 39-30 in regular-season play on Dec. 6, and the Lady Lions won 45-32 in the first round of LTC Tournament.

“Hopefully we’ll be up for that. It’s that time of the year you’ve got to be ready,” L/O coach Dick Gross said.

The Lady Lions have lost leading rebounder Kaitlyn Hughes of Ohio to a season-ending knee injury.

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