The Bureau Valley Storm get to come home for the postseason. Whether that makes for a happy homecoming will be played out at the Storm Cellar for this week’s 2A regional tournament.
Seneca (22-4), which was looking to wrap up the Interstate-8 Conference championship at Braidwood Reed-Custer Friday, is the top seed. Coach Russ Witte said the Irish will have to be in full gear to get past the likes of No. 2 St. Bede (22-5) and No. 3 Bureau Valley (18-12), not to mention the winner of Monday’s play-in game between No. 4 Princeton (6-21) and No. 5 Hall (10-16).
“For us to move on and win regionals, we will have to do a much better job of getting into our transition game and making better decisions. If we can keep our motor running and a high level like we have the past few games, then we will have a shot,” Witte said.
Seneca will draw the winner between Princeton and Hall. The Irish beat the Tigers in December — the Irish’s lone contest against a regional opponent.
Rookie BV coach Jason Marquis said while Seneca and St. Bede enter as the clear front-runners, he believes it is a competitive field with any of the five teams poised to move on.
“The short answer to move on is win,” he said. “Our goal is to play our best basketball in the postseason, and I believe that doing that will give us a chance to win every game down the stretch. Executing offensively, contesting shots, and rebounding help lead our team to success.”
The Storm lost to St. Bede at the Colmone Classic at Hall, while defeating Hall twice and Princeton once.
St. Bede gained momentum with a 68-65 win Tuesday over Peoria Notre Dame, which is ranked 11th in the state 3A poll,and held on for a 46-45 win at Princeton Friday. Coach Mike Kilmartin knows to get a chance to face Seneca and play for their first regional championship in 13 years; the Bruins will have to get past Bureau Valley on its homecourt first.
“We bring seven seniors to the regional that have had great success in their high school careers, but St. Bede has not won a regional since 1999-2000. Of course that has been one of our goals since Day 1,” Kilmartin said. “We do know from past experience that it will be difficult because of the site, playing a good team on home floor, and of course being in a regional with other quality teams regardless of records and having previous wins over them. It only gives them the revenge card. We are hungry but humble.”
Princeton stands just 1-4 against the regional field, but the lone win came against Hall on Jan. 15. Tiger coach Jesse Brandt said the Tigers will need to take care of the basketball, “if we expect to win any game.”
Looking at the field, Brandt said, “I think it will be a competitive regional. It seems that St. Bede and Seneca are both playing very well right now.”
At Henry: The Mallards have the top-seed and homecourt advantage, but will be challenged by No. 2 Putnam County, winners of 11 straight and 17 of its last 19. The Panthers (21-7, 8-1) would like to make it home for sectionals but will likely have to get past three Tri-County Conference rivals — No. 7 Lowpoint, No. 3 Woodland and No. 1 Henry to get there. Henry beat the Panthers at Henry this season.
“The biggest key for us will be to keep our composure and keep playing the way we have been,” PC coach Josh Nauman said.
At Erie: LaMoille/Ohio (4-20) is in a field headed up by Paw Paw (20-5), which is enjoying its first 20-win season since 1998, the same year it won its last regional.
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