The calendar turns to March this weekend and the madness continues at Redbird Arena on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal. Redbird Arena will host the IHSA Class 3A and Class 4A Girls Basketball State Finals on Friday and Saturday, March 1-2, marking the 37th annual edition of the tourney, the 22nd consecutive year that Redbird has served as the host and the sixth 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 at www.IHSA.tv. Fans can also get unprecedented coverage of the state finals on Twitter by following @IHSAState. Lee Hall and ISU legend Jill Hutchison will bring viewers the 3A action and Dave Bernhard and Patricia Babcock McGraw step in to call the 4A games. Matt Rodewald will handle the hosting and sideline duties, along with the Class 3A and 4A finals of the Country Financial Three-Point Showdown on Friday and the Country Financial Queen of the Hill three-point shooting on Saturday, which pits the four class winners head-to-head.
The Class 3A field has the rarity of boasting two defending state champions, as Montini (3A) and Quincy Notre Dame (2A) both hoisted first-place trophies on the final day of the season a year ago. Vernon Hills and Morton round out the 3A qualifiers, as both schools make their second state final appearances. The Class 3A semifinals kick off with a state championship rematch from 2012, as Vernon Hills and Montini meet at noon, followed by Morton and Quincy Notre Dame at 2:00 p.m.
The Class 4A qualifiers feature defending champ Whitney Young and perennial power Marian Catholic being joined by a pair of first-time qualifiers in Huntley and Rolling Meadows. One of the first-timers will play for a title on Saturday evening, as the Red Raiders and Mustangs are paired up in the first Class 4A semifinal at 6:30 p.m. on Friday. Whitney Young and Marian Catholic round out Friday’s action with a 8:15 p.m. semifinal tilt.
VERNON HILLS COUGARS (30-2) vs. MONTINI LADY BRONCOS (34-1)
Despite a young nucleus, Paul Brettner’s Vernon Hills team battled its way to the state championship game a year ago during the program’s first-ever state final appearance. The return of junior guards Sydney Smith (13.1 ppg) and Lauren Webb (12.6 ppg), coupled with the presence of 6-2 senior center Meri Bennett-Swanson (10.9 ppg), made the Cougars a marked team in 2013, but the squad responded with an 18-0 start and now rides a 12-game winning streak into the semifinals.
Three-time defending state champ Montini returns to Redbird Arena in search of its fourth state title in school history and can become the first program in state history to win four consecutive state titles. The Lady Broncos return several contributors from last year’s squad, including junior guard Kateri Stone (11.7 ppg) and 6-4 senior center Malayna Johnson (8.4 ppg, 7.3 rpg). Jason Nichols’ squad has been tested by a tough schedule that includes a victory over defending Class 4A champ Whitney Young.
MORTON POTTERS (30-1) vs. QUINCY NOTRE DAME (28-0)
Morton came up one game shy of the state tournament a year ago, but punched their ticket with an exclamation point in 2013, winning their Super-Sectional by 26 points. Sarah Livingston, the sister of IHSA state champion and current Cleveland Cavalier Shaun Livingston, leads the Potters in scoring (12. 6) and rebounding (7.8 rpg). Freshman guard Chandler Ryan (11.2 ppg) is a rising star for coach Bob Becker, who guided Morton to their only other previous state final appearance in 2007 when the school placed fourth.
The move up to Class 3A has done little to slow Eric Orne’s veteran group on their quest for a third consecutive title. All told, the Lady Raiders are riding a 51-game winning streak behind the program’s all-time leading scorer in 6-2 forward Jordan Frericks (17.5 ppg, 8.5 rpg) and fellow senior standout Kassidy Gengenbacher (18.5 ppg). Notre Dame once again has a bevy of multisport athletes with significant state series success, including junior guard Cassidy Foley, who has won state titles in basketball, volleyball and soccer thus far in her career.
HUNTLEY RED RAIDERS (26-6) vs. ROLLING MEADOWS MUSTANGS (29-3)
The surprise team of the Class 4A field, Huntley was never ranked in the AP poll during the course of this season, but has made it to state for the first time in school history. The team hasn’t made things easy on head coach Steve Raethz, as three of the team’s five postseason games have been decided by four points. The Red Raiders are led by the sister act of 6-0 junior forward Sam Andrews (16.1 ppg, 5.8 rpg) and 6-2 freshman forward Ali Andrews (16.0 ppg, 7.4 rpg).
Rolling Meadows would have also been a surprise qualifier before the season, but the Mustangs quickly jumped on the state radar under first-year head coach Ryan Kirkorsky in 2012-13. The squad won 24 of its first 25 games and two of its three losses this season came to teams who will be competing at Redbird Arena this weekend (Notre Dame, Montini). Rolling Meadow starts five juniors, including guards Jackie Kemph (19.6 ppg, 243 assists) and Alexis Glasgow (17.0 ppg, 87 three-pointers).
MARIAN CATHOLIC SPARTANS (31-1) vs. WHITNEY YOUNG DOLPHINS (27-3)
Marian Catholic’s decorated program returns to the state finals for the first time since 2007, marking the program’s sixth state final trip and second under head coach Annie Byrne. The team’s only setback this season came against fellow qualifier Rolling Meadows, as junior guard Ashton Millender (15.2 ppg) and sophomore guard Teniya Page (12.2 ppg) have the Spartans in search of the program’s first-ever state championship trophy. Millender kept the state title dream alive by downing Marist with a half-court heave as time expired in the Sectional championship.
Whitney Young continues to be the model of consistency under head Corry Irvin, as the Dolphins return to the state finals for the eighth time since 2005 under Irvin, including state titles in 2008 and 2012. All-American senior guard Linnae Harper (19.1 ppg) averaged 15 points per contest in a pair of state final games a year ago to help guide Whitney Young to the title and has an experienced running mate alongside her in 6-5 junior center Khaalia Hillsman (8.9 ppg, 10.0 rpg). Meanwhile, sophomore forward Tanita Allen (7.3 ppg) has helped provide a scoring spark off the bench for the Dolphins this season.
Redbird Arena (Normal)
Friday, March 1
Class 3A Semifinals
Noon - Vernon Hills vs. Montini
2:00 p.m. - Morton vs. Quincy Notre Dame
Class 4A Semifinals
6:30 p.m. - Huntley vs. Rolling Meadows
8:15 p.m. - Marian Catholic vs. Whitney Young
Saturday, March 2
Class 3A Finals
Noon - Third-Place
2:00 p.m. - Championship
Class 4A Finals
6:30 p.m. - Third-Place
8:15 p.m. - Championship
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Games available on IHSA TV Network. Click here for carriers and channels or check local listings.
SportsTownChicago.com (Internet only)
WTAD 930 AM (Quincy)
Quincy Notre Dame
WGEM 105.1 FM (Quincy)
Quincy Notre Dame
RESULTS & LIVE STATS
IHSA Girls Basketball Page
COUNTRY THREE POINT SHOWDOWN
Thursday, February 28
5:00 p.m. - 3A/4A Prelims
Friday, March 1
1:45 p.m. - 3A Finals
8:00 p.m. - 4A Finals
Queen of the Hill
Saturday, March 2
1:45 p.m. - Four class champions compete
$10 per session (general admission)
HISTORY & RECORDS
2013 Road To Redbird
Record Book & Past Champions