Playing without its top player against one of the top Class 1A programs in the state Monday, the Lebanon Greyhounds did more than move into the semifinals of the Carrollton Tournament with its 12-point win over Hardin Calhoun.
The Greyhounds got a little long-awaited payback with a 47-35 triumph.
In a rematch of the past two Class 1A sectional semifinals — both won by Hardin Calhoun — the undefeated Greyhounds (23-0) got 18 points from junior Emily Reinneck as they moved into a Friday showdown with Alton Marquette at Carrollton High School.
Hardin Calhoun, led by all-state player Grace Baalman, defeated Lebanon 66-31 in the sectional two years ago en route to winning the Class 1A state championship. Baalman, who is now playing softball at the University of Kentucky, then led her team past Lebanon 61-50 last season.
Hardin Calhoun placed third in the Class 1A state finals last season.
“It’s not the same Hardin Calhoun team, even though there are still some Baalmans playing. But those girls know what it takes to win. In that respect, it was a big game for us,” Lebanon coach Chad Cruthis said.
Ranked in the top three in the Class 1A state poll for much of the season, the Greyhounds were dealt a severe blow when senior all-state guard Kendra Bass went down with a torn PCL in her right knee in a win over Cahokia Conference rival Dupo last week.
Bass is scheduled to see an orthopedic doctor Thursday and could be out for the remainder of the season.
“Last season she had the shoulder injury, and now this. I’m sure she (Bass) is wondering, ‘Why me?’” Cruthis said. “This is a close group of kids, and when this happened, we’re all heartbroken for Kendra. We’re family here at Lebanon, and there were a lot of tears when we got the news.”
While the loss of Bass would be a damaging blow to the Greyhounds’ state tournament hopes, Cruthis does feel his team can still reach Redbird Arena to play in the state finals in a little more than five weeks.
The Greyhounds have Emily Reinneck, one of the top Class 1A juniors in the state, sister Abigail Reinneck, senior Krista Bass and 6-foot-1 senior Schoenfeld in the post to provide solid play on offense.
Katie Fertig, a talented freshman, will be the Greyhounds’ fifth starter with Kendra Bass out of the lineup.
“Hardin Calhoun wasn’t guarding Katie in the first half, choosing instead to double down on Madison (Schoenfeld) in the post. At halftime, I told her she needed to shoot, and she made a couple of jumpers in the second half,” Cruthis said of Fertig.
“We’re a wounded animal right now, and teams are really going to come after us,” he added. “But a wounded animal can also be a dangerous one. As I see it, we can either cave in, or we can come out and keep fighting. This group has a lot of pride. They will give it everything they have. I have no doubt about that.”
West, Althoff showing improvement
While the records may not meet their lofty standards, both the Belleville West Maroons (5-15) and Althoff Crusaders (11-13) have shown signs of improvement in the past couple weeks.
Once 1-7, West has split its past six games and advanced to the consolation title game of the Highland Scott Credit Union Girls Basketball Tournament last week, where it lost to Salem 38-28.
Expected to be a Class 4A power this season after finishing 18-12 a year ago, the Maroons were decimated when two of the top post players in the Southwestern Conference — Sydney Thurwalker and B’Aunce Carter — transferred to O’Fallon and Belleville East, respectively.
Former coach Clayton Fisher was rehired after Seth Garrett resigned last spring, and suddenly, the Maroons went from conference contenders to a middle-of-the-pack team.
But with wins over Alton, Althoff and Hillsboro in the past 15 days, the Maroons could be a dangerous team in the postseason.
“I see a lot of improvement from the time we started until now. The girls have bought in to what we want them to do, and we’re having some success now,” Fisher said. “We still have a long way to go, but we can be competitive the rest of the way, win some games and have fun playing the game.”
The player who has shown the most improvement recently is Shaniah Nunn. The 6-1 sophomore leads the Maroons in scoring (9.7 ppg) and rebounds (6.3).
Althoff also struggled out of the gate under rookie head coach Brianna Ankenbrandt, who took over when Nick Knolhoff resigned to take over at O’Fallon High School. The Crusaders lost their first three games of the season but have been above .500 since then.
Like Fisher, Ankenbrandt had to replace top scorers in all-state guard Kyleigh Vaught and Maggie Reimer, who both graduated.
Junior Tiffani Siekmann (11.4 ppg.) leads Althoff in scoring, while twin sister Gabby Siekmann (7.3) and Katie Wemhoener (7.1) have also been solid.
Class 1-2A seeds to be announced
The undefeated Lebanon Greyhounds (23-0) will be a top seed when the Illinois High School Association announces the seeding for the upcoming Class 1A-2A postseason Thursday. The Greyhounds and Okawville Rockets (15-7) have been ranked among the top 12 Class 1A teams in the state all year.
Okawville and Metro East Lutheran will host Class 1A regionals, which begin Feb. 5. Carrollton and Concord are the other regionals that will feed into the White Hall sectional, which begins Feb. 12.
The Class 1A Mt. Sterling super-sectional will be Feb. 19 with the Class 1A state tournament set for Feb. 23-24 at Redbird Arena in Normal.
In Class 2A, Mater Dei (17-7), Nashville (16-7) and Red Bud (18-7) are all in contention for top-four seeds. Most local teams will compete in either the Nashville or Pinckneyville regionals, with Harrisburg and DuQuoin regionals also feeding into the McLeansboro sectional on Feb. 12.
The Salem super-sectional will be Feb. 19 with the Class 2A state tournament also set for Feb. 23-24 at Redbird Arena.