Now in his 27th season as head coach of the Mater Dei girls basketball team, David Kohnen knows how difficult it can be to make a lengthy postseason run in February.
It often take a few breaks to go your way.
“How far you advance depends on many factors,” Kohnen said Monday. “A lot of it depends on how well you are playing, but also the play of the opposition, sickness, injury and if the ball is rolling in your way.”
Currently 15-3 in their past 18 games after starting the season 3-4, it’s safe to say the Knights head into the Class 2A Pinckneyville regional next week at the top of their game and hoping for at least a repeat of their postseason success of a year ago.
Like this season, Mater Dei finished strong in 2016-17. The Knights advanced to the Class 2A Jacksonville Super-Sectional, where they dropped a 43-36 decision to Camp Point Central. With several players returning from that 20-11 team, the Knights have earned one of two top seeds for the McLeansboro sectional. Undefeated Harrisburg (26-0) is the other top seed.
The Knights will open the postseason Tuesday against the winner of the Dupo-Sparta first-round game, which is being played Monday. Fourth-seeded Pinckneyville (14-11) is the probable title game opponent of Mater Dei on Thursday. Second-seeded Nashville (18-7) is hosting the other Class 2A regional and could face third-seeded Sesser-Valier (23-2) in the title game.
Junior Kierra Winkeler (14.4 ppg) and senior Myah Beckmann (10.4) lead a balanced Mater Dei attack. The Knights have also used a tough schedule featuring many of the top Class 3A and Class 4A teams in Southern Illinois to help them prepare for the postseason.
Still, Kohnen admits he has little knowledge of several teams the Knights could face in either the regional or sectional.
“It is very difficult to seed these sub-sectionals, since we may not have seen some of these teams actually play,” Kohnen said. “We have been working hard to improve at every practice and game to prepare ourselves for the postseason. Part of the preparation is the schedule — we take pride in the fact that we play a very strong and competitive schedule.
The winners of the Pinckneyville, Nashville, DuQuoin and Harrisburg regionals will advance to the McLeansboro sectional on Feb. 13 and 15.
Lebanon’s win streak snapped
Lebanon’s 24-game winning streak came to an end Saturday when former Class 2A state champion Quincy Notre Dame handed the Greyhounds a 52-45 loss in the title game of the Carrollton Tournament.
A Class 3A school, Notre Dame broke out to a 14-7 lead after one quarter and led by as many as 10 points before Lebanon, playing without senior all-state guard Kendra Bass, rallied behind seniors Krista Bass, Madison Schoenfeld and junior Emily Reinneck, the tournament MVP.
The Greyhounds took a one-point lead with two minutes remaining but couldn’t make the crucial defensive stop when needed.
“We didn’t play well. But we didn’t play that bad either,” Lebanon coach Chad Cruthis said. “ We did not defend as well as I think we normally do, as we lost players a few too many times and gave up too many open looks. They are a 3A team and play physical like bigger schools do, and I think we all got caught up in that the first half half too much and didn’t make necessary adjustments.
“I am proud of how we battled back to take the lead, and we just need to continue to work hard over the next week preparing for the postseason.”
In addition to Reinneck earning MVP honors, Krista Bass and Schoenfeld were named to the all-tournament team. Krista Bass scored 26 points in the title game.
No surgery for Kendra Bass
A second-team all-state selection last season, Lebanon senior Kendra Bass was lost for the season when she suffered a knee injury two weeks ago in a game at Dupo.
Cruthis said this week that while Bass’ high school career is over, she will not undergo surgery on the right knee.
“Kendra has a grade 1 tear of her PCL, so she will not be back for the season,” Cruthis said. “The good news is that surgery is not required — just physical therapy — and she will be back at full strength and no limitations in about 8-10 weeks.
“That was a big sigh of relief for us that surgery was not needed, and that she will be able to start her college career on time without any issues, and be back to hustling and running all over the floor.”
Lebanon, Okawville earn top two seeds in Class 1A Sectional
Lebanon and Okawville were awarded the top two seeds in their half of the White Hall sectional, which begins with Class 1A regionals Monday at Okawville and Metro East Lutheran in Edwardsville.
Lebanon is the top seed and will travel to Metro East Lutheran, where it could face the host Knights in the final Feb. 8. Lebanon defeated Metro East Lutheran in the final of the Madison regional a year ago. Okawville (18-7) is the second seed but will have the home-court advantage in its regional. Third-seeded Centralia Christ Our Rock Lutheran is the third seed.
The Stallions, who defeated Okawville in the Class 1A regional final two years ago, are 20-4 for the season.
Jacksonville Routt (22-4) is the top seed on the other side of the sectional bracket. The winners from the Okawville, Metro East Lutheran, Carrollton and Concord Triopia regionals will advance to the White Hall sectional Feb. 12, 13 and 15.
Class 3A-4A seeds, pairings to be released Thursday
The Illinois High School Association will release its Class 3A-4A seeds and regional pairings Thursday.
Undefeated Edwardsville and O’Fallon should be the top two local seeds in Class 4A. In Class 3A, Civic Memorial and Central should be top seeds.