When Lebanon High School girls basketball coach Chad Cruthis began to prepare for the Class 1A postseason two weeks ago, he did so with the idea that senior all-state guard Kendra Bass would be not on the court.
Ranked among the top five Class 1A teams in the state throughout the regular season, the Greyhounds' state tournament hopes were dealt a severe blow when Bass, a 5-foot-6 guard, suffered what was believed to be a season-ending knee injury in January.
But now two weeks into state tournament series and a game away from a trip to the Class 1A State Tournament at Redbird Arena in Normal, the Greyhounds are still standing. And so is Bass.
Cleared to play by her doctor, but wearing a brace on her knee, Bass returned to the court, scoring four points in Lebanon's semifinal win over Carrollton at the White Hall North Greene Sectional, and then returned to form, scoring 17 points in the Greyhounds' 50-46 win over rival Okawville in the title game Thursday.
"She makes a difference when she is on the court,'' Cruthis said of Bass. "Because of the injury, she's not as fast up and down the floor. But Kendra Bass at 70 percent; I'll take that.
"Just her presence on the floor, that makes a big difference. But I'll tell you one thing about the game against Okawville: every player on the court made a big play in the last few minutes to help us win that game. Whether it was a pass, a steal, a screen to get a teammate open, a rebound or a basket ... it was a total team effort.''
On Monday at the Mount Sterling (Brown County) Super-Sectional, the Greyhounds (30-1) will attempt to make history for a third straight game when they take on Lewistown (28-4) at 7 p.m. A win would send the Greyhounds into the Class 1A State Tournament on Friday at Redbird Arena in Normal for the first time.
Lewistown, which got 15 points from Anna Heffren to help defeat Princeville at the Bushnell Prairie City Sectional on Friday, is similar to Lebanon in many ways, according to Cruthis.
"They have a set of sisters who lead them and we've got two sets of twins in Kendra and Krista Bass and the Reinneck's Emily and Abigail. That's kind of unusual right there,'' Cruthis said. "Their twins are the best players and they have a few nice role players.
"They like to get after it on the defensive end and they'll use a diamond press against us. They have the one big girl inside, but the rest of them are in the 5-6 to 5-8 range and they are quick. Their big girl doesn't really move that well, so we're hoping that Madison (Schoenfeld) will give us an advantage there."
In Class 2A
Two teams that know each other well will square off with a trip to Redbird Arena on the line when the Mater Dei Knights and Teutopolis Wooden Shoes meet in the Class 2A Salem Super-Sectional at 8 p.m. Monday.
A member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Mater Dei coach David Kohnen will lead his Knights into the Super-Sectional for the second year in a row. With over 500 wins along with numerous regional titles to his credit, Kohnen will attempt to lead his team into the state tournament semifinals for the first time when they take on coach Lori Thompson's T-Town program.
Mater Dei, which knocked off previously undefeated Harrisburg to win the Hamilton County Sectional last week, is 23-7 for the season. The Knights and Wooden Shoes split a pair of regular season games. Teutopolis defeated Mater Dei 43-39 at the Highland Tournament in January and Mater Dei posted a 56-42 win over the Shoes on Jan. 29.
Teutopolis enters the game with a 27-6 record.
In Class 3A
The East St. Louis Flyerettes will look to keep their hot streak alive Tuesday when they take on Carterville at the Class 3A Carbondale Sectional.
After a middle-of-the-pack finish in the Southwestern Conference, East St. Louis (14-10) has been one of the surprise teams in the postseason, knocking off Highland and Civic Memorial last week. Carterville (24-5) lost to Highland in the sectional semifinals a year ago.
The East St. Louis-Carterville game is at 6 p,m. and will be followed when Cahokia Conference rivals Central (25-3) and Salem (18-14) meet at 7:30 p.m.
Central, competing in Class 3A for just the second year, won the Freeburg Regional, while Salem upset Carbondale to win the Mount Vernon Regional. The winners will play for the sectional title at 7 p.m. Thursday.
In Class 4A
The top-ranked Class 4A team in the state, Edwardsville (27-0) will take on Chatham-Glenwood (23-8) at 6 pm. Monday at the Champaign Centennial Sectional.
The Class 4A state tournament runner-up last year, Edwardsville nipped Belleville East 41-40 to win the Belleville East Regional on Monday.
Bradley Bourbonnais (22-7) will take on Rock Island (24-7) in the other semifinal at 7:30 p.m. The title game is set for 7:30 p.m. Thursday.