Girls Basketball

Belleville East looking for a little payback as postseason play begins

Kaylah Rainey Commits

Highly-recruited Belleville East Lancers point guard Kaylah Rainey announced her college choice.
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Highly-recruited Belleville East Lancers point guard Kaylah Rainey announced her college choice.

Trailing the top-ranked Edwardsville Tigers by a point in the closing seconds of the Class 4A regional a year ago, the Belleville East Lancers came up with the perfect play in the perfect situation.

But after hanging on the rim for what seemed like an eternity, Lancer forward B’Aunce Carter’s shot refused to drop and the Tigers had an emotional 41-40 win.

This week at the Quincy Regional, the Lancers (19-12) hope to get another postseason shot at the Tigers. Seeded fourth in the upper bracket of the Normal West Regional/Sectional Complex, the Lancers (19-12) will take on the host Blue Devils in one of two semifinals on Tuesday beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Quincy High School.

Edwardsville (27-2) will take on either Chatham-Glenwood or Champaign Centennial in the first semifinal beginning at 6 p.m. The title game is set for 7 p.m. Thursday.

Edwardsville, ranked fourth in the Class 4A state poll, defeated Belleville East during the regular season. But the return of Northwestern University recruit Kaylah Rainey and the continued improvement of an athletic squad, gives coach Amanda Kemezys added hope heading into the postseason.

“I’m sure what happened in the regional title game a year ago is in the back of everyone’s minds. But we can’t be concerned with that. Right now we’re getting ready to take on a Quincy team that has had a very good season and we’re playing them on their home floor,’’ Kemezys said. “We think we match up with them very well, but you never know in the postseason.

“If we get past Quincy, then we’ll start thinking about Edwardsville.’’

O’Fallon (23-8) is the second seed and will also host a regional tournament which begins on Monday at O’Fallon High School. Springfield is the No. 3 seed in the event and could meet the host Panthers in the final at 7 p.m. on Friday.

Class 3A postseason play also begins this week with regionals involving local teams being held at Mater Dei and Waterloo High Schools.

Following are regional tournament capsules involving Class 3A and Class 4A teams in the metro east this week

Class 4A Quincy Regional

Seeds: 1. Edwardsville, 4. Belleville East, 5. Quincy, 8. Chatham-Glenwood, 11, Champaign Centennial

Favorite: Edwardsville

Could Surprise: Belleville East

Synopsis: Despite graduating a pair of all-state players in Rachel Pranger and Katie Martin from a team which placed fourth in the Class 4A state tournament a year ago, the Tigers haven’t missed a beat under Hall-of-Fame coach Lori Blade. Freshman sensation Sydney Harris (12.8) and smooth junior Jaylen Townsend (12.8) lead the Tigers balanced attack while guard Quierra Love (11.0) runs the offense. Belleville East is talented enough to beat any team on any given night. Senior guard Bryce Dowell (18.4) is the best offensive player in the metro-east, while Kaylah Rainey, when 100 percent healthy is one of the top five point guards in the state.

Class 4A O’Fallon Regional

Seeds: 2. O’Fallon, 3. Springfield, 6. Collinsville, 7. Belleville West, 9. Alton, 10. Granite City

Favorite: O’Fallon

Could Surprise: Springfield, Collinsville

Synopsis: The Panthers have had another banner year under coach Nick Knolhoff and like Belleville East, have a realistic chance at advancing deep into the playoffs. Athletic guard Kayla Gordon (10.6 ppg) leads the Panthers attack while Ashley Schloer (9.7) has also had a good year. Springfield (26-5) won a regional a year ago and is dangerous while Collinsville (14-12) is capable of an upset and led by Bria King (11.2)

Class 3A Mater Dei Regional

Seeds: 2. Highland, 3. Mater Dei, 5. Central, 8. Triad, 10. Mascoutah

Favorite: Highland

Could Surprise: Mater Dei, Central

Synopsis: The Bulldogs (24-7) have been solid once again this season, finishing second behind state power Civic Memorial in the Mississippi Valley Conference. Junior Ellie Brown (12.4) is one of the premier guards in the St. Louis area, while sophomore Bella LaPorta (8.7) is just starting to reach her potential. The Bulldogs will have their hands full with either Mater Dei or Central. The Knights (20-7) have a top 1-2 punch in Kierra Winkeler (16.8) and Shannon Lampe (12.8). Central (18-11 is also dangerous despite losing nearly everyone from a team which placed third in the Class 3A state tournament a year ago.

Class 3A Waterloo Regional

Seeds: 1. Effingham, 4. Columbia, 6. East St. Louis, 7. Freeburg, 9. Cahokia, 11. Waterloo

Favorite: Effingham

Could Surprise: Columbia, East St. Louis

Synopsis: The Flaming Hearts (25-5) have had an exceptional season, but figure to be pushed hard this week in the Waterloo Regional. Columbia (22-5) is led by coach Scott Germain who has relied heavily on senior Sophia Bonaldi (15.6 ppg). East St. Louis (10-17) is always a threat and is led by seniors Chamya Darough (11.6) and Mya Glanton (9.8 ppg, 11 rebounds)

Note: The Mississippi Valley Conference champion Civic Memorial Eagles are the top seed at the Rochester Regional this week.

Dean Criddle has worked at the Belleville News-Democrat for 32 years as a sports writer. Dean graduated from SIUE with a double major in journalism and English, is married and lives in Belleville.