NORMAL - Bloomington High School's girls basketball team wants a rematch Thursday.
"We would love to face Lincoln," said BHS coach Sondra Vogel.
Lincoln wouldn't mind that, either. The Railsplitters beat BHS 54-49 on Jan. 28. To get a second meeting, though, Lincoln and the Purple Raiders first need to take care of some business.
Fourth-seeded BHS (18-8) faces upstart Danville (10-18) in a Class AA Normal West Sectional semifinal game today, with No. 11-seed Lincoln (15-13) meeting second-seeded Kankakee Bishop McNamara (21-6) in the other semifinal Tuesday. The winners square off in Thursday's championship game with a berth in the Feb. 27 Illinois Wesleyan Super-Sectional against the Peoria Richwoods Sectional champion at stake.
All games start at 7:30 p.m.
Danville, the No. 14 seed, showed crazy things can happen in the postseason. The Vikings upset No. 1-seed Champaign Central, the state's 14th-ranked team, 51-46 in a regional semifinal. Champaign Central had beaten Danville by 21 and 38 points in two regular-season routs.
"At this point the pressure is on the other teams because they're higher seeds," said Lincoln coach Anne Stoltzenburg. "Our girls have a lot of confidence. Sometimes that's all it takes."
The Raiders weren't exactly surprised when Danville beat Champaign Central. BHS hung on to beat Danville 45-42 in a Big 12 Conference game on Dec. 10.
"They battled us very strongly. We let them hit six 3-pointers. We've got to get out on their shooters," said Vogel, whose team tied Champaign Central for the Big 12 title.
Shadonna Beard likely will be a focus for BHS. Danville's 5-foot-8 junior guard scored 17 points against BHS and had 23 points in two of the Vikings' three regional victories. Danville came into the regional on a 10-game losing streak.
A strong defensive effort is what BHS needs. The Raiders are 17-1 in games in which they hold their opponents to 46 points or fewer, including a 63-42 victory over Pontiac on Friday for the third regional title in BHS history.
"We have five kids who can play great denial defense, and that's hard to get," said Vogel. "Our scoring can go to different kids, whoever has the hot hand, but defense has been the one constant for us. That's been our focus. If we're not shooting great, the team doesn't get down about it."
BHS was 8-6 after the State Farm Holiday Classic during the Christmas break before winning 10 of its last 12 games. The Raiders are confident they can not only win the school's second sectional title (the other came in 1992), but do much more.
"We think we can go all the way to state," said senior guard Lovie McClom. "We're playing more team ball and focused more. We want it more."
If BHS gets another monster effort from Kristin Petrinec, anything is possible. The junior center recorded 20 points, 11 rebounds and nine blocked shots against Pontiac. For good measure, Petrinec made nine shots in the 3-point contest before the game.
While Vogel said Petrinec has "the green light" outside the arc, her scoring in the low post will greatly enhance the Raiders' chances.
"She's put in extra time with our assistant coach working on her post moves," said Vogel. "Her shot hasn't been falling the last couple weeks. She's put the extra time in and it's paid off. She looked great (Friday)."
After winning the regional on its home floor by upsetting No. 6-seed Normal Community and No. 3 Mahomet-Seymour, Lincoln realizes it faces another major challenge against Bishop McNamara.
The Fightin' Irish advanced to the Class A Elite Eight the past two years. Bishop McNamara was bumped up to Class AA this season when the Illinois High School Association went to an enrollment multiplier for non-boundaried schools.
"We know they have shooters and an inside game and run a nice press," said Stoltzenburg. "Other than that, we'll do what we've been doing all season. Our kids have peaked at the right time."
The Railers' biggest victory might have been in the regular-season finale. Patty Carmitchel sank a school-record eight 3-pointers in a 79-30 victory over Springfield Southeast.
"The kids had an awesome Senior Night. It got them thinking, 'Hey, we can do this,' " said Stoltzenburg. "That's what we've been telling them all season long. They bought into it."
Lincoln better buy into stopping Jennifer Juergens, a 5-9 senior forward who paces Bishop McNamara with a 24.5 scoring average. Senior forward Claire Schmidt, who scored 17 points in a 54-42 regional championship victory against Kankakee, pulls down 8.2 rebounds per game for the Fightin' Irish, while senior guard Taylor Bennett contributes 5.9 assists and 2.9 steals.