It already has been a memorable season for local Class 3A and 4A girls basketball teams, and they have yet to play their biggest games.
Play-in games took place for some regionals Monday, but most of the area's teams are in four-team regionals that begin Tuesday at six sites and play their championship games at 7 p.m. Thursday. Two other regionals with local teams start Wednesday with regional title games Friday.
Based on the large turnout for last Tuesday's game between Joliet West and Joliet Central, which the Tigers won, 44-41, on their home court to win the Southwest Prairie Conference East Division title, there should be plenty of excitement when the teams play in the same gym with the anticipation of a third meeting between the rivals in Thursday's regional final.
Joliet West (27-3) extended its winning streak to 22 games with the victory over Joliet Central (26-5), who had won 23 of its past 24 games.
Coach John Placher's second-seeded Tigers play Minooka or Bradley-Bourbonnais at 6 p.m. Tuesday to kick off the regional, while coach Laura Brumfiel's third-seeded Steelmen play Moline (19-12) in the second semifinal. Central beat West, 47-44, when the teams first met on Dec. 9.
Also in the Pekin Sectional is Lincoln-Way West, which has been ranked for most of the season and has competed well against several top teams. Coach Ryan White's No.1-seeded Warriors are 26-3 after winning the SouthWest Suburban Conference Red Division title.
Lincoln-Way West is in the Normal Community Regional where it meets United Township Tuesday and would face Normal West or Normal Community in the regional championship.
The winners of the Joliet West and Normal Community regionals are scheduled to meet Feb 25 in Pekin. Monday's sectional semifinal will be between the winners of the Alton and Collinsville regionals, with O'Fallon and Edwardsville being the favorites.
The rest of the area's Class 4A teams are in the Stagg and Benet Academy sectionals. The Stagg Sectional also feeds into the Illinois Wesleyan University Supersectional, where it meets the champion of the Pekin Sectional March 2.
Two area teams with 18 wins apiece, Lockport and Lincoln-Way Central, start play Tuesday in regionals in the Stagg Sectional with title games on Thursday, while Lincoln-Way East begins Wednesday in a regional that will play its final on Friday.
Coach Dan Kelly's fifth-seeded Porters take on Stagg in their own regional with No. 4 Thornwood being the likely opponent in the final. Coach Dave Campanile's Knights are the No. 7 seed and play in the Bloom Township Regional against the hosts, while second-seeded Homewood-Flossmoor is the favorite.
In the Shepard Regional, the Griffins open against Thornton with No.1-seed Marist in the other game. The other regional in the sectional is at Mother McAuley, where the hosts and Sandburg are favored.
In the Benet Academy Sectional, Plainfield North hosts a regional, and the Tigers meet Waubonsie Valley with No. 1-seeded Benet on hand. Bolingbrook, Plainfield South and Plainfield Central are at Metea Valley, which starts Wednesday. Coach Chris Smith's Raiders are the sectional's No.2 seed.
In Class 3A, Providence Catholic hosts a regional in the Hillcrest Sectional. Coach Eileen Copenhaver's Celtics (23-8) set a school record for wins and are the No. 3 seed. They play Rich Central Tuesday and could meet Morgan Park in Thursday's final.
In Tuesday's Class 2A Wilmington Sectional, Seneca (25-7) plays Prairie Central at 6 p.m. and Joliet Catholic Academy (16-17) takes on Fieldcrest at 7:30 p.m.