BCR 2024 boys basketball regional previews

Bureau Valley's Bryce Helms and Princeton's Daniel Sousa reach to try to save the ball from going out of bounce on Tuesday, Jan. 30, 2024 at Princeton High School.

Records shown are through Thursday’s games

At Wethersfield Regional (1A)

Teams to beat: (2) Annawan (22-7), (3) Fulton (20-11).

Pairings: Monday, Feb. 19 - Game 1: (14) Amboy (4-24) at (2) Annawan, 7 p.m. Game 2: (10) St. Bede (11-20) at (9) Galva, 6:30 p.m. Game 3: (12) DePue (7-21) at (3) Fulton, 6 p.m. Game 4: (11) LaMoille (7-23) at (6) Wethersfield (11-16), 6 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21 - Game 5: Winners 1-2, 6 p.m. Game 6: Winners 3-4, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23 - Championship: Winners 5-6, 7 p.m.

Worth noting: All four quarterfinals will be played on Monday at the higher seed’s home court. That will give Tom McGunnigal’s Flying Geese a head start against LaMoille trying to play for a regional title at home. The Lions enter the postseason on an eight-game skid. ... St. Bede has played its best ball of the season, winning eight of its last 14. The Bruins’ opponent, Galva, is trending in the other direction, having lost two straight and 10 of its last 12. The Wildcats have split games with LaMoille while defeating DePue. The Bruins would like to duplicate last year’s postseason magic when they upset top-seeded Marquette 61-57 in the regional semifinals. “Hopefully, we are up for the challenge. Last year proved anything can happen. One thing’s for sure. We’ll play hard,” Bruins coach Brian Hanson said. ... DePue, which has lost six of its last seven, will face a Fulton squad that is winners of seven of its last nine and has posted its fourth straight season of 20-plus wins, excluding the COVID-shortened 2020-21 season. ... Top-seeded Annawan has hit a late-season skid, dropping four out of its last six. One of the Braves’ two wins came against Wethersfield (55-51) on Feb. 3. ... DePue and LaMoille are coached by brothers Trae and Chance Blumhorst, whose father previously was head coach at Polo, Annawan and Mendota, and has helped out with each son’s program.

Last year’s regional finals: Fulton 48, East Dubuque 42.

BCR Pick: Fulton over Annawan.

Next: Winner advances to the Hanover Sectional to face the winner of the Pecatonica Regional at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 28.

At Prophetstown Regional (2A)

Team to beat: (1) Rock Falls (18-10).

Pairings: Monday, Feb. 19 - Game 1: (10) Morrison (10-16) at (8) Oregon (15-15), 7 p.m. Game 2: (12) Erie-Prophetstown (3-20) at (5) Bureau Valley (15-16), 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21 - Game 3: (1) Rock Falls vs. Winner 1, 6 p.m. Game 4: (4) Princeton (14-14) vs. Winner 2, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23 - Championship: Winners 3-4, 7 p.m.

Worth noting: Thursday’s game at Princeton between Rock Falls and Princeton was a potential regional final preview with the hot-shooting Rockets winning 70-59. Tiger coach Jason Smith said it “would be good just to understand their speed and things like that on the court that you can’t pick up on film.” But he was quick to add, “Let’s slow it down though a bit, we have to win Wednesday before we can play Friday. I think Coach (Rock Falls’ Zach) Sandrock would say the same thing. Regionals are always tough. No one wants to go home and so that means anything can happen when you have teams play hard against each other.” ... To get a chance for a third straight regional title, the Tigers face a probable showdown vs. rival Bureau Valley. Princeton and BV split the season series with the Tigers winning handedly 70-44 the second time around. The Storm enter the postseason in a tail spin, dropping its last three and six of their last eight. Their last two losses came by an average of 36 points to Byron, which is state-ranked, and Sherrard. They look to rebound against E-P in quarterfinal play at the Storm Cellar on Monday. The Storm beat the Panthers 46-38 on Nov. 28. BV coach Jason Marquis said is the field is “a bunch of teams nobody wants to face,” and that E-P will provide a tough test playing for a chance to get back home. “They’re all teams that can get hot. For us, it all starts with our home floor and E-P,” he said. “They’re a gritty team. Couple of great wins here in the last month. Their record is deceiving playing in the TRAC West. They’ll play hard. I’m glad we get one more home game. We will need to make the most of it.” ... Like the Tigers, the Rockets are also a defending regional champion. ... The semifinals and finals will be held at Prophetstown.

Last year’s regional finals: Princeton 68, Stillman Valley 37; Rock Falls 43, Byron 40.

BCR Pick: Rock Falls over Princeton.

Next: Winner advances to the Mendota Sectional to face the winner of the Winnebago Regional at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 27.

At Hall Regional (2A)

Team to beat: (2) Seneca (21-9).

Pairings: Monday, Feb. 19 - Game 1: (9) Mendota (13-18) at (7) Hall (11-15). Game 2: (11) Aurora Central Catholic (13-17) at (6) Sandwich (16-12), 6:15 p.m. Wednesday Feb. 21 - Game 3: (2) Seneca vs. Winner 1, 6 p.m. Game 4: (3) Riverdale (20-8) vs. Winner 2, 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 23 - Championship: Winners 3-4, 6 p.m.

Worth noting: The Red Devils and Trojans have had three competitive games against each other this season with Hall winning two of three. Hall beat Mendota 61-53 in the Seneca Turkey Tournament, Mendota won 52-49 on Dec. 12 and Hall won 66-62 on Jan. 23. The Red Devils lost 52-32 to Seneca in the second game of the season at the Seneca tournament, while the Trojans have not faced the Irish. Hall enters the postseason on a five-game losing streak, while Mendota is 4-6 in its last 10 games. Senior Payton Dye is Hall’s leading scorer, while senior Max Bryant and sophomore Braden Curran also have been key players for the Red Devils. Isaiah Nanez scored his 1,000th career point in the Trojans’ 59-32 win over Putnam County in the regular season finale, making him the 19th player in program history to reach the milestone. Aden Tillman and Cale Strouss also have been key contributors for Mendota. ... Paxton Giertz, who has over 1,500 career points and is third on Seneca’s career scoring list, leads the 21-win Irish. Seneca has won more than 20 games for the third season in a row but is looking for its first regional title since 2017-18. ... Riverdale is looking to repeat as regional champions.

Last year’s regional finals: Kankakee McNamara 69, Seneca 56

BCR Pick: Seneca over Riverdale.

Next: Winner advances to the Mendota Sectional to face the winner of the Genoa-Kingston Regional at 7 p.m., Wednesday, Feb. 27.

Other area regionals

At ROWVA (1A): Team to beat: (3) Abingdon-Avon (17-13). Local team: (14) Putnam County (6-23).

At Forreston (1A): Team to beat: (1) Eastland (21-9). Local teams: (4) Sterling Newman (20-11). Worth noting: Newman senior Lucas Simpson just went over the 2,000-scoring mark and has become the Comets’ all-time leading scorer.

At Aurora Christian (1A): Teams to beat: (2) Aurora Christian (19-8), (3) Earlville (26-4). Worth noting: Earlville hast set a school record with 26 wins, besting the old school record of 25-3 set in 1937-38. The host Eagles are ranked 10th in 1A.

At Somonauk (1A): Team to beat: (1) Serena (27-2). Other teams: (4) Ottawa Marquette (21-8), (7) Indian Creek (18-11), (8) Somonauk (15-15), (10) Newark (9-18), (11) Dwight (7-22), (14) Leland (3-14). Worth noting: Little 10 champion Serena is No. 8 ranked, coming off a sectional finals appearance a year ago. Marquette just beat Seneca to win the Tri-County Conference crown.

At Kankakeee (2A): Team to beat: (1) Fieldcrest (30-1). Worthy of note: The Knights, who are ranked No. 6 in 2A, set a school record with their 30th win Thursday. They will draw the winner of the (11) Momence (8-15) at (10) Herscher (6-22) quarterfinal in Wednesday’s semifinals. Host (4) Bishop Mac is 18-8.

At Farmington (2A): Team to beat: Macomb (23-5). Other teams: (3) Sherrard (21-6), (5) Kewanee (21-8), (9) Canton (9-20), (8) Farmington (14-13). Worth noting: The Boilermakers claimed the TRAC East title by beating Princeton 64-59 on Tuesday.

At Monmouth-Roseville (2A): Team to beat: (1) Rockridge (23-6). Other teams: (6) Orion (15-13), (7) Monmouth-Roseville (14-16), (10) Alleman (3-24), (11) Knoxville (4-25). Worth noting: Rockridge is ranked No. 10 in 2A, coming off two straight state appearances.

At Sterling (3A): Team to beat: (2) Sterling (22-8). Other teams: (3) Dixon (23-6), (5) LaSalle-Peru (20-8), (8) Ottawa (12-13). Worth noting: The Cavs beat the favored Golden Warriors 77-61 last week. Mark Cooper became Ottawa’s all-time winningest coach with 333 wins with Tuesday’s 47-39 win at Mendota, his alma mater. Cooper passed Dean Riley, who he played for at IVCC.

At Streator (3A): Team to beat: (1) Kankakee (24-3). Other teams: (4) Streator (23-8), (6) Pontiac, (7) Morris (16-13).

- Kevin Chlum contributed to this story