When Burlington Central (26-4) and Carmel (24-8) meet for the Class 3A Hoffman Estates Supersectional crown Monday night at 6 p.m., one team will make history. Neither the Rockets, who play in the BNC East, nor the Corsairs, who hail from the ESCC, have ever advanced downstate in girls basketball.
With an unprecedented trip to Bloomington on the line for both clubs, Pioneer Press broke down what to expect when these two Elite 8 teams go head-to-head.
WHEN CARMEL IS ON OFFENSE…
The past several weeks in particular, Carmel coach Kelly Perz’s team has been extremely patient and efficient with the basketball, limiting turnovers and waiting for quality shots. It may not be an exciting style, but it’s been effective. Look for seniors Cassidy Kloss and Kathleen Felicelli (the Corsairs’ top scorer at almost 15 points a game) to provide the bulk of the offensive punch. Both players have multiple double-doubles this postseason.
Junior Alexa Svoboda has also been huge lately as a third scoring option for the Corsairs alongside senior post Leah Lach. Look for the Rockets to use full-court pressure at times, in addition to assigning lockdown sophomore defender Kayla Ross to whoever has the hot hand for Carmel.
WHEN BURLINGTON CENTRAL IS ON OFFENSE…
The Rockets will have their work cut out for themselves on offense, led by sophomore Sam Pryor’s 15-plus ppg. In a sectional semifinal against Vernon Hills, the Corsairs used senior Paige Gauthier to face-guard Vernon Hills star Syd Smith, which worked wonders in limiting her to a season-low 6 points.
But the Rockets also feature sophomore Shelby Holt (18 points in a sectional title game) and junior Alison Colby, who are consistently at or above double-figures in the scoring column. A year ago, in this same spot, Burlington Central mustered just 31 points in a loss to Vernon Hills. But all five of this year’s starters —and several of the bench players — saw action in last year’s supersectional. That could be huge.
EDGE: Burlington Central
While both teams will push the ball up the court on occasion after rebounds, look for those chances to be few and far between. Each club is more than comfortable running half-court sets on both offense and defense and executing traps.
Vernon Hills coach Paul Brettner, who has faced both teams, said “it should be a great game,” and that “both teams play great defense, so it may not get out of the 30s for a final score.”
ON THE BOARDS…
Carmel losing forward/center Emma Rappe (team-best 6.8 rpg) to a broken right index finger in a regional title game was a huge blow for the Corsairs in the paint. Carmel gave a up a slew of offensive boards in both regional contests before appearing shore things up in the sectional rounds, but after Rappe and sophomore Emily Casale (both are listed at 6-feet tall), no one is taller than 5-10. Burlington, meanwhile, got 13 rebounds from Colby in a sectional championship against Rockford Lutheran and pulled down 11 offensive boards as a team.
EDGE: Burlington Central
Carmel has played a tougher schedule in the rugged ESCC, and held its own against area powers like Marist, Loyola, Benet, Joliet Catholic and others. Burlington Central’s four losses are to Mother McAuley, Fremd, Maine South and South Elgin, but despite being a No. 1 seed in its regional and sectional, it doesn’t quite have the same type of landmark wins the Corsairs have posted. How that plays out on the court remains to be seen.
Don’t be surprised if this one comes down to the final few minutes. That’s how evenly matched these two teams appear to be on paper. If the Corsairs play the way they have been lately, they’ll be tough to beat.
Conversely, the Rockets were in this same spot a year ago and know what to expect. Grab the popcorn and buckle up. This has all the makings of a dandy.
PREDICTION: Carmel 44, Burlington Central 40