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Regionals this week for Lady Pirates, Panthers

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By Mike Sandrolini

PROVISO | The Lady Pirates and Lady Panthers were both successful during the regular season as both squads captured championships in their respective divisions of the West Suburban Conference—Proviso East winning the Gold, and Proviso West taking the Silver.

The two clubs met for the second time in four days last Wednesday night to decide the outright conference crown, and for the second time in four days, the Pirates prevailed, but not without a battle from the Panthers. East had to overcome a halftime deficit to nip the Panthers, 49-48.

Junior Daliyah Brown, who scored 26 points in the Pirates’ 75-69 victory over the Panthers Feb. 4, was East’s go-to girl once again, pouring in 28 points (no other Pirate scored in double figures during the game). The Panthers had a chance to win it, but a last-second shot didn’t go in.

“It’s been kind of distributed pretty evenly across the board,” said East coach Ezra PridGeon Jr., referring to the Pirates’ offense all season, “but she (Brown) pretty much carried the load (last Wednesday).

“Pulling off that victory (on Saturday, Feb. 4), we knew coming it that it wasn’t going to be easy game and that their guards were going to start attacking us which is what they did. It kept them in the game, and they went ahead a little bit.”

“With a caliber team like that, we knew coming in that playing someone twice in four days is going to be tough. We knew that, but we just had to stand our ground and stay within our game and try to pull the game out, which is what happened.”

“She (Brown) played a really good game and she affected the game on both ends of the floor,” said West coach Marques Hatch. “She’s a great player. Great players make great plays and that’s what she did.”

EAST AT HINSDALE CENTRAL REGIONAL
The Pirates finished the regular season 19-5—including a current winning streak of
11 straight—and are the fifth seed in the Argo sectional. They opened postseason
action at the Hinsdale Central regional this week, and faced the winner of 11th seed Chicago Jones or 21st seed Chicago Kelly (who played each other Monday) in the regional semifinals on Wednesday. The Pirates were favored to win on Wednesday, but PridGeon isn’t one to take things for granted.

“We don’t take any team lightly,” he said. “With either team, we figure that they
have nothing to lose but a whole lot to gain to beat us. Regardless of whether they’re the 11th seed or the 20th seed, it really doesn’t matter. We just have to go in there and be ready to play the game of basketball and not worry about whether they’re the 11th seed or the No. 1 seed.”

If East wins as expected, it would likely match up with Hinsdale Central (20-9), the Sectional’s No. 4 seed and ranked 18th in the Daily Herald’s poll of top 20 area teams. In their regular season finale, the Red Devils defeated Benet Academy, the two-time defending Class 4A state champion, 61-56.

“I haven’t scouted them,” said PridGeon, referring to Hinsdale Central, “but they’re a good team. Tom McKenna (the Red Devils coach) runs a good program over there. They’re going to be tough to beat. They’re going to be at home and we’ve got to go there and we understand that we have to defeat them to get to the next round.”

The next round, of course, is the sectionals, where Montini Catholic is the No. 1 seed. Montini has been a perennial Class 3A power, but the Broncos were moved up to 4A this season and they’re No. 1 in the Class 4A Associated Press state poll. East advanced to the sectional final last March, falling in overtime to Whitney Young, which ended up going downstate. The Pirates were a predominantly senior-led team last year, but this time around, their roster consists primarily of juniors.

One of this year’s juniors, Kyla Richardson, saw action in the 2016 sectional title game, as did sophomore Keimari Rimmer. Caprice Hairston, one of only two seniors on the 2016-17 club, started for the Pirates last season, but has been sidelined all year with an ACL injury. The Pirates’ lineup is bolstered by juniors Kolbi Powell and Nachelle Rouse, and freshman Kendra Hatley.

“We’re going in (to the playoffs) with an almost new team,” PridGeon said. “I just tell them that it’s still the game of basketball and everybody plays the game the same. It’s just that we have to go in there and give 100 percent of our effort and take care of the basketball, be smarter than our opponent and take it to another level.”

PROVISO WEST HOSTS REGIONAL

Hatch said despite two tough losses to their District 209 rival, each game had a playoff feel and atmosphere to it.

“Both games were playoff caliber games,” he said. “Everything in the regular season is in preparation for the state playoffs. And we learned some very valuable lessons in both of the games.”

The Panthers are the No. 3 overall seed in the Argo sectional. They were slated to play the winner of Monday’s St. Ignatius-Juarez game on Wednesday. If they get past either St. Ignatius or Juarez, next in line likely will be 10th -seeded Downers South for the regional championship Thursday night.

“With the regional being here at home, I think that we had a pretty good regular season,” Hatch said, “and we got a No. 3 seed which works out very well for us.”

If the Panthers (19-8) do face Downers South and defeat the Mustangs, they will take on the Riverside-Brookfield regional winner in the sectional semifinals Monday at 7:30 p.m.

West features a predominantly senior lineup with forward Tanesha Walker and guard-forward Miya Thomas doing the bulk of the scoring. DeAvionne Carpenter and Mariah Henry, both seniors, give the Panthers a solid backcourt, while seniors Mariah Reed and Kayla Parham figure prominently into the mix.

“As far as how far I think we’ll go in the playoffs, we have a very formidable team,” Hatch said. “It’s just a matter of us finishing and executing down the stretch, and I feel we should be able to make it to the sectional. Once you make it to the sectional, anything can happen from there. It’s just been a whole team collaborative effort. I think right now we just need to focus on moving the ball, playing team defense and trusting each other, and we should be fine.”

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