A look at the semifinalists who will challenge Strafford for the Class 3 girls basketball state championship:
Coach: Bobby Sangster (216-82 at California; 290-98 overall)
Starters: Elizabeth Lutz, 5-7, Sr.; Gracie George, 5-7, Jr.; Quinn Albertson, 5-7, Jr.; Paige Lamm, 6-0, Soph.; Brittney Ellington, 5-6, Sr.
Overview: The Pintos love their 3-pointers. They've taken 1,543 shots this season, and 801 of them (52 percent) have been 3-pointers. Lutz has made 78 out of 255 3-pointers and leads the team at 20.7 points per game. She has signed to play at Western Illinois next season. Lutz had 30 points in the 68-46 quarterfinal victory over Hamilton-Penney, while Ellington made eight 3-pointers and finished with 24 points. Tristan Porter, a 5-foot-6 freshman guard, averages 10.7 points per game. One of the Pintos' victories was a 66-53 decision over Monroe City on Feb. 3. George, who averages 7.7 points but she had 24 in the victory over the Panthers. California has two other common opponents with Clark County. The Indians beat Centralia by 21 and Hallsville by 17, while the Pintos beat California by 21 and Hallsville by 19. One of the California assistant coaches is Mikel Gragg, the former football and baseball coach at Scotland County.
Coach: Michael Slater (83-32 at Whitfield, 332-149 overall)
Starters: Tajah Foster-Walker, 6-1, Jr.; Kelsey Blakemore, 5-9, Fr.; Nia Griffin, 5-9, Jr.; Taylor Lawson-Hicks, 5-10, Sr.; Aijha Blackwell, 6-0, Jr.
Overview: Blackwell averages 23.9 points per game and is considered a top-level NCAA Division I prospect, with Louisville apparently at the top of her list. She shoots 63 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and adds 8 rebounds per game. She had 28 points in a 68-40 victory over Steeleville in the sectional, and she had 24 points in a 59-43 victory over Saxony Lutheran in the quarterfinal. The Warriors have lost twice to Kirkwood, ranked No. 2 in Class 5; twice to Incarnate Word, ranked No. 2 in Class 4; St. Joseph's, ranked No. 7 in Class 5; and Edwardsville, which took fourth in the Illinois Class 4A state tournament last weekend. Whitfield lost 80-39 to Strafford in last year's Class 3 title game, and afterward, Blackwell said she told her teammates, "We're coming back here, and it's going to be different next time." Foster-Walker adds 9.3 points and 7.5 rebounds, while Griffin (8.5 ppg) and sophomore Jade Moore (8.3 ppg) provide more offense.
Coach: John Weaver (95-39 at Clark County, 173-88 overall)
Starters: Drenda Hess, 5-9, Sr.; Abby Brown, 6-0, Sr.; Maggie Schutte, 5-5, Sr.; Carissa Bevans, 5-9, Sr.; Aubry Boulware, 5-7, Jr.
Overview: The Indians have certainly had the most rigorous road to reach the state tournament, winning their last four games by a total of 17 points. Clark County is in the state tournament for the first time since 1995, and it has caused quite the stir in Kahoka. "Oh, man, it's been busy. It's been kind of hectic, and the community is in a buzz," Weaver said. "It's really fun, and we're trying to enjoy it." Bevans leads the team in scoring at 14.7 points per game, and she also grabs 7 rebounds. Brown adds 11.7 points and 7 rebounds. Clark County has allowed just 40 points per game in its last 11 games. The Indians' only loss was a 64-57 setback to Palmyra in the semifinals of the Tony Lenzini Tournament on Jan. 17. The trip to Springfield is only the fourth trip to a state tournament by a Clark County team in any sport. The boys basketball team went to state in 1989, placing third, and the football team won the state championship in 2008.