Prep Girls Basketball

Chargers lock down defensively to capture regional crown

Posted: Feb. 14, 2020 1:00 am

SHERRARD, Ill. -- The flow of the game and the ability of the Illini West girls basketball team to convert long rebounds and turnovers into transition baskets let Chargers coach Grant Surprenant know they were locked in defensively.

He never realized Illini West held Mercer County to just one point in the second quarter Thursday night.

"During the game, I'm focused on what we have to do to execute the game plan," Surprenant said.

It wasn't until after the Chargers wrapped up a 49-19 victory in the championship game of the Class 2A Sherrard Regional that Surprenant discovered just how dominant the defense was.

"I'm proud of the girls' effort and the fact they get a taste of what it's like to win a regional title," said Surprenant, whose team won a regional title for the fifth time in his eight seasons as head coach and first since 2017. "We're hungry and want more."

Ranked 10th in the final Class 2A state poll, Illini West (26-4) advances to the Class 2A Macomb Sectional and will face the winner of the Kewanee Regional at 6 p.m. Monday at the Hangar at Macomb High School. Normal U-High and Midwest Central will play at 7 p.m. Friday for the Kewanee Regional championship.

"Our schedule prepares us for this because we play meaningful games throughout the season," Surprenant said. "We know we're going to face a really good team and we'll have to be ready."

It helps having a complete team.

Megan Harrell, a sophomore guard who missed the final five games of the regular season with a knee injury, led the Chargers with 16 points and softened the Mercer County with her perimeter game. She made three 3-pointers in the second quarter when Illini West outscored Mercer County 18-1.

"That's not really her game," Surprenant said of Harrell's 3-point shooting. "We got more relaxed after that."

Caydee Kirkham added 13 points as the Chargers outscored the Golden Eagles 38-10 over the final three quarters.

"You could tell the nerves were there early, but they settled in and played really well," Surprenant said. "I'm so proud of their effort."