These 8 Peoria-area girls basketball teams have the best shot at a state title

Washington's Addie Kimler, left, and Metamora's Kayla Pacha tangle over a loose ball in the first half Tuesday, Jan. 4, 2022 in Metamora. The Redbirds fell to the Panthers 33-32.
Adam Duvall
Journal Star

Make it to Redbird Arena.

Ask any Illinois high school girls basketball player, coach or even fan and that is the goal every year once the postseason begins — play on the final day of the season on the campus of Illinois State University in Normal.

Those state championship games are March 5 in the first year of the Illinois High School Association's new finals format with all four classes playing their respective title games on one day.

Here is a look at eight Peoria-area girls basketball teams with the best shot at winning a state title, plus their key wins, their losses and their road to Normal.

IHSA girls basketball:Peoria-area postseason schedules, scores and pairings

Brimfield

In Class 1A, Brimfield (2-4), which is ranked No. 1 in the latest poll by The Associated Press, has taken on the unofficial motto of 'Anyone. Anywhere. Anytime.' with its schedule. No small-school team has played a tougher slate of games than Maribeth Dura's team. Her core of Ella Lune, Elynn Peterson and Sophie Bedell provide balanced scoring and a stout defense. Brimfield started the season 8-0 along with having win streaks or five and six games. 

Key wins: Havana (1A), Elmwood (1A), Quincy Notre Dame (2A), Eureka (Class 2A), Canton (2A), Dunlap (Class 3A). Losses: Morton (3A), Geneseo (3A), Peoria Notre Dame (3A), Winnebago (2A).  Road to Redbird: Potential meeting with rival Elmwood in the Brimfield Sectional final.

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Brimfield's Kylee Vaughn dribbles the ball during a match against Annawan at Brimfield High on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021. The Indians beat the Braves 80-31.

Fieldcrest

This could be the year No. 8 Fieldcrest (29-2) makes a run to the 2A Elite Eight or farther. Mitch Neally's coaching tenure has included the program's two regional plaques in 2019 and 2020. Ashlyn May, Ella Goodrich and Haley Carver along with Carolyn Megow and Kaitlin White are all capable of scoring in double figures on any given night. Fieldcrest won the Heart of Illinois Conference tournament along with another regular-season HOI title. The Knights started the season 19-0 before a regular-season loss to Eureka.

Key wins: Eureka (2A), Tremont (2A). Losses: Eureka (2A), Normal West (3A).  Road to Redbird: Potential meeting with St. Joseph-Ogden in the Peotone Sectional final.

Illini West

Hopefully for the 2A third-ranked Chargers (28-2), their 22-game win streak is just the beginning. Although never winning a sectional title, Illini West has all the tools under Grant Surprenant to make it happen this year. Standout guard Caydee Kirkham and post player Rylee Reed provide a 1-2 punch with Josie Bryan showing flashes of a true scorer. Making it to the sectional championship would pit the Chargers against top-ranked QND. Just two points separated the teams in the first meeting.

Key wins: Abingdon-Avon (1A), Mendon Unity (1A), Havana (1A, twice). Losses: Havana (1A), QND (2A).  Road to Redbird: Potential meeting with QND in the Waverly sectional final.

Metamora

The Redbirds (22-4), who are ranked No. 8 in the latest 3A poll, have the luxury of kicking off their postseason journey as regional hosts. Metamora went 8-2 in Toepke Gymnasium, dropping one-point games to both PND and Washington. First-year coach Kyle Weyeneth guided his team to a combined 8-0 record in the Galesburg and Ottawa tournaments. Big play on their home floor will be needed from Kayla Pacha, Katy Ramage, Brooklyn Marshall and Alyssa Russell to raise a regional plaque.

Key wins: Morton (3A, twice), Dixon (3A). Losses: PND (3A), Dunlap (3A), Washington (3A, twice). Road to Redbird: Facing rival Washington in the semifinals as the regional host. 

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Morton

Bob Becker and the co-Mid-Illini Conference champ Potters (23-5), ranked seventh in the latest 3A AP poll, find themselves in an unfamiliar spot — an underdog. Morton is seeded fourth in the Peoria High Regional following many years as a top seed. Katie Krupa, however, turns into a different play come postseason time, having led Morton to back-to-back state title game appearances. Add in Tatym Lampbrecht, Maggie Hobson, Izzy Hutchinson and emerging freshman Ellie VanMeenen for a team looking to make a run.

Key wins: Washington (3A, twice), Galesburg (3A), Lincoln (3A). Losses: Metamora (3A, twice), Geneseo (3A), Peoria High (3A), Normal Community (4A). Road to Redbird: Facing Richwoods in the Peoria High Regional semifinals.

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Peoria High's Denali Craig-Edwards (10) and Aaliyah Guyton (4) pressure Peoria Notre Dame's Mya Wardle in the second half Friday, Feb. 4, 2022 at Peoria High School. The Lions defeated the Irish 47-36.

Peoria High

The time seems to be now for the 3A third-ranked Lions (23-3), who picked up a first-place vote in the latest AP poll. Meechie Edwards has Peoria High undefeated in 2022, riding a 12-game win streak and at least a share of the Big 12 Conference title. Aaliyah Guyton and Denali Craig-Edwards makeup one of the area's toughest duos. But the pair can't do it all themselves, getting help from Paris Wilson, Niasha Rutherford and Allannah Jackson. The Lions look to snap a 21-year streak without a sectional title. 

Key wins: PND (3A, twice), Morton (3A), Galesburg (3A), Lincoln (3A), Normal Community (4A). Losses: PND (3A), Lincoln (3A), LaGrange Park Nazareth (3A). Road to Redbird: Potential meeting with Morton in the final as the regional host. 

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Peoria Notre Dame

Eight years have passed since the 3A fifth-ranked Irish (23-3) won a regional and made a run to the sectional final. PND is a talented group under Layne Langholf with a good balance of seniors — Delaney Cook and Molly Rickey — to go with a junior Biz Daly, sophomore Mya Wardle and freshmen Kaitlin Cassidy and Julia Mingus. The Irish beefed up their schedule with makeup games following a COVID-19 shutdown and losing seven games. That can only help PND in battling through one of the state's toughest postseason fields.

Key wins: Brimfield (1A), Elmwood (1A), Winnebago (2A), Peoria High (3A), Metamora (3A), Normal Community (4A). Losses: Peoria High (3A, twice), Nazareth Academy (3A). Road to Redbird: Potential meeting with the Metamora/Washington winner in the regional title.

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Washington

Maybe the biggest under-the-radar team in 3A. The Panthers (23-5), who can't seem to crack the AP poll, swept the season series with Metamora. But the co-Mid-Illini champions must turn around and play their rival Redbirds in Monday's semifinal just six days from the prior meeting. Fully expect Kim Barth to have her team very motivated, especially the talented duo of Claire McDougall and Georgia Duncan. Washington is on a four-year regional title drought and last made the Elite Eight in 2014.

Key wins: Eureka (2A), Metamora (3A, twice). Losses: Springfield (3A), Morton (twice, 3A), Normal Community (4A), Geneseo (3A). Road to Redbird: Facing rival and host Metamora in the regional semifinals.

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Adam Duvall is a Journal Star sports reporter. Email him at aduvall@pjstar.com. Follow him on Twitter @AdamDuvall.