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High school girls basketball: Marengo, Johnsburg prepare for tough matchups at Class 3A Carmel Sectional

Marengo's Jordan Parker drives to the basket while guarded by Woodstock’s Amy Keyzer Tuesday at the Class 3A Woodstock Regional. Marengo plays Carmel at 6 p.m. Monday in a Class 3A Carmel Sectional semifinal.
Marengo's Jordan Parker drives to the basket while guarded by Woodstock’s Amy Keyzer Tuesday at the Class 3A Woodstock Regional. Marengo plays Carmel at 6 p.m. Monday in a Class 3A Carmel Sectional semifinal.

The Marengo girls basketball team has played in some pretty big games over the past two years, but eighth-year Indians coach Nick Rode expects Monday's sectional semifinal against Carmel to be on another level.

"You look around their home court and they have banner after banner hanging from the rafters," he said. "The place is decorated with gold banners. There's a certain level of atmosphere we're going to experience once we get there, but we're definitely ready for it."

Second-seeded Marengo (24-6) and No. 5-seeded Carmel (14-17) play at 7:30 p.m. in a Class 3A Carmel Sectional semifinal. No. 4 Johnsburg (19-11) faces top-seeded St. Viator (23-8) at 6 p.m. in the first semifinal.

Despite a losing record, Carmel plays a difficult schedule in the East Suburban Catholic Conference.

The Indians defeated Marian Central, 50-43, another ESCC team, at the Class 3A Woodstock Regional championship to capture back-to-back regional titles for the first time since they won three in a row from 1995 to 1997.

Carmel beat Marian Central, 37-36, during the regular season.

"Playing Carmel at Carmel ... it's going to be difficult," Rode said. "Those guys, they play a very intense brand of basketball, and they're a battle-tested team. You look at the conference they're in and they're playing teams every night that are Marian Central's level and up the ladder some."

Carmel has three players on its roster listed over 6-feet tall, and two more listed at 5-10. That's going to present matchup problems for a much smaller Indians team.

The teams also have contrasting styles, with Marengo averaging 56.3 points and game and Carmel averaging 41.1.

"They really keep the scores low," Rode said. "Their No. 1 objective is to really 'D' you up, and keep the game at their pace. If they can score in the upper 40s, they tend to win the ballgame."

Marengo is back to full strength after missing forward Jordan Parker (10.3 points per game, 5.9 rebounds) to a concussion for almost three weeks.

Marengo's leading scorer, Marissa Knobloch (19.9 ppg, 78 3-pointers), a Division II Indianapolis commit, also returned after injuring her left knee Feb. 1 and missing the last two regular-season games. The senior played in both games at the Woodstock Regional.

"Marissa is doing better," Rode said. "Certainly after you go into some big games and after the Marian game, she was sore. We gave everyone a day off Friday and now we're back at it at practice, and she says she's fine. I expect us to be closer to full strength as we get further in here."

Johnsburg has a tough test against St. Viator, which beat Marengo, 66-48, earlier this season. The Skyhawks are coming off a 60-26 regional final win over Resurrection for the team's third regional championship in four years.

Resurrection beat Johnsburg in last year's regional final.

"It's definitely going to be a tough matchup," first-year Skyhawks coach Erin Thomas said. "I know St. Viator is a very skilled team. The best we can control is our game, so we'll just get as prepared as possible and come out and play as hard as we can.

"I truly believe if we play any bit like we did (against Resurrection), we can put up a fight with a very tough team."

Twin seniors Morgan Madsen (14.6 ppg) and Megan Madsen (11.4 ppg) have been on the past three regional champions for Johnsburg.

"I think not winning last year served as extra motivation," Thomas said. "They went out for extra motivation for that game, especially with their career being on the line. They had a lot more fight in them."

In Class 4A, No. 4 Crystal Lake Central (17-11) and No. 2 Hononegah, ranked seventh in state, play in a Class 4A Belvidere North Sectional semifinal at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday. The winner moves on to play either No. 1 Boylan (27-2) or No. 2 South Elgin (20-11) in the final.

The Tigers are the last team standing from the nine-team Fox Valley Conference. Central tied for fifth place in conference, going 7-9, and lost six out of its last seven games of the regular season.

Central defeated FVC rival Cary-Grove, 58-55, at the Class 4A Cary-Grove Regional semifinals, and knocked off FVC runner-up Dundee-Crown, 48-39, for the program's first regional title since 2009 and first ever in 4A.

Central came close to winning a regional championship last season, falling to McHenry, 51-48.

"We were so close last year," senior point guard Cori Hamill said after beating the Trojans. "To come back here and actually prove that we can win a regional is probably the best feeling that I've had in my whole life."

The Tigers can make even more history this week. Central last won a sectional title 37 years ago.

Class 3A Carmel Sectional

Monday, Feb. 18

Game 1: No. 1 St. Viator vs. No. 4 Johnsburg, 6 p.m.

Game 2: No. 2 Marengo vs. No. 5 Carmel, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 21

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

Class 4A Belvidere North Sectional

Tuesday, Feb. 19

Game 1: No. 1 Boylan vs. No. 2 South Elgin, 6 p.m.

Game 2: No. 2 Hononegah vs. No. 4 Crystal Lake Central, 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, Feb. 21

Game 3: Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 7 p.m.

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