NEW CHICAGO | Just like any YMCA in the state, an asphalt playground or a gym where people gather to play a little ball, the same scenario took place Tuesday night at the Class 2A River Forest Sectional.
Just like all those times before and the rest of this week, the ball goes up, and the winner stays on in the 37th annual IHSAA state tournament.
In the opener, Wheeler beat Bishop Noll 50-30. The Bearcats (16-6) will play Lake Station in Friday's semifinal. In the second game, Bowman Academy beat River Forest 72-35. The Eagles (16-6) will play Whiting in Friday's second game.
"It's all about survive and advance," Wheeler coach Dustin Nelson said. "We're planning on playing three games this week. We got off to a good start tonight. We hit some shots early, and that took the lid off the basket, and we all know in the postseason that can sometimes go the other way."
Noll (10-10) took a 2-0 lead and then the onslaught began. Wheeler hit its first five shots and scored 19 straight in the opening quarter. Sophomore Nickole Finch scored eight of her game-high 14 points in the first eight minutes.
Finch also grabbed nine rebounds.
"We were really prepared, because we played them before," Finch said. "We were just looking forward to the new us. The first time we played them it was an eight-point game in the third quarter. We came out flat.
"This is sectionals. We did not want to do that here."
Senior Tijana Raketic chipped in 13 points for Wheeler. She hit two 3-pointers in the opening quarter.
The Warriors were led by Milana Golich's eight points and six rebounds.
Bowman also had a big run to open the game, jumping out to a 12-0 lead and led 27-8 after one quarter. Then, coach Janora Holmes pulled off the full-court press and had her talented team work its half-court offense and defense.
It was just a mismatch at almost every position on the floor. RaShawnda Dunlap had a game-high 24 points with seven rebounds and three steals.
"We just played our game," Dunlap said. "We keep playing and keep pushing. We did what we always do. We got the ball as close to the basket as we could."
Princess German scored 15 for Bowman in limited action, and teammate Joshlynn King scored 10.
River Forest freshman Abbey Bryant played a splendid game, scoring 12 points with three assists and two steals.
"It changed up our strategy a little," Holmes said of not pressing the entire game. "But we got a lot of younger kids in, and we were able to show good sportsmanship which is important. I was concerned with the number of free throws we missed (16) and the number of turnovers (26) we had.
"We're going to have to get better in both areas before we play a good Whiting team on Friday."