Experience is the best teacher. And in prep sports, there’s no substitute for it when the crunchtime of postseason play hits.
For Western’s girls basketball team, a group of sophomores played a vital role in the Panthers’ run to the Class 3A North Semistate. Those sophomores are battle-tested seniors now, leading the No. 6-ranked Panthers into the regional round for the second time in three seasons.
“There has definitely been a different feel going into this game than there was last time around,” Western coach Chris Keisling said. “Of course, the last time around, it was the first time Western won a sectional in 23 years, and there was a lot of euphoria. There is now, but these girls have experienced postseason play, and there’s more of a feel that they’re here to do a job. We have more of a we-know-what’s-ahead-of-us type of approach this time.”
The situation won’t be the only familiar aspect to Western’s Saturday schedule. After Griffith (12-10) and Kankakee Valley (15-6) square off in the first game at Rochester High School at 10:30 a.m., Western (19-3) will face an opponent from recent memory, South Bend Saint Joseph (16-4), in the second semifinal at 12:30.
The Panthers defeated the Indians 36-34 to win the Rensselaer Regional in 2012.
“The big difference is both teams come in with a full week of preparation against each other,” Keisling said. “It’s not like last time, where you’ve had a game in the morning and are running on adrenaline. You’ll see some things that way that are different. But, in terms of style of play, it will be similar to that game.”
St. Joseph is led by the junior backcourt tandem of Michelle Weaver and Madeline Raster. Weaver leads the Indians 16.6 points per game and Raster adds 13.3. The duo combined for 34 points in the team’s 59-48 win over Rochester in the sectional final.