Regular seasons in high school basketball are at the halfway point and the shapes of each team’s campaign are beginning to take place.
So far in January, winning streaks have continued from one year into another and a number of marquee games drawing statewide attention have been played, including many on the schedule this week.
As local prep hoops prepares for its stretch run, we’ve compiled our initial power rankings for both boys and girls basketball teams around the Peoria and Bloomington/Normal area, separated into large school and small school rankings. Read our boys power rankings here.
Mid-sized schools such Manual, Peoria Notre Dame, Canton, IVC and Normal U-High have been placed into the large school rankings in order to maintain an equal amount of teams between “large schools” and “small schools” in the CSM coverage area.
Note: This week's power rankings are free to read, as they are the first ones of the season. Subscribe to CSM Overtime to get access to our power rankings for the rest of the season, as well as news, feature stories, daily roundups and photo galleries for high school sports around the area!
Small School Girls
1. Dee-Mack (18-1, 7-0 Heart of Illinois)
The Chiefs have found a nearly unbeatable recipe and look to be favorites in the Heart of Illinois Conference behind a group that boasts star power and strong role players. Dee-Mack has beaten strong squads such as Peoria Heights, Petersburg PORTA, Eureka (twice) and Brimfield. They'll look to prove themselves further at the upcoming HOIC Tournament.
The story behind Dee-Mack’s success: Dee-Mack girls rely on depth, hard-working mentality on big win streak
2. Peoria Heights (17-3, 2-1 Intercounty Athletic)
What a Cinderella turnaround it’s been for the Patriots, who struggled heavily until last season, where they went 16-16. They’ve already exceeded that win total already this year and boast offensive firepower with Emily Dana, Rianna Foster and Janessa Wallace. Peoria Heights has scored at least 54 in all of its eight most recent wins, including key victories against Illini Central, IVC and Princeville. It certainly appears that they’re hitting their stride.
3. Illini Bluffs (18-3, 3-0 Intercounty Athletic)
Illini Bluffs is right there with the best in the area and have only lost once since Nov. 18. Defense is the Tigers’ strong suit, having held 12 of their opponents to 30 or less points this year. On the other side of the ball, Lily Luczkowiak is a consistent 20-plus point scorer and is a team leader on the court. ICAC conference games against Elmwood and Peoria Heights in January loom large.
4. Eureka (13-5, 6-1 Heart of Illinois)
Eureka finds its way into the top five thanks to a hot stretch where they’ve won eight in a row, dating back to Dec. 11. The Hornets won the Heyworth Holiday Tournament Championship over a strong Brimfield team in late December and have added big wins over Fieldcrest and Mahomet-Seymour during their winning streak. Freshman Mya Edwards is proving that she’s the next big thing in the area.
5. Elmwood (15-3, 2-0 Intercounty Athletic)
It was a close call between Elmwood and rival Brimfield for the final spot, but it's hard to leave out a team that’s only lost three times. The return of Mae Herman has been a significant boost for the Trojans, who won the Princeville Holiday Tournament, as well as Brimfield’s Thanksgiving tournament. Elmwood will have to earn the right to keep its spot though, with big tests against Illini Bluffs and Peoria Heights on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
Receiving consideration (in order): Brimfield, Bloomington Central Catholic, Fieldcrest, Princeville, Tremont
Large School Girls
1. Peoria Notre Dame (19-3, 3-0 Big 12)
There probably isn’t a more dangerous team in the area than when PND is rolling. The Wardle sisters (Mya and Emy), Lexi Baer, Julia Mingus and others haven’t lost to a team outside of Illinois other than Class 4A power Alton. The Irish made a big statement in a 67-31 whalloping of Elmwood on Monday and have put up similar results against the area’s best all season long.
2. Normal Community (18-1, 4-0 Big 12)
Dan Feeney’s Lady Iron have won marquee games against Morton, Edwardsville, and twice against Washington and boast a team with similar depth to PND. In fact, those two teams will match up on Thursday in Peoria with major implications. Before that? One of the state’s most prolific scorers in Kloe Froebe and the Class 3A No. 1 Lincoln Railers come to town on Tuesday.
3. Washington (12-4, 5-0 Mid-Illini)
The Panthers were another team to make a statement recently, beating Mid-Illini title contender Canton 65-48 on Friday, then Mundelein Carmel on Saturday. Sophomores Avery Tibbs, Becca McDougall, Mazzy O’Brien and others are continuing to improve, which gives the Panthers potential to seize the top spot should they keep winning. Morton comes to town on Wednesday for the first of two matchups between premier squads in the Mid-Illini, followed by a rivalry clash against Metamora, who’s picking up steam, on Saturday.
More on Washington’s big group of sophomores: Washington and Canton girls basketball using fountains of youth to succeed
4. Peoria High (16-1, 4-0 Big 12)
See the first sentence about Morton’s boys at No. 4 above. It’s the same scenario for Peoria High, who anxiously awaits to see the status of all-state star Aaliyah Guyton, who suffered a leg injury at the Manual Holiday Tournament. With Guyton, the Lions have very strong case to be at the top of the list. Regardless of whether or not the Iowa-bound star will be on the court or not, Peoria High will lean on contributions from other key players like Danielle Ruffin and Allanah Jackson in a gauntlet of games that goes as follows: at Richwoods, versus PND, then at Normal Community.
5. Morton (15-4, 6-0 Mid-Illini)
The only reason why the Potters aren’t higher on the list is that they’ve lost to each of the three Big 12 teams in these rankings earlier in the year. However, Morton has won 11 out of its last 12 and appear to be on track for a return to dominance. What will Washington have to say about that on Saturday? We’ll see, but Addy Engel, the VanMeenen sisters (Ellie and Abby), Isabella Hutchinson and more give Morton a nucleus that’s certainly capable of staying hot.
Receiving consideration (in order): Richwoods, Canton, Dunlap