Lake Land women's basketball coach Dave Johnson isn't too concerned about who is what seed going into the Region 24 tournament. The Lady Lakers are the No. 6 seed and go into the tournament with a 20-10 record. The team they face is a 24-5 Lincoln College team that is the No. 3 seed. So there's not really much separation between those two seeds.
The top seed, Parkland College, has 22 wins, and the Lady Lakers have a victory over the Cobras this season. John Wood is the No. 2 seed and has 15 wins. Lewis & Clark is the No. 3 seed and has 18 wins. Illinois College has more wins than Parkland, 23, but is the No. 5 seed. All of the seeds were determined by how the teams did against each other in Region play rather than overall record, which to Johnson shows that the Region 24 tournament is wide open.
Danville is the lone team that has truly struggled this season with only three wins. Even seven-seeded Lincoln Land, which has a 12-15 record, has the potential to make a deep run, Johnson feels, especially since the tournament is on its home court in Cass Gymnasium in Springfield.
Johnson thinks his team has about as good as a shot as anyone else to win the Region 24 crown.
"I think there are six teams that could win it honestly, and I don't want to count Lincoln Land out at home because they've been playing really well at home, so maybe there's seven," Johnson said. "We could've been a higher seed, but I don't think it really matters unless you are the top seed because you are going to have a difficult quarterfinal anyway. We just have to find a way to defend Lincoln better than we did in November. We are excited to go out there and play."
Lake Land faces Lincoln College to open the Region 24 tournament at 6 p.m. on Friday at Cass Gym. The winner plays against Saturday against the winner of John Wood and Lincoln Land at 4 p.m. The Region 24 championship game is slated for 2 p.m. on Sunday.
Lincoln beat Lake Land 77-72 this season. It was only the seventh game of the season for the Lady Lakers.
Defensively, the Lady Lakers have to find a way to slow down Lincoln's offense, which is averaging 86.1 points per game. Erynn Young is averaging 20.4 points and 4.1 assists per game. Allysah Boothe is averaging 15.7 points and 3.7 assists per game, and Nautica Preston is averaging 15.5 points and 3.7 assists per game. Preston had 24 points in the first meeting and hit seven 3-pointers. Kaleia Monteiro is averaging 10.0 points and 13.4 rebounds per game. She had 20 points and 13 rebounds in the first game.
As the teams face each other for the second time, Johnson feels his team has grown a lot in the three months since the first matchup.
"I think we have better awareness and use the scouting report better," Johnson said. "We are rebounding better and that hurt us in that game because (Lincoln) had a lot of second-chance points against us. That was a game we led early in the fourth quarter and they had a big finish in the final seven minutes. Offensively, if they come out in a zone, we have to hit some shots. If they come out in man(-to-man), we are going to have to move the ball and screen well."
Lake Land's offense has started to come together more than in the first meeting. The Lady Lakers are led by Avery Jackson, who was named the Great Rivers Athletic Conference Freshman of the Year. It's the first time an LLC women's basketball player has earned the award. She is averaging 19.4 points and 4.4 assists per game. She had 22 points and seven assists in the first game against Lincoln.
"Avery is one of those rare kids that has the three dimensions to her offense," Johnson said. "She can put it on the floor and score at the rim, hit the pull-up and shoot the 3. You don't see a lot of kids with those three dimensions. Her game has grown as the year has gone on. She is scoring the same amount of points, but on fewer shots and has assists."
Koty Crowder is averaging 14.9 points per game, and Jamie Sandschafer is averaging 10.0 points per game.