WARRENSBURG — Last year the Tri-City/Sangamon Valley girls basketball team finally broke through with a championship run at the Macon County Tournament.
At this year's Macon County Tournament, which begins Wednesday at both the main and junior high gyms at Warresnburg-Latham, the only question is if there are any teams that can stop a repeat.
The Tornoadoes are 12-1 and fresh off a win at their own holiday tournament, beating a solid Mount Pulaski team by 20 in the title game.
But despite the history and the hot start, TCSV is the second seed behind traditional tournament powerhouse Central A&M, which has an 8-6 record.
"That surprises me a little bit, but it's one of those things," Tornadoes coach Tony Nika said of receiving the No. 2 seed. "We play more outside the Decatur area and don't see as many of the teams in the tournament."
TCSV has used a similar formula as last year's county champion, with sophomore point guard Ashlyn Sturdy controlling the game at point guard and averaging 20 points, five rebounds and five steals, according to Nika, and senior Aubrey Hunt controlling the inside game, averaging a double-double.
We've played a lot of good defense so far," Nika said. "Even if the offense isn't clicking, the defense has been a mainstay. We've also done a good job of limiting turnovers."
Here's a look at the three teams with the best shot at knocking off the Tornadoes' quest for a repeat this season:
The top-seeded Raiders, who lost a 48-43 thriller to the Tornadoes in the title game last year, have had an up-and-down season — they've split two games with Paige Robinson-led Okaw Valley, lost to Tuscola by five and beat St. Teresa by two.
But they're coming off one of their best performances of the season, with a balanced scoring effort led by Brenah Durbin's 17 points and Taryn Sams' 16 points in a 69-41 win against Arthur-Lovington-Atwood-Hammond. A run to the title at the county tournament could kickstart a big second half and another postseason run for A&M.
The third-seeded Bulldogs (9-3) have been on fire after a slow start, winning their sixth straight with a 65-61 win against ALAH in the championship game of the ALAH Christmas Tournament.
St. Teresa's defensive style keeps it in every game — even its loss to undefeated Monticello was close until the Sages pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 10-point win.
The Bulldogs, though, also aren't easy to guard. On a given night, Kenzie Snow, DaeLin Switzer, Addison Fyke or Claire Peters, who had 19 in the title-game win against ALAH, can lead them.
Kaylee Robinson, Allie Robinson and Kate Beckemeyer give the Trojans' one of the best backcourts trios in the county, with all three able to carry Maroa's offense.
But top defensive teams have put pressure on Maroa's backcourt, and the Trojans have struggled to find other options. It was particularly a problem during a five-game losing streak during which the Trojans averaged 33.4 points.
Maroa, though, bounced back from its losing streak with three straight wins going into its holiday break and brings a 10-7 record into the tournament.