A teachers’ strike has changed the venue, from CICS Ellison (the former Little Flower) to UCCS Woodlawn, located at 6429 S. University Ave.
But the stakes will be just as high for the Leo Lions when they begin state tournament play in a Class 2-A Regional at Woodlawn. Leo will make its tournament debut on Tuesday, Feb. 22, against Noble Street Baker (7-15). Baker advanced when CICS Ellison (8-14) forfeited Monday’s first-round game. Tuesday’s game tips off at 7 p.m.
With a victory, the Lions will move on to the regional title game on Friday, Feb. 22, against the winner of Wednesday’s other first-round game between Woodlawn (14-3) and ACE Amandla (13-8). That game will also tip at 7 p.m.
The Woodlawn Regional winner advances to Sectional play at Marshall High School, joining winners from Regionals at Marshall, Dunbar and Urban Prep-Englewood. The format for the Sectional: a doubleheader at 6 and 7:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 26, with the winners meeting in the title game on Friday, March 1.
The Sectional champ moves on to the Joliet Central Supersectional to face the Aurora Christian Sectional winner on Tuesday, March 5. The state tournament will be held at Peoria’s Carver Arena on Friday, March 8 and Saturday, March 9.
But the Lions don’t want to get too far ahead of themselves with thoughts of Marshall or Joliet, let alone Peoria. Since reaching the Class 1-A state finals in 2016, their last two seasons have ended in Regional championship losses, to University High at U-High in 2017, and to Marshall at Marshall last season.
“Now it’s win or go home,” Coach Jamal Thompson said. “We’ll be ready.”
Leo (20-8) reached the 20-win plateau for the third time in four seasons and finished 10-5 in Catholic League play by downing Providence Catholic 70-63 in its regular-season finale at Leo on Friday, Feb. 15. DaChaun Anderson celebrated Senior Night with 23 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks, while Fred Cleveland contributed 14 points, six assists and three steals.
The Celtics kept it close with three-point shooting, but had no answers for the Anderson brothers inside as junior Kendale Anderson supplemented older brother DaChaun with 17 points and 12 rebounds.
Cleveland outside, the Andersons inside … could be the recipe for a deep state tournament run.