The target in Illinois Class 2A girls high school basketball will be squarely on the Paris Tigers when they begin play Wednesday evening at the Sullivan Regional.
Ranked first in the state, unbeaten at 31-0 and even listed as the favorite — slightly — to win the state championship by MaxPreps, Paris will play its first postseason game at 6 p.m. CST against the winner of Monday's game between Marshall and Shelbyville.
If that's pressure, the Tigers aren't showing it, coach Dave Tingley said earlier this week.
"The girls really haven't talked about [the state tournament]," he said. "They just go out and play.
"Seven [more] games is what we want."
Paris is going to be a tough out in state tournament play because, as Tingley says, "We're really versatile at both ends [of the court].
"We have a lot of different girls state can step up [offensively]," the coach said, "and we have different ways to beat teams. [Senior Sarah] Isaf is definitely our premier player, but if [an opponent] keys on her they're picking their poison. We have six girls that can come in anytime and put up double digits."
Although Isaf has started since her freshman year, it's not quite accurate to call her a four-year starter. She suffered an injury last year that cost her most of the season, so fellow senior Karrington Krabel adjusted her role to become more of a go-to scorer.
Senior Jenna Gates has orchestrated the attack and can score if she's needed, and sophomores Madyson Rigdon and Katelyn Littleton and freshman Trinity Tingley are other scoring options. The Tigers were pretty good last year even after Isaf's injury, and their closest call this season — an overtime win over Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin — came when the younger Tigers made clutch plays in Gates' absence.
Paris isn't particularly big either — Isaf is 5-foot-11 but is considered a guard — but bigger teams (and there aren't many of those, coach Tingley said) have to contend with what he says is one of the best fast breaks in the state.
Defensively the Tigers are mostly a man-to-man team, but don't forget that word "versatile." They can also press full-court or trap and like to switch things up — from game to game or possession to possession.
"We don't like to let teams get comfortable," coach Tingley said. "Every night's different."
Paris hasn't played Sullivan, which is the fourth-seeded team in the sub-sectional, but they've beaten Marshall twice — the first time easily, the second time by 15. That's the team they expect to see on Wednesday.
"[The Lions] have got some really nice guards, and they've played us pretty well," coach Tingley said. "[Coach Kathy Miller] is going to have a good game plan — she always does — and they play extremely hard."
Monday's other game pitted Fairfield against Flora, the winner of that game playing Sullivan in Wednesday's second contest. The regional championship is 7 p.m. Friday.
"We have to make sure we're focused," coach Tingley said.
And if Paris can win the first two of its seven more games this week, the Tigers will host the sectional a week from now.