The daily pitch from Sports Editor Matt Daniels: Feb. 22, 2024

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Sports Editor Matt Daniels with a look at what's going on around the area:

Three reasons we love sports today

➜ 1. Looking for a 20-win college basketball team in Champaign to root for? Look no further than Parkland College. The Cobras' men's team is 24-3 and ranked fourth in the latest NJCAA Division II poll, while the Cobras' women's team is 22-3 and ranked 11th in the country.

➜ 2. Both Parkland basketball teams — the women won 87-52 at Spoon River on Wednesday night, while the men lost 75-74 on a buzzer-beater at Spoon River — host Lincoln Land this Saturday afternoon in their final home games of the season.

➜ 3. Illinois men's basketball is now two games behind league-leading Purdue in the Big Ten. But maybe Rutgers stuns the Boilermakers on Thursday night just like Penn State did to the Illini on Wednesday?

Numbers game: 104

Combined wins from the four remaining area girls' basketball teams still left in the postseason. And they all have a chance to add to their win totals on Thursday night in Sweet 16 games across Illinois. In Class 2A, Watseka (27-4) tangles with Peotone at 7 p.m. in the Iroquois West Sectional title game. In 1A, Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley (23-9) meets Cissna Park (26-7) at 6 p.m. in the Ridgeview Sectional title game in Colfax, while Salt Fork (28-5, above) squares off against Altamont at 6 p.m. in the Central A&M Sectional title game in Moweaqua.

Crowd control

Three events I'm paying attention to

➜ 1. Salt Fork vs. Altamont girls' basketball. and Macie Russell form a potent duo for Salt Fork. Will it be enough to overcome Illinois State signee Grace Nelson in a sectional title game?

➜ 2. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley vs. Cissna Park girls' basketball. GCMS last won a sectional title back in 1993, when it was just Gibson City. History might happen Thursday night in Colfax for the Falcons.

➜ 3. Watseka vs. Peotone girls' basketball. These two teams met on Dec. 6, with Peotone handing Wateska a 48-43 loss for the Warriors' first defeat of the season. Watseka hasn't lost much since and will try to reach the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.

Coach's corner

Three questions with Watseka girls' basketball coach Barry Bauer, who also doubles as the Warriors' softball coach and athletic director. Watseka girls' basketball plays Peotone in a Class 2A sectional title game tonight in Gilman.

➜ 1. My favorite sports team is ... the Chicago Cubs.

➜ 2. Three coaches I'd like to have dinner with are ... Phil Jackson, Joe Maddon and Taylor Walwer.

➜ 3. My biggest pet peeve is ... dribbling a loose ball instead of picking it up.