Pekin Broadmoor Junior High School has had seventh- and eighth-grade girls basketball teams since 1996.
No team won an Illinois Elementary School Association regional championship until this season. First the seventh-grade team did it. Then the eighth-grade team did it.
The eighth-grade team took Broadmoor history two steps further, winning a sectional title and moving into the state finals before losing in the quarterfinals.
Each team finished 21-3, the best girls basketball record in Broadmoor history.
Jillian Plunkett coached the Broadmoor seventh-grade team. It was her first season as a coach.
Cary VandeSchraaf coached the eighth-grade team.
It was his first season as the team’s coach, but certainly not his first rodeo as a coach.
He coached the Broadmoor seventh- and eighth-grade boys basketball teams from 1990-2015, mentoring great teams and players like Jeremy Crouch, Matt Moran and Todd Peterson.
“The former (Broadmoor) eighth-grade girls basketball coach had a baby and decided not to coach, so my principal (Ty Goss) asked if I would fill in for a year or two and I said I would,” VandeSchraaf said.
“I knew going into the season we had a good team, but I also knew Canton Ingersoll was in our way. They beat us as seventh-graders in the (Class 7-4A) regional finals last season and went on to finish second in the state.”
Broadmoor got its revenge this season, beating Ingersoll 28-22 during the regular season and 35-32 in a Class 8-4A regional championship game.
After a 36-32 win over Bloomington in a sectional title game, Broadmoor lost 38-31 to Belthalto Trimpe on Dec. 10 in the state quarterfinals.
Broadmoor’s Taylor Goss scored 16 points against Trimpe. The 5-foot-9 point guard was the Bruins’ leading scorer and a high impact player all season, VandeSchraff said.
Tess Cascia was the team’s best rebounder.
Also on the team were Morgan Haynes, Kylie Cutting, Lacey Brooks, Leah McClanahan, Emma Wolfe, Lily Wageman, Kaeli Harkleroad, Chelton Wagner, Soffie Link and Brianna Owens.
VandeSchraaf said the Bruins’ three-quarter-court trap caused problems for opponents all season.
“We used that defense because it fit our personnel,” he said. “We had length and quick feet.”
Plunkett played for the Broadmoor seventh-grade girls basketball team before her family moved to Peoria. She was a four-year basketball player at Peoria High before graduating in 2011.
As Broadmoor’s coach, she watched the Bruins pummel Dunlap 39-19 on Nov. 23 to win a Class 7-4A regional championship but lose 31-19 on Nov. 30 to eventual state runner-up Normal Parkside in the sectionals.
Another of the team’s three losses was to Class 7-3A state champion Germantown Hills.
The Broadmoor seventh-grade roster included Rebecca Painter, Samantha Diekhoff, Emma Grashoff, Grace Kizer, Milly Swanson, Aly Liechty, Bailey Bassen, Brooke Olson, McClanahan and Link.
“It was a great group of girls,” Plunkett said. “They were so unselfish on the court that it almost hurt us. They couldn’t wait to get into the gym each day. Several have played on a summer basketball team together, so they’re very comfortable with each other.”
The history-making Broadmoor seventh- and eighth-grade teams were much like a family. They practiced together, and VandeSchraaf and Plunkett were on the bench for each other’s games.
Speaking of family, Plunkett’s father is former Pekin High School Athletic Director Mike Plunkett. He held the job from December 2001 through February 2004, when he left to become principal at the Peoria Alternative School.
Daughter, 24, and father, 59, are assistant coaches this winter for the Peoria Notre Dame High School girls basketball team, but Mike Plunkett is taking time off after receiving a heart transplant Dec. 6 at the Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago.
“I was able to see several of Jillian’s Broadmoor games before I was admitted to the hospital (Nov. 22),” Mike Plunkett said. “She really understands basketball and has a good rapport with her players. I’m proud of what she accomplished at Broadmoor this season.”