For the second year in a row, the Alton Middle School girls basketball team will be playing in the IESA state tournament in the seventh-grade level.
The Junior Redbirds qualified for state by cruising past Mason-Clark Middle School of East St. Louis 49-28 in the Class 7-4A Section 8 championship game on Wednesday at Trimpe Middle School in Bethalto.
AMS improved to 22-0 and will look to win a state title in the seventh-grade girls division for the second straight year. The Junior Redbirds will play Oak Prairie of Lockport in a first-round game at 1 p.m. Saturday in the IESA Class 7-4A state tournament at Brooks Middle School in Bolingbrook.
If AMS wins, it will play the winner of Taylorville and Markham Prairie-Hills in the semifinals at 6:30 p.m. The third-place and championship games are scheduled for 6 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., respectively, on Dec. 12.
Last year, the Junior Redbirds won a state basketball title in the seventh-grade division, making it the first time an AMS captured a state championship in any sport.
Four of those players return from last year's state championship team. They are Kiyoko Proctor, Jaliyah Wallace, Meyonna Banks and Jarius Powers.
The other players on the seventh-grade team are Zariyah Gilmore, Kya Ingram, Kaylea Lacey, Ava Harris, Kyridas Orr, McKenna McNamee, Morissa Stark and Talia Norman. Jeff Harris is the head coach.
On Wednesday, Norman led the Junior Redbirds with 13 points. Proctor finished with 12 and Powers added 10.
Lacey and Wallace each had four points, Gilmore and Smiley had two points apiece and Banks and Harris each had a point for AMS, which led 27-2 after the first quarter.
AMS advanced to sectionals by beating Edwardsville Liberty 27-17 in the Regional 15 championship game on Nov. 26, also held at Trimpe.
The Junior Redbirds are one of two undefeated teams at the state tournament. The other is Martino Junior High from New Lenox, which will take a 24-0 record into its first-round game with Eisenhower Middle School of Rockford.