DeKalb is getting hot at the right time.
The Barbs ran through a gauntlet at the Montini Christmas Tournament back in December, but the losses have been few and far between since then. DeKalb has suffered just two defeats in 2014, and sits at 18-7 and 7-1 in conference play heading into the final week of the regular season.
The 20-win plateau is in sight, as is a fourth straight Northern Illinois Big 12 East title. The Barbs will win at least a share of the conference crown should they win their final two league games over Morris and Kaneland. DeKalb will win the title outright if Sycamore loses one of its final two league games.
Then, the Barbs are most likely looking at a regional rematch with Huntley, the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year.
DeKalb coach Chris Davenport said the reason for the team's recent success is having players like guard junior guard Jasmine Malloy and senior forward Alexis Hammond step up and compliment Brittney Patrick and Madelyne Johnson.
"Jasmine Malloy plays the second-most minutes on the team behind Patrick, and it's really close," Davenport said. "She doesn't do a lot in the scoring column but she does a lot of other things."
Hammond didn't get a lot of minutes last year, but Davenport said she's coming into her own.
"She's a big part of what we do," he said. "She's a strong kid, works hard. Not a kid you're going to see in the box score a lot, but she plays her role and she plays it well."
H-BR ready for new tests: There are some unfamiliar programs in the Class 1A Hinckley-Big Rock Regional. At least programs that are unfamiliar to H-BR.
The Royals didn't get put in a regional with a bunch of other Little Ten teams this time around. Instead, the five-team field consists of Elgin Harvest Christian, the No. 2 seed, Elgin Academy, Crystal lake Faith Lutheran and Mooseheart.
To Burks, having all the unfamiliar schools can be a two-way street.
"It's kind of like playing a new opponent on the schedule. It's something new and maybe you fix your focus and intensity level just because it's an unknown," he said. "At the same time, facing an unknown is kind of tough. Last two years, playing Newark and Indian Creek in the regional final, there's no two teams we know better."
VIEWS: Royals look to keep dynasty alive
Every year Greg Burks has been the head coach at Hinckley-Big Rock, the season has ended with the Royals hoisting an IHSA regional championship plaque.
The final two years of the Larry Peppers era ended in regional titles as well. All in all, H-BR has won seven straight regional championships, and looks for its eighth next week. The Royals are the top seed in their own regional.
The run includes two Class 1A state titles and three state championships. H-BR is basically a Class 1A dynasty in the area. Even without stalwarts like Jenna Thorp, who's now at Northern Illinois, and Kaitlin Phillips, who's playing for Loras College, the wins have still come for the Royals.
"We've been so blessed. We've had such a great stretch of teams," Burks said. "You go back to that 2007 season (when Burks was an assistant), we were a senior-dominated team the year before, and we came into that season pretty unsure of what we were going be to be honest with you."
That's the team, with Thorp as a freshman, that won the first of seven consecutive crowns. Players have come and gone, but regional champions haven't.
Next week, the drive for No. 8 begins.
SPOTLIGHT ON ...
Sycamore, junior, guard
Gilbert had 30 points for the Spartans in last week's loss to DeKalb at the NIU Convocation Center.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Indian Creek, Hinckley-Big Rock and Hiawatha at Class 1A regionals, Feb. 11-14
Timberwolves and Royals are both top seeds at their respective sites.
DeKalb at Kaneland, 7 p.m. Thursday
If the Barbs win out, they'll have at least a share of the Northern Illinois Big 12 East crown.
Sycamore at Morris, 7 p.m. Thursday
One of two more conference games for the Spartans.
1. DeKalb (18-7, 7-1 NI Big 12 East)
Barbs grab the top spot after victory over Sycamore.
2.Sycamore (15-6, 6-1 NI Big 12 East)
Spartans need DeKalb to lose to win conference title outright. Likely both Sycamore and DeKalb share the crown.
3. Hinckley-Big Rock (14-13, 6-2 LTC)
Royals looking for eighth straight regional title.
4. Kaneland (9-12, 2-3 NI Big 12 East)
Tough loss against Rochelle Saturday.
5. Indian Creek (13-10, 5-3 LTC)
T'wolves go into the Class 1A Earlville Regional as a favorite.
6. Genoa-Kingston (5-16, 1-7 BNC East)
Cogs close out regular season with Marengo, Richmond-Burton, Rockford East and Harvard.
7. Hiawatha (2-15, 0-9)
No. 6 Hawks take on third-seeded hosts in the Rockford Christian Life Regional quarterfinals.