The 2014-2015 high school basketball season is complete. With Stevenson and St. Joseph as the 4A and 3A champs, respectively, it’s time to take a look at the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s final power rankings of the top 25 teams in the Chicago area.
Any ranking is fun to dissect and debate, but the end-of-the year rankings are a little more concrete. The good part about these postseason rankings? This is about what I think now, today, after watching four months of basketball, rather than projection as you get with preseason rankings.
So with a combination of the good, old fashioned eye test and how teams finished the year, here is a final Top 25 power ranking, along with what each team accomplished.
1. Stevenson (30-3)
A pretty remarkable three-year run by the Patriots included a 91-10 record and three top three finishes in Class 4A, culminating with a state championship in 2015. When you consider the previous two losses at state came to Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor, coach Pat Ambrose absolutely maximized everything he could during these past three seasons. Stevenson beat every team it was supposed to beat.
2. St. Joseph (29-6)
No matter what anyone thought during the regular season –– after losing to St. Rita by 19 points, being upset by DePaul College Prep in January, falling to a Matt Rafferty-less Hinsdale Central, losing to Highland Park and Providence Catholic –– the Chargers began the season as a 3A favorite and ended the season as a state champion. Behind the power trio of Glynn Watson, Jordan Ash and Nick Rakocevic, coach Gene Pingatore’s legendary program added a second state title and eighth trip to state.
3. Morgan Park (23-7)
When looking at this team on paper, it could be argued that coach Nick Irvin did the best job he’s done in these three seasons that ended in Peoria. The addition of Marcus LoVett elevated everything for this team this season, but it was Bogan, remember, that received all the 3A city love when the season began. Morgan Park reached Peoria, finished third in the state and won 81 games with two state titles in the past three seasons.
4. Simeon (30-3)
The stunner in Normal still stings for the Wolverines. But that type of loss at that time of the year –– in a super-sectional –– shows where this program is in comparison to all others. Where else can a program win 30 games and capture a sectional title, yet feel as if it fell short of its goals and a little empty? This team did beat the eventual state champion, Stevenson, late in the regular season.
5. St. Rita (26-4)
The basketball program has come a long way and did things it’s never done with the best player in school history. Charles Matthews and this 2014-2015 team has set the bar going forward for a program that won back-to-back regional championships and a school record 26 wins this season.
6. Bolingbrook (25-7)
Behind Prentiss Nixon, who put together one of the best careers in Bolingbrook history, the Raiders got over the hump. The most successful team in school history won the program’s first-ever sectional championship and finished third in the state.
7. Geneva (30-5)
For a program with very little basketball success in the past 25 years –– that’s one regional title and a high victory total of 21 wins since 1985 –– the Vikings put together two magical seasons in a row. Behind record-breaking senior Nate Navigato, the Vikings won 25 games a year ago and followed it up with 30 wins and a fourth-place state finish in 4A this season.
8. Lake Forest (28-3)
The Scouts and highly-productive star Evan Boudreaux did everything it could have done –– except beat conference nemesis Stevenson. Lake Forest won a school-record 28 games, won two holiday tournaments at Thanksgiving and Christmas, won a regional title and were ranked among the top half dozen teams in the Chicago area all season long. All three defeats this season came at the hands of Jalen Brunson and Company.
9. Bogan (25-7)
Although the Bengals couldn’t quite break through and get past Morgan Park in March and make it to Peoria, this team does have the program’s first city championship trophy. Senior Luwane Pipkins was a super talent who elevated this program to a new level over the past few years.
10. St. Charles East (24-4)
Although the Saints didn’t make it out of the regional, facing a 30-win, Peoria-bound Geneva team in the regional final isn’t typical. South Dakota State recruit Cole Gentry, the catalyst at point guard and such a fun player to watch, led the Saints to the most wins in 37 years.
11. Riverside-Brookfield (28-4)
There is nothing but great news coming out of this basketball program. The Bulldogs won a school record 28 games and the first sectional championship in school history. Senior Sam Johnson stepped up with a big season, but the youth in the program, led by Daniko Jackson and Jalen Clanton, should keep R-B among the top teams next season.
12. West Aurora (22-9)
The Blackhawks and star Roland Griffin were playing their best basketball at the end of the season and then –– poof! After winning regional and sectional championships as a No. 6 seed, coach Gordie Kerkman went into a super-sectional without three starters, including the Illinois State-bound Griffin. This was the third super-sectional appearance in four years for the Blackhawks, with all three ending in losses.
13. Hinsdale Central (23-7)
Back-to-back 20-win seasons for the Red Devils caps off the best two-year run since the Brian Wardle days in the mid-1990s. And speaking of Wardle, senior star Matt Rafferty, a Furman recruit, was the best, most productive player since Wardle.
14. Niles Notre Dame (26-5)
The East Suburban Catholic Conference champs gave state champion Stevenson its toughest and closest game in the postseason, losing by just one point in the sectional semifinal. Led by star guard Joe Mooney and an influx of talented youth, the Dons were better than anyone expected. That youth means coach Tom Les will return four starters, including 6-5 Ammar Becar (17 ppg, 9 rpg), 6-7 Anthony D’Avanzo and guards Lucas Simon and Jeameril Wilson.
15. Thornwood (23-6)
Everything about Thornwood screamed overlooked and underrated this season, from the team’s success to unheralded guard Chelby Frazier. The Thunderbirds won a second straight regional championship and, with their 23 wins this year, have combined to win a not-talked-about-enough 47 games the past two seasons.
16. Neuqua Valley (27-5)
In the 17 years of this program’s existence, all the Wildcats have done under coach Todd Sutton is win an average of 22 games a season. That’s a pretty remarkable stat, especially for a school and program less than 20 years old. Neuqua picked up another conference championship and won its eighth regional title.
17. Lake Park (25-7)
The DuPage Valley Conference champs were one of the season’s pleasant surprises. Expected to contend for a conference title with a senior-dominated group, the Lancers went above and beyond and produced the best season in school history, winning the program’s first sectional title and a school record 25 games.
18. Providence (21-10)
For a couple of weeks it was Providence basketball that took center stage in Chicago area basketball for once. Repeat that last sentence! The Celtics knocked off one quality team after another in winning the Chicago Catholic League Tournament and then went on to capture a regional title. Football star Miles Boykin returned midseason and the team took off in January.
19. Uplift (28-5)
And here is your lone Chicago Public League state champion. It was easy to forget this was a 2A team as it played in events like the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and the Chicago Public League playoffs against 3A and 4A schools. The perimeter senior trio of Jeremy Roscoe, Spencer Foley and Daniel Soetan led coach David Taylor’s team to a Class 2A state title and 52 wins over the past two years.
20. Fenwick (22-8)
Despite a lack of size and some injuries down the stretch, the Friars managed to get to the 22-win mark before falling to Curie in the regional title game. The bad news was coach Rick Malnati lost a good one late in the year to injury as promising sophomore Jamal Nixon missed the stretch run. The better news was the continued progression of junior point guard Mike Smith and the arrival of junior shooter Mike Ballard.
21. St. Ignatius (22-9)
There were several highlights for coach Rich Kehoe’s team, including a share of the Catholic League North title, thanks to a thrilling Riley Doody buzzer-beater late in the season to beat DePaul College Prep. Then there was the regional championship win over Kenwood as a No. 6 seed. With young big men like 6-6 Daniel Ogele and 6-9 sophomore Robert Lindland returning, keep an eye on the Wolfpack next season.
22. Morton (17-12)
A second straight regional championship was the highlight for a team that ultimately fell to Riverside-Brookfield in the sectional semifinal. The lasting memory, though, may be the overall career senior Weisner Perez put together.
23. Hales (26-6)
Unranked when the season began, the Spartans started November and December with a bang, which included a McDipper Holiday Tournament title. If not for a 67-61 super-sectional loss to eventual state champ Uplift, coach Gary London’s team may have been the favorite to win a 2A state championship.
24. Curie (19-7)
After getting beat up at Pontiac by Benet and then playing in the Public League’s White, the Condors were lost and forgotten. But behind the perimeter tandem of Josh Stamps and Devin Gage, coach Mike Oliver’s team was back in March. Curie knocked off Fenwick to win a regional championship.
25. H-F (20-8)
Came on in the second half of the season to beat Bolingbrook and win a conference championship. The Vikings went on to beat Thornton and win a regional title and 20 games under first-year coach Marc Condotti.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report @joehoopsreport