This week’s Three-Pointer looks at the continued rise of Fenwick as a state championship contender in 3A, a scary regional final for one top seed, and how the top four sectional seeds should have the chance to host a regional.
The majority of the Class 3A state title talk this season has centered around Morgan Park and downstate power Belleville Althoff.
The only reason Fenwick hasn’t been consistently mentioned in the same breath as those two is the fact the Friars were beaten so soundly by Morgan Park, 81-55, in the championship game of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in December.
But Fenwick, fresh off its pasting of St. Joseph in the Chicago Catholic League championship game, is a sparkling 24-2 and has won 11 straight. During that 11-game win streak, which included two victories over St. Joseph and wins over Riverside-Brookfield and Simeon, the Friars’ average victory margin has been a whopping 19 points.
Neither a lack of depth or rugged schedule has hampered coach Rick Malnati’s team, which will have faced seven 20-win teams and played 11 games against teams with at least 17 wins when its season concludes Wednesday at home against Hillcrest.
The biggest obstacle in preventing Fenwick and star point guard Mike Smith a shot at either Althoff or Morgan Park in Peoria next month, will be dangerous North Lawndale in the Westinghouse Sectional.
There are some top sectional seeds who could have their hands full getting out of the regional, starting with Minooka.
The Indians have enjoyed a stellar 20-win season, which includes a Southwest Prairie Conference championship and a No. 1 seed in the Lockport Sectional. But a young, talented and much-improved Bolingbrook team that was won six of its last seven could be waiting for Minooka in the regional final as an ultra-dangerous No. 8 seed.
Every top four sectional seed should be given the opportunity to host a regional. These teams earned one of the top four seeds and should be rewarded for it.
Instead, there a number of top four seeds who will have to go on the road next week and win a regional championship in a dangerous opponent’s home gym.
Glenbard West has won 22 games, a conference championship and is a No. 2 seed in the East Aurora Sectional. But the Hilltoppers will have to face conference foe and 15-win Hinsdale Central for a third time –– at Hinsdale Central –– in order to reach a sectional semifinal at East Aurora. The two teams habe split their two games.
Several of these scenarios will play out in the Glenbrook South Sectional, where Evanston, Deerfield, Stevenson and Notre Dame –– all top four seeds –– could face a worthy opponent on the road in regional play.
Using Stevenson as another prime example, the Patriots are a No. 3 seed but has to play at Maine South, a No. 6 seed with 19 wins and fresh off a huge victory over top-seed Evanston. Second-seeded Deerfield could potentially face 15-win Glenbrook North for a third time, on the road, in a regional final.
While there would likely need to be a few requirements to host ––i.e. a seating capacity of, say, at least 1,000 –– the top four seeds should be rewarded and have that choice.