The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a close look at each Class 3A sectional championship game from across the state.
[Class 4A sectional final previews HERE]
■ St. Laurence Sectional
Morgan Park (25-3) vs. Bogan (20-7)
There are several examples of “been there, done that before” in this game. The two simply have so much recent and past history.
For Morgan Park, they’ve done this before. Coach Nick Irvin’s team has won three straight sectional titles en route to Peoria and bringing home hardware. The Mustangs know what type of basketball needs to be played to advance at this time of year. Sun-Times Player of the Year Charlie Moore and Company typically rev up the engine even more for a city foe along the state tournament trail.
For Bogan it’s a “here we go again” with another season-defining moment against Red-South rival Morgan Park. This hasn’t ended well for Bogan in recent years, with Morgan Park ending the Bengals’ season each of the past two years. This is the final shot for Bryce Barnes and James Jones, a pair of senior, mid-major-bound guards, who are already 0-2 against Morgan Park this year.
Hoops Report pick: Morgan Park 71, Bogan 64
■ Streator Sectional
Hillcrest (23-6) vs. Lincoln-Way West (19-9)
Both teams will make the long trek to Streator –– Hillcrest is 85 miles away and Lincoln-Way West is 68 miles away –– for a game that should be highly entertaining.
Both teams are led by a young player starving for more attention: Hillcrest’s productive junior guard Marcus Garrett and Lincoln-Way West’s hard-nosed Marco Pettinato.
Can Pettinato and 6-6 senior Jon Marotta secure the biggest win in school history? The Warriors are in search of their first-ever sectional championship. Can Hillcrest’s young team win its sixth sectional title in 11 years?
Hoops Report pick: Hillcrest 60, Lincoln-Way West 56
■ Peoria Sectional
Bloomington (25-6) vs. Peoria Manual (24-4)
All year long the talk has been about Manual challenging 3A heavyweights Belleville Althoff, Morgan Park and Fenwick. But the Rams and junior guard DaMonte Williams have not elevated themselves to that type of 3A prominence yet. In order for Williams and fellow juniors A.J. Youngman and Romon Douglas-Watkins to get a shot at the “Big Three in 3A,” they must take care of a dangerous Bloomington team.
What a story Bloomington has become, which beat state-ranked Galesburg in the regional final and LaSalle-Peru in the sectional semi. Its best player (junior Charles Payton) left the team late in the season and the Purple Raiders have cruised since.
The sudden emergence of Payton’s brother, 6-6 freshman Chris Payton, has been the significant difference. While Payton has been a huge factor around the basket, senior point guard Illijah Donnelly and shooter Dazon Farris provide punch on the perimeter. Bloomington has some terrific wins on the year, including victories over Galesburg, Rockford Boylan, Naperville North and, yes, Peoria Manual.
Hoops Report pick: Peoria Manual 68, Bloomington 63
■ Woodstock North Sectional
Glenbard South (20-9) vs. Rockford Boylan (30-2)
There probably isn’t a bigger sectional favorite in the state than Boylan. Glenbard South beat Belvidere 56-47 in the sectional semifinals; Boylan crushed Belvidere 87-60 a month ago.
Boylan has a budding star in 6-5 junior Zach Couper and two seniors, 6-3 Luke McDermott and 6-7 Sam Fehrle, who provide significant contributions. The Titans have played a strong schedule, including a win over 3A power Peoria Manual where Couper went for 30 points.
Glenbard South won its own regional in dramatic fashion and took care of Belvidere in the sectional semifinal. Billy Bair (14 ppg, 5.3 rpg, 2.6 agp), a 6-5 senior, and a whole bunch of no-namers –– Charlie Bair, Johnny LaPonte, Jonathan Walker, Cullen Cuchetto, Brandon Whiteside and Povilas Riauba –– hope to nab win No. 20 and win the program’s first sectional championship since 2000.
Hoops Report pick: Boylan 63, Glenbard South 49
■ Westinghouse Sectional
Fenwick (28-2) vs. St. Joseph (23-8)
This Class 3A sectional final gives star big man Nick Rakocevic and the defending state champions one last shot at Fenwick, a team that has beaten coach Gene Pingatore’s Chargers twice –– 54-42 in January and 73-51 less than a month ago.
Fenwick has shined all season, piling up a 28-2 record while playing one of the state’s most challenging schedules. More importantly, Fenwick has continued to get better by the week, dominating the second half of the season behind standout point guard Mike Smith.
Hoops Report pick: Fenwick 62, St. Joseph 51
■ Ridgewood Sectional
Ridgewood (17-12) vs. St. Patrick (16-14)
They may not have glitzy records –– the two have combined to win a total of 33 games on the year –– but they’re both opportunistic teams in the right sectional.
With three productive players who have a bunch of varsity experience in junior Zak Reznicki, senior point guard Keith Kerrigan and 6-5 senior Peter Cabaj, Ridgewood has been waiting to get on a run. Coach Chris Mroz’s team is on one now, winning seven of its last eight, and playing the sectional on its home floor.
St. Patrick literally turned the page with the arrival of the postseason after finishing off the regular season with a 2-7 mark in its final nine games. With three postseason wins, St. Patrick has climbed above the .500 mark after playing a competitive regular season schedule. In those three March wins, coach Mike Bailey’s team has dominated to the tune of an average victory margin of 33 points a game. St. Pat’s has depth, balance, versatility and a guard-heavy attack led by junior Laurence Merritt.
Hoops Report pick: St. Patrick 51, Ridgewood 46
■ Highland Sectional
Belleville Althoff (28-2) vs. Centralia (26-3)
All eyes are on Belleville Althoff, a team that can make an argument as the best in Illinois regardless of class. The roster is loaded with Division I talent, led by high-major prospect Jordan Goodwin, a junior do-it-all who produces and wins in a big way. Althoff has been down this road before, so big-game experience will be a plus.
This won’t be easy, however, as Centralia is the No. 5 ranked team in Class 3A with just three losses this season. However, two of those losses came to Althoff. But the Orphans played Althoff tough, losing by the scores of 58-50 and 55-49. Plus, the Orphans have a dependable and disruptive point guard in D’Aaron Owens, an underrated senior, to go with junior Dawson Berry and senior Tyriq Billberry on the perimeter.
Hoops Report pick: Althoff 58, Centralia 50
■ Taylorville Sectional
Springfield Lanphier (23-6) vs. Springfield Southeast (23-6)
These two enter the sectional final with an identical 23-6 record. You get the feeling these two Springfield teams are a couple of really good ones no one has talked enough about in Class 3A.
Southeast, led by the guard tandem of senior D’Angelo Hughes (15 ppg) and junior Trevyon Williams (12 ppg), is in search of its first sectional title since 1980. The good news is Southeast knows it can beat its rival; the Spartans beat Lanphier twice this year, including a 79-74 overtime win and a 69-64 win as recently as Feb. 25.
Having to beat a rival like Lanphier a third time, one that is led by high-scoring guard Xavier Bishop (25 ppg) and that lost a heartbreaker in last year’s sectional? That’s going to be a difficult task.
It’s too bad this rivalry game isn’t being played in the back yard of these two schools rather than 30 minutes away in Taylorville. The good news is the winner will return home to play the super-sectional in Springfield.
Hoops Report pick: Lanphier 65, Southeast 63
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