O’Brien: Class 4A supersectional preview

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It’s time for the supersectionals. Here’s a look at Tuesday’s Class 4A matchups.

Benet (29-3) vs. Joliet West (21-9) at Northern Illinois

Fast fact: The Tigers beat Benet 59-53 at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament in late December. Joliet’s long defenders played a part in the Redwings shooting just 4-for-22 from three-point range. Benet turned the ball over 15 times.

Player to watch: Joliet West junior Elijah Ward. The Redwings had no answer for the 6-4 wing in the first matchup. He was able to get to the rim at will and scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting.

What to watch: Benet has only lost once, to Notre Dame, since the Joliet West loss. Expect the larger college court to influence the game. Benet’s shooters will have more space, but the Tigers’ speed will be more of a factor as well. This is a program-making game for the Tigers and coach Nick DiForti. A trip to Peoria would solidify Joliet West as one of next year’s state title contenders.

Notre Dame (25-6) vs. Curie (25-5) at Northwestern

Fast fact: This is uncharted territory for Curie and coach Mike Oliver, the Condors have never played in a supersectional.

Player to watch: Curie point guard Devin Gage. The DePaul recruit will be the best player on the floor and could dominate the game. He has a habit of starting slow, and that could be an issue in a game of this magnitude. If Gage is engaged from the tip, Curie has all the ingredients necessary to win.

What to watch: Both teams are loaded with offensive options off the bench. It is possible that any of almost a dozen reserves could step up to score double-digit points and swing the outcome.

Conant (23-6) vs. Rockford Auburn (24-6) at Sears Centre

Fast fact: The Mid-Suburban League needed this. Conant is the first MSL team to advance to a supersectional since 2007. Conant has just one senior, Brandon Vinson, in the starting lineup. The Cougars have been under the radar a bit this season, but will step into the spotlight next season, regardless of what happens on Tuesday.

Player to watch: Conant point guard Jimmy Sotos is a star. The 5-11 guard can do it all. He shoots the three well, can get to the basket and is a tremendous facilitator.

What to watch: Auburn, led by senior Trayvon Tyler (who averages four steals) excels at forcing turnovers. The Cougars will have to take excellent care of the ball to advance to Peoria.

Simeon (28-3) vs. East Moline United (24-6) at Illinois State

Fast fact: United’s best player, junior Tray Buchanan, is a transfer from Simeon. He averages 20 points, four assists, four rebounds and three steals.

Player to watch: Good luck taking your eyes off of Simeon senior Zach Norvell. He’s been a full-on high school basketball force of nature the past month. Norvell doesn’t just score, he generally does it in awe-inspiring fashion.

What to watch: It’s hard to see the Panthers challenging Simeon. However, the ISU supersectional site has been a disaster for local teams, even excellent ones. Simeon was upset in Normal last season and Tyler Ulis’ Marian Catholic teams lost at ISU in the two seasons before that.

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