This week’s City/Suburban Hoops Report Three-Pointer focus on a coach and program where the weight has been lifted, the building of a surprise team and run, and the state’s No. 1 junior prospect.
The biggest weight lifted off any one coach or program this season was certainly Mike Oliver and Curie.
Oliver and the Condors have won big over the years with 20-win seasons, along with Pontiac Holiday Tournament, Red-Central and regional championships. But the postseason losses in March were beginning to add up.
There was the 63-62 upset loss to Marist in the regional final in 2012. That Curie team was a No. 2 seed and 25-3 on the year.
The 2010-2011 Curie team won 28 games before a crushing 66-64 sectional championship game loss to Lyons Twp. There were sectional losses in 2006, 2008 and 2015.
And, of course, the roller coaster ride in 2014 when Curie, as a No. 1 seed and top-ranked team in the state with McDonald’s All-American Cliff Alexander, fell to DuSable in the regional semifinals following an eligibility saga that stripped the Condors of two starters.
Thus, Curie had evolved into the best, most successful program without a sectional championship. But all those March demons were washed away and forgotten over the past two weeks with the program’s first-ever sectional championship and state title.
To characterize Brian Flaherty’s task at Lincoln-Way West as a rebuilding project when he took over as coach two years ago isn’t exactly fair.
The school and program wasn’t rebuilding; it was simply starting from scratch as the New Lenox school opened just seven years ago. Flaherty did begin with a collection of quality starter blocks who were in the program, including the cornerstones of this year’s team, senior Jon Marotta and junior Marco Pettinato.
Flaherty, though, molded a foundation with this specific group in building towards this season. No one could have forecasted a state runner-up finish. But when most everyone had either forgotten about or written off the Warriors when they had eight losses by early February, Flaherty kept this team as an on-going work in progress as the season unfolded. He helped extend the Warriors’ season as a result of finding a way to overcome some of their own shortcomings.
He tinkered with things defensively on the floor while instilling a confidence and camaraderie that clearly showed during Lincoln-Way West’s improbable run to the Class 3A state title game.
Since the departure of Jeremiah Tilmon of East St. Louis to prep school in Indiana earlier this school year, there has been a race and some debate over who the top-ranked prospect is in the junior class.
Did you get a load of Belleville Althoff’s Jordan Goodwin this past weekend?
While Da’Monte Williams of Peoria Manual and Evanston’s Nojel Eastern are both ranked higher nationally, the City/Suburban Hoops Report firmly implanted Goodwin as the No. 2 player in the class of 2017, behind Tilmon, last summer.
The 6-3 do-it-all produces –– 44 points, 25 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals in two wins in Peoria –– competes and wins at such a high level. Although he’s only a junior, Goodwin has over 1,700 career points and has won 81 games in three years. On the big stage, Goodwin has averaged a pretty remarkable 21.2 points, 12.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.5 steals a game in the four games he’s played in Peoria over the past two years.
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