Share Events on The Cube There will be 64 regional championship games played throughout the state Friday night in Class 3A and Class 4A. They are all playing with a lot on the line –– a win-or-go-home mantra that resonates with any sports fan at any level.
Here is a preview of the 10 best and most intriguing regional championships to be played Friday night.
■ Thornton vs. Bloom
How can you not love this one? A terrific south suburban showdown featuring passionate basketball fanbases and programs with history. It’s arguably the top regional title game of the night.
Thornton’s Sam Taylor has been one of the breakout stars in the senior class. The red-hot Jamal Parks, who has averaged 24 points a game in the second half of the season, leads a resurgent Bloom team that’s 10-1 since a 7-9 start to the season. But Bloom faces the unenviable task of trying to win at Thornton for a second time in three weeks.
If this game were to have been played anywhere but in Harvey, you almost have to go with the red-hot Blazing Trojans. It’s hard to imagine Bloom winning twice there in three weeks.
Hoops Report pick: Thornton 71, Bloom 68
■ Peoria Manual vs. Washington
This Peoria area battle breaks into the top 10 because it has the makings of being pretty special, particularly this early along the state tournament trail. The atmosphere should be electric as the Peoria powerhouse heads to a terrific basketball town just outside Peoria.
Manual, led by junior star and Illinois commit DaMonte Williams, is ranked No. 6 in the state with hopes of crashing the Class 3A party in Carver Arena in a couple of weeks. Washington, led by 5-9 mighty mite Lou Griffith, is 25-3 on the year and coached by one of the best in the business, Kevin Brown. Look for Williams to rise to the occasion and hold off a tough Washington team on the road.
Hoops Report pick: Peoria Manual 60, Washington 57
St. Ignatius Regional
■ Riverside-Brookfield vs. Proviso East
If you haven’t heard, Donnie Boyce is back at Proviso East. Yep, the controversy surrounding this program just doesn’t stop. Boyce has been reinstated and coached the Pirates in the regional opener. Time will tell what kind of fuel or inspiration this move will provide this team.
Proviso East, already a dangerous No. 6 seed led by athletic senior Antonio Williams, stands in the way of Riverside-Brookfield playing on its home floor in the sectional. R-B’s veteran group, led by the backcourt of Daniko Jackson and Jalen Clanton, is potent offensively. The Bulldogs, who put up 103 points in a regional semifinal win, are averaging a whopping 86 points a game in their last seven.
Hoops Report pick: R-B 78, Proviso East 73
■ Minooka vs. Bolingbrook
Typically you wouldn’t find a No. 1 vs. No. 8 seed regional final attractive enough to be included in a “best of” list. But the upset element is real.
Minooka was fortunate to get by Romeoville in the semis, while Bolingbrook is playing well, winning nine of its last 10 games. While top-seeded Minooka will have its hands full, senior do-it-all Joe Butler has played big all year and the Indians will be on their home floor.
Typically I like a home favorite after surviving a big scare in the regional opener, but … It’s time to pick an upset.
Hoops Report pick: Bolingbrook 44, Minooka 41
■ Evanston vs. Niles North
Even as a 1 vs. 8 seeded regional final, this one has upset potential. Although both teams scuffled down the stretch of the regular season –– Evanston went 0-3 in its final three games and Niles North finished 1-3 –– they each rolled in regional opening wins. Evanston has the name and star power with Nojel Eastern, but Niles North is a program that has now put together 20-plus wins in five of the past six seasons. Niles North also has an underrated tandem in senior Crishawn Cook and emerging sophomore Damaria Franklin.
Hoops Report pick: Evanston 67, Niles North 61
Hyde Park Regional
■ Hyde Park vs. Mt. Carmel
The Mt. Carmel tandem of Christian Peevy and Jake Rhode puts up numbers and has quietly led the Caravan to 23 wins this season. Although Peevy left the regional semifinal game with an injury, the versatile 6-5 wing is expected to play. After playing in the shadow of Kenwood and Curie in the Red-Central all winter, 6-7 senior Tajuan Agee and Hyde Park hope to make some headlines of their own with a Class 3A regional title.
Hoops Report pick: Hyde Park 58, Mt. Carmel 56
Whitney Young Regional
■ Young vs. De La Salle
George Wilborn, De La Salle’s 6-3 senior guard, has put the Meteors on his back and led them to a surprising 22-7 record. Young is well prepared having played a tough schedule which has seasoned coach Tyrone Slaughter’s youthful team, led by 6-5 junior Lucas Williamson and sophomore point guard Xavier Castaneda.
Hoops Report pick: Young 64, De La Salle 55
South Elgin Regional
■ DeKalb vs. Jacobs
These two are conference champs and come in with a nifty 47 wins between them. In addition to the team accolades, there are a couple of star attractions in DeKalb’s Mike Pollack, one of the better shooters in the state, and 6-8 Cameron Krutwig, one of the top 10 junior prospects in Illinois.
Krutwig is an absolute force for Jacobs and was dominant in all facets for the Golden Eagles in a semifinal win over Larkin. But DeKalb was the Hoops Report’s pick to reach Peoria, so I’ll be riding the Barbs for awhile.
Hoops Report pick: DeKalb 55, Jacobs 48
Hinsdale Central Regional
■ Glenbard West vs. Hinsdale Central
There should be a pumped-up atmosphere for this one as two conference foes with familiarity hook up with a regional title on the line.
It’s been a historic season for Glenbard West and senior star Justin Pierce (24.8 ppg, 11.5 rpg), so it would be a shame for this dream season to end prematurely for the No. 2 sectional seed. But playing on the road, against a hot team that’s already beaten the 24-3 Hilltoppers, is a scary proposition.
Hinsdale Central, led by 6-7 Peter Blust (13.7 ppg, 8.4 rpg), has won eight straight, including a Feb. 13 46-36 win over Glenbard West. As long as the Hilltoppers can keep Pierce and point guard Alex Passi (12.9 ppg, 3.8 apg) on the floor, out of foul trouble, Glenbard West advances.
Hoops Report pick: Glenbard West 50, Hinsdale Central 45
Glenbrook North Regional
■ Deerfield vs. Lake Forest
Even as a No. 7 seed who must play a team that hasn’t lost in nearly two months and has 26 wins on the year, Lake Forest goes into the regional final knowing it handed that very opponent one of its three losses on the season. Lake Forest beat Deerfield 44-38 in December. The Scouts have played a schedule that has prepared them for this, while 6-7 senior Lorenzo Edwards can be a dominating player.
There is a cohesiveness with this Deerfield team, and it starts with Jordan Baum. The senior point guard is the catalyst of a team that shares the ball, plays together, will push tempo to create scoring opportunities and has overachieved as a result.
Hoops Report pick: Deerfield 56, Lake Forest 51