Henricksen: Class 1A, 2A schools, players making noise

SHARE Henricksen: Class 1A, 2A schools, players making noise

Before we delve into what transpired in the Class 3A and 4A regionals from this past week –– the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s weekend rewind will be out later this weekend –– the Chicago area has some serious representation in the Class 1A and 2A super-sectionals Tuesday night.

There are a combined 16 schools in Class 1A and 2A remaining. Here is a quick look back at some of the small school headlines from sectional play and what’s ahead.

Orr vs. Hales in battle of Spartans:The Orr Spartans are the No. 1 ranked team in Class 2A and expected to be in Peoria next weekend. On paper, coach Lou Adams’ team is stacked with high-level 2A talent while playing a tough schedule. Plus, the program has been there, done that before in March with back-to-back trips to Peoria in 2013 and 2014 –– as a Class 3A school.

But while everyone has been talking about Orr’s potential in 2A since the season began, it first must get past the upstart Hales Franciscan Spartans in the Joliet Central Super-Sectional. Coach Gary London, whose team is now 19-12, knows a thing or two about getting the most out of teams in March, and he has a disruptive force at point guard in Milton Wordlow.

Hales has reached this point in each of the past two seasons, losing to eventual state champ Uplift in last year’s super-sectional and to Providence St. Mel in 2014. That experience, as well as having played and beaten the likes of St. Ignatius, Brother Rice and De La Salle this season, should grab Orr’s attention.

Leo rolling in Class 1A: Leo won a state title in 2004 as a Class A school in the old two-class system. As a Class 3A school the Lions finished fourth in the state in 2009. Now Leo is a Class 1A school and making the most of it after playing a strong Catholic League regular season schedule.

With the trio of Darius Oliver, Corielle Robinson and Darius Branch, Leo more than looks the part of a 1A state champ. The Lions have rolled through regional and sectional play winning all four games by double-digits. Leo will face the Class 1A defending state champs, Brimfield, in a DeKalb Super Tuesday night.

Aurora Christian’s potent 1-2 punch: Make no mistake about it, RD Lutze has been Aurora Christian’s rock all season. The physical shooting guard has produced at a high level and made big shots with his excellent shooting range. None were bigger than his three-pointer with 18 seconds to play to lift the Eagles to a 59-58 sectional championship game win over Reed-Custer.

However, the emergence of sophomore Jake Wolfe over the second half of the season has taken Aurora Christian to a new level. Wolfe, a talented and promising young player who has climbed the list of City/Suburban Hoops Report prospects in the Class of 2018, is a skilled 6-3 guard with a natural feel for scoring. In four tournament wins Wolfe has averaged 19.5 points a game.

Lutze, Wolfe and the 25-5 Eagles will meet Taylor Ridge (Rockridge) in the DeKalb Super Tuesday night.

Class 1A star turning heads: Leroy, a school of 240 students 20 minutes southeast of Bloomington, won its first sectional title in school history and just the third regional championship in 30 years. And leading the way is the biggest unknown, breakout player in the senior class: Matt Chastain.

Chastain, an athletically explosive 6-6 forward, has put up 25.5 points, 7.8 rebounds, 3.1 assists, 2.9 blocks and 2.6 steals a game. He just surpassed 2,000 career points in the Class 1A sectional title game victory.

While playing with the Illinois Irish on the AAA circuit, Chastain was on the radar heading into last summer. The City/Suburban Hoops Report had him as a Division II/low-Division I bubble prospect last spring. But there was certainly more to prove for a player who feasted on the likes of Fisher, Fieldcrest, Salt Fork and Heyworth rather than Simeon, Thornton or Fenwick.

A meniscus injury, however, shut Chastain down for the entire month of July. Thus, the opportunity for a small school prospect from central Illinois to be seen playing at a high level vanquished.

But Chastain’s combination of size and wow-type athleticism is too intriguing. Add the whopping numbers –– Chastain has had multiple 40-plus point games –– and the success Leroy has experienced, and it’s opened the door. And as is the case with the late spring signing period approaching, college coaches are trying to find the late-blooming senior sleeper.

Just this past week Loyola, Valparaiso, Drake, DePaul, SIUE, Western Illinois and Southeast Louisiana were all in to see Chastain. Utah and Utah State watched him play this week and plan on coming back. Loyola, who has invested some time in Chastain over the past couple of years, was the first to offer, and he was planning an unofficial visit to DePaul this weekend.

Leroy will face Newark in a 1A super-sectional Tuesday night at Illinois State.

Biggest four-class benefactor: Whether you’re for it, against it or indifferent, the poster boy for the positives of four-class basketball might be Newark, a school with an enrollment of 185 students and a tiny community 50 miles southwest of Chicago.

Prior to the advent of four-class basketball in Illinois in 2008, Newark would battle schools who doubled, tripled and quadrupled its enrollment come state tournament time. Now as a Class 1A school, where you’ll find schools with 275 students or less, Newark is a nice, tidy fit in the middle of small school basketball.

Newark, which had never won a sectional championship in school history during the one and two-class eras, captured its fifth sectional title in eight years Friday night. The Norsemen, who won a Class 1A state championship in 2011, will meet Leroy Tuesday in the super-sectional at Illinois State.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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