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O’Brien: Breaking down the top sectional semifinals

Donnie Boyce wasn’t desperate to come back to Proviso East. He spent this season coaching in the NBA D-League with the Texas Legends.

The former NBA player temporarily lost his position as head coach last season due to an incident that occurred during his day job as a security guard at Proviso East. He successfully appealed the decision and was reinstated a week ago.

“When I won the appeal [Proviso East senior Antonio Williams] was one of the first to call me,” Boyce said. “I had a good situation going on, but this is home so I decided to continue something that should have never been stopped.”

Williams became academically eligible at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in December. He’s been a revelation since then, one of this season’s breakout stars.

“It was tough to keep up with him because I was traveling, but he would text me throughout the season,” Boyce said. “I love his desire, he is a kid that will never give up. Antonio was one of the reasons that I decided to come back.”

The Pirates are playing well, they knocked off Riverside-Brookfield, a preseason contender for the Class 4A state title, on Friday in the regional finals. But they will be underdogs the rest of the way. Their biggest test of the season comes Wednesday against Kenwood, a talented team that lost to Simeon in the city title game.

If Proviso East can get by the Broncos, either Young or Curie would be waiting in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional Final on Friday.

“Coach Donnie is pushing everyone to play harder,” Williams said. “He’s given us an extra boost.”

Here’s a look at some of the top sectional semifinal games this week:

Thornton vs. Crete-Monee, Wednesday at Bloom: Everyone expected the Wildcats to be here. Almost no one expected Crete-Monee to knock off Homewood-Flossmoor. The Warriors have the talent to pull the upset in this one as well. Dwayne Rose Jr. hasn’t quite figured out how to be a consistent threat, but he’s capable of taking over a game for stretches. Jordan Matthews is a rock solid senior and Victor Curry was huge in the win over the Vikings.

Joliet Central vs. Joliet West, Wednesday at Lockport: The district rivals meet for the third time this season. West has won both, but they’ve been close. Gun shots were fired in the Joliet West parking lot after the game last week. It’s a heated rivalry, but hopefully the dangerous extra-curricular activities will be toned down since the game is in Lockport.

Deerfield vs. Stevenson, Wednesday at Glenbrook South: The Warriors could be the area’s best when it comes to team-first play (Benet is a close second). They move the ball well and senior Jordan Baum provides the little extra spark that makes them a special team. Stevenson has played very well the past month. Justin Smith is an elite athlete and Ryjui Aoki has matured into a polished scorer.

Simeon vs. Marian Catholic, Tuesday at Bloom: The most shocking thing that happened Friday was Brother Rice leading the Wolverines at halftime. Simeon dominated the second half, but a slow start in a playoff game is not the best sign. The Spartans will have a size-advantage in the post over the Wolverines. Expect the game to hinge on Marian Catholic’s young guards Chase Adams and Brandon Hurt. They need to take care of the ball, feed the post and be constant threats to score.