Henricksen: Breaking down unbeaten Bolingbrook, Fremd and Geneva

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We will roll into the month of February with four teams unbeaten. That’s a combined perfect record of 74-0 between Bolingbrook, Fremd, Geneva and Hubbard.

Yes, Hubbard is still undefeated with a 12-0 record.

What will be most interesting going forward is just where coaches seed this Public League Blue Central team in a rugged Thornwood Sectional that includes Simeon, Marist, Marian Catholic, Thornton, H-F, Brother Rice, T.F. North and Stagg.

But the City/Suburban Hoops Report is focusing on the three unbeaten teams that are ranked as we head down the final stretch of the regular season. While Hubbard can keep its fingers crossed for a top 10 seed in the Thornwood Sectional, Bolingbrook, Fremd and Geneva are all in position to nab the top seed in their respective sectionals with the current runs these teams are on.

Here is a breakdown of those three teams, including a whole bunch of unfiltered comments from several coaches who have scouted, prepared for and played these teams this season.


Star power: On paper, this is a better Bolingbrook team than the one that finished third in Class 4A in 2015. Coach Rob Brost’s team is loaded, featuring Nebraska-bound Nana Akenten, one of the top 10 prospects in the senior class. Akenten is one of five players averaging in double figures, including 6-5 senior Malik Binns, junior Kaleb Thornton and sophomores Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran.

Surprise factor: Not too much, though no one expects a team to be unbeaten heading into February. The Raiders were No. 8 in the preseason Sun-Times and No. 9 by the City/Suburban Hoops Report.

Biggest wins on the season: Homewood-Flossmoor (67-62 and 78-73); Marian Catholic (59-44); Joliet Central (60-55); Joliet West (84-74)

Number of games vs. ranked teams: 5

Toughest games remaining: The Raiders will make the long trek to the O’Fallon Shootout this Saturday to face Illinois recruit Javon Pickett and Belleville East. Beating a healthy Homewood-Flossmoor for a third time on Feb. 10 won’t be easy.

Opposing coaches praise of Bolingbrook:

This team has a competitive grind about them more than past Bolingbrook teams. They compete, get after it and don’t take plays off. And they create plays off of that. … I think they play with a confidence. They came out in the fourth quarter against us, pretty tight game, and they just knew they were taking over. You could see it. … I know they have bigger names but Binns impresses you. He’s so physical, creates space and has added an entirely new dimension to them. …. Bolingbrook comes at you, and they come at you in waves. … You worry about one kid and there are two, three or four others who can really hurt you. …You need depth and bodies to compete against their bigs. Binns brings such a physical nature. Then they bring [6-7 Brandon] Lawani off the bench. … There are layers of talent. You take one thing away and someone else will get you. … Binns has been such an upgrade for them. … It’s a credit to their coaches in letting them go out and play and not try to over-coach that group.

Opposing coaches on how to beat Bolingbrook:

First, you have to stay in the game against them. You can’t get down 10 or 12 points right away and try to play catch-up, because you’re not going to press them. You are not going to chase them down from behind. … You have to make shots, get some confidence early to avoid playing from behind. … You really need a special kid or two who can take care of the ball and handle their quickness and pressure. They feed off turnover points. … Have to be patient in your possessions. … They aren’t going to try and trick you. They don’t do a lot offensively.…. They are bigger, stronger and faster than everyone. So far that’s been enough. But when they really need something against a fundamentally sound and really good team, will they be able to go get it? It’s nit-picking but that could hurt them come tournament time.

• FREMD (20-0)

By the numbers: Coach Bob Widlowski’s team has been dominant. The Vikings have pounded people, with 12 of their wins by 15 or more points. Their average victory margin on the season is just over 21 points a game.

Surprise factor:This was a senior-dominated group that won 22 games and a regional title last year. Point guard Kyle Sliwa and 6-4 Brian Dompke set the tone and the Vikings have all bought in after being ranked No. 42 in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s preseason rankings of the top 65 teams.

Biggest wins on the season: Conant (42-41 and 48-37); Notre Dame (59-45 and 54-53 in OT)

Toughest games remaining: The remaining schedule is far from daunting, with non-conference foe Glenbrook North (10-10) the biggest test left on the regular season slate. But that potential Mid-Suburban League championship game against Prospect in the season finale could be a doozy.

Opposing coaches praise of Fremd:

They are so mentally and physically tough. When you make runs, they aren’t phased. They remain poised, confident and do their thing. … Fremd doesn’t care who gets the credit. They might be one of the most selfless basketball teams I’ve seen. … They are just do disciplined. The chemistry factor can’t be overstated. They know exactly what their capabilities are and they stay within them. … They don’t try to do too much. When something isn’t there, they make the next pass. That’s rare for a high school team. … Their defense is always outstanding, no matter the talent level or skill level. That starts and ends with Widlowski, who is a [former Palatie coach Ed[ Molitor-disciple. Defense is in his blood. Plus, they have agile guys who can guard multiple positions. … They are tough, play hard and are really well coached. … They go eight deep and every one of those guys knows their role. Very disciplined. They don’t go outside their individual roles. … When they have an advantage on the break they will take advantage. But they know and recognize so well when they do or don’t. … I don’t know if they’ve been pressured all that much, but I don’t know if those guards can be bothered anyway.

Opposing coaches on how to beat Fremd:

You have to compete for 32 minutes and have an aggressive mindset on every catch. Openings close so fast against them. … You have to play great transition and team defense and many times for long stretches. … Maybe if their bus doesn’t start? … Size –– if you have it –– you need to utilize it. But if they get the lead then they make you go small. … You have to beat them on the glass. That’s an area you can take advantage of because of their lack of size. … They don’t pass the eye test necessarily. Maybe a team with an abundance of athleticism and quickness could give them problems or fits. A strong inside player or inside game could as well but how many high school teams have that? … You have to shoot it very, very well against them.

• GENEVA (24-0)

Greatest run in program history: The Vikings did just about anything and everything during the 2014-2015 season. They won a school record 30 games, captured their first sectional championship in over 50 years and finished fourth in the state in Class 4A. But this regular season has been ultra-special with the best start in school history. Coach Phil Ralston’s teams have gone a combined 122-27 over the past four-plus seasons.

Surprise factor:  A pretty big one. The Vikings did return three starters from a 22-win team but were unranked in the preseason. But there has been terrific balance and chemistry, while young players, led by sophomore point guard Jack McDonald, have stepped up to help the senior group.

Biggest wins on the season: Prairie Ridge (51-42); St. Charles North (67-62, 2 OT); St. Charles East (58-47)

Number of games vs. ranked teams: 0

Toughest games remaining: Beating both St. Charles schools a second time won’t be easy. And a road trip to Quincy Feb. 18 could be Geneva’s biggest test yet.

Opposing coaches praise of Geneva:

They execute their stuff. It’s a system program and they run their stuff very well. And they do a good job of exploiting mismatches. … They play at their pace, and it’s hard to speed them up, because they can all dribble and pass. You get behind them it’s tough to come back, because they will milk the clock, move the ball. … They all play their roles well. They execute their sets at such a high rate and it’s so hard to get them out of their comfort zone. They don’t have any stars, but they can put five guys out there that can hurt you. … I think they have some underestimated length that helps them. … They run a lot of sets that create mismatches. They work the matchups and create high-percentage shots. Then they grind you out.

Opposing coaches on how to beat Geneva: 

I don’t think they are really capable of putting points up in a hurry, so if they have to play catch-up it might be difficult for them. They play with the lead very well. … They’ve played some good teams, but they haven’t played one really good team all season. That can’t help. … If you have athletes 1 through 5, I do think pressure might get to them. I don’t think they have any depth. In close games it’s six deep and that’s it. … They really haven’t played anyone, so how high of a level can they go? Have they been tested? … It comes down to how you defend them, because if you don’t find a way to stop them from running their offensive sets, you’re in trouble. … You can try to extend, really put pressure on them. But if that doesn’t work, or you don’t have the type of team to do that, then you’re going to have to pack it in, throw a junk defense at them. But you have to get them out of their everyday offense.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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