Henricksen: The ‘Ville and the ‘Brook, Evanston’s reload, surprising Sandburg

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Romeoville’s Eddie Creal (0) fights to keep the ball away from Hillcrest’s Robert Harvey (2). Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

Joe Henricksen’s weekly City/Suburban Hoops Report Three-Pointer …

No. 1

It’s only mid-December, it’s not a conference game and theoretically it won’t decide a thing aside from some bragging rights, but there is no denying the buzz surrounding Wednesday night’s Bolingbrook-Romeoville showdown.

The two schools, which are in the same school district and are separated by six miles, are both unbeaten. These two playing in a meaningful, marquee game at any time is pretty foreign, so the fan bases will soak this one up.

Bolingbrook is the power that’s churning out Division I talent. The Raiders have a couple of state trophies in the past three years, finishing third in the state in 2015 and again last year while compiling 72 wins during that three-year run

Romeoville has been a program without a single regional title or 20-win season in the past quarter century.

But this is the season Romeoville has been waiting for, and the hopes have only been heightened with the addition of talented Joliet West transfer Eddie Creal.

The athletic and physical 6-3 Creal joins a roster chock-full of talent, including senior guard DeAndre Heckard and 6-7 senior Dontia Johnson.

Still, this is a Bolingbrook program that’s played in a whole lot of big games over the past few seasons. The junior tandem of point guard Joseph Yesufu and 6-2 Tyler Cochran average 18 points and 15 points a game, respectively.

A win over Bolingbrook would be a springboard for this Romeoville team searching for respect.

No. 2

Fresh off a big weekend where Evanston beat Central Suburban League South foe Maine South on the road and walloped Uplift at the Team Rose Shootout, coach Mike Ellis has his very young, inexperienced Wildkits ahead of schedule.

Considering Evanston faces league favorite and unbeaten Niles North this Friday, that’s a good thing.

The bulk of last year’s team that won 28 games and a sectional championship graduated, losing Purdue recruit and all-stater Nojel Eastern, four starters and eight seniors in all. But behind the one lone returning starter, Lance Jones, Evanston is off to a 6-1 start.

Jones has taken full advantage of the opportunity as the go-to player. The junior guard is averaging 19 points a game. The junior trio of Jones, Jaheim Holden (16 ppg) and Ryan Bost were expected to hold things to together while a group of talented freshmen got their feet wet at the varsity level in the early part of the season.

But one freshman, Blake Peters, has provided an immediate shot in the arm. Peters, who is averaging 10 points a game, is quickly establishing himself as one of the elite shooters in Illinois. The calm and poised 6-0 guard has knocked down 19 three-pointers already while shooting with uncanny accuracy –– 48 percent from beyond the arc.

No. 3

Sandburg’s road win over a tough St. Ignatius Saturday night legitimized its 7-1 start to the season.

There isn’t a Division I prospect on the team and there isn’t a starter over 6-1, yet coach Todd Allen changed things up this season with what is a veteran and cohesive team.

Sandburg is applying more pressure defensively and playing at a faster pace offensively. Sandburg scored 65 points twice all last season; this year the Eagles are averaging 69 points a game through the first eight.

Senior Sami Ismail has been a revelation. After averaging 3.7 points a game as a junior, the 6-0 guard is shooting it at a high rate from the three-point line and putting up nearly 17 points a game this season. Guards Jake Pygon and Jason Pygon, along with 6-1 Jack McNulty (11 ppg), are three other seniors who started last year and have been instrumental in Sandburg’s fast start.

With a win over Chicago Christian this week, Sandburg would head to the Josh Tosh Holiday Tournament at York 8-1. The true test, however, may be right after the holidays when the Eagles host league favorite Bolingbrook.

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

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