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Warren’s Branden Ellis (10) tries to stop Niles North’s Damaria Franklin (13) from making a pass. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

Henricksen: The best of everything regional final related

SHARE Henricksen: The best of everything regional final related
SHARE Henricksen: The best of everything regional final related

With regional championships in Class 3A and 4A all set for Friday night, here’s a look at the best the regional championships have to offer when it comes to all of those title matchups across the state.

Best 4A regional final

Bloom vs. Thornton

This is a No. 3 vs. No. 6 regional title game featuring just about everything you would want in a regional championship: 20-win teams, star power, revenge and a little of that rivalry feel we’ve missed in regional games in recent years.

Thornton’s Alonzo Verge is a star. The 6-2 senior is capable of putting a team on his back and carrying it. Now it’s a matter of how far he can carry this Thornton team in March. The Wildcats are 21-5 and looking for a shot at mighty Simeon in the sectional final next week.

But before Thornton can even think about Simeon, coach Tai Streets’ team must take care of a a talented and dangerous Bloom team that beat the Wildcats, 75-69, two weeks ago. Bloom is senior-dominated, balanced and hot. Coach Dante Maddox’s boys have won eight straight following a midseason hiccup.

Best 3A regional final

Lanphier vs. Lincoln

The Chicago area simply doesn’t offer one of those “best regional final” type games, so we head to central Illinois where two perennial basketball powers collide.

All Lincoln basketball has done over the past 50 years is put together 20-plus win seasons on 30 different occasions while winning 33 regional championships. Oh, and averaging 25 wins a year over the past 20 years isn’t too shabby.

Meanwhile, Lanphier is a Class 3A state power this year with plenty of hardware in the trophy case already: state champs in 1983, state runner-up finishes in 1977, 1985 and 2002, third-place finish in 1963 and fourth-place finishes in 1971 and 2012.

But what makes it more interesting are the battles these two have had in recent years, including Lincoln handing Lanphier (24-3) one of its only three losses on the season. Lincoln beat Lanphier 64-47 back on Feb. 10.

But Lanphier is a Hoops Report Peoria pick and has too much firepower on the perimeter in Yaakema Rose (20 ppg), Cardell McGee (16 ppg) and Aundrae Williams (15 ppg).

Best chance for regional upset

With most No. 5 seeds, it’s usually not much of a surprise if they pull off a regional win over a No. 4 seed. And most of the time it’s not a total shock when a No. 6 seed pulls off an upset, either. So we tried to go deeper into the sectional seeds for this one.

That leads us to Homewood-Flossmoor.

This has been a topsy-turvy season for coach Marc Condotti’s Vikings. H-F has been hit tremendously hard by injuries, losing bodies for games and valuable practice time. Although senior guard Jarrett Tribble remains out with a shoulder injury, this is a very dangerous No. 7 seed.

Despite losing six of its final eight games of the regular season, this is still a team that has played a brutally tough schedule, won 18 games on the season, has athletic talent and will be playing the regional on its home floor.

The victim, of course, would be Brother Rice, the No. 2 seed in the sectional that can be vulnerable. Coach Bobby Frasor has completely maximized his team to the fullest through 29 games. But the Crusaders are a team that relies so heavily on high-level production from both Josh Niego and Mike Shepksi.

Best chance for a No. 1 to go down

St. Charles North over Jacobs

This is a bit misleading. Normal circumstances have a No. 1 seed playing either a No. 8 or No. 9 seed. In this case, top-seeded Jacobs is playing a No. 4 seed with 19 wins as a result of the two sub-sectionals layout in the Elgin Sectional.

Nonetheless, this is a very dangerous game for No. 1 Jacobs, though the Eagles do get to play the regional final on their home floor. St. Charles North has beaten Downers Grove South, West Aurora and Geneva, played Oak Park tough and just recently lost to Benet in overtime.

Plus, the amount of tight games St. Charles North has played this season is incredible, so the experience of playing six overtimes this year and in 10 one-possession games has coach Tom Poulin’s team ready.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report has Jacobs not only winning a regional title but the program’s first-ever sectional championship as well. But this one is scary.

Best individual regional matchup

Jeremiah Tilmon vs. E.J. Liddell

This one will be fun as two of the state’s elite big men go bring their respective teams into this regional final.

Jeremiah Tilmon of East St. Louis, a 6-10 senior headed to Illinois, is the state’s No. 1 ranked prospect and among the top 35 in the country. Belleville West’s Liddell, a 6-6 sophomore, is among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top five prospects in Illinois in the Class of 2019.

Liddell is fresh off a monster performance in knocking off Illinois recruit Javon Pickett and Belleville East in the regional semifinals. Liddell scored 43 points, pulled down 10 rebounds and blocked six shots. How productive has Liddell been in his young career? He’s already surpassed 1,000 career points.

Best neighborhood regional final

Bloom vs. Thornton

We have some good ones around the Chicago area, including Loyola-New Trier on the North Shore and a battle between Niles Notre Dame and Niles North.

But there were plenty of reasons why this Bloom-Thornton game was listed as the “best regional final.” The fact this is a south suburban neighborhood basketball brawl with so much history and basketball pride is one of them.

It’s a regional title tilt that takes you down memory lane as you think back to all the postseason showdowns these two have played over the long, tradition-rich history of these two programs. There is something special about both of these basketball programs.

Sectional with the best regional finals

Thornwood

Naturally the best sectional provides the best regional finals, right?

In this case it’s most definitely true as you have No. 1 Simeon (25-3) vs. No. 8 Marian Catholic (16-11); No. 4 T.F. North (23-3) vs. No. 5 Marist (26-3); No. 2 Brother Rice (24-5) vs. No. 7 H-F (18-11); and No. 3 Thornton (21-5) vs. No. 6 Bloom (21-6).

Among these eight teams, six have already surpassed 20 wins on the season. The eight teams, who have all been ranked this season, have an average win total of 21.7.

Best overlooked regional finalist

Niles North

Coach Glenn Olson’s team has been forgotten this season. Shame on us.

This is a program that’s averaged 21 wins a year over the past six seasons, winning three regional championships and a sectional title in 2011. That’s some nice heavy lifting for a team that hasn’t generated any love this season.

Now Niles North is once again sitting on 21 wins after a regional semifinal win over an upstart Warren team that’s received way more buzz in recent weeks than the Vikings.

But with talented 6-4 junior Damaria Franklin, who poured in 33 points in the win over Warren, Niles North is a serious threat to second-seeded Niles Notre Dame in the regional final.

Best regional storyline

Addison Trail

With an upset over Willowbrook in the regional semifinals, Addison Trail will now play for its first regional championship since 2001. Better yet, with a win over No. 4 seed Naperville North, the Blazers will capture their first regional title in 37 years.

While the headline success –– postseason success, 20-win seasons, etc. –– may not show it, coach Brendan Lyons has done a really nice job in building Addison Trail into a much more competitive program.

Prior to Lyons taking over the program in 2007, Addison Trail basketball was abysmal. The previous five seasons before Lyons took over looked like this: 0-27 in 2003, 2-21 in 2004, 4-20 in 2005, 3-22 in 2006 and 1-25 in 2007. That’s a five-year futility run of 10-115.

Fast-forward to the most recent five years and the Addison Trail win totals look like this: 10 wins, 11 wins, 16 wins, 15 wins and now currently 18-11 heading into Friday’s regional title game.

Throw in the fact 12th-seeded Addison Trail is now the second lowest seeded team left in Class 3A and 4A (Neuqua Valley is No. 13), it’s a fun storyline to follow.

Best regional storyline: Part II

Grant

We didn’t forget about you, Grant!

This team did begin the season as a City/Suburban Hoops Report sleeper and even cracked the Hoops Report’s lengthy preseason Top 65 rankings back in November. The Bulldogs, led by 6-6 senior John Kerr, have lived up to it by grabbing a share of the Northern Lake County Conference championship and winning 20 games.

But Grant’s next big step is beating Lake Zurich Friday night and winning a regional championship for the first time in nearly three decades. Grant’s last regional title came in 1989.

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

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