March heats up this week with Class 3A and Class 4A sectional basketball. Here is a rundown of what to look for in sectional semifinal action Tuesday and Wednesday.
Best Class 4A sectional semifinal
Navigating the toughest sectional moves to the next phase for a host of teams as the field at Eisenhower has dwindled itself down to four as the top four seeds –– Bloom, Marian Catholic, Simeon and Homewood-Flossmoor –– all survived dicey regional final matchups.
The Eisenhower Sectional now brings us a Wednesday night semifinal showdown between No. 3 ranked Simeon and No. 10 Marian Catholic. Simeon survived another day with a dramatic overtime win over Brother Rice in the regional championship.
Marian Catholic junior guard Ahron Ulis is the catalyst for Marian Catholic, while 6-5 senior Antonio Reeves and his 21 points a game leads Simeon.
Best Class 3A sectional semifinal
The St. Laurence-Bogan battle is the only Class 3A sectional semifinal involving two ranked teams. Throw in the fact St. Laurence is on its home floor, has a legit star in Jeremiah Williams and likes to play a fast-tempo game, and maybe this will be closer than many expect. Bogan can’t afford to look ahead to a potential rematch with rival Morgan Park.
Everyone is anticipating a monster sectional final matchup featuring Curie and Young Friday night at Proviso West. While it’s expected that these two top five teams will advance, both face dicey sectional semifinal games against overlooked and scary opponents.
The three-pointer has altered the game profoundly and become a neutralizer, and it’s a major weapon for both York and Riverside-Brookfield, teams who have 29 and 28 wins, respectively.
Led by sharpshooter Patrick Hanley, who is one of the top three-point shooters in the state, Riverside-Brookfield has four players with 26 or more threes and have made 298 on the year. Hanley has knocked down 96 threes on the year, followed by Zach Vaia’s 75, Reggie Loury’s 58 and Andrew Veon’s 26.
York is also blessed with multiple shooters and has knocked down 247 three-pointers as a team while shooting 40 percent from beyond the arc. Erik Cohn (83 three-pointers), Nick Kosich (67 threes), Nate Shockey (39 threes) and John Milling (27 threes) are all threats.
With a lack of low-seeded teams still alive in sectional play, the hopes rest on a No. 7 seed developing as this year’s Cinderella.
The good news is both Lake Park and Schaumburg, the two lowest seeds to win regional championships as No. 7 seeds, look the part of teams that could continue to advance. Lake Park faces Downers Grove North while Schaumburg will play Loyola Academy in a couple of expected toss-up games.
And remember, Lake Park is the only team to have beaten the No. 1 seed in its sectional, Geneva, during the regular season.
The all-private school sectional
With three teams from the East Suburban Catholic Conference (St. Viator, St. Patrick and Carmel) and one from the Chicago Catholic League (DePaul Prep), the Class 3A Grayslake Central Sectional is the only one of 16 sectionals in the state featuring four private schools.
Highly-ranked DePaul Prep and St. Viator have been on a much-anticipated Class 3A collision course since the season began. But DePaul Prep must first handle a Carmel team that has gone 11-3 in its last 14 games and features explosive scoring point guard Kimahri Wilson.
St. Viator will need to beat a pesky St. Patrick and creative scorer Austin Freeman. The Lions did just that in the regular season, easily beating the Shamrocks 60-42.
CSL South rubber-match
Glenbrook South and Evanston are meeting in a game that pits two programs from the same Central Suburban League South but with vastly different basketball history. Perennial powerhouse Evanston finished third in the state last year and has 15 sectional titles; Glenbrook South won its fifth regional in 55 years and has never won a sectional.
But Glenbrook South, with the most victories since 2005-2006, has confidence in knowing it owns a win over Evanston. These two split during the regular season. Can Dom Martinelli’s breakout season –– the junior is averaging 24 points and nearly seven rebounds a game –– and the rebirth of Glenbrook South basketball continue?
That’s a tall order for Glenbrook South. This is an Evanston team that’s on a mission and one that boasts so much big-game experience to go with the defensive pressure it applies. Throw in the multiple weapons it has in a pair of career 1,000-point scorers in Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden, along with a future 1,000-point scorer in sophomore Blake Peters, and the Wildkits remain the clear favorite in the Niles North Sectional.
Other interesting rematches
There are a whole slate of highly-anticipated rematches in the sectional semifinals, starting with Homewood-Flossmoor and Bloom meeting for a third time. Bloom beat H-F twice this season by a combined six points, including a 60-58 overtime win.
Downers Grove North edged Lake Park 53-51 way back in November and will meet again in the Bartlett Sectional.
Fremd takes on a Waukegan team it beat 66-60 in the Wheeling Hardwood Classic in December, while Waubonsie Valley will have to beat Oswego East for the second time in three weeks after handing the Wolves a 67-58 defeat in late February.
In Class 3A, Johnsburg and Burlington Central will collide for a third time after splitting two games in the regular season, including a February matchup where Burlington Central star Patrick Mayfield made two free throws with 2.5 seconds to play for a 72-71 win.
Bolingbrook. West Aurora. Sectional … Again.
As if a team needs added motivation and ammunition at this time of the year, Bolingbrook should have it coming into its sectional semifinal with West Aurora Tuesday night at East Aurora.
A year ago Bolingbrook’s season ended in a sectional championship game loss to West Aurora. Like this year, the Raiders were the No. 1 seed before West Aurora, behind a monster performance from Jared Crutcher (26 points, 13 rebounds, 5 blocks), beat up on Bolingbrook in a 82-67 win.
Crutcher graduated and West Aurora, yet has still won 28 games to earn a No. 4 seed in this sectional. But it’s been over two months since the Blackhawks have played anyone near the caliber of Bolingbrook. Plus, the Raiders still have the veteran perimeter duo of Joseph Yesufu (Drake recruit) and Tyler Cochran (Northern Illinois recruit), along with emerging junior Darius Burford.