Conference season review: Catholic League and Central Suburban League

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DePaul Prep’s Tyler Johnson (2) fires up a three against Peoria Manual, Saturday 03-16-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

This ongoing series will provide a recap of the season for each of the top conferences in the Chicago area, starting with a Catholic League and Central Suburban League review.

◼︎ Catholic League Blue

Preseason favorite: DePaul Prep

Conference champ: DePaul Prep

Signature moment: DePaul Prep not only won the league title but also reached Peoria, finishing third in the state in Class 3A behind Lawless Award winner Perry Cowan. The rise of this program under coach Tom Kleinschmidt has augmented Catholic League basketball.

Biggest surprise: St. Laurence was highlighted by the City/Suburban Hoops Report as a team to watch when the season began. But no one expected the Vikings would win 27 games, reach a sectional and crash the rankings.

Featured attraction: Marquise Kennedy of Brother Rice was dynamic, carrying his team in its biggest games and putting up some of the most impressive numbers of any player in the state. The Loyola recruit had some monster performances and was sensational in a regional final loss to Simeon to close out the season with 27 points, eight rebounds, eight assists, three steals and two blocks.

Breakout star: Bryce Hopkins of Fenwick put together a monster sophomore season and is among the top prospects in the state in the Class of 2021. The 6-5 wing picked up high-major offers and interest over the course of the season while putting up 22 points and seven rebounds a game. He scored 30-plus points in six games.

◼︎ Catholic League White

Preseason favorite: Leo

Conference champ: St. Rita

Signature moment: Providence St. Mel captured a Class 1A state championship, the storied program’s first state title in nearly 35 years. Thus, the Catholic League had representation in Peoria in each State Finals weekend with St. Mel and DePaul Prep.

Biggest surprise: There were several surprises, including St. Rita’s league title and Mount Carmel’s 23 wins. But while Leo did win 24 games, the Lions’ early-season headlines with the coaching controversy, their up-and-down play against top teams and not rising to the level of Orr in Class 2A when March rolled around was the biggest surprise.

Featured attraction: Josh Redic, Mount Carmel (see below)

Breakout star: There may have been bigger names in the Catholic White, but Mount Carmel’s Josh Redic was this season’s breakout player. He claimed the White Division’s Lawless Award after averaging 17.2 points and 6.2 rebounds a game. Redic just recently committed to Roosevelt University in Chicago.

◼︎ Central Suburban League North

Preseason favorite: Glenbrook North

Conference champ: Glenbrook North

Signature moment: Deerfield winning a regional championship before falling to Stevenson 35-29 in the sectional semifinals. The Warriors not only won their second regional in four years but set the tone for the 2019-2020 season with its strong finish, winning 10 of their final 12 regular-season games and a regional title in March.

Biggest surprise:Unlike past years when there always seemed to be a third team above .500 and making a surprise push –– a year ago it was Maine West that snuck up and won 19 games and a league title — there were no surprises. Glenbrook North and Deerfield were the only two teams to climb above the .500 mark.

Featured attraction: While the league may not be lined with star-studded individual players, Glenbrook North’s Brian Johnson was the key cog for the league champ. After averaging six points a game as a junior, the 6-5 Johnson stepped up with 15 points a game this past season in leading the Spartans to a conference championship.

Breakout star: He may not have put up monster numbers, but Deerfield’s 6-10 Brandon Lieb improved by the month, making a steady climb in the second half of the season and has evolved into a legitimate Division I prospect with his size and remaining upside. After averaging just 4.5 points and three rebounds a game as a developing sophomore a year ago, Lieb became a difference-maker as a junior.

◼︎ Central Suburban League South

Preseason favorite: Evanston

Conference champ: Evanston

Signature moment: The league has been so strong of late but Evanston has been the bell cow. Evanston’s return trip to Peoria was again the CSL South’s highlight this season. The Wildkits were ranked all season long, played a high-profile schedule and finished second in the state in Class 4A.

Biggest surprise: The lack of a March push from one of the top leagues was a little disappointing. Niles North lost in the regional semifinals as a No. 4 seed, while New Trier and Maine South lost in regional championship games as No. 2 and No. 3 seeds, respectively.

Featured attraction: Evanston’s two-year run featured remarkable balance, but it was Lance Jones, the Southern Illinois recruit, who led the charge. Jones averaged 16.1 points, 3.4 rebounds, three assists and three steals a game.

Breakout star: The numbers Glenbrook South’s Dom Martinelli put up were staggering. The junior finished the year averaging over 24 points and six rebounds a game while shooting 65 percent from the field.

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