Conference review: Red-South/Central, Red-North/West and South Suburban

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Young’s assistant coach consoles DJ Steward (21) after their loss to Curie, Friday 03-08-19. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

This ongoing series will provide a recap of the season for each of the top conferences in the area, continuing here with the top two conferences in the Chicago Public League, along with the South Suburban Red and the South Suburban Blue.

◼︎ Public League Red-South/Central

Preseason favorite: Morgan Park

Conference champ: Curie

Signature moment: There were so many signature moments to choose from in a league that proved it was the best in the state.

Bogan won the Proviso West Holiday Tournament and finished second in Class 3A. Curie won the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and city championship.

But a bright light shined on this league the night of the Class 4A and 3A sectional championship games. Curie beat state power Young out of the Red-West/North. Simeon finished off a south suburban run by winning arguably the state’s best sectional at Eisenhower. And Morgan Park and Bogan clashed in a sectional final, where Bogan finally got by its old nemesis.

Biggest surprise: Yes, Curie was a preseason top 10 team. However, the ride the Condors enjoyed from late November through early March was quite unexpected. Curie dominated while playing a rugged slate of games for four months with the only loss coming to an out-of-state power.

Featured attraction: There was no league with more featured attractions. The trio of Curie’s DaJuan Gordon, Morgan Park’s Adam Miller and Bogan’s Rashaun Agee were front and center in Player of the Year conversations and were all-staters. Simeon’s Antonio Reeves broke through upon his return to Chicago and became an all-state player and Division I prospect.

Breakout star: With the numbers and season Bogan’s Rashaun Agee put together, the 6-7 senior went from a keep-an-eye-on player to a legitimate star and all-state player. Agee was a double-double machine all winter long.

◼︎ Public League Red-North/West

Preseason favorite: Young

Conference champ: Young

Signature moment: State championships are a big thing and Orr won its third straight Class 2A state championship.

Biggest surprise: Lincoln Park went from unranked in the preseason and climbed into the top 10 at one point this season. The surprising Lions, who beat New Trier, Young and Bloomington, finished the year 23-8 before falling in the regional final to Riverside-Brookfield.

Featured attraction: DJ Steward, who arrived as an all-state transfer from Fenwick, put together a monster season in his first year in the Chicago Public League. The smooth junior guard was a must-see performer in a league loaded with talent as he averaged 24.3 points a game.

Breakout stars: There were a pair of Orr senior guards, Tujautae Williams and Sherif Kenney, who came out of nowhere to lift the Spartans to a Class 2A state championship. Williams emerged from a small role off the bench as a junior to an all-area performer and Class 2A all-stater, while Kenney became eligible in the second semester and took the Spartans to another level.

◼︎ South Suburban Blue

Preseason favorite: Hillcrest

Conference champ: Hillcrest

Signature moment: It was a season where signature moments were lacking with Hillcrest winning the league by three games and a short ride in the postseason. But Hillcrest did win its 18th regional title in the last 21 years.

Biggest surprise: Even though this is the third 20-plus win season under coach Matt Manzke in six seasons, it’s still just the third time in the last 30 years. So the 23 wins still came as a surprise and a year earlier than expected.

Featured attraction: Lemont’s Nate Ferguson, a Drake recruit and among the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s top 15 prospects in the Class of 2019, was the South Suburban Blue Player of the Year. The agile and bouncy 6-7 forward put up 20 points, eight rebounds, two assists and two blocks a game.

Breakout star: Take your pick from a trio of players, including the Oak Forest tandem of Jayson Kent and Robbie Avila and Hillcrest’s Julius Rollins.

Avila, a 6-6 freshman, broke out and averaged 14.5 points a game in his first varsity season, while Kent averaged 15.3 points a game. Rollins averaged 12.7 points, seven rebounds and two blocks a game for the Hawks. The good news for the league is all three return next year.

◼︎ South Suburban Red

Preseason favorite: Richards

Conference champ: Richards

Signature moment: The conference race was over early with Richards winning the league by three games. The top four teams in the league –– Richards, Shepard, Eisenhower and Oak Lawn –– all lost before reaching a regional final. So the signature moments came in the form of overall program success with Richards’ league title, Shepard’s 22 wins and Oak Lawn’s bright future.

Biggest surprise: There were some expectations at Shepard heading into the season. But then star player Chris Harrison, an athletic double-double threat, went down with an injury and missed 22 games. Yet the Astros, with the emergence of junior guard Burtron Harper, still managed to stay near the top of the league and churn out 22 wins on the year.

Featured attraction: Sam Osmani, Oak Lawn (see below).

Breakout star: Following a very productive sophomore season a year ago, Oak Lawn junior guard Sam Osmani broke through this past season to the tune of 22 points a game.

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