St. Charles East and St. Charles North have separated themselves from the rest of the pack in the DuKane Conference.
The league, which was a merger of a few schools from the DuPage Valley Conference and the Upstate Eight Conference, is just in its second year of existence. But there are well-established rivalries and a bunch of competitive balance within it this year as six of the eight teams are above the .500 mark.
If both St. Charles East and St. Charles North can take care of business over the course of the next few says, the district rivals will set themselves up for a special Valentine’s Day treat for their fans. The Saints and North Stars are tied for the top spot in the DuKane with matching 8-1 records.
In addition, the St. Charles showdown is one week before the IHSA sectional seeding is completed, and it’s a winnable McHenry Sectional where both the Saints and North Stars will be among the favorites.
St. Charles North has Bradley recruit Connor Linke, a mammoth 6-9 big who averages a double-double with 11.7 points and 10 rebounds a game, and the veteran backcourt of Luke Scheffers and Christian Czerniak.
But St. Charles East is a hot team, winning seven straight and 11 out of its last 11 games. The Saints may not have a big name but there are a trio of double-figure scorers in Chase Monkemeyer (13.9 ppg), Thomas Ditsworth (10.8 ppg) and Sean Sullivan (10.4 ppg).
Zion-Benton’s star junior
With over 1,600 career points in just two-plus seasons, Amar Aguillard and scoring go together like a hand in a glove.
The 6-5 wing stepped into a big role as a freshman and scored the basketball immediately. He averaged 18.5 points a game as a freshman and 19 points a game as a sophomore last season.
But the run the big-bodied junior has been on of late has been eye-opening. He’s averaging over 30 points a game in his last 10 with his season average now at 27.5 points a game.
“The poise he has now, along with understanding what defenses are trying to do to him, is so much better,” says Zion-Benton coach Bobby Worthington. “He has a knowledge now of how to get open, to get what he wants on the offensive end.”
Aguillard has been a known commodity and a recognized space-the-floor shooter. Opponents have tried to take away that part of his game and run him off the three-point line. He’s answered by getting to the basket more and displaying what has become an effective two-dribble pull-up.
With a compact, strong build to go with his shooting range, Aguillard can be an effective matchup ploy now and in the future, contributing offensively in multiple ways. He can use his strength and frame to bully smaller matchups and and his athleticism and shooting range to beat bigger, slower defenders.
The rise of Clark
Terry Head is a program builder.
The veteran Public League coach built Foreman into a more than respectable program in his 17 years there. He won 18 games and a Blue-West title in one season at Clemente. Now, in just his fourth season at Clark, he has the school rising from the White-West to the Red-North/West next season.
With Clark being a magnet school on the West Side, along with what Head calls strong administration support, the affable coach believes the sky is the limit for his program.
“I think we are scratching the surface as a program,” says Head. “We don’t want to be a one-hit wonder, though.”
Although Head will lose four key players to graduation, Head’s sophomore team went unbeaten in conference play and is 19-3 on the year. That sophomore class includes guard Darrius Perryman (16 ppg) and promising 6-8 Suliman Agiste.
“We need to keep working in the gym,” says Head, who has a 261-159 career record in his three coaching stops. “We want to go out and play tough competition in the offseason, continue to develop and get better. That’s going to be the key for us in taking that next step as a program.”