The big games are back and gyms will be filling up Friday night across the area for regional championship games in all classes.
Here is a Weekend Forecast — IHSA regional edition — previewing the best games with some picks in regional championship play.
Riverside-Brookfield (22-5) vs. Oak Park (16-10)
These two met nearly three months ago with R-B pulling out a 73-66 win.
Following a midseason hiccup by R-B, the Bulldogs have won eight of their last nine. There are plenty of offensive weapons to choose from among a group of efficient seniors in guard Joevonn McCottry, shooter JP Hanley and versatile Joe Gilhooley.
The balance of the Bulldogs wins out over Oak Park’s 1-2 punch of senior Justin Mullins and athletic junior Sam Lewis.
The pick: Riverside-Brookfield 70, Oak Park 61
Lyons (24-5) vs. Proviso East (22-7)
What Proviso East team will show up? The one that ended the regular season with an upset win over highly-ranked Hillcrest or the one that was lit up by Lyons earlier this season in a 30-point defeat?
The Pirates snuck out of its regional semifinal game with a 71-70 win over Lincoln Park.
If the three ball is falling for the Pirates, Lyons will be in for a game — and certainly one that is much closer than the first meeting. Javon Johnson and Jaloni Johnson are bonafide perimeter scorers, but senior guard Dakari Presley has been on a red-hot streak of late.
Lyons is balanced. Steady point guard Tavari Johnson, an Akron recruit, leads Lyons with his combination of scoring and playmaking, but it’s been 6-6 junior Nik Polonowski’s emergence over the course of the season that has propped the Lions up to another level.
The pick: Lyons 64, Proviso East 57
Kenwood (23-8) vs. Oak Lawn (25-6)
Oak Lawn won its first conference championship in 39 years this season. And it’s been 34 years since the last regional title.
There will be energy and an atmosphere the underdog Spartans can feed off early playing on its home floor.
This team plays defense and can make threes, key ingredients for any upset. But Johnny McGowan, Nicco Reyes, big man Davion Lawrence and the Spartans are going to have to sustain their energy for 32 minutes.
Kenwood, led by the backcourt of Trey Pettigrew and Darrin Ames, has multiple weapons and can wear down the Spartans over four quarters. They’re going to attack you all night long. And when Darius Robinson is connecting along with Pettigrew and Ames – and you throw Davius Loury into the mix – it can get away from an opponent in a hurry.
The Pick: Kenwood 67, Oak Lawn 54
Bloom (21-5) vs. Brother Rice (24-6)
Is this one of those 4-5 seed toss-ups?
Bloom, the Southland Conference champs, went on a little run to close out the season and regained some momentum along the way. Now they’re in position to win a regional in the always up-for-grabs 4-5 seed game.
The Blazing Trojans don’t have one go-to star but a host of players who can attack at both ends, including guards Jordan Brown, Kimarrion Cobb, Gianni Cobb and Raeshom Harris. Then there is 6-7 big man Emondrek Ford-Erkins who is a factor defensively.
Brother Rice scuffled down the stretch, albeit against the toughest part of its schedule. But this is a junior-dominated team, led by point guard Ahmad Henderson and shooter Nick Niego, that’s better because of it.
The pick: Brother Rice 61, Bloom 58
Glenbrook North (23-7) vs. Evanston (20-9)
This should be a fun one. A pair of 20-win Central Suburban League South teams who split during the regular season square off again. But a whole lot more is on the line in this regional final at Evanston.
Glenbrook North has the offensive firepower. Versatile junior scorer Ryan Cohen, shooter Blake Lidskin and sophomore spark plug point guard Josh Fridman have the ability to crank up the production. Fridman is a key but suffered an injury late in the regional win over Taft Wednesday night. GBN could be in trouble if he’s unable to go or is even less than 100 percent.
Evanston, led by senior guard Roshawn Bost, David Gieser and 6-6 junior Prince Adams, is a program accustomed to winning these exact types of games. While the Wildkits have been a rollercoaster all season, this would be the eighth straight regional title for the Wildkits.
The Pick: Evanston 55, Glenbrook North 52
Wheaton Warrenville South (30-2) vs. Bartlett (25-6)
The initial focus in this one — or any game featuring Bartlett — will be how the height-challenged favorites defend Bartlett’s 7-3 Conrad Luczysnki. He’s a rim protector defensively with 4.2 blocks a game while averaging 18.4 points, 12.5 rebounds and 3.2 assists.
Luczynski demands obvious attention and has some shooters surrounding him, including sophomore Kelton McEwen (13.5 ppg, 44 percent from three).
But Bartlett’s hands will be full in its own way, starting with handling Wheaton South’s ball press defense. It’s easy to get bogged down by the Tigers. Will the Hawk be able to get into its offense efficiently?
Then there is Wheaton Warrenville South’s cohesive offensive system featuring Tyler Fawcett (13 ppg).
Throw in the fact Wheaton South will be playing at home and the program’s. record-breaking win total rises.
The Pick: Wheaton South 44, Bartlett 37
Joliet West (18-11) vs. Neuqua Valley (21-10)
Neuqua is a 20-plus win team that has flown under the radar a bit. Throw in some homecourt advantage and maybe the Wildcats can grab some attention with a regional title.
Neuqua returned very little from a year ago and has still churned out 21 wins. This is a no-name group without a star but senior Jayden Dean is a capable shooter and scorer.
Joliet West is looking to make a run with a relatively young team but one that’s been banged up. Star freshman Jeremiah Fears has missed two weeks and is questionable for Friday. Junior Jayden Martin returned this week after a month off.
Sophomore Justus McNair has blossomed and the midseason addition of Toby Onyekonwu has made this team a much bigger threat in the postseason. The Stonybrook commit has been a consistent force, averaging 21 points four assists a game with five 30-plus point games.
Another one of those 4-5 seeded matchups that seems as if it could go either way. But Joliet West has won eight of its last nine while Neuqua Valley has lost four of its last seven.
Joliet West has played a tougher schedule and is a different team in the second half of the season with Onykonwu than it was when it went 10-10 in its first 20 games.
The pick: Joliet West 57, Neuqua Valley 53
Lemont (24-7) vs. Marian Catholic (20-10)
Arguably the best of all the Class 3A regional title games in the area.
The individual battle between defensive stalwart Jeremiah Jones of Marian Catholic, who can also provide some offensive punch, and high-scoring Lemont sophomore Nojus Indrusaitis will be entertaining.
Marian Catholic has played very well in the second half of the season, including an East Suburban Catholic Conference Tournament title last week, and has prepared itself well with a strong schedule.
The Pick: Marian Catholic 58, Lemont 53