After a whirlwind sectional finals across the state, there are 32 teams still playing basketball in Illinois.
Survive and advance.
From the likely to the unpredictable, every team left standing is one win away from playing in this weekend’s state finals in Champaign.
Here are previews for the top area supersectionals.
Young (24-9) vs. Kenwood (26-8) at UIC, 7:30
After splitting two regular season games, which team does the pendulum favor in this win-or-go-home showdown?
Kenwood beat Young 69-64 in the title game of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in December. Young bounced back with a 56-52 win in the city playoffs a month ago.
Kenwood’s backcourt of Trey Pettigrew and Darrin Ames is dynamic. Young has a pair of 6-8 big men in AJ Casey and Xavier Amos that creates mismatches and forces Kenwood to play bigger than it wants personnel wise.
The supporting cast for both teams can be spectacular at times as well.
Kenwood’s Davius Loury is a versatile 6-7 threat who will be needed badly against Young’s size inside, while senior Darius Robinson is a sniper from the three-point line.
Young’s Marcus Pigram was a monster in a sectional semifinal win over Riverside-Brookfield, while Dalen Davis’ point guard play seems to often dictate how well the Dolphins play.
There is superior talent all over the floor for both teams. But Young has shown a way of cranking up the defensive intensity a few notches when it’s time to make a point over the past month.
The pick: Young 63, Kenwood 62
Barrington (27-4) vs. Glenbrook South (33-2) at Forest View, 7
You have to love the senior combos these two teams lean so heavily on and their will to win.
Glenbrook South’s Nick Martinelli and Cooper Noard are built for big moments and generating crunch-time buckets. They form one of the most productive tandems in the state.
Barrington’s unsung duo of Will Grudzinski and Daniel Hong have been clutch and carried the Broncos to their first sectional title in 20 years.
But after playing such a quality schedule and getting through a tough sectional, Glenbrook South is the more battle-tested team –– and heavy favorite here.
The pick: Glenbrook South 58, Barrington 49
Glenbard West (34-1) vs. Larkin (31-3) at NIU, 7:30
Glenbard West, the top team in the state all season, hasn’t been challenged yet in the postseason.
And the Hilltoppers weren’t challenged the first time these two met in January, rolling to a 64-43 win. Glenbard West’s 1-3-1 gave Larkin’s guards all kinds of issues in that first meeting. At least Larkin’s fine perimeter trio of Damari Wheeler-Thomas, who is headed to North Dakota State, sophomore Jakob Blakley and Fernando Perez have gotten an up-close look already at Glenbard West’s vaunted defense.
Player of the Year Braden Huff and Company, though, will be a tall task for Larkin which has already set a school record for most wins in a season.
The pick: Glenbard West 68, Larkin 52
Simeon (27-5) vs. Lemont (27-7) at UIC, 6
The team with the best postseason story gets a shot at the state’s premier program.
The weighty circumstances of postseason basketball have not been too heavy of a burden for a young Lemont team, featuring the perimeter trio of sophomore Nojus Indrusaitis and junior twin brothers Matas and Rokas Castillo.
Lemont won a tough sectional as a No. 4 seed, beating Marian Catholic, Hillcrest and Thornton in succession to claim its first sectional title since 1975.
Simeon, however, has the pesky defensive guards, including disruptive Aviyon Morris, and a big advantage inside with 6-8 brothers Miles and Wesley Rubin.
The pick: Simeon 55, Lemont 50
St. Ignatius (22-12) vs. St. Patrick (23-10) at Hoffman Estates, 7
While St. Ignatius was expected to be here, St. Patrick is somewhat a surprise. But the Shamrocks’ 53-52 upset win over top-seed Lake Forest has longtime coach Mike Bailey on the cusp of his first-ever trip to the State Finals.
Standing in the way is St. Ignatius and Bailey’s former assistant for eight years, Matt Monroe.
St. Pat’s has won 10 of its last 11 games behind the play of productive veteran Timaris Brown. The 6-4 senior is a big reason why St. Patrick has the look of a team that could be playing in Champaign this weekend.
Plus, the Shamrocks have this sky-high momentum –– or a charmed postseason presence –– following a triple overtime win over Carmel in the sectional semis and a one-point win over Lake Forest in the sectional title game.
The general consensus when the season began was this is exactly where St. Ignatius would be at this point in time. There is experienced talent, led by senior guard AJ Redd, and bonafide weapons, which includes 6-4 junior Richard Barron.
The pick: St. Ignatius 51, St. Patrick 48
DePaul (25-5) vs. Leo (25-4) at Joliet Central, 7
These two battled for a Catholic League championship. While Leo won a league title, DePaul did beat the Lions 48-38 a month ago. The stakes are raised in this rematch with the winner emerging as the Class 2A favorite this weekend in Champaign.
Led by Catholic League Player of the Year Jakeem Cole and Cam Cleveland, few teams impose their will more or as consistently as Leo.
DePaul is once again gritty and defensive-minded with a matchup problem inside for opponents in 6-9 Dylan Arnett.
The pick: DePaul 44, Leo 42