Regional rewind: Upsets, Catholic League dominance, West Suburban Silver success

There were plenty of highlights and storylines from Friday night’s regional championship games.

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Marmion’s Collin Wainscott (3) shoots from beyond the arc against Kaneland.

Marmion’s Collin Wainscott (3) shoots from beyond the arc against Kaneland.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

There is no better place to start any regional rewind story than with a buzzer-beater. To keep a season alive and win a championship in such a dramatic way is what fuels the state tournament fire across this state.

The emotions and celebration for everyone in that gym when that shot goes in? Euphoric. The memories are lasting and it’s a rare occurrence few players ever are able to experience.

There were several to enjoy and for fans to cherish in regional championship games throughout the area.

We start in Geneva where the Vikings took down the defending Class 4A state champs. Geneva senior Jimmy Rasmussen hit five threes in the game but his corner three, right in front of the Geneva student section, as the buzzer sounded gave the Vikings a stunning 43-42 victory.

In another beat-the-clock moment, Neuqua Valley and Lincoln-Way East engaged in a back and forth final minute. Neuqua Valley took the lead with 9.6 seconds to play. But Lincoln-Way East’s Kaiden Ross pulled up from 23 feet just before the buzzer to send the Griffins to their second sectional in program history with a 50-48 win.

In a regional final at Northridge Prep, Wheaton Academy inbounded the ball at halfcourt with 8.6 seconds remaining and the game tied 59-59. Before the xxxx could set up their own last-second shot, Northridge’s TJ Gorman snuck out of the 1-3-1 zone, intercepted a pass with momentum going the other way, took two dribbles and fed Ben Hanretty for a layup as the buzzer sounded to set off a wild celebration.

And while it wasn’t quite at the buzzer — and it was in the southern part of the state — O’Fallon’s Isaiah Camper’s putback basket with 1.7 seconds left to play won it, beating Belleville East 52-50.

There were plenty of highlights and storylines from Friday night’s regional championship games. Here are a few of them in this Regional Rewind.

West Suburban Silver shines

If not for the aforementioned buzzer-beating loss to Geneva, Glenbard West would have been the fourth regional champion from the West Suburban Silver Conference.

Nonetheless, it was quite an eye-opening night for a conference that has been one of the best throughout this 2022-23 season.

Hinsdale Central, Downers Grove North and Lyons entered Friday with a combined record of 82-11. All three played teams in regional championship games with 20-plus wins, including two that were ranked.

Hinsdale Central and Downers Grove North both took care of business with wins over 25-win Riverside-Brookfield and ranked Proviso East, respectively. But it was Lyons, which finished 8-4 in league play, that turned in the mild stunner, beating No. 3 seed and fifth-ranked Curie.

Now all three advance to what will be a West Suburban Silver party next week at the Hinsdale Central Sectional. Joining the trio will be Young.

Catholic League’s presence felt

With a whopping 11 regional championships claimed this past weekend, there will be a heavy Catholic League presence in sectional basketball this week.

All eyes will be on the biggest game of the bunch: St. Rita vs. Brother Rice. A pair of ranked teams seeded second and third will square off in a Class 4A sectional showdown at St. Rita Wednesday night.

In addition to the two Catholic League heavyweights, Mount Carmel, St. Ignatius, Fenwick, DePaul, De La Salle, St. Laurence, Marmion, St. Francis de Sales and Montini all won regional titles.

And how about Montini? After grinding through a 1-12 season in the rough-and-tumble Catholic League — and winning just four regular season games — coach Adam DeMong steered the Broncos to a second straight regional championship.

As the No. 7 seed in a nine-team regional, Montini won three one-possession regional games last week by a combined seven points.

Robert Smith’s final home game

The only drama surrounding Simeon’s lopsided regional championship win over Englewood was the fact it was the final game legendary coach Robert Smith would be coaching in the Simeon gym.

Considering all the high-profile city games Simeon has played in that gym over the two decades Smith has been the head coach — and years before that as an assistant — it had to be a pretty emotional night for Smith.

For Smith, it was nothing new; he’s never lost a regional game in his coaching career. But to win a regional plaque on the home floor was a nice way to cap off the final home game in his coaching career.

Now onto bigger, more important games for Smith and Simeon, starting with a sectional semifinal Tuesday night against St. Laurence at Glenbard South.

Upsets

There wasn’t an upset of magnitude in regional championship play. But the two biggest regional surprises — from a seed perspective — came in the same sectional.

No Class 4A or 3A team seeded lower than sixth claimed a regional title, except in the Grayslake Central Sectional.

A couple of East Suburban Catholic Conference teams, St. Patrick and Carmel, hooked up for the third time this season. St. Patrick took care of Carmel in both regular-season matchups, winning 45-37 and 39-33, and earned the No. 4 seed in the sectional. But Carmel, the No. 12 seed, upset St. Pat’s 45-32.

It was one year ago when St. Patrick ended Carmel’s season in a triple overtime sectional thriller.

There was another East Suburban Catholic Conference team pulling off an upset in the Grayslake Central. St. Viator, the No. 7 seed, took down third-seeded Deerfield 62-58.

The Mid-Suburban surprise

Calling Prospect’s regional championship win over Palatine a big upset probably isn’t accurate; No. 6 seed Prospect won the regular-season matchup, 49-48, back in December.

But there was just so much momentum in Palatine’s favor, starting with last week’s stunning Mid-Suburban League championship game upset win on the road over Rolling Meadows.

The Pirates came into the regional final having won 12 straight games and boasting an emerging star in junior Connor May. Plus, Palatine was playing on its home floor and feeling very good with a school record 25 wins.

Palatine coach Eric Millstone did a terrific job navigating a record-breaking season without a key piece all season. A football injury to Grant Dersnah, a 6-5 senior who was an all-MSL performer as a junior and the team’s second leading scorer, was a massive blow. Dersnah missed the entire season after averaging 11.2 points and five rebounds a game last season.

Prospect, however, has quietly put together one heck of a turnaround season after a slow start. Since a ho-hum 6-8 record in late December, the Knights went 12-3 heading into the Palatine regional rematch. And two of those three losses came to top 10 teams in Rolling Meadows (by just two points) and Hinsdale Central.

Those are never the type of teams you want to be playing early in the postseason. And these Mid-Suburban League rematches are simply never easy. So it was a recipe for potential disaster that couldn’t be overlooked when the brackets were released and Palatine was to face Prospect in the regional final.

Thanks to a big, game-changing three from Drew Terpins and the play of Brad Schneider and Alex Georgakas, who was the lone returning starter from a year ago, Prospect is headed to a sectional semifinal to face Stevenson.

Now it’s Prospect with a ton of confidence. Coach Brad Rathe’s team beat Stevenson 41-40 back in January.

Scharnowski’s dominance

Burlington Central graduated four starters from last year’s record-breaking 31-win season, which included a regional championship.

But the return of 6-9 Drew Scharnowski, along with some valuable role players stepping up in support of the star, were enough for a repeat regional championship.

Scharnowski, who is headed to Belmont next season, was dominant in leading the Rockets to their 28th win and a return trip to the sectional. He finished with 35 points, 17 rebounds and blocked eight shots in the 68-54 win over Wauconda.

Now Burlington Central, which is in search of its first sectional title in program history, will host the sectional. The Rockets will face Rockford Boylan in Wednesday’s semifinal.

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