By Joe Henricksen
The Class 4A and 3A sectional semifinal matchups will be played throughout the state on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here is a look at 10 storylines to follow in preparation for sectional final Friday.
10. The city’s unknown
Simeon. Whitney Young. Morgan Park. Brooks. Crane. Orr. … These are the city teams we’ve heard about and have become familiar with over the past four months. The casual high school basketball fan can name a dozen players from this list of teams. But either King, Hope, Harper or Lindblom will be advancing to a Class 3A supersectional next Tuesday as these four square off in the King Sectional. Go ahead and name a handful of players from these four.
9. Proving grounds
Wheaton Academy has heard enough about its schedule strength and people questioning its 27-1 record, which includes a perfect record against in-state opponents. A win over top-seeded Crane in the semifinals of the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional would go a long way in silencing the critics.
8. At least one Cinderella will advance
The New Trier Sectional is guaranteed of one thing: an appearance by Cinderella in the sectional title game this Friday night. That’s because the Schaumburg-Niles West sectional semifinal winner will produce a double-digit seed — Schaumburg is the No. 15 seed and Niles West the No. 11 seed — in the title game. After losing both regular-season games to Maine South, Niles West upset the Hawks in overtime to win the regional. After a five-game losing streak in January, Niles West has won seven in a row.
7. Second chances
The regular season was not what Orr had anticipated or hoped for, but it’s a new beginning. With a regional title and a looming sectional semifinal date with Riverside-Brookfield on Wednesday, the last four months don’t matter a whole lot to coach Lou Adams and the Spartans. Orr star Mycheal Henry and Company have their hearts set on a Class 3A state appearance in Peoria.
6. Big-time test for defending 3A champs
Hillcrest is still a viable Class 3A threat as the Hawks try to defend their 2010 state title. After walloping both regional opponents by a combined 80 points, Hillcrest gets its first test of the 2011 postseason — Wayne Blackshear and Morgan Park.
5. The Rematch
Crete-Monee and Homewood-Flossmoor, arguably the top two teams in the south suburbs, meet in the Thornwood Sectional semifinal. It will be a rematch of a January meeting that Crete-Monee won 67-62 in a game that really wasn’t as close as the score would indicate. Crete-Monee, which received 24 points from Jamee Crockett and 11 assists from point guard Michael Orris in that earlier matchup, led 48-27 at one point in the second half. This one will be different. Homewood-Flossmoor’s talented 6-8 junior Tim Williams is back playing and makes a world of difference for coach Jim McLaughlin’s club.
4. The Rematch: Part II
The Niles basketball community will be front and center Tuesday night when Niles North and Niles Notre Dame meet in a rematch, only with much more on the line this time around. The two did meet in a high-profile matchup in December in the Wheeling Hardwood Classic title game, which Notre Dame won 61-50. But this is certainly a different Niles North team. Sophomore Malachi Nix has a dozen-plus more games under his belt and Cassius Bell is a much bigger factor than he was in December. Niles North, an impressive 15-1 since that loss to Notre Dame, also boasts a player who is very capable of putting a team on his back in Abdel Nader (see storyline #8).
3. Abdel Nader
An intriguing talent who had a monster game in the regional final, scoring 36 points and pulling down seven rebounds in the win over Glenbrook North. Nader is a matchup nightmare at the high school level, with an ability to step out and change the game with his perimeter shooting to the three-point line and beyond, while also using his size around the basket on both ends of the floor. How good is Nader? The 6-7 Nader (26 ppg) is obviously capable of being a dominating figure this March. While Nader will most likely head to a prep school for a year and re-classify as a Class of 2012 prospect, he would certainly be the top prospect in what is a rather weak junior class in Illinois.
2. Heavyweight battle in Elmhurst
A pair of individually loaded teams square off in Elmhurst in a monster sectional semifinal at York. There could be 10 Division I players on the floor at once when De La Salle and Whitney Young meet. Get a load of this short list of players: Whitney Young’s Sam Thompson, Tommy Hamilton and Derrick Randolph; De La Salle’s Mike Shaw, Dre Henley, Jaylon Tate, Alex Foster and Alvin Ellis.
1. Benet and the ‘Boat Show’
The state’s top-ranked team, Benet Academy, and the state’s most exciting player, East Aurora’s Ryan Boatright, go head-to-head in what will be a wild scene at one of the best high school basketball venues in the state. The defensive-minded Redwings will take their shot at containing the 32-plus point Boatright, who is one of the few players in the state who can absolutely dominate a game.