High School: Plainfield East
Here are a few prep hoops observations as the season reaches its most crucial weeks.
1. I was torn on whether or not to rank St. Viator this week: It has been the most dominant team in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, but the conference hasn’t been stellar this season. It’s also had a few questionable losses, including Naperville Central and Prospect. With St. Viator having three games this week, including back-to-back contests on Monday and Tuesday, I decided to rank the Lions and see if they were worthy of staying there. So far, they’re two for two. They needed to fight for both wins, but they did pull out victories against Nazareth and Prospect. Tuesday’s win also did come with some added adversity as its leading scorer Ore Arogundade was on the bench for most of the game with an ankle injury.
2. Plainfield East, which is ranked No. 6 in ESPNChicago.com’s poll , continued to prove itself as an elite team on Tuesday: The Bengals defeated St. Charles East 79-69 in overtime despite shooting 21-of-36 from the free-throw line. Brian Bennett (24 points) and Jawan Slaughter (20 points) led the way for Plainfield East. The Bengals (23-1) have shown throughout the season they have the inside and outside players to make a legitimate run come the playoffs.
3. While St. Viator and Plainfield East continued to validate themselves on Tuesday, York took a step back: After winning 13 consecutive games, the Dukes had a tough time against a quality Oak Park team on Tuesday night. Oak Park limited York’s offense and its star David Cohn in a 57-35 win. Cohn was 5-of-13 shooting and scored 14 points. With the win, the Huskies took the West Suburban Silver title. They’re also a team who could make a run in the playoffs.
4. Any remaining available tickets for Saturday’s City-Suburban Showdown will be on sale Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m. at Proviso West High School: Tickets are only currently available at the participating schools. The game was moved from the UIC Pavilion to Proviso West because of a NCAA rule, and the seating capacity dropped from 8,184 seats to around 2,000.
Here are five early observations to the 2011-2012 high school boys basketball season.
1: It’s going to be a crazy year: The preseason assumption was it was top-ranked Simeon and everyone else, and that couldn’t be truer through a few weeks of action. Try to follow these early results. Second-ranked Warren, which was thought to be Simeon’s biggest competitor, lost to Stevenson on Tuesday. Stevenson previously lost to Elgin, which lost to Geneva, which lost to Oswego, Naperville Central and Oswego East. Other teams which have at least one loss already include Crane, De La Salle, Downers Grove South, Farragut, Homewood-Flossmoor and Morgan Park.
2 So, who’s good: Well, of course, Simeon. The Wolverines are a work in progress as they figure out a few new roles, but they still rolled in their first two games against decent competition. Outside of Simeon, Proviso East, Andrew, Bloom, Plainfield East, Marist and Seton have proven to be the most consistent teams so far. Proviso East won its invitational at the Tournament of Champions in downstate Washington. Andrew won Crete-Monee’s tournament. Marist has a quality win over St. Rita. Seton knocked off Crane on Tuesday. Bloom has a win over Homewood-Flossmoor. Plainfield East defeated Downers Grove South.
3 Just good high school players: The Chicago area has its share of nationally-ranked players, but it also has a lot of simply good high school players. Some of the guys who been impressive so far are Crane’s Willie Conner, St. Rita’s Tony Hicks, Bloom’s Donald Moore and Seton’s J.R. Tolliver. Conner’s stock could especially rise as the season unfolds. He’s become a lot more than a shooter.
4 Catch Young while you can: Whitney Young only plays 11 games in Illinois and only four times at home this season. The Dolphins have a true national schedule, which takes them to California, Kentucky, New Jersey, North Carolina, South Carolina and West Virginia. They travel to North Carolina twice. Their biggest in-state game will be against Simeon at UIC on Dec. 22.
5 Eligible transfers: Crane received good news Monday when it discovered Markee Williams was eligible after transferring from Morgan Park. Hyde Park also had all four of its transfers, including Moshawn Thomas, approved. Crane and Hyde Park should be among the state contenders with those players on the floor.
No. 6 Glenbard North (7-0) at No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South (7-0) on Friday
The story: Wheaton Warrenville South has faced four ranked teams this season and has defeated them by a combined score of 155-40. Now, the Tigers will meet possibly their greatest challenge of the season in Glenbard North. The Panthers have remained undefeated thanks to a versatile running game and one of the area’s best defenses. They’ve allowed 73 points this season and have also defeated three ranked teams. Quarterback Reilly O’Toole and Wheaton Warrenville South’s offense will be unlike anything Glenbard North has seen this season. ESPN 1000 will be in attendance.
Glenbard North player to watch: Offensive right tackle Paul Wisniewski has been a major reason for the Panthers’ running success. He recently received an offer from Wyoming.
Wheaton Warrenville South player to watch: The Tigers’ passing game receives a lot of attention, but running back Matt Rogers has also done his part. He’s burned plenty of opponents this season.
Quotes: Glenbard North coach Ryan Wilkens – “ Offensively, they do everything. They run the ball from under center and the gun with Rogers and O’Toole. They use play-action pass, sprint outs and straight drop backs using multiple receivers. Defensively, they rally to the football, they fight the pressure well and take down double-teams.”
Wheaton Warrenville South coach Ron Muhitch – “Glenbard North is a very good power-running team. Their offensive line is very big and good at the run game. [Phil] Jackson and [Evin] Natick are very solid
runners and can break a long run anytime. Their defense is a solid unit that has been very good at keeping people out of the end zone with less than 10 points a game. Their defensive backs match up well with our offensive skills. It’s going to be a tough game for the Tigers.”
Prediction: Wheaton Warrenville South 35, Glenbard North 20
St. Ignatius (5-2) at No. 2 St. Rita (7-0) on Friday
The story: St. Rita won’t be overlooking crossover opponent St. Ignatius, but the Mustangs are fully aware that they close out the regular season with Loyola next week. The Ramblers are the only team keeping them from an outright Catholic League championship.
Prediction: St. Rita 41, St. Ignatius 10
Downers Grove North (1-6) at No. 3 Glenbard West (7-0) on Saturday
The story: Glenbard West will be looking to put together a clean game from opening kick to final whistle this week. They had their share of miscues in last week’s win over York. The Hilltoppers have another test in Lyons next week.
Prediction: Glenbard West 40, Downers Grove North 14
Notre Dame (5-2) at No. 4 Carmel (7-0) on Friday
The story: If someone’s looking for a possible upset this week, this could be one. Notre Dame has hung with everyone it has played this season. The Dons lost by 12 to Marist and by one to Marian Catholic. The Corsairs have shown, though, not to be a team that overlooks opponents. They would win the East Suburban Catholic title outright with a victory.
Prediction: Carmel 31, Notre Dame 20
Lane (3-4) vs. No. 5 Simeon (7-0) at Gately on Thursday
The story: Simeon hasn’t been tested since the opening week. That might not change until the playoffs either. The Wolverines look as if they can make a real run this season.
Prediction: Simeon 50, Lane 20
Marist (5-2) at No. 7 Joliet Catholic (6-1) on Friday
The story: These two teams created a great one last year with Marist pulling out a 24-17 win. The RedHawks went on to the Class 8A state championship game while Joliet Catholic advanced to the Class 5A one. That could happen again this season with both being contenders in their respective classes. Joliet Catholic has been putting up a whole lot of points all season. The Hilltoppers scored 73 of them in last week’s win over St. Patrick. Marist has only one in-state loss and is on the verge of being in the top 20 again.
Marist player to watch: RedHawks quarterback Luke Oosterbaan displayed his running ability in last week’s win over St. Viator. He scored three rushing touchdowns.
Joliet Catholic player to watch: Josh Ferguson is one of 11 remaining players in the running for the ESPNChicago.com Player of the Year award. He had three touchdowns in last week’s win.
Prediction: Joliet Catholic 38, Marist 34
Cary-Grove (5-2) at No. 8 Crystal Lake South (7-0) on Friday
The story: Crystal Lake South has won’t the Fox Valley Conference title since 1992. With two games remaining, the Gators are nearing that achievement, but they have to go through Cary-Grove as always for it. After winning the Class 6A state championship last season, the Trojans had a rough start to this season, losing their first two games. They’ve since won their last five, including a 23-20 overtime win over McHenry last week. On paper, Crystal Lake South may be the better team, but this is one of those games where anything can happen.
Cary-Grove player to watch: Quarterback Corey Latkas has continued to improve as the season has unfolded. He’s been consistent in running the team’s option attack and completing key passes when needed.
Crystal Lake South player to watch: Quarterback Drew Ormseth has been one of the area’s best this season. He’s a threat to run and pass the ball.
Quotes: Cary-Grove coach Bruce Kay – “The key to the game is ball control and turnovers. Their defense is very talented, and it will be difficult to make big plays. We need to keep the South QB on the sideline. Our kicking game has been very good all year, and we will need to make South play on long fields.”
Prediction: Crystal Lake South 28, Cary-Grove 27
Lincoln-Way Central (1-6) at No. 9 Lincoln-Way East (6-1) on Friday
The story: Lincoln-Way East is on the verge of winning the Southwest Suburban Blue. The Griffins’ next two opponents have a combined record of 1-13.
Prediction: Lincoln-Way East 49, Lincoln-Way Central 7
No. 10 Barrington (7-0) at Fremd (3-4) on Friday
The story: Fremd’s season hasn’t gone as expected. The Vikings were thought to be a state contender before the season, but now they must defeat highly-ranked Barrington just to keep their playoff hopes alive. Fremd has made 15 consecutive playoff appearances. As for Barrington, it has been one of the season’s bigger surprises. Just a year ago, the Broncos missed the playoffs after going 3-6.
Barrington player to watch: Running back Nico Martinez is returning to his old form after breaking his hand and missing the season’s first four games. He and Chase Murdock make up a tough backfield.
Fremd player to watch: Offensive lineman Brian Bobek is considered one of the best in the country. He’s headed to Ohio State.
Quote: Barrington coach Joe Sanchez – “As for keys for both teams, it will come down to which group can sustain and finish drives. I also believe special teams will play a key part in the game with regards to field position for both teams. Turnovers, which team can create extra opportunities and take advantage of them, will be big.”
Prediction: Barrington 24, Fremd 17
No. 11 Stevenson (7-0) at Libertyville (3-4) on Friday
The story: Stevenson looks to remain undefeated while Libertyville hopes to stay in the playoff hunt. Stevenson is known for its offense, but the Patriots have only allowed 83 points this season.
Prediction: Stevenson 35, Libertyville 17
Lake Forest (5-2) at No. 12 Vernon Hills (7-0) on Friday
The story: Can Vernon Hills shut out an opponent for the eighth consecutive week? This is will be its toughest challenge. Lake Forest has scored 256 points this season, which ranks second in the North Suburban Lake, and hasn’t been held to less than 13 points all season. The Cougars should be happy with just a win against Lake Forest.
Lake Forest player to watch: Junior running back Owen Williams can be tough to stop. He had 272 yards on 18 carries against Libertyville earlier this season.
Vernon Hills player to watch: Do-everything senior DaVaris Daniels has scored in almost every way possible this season. It’ll be interesting to see if he can find another way against Lake Forest.
Quote: Vernon Hills coach Tony Monken – “The difference in Lake Forest is they have a better balanced offense than we’ve played this year. When we crossover over to the big-school North Suburban division, we only play them once every seven years. It’s an uphill battle for us because they have more numbers than our program. When we have a crossover game, we try to sneak up on them. I don’t think we can sneak up on anyone this year. I think it’s going to be a heck of a ballgame.”
Prediction: Vernon Hills 34, Lake Forest 21
No. 20 Prospect (6-1) at No. 13 Elk Grove (6-1) on Friday
The story: The winner of this clinches at least a share of the Mid-Suburban East title. Prospect lost its season-opener, but has been winning big ever since. The Knights have one of the state’s most potent offenses with 292 points this season. Elk Grove’s offense isn’t too shabby itself. Led by quarterback Nick Meyer, the Grenadiers have scored 212 points a game. Prospect has won the last five meetings between the two teams.
Prospect player to watch: Quarterback Steve Dazzo threw for two touchdowns and ran for four in last week’s win over Wheeling. This will be a chance to really make a name for himself.
Elk Grove player to watch: Joey Bishoff has been Meyer’s favorite target this season. He has 33 catches for 455 yards and three touchdowns.
Quote: Elk Grove coach Brian Doll – "Prospect is very sound on offense. With great offensive line play and two strong running backs in Steve Dazzo and Peter Bonahoom, they force you to defend both of them on every play.”
Prediction: Elk Grove 42, Prospect 38
Mundelein (0-7) at No. 14 Lake Zurich (6-1) on Friday
The story: Lake Zurich’s defense has held opponents to 59 points this season. Outside of Libertyville and Stevenson, the Bears’ opponents have only scored 13 points.
Prediction: Lake Zurich 31, Mundelein 0
Naperville North (5-2) at No. 15 Wheaton North (5-2) on Friday
The story: Neither team may still be in the running for the DuPage Valley title, but there are playoff points to still be earned. Neither team wants to fall to 5-3 either. Both have lost to Glenbard North and Wheaton Warrenville South this season.
Naperville North player to watch: Antonio Owens can score in a variety of ways. He caught a touchdown pass and rushed for one last week.
Wheaton North player to watch: Wide receiver Johnny Daniels was the hero last week. He caught a game-winning touchdown as time expired.
Quote: Wheaton North coach Joe Wardynski – “We don’t have the big-name players that Naperville North does, but I do feel that we’re coming together well as a team right now. I’m hoping that the kids are starting to see that it takes offense, defense and special teams to win close ball games. In addition, it takes solid backups at several positions for a team to get good results on Friday nights.”
Prediction: Naperville North 27, Wheaton North 20
No. 16 Mount Carmel (5-2) at St. Laurence (4-3) on Friday
The story: The Caravan still have an outside hope of earning a share of the Catholic League title. The Corsairs have defeated Loyola and fell to St. Rita this season.
Prediction: Mount Carmel 35, St. Laurence 13
Gordon Tech (1-6) at No. 17 Loyola (6-1) on Saturday
The story: Like St. Rita, Loyola has taken Gordon Tech seriously this week, but also has taken a peak at next week’s all-important Catholic League game.
Prediction: Loyola 42, Gordon Tech 6
Plainfield East (1-6) at No. 18 Plainfield South (7-0) on Friday
The story: Plainfield South is tied for third in the state with 342 points this season. The Cougars have scored 50 or more points three times this year.
Prediction: Plainfield South 52, Plainfield East 10
No. 19 Schaumburg (5-2) at Palatine (4-3) on Friday
The story: Palatine may not have the record to show for it, but it’s been a handful for every one of its opponents this season. The Pirates’ losses have included a 28-21 to Lake Forest, 41-27 to Prospect and 17-16 to Fremd. They close out the season with Schaumburg and Barrington.
Prediction: Schaumburg 35, Palatine 17