Henricksen: Unlikeliest unbeatens

Wheaton-Warrenville South's Dillion Durrett (10) gets a finger roll to the basket against Napervillie North. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

Forget about the preseason ranked teams with unblemished records. Does an unbeaten Curie or Simeon surprise you at this point in the season?

Bolingbrook and Joliet West, two more unbeaten teams, were preseason top 10 teams.

And even unbeaten Jacobs has a Division I player in Cameron Krutwig and returned several starters from a 23-win, regional title team.

So while the ranks of undefeated teams continues to dwindle –– Fenwick fell for the first time this week –– let’s take a look at four of them who didn’t come into the season with the burden of heavy expectations yet head into the holidays with perfect records.

 

• Wheaton-Warrenville South

Record: 10-0

Biggest win: Beat Naperville North 43-42.

How they got here: The surprising start includes road wins over the two DuPage Valley Conference preseason favorites –– Naperville North and Wheaton North. But considering the Tigers graduated 91 percent of its scoring and 87 percent of its rebounding from last year, this is the biggest surprise of the unbeaten teams.

Coach Mike Healy’s team isn’t a world-beater; the Tigers recently won a game by scoring three points in two of four quarters. But it’s a balanced team that’s patient, defends with its systematic zone defense, shoots it well and flourishes without any big names. And 6-3 senior Dillon Durrett (14 ppg), Jake Healy (8 ppg), Drew Healy (7 ppg) and Chase Stebbins (7 ppg) play well together and are believing.

What’s next: The Tigers travel to the State Farm Classic in Bloomington-Normal where that unbeaten record will be put to the test. Thornwood could be waiting in the second round and North Lawndale in the semifinals. If the Tigers roll through the State Farm Classic next week, then we really have something to talk about.

 

• Fremd

Record: 9-0

Biggest win: Beat Conant 48-37.

How they got here: With an abundance of experience, leadership and chemistry, the Vikings have been on cruise control since the season tipped off. This team is locked in, beating all nine foes its faced by double digits with an average victory margin of 23 points a game.

While Fremd is fueled by a pair of under-appreciated seniors in 6-4 forward Brian Dompke and guard Kyle Sliwa, the group as a whole executes, shares the ball offensively and hasn’t allowed a team to score 50 points yet in any game.

What’s next: As the Hardwood Classic favorite next week, this unbeaten ride could continue on into January with four wins at Wheeling.

And of all the teams on this list, it’s Fremd with the best odds of running the table and going unbeaten this season. If it gets through the Hardwood Classic unscathed, the next date for a potential loss is the rematch with Conant –– at home ––Jan. 20.

 

• Geneva 

Record: 9-0

Biggest win: Beat Prairie Ridge 51-42.

How they got here: The schedule has been very favorable, beating just one team with a winning record. Aside from the Prairie Ridge win, the other eight victories have come against teams with a combined record of 25-50. But Geneva has built up some equity over the past few seasons, defying perceptions while putting together win totals of 25, 30 and 22.

Balance and production was expected from seniors Cole Navigato, Dom Navigato and Matt Johnston, but the Vikings have received a nice lift from sophomore guard Jack McDonald.

What’s next: Geneva heads to the DeKalb Holiday Tournament. Maybe the Vikings get a test from a West Chicago (7-2), Schurz (7-2) or Winnebago (6-1), but the potential for four more wins in a soft holiday tournament is very realistic. St. Charles North (8-1) is awaiting when the calendar turns to 2017.

 

• Marist

Record: 11-0

Biggest win: Beat Richards 66-47.

How they got here: With the schedule Marist has faced thus far, the “unlikely unbeaten” tag may not appropriately fit the Redhawks. Forget the fact Marist doesn’t have a signature win; it’s played only one team with a winning record.

After fattening up on a weak schedule, it’s hard to figure out how good this Redhawks team really is at this point.

Nonetheless, there was a lot of promise with this team when the season began. And with the perimeter duo of Maurice Commander and Morgan Taylor, along with 6-8 senior Justin Brown, this might be the most talented team on this unbeaten list. They’re just waiting for their chance to prove it.

What’s next: The schedule will get more difficult very soon. First, Marist will make its annual trek south to the Centralia Holiday Tournament where it will be tested. Then there is a mid-January swing where it will face Marian Catholic, Brother Rice and Benet in succession.

 

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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