Here is the best of everything the Class 3A and Class 4A regional championship games have to offer Friday night from around the Chicago area and across the state.
Best regional championship game in Illinois
▪ Springfield Lanphier (25-4) vs. Lincoln (25-5)
A pair of teams both ranked among the top 10 in Class 3A with a combined 50 wins meet in one heck of a regional final in a loaded sectional.
Lincoln was won 12 straight games, including impressive wins over state-ranked Class 4A teams Normal West and Bloomington. Lanphier, led by senior Cardell McGee (18.4 ppg), has hopes of returning to Peoria after finishing fourth in the state last season in Class 3A.
Best regional in western suburbs
▪ Hinsdale South (21-6) vs. Willowbrook (24-5) (at Hinsdale South)
A pair of 20-plus win teams from the same conference, seeded fourth and fifth in the sectional, meeting for a third time after splitting during the regular season.
There is an exciting, star player in Hinsdale South’s Zion Griffin. There is the cagey, productive veteran in Willowbrook’s Ethan Schuemer who has meant so much to this program’s record-breaking two-year run.
What more could you ask for?
Willowbrook won the December matchup, 61-53, while Hinsdale South won the rematch in early February with a 69-63 win. The latter was played at Hinsdale South, where the regional title game will be played, and included Griffin’s signature moment of the season with 39 points and 17 rebounds.
Best regional in north suburbs
▪ Maine South (22-7) vs. Loyola (23-6)
The City/Suburban Hoops Report loves the potential of these two teams going forward in the sectional. But it first must get through this grind of a regional title game. And it’s a toss-up.
One of the reasons high school basketball is so beautiful is because it encourages and allows for different styles of play. Loyola and Maine South epitomize that thought. These are fundamentally sound teams with some old-school throwback to them.
These are teams and programs that are defined by their unselfishness and how they both make it so challenging for opposing teams at both ends of the floor. Give credit to the culture and systems Loyola coach Tom Livatino and Maine South coach Tony Lavorato have instilled in their respective programs.
Going back and forth in picking this evenly matched game, the City/Suburban Hoops Report went with the team with more size, a little more offensive punch and, most importantly, the one playing with the comfort of being in its own gym.
Best regional in south suburbs
▪ Brother Rice vs. Kenwood (at Bradley)
This one would have a little more juice if it was being played in Chicago. But this 4-5 sectional seed/Catholic League-Public League matchup should be a good one, even if they have to make the trek to Bradley. These two met back in December with Kenwood pulling out a 49-46 squeaker.
Brother Rice junior Marquis Kennedy has been a difference-making guard all season, while junior point guard Artese Stapleton and the senior tandem of R.J. McGee and Nas Turner leads Kenwood.
Best individual regional matchup
▪ Ryan Davis vs. Drew Peterson
When Conant and Libertyville meet up Friday night in the regional championship game at Deerfield, the two teams will boast two of the top 10 seniors in the Class of 2018. Both Davis, who is a recruiting steal for Vermont, and the unsigned Peterson are legit, go-to players you win with in March.
Davis is averaging 25 points and 11 rebounds a game while shooting 80 percent from the line. Peterson, who has surpassed 1,500 career points, puts up 26 points, eight rebounds and four assists a game.
Best chance for a No. 1 to go down in regional championship
▪ No. 1 Naperville North vs. No. 8 Geneva (19-12)
Naperville North is the better team, will be playing at home and has an impressive 25-2 record. But there may not be a No. 1 seed in more danger. This Geneva team is very capable of winning this game.
The Vikings have a point guard in savvy Jack McDonald to control the game the way outstanding players at the position do. And there is perimeter shooting, including talented Mitch Mascari.
Geneva has also played a much more competitive schedule in preparing for March, including the tough Upstate Eight River slate –– two games each with St. Charles East, St. Charles North, Batavia and Larkin –– and non-conference battles with Evanston (22 wins), Quincy (23 wins), Lake Zurich (23 wins), Carmel (18 wins) and Prospect (22 wins).
Best chance for 4A team under .500 to win a regional
▪ No. 1 Evanston (22-5) vs. No. 9 Notre Dame (14-15)
While it’s a big mismatch when looking at the seeds and records, Notre Dame poses a mismatch for Evanston that could spring an upset. Evanston is so vulnerable to a team with size, and Notre Dame boasts talented and versatile 6-9 Dusan Mahoric. But the Wildkits have put together too good of a season for it to end here.
Best chance for 3A team under .500 to win a regional
▪ No. 4 De La Salle (9-14) vs. No. 6 Westinghouse (7-18)
A pair of top six sectional seeds with a combined record of 16-32 meet. So at least one sub-500 team is going to win this regional. Life in Class 3A.
De La Salle is the pick here.
Best chance for a double-digit seed to win a regional
The choices are few as there are only five double-digit seeds still alive heading into the regional final –– a pair of No. 10 seeds in 4A in Fremd and Bloom, along with No. 12 seed Bartlett, and two No. 11 seeds in Class 3A in Wauconda and and Lindblom.
While Bartlett, fresh off an upset win over Batavia, will be at home against Wheaton South, the answer is Bloom.
Coach Dante Maddox’s Blazing Trojans head to No. 2 seed Marist Friday night.
Bloom has continued to get better as the season has played out, and that should be no surprise with a collection of sophomores more seasoned in February and March than in November and December. Bloom has won nine of its last 10 games, including a whopping 84-64 win over seventh-seeded Thornwood in the regional semifinals.
While the City/Suburban Hoops Report has Marist and senior star Morgan Taylor advancing to the sectional, Bloom is dangerous behind the sophomore foursome of Dante Maddox, Jr. (15 ppg), Keshawn Williams (15 ppg), Donovan Newby (11 ppg, 6 apg) and 6-9 Martice Mitchell (9 ppg).
Best regional atmosphere
▪ Evanston vs. Niles Notre Dame at Glenbrook South
The regional semifinal doubleheader earlier this week –– Evanston vs. Glenbrook South and Notre Dame vs. Maine West –– brought out the fans. With the stakes higher and both fan bases traveling well, you can expect a fun, raucous crowd.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport