How will Super Tuesday unfold in Class 3A and 4A across Illinois? Here’s what you need to know as 16 teams in two classes vie for eight spots this weekend in Peoria.
Normal Super: Belleville West (29-2) vs. West Aurora (25-4)
These are arguably the two hottest teams playing each other in any super-sectional. Belleville West hasn’t lost to an in-state team all season while West Aurora hasn’t lost since December.
Even with the star power 6-5 Jared Crutcher and ultra-athletic Camron Donatlan provide, West Aurora offers a balanced attack with key role players in Traevon Brown, Damian Virgen and Ben Young. When those three are making shots, the Blackhawks become a tough-to-defend team. West Aurora is very comfortable running its man offense as long as it can take care of the basketball against pressure.
The matchup between the fast-rising Crutcher and Belleville West junior star E.J. Liddell will prove to be pivotal. The long, active Crutcher has been a monster in the second half of the season –– he scored a career high 28 points in the regional championship and went for 26 points and 14 rebounds in the sectional win over Bolingbrook. Crutcher will need to stay out of foul trouble for the Blackhawks to have a chance of advancing to Peoria.
The 6-7 Liddell (20.7 ppg), however, is the state’s best junior and a matchup nightmare for West Aurora. Big, strong, productive and skilled on the offensive end, Liddell is also a true difference-maker on the defensive end. He’s approaching 200 blocked shots on the season. Keep an eye on Wright State recruit Malachi Smith (15.8 ppg), who is one of the state’s best-kept secrets in the senior class.
While Liddell and Smith are the big names for Belleville West, it was junior guard Lawrence Brazil who stepped up with 19 points in the sectional title game win over Moline. Brazil, Smith, Liddell and Jaylin Mosby are all three-point threats as each has connected on at least 25 three-pointers this season.
The pick: Belleville West 66, West Aurora 60
DeKalb Super: Larkin (23-8) vs. Benet (27-4)
Benet is absolutely rolling, winning every game it has played since December. The Redwings are on the cusp of reaching Peoria for the third time in five years. Everything about this team and the road it has suggests it is on its way to Peoria, including dismantling Willowbrook 67-40 in the sectional title game. Larkin lost to Willowbrook in January.
With a win, Larkin will be making its first-ever trip to state. But can it break Benet’s defense? Will Larkin star Anthony Lynch find his way to the basket on drives? Can Larkin speed Benet up, get out in transition and avoid as many halfcourt sets as it can?
Benet has made strides all season, particularly in taking care of the basketball, while David Buh is one of the more underrated two-way players with his shooting and defense. And Benet’s pack line defense is a neutralizer. It’s simply a challenge to score 40-plus points on this Benet team.
Offensively, Jacob Petrovic nailed five threes and Colin Crothers and Will Engels scored 13 and 17 points, respectively, in the sectional romp over Willowbrook, but the foundation of Benet’s success has been Buh.
When Larkin loses a game, it tends to do so emphatically. There have been five double-digit loss margins this season. But those losses seem to be in the rearview mirror. The Royals have played so many tight games over the past month. Their final four regular-season wins came by a total of 10 points, including a three overtime game. They’ve won their four state tournament games by seven, three, six and five points.
Larkin is fueled by the inside-outside tandem of 6-9 Jalen Shaw, who is a regular double-double, and Lynch, a senior guard averaging 21 points a game. These two players have played in plenty of meaningful March games over the past two years. Now it’s a matter of doing something this team and program has never done before.
The pick: Benet 47, Larkin 42
Hoffman Estates Super: Lake Zurich (26-7) vs. Evanston (25-5)
Lake Zurich is sky high after winning its first sectional championship in program history, while Evanston is playing in its third super-sectional –– and second straight –– under coach Mike Ellis.
The Lake Zurich has had an advantageous path to the super-sectional. Now the trio of Ryan Kutsor, Peter DiCerbo and point guard J.R. Cison will have to handle the speed, quickness and attacking style of Evanston. If it can do that –– and this three-point shooting team manufacture open looks and knock down shots –– the Bears can pull off the upset.
Evanston has impressed in winning arguably the toughest sectional in the state. They were impressive in beating New Trier by 12 points in the sectional title game. They were impressive in the way they punched back after letting a huge lead over Loyola slip away in the sectional semifinal. That speaks to the maturity of a team that had very little experience when the season began.
The Wildkits, who can turn their defense to transition offense in a hurry, are fueled by the perimeter firepower Lance Jones (16.5 ppg), Jaheim Holden (15.3 ppg) and Blake Peters (9.5 ppg) provide. Evanston hopes to take a page out of Niles North’s book. The fellow CSL South team walloped Lake Zurich 70-43 back in December.
The pick: Evanston 66, Lake Zurich 58
Chicago State Super: Simeon (29-3) vs. Young (26-7)
While Young is chasing after its second straight state championship, Simeon has played the role of favorite all season long. Both have been battled-tested. Both have lived up to the preseason hype that comes with the territory of being Simeon and Young.
These two are so familiar with one another. Young beat Simeon in last year’s Class 4A state championship. Simeon beat Young, 64-53, a month ago in the city playoffs. Each team knows what it’s up against.
Look for guard-oriented Young, led by the star combination of Javon Freeman and point guard Xavier Castaneda, to try and speed Simeon. In that last meeting, the Dolphins had no answer for 6-5 Messiah Jones. The athletic 6-5 Jones went for 23 points 14 rebounds. Can the likes of Castaneda, Freeman, Myles Baker and Tyler Beard attack the basket and get Jones in foul trouble?
Then there is the dilemma of dealing with Simeon’s versatile 6-4 Talen Horton-Tucker, the Sun-Times Player of the Year. Horton-Tucker is skilled and can be a bully physically with his size and body. He’s captured the state’s attention. Unheralded Kejuan Clements has been big for the Wolverines, particularly in their come-from-behind win over Marist in the sectional final.
The pick: Simeon 62, Young 56
Joliet Central Super: Morgan Park (22-9) vs. North Lawndale (18-10)
That 30-point sectional win over Bogan last Friday night was a statement. It was a statement saying that, yes, the defending state champions are clearly the team to beat with eight teams remaining in Class 3A.
Ayo Dosunmu, who scored 28 points in the sectional title game victory, is healthy and has returned to his difference-making ways. Cam Burrell, an athletic and active 6-6 senior, has been highly productive all season long, while sophomore star Adam Miller, senior Kenyon Duling and sophomore Marcus Watson have all had their moments.
Down the stretch of the regular season, North Lawndale went 1-7 in its final eight games. Then the Class 3A playoffs hit and the Phoenix have taken off. Demetrius Douglas averages 19.7 points and 4.3 assists a game. Rugged athlete David Forrest is another weapon at 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds a game.
But while Douglas and Forrest do create problems for opponents, this is not the North Lawndale powerhouse team of a decade ago when it brought home three state trophies, including a state title in 2008.
The pick: Morgan Park 80, North Lawndale 65
DeKalb Super: Metamora (20-11) vs. Marian Catholic (24-5)
Marian Catholic reached two super-sectional games in Class 4A with superstar Tyler Ulis in 2013 and 2014 but fell short. Now coach Mike Taylor’s team, led by the guard tandem of junior Malik Tidwell (18.3 ppg) and sophomore Ahron Ulis (13 ppg), get a shot at winning a Class 3A super-sectional and making the program’s first-ever trip to state.
This is some unchartered water for a Metamora basketball program that won just its fourth regional title in 30 years and the first sectional championship in history. The 11 losses may immediately jump out at you, but the Redbirds have played a competitive schedule.
Collin Dietz is Metamora’s go-to player but Andrew Buis stepped up with a big sectional performance, leading the Redbirds with 21 points in the win over Sterling.
The pick: Marian Catholic 55, Metamora 50
Springfield Super: Springfield Southeast (28-3) vs. Marion (22-11)
The old adage it’s hard to beat a good team three times didn’t apply to Springfield Southeast. The Spartans, who knocked off rival Lanphier for a third time in the sectional final, are now one win away from reaching their first-ever state finals.
Southeast is balanced with several scoring options and weapons that can hurt you. Anthony Fairlee is a highly entertaining junior, a dynamic athlete and a player who has emerged as a Division I prospect. Senior Kobe Medley is a dangerous shooting threat from beyond the arc and a host of juniors, including point guard Terrion Murdix, Stephen Sims and 6-6 Michael Taylor, all chip in.
This has been a dream-like run for Marion this March.
After a miraculous comeback and final 13-0 run to stun Carbondale in the regional final, 61-59, Marion stunned East St. Louis at the buzzer, in overtime, to win a sectional championship. Marion found itself down 12 points to ESL in the fourth quarter before another dramatic comeback win as Cole Schafer drilled a three-pointer at the buzzer. Marion is led by Justin Saddoris who scored 20 points in the sectional win.
It’s time to get used to Southeast, who have put together a brilliant season and will return nearly every key player next season.
The pick: Springfield Southeast 67, Marion 60
Hoffman Estates Super: North Chicago (21-8) vs. Rockford Boylan (22-10)
North Chicago is back. During a seven-year run from 2008 through 2014 North Chicago won six sectional championships. After falling short in each of the last three seasons, the WarHawks broke through with an upset win over DePaul Prep to capture the program’s ninth sectional title overall.
Tyrek Cooper and his shooting and scoring ability must be accounted for, but it was Raeshaun Samoa who made his presence felt in the win over DePaul Prep with 17 points and 15 rebounds.
Boylan won 27 games a year ago but lost in the sectional, graduating a bunch of seniors from that team. So this is a relatively young team that’s learned and grown over the course of the season. The Titans began the season 8-8 but have since gone 14-2.
Senior Ben Ambrose has been big down the stretch for coach Brett McAllister, but the majority of contributors are juniors and sophomores. The emergence of 6-3 sophomore Anthony Brown has been a spark.
The pick: Rockford Boylan 52, North Chicago 49
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