Michael O’Brien’s notebook: March 18, 2018

Morgan Park's Nick Irvin receives a congratulatory handshake from Illinois head coach Brad Underwood after the Mustangs win a second consecutive 3A basketball state title by defeating Spingfield Southeast 71-56, March 17, 2018. | Allen Cunningham/ For the Sun-Times.

The season is over, but little was really settled. Four class basketball often leaves observers puzzled, even after the state championship trophies are awarded.

Young lost an overtime thriller to Belleville West in the Class 4A state championship game. Normally that would be more than enough to end the season on top of the Super 25, but Orr threw a wrench in that this season.

The Spartans beat Young twice this season, 71-55 in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament title game and 77-74 in overtime in the game that determined the Red-North/West champion in February at Orr.

Orr romped to the Class 2A state title two weeks ago and beat Curie in the city tournament before losing to Simeon in the city title game.

There hasn’t been a season in recent memory when the top five preseason teams all finished in the top five of the final rankings. That wasn’t a remarkable feat of prognostication, the Public League powers were just that much better than the other teams in the area this season.


Belleville West is the first team from outside of the Chicago area to win a big school state title since Peoria Central won AA in 2004. The Maroons will begin next season as the favorites in Class 4A.

EJ Liddell, the state’s top junior, will return. That would be enough to make the Maroons a force, but he isn’t alone. Keith Randolph Jr., the 6-5, 242-pound post player that gave Larkin and Young fits, is back next season as is Lawrence Brazil, the guard that won the title for the Maroons with a steal on the final play of the season.

Young returns several talented underclassmen: second-leading scorer Myles Baker, ultra-athletic sophomore Tyler Beard, guard Elliott Sieger, 6-5 Sangolay Njie and versatile junior Keenan Jones. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if the Dolphins picked up a high-profile transfer or two.

Morgan Park and Evanston look like the two prime contenders for preseason No. 1 honors, but all of that could change based on player movement over the summer.


Whenever officials from the Illinois High School Association and media from all over the state spend three days together, things are discussed. A few tidbits from the weekend that may or may not actually occur:

-The IHSA appears open to reformatting the state finals. It isn’t out of the question that they could switch to a one-weekend format that involves all four classes over four days the weekend before the NCAA basketball tournament begins.

-It’s possible there could be a significant change in class assignments next season. The smaller Class 3A schools have been complaining about the large enrollment gap in 3A, which could result in the enrollment yardsticks moving. Would that move Morgan Park up? The Mustangs were less than 60 students away from Class 4A this season. Stay tuned.

-The IHSA took this season’s Catholic vs. Public League transfer controversy seriously. It’s likely the IHSA will start to oversee and approve any transfers into the Public League from outside of the Public League. In the past that process was left to Chicago Public Schools.


  • reason

    back in the day not to long ago CPS schools had boundaries and in reality still do lets cut to the chase if kids were required to go to their boundary school how many CPS champs would there be do all the players at WY MP or Orr live within there boundary I will say no but if you are outside the city in a burb or anywhere else in the state in order to play for a public school you need to MOVE into that district. so the CPS supporters should not cry about a defeat they can just go out and re stock players just like MP with the kid from Peoria find his family a job just to pad rings Slaughter is also shady years ago he had a practice in Burr Ridge invited the stud from Hinsdale South to the practice with intent to have him transfer but the head coach at HS caught wind of this and slapped him on the wrist but the stealing of players is chronic if these so called CPS coaches are great why not just develop what you have instead of stealing others and I would some day hope they would call a time out to set up a play instead of using the time out to yell at refs

  • Derrick

    If they want to crown a true state champion they should look into having a King of The Hill Tournament like some other states do. Move all four classes into 1 four day long tournament like has been suggested. And then on the second weekend, which would usually have the 3A/4A tournament, bring back all 4 championship winners and have them play it out. I hate the 4 class system just as much as the next guy, even though I went to a small downstate school that did win a title under the old 2 class system. So let the 4 champs battle it out and crown a true champ. Yeah the 3A/4A schools would dominate more than likely, but it will still be fun to let them battle it out..

  • Casey

    Refs stole that game from Whitney Young…look at the box score:

    Lets call a spade a spade…the white folks broke up the classes so more of them could ride on a fire truck down main-street in hick town….but the dwindling enrollment of CPS put a kink in that plan….
    And if Billy Bob and Aunt Pearl cannot afford to go to Chicago or they want to park their Ford F-150 in the hotel parking lot and just walk to the venue like in Peoria, too bad.
    Having the state tourney in Peoria because they have a Hall for Pop-A-Shot games (The “Experience”) is dumb….
    And the gyp job Whitney Young got in the finals game was on the par with the DuSable screw job in the 50’s……Belleville shot 38 free throws, WY 15….and was in the double bonus in the 3rd quarter while WY did not get to the one and one till overtime….

    Finally, Nick Irvin is a wimp for staying in 3A….he just wants inflated rings so that he can keep charging kids to try out for his AAU team.

    • Michael Altman

      you are an idiot

    • Reality check

      Brackets are regional, this is not college. In the past, CPS was slated one spot in Final Four, I believe. Still not happy? Imagine that. The top teams are all star teams, kids from all over Chicago can pick where they go. Throw in the corrupt coaches, pay offs…give me a break. It’s a big state folks. Do what you have to do, win baby, and the rightful teams lift the iron. Ask Virginia, North Carolina, Arizona…. great ballers everywhere.

    • Reality check

      Free throws cannot be judged like they were when us older boys played thirty years ago. The three pointer changed that. Now, you have teams that drive the lane and get fouled and teams that fire three’s. Obviously, the driving team will be at the line significantly more.


      You are truly an idiot!! Bandwagon CPS fan!! The free throw differential came due to WY fouling EJ Liddell on purpose for most of the game to make him “earn” his points a the line!! That was their game plan and that’s what kept them in the game!! On the other end, EVERYTIME Young drove to the basket, EJ either blocked their shots or altered their shots!! There were very few fouls!! EJ has great body control and plays defense the correct way. Just look at the tape!!!!!

    • Chris

      Arnie Duncan…the then CEO of CPS originated the plan for 4 classes…just a fact

  • Tyshaun Sanders

    The Officials did not determine the outcome of the Championship game, but there were those two calls, the phantom whistle with 1.1 in the 4th, and the travel in overtime that everyone will remember. With all the complaints from downstate, the surrounding city schools should have and hold their own tournament in the city and split the revenues which would surely be more than what the state gets for their series.


      I agree with you Tyshaun, the refs DID NOT determine the outcome of that game!! The phantom whistle with 1.1 seconds left in the 4th had NO BEARING on the game. It was due to some idiot blowing an air horn in the audience. Play was therefore stopped and the game went to OT. That traveling call was an easy travel, clearly shows on tape!! So if those two whistles are what the CPS sore losers want to remember, go right ahead, that’s the easy way out!! WY got beat fair and square!!

  • Truth

    Mike will you be coming out with an early look pre-season Top 25 for the 2018-2019 season soon?

    • Michael O'Brien

      Nope. That would be a pretty useless exercise. An awful lot will change between now and then. I’ll be working on tracking that movement.

  • Clyde The Glide

    The Public League is the best in basketball. 2A, 3A and should’ve been 4A if 2 local officials didn’t get whistle happy. There was a phantom whistle at the end of the 4th, and then they called multiple travelings in OT to pretty much decide the game. Officials gotta learn that folks don’t pay to see them. You have to let the kids decide the game. EJ Liddell is good, but he’s a high school 5 with a college 3 body who needs to develop wing skills and shooting range. At 6’6″ he won’t be known as a shot blocker at the next level.

    • Norm

      I agree about the refs. The travel on Casteneda near the end of OT was terrible.


      The “phantom whistle” at the end of the 4th quarter as you called it came due to some idiot fan blowing an air horn from the crowd which is illegal within IHSA rules, and that whistle had NO BEARING whatsoever on the outcome of the game!! Also, that traveling call at the end of OT was clearly a travel. Maybe you need to watch the tape. As they say ALL THE TIME, the tape doesn’t lie!! What about the TWO front end of 1 &1 free throws Whitney Young missed in OT that led up to the game still being close, what about the rebound they made after a missed free throw at the end of OT in which they should’ve called a timeout (They had 2 TO Left), and what about the steal right after that which sealed the win for Belleville? But regardless of ANY OF THAT, it’s always easy to blame the refs!! That’s the coward way out!! The refs worked a hell of a game and you can’t honestly say any different!!

      • Norm

        The travel was barely a travel and to call in that situation was wrong

        • HONEST FAN

          So no comment on the multiple mistakes that the actually TEAM made to LOSE the game??? Just the ONE CALL from the refs huh??? I’ve always been a firm believer that as long as BOTH teams are in a position to be able to win the game at the end, the refs stayed out of the way just enough!! You guys are a joke!!

  • Duke Carnoustie

    I’m sure if the IHSA makes changes, it will be for the worse like the idiotic 4-class system.

    Also I don’t think it’s a Morgan Park issue whether they are 3A or 4A. That situation is clearly a by-product of the idiotic 4-class system. If we had 2 classes, it wouldn’t be an issue. I don’t begrudge MP for winning at 3A and no one else should, either.

    HS sports aren’t really meant to “settle” anything. The games are for the kids and they gave us plenty of kids. You think I am disappointed that my Wildkits didn’t win it all?
    Not at all. The gave us plenty of thrills with amazing win after amazing win and nearly forced this old man decide to drive to he–, I mean Peoria.

  • Be real

    Regardless of what you say…..Morgan park should’ve been 4a long time ago….Nick talk a lot of crap about who they play and how they beat everybody…. really….. the man lie like Trump!!!!!! Playing the system 4 rings!!! Hope they atleast pay 4 them this year!!

    • SKILLS

      o true,Nick runs from top competition,like he did playing xmas tournament out in the suburbs instead of going to pontiac to play simeon and curie he didnt want that problem!

      • Red South Alumnus

        So you think Pontiac is better than Proviso?! Y’all crazy. MP plays the top teams in Illinois and the country every year.

        • Be real

          MP ducked Pontiac and Proviso….played the Big Dipper in which the best competition was Leo, Thornton, and Romeoville

  • Darrel

    I am sorry the people running the IHSA don’t have a clue what they are doing. They are going to something about school classification but how about doing something about attendence. Move the bigger classes up to Chicago.

    Also tell me this when CPS wins then they always have to make changes. But what about the things they do to CPS. They complain about about the what they are doing doing and then they want to interfere about the transfer rules. It is not their fault that the other schools downstate don’t have the same number of kids. Kids transfer for many different reasons. Residency changes kids move with relatives for different reasons divorce or financial situations. Kids who went to private school transfer to public schools all the time. Parents can’t pay the tuition any more or are tired of paying the tuition. One parent loses their job and you punish the kid real smart.

    CPS has two schools play for the championship then you put most of them in the same bracket. CPS has the biggest school system of course they have a better chance of getting more than one school at the state finals. There again punish the kids.

    It ticks me off these kids overcome a lot to get there and adults from downstate complain so they do things to make it even harder. It is not fair and I am tired of the hypocrisy.

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