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.