A breakdown of Tuesday’s Class 4A and Class 3A supersectionals in the Chicago area.
Sears Centre supersectional: Evanston (30-4) vs. Stevenson (27-5) at 7 p.m.
With a third straight sectional title in its rearview mirror, Evanston looks to make a return trip to Peoria behind a balanced attack and its three-point shooting. You have to pick your poison when defending Evanston’s Lance Jones, Blake Peters, Jaheim Holden and Jaylin Gibson.
This is a team that survived a sectional championship game with its top two scorers (Jones and Peters) being held without a field goal, which says something about the different ways this team can win.
In the eyes of many, Stevenson is a year early. But the Patriots, led by a solid junior class, including guard Matt Ambrose and 6-5 RJ Holmes, are beyond that assertion. While the Patriots have been one of the bigger surprises of the season, playing with a laser-like focus and confidence that it does could spring an upset.
Hoops Report pick: Evanston 60, Stevenson 55
NIU supersectional: Geneva (32-1) vs. Rockford East (33-2) at 8 p.m.
There may not be a better clutch tandem than Geneva’s Jack McDonald and Mitch Mascari. The precision Geneva plays with, along with the shooting of Mascari and McDonald always being one step ahead of everyone else, keeps defenses honest.
Rockford East narrowly beat Benet and York in January and have just one in-state loss –– to Class 3A power Springfield Southeast –– and have ripped off 18 straight wins.
Led by high-scoring junior Sincere Parker and seniors Sha’den Clanton and Chris Burnell, Rockford East will be the quickest, most athletic team Geneva has faced all season. Geneva’s DuKane Conference foe St. Charles North was able to slow down the E-Rabs and control the tempo but still fell short in a 51-46 Rockford East sectional semifinal win.
McDonald won’t be bothered by the pressure but Geneva’s defense will have its hands full.
Hoops Report pick: Rockford East 68, Geneva 65
ISU supersectional: Bolingbrook (23-7) vs. Belleville West (31-4) at 7 p.m.
A big challenge awaits Bolingbrook in its attempt to return to Peoria for the third time in five years. The Raiders and their three-pronged perimeter attack of Joseph Yesufu, Tyler Cochran and Darius Burford, meet the defending Class 4A champs and the state’s top player, 6-7 senior EJ Liddell.
All Liddell did in two sectional wins was go for 47 points, 19 rebounds, 15 blocked shots and six assists. With Liddell, along with additional size in Keith Randolph, a perimeter shooting threat in Jaylin Mosby and the stellar guard play of Lawrence Brazil, Belleville West can really create matchup headaches for opposing teams. How Bolingbrook chooses to defend Liddell — and how well it does in doing so — will go a long way in determining if the Raiders can pull off the upset.
Bolingbrook will need to do what it does best — use its speed and transition game to put together runs and easy scoring opportunities — to avoid being bogged down in the half court, where it would face Liddell’s shot-blocking ability around the basket and the need to consistently make perimeter jumpers.
Liddell, Brazil, who scored 22 points in the sectional title game, and Randolph have been down this road before. The Maroons crushed West Aurora in this very spot a year ago. This one won’t be as easy.
Hoops Report pick: Belleville West 66, Bolingbrook 62
Northwestern supersectional: Curie (33-1) vs. Simeon (20-14) at 7 p.m.
This is Round III for these two city powers. Curie has beaten Simeon twice already, but coach Robert Smith’s Wolverines have improved by the month and just won the state’s deepest sectional.
Both of those losses to Curie came in December, so this is a different and better Simeon team than the one the Condors beat over two months ago. There is less confusion about roles. Antonio Reeves has evolved into a steady offensive force for the Wolverines, while Ahamad Bynum is healthy and producing and point guard Kejuan Clements is providing a senior presence.
But no team has it going quite like Curie. The Condors received a major scare against Young and survived in the sectional final, so now they’ve handled all of the Chicago city powers at least once this season.
Sun-Times Player of the Year DaJuan Gordon, promising junior Ramean Hinton and the senior trio of point guard Trevon Hamilton, guard Damari Nixon and Justin Harmon are all versatile threats.
This one is going to be closer than the previous two –– 66-54 and 62-55 Curie wins –– but with the same result.
Hoops Report pick: Curie 63, Simeon 60
Joliet Central supersectional: Bogan (28-3) vs. Normal U-High (24-9) at 7 p.m.
U-High is playing its best basketball of the season, winning 15 of its last 18 games with wins over Kankakee and Hillcrest along the way. The Pioneers are led by the 1-2 punch of junior guard Alex Wood and 6-4 senior Nate Torres.
Bogan will ride the momentum of knocking off its biggest nemesis, Morgan Park, in an emotional sectional final win. Big man Rashaun Agee poses a big matchup problem for U-High inside, while guards Jordan Booker and Antoine Bloxton are proving themselves as clutch players.
There is too much quickness, size, depth and overall firepower for Bogan to get this far and in this particular matchup and fall.
Hoops Report pick: Bogan 65, U-High 52
NIU Supersectional: Glenbard South (25-6) vs. Peoria Manual (18-11) at 6 p.m.
Peoria Manual, one of the great names in high school basketball lore, won its third sectional title in five years and is looking to return to the state finals for the 26th time. Glenbard South just won its second sectional championship in program history.
Manual beat Peoria Notre Dame in overtime to claim the sectional. Pee Wee Brown, who scored 23 in the sectional title game win, and Quintez Edwards, who hit the game-tying three-pointer to send it to overtime, lead the Rams.
While Glenbard South is looking to make history, the schedule Manual has played this season –– the Rams have faced the likes of Danville, Benet, Moline, Curie, Bloomington, Normal and Fenwick –– has prepared it well for this moment.
Hoops Report pick: Peoria Manual 61, Glenbard South 49
Springfield supersectional: East St. Louis (27-6) vs. Springfield Southeast (30-2)
Southeast, which finished second in the state last season in Class 3A, is three wins from reaching the goal it set 51 weeks ago after losing to Morgan Park in the state championship game. The Spartans have lived up to the hype and expectations and have lost two games all season, both coming to sectional champions (Bolingbrook and Belleville West) by a combined three points.
Point guard Terrion Murdix is productive across the board and a proven winner. Michael Tyler gives them size inside, Stephan Sims is a tough, jack-of-all-trades guard and sophomore James Dent is an emerging player on the perimeter.
While Belleville West has gobbled up the headlines in southern Illinois and the Metro East area of St. Louis, East St. Louis is a serious threat to upset Southeast after winning its first sectional title since 2006. The Flyers played the state’s No. 1 ranked Class 4A team Curie tough in a loss.
There is size, athleticism and a Division I player in 6-7 Terrence Hargrove (18 ppg, 8.9 rpg, 102 blocks). Cornelius LeFlore (11.2 ppg) is a shooting threat and 6-7 Richard Robinson (7 ppg, 6 rpg) is fresh off a confidence-building sectional title game performance
This one should be fun. This has upset material written all over it, but Southeast will enjoy the comfort of playing in its back yard.
Hoops Report pick: Springfield Southeast 72, East St. Louis 67