By Joe Henricksen
Class 4A Final Four
Farragut over Zion-Benton and Homewood-Flossmoor over Batavia
Class 4A Championship
Homewood-Flossmoor over Farragut
The toughest part of making picks in Class 4A is sorting out the deep and rugged Proviso East Sectional, where a team like 18-win Mt. Carmel is the No. 11 seed. And then think about a team like St. Ignatius.
Coach Rich Kehoe's club is 21-5 and the No. 7 seed. To reach Peoria here is a very possible scenario for the Wolfpack to get there, which in reality is impossible. First, beat the best No. 11 seed in the state in 18-win Mt. Carmel and legendary coach Mike Flaherty in the first game of the regional. Then beat Farragut and McDonald's All-American Mike Dunigan in the regional final. In the sectional, if the seeds hold true, Ignatius would face Catholic League champ DeLaSalle, which would come into that game sporting a 24-3 record. Then it would be loaded Whitney Young in the sectional final. With a win over Whitney Young, either New Trier or Evanston would be waiting for them in the supersectional.
While the sectional is loaded from top to bottom, the two premier teams are Farragut and Whitney Young. I chose Farragut, despite its lack of depth and at times some poor decision-making, for three reasons.
First, the Admirals are so big, athletic, strong and physical. Coach Wolf Nelson may have found something with this 1-3-1 zone defense. It's so difficult to attack with 6-9 Mike Dunigan in the middle and big, long, strong athletes on top and on the wings. You just can't get to the basket against it. It will be interesting to see how much man-to-man vs. the 1-3-1 zone Farragut uses -- and when they use it -- in the state tournament. Second, Farragut is a veteran and mature team. Starters Dunigan, Darius Stowers, Isiah Williams and Marvin Thigpen are all seniors. And both Karl Riley and James Deer off the bench are seniors as well. Troynell Adams, a crazy athlete, is the lone junior. Third, Farragut is playing well at the right time. Stowers has come of age in the backcourt, showcasing his power and strength with the ball. And Williams provides just enough perimeter shooting to spread defenses.
Batavia is a veteran group that has the star to fall back on in Nick Fruendt. While the road won't be easy for the Bulldogs, at least there isn't another state power in their way. And it's time for Zion-Benton to take the next step. They have an abundance of talent and are so difficult to stop when they get in transition.
That leaves us with Homewood-Flossmoor, the City/Suburban Hoops Report's No. 1 team and pick as 4A state champ. The Vikings have a very winnable sectional and would travel to Illinois State to face a downstate representative in the supersectional, likely either O'Fallon, Edwardsville or Alton. H-F would be favored in any state semifinal matchup. And then comes Farragut in the state title game.
Coach Jim McLaughlin's team has the size, athletes and toughness to match up against Farragut, with 6-4 Supo Sanni, 6-4 Russell Ellington and 6-6 junior Mike Buchanon being multi-sport stars in basketball and football. Then it comes down to guard play, where H-F has arguably the best in the state right now in point guard Kevin Dillard. The Southern Illinois recruit is averaging 25 points and over 5 assists a game. He's a difference-maker at a position that is all so important in state tournament play.
Look for the City/Suburban Hoops Report 3A picks in coming days.
For a complete state tournament preview and breakdown of each sectional in Class 3A and Class 4A, subscribe to the City/Suburban Hoops Report, now in its 13th year of publication. Call (630)-408-6709 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org