Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report breaks down Regional Friday and what storylines to follow in regional championship games.
You can't beat a rivalry game in a regional championship, especially when you're talking two teams that have been red-hot since the holidays. Oak Park and Fenwick will square off in the title game at Oak Park. Fenwick has won 13 of 15 since the holidays, while Oak Park and star Iman Shumpert have won 18 of 19. The two met in December, with Oak Park winning Round I.
There are some scary games for some of the high sectional seeds, starting with top-seeded Batavia in the East Aurora Sectional. The Bulldogs, who were stunned in last year's regional final, will travel to Bartlett to face the host school in the regional championship. Batavia got all it could handle in a last-second win over Benet Academy. Bartlett (20-7), meanwhile, has been playing well the last four weeks. The emergence of junior guard Marc Little has been huge, while 6-5 senior Cory Hrynyk and sophomore Luke Labedzki can score.
Look for No. 6 seed Neuqua Valley to pull off the mild upset and beat higher-seeded West Aurora in the Willowbrook Regional final. The Wildcats are balanced and getting valuable minutes from sophomore Dwayne Evans.
While the Hoops Report is sticking with Farragut in the St. Ignatius Regional final, as long as Mike Flaherty is coaching Mt. Carmel it could get scary for Wolf Nelson's Admirals.
UPSET THAT WON'T HAPPEN
Mundelein, a No. 8 seed, has become a hot choice to make a Cinderella run. After struggling mightily down the stretch, Mundelein knocked off Warren and Brandon Paul in the regional semis and now gets a crack at upsetting conference foe and top-seeded Zion-Benton. Not going to happen. This is a horrible matchup for Mundelein, which plays right into the hands of Zion-Benton with its up-tempo style of attack. There are few teams that can run in transition with Zion-Benton. And Mundelein isn't one of them.
GET ON MY BACK
In a game featuring two individual players that have absolutely carried their respective teams -- Naperville Central's Drew Crawford and Glenbard West's John Shurna -- one will be advancing to a sectional semifinal. Crawford poured in 40 in a win over Geneva on Wednesday night, while the Northwestern-bound Shurna has scored 48 points in two regional wins for the No. 13 seed Hilltoppers.
OK, this one is on Thursday, but the Marshall-Wheaton Academy game could get ugly -- and quick. Marshall could be putting up triple digits for the second straight regional game. This is a regional championship game?
At the end of the night Friday a 3A Cinderella story will emerge from the Crete-Monee Regional, with either No. 9 seed Crete-Monee (11-15) or No. 20 seed Carver (11-18) advancing to the sectional. Carver stunned a young Brooks team, the No. 3 seed, in the regional semifinal, while Crete-Monee did the same to Crandall Head and Rich South in the other semifinal. The winner will likely get a beatable T.F. North team in the sectional semifinal. The Hoops Report will take Rocky Hill's Crete-Monee club in this one.
BEST REGIONAL STORY
You can't help but pull for a Morton team that is enjoying a magical season. This program earned some respect at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, won its first conference championship since the 1950s, won 23 games in the regular season and was awarded with ..... a No. 8 seed and road game at Whitney Young. Ouch! Morton didn't fare well against another Chicago Public League power, getting blown out by Marshall, but this is a tremendous story any way you look at it.
CONFERENCES OUT TO PROVE SOMETHING
There are two conferences -- the Upstate Eight and West Suburban Silver -- that are in position to make some headlines. A year ago the Upstate Eight had a remarkable five teams win regional championships, with three reaching sectional title games. This year the conference, which didn't have a team in the latest Hoops Report Top 25, has a legitimate shot at claiming four regional champions. The West Suburban Silver, meanwhile, has Oak Park, Lyons Twp., Glenbard West and York playing for a regional championship Friday night.