By Joe Henricksen
The average or casual high school basketball observer generally gets fired up for the holiday tournaments in December and the state tournament in March. The excitement in conference races -- outside of the respective schools competing for them -- has been lost in terms of significance and importance. But the final week of the season promises a few tantalizing, down-to-the-wire finishes.
The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the final week of the regular season and what it has to offer the basketball fan in the Chicago area.
City-Suburban Showdown, Feb. 16, at Northwestern University
This event is typically the premier regular-season event in Illinois over the past 12 years. The 13th edition promises to be entertaining with Oak Park's Iman Shumpert squaring off with Waukegan's Jereme Richmond. The New Trier-East Chicago game, featuring Illinois and Indiana powers, should be as well.
Chicago Public League Quarterfinals, Sunday, at UIC Pavilion
What a collection of teams and talent this should be as the city's (and state's) top teams go toe-to-toe in what is always a tremendous tune-up for regional play.
West Suburban Silver Conference race
While all eyes will be on the Oak Park-Lyons Twp. title tilt in the regular-season finale on Feb. 22, surprising York is hanging around and capable of stealing some of the luster from the two favorites. York coach Al Biancalana has worked wonders with an inexperienced group, which includes a sophomore and freshman playing key roles. If York can win out, beating Glenbard West and Hinsdale South, the Dukes could somehow manage to claim a share of the league title.
DuPage Valley Conference race
This one is shaping up to be quite a finish. Preseason favorite Wheaton North and upstart Naperville Central are tied for the top spot in the conference, with traditonal power West Aurora lurking one game back. Wheaton North travels to West Aurora this Saturday night. West Aurora, which lost the league title last year to Glenbard East after claiming seven consecutive titles, was hit hard this week by news that two starters -- Marquis Stewart and Corbin Spearman -- have been suspended. That puts Wheaton North in position to beat West this Saturday to set up a showdown next Wednesday at home against Naperville Central. Wheaton North fell to Naperville Central earlier in the year, 53-52 on a buzzer-beater by Central star Drew Crawford. Naperville Central must first take care of business against Wheaton South and West Chicago.
East Suburban Catholic Conference race
The highly-anticpated rematch between St. Joseph and St. Patrick in the season finale will decide this one. St. Joe's fell to St. Pat's back in December in overtime. St. Pat's has maintained a one-game lead and will need a second win Feb. 22 over Diamond Taylor and the Chargers to win an outright ESCC title.
Mid-Suburban League Championship
Conant coach Tom McCormack has put his name into the mix for City/Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year honors with the job he's done in getting the Cougars back to where they were a year ago -- in the MSL championship game. Conant returned zero starters and the same amount of points per game from last year, yet won the MSL East for the second straight year. They now watch and wait for the MSL East to sort things out as Buffalo Grove, Prospect and Hersey all remain in contention for the Feb. 20 MSL championship game.