By Joe Henricksen
There wasn't a whole lot of suspense in the four Chicago Public League playoff games at UIC on Sunday. Aside from the Foreman comeback win over Curie, there wasn't much drama. In the end there weren't any surprises, either. All four teams most everyone expected to win advanced to the city semis.
North Lawndale bounced back from Saturday's loss to De La Salle by trouncing Brooks in the second half and won 69-42. Young rolled over upstart Vocational 64-44, while Hyde Park took care of an improving Von Steuben team with a 62-48 victory.
That leaves us with four. While fans will be intrigued and excited about the North Lawndale-Whitney Young rematch in the one semifinal on Wednesday night (Whitney Young won the first meeting in an overtime thriller), the other semifinal matchup carries a different plot. The Hyde Park-Foreman showdown pits a pair of programs poised to take one big step in their development and arrival as Chicago Public League powers.
Both Hyde Park and Foreman have had their skeptics. They are two programs that have been tagged with the "up-and-coming" label in the city, yet have not been able to convince everyone of their legitimacy. Hyde Park came in with huge expectations, preseason ranked No. 10 in the Sun-Times and No. 12 in the City/Suburban Hoops Report. An early-season loss to T.F. North brought the naysayers out. In a couple of other big tests this season the Thunderbirds fell short in losses to North Lawndale and Curie.
Foreman, behind the dynamic junior backcourt tandem of Lavonte Dority and Mike McCall, has been the buzz on the North Side the past couple of years. Yet despite the hype there was Von Steuben last year on top of the Red-North, while Foreman finished three games back. This year Foreman lost in a Red-North showdown to Lincoln Park, again settling for second place. And on the big stage at Proviso West Foreman lost an opening round game to Fenwick and wrapped up its stay in Hillside with a loss to T.F. North.
On Wednesday night at DePaul they will get their chance to live up to the hype. There will be no Simeon. There will be no Marshall. There will be no Farragut or Crane, city powers that have garnered most of the attention in recent years. Instead, it will be Hyde Park and Foreman, with one picking up a big win and advancing to the city championship this Sunday. The urgency sides with Hyde Park, which features a trio of seniors -- Malcolm Griffin, Jerome Moore and Anthony Dixon -- that have elevated the Hyde Park program. Foreman, meanwhile, despite a little youth on its side, needs to seize the opportunity. Whether it's the emerging South Side or North Side power, only one will be able to take advantage of it.
Bloom, Rich East to decide SICA South
The Bloom-Rich East battle in Park Forest this Friday should decide the SICA South title as the two are tied for first. In the first meeting, Bloom controlled the tempo, kept the score low and didn't let Rich East get out at a breakneck pace. Plus, Rich East battled foul difficulties, with big man Shea Sumpter a non-factor before fouling out.
Bloom, which has overachieved and competed at a very high level all season despite losing arguably its two top players prior to the start of the season with legal issues, won the first matchup between these two teams. Big man Aaron Nelson has been nothing short of brilliant. He's a double-double threat each night out and has raised the level of the players around him. Rich East hopes to add a chapter to its memorable season. There are some high hopes for the Rockets this postseason, but first comes the opportunity to take control of the conference race. This has been a fun team to watch this winter with its combination of quickness, athleticism and balance. Whether it's Shea Sumpter or Stephen O'Neal around the basket, Freddie Lay or Kashaune McKinney on the perimeter or unheralded point guard Jamere Dismukes doing a little of everything, the Rockets soared into the Top 25 in December and have remained there.
Wild Western Sun
Just 10 days ago Glenbard South was in control of its fortunes in the Western Sun. However, Glenbard South is now in the midst of a tailspin. The Raiders have lost four of their last five games, including a pair of league games to Batavia and DeKalb since the calendar turned to February. Geneva and DeKalb have both climbed back into the title picture. Now Geneva and Glenbard South are tied at 9-3, with DeKalb sitting a half game back at 8-3. If Glenbard South can win its final two games in conference play -- they face Yorkville and Rochelle -- they can clinch at least a share of the program's first conference title since 2000.
Other League Races....
Plainfield North won its showdown last weekend over Oswego, which puts the Tigers in control of the Southwest Prairie Conference for the second straight season. The varsity basketball program has been in existence just three years but looks as if it will claim its second conference title.... With its second win of the season over Maine East last Friday night, Glenbrook North clinched its eighth straight Central Suburban North title... While everyone anticipated Zion-Benton to cruise to a North Suburban Lake title this season, it was Lake Forest that clinched the Lake Division last weekend with a close win over Lake Zurich.... A week ago East Aurora had a one game lead and controlled its own destiny in the Upstate Eight. The Tomcats, however, had a weekend to forget, losing to both Bartlett and Waubonsie Valley. Leading scorer Will Brown again was MIA in the loss to Waubonsie. The double dip leaves Neuqua Valley and St. Charles North tied for the top spot in the Upstate Eight.