By Joe Henricksen
If you would have told a high school basketball fan four or five years ago the Chicago Public League Championship game in 2009 would include North Lawndale and Hyde Park you would have received a few, "Say what?" But that's the matchup this Sunday at UIC after Hyde Park dismantled Foreman and North Lawndale got its revenge and knocked off Whitney Young in Wednesday night's semifinals.
Who would have thought? After all, Hyde Park will be making its first city title game appearance in more than a half century, while North Lawndale will be playing for its first-ever city title. This is another example of how the Public League is a little different than it once was, when city powerhouses Simeon, King, Marshall and Westinghouse dominated the better part of two-plus decades of Public League playoff basketball.
Hyde Park will now get its chance at some payback. Coach Donnie Kirksey's team, which continues to impress, fell to North Lawndale 70-57 back in early January. North Lawndale's Terry Johnson was the catalyst in that first matchup, scoring a game-high 21 points. No matter how high you are on Hyde Park or how skeptical you might be, everyone should learn a lot about this team and how far it has come after its Sunday showdown against North Lawndale.
Here are a few thoughts following the city semifinal games Wednesday evening.
• Despite the impressive record and all the success Hyde Park has enjoyed this season, no one seems to include the Thunderbirds in state title conversations. Is it time to? Malcolm Griffin and Anthony Dixon typically get a lot of the headlines for Hyde Park, but big man Jerome Moore has been particularly big in the second half of the season and throughout the city playoffs. Hyde Park is the No. 1 seed in the Class 4A Hinsdale Central Sectional, where they will be trying to hold off the likes of Vocational, Simeon, Mt. Carmel, Curie and Downers Grove South. Then it would get a shot at the Morton Sectional winner in the Chicago State Supersectional. Hyde Park, which has beaten Seton Academy and Marshall this season, is oozing with confidence right now and playing together.
• Foreman is a year away. The Hornets, which feature four juniors in the starting lineup, have come up very short in the biggest games of the season. While Foreman will be a scary matchup for Morton in the regional next March, the Hornets are a year away from potentially doing some special things.
• "Whitney Young falls short" may sound a bit like a broken record, but the Dolphins still have yet to truly break through with a signature, program-raising moment in the past couple of years. A year ago Young was upset by Mt. Carmel in the Class 4A sectional championship. This past December Young was drilled by Morton at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. And the Dolphins have again fallen short of reaching the Public League title game. The good news is March is right around the corner and the slate is wiped clean, but you have to wonder what the psyche is of this team.
Big Ten 0-for-McDonald's
Although the all-star game selection process in high school basketball has basically come down to politics, it's interesting to see that the McDonald's All-American game won't have a single player that is headed to the Big Ten next year. The selections for the game came out Wednesday and the Big Ten was shut out.