By Joe Henricksen

Who would have thought?

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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.

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4 Comments

DON'T FORGET THIS IS THE SAME COACH KIRKSEY THAT COACHED
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, WHEN HIS PROTEGE JUWAN
HOWARD WAS AT VOCATIONAL HIGH SCHOOL, HE KNOWS WHAT HE
IS DOING, AND HE IS VERY CONFIDENT, IT HAS RUBBED OFF ON
HIS PLAYERS, UNFORTUNATELY THEY PLAY NORTH LAWNDALE PREP,
ANY LACK OF EXECUTION AND THEY WILL GET BLOWN OUT, JUST
LIKE THEY DEFEATED FOREMAN IN THE SEMI'S!
ALSO THE LAST TIME HYDE PARK WAS IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP WAS
1956, THIS IS ACCORDING TO TAYLOR BELL, AND I WOULD
NEVER ARGUE WITH THE GURU OF HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL IN
THE STATE OF ILLINOIS!
WHITNEY YOUNG HAS ONE MORE THING TO SALVAGE, A STATE
CHAMPIONSHIP, ANYTHING LESS THAN THAT IS IN THE CATEGORY
OF UNSUCCESSFUL, THEY HAVE PLAYED IN HAWAII, CALIFORNIA,
NEW YORK, AND KENTUCKY, BUT THEY REALLY DON'T HAVE A
POST PLAYER, SAM THOMPSON PLAYED A GREAT GAME AGAINST
NORTH LAWNDALE, BUT YOUNG IS AN AAU TEAM IN HIGH SCHOOL
UNIFORMS, AND UNFORTUNATELY IT DOESN'T WORK, UNLESS ALL
THE SHOTS FALL, I KNOW YOUNG IS GLAD THEY DON'T SEE
NORTH LAWNDALE ANYMORE, NLCP IS A 3A SCHOOL, SO YOUNG
WON'T SEE ANY ATHLETES OF THIS CALIBER THE REST OF THE
SEASON, IT'S CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP OR BUST!
THIS MAY BE LAST TIME YOU SEE A WHITNEY YOUNG BOYS TEAM
ANYWHERE NEAR CHAMPIONSHIP PLAY FOR A LONG TIME!

Yes Phil Smith it was 1956 that Hyde Park last appeared in a city Championship game and I was there along with your friend Big Earl(hoop dreams). This Hyde Park team has peeked at the right time and is playing the best "TEAM" basketball in the City and they will beat North Lawndale Sunday.

Phil I agree with you on most of those points. But Whitney Young has a lot of talent on their sophmore team. I have seen it and combine those guys next year with Starks,Johnson,Thompson they will be contenders for at least the next two years. North Lawndale will win the State Title in 3A!!!!! I am not sure about 4A yet but Zion Benton is looking very good at the moment. Hyde Park does have a very good chance in 4A. I was impressed with them, very disciplined and showed they can run also. They share the ball and play well as a team. Evanston got a tough draw with New Trier the first regional game at New Trier. If Evanston gets past that game look out. Could be another run to the Sears Center. Zion Benton has a problem though. I don't think they can beat Waukegan again on it's home floor. My Final Four in 4A, Thornton,Hyde Park,Nequa Valley, and Waukegan.

Whitney desperatley needs a state title. They have received tons of publicity and played against some top-notch competition, but they have no really big quality wins to show for it. North Lawndale on the other hand may be primed for a state title run. This team is clicking on all cylinders at the right time. Terry Johnson is really playing well and he remains slightly underrated. Johnson can play and would not surprise me if he also gets to cut down the nets after the state championship game.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 18, 2009 9:01 PM.

Plots thicken in city semis, league races was the previous entry in this blog.

Full of surprises! is the next entry in this blog.

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