By Joe Henricksen
Class 4A and 3A sectional play begins Tuesday night and continue through Friday with the sectional championships. Here is a look at the Hoops Report's top five sectional semifinal matchups in the Chicago area.
#2 Foreman vs. #3 De La Salle (Wednesday at Proviso East)
This should be the best of all the sectional semis in Illinois. A pair of top 10 teams that were constantly trying to prove themselves throughout the regular season get a shot to advance to a sectional final with a win. This would be Foreman's first-ever sectional championship, while De La Salle is searching for its first sectional title in over 25 years.
Keys to the game: Foreman's speed and quickness, led by the perimeter trio of Mike McCall, Tommy Woolridge and Lavonte Dority, against the inside strength of Mike Shaw and Company.
#4 Simeon vs. #1 Lyons Twp. (Tuesday at Lyons Township)
Has Simeon turned the corner? After an up-and-down and sometimes turbulent regular season, Simeon is in position to erase the previous three months with a March run. Lyons has just one loss on the season, but this Simeon team is the most talented team it will have faced up to this point. Lyons, though, has met all challenges with depth and chemistry throughout a feel-good season.
Keys to the game: Lyons will have the comfort and familiarity of playing on its home floor with a rabid fan base behind it. Though Simeon has played a rugged schedule this year, this will be the toughest environment the Wolverines will have played in all season. How will youngsters like freshman Jabari Parker and sophomore guard Jelani Neely handle the electric atmosphere?
#2 Mount Carmel vs. #3 Bogan (Wednesday at Lyons Township)
Everyone continues to write Bogan off, including the Hoops Report, but they just keep winning. While everyone was praising Public League champ Morgan Park for a couple of weeks, Bogan promptly ended MP's season with a regional final victory. A win over Mount Carmel in the sectional semis would certainly make believes out of everyone.
Keys to the game: Mount Carmel's patience on offense and zone defense on the other end could frustrate Bogan. The Caravan's Jon Gac must play big as Bogan thrives on attacking the offensive glass and the basket. Gac's presence inside will be pivotal in the outcome of this one.
#5 Crete-Monee vs. #1 Hillcrest (Tuesday at Lincoln-Way West)
Hillcrest beat Crete-Monee in late January 63-49. However, Crete-Monee stepped up big in a regional title victory over Brooks last Friday. Both 6-5 senior Ray Lester and athletic 6-4 junior Jamie Crockett are so strong finishing around the basket. Hillcrest, meanwhile, has received contributions from so many different players.
Keys to the game: Crete-Monee's backcourt play has been inconsistent throughout the year. Thus, coach Rocky Hill can only hope his guards can manage the 1-3-1 trap Hillcrest will constantly throw at them. The key may come down to guard play, which means Hillcrest is sitting in good shape with junior point guard Juice Brown in control.
#1 Glenbard East vs. #5 Oswego East (Tuesday at Neuqua Valley)
A couple of hot teams square off in this one. Neither team has lost since December, with Oswego East winning 16 straight games and Glenbard East riding a 20-game win streak. A recent common opponent, West Aurora, had different results with these two sectional foes. Oswego East beat West Aurora in overtime to win the regional title last Friday, while Glenbard East went into West Aurora in the final weekend of the regular season and won 76-49 in a game that wasn't really even that close. Glenbard East is difficult to defend with four different players all having put up 25 or more points in a game this season.
Keys to the game: What will Glenbard East do to try and contain Oswego East's dynamo scorer Jay Harris? And can Glenbard East take advantage of Oswego East's lack of size and depth?