By Joe Henricksen

March storylines galore

| 26 Comments | No TrackBacks

By Joe Henricksen

There are always twists and turns among the many story lines that develop during March Madness. And as we get deeper along the state tournament trail, the fun and excitement keep rolling. Here are a few quick snapshots from Friday's sectional title games.

Super Sobo and Benet revival
As mentioned in a previous blog this week, there is not a single player in the state of Illinois who carries more responsibility than Benet Academy's David Sobolewski. The junior point guard has made believers out of anyone who watched his performance in two sectional wins. In a midseason Hoops Report issue, Sobolewski was tagged as the best player in the tough East Suburban Catholic Conference; he's more than that. Sobolewski is one of the top junior guards in the state, who is literally the team's only ballhandler for 32 minutes and lone playmaker.

All Sobolewski has done in the last three tournament wins is average just over 31 points a game and dish out a countless number of assists, while both sectional opponents--East Aurora and Glenbard East--threw everything and the kitchen sink at him.

This is not the same Benet team that played in December or January. A lot of credit goes to coach Gene Heidkamp, who has been instrumental in helping this team make tremendous strides over the past couple of months and getting the most out of the collective parts he has. As is the case with successful teams, Benet's players have accepted their roles and bought into what is being preached. They are led by a star but are a physical group that plays darn good halfcourt defense.

Benet basketball has been revived. There aren't a lot of fans out there remaining who were around for the Benet glory days under coach Bill Geist. During an 11-year run beginning in 1976 through the mid-1980s, Benet was as strong as any basketball program in the state. In those 11 years, Benet never won fewer than 20 games in a season, averaging 24 victories a year. Geist's teams won 10 regional titles, five sectional championships and reached the Elite Eight three times, finishing third in 1979. In the 22 years since Geist's departure, Benet has never won a sectional--until this season.

Public League Power
When the eight teams roll into Peoria next weekend for the Class 3A and 4A state semifinals, fans could be looking at three Chicago Public League teams playing in Carver Arena. Whitney Young, Simeon and Marshall will all be favored to win their respective supersectional matchups Tuesday night. And it's no surprise it's the city's Big Three.

While Simeon and Marshall have been dominant Chicago Public League programs for decades, Whitney Young has elevated its status over the last three years under coach Tyrone Slaughter. And when is Simeon coach Robert Smith going to receive his due? Yes, it's been a tough and rough season for Smith and the Wolverines in comparison to past seasons, but look where they are once again: playing basketball during the final week of the season.

While Simeon and Young have grabbed the attention and headlines, Marshall has quietly put together a pretty remarkable season and may be one of the two or three biggest surprises of the year. Remember, this program lost the great Darius Smith from last year's team. Smith was not only one of the premier talents in the state, he was the fearless leader who brought toughness. Still, the Commandos play hard, aggressive, get-after-it basketball, something we have all come to expect from Marshall over the years. The big men, 6-5 senior Vincent Garrett and 6-6 senior Alfonzo McKinnie, have received most of the attention, but the man that makes this thing go is the little package of TNT known as Keifer Sykes, an up-and-coming 5-8 junior guard.

Maine South Magic
There was a reason the Hoops Report had Maine South in its preseason Top 25. This is a special and unique group of players who you throw all the clich├ęs at and actually believe them. You know, the "we believe" and remain "focused" and "play hard and unselfish" and are "poised" and "never get down" and ... you get the point. Despite the tough, season-ending injury to 6-7 Kevin Schlitter, the team's top returning player, back in November, nothing has curtailed the winning ways of the Hawks, who won their first sectional championship since 1999.

They're not done yet
How about Oswego? Yes, the Hoops Report did believe and expect Oswego would win a regional and sectional, forecasting the exact supersectional matchup (Peoria Richwoods vs. Oswego) in the state tournament preview issue that will take place Tuesday night, but the Panthers still slid under the radar. Now they are one win from back-to-back trips to Peoria. And this from a program that had won a total of two regional titles over a span of 50-plus years prior to last season. The Cinderella story of a year ago, when Oswego finished second in state in Class 3A, will have its hands full against the No. 1 ranked Class 3A Richwoods team.

Where are the JT believers?
There has been very little buzz surrounding Joliet all year outside the two campuses of West and Central, but the Steelmen won their first sectional since 2002 and are one win from reaching the State Finals for the first time since 1998. A big reason is the solid coaching job turned in by Joliet's Luke Yaklich. There is certainly talent, including budding freshman guard Morris Dunnigan, but the Steelmen are overachievers from a season standpoint. They may not look pretty all the time, but Joliet is alive and kicking with just enough offense and a consistent halfcourt defense that will mold people down. There were even doubters heading into Joliet's matchup with Homewood-Flossmoor, despite the fact the Steelmen were the No. 1 seed and beat the Vikings twice during the regular season. Heck, the Hoops Report was at one of those JT wins over HF and still picked against Joliet. Good news for Joliet fans: Hoops Report is picking O'Fallon over Joliet in the super! Lol!

No TrackBacks

TrackBack URL: http://blogs.suntimes.com/cgi-bin/mt-tb.cgi/30239

26 Comments

No Love for Bartlett?

Several thoughts on Benet. First, Heidkamp is probably the BEST coach in the state and one of the best in the country. He gets the most out of his players. The key to Benet are their two enforcers, Runger and Flood. Finally, as long as ref's let Sobolewski push off with his arm for separation, he'll never be stopped. He's too good a shooter and too smart. More coaches should teach that technique. Who needs a screen then? I do think Benet will be less of a team next year. There are no replacements for Flood and Runger on the bench. Although Heidkamp will probably figure out a way to hide that weakness. Go Benet!

Marshall is lucky to even be in the super sectional. Only an off the wall 50 foot turn around shot prevented them from losing to Riverside Brookfield. I was at that game and, without having access to the stats, I can tell you Marshall was superior in no facet of the game. RB handled Marshall's pressure; RB rebounded with Marshall despite having their only player over 6'2" in foul trouble most of the game.
The one area where Marshall had a definite advantage was depth. They were constantly running players of similar ability in and out. RB used seven players and three of their players played the entire 36 minutes including overtime.
With four seconds left in the game you could make the argument that both teams deserved to win, but no team deserves to lose on a shot that would not be made one time in a hundred.

joe, Have you seen Peoria Richwoods play much? what is the strength of their game? Can they defend Oswego's post players?

"extremely weak" - based on what, rankings, stats, the absence of "so-called" superstar or the opinion of one man.

HILLCREST IS LUCKY TO BE IN THE SUPER-SECTIONAL AS WELL, THE RICH SOUTH STARS GAVE THEM ALL THEY COULD HANDLE ON FRIDAY NIGHT BEFORE A PACKED HOUSE, BIG SHOUT OUT TO THE RICH SOUTH FAMILY, COACH RITTER AND HIS STAFF, AND THE SENIOR CLASS OF 2010, YOU WILL NEVER BE FORGOTTEN, WHAT YOU DID THIS SEASON LAYED THE GROUNDWORK FOR FUTURE SUCCESS, I HAVEN'T SEEN THE COMMUNITY RALLY AROUND A TEAM AT RICH SOUTH SINCE THE FRED JACOBEIT TEAM OF 1997, THAT TEAM ALSO WAS 25 AND 5!
P.S. COACH FRED JACOBEIT WAS JUST SELECTED TO BE INDUCTED IN THE ILLINOIS COACHES HALL OF FAME, HIS INDUCTION WILL TAKE PLACE IN APRIL!
COACH OF THE YEAR GOES TO SCOT RITTER OF RICH SOUTH HIGH SCHOOL, WHAT HE DID WITH THIS GROUP WAS PHENOMENAL!

Yo, FAN! I live in Bartlett and even I know they aren't any good. Come on man!

Yes they lost some games they should have won, but name a team that has not. No mention of their wins are close finishes - only negatives? As far as ranked teams - ranked by who the Sun Times who had Wheaton Acedemy and Fremd ranked - please. Id take Bartlett, Barrigton, and both Rockford teams over WA or Fremd any day.

Who is this FAN? Seriously? Just be thankful Bartlett was in a bad sectional, which every high school coach and fan realizes, and enjoy March Madness. They lost to Waukegan by 42 points. They beat some very bad teams in tight games (Wheaton North by 2? Cary Grove and Crystal Lake South by 2 and 3? Waubonsie by 5? Willowbrook by 2?). They have 11 LOSSES!!!! Do they even have a win over a single team that won a regional?

As a Bartlett fan please disregard the FAN's comments. We are enjoying March and our success but realize who we are. And of course people are going to rank Fremd, you have to rank them if they are 24-1! We have 11 losses!!!!

Hold on. Heidkamp is doing a great job with this team but it just proves a point that you need to have the horses to win. Sobolewski has been on fire and their big kid is playing very well too. Heidkamp is the same coach who quit at Nazareth because he had constant losing records and now we have people calling him the best coach in the state? Interesting. Bottom line you need players.

As far as the RB Marshall game... It came down to the 4 seconds; 4 undefended seconds that decided the game. had RB defended the ball coming up the court and defended the pass the game would have been decided there. For that 4 seconds Marshall deserved to be the winner. You can have Marshall's #45 garrett, he is not all that.

Joe, you are off on one count. Bartlett's sectional was hardly "extremely weak" or easy. Rockford Boylan was the #12 team in the the late February AP poll and was 25-4 (or something like that) when they lost to Bartlett at Boylan's gym. Boylan was a better team (and higher ranked)than any team Waukegan faced in its sectional. So, was Waukegan's sectional also "extremely weak"? Bartlett's not at Waukegan's level -- but they are no different than Schaumburg or other teams that won at the right time.

Watching and reading these comments is driving me crazy. Joe: No need to defend the argument these are weak sectionals. Come on! Anyone who follows basketball closely can see that. Why do people have to be so defensive about it? Rockford Boylan the No. 12 team in the state? The AP rankings are always a joke with teams ranked around the state based solely on wins. This is a Boylan team that lost to my young, unranked H-F Vikings late in the year. They went 2-2 at Pekin Holiday Tournament. And this is the only team worth a thing that Bartlett had to play to get to the super.

It is pretty simple. Just watch Bartlett play. I have. They are an average team without a whole lot of talent. The Bartlett team that made a run a few years ago was much better. But the fact is, if Bartlett was in a different sectional, they would not be in the super. Look at what Neuqua and East Aurora did in the postseason! Two teams that finished ahead of Bartlett in the Upstate Eight.

IT WASN'T THAT THE SECTIONAL AT WAUKEGAN WAS SO WEAK, MAYBE THE WAUKEGAN TEAM IS VERY STRONG, I LIKED THE SCHAUMBURG TEAM, THEY PLAYED GIANT-KILLERS AND DEFEATED THE FUTURE WISCONSIN PLAYER, DUKE DUJAN, THEY JUST WERE OUT-MANNED AGAINST WAUKEGAN, BUT MOST TEAMS WILL BE, THE CLASS 4A CHAMPIONSHIP IS WAUKEGAN'S TO LOSE!
THEY HAVE A BONFIDE NBA PLAYER ON THAT TEAM, AND WE ALL KNOW HIS NAME, J-RICH IS THE TRUTH!

I have read your comments before Capital Phil! And respect them. You seem to know your hoops. But schaumburg? This team went 8-9 in their last 17 games of the regular season. When you combine these two sectionals, you have one great team in Waukegan and a very good team in Deerfield that got upset. Other than that? if you had to rank 4A sectionals these two would be near the bottom.

Waukegans sectional wasnt as bad as people are making it seem. Waukegan had zion, mundelien, warren, stevenson, deerfield, all good teams that lost at the wrong time and would give any schools in any area a good run.

Got to stand up for my hometown sectional and Lake County Basketball in general. Go Bulldogs! 2010 state champs!?

As the mother of 2 of the 5 Bartlett starters. Please stop hating. While we do not have the "horses" as some blogger wrote, we have played hard and deserve to be where we are. We did not write the script, but had the same chance as anyone else. As one writer said records are one thing, but you still have the play the game. Just enjoying the ride!!!

jjones, I think RB should have put pressure on the inbounds pass. They have a 6'8" player who could have disrupted the timing. My memory is that the ball didn't "come up the court". It was a single pass from the baseline to the player just inside halfcourt. It would have almost been better if RB had missed the second free throw. But hindsight is 20/20

Kenneth - why so down on the Hawks...

"Just watch Bartlett play. I have. They are an average team without a whole lot of talent."

Some times its all about a team playing together when it counts and getting it done.

I say good luck to all the teams and let these young men enjoy the moment.

bball fan .... I'm not down on the Hawks. I am just speaking up in regard to the original disagreement from a Bartlett fan saying the sectional is good and getting on the writer of this blog who simply stated a fact and said it's a "weak sectional". They have beaten the only teams they have scheduled in front of them, so all the power to them. They are where they are. Glad for them to enjoy this time in March.

COME ON SCHAUMBURG LOOKED GREAT IN THAT GAME AGAINST DEERFIELD, I DIDN'T KNOW THEIR RECORD, AND BESIDES WHEN ITS PLAYOFF TIME, YOU CAN THROW RECORDS OUT ON THE 355, LOOK FOR THE PUBLIC LEAGUE TO HAVE A BAD TIME ON TUESDAY, IF ONE TEAM WINS IT WILL BE SOMETHING, THEY HAVE 2 AT THE 3A LEVEL, AND 2 AT THE 4A LEVEL!
I HOPE THEY PROVE ME WRONG!
WILL WAUKEGAN WIN THE ENTIRE 4A CHAMPIONSHIP, YEA OR NEA?

Leave a comment

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on March 13, 2010 12:05 AM.

Prospects named ... was the previous entry in this blog.

Super Tuesday loaded with 'Dogs is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.