By Joe Henricksen

What we learned from 'Showdown' event

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By Joe Henricksen

What a night of basketball at UIC's Pavilion. Rarely are high school basketball fans treated to such a tremendous level of basketball with the stakes as high in the regular season.

When the dust settled Saturday night in the 16th annual City-Suburban Showdown tripleheader, six talented basketball programs were better off than they were before the event. Yes, three ranked teams were dealt close losses, but the crowd of 8,000-plus, the jacked-up atmosphere and competition were at a state tournament level -- and beyond, really -- as all six prepare for what is to come this March.

Here is what the Hoops Report learned from the best basketball night of the year.

• Is it too early to start talking about the rematch? A lot of basketball is still left to be played and big games will need to be won, but a Simeon-Benet rematch in Peoria could generate the type of excitement you crave for in the state tournament. Over three months of prep basketball in Illinois, Benet and Simeon are the two best teams in the state. So mark down Friday, March 18 at 6:30 p.m. in Peoria.

• Unfortunately, if the two Class 4A state powers do meet again it will be one day too early. Once again, the random IHSA drawing of state tournament brackets have failed us. The 4A bracket pairs up what will likely be the two best teams in Peoria in a state semifinal game instead of a championship tilt.

• The Hoops Report has stated this before but will continue to highlight the immeasurable advantage it is to have a 6-11 player at the high school level. Benet Academy's Frank Kaminsky is such a presence on both ends of the floor at the high school level, which was again evident in Saturday's win over Simeon. He has to be accounted for on the offensive end and, defensively, is an absolute disruption around the basket. Simeon didn't face any 6-11 players in the Chicago Public League, nor will any team in the state until it faces Benet's Kaminsky (or Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius). The Benet big man constantly takes opposing teams and players out of their comfort zone when attacking the basket, blocking shots, altering shots and just making players have to adjust when getting inside the lane.

• You can point here and there as to why Simeon lost two games in four days after playing nearly three months of unbeaten basketball. But it's pretty simple: Simeon struggled putting the ball in the hole, whether it be from the free-throw line (in the loss to Whitney Young) or finishing around the basket (in the loss to Benet).

• Simeon's Jabari Parker played his best game in his young Simeon career. He was absolutely sensational. The 6-7 super sophomore is obviously a special and unique talent and the next "great one" out of Illinois. He already sports offers from the biggest programs around the country and is among the top five players nationally in his class. It's laughable when hearing some people question how athletic or explosive he is as a player. There are few players, regardless of age or what part of the country they are from, who can do what Parker can do at his size. Parker has been invited to participate in the NBA Player's Association Top 100 Camp to be held at the University of Virginia this June.

• What more can be said about the impact Benet point guard David Sobolewski has on each game? He was instrumental in getting Benet out of the blocks with a quick start Saturday night against Simeon, which helped allow his teammates to settle in and get comfortable in a rock-roaring atmosphere.

• While he was named the City/Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year last season, Benet's Gene Heidkamp may be doing an even better job this season. A year ago the Redwings were a cute story. Benet's basketball revival was felt in the East Suburban Catholic Conference and around the western suburbs, but the Redwings -- even with the success -- still found a way to not be taken seriously and were able to sneak up on people. This year they've had a target on their back since the day the season started.

With Heidkamp at the guide, Benet has replaced key role players from a year ago, overcome a lack of depth and rolled up a 26-0 regular season record against a beefed up schedule. With a Proviso West Holiday Tournament title and a win over Simeon before 8,000-plus fans in the City-Suburban Showdown, there aren't many teams better prepared for March than Benet.

• There is a great deal of respect between Simeon, Benet and their coaches. Yes, this has become somewhat of a rapidly made-up rivalry between two programs that have virtually nothing in common except for winning over the past two years. But when talking with these two coaches -- as the Hoops Report did in the days leading up to the matchup -- you immediately sensed a true respect and sincere appreciation each coach had for the other team and coach.

• The second game of the City-Suburban Showdown featured two teams that are legitimate Class 3A state title contenders. The Morgan Park-Rock Island barnburner, like Simeon-Benet, could be a rematch played out in Peoria next month. And just like Simeon-Benet, the Morgan Park-Rock Island rematch would be in a state semifinal game. But both have major roadblocks in front of them in their respective sectionals. Rock Island must get by the No. 1 ranked team in Class 3A and a team it lost to in December, Peoria Notre Dame, and Morgan Park will have to take care of a red-hot Brooks team and the defending 3A champs, Hillcrest, in the Rich South Sectional.

Rock Island's Chasson Randle became just the third player in Western Big Six Conference history to surpass 2,000 career points Friday night. Unfortunately, fans in Chicago didn't see his best work Saturday night. While one game certainly doesn't make a season, a win over Morgan Park and a prime time performance on a big stage would have catapulted his Mr. Basketball candidacy.

• Yes, Wayne Blackshear is the star, the McDonald's All-American and arguably the best player in the state of Illinois. In the eyes of the Hoops Report, however, the key and unsung player for Morgan Park remains sophomore point guard Markee Williams, who just goes out and makes plays. For such a young player, Williams is so tough, fearless and, for the most part, consistent.

• A really rough weekend for Proviso East has left people wondering if maybe the Pirates are still a year away from being a serious threat in March. Proviso East's nucleus is made up of juniors and sophomores, but being dominated by Downers Grove South on Friday and then falling to Lyons on Saturday certainly raises doubts heading into March as to whether the Pirates can make a run to Peoria this year. The sectional is stacked, with De La Salle, Farragut and Whitney Young among the top four seeds.

Lyons Township may have one more regular season loss than a year ago, but coach Tom Sloan's Lions are more dangerous this season. Last year was more about ultimate chemistry, leadership and toughness; this year's team simply is more talented. There was a reason the Hoops Report ranked LT 16th in the preseason rankings, even after graduating several key and valuable seniors from last year's 26-2 team. This current senior class, led by Illinois State recruit Nick Zeisloft, has experienced a lot of wins in their careers at various levels and offers more versatility than last year's team.

Proviso East's Sterling Brown continues his progression as a top prospect in the Class of 2013. Already among the top 10 sophomore prospects in the state, Brown led the Pirates with 14 points in the loss to Lyons and showed his growing versatility as a player.

• Finally, when the City-Suburban Showdown name is attached to an event, fans in attendance -- and teams that are playing in it -- are almost guaranteed of seeing and playing great prep basketball at the highest level. There is no other event over the years that has consistently delivered better team and individual matchups in the regular season than the event put on by Bob Rylko and David Kaplan.

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3 great games last night.

1) Parker was the best player at the Pavilion last night regardless of age.

2) Kaminsky was born to play in Bo Ryan's system.

3) Morgan Park would be the 3rd or 4th best team in the Mid-State 6.

Full disclosure; I'm from the Peoria area.

Great games for sure but I have 2 axes to grind about the Simeon-Benet game. 1) You can't breathe on Sobleski: the officials have to protect the little white kid from being pressured, meanwhile he constantly pushes off with his off hand and it's not getting called. He's a very good player, he doesn't need to be protected like that from the officials. 2) Boyle was constantly holding Parker's jersey inside the paint. That's not good defense folks, that's called a foul. The officials didn't clean that up either. To be sure Benet is a very good team who we will probably see in Peoria. But hopefully the officials will call the game like it says to call it in the officials handbook. No holdng of the jersey of pushing off with the off arm by the dribbler. And Morgan Park would be top 2 in the Mid State 6. Not sure any of those Peoria teams would be in the top echelon of the Public League.

I've been going to the City-Suburban since it's inception and Saturday night was the best I can remember.

The Downers North-Westinghouse triple overtime thriller back in 2000 or 2001 doesn't compare because of the way the three overtimes went down :), but I digress.

The atmosphere for Simeon-Benet is what IHSA hoops is all about. Sadly, even if Simeon and Benet meet in the semis it won't be nearly the same atmosphere. After the IHSA switched from the two class system it ruined the turnout/electricity at Carver Arena, coupled with the fact CPS teams historically barely have crowds to travel downstate, it just won't be the same.

Lots of talk earlier in the year bout Simeon being one of the best high school team's in the state's history, but where does that leave Benet?

On the high school level, I can't remember seeing a team as well balanced as the Redwings. Besides the headliner Big Ten duo, you've got a skilled 6-6 power forward, a sharpshooter (parisi) and a glue guy/scrapper who can still put the ball in the hole (boyle).

March can't get here soon enough!

Joe, I was thinking the same thing regarding Chasson's Mr. Basketball chances during his game. It's unfortunate that he basically had one night to state his case. Wayne didn't play all that much better, but all the people who cover the sport for the Chicagoland area have seen him so many more times.

I don't know if you get a vote for the award, but if you did/do, what is your criteria you vote on?

Thanks for any response

Tim from Evanston ... You obviously haven't seen Benet Academy play over the past two years! That's how it has been for both of your gripes -- constant push offs and constant grabbing, hand checking on defense. I have given up hope it will change or be called. Great basketball team that for whatever reason seems to get the benefit of the calls nearly every time I see them play. Physical teams though tend to get the benefit in basketball.

Yes, Sobolewski has been pushing off for a couple of years now. I watched him literally shove a guard from Glenbard East down during the playoffs last year 3 times right in front of the ref and no call. Can any ref reading this please explain what a push-off is considered? It is rather unfair. If you can get away with it, good for you I guess. However, the non-calls can be rather rediculous when someone gets pushed off an he slides 5 feet on the floor from the push right in front of the ref. he's still a great player. But I'm really not sure why he gets away doing that. oh well. It won't change so opposing guards will have to deal with it.

Saturday night was what the State Tournament is supposed to be - multiple terrific teams, playing high quality basketball, in front of a screaming packed house. Unfortunately the crowds at the state tournament are nothing like Saturday nights crowd - neither as big a crowd nor as loud.

My buddy Steve observed that he had not seen so many middle aged white guys (like us) at a a game in forever! I looked around and he was right.

Jabari Parker had more energy and played better than anyone I saw on the court that night. No wonder is a Top 5 player.

I really like Chasson Randle. He is smooth. He plays at a very high level. It wasn't his best game, but he did show a bit of his game. I wished I would have seen him on his AAU team with similarly skilled players. I bet he is a monster in those games.

Benet plays excellent good team. Everyone knows their role and plays in well. Kaminsky changed the game when he came out and hit a couple of 3 point shots. That seemed to catch Simeon off-guard. Then when they covered up top, he would slide down and pick up a pass and make a lay up. The sleeper on that team is McInerney (sp?). He is a big sophomore and has skills. He does a lot of dirty work for them. Boyle is a football player on the basketball court, plays hard and tough. Simeon's bigs, like many players, don't seem to know how to head or ball fake and then go up and under Kaminsky. Take the ball right at him and make him foul you.

If you read the Sports Illustrated article of a few weeks ago about home court advantage I think it explains why Benet gets so many calls. Referee's are predisposed to viewing the home team favorably. Even when they are not the home team they seem to get the benefit of the calls. Boyle did hold Parker all night. Sobolewski does use his foreman to push off. It doesn't get called, not against Simeon, and not against most teams. Even though it is a "Point of Emphasis" in the IHSA coaches/referees video this year.

How does Benet possibly lose? Any team can have a bad night shooting, Sobolewski gets re injured or he and/or Kaminsky get in foul trouble. Benet's opponent has to shoot the ball well. Simeon did not.

I can't wait for the tournament games to start next week!

That East Aurora sectional has a lot of talented teams that only go 6 or 7 deep. In the post season you have to have depth and that's what I think will keep Benet from winning their sectional. I read an article about East Aurora going down state and if you've seen them play they have serious holes in their team. To me the top team in that sectional is still Glenbard East. I know they got beat by Benet earlier but the chemistry they have is what can carry teams downstate.

You'll see more of those point of emphasis fouls called in the post season than you did in the regular season. I'm still not convinced that their is a consensus on what a "hand check" is amongst officials. I've watched a lot of smaller guards who physically could never handle bigger, stronger guards use the hand check to their advantage and get away with it because they happen to be smaller.

I think you'll also see the players that refs now know about who get called for ticky tack fouls in games not have those calls go against them as often.

I watched an East Aurora/South Elgin game that went into overtime and by all accounts South Elgin should have won that game but some star players still get the Michael Jordan treament.

Even watching Benet you can see the D1 players who get away with some contact, hand checks, push offs that other athletes would get called on.

Once the teams get down state then the cream of the officiating crop will handle the big egos and top flight talent than some of the current officials are able to do (flashback to a couple years ago when a tech was handed out to a team because of their jersey!)

No love for those Rockford schools! I feel like nobody is talking about the Jacobs sectional? Granted there aren't any local powerhouses in it but a sectional that features so many different styles of basketball could bring upsets every night? Preseason all I heard about was St. Ch. North and Rockford Auburn. Now you look at other teams who are pulling upsets and playing top notch Basketball at this point in the season (Bartlett 6 straight wins, S. Elgin won 4 straight before losing two on the road, Elgin who is a top 25, Boylan, Honenegah and Auburn all near 20 wins). Where's the love?

Hey Storm Rider, that love is the same love my old school is getting with a record of 24-1, very little. No matter. Hopefully all our schools can get some love once the playoffs start. I always find it funny when people say we play in a weak conference and put other teams with 7 or more losses ahead of us justifying it by saying they played a harder schedule. Yep, they did, but they couldn't beat the harder teams. So if you play a harder schedule and lose to the better teams, than you're better? It doesn't make sense to me. I too wish we played some of the so called tougher teams. But scheduling happens a year or so in advance and is tough to change. I hope both our teams do well in the playoffs and get their deserved attention.

Hopefully the Rockford newspaper covers the Rockford area schools. And the Chicago papers cover the city and suburbs here in Chicago. Why do I want to read about Rockford schools on the Sun Times website? I saw enough of the Rockford Auburn team when they lost to Wheaton North which is a team in the bottom half of a bad suburban basketball conference.

It is true that Wheaton Academy did beat powerhouse Aurora Christian by one point last week. Put them in the rankings now!!!!!!!!

I guess I just figure if all the teams are headed to the same state tournament why not cover them at some point in the same top tier news publication.

I learned a couple of things from watching Simeon lose to Whitney Young. I wanted to see how they would fare when they couldn't overwhelm the other team with their superior talent. I thought talent-wise Young matched up well and, as I expected, they(Simeon) didn't look so great. Secondly, I wanted to see how well they would defend if they weren't able sit back in a zone. And they were worse than I anticipated. Once they had to come out and guard Young, in effect the game was over. They took poor angles guarding their individual man and there was no help-side defense, at all. This resulted in Young shooting a bunch of layups and free-throws.

I didn't see the Benet game but I bet a friend $100 that Simeon would lose, especially if Benet could force them out of their zone defense. I've seen Benet before and I know them to be well coached, so I knew they had a chance to beat Simeon based solely upon that fact.

In my mind, coaching and recruiting are two totally different things. Simeon will continue to win a lot of games because of their ability to attract superior talent than its competitors. However, let us not confuse the number of wins with being well-prepared and properly schooled. There is a difference and it showed during both of their losses.

Those who are students of this game know what I am speaking of. It is all for the trained eye to see.

Hey, Fan, I think we won. Also, we did it while playing a freshman point guard and sophomore after getting an 18 point lead in the 3rd quarter. AC shot lights out and made it a game. Coach should have put the starters back in before letting the lead dwindle to 5 points. So it really wasn't a close game. Check the minutes on Wheaton Academy starters and you'll see they typically play 1/2 to 3/4s of a game. So the final scores are way off anyway. You should take in a game and you'll see that. And hats off to AC who shot over 70% from the 3 point line that game. Great shooting on their part to cut the lead. It's great to have a team where you can sit starters after half a game like the coach typically does! Check the scores when the starters come out if you think the team is second rate. Know a team before you talk about them.

Darnell good points and I agree with you on those points. But I think Simeon will correct those errors and still end up winning the State Title when it's all said and done.. They have won 3 State Titles and 1 second place finish in the last 6 years. One of those titles without DRose one with most of the current players on the roster. So yes recruiting is a big thing but Robert Smith is a good coach. He has proven it time and time again. Remember last year at this time Simeon got destroyed by DeLaSalle by 19? What happened after that? I actually think Simeon's biggest threat to a title is DeLaSalle who has to negotiate through a tough sectional (Young,Proviso East,Farragut etc). The best Superscetional Game will be Simeon vs either Young or DeLaSalle at Hinsedale Central.

Fan, Benet beat Marist by 3 and Nazareth by 6. I wouldn't conclude Benet is not a great team because of those close games. Sometimes teams just play out of their shorts when they play a good team. Hence an upset! Saw Wheaton Academy play. They only play their starters as needed. I didn't seet his game but heard they had a big lead and took their starters out. Might be when the game got close.

If you really want to talk about stars getting calls, what about Blackshear not being called for mugging Randle with 10 seconds left in a two point game? I guess the Chicago refs were not going to give the out of area star a call over the local McDonald's All-American. That would have been WB's fifth foul. I like Rock Island's chances in OT with Blackshear on the bench.

Billy Garrett Jr and Markee Williams were the difference for the Mustangs. Denzel McCauly looked good for Rock Island.

Rockford is down this year. None of those teams are serious state contenders.

Is CCompany serious? Benet doesn't even play their all-state point guard David Sobolewski in the wins over Marist and Nazareth and you are going to use those scores as a comparison? And last I checked, Wheaton Academy went 24-2 last year, played NO ONE, and promptly lost in the regional semifinals last year in their own gym! Not even making the regional championship game! And I have seen this team play and it is not even as good last years. The good fortune is Class 3A still is so weak so maybe this 24 win team can win a regional.

As another Wheaton Academy alum I will offer a fair evaluation. This team is a nice team. Nothing more. We have played I think two teams with a winning record the entire season in Timothy and Nazareth. We should not be ranked but we should enjoy the nice season they have put together. They have a chance to advance in March because like someone said, it is four classes and 3A is not real strong.

3A isn't real strong? Crane, Orr, Marshall, Brooks, Morgan Park, Hillcrest and downstate Notre Dame??? What? I promise not to tell Chasson Randell, Mychael Henry, George Marshall, Wayne, Juice and Max you said that.

Tim, I don't doubt for one second that Simeon won't win state. If they do it will be for the same reason that they have won in the past, superior talent. The defensive principles that I'm speaking to aren't adjustments you can just make and be good at. You either teach them or you don't. And they cannot guard man-to-man, at all.

I'm not convinced that Smith is a good coach. He has the best talent in the state every year, by far. He should win. He has, and I've said this before, a competitive advantage by being able to attract the best talent in the city to his school every year. I'm not saying that he is a bad coach, I am saying, however, that winning with a stacked deck doesn't prove anything.

I love a good discussion. Let me chime in on Tito's comment. I hope Sobolewski doesn't get injured or Simeon will have to put an asterisk next to their state championship? Sobolewski maybe key, but you can't use him as an excuse for barely beating teams when he doesn't play. Or should we take the injury status of every player on Simeon to see if they were sick before they lost to Benet and give Benet's win the asterisk? And how can a team even without Sobolewski that has a 7 foot center going to a major D1 school not soundly beat Nazareth and Marist? Really? C'mon man!

3A is weak? Ever hear of Morgan Park, Rock Island, Orr, Crane, Marshall, Hillcrest and a bunch of exceptional downstate teams. I could go on. Are you serious?I hear they actually have a McDonald's all American in there somewhere and someone who played on the US National Team!! lol. Cmon man! Know your sport.

I haven't seen Wheaton Academy play. But looks like they soundly beat Rich East who beat a couple of good teams out my way this year. Being 24-1 they must have some level of talent.

March is a different time of year. Forget records, talent, scholarships, who's playing where next year. It comes down to preparation and guts. There are going to be a lot of upsets this year. I don't think East Aurora gets out of their regional. Most likely they will have to go through Neuqua and beating a team 3 times is a monumental feat, especially when they are that well coached. I like Benet but even with beating Simeon when is the last time a high school 4a (or AA team) went undefeated and won it all? Sure they could do it but I see them as running into some scrappy athletic team that isn't afraid of 7 footers. I'm calling a long shot and saying that of the top sectional seeds less than half make it to play in a sectional championship.

I'm not even a Benet fan, but the obvious is the obvious. Losing an all-stater for two weeks who is a point guard is not an excuse for not beating teams by larger margins? Then what is an excuse? First, Sobolewski is probably the most important player to any highly ranked team in the Chicago area. They don't even have a backup point guard, have zero depth and play six players. Then you lose a player of his caliber and are forced to play the 7-footer at point guard in his absence. Marist is a 17 or 18-win team this year as well. And most every basketball fan and coach will tell you that, yes, while there are some very, very good teams at the top of Class 3A, there is little depth in quality in comparison to Class 4A. There is no comparison. You mention Orr and Marshall as two of the best 3A teams in the state? That is exactly my point. I am a Red-West fan and will tell you Marshall is nowhere near what they have been in the past. In fact, both Marshall and Orr have both greatly struggled all season and haven't been ranked since November.

I am a Benet fan. And I will say that if benet played the exact same schedule it has played and Sobolewski didn't play all season? I would put Benet's record at roughly 13-13, maybe not even .500. We just don't have anyone else who can handle the ball.

To Storm Rider;

Maybe your theory about East Aurora is right? I think not! Yes at times they have some holes on their team, but on the other hand they have also displayed some brilliance this season as a team! They seem to get a bad rap because they have the best player in the state and other players that play their roles well. If they are having a good night they are a dangerous team in the post season! The key will be Visor's return from a recent ankle injury. John Williams, Dominique Jihnson and company have stepped up their games and we all know what Boatright can do!

let me be the first to say this........Harlan will shock the state this year. poised and ready for the big show. 3a will learn about the small school that could. shaquille hynes,deontae,and Marquis Todd will make serious noise.

Mr. Tomcat. With Visor taking tons of shots 10 feet past the 3 point line, I like our chances. He's a decent shooter, but shooting NBA 3s isn't going to help you guys beat us.

EA doesn't have the best player in the state. Morgan Park does! Hands down. EA won't be able to get by Neuqua. Just watch.

I will give Boatright a lot of props for his game. He is the quickest kid with a ball in his hands to come through the Chicago area since Derek Rose. His jump shot has come along and if he decides to play defense for an entire game is one of the top two players in state. What I've seen from East Aurora the last few years is that they can win a lot of games, even win big games but they tend to lose to under rated talent. Wendell even said in a recent interview that most of their loses were to teams they shouldn't have lost to. My gut tells me East is already looking past Neuqua thinking that they've already beat them twice why not a third time. But for an upstate 8 fan...I'd love to see them downstate. I'm rooting for an Upstate 8 supersectional at NIU!

I might as well give my perspective as an alum as well. I think this years Wheaton Academy team is a bit better than last years team. They don't rely on one player like they did last year. That's why they lost in the playoffs so early. This year they play as a team. They just beat Heritage Christian of Indiana Saturday by 20 points and that team's Purdue bound recruit. I think they set a school record with win number 25. I'm not sure how far they can go in the playoffs as there are some really tough teams in the way. But they have some players on that team. Whoever comes out of RB though is heading downstate, no doubt.

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This page contains a single entry by Joe Henricksen published on February 20, 2011 9:21 PM.

Showdown week highlights season was the previous entry in this blog.

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