By Joe Henricksen
The Class 4A and 3A sectional semifinal matchups will be played throughout the state on Tuesday and Wednesday. Here is a look at 10 storylines to follow in preparation for sectional final Friday.
10. The city's unknown
Simeon. Whitney Young. Morgan Park. Brooks. Crane. Orr. ... These are the city teams we've heard about and have become familiar with over the past four months. The casual high school basketball fan can name a dozen players from this list of teams. But either King, Hope, Harper or Lindblom will be advancing to a Class 3A supersectional next Tuesday as these four square off in the King Sectional. Go ahead and name a handful of players from these four.
9. Proving grounds
Wheaton Academy has heard enough about its schedule strength and people questioning its 27-1 record, which includes a perfect record against in-state opponents. A win over top-seeded Crane in the semifinals of the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional would go a long way in silencing the critics.
8. At least one Cinderella will advance
The New Trier Sectional is guaranteed of one thing: an appearance by Cinderella in the sectional title game this Friday night. That's because the Schaumburg-Niles West sectional semifinal winner will produce a double-digit seed -- Schaumburg is the No. 15 seed and Niles West the No. 11 seed -- in the title game. After losing both regular-season games to Maine South, Niles West upset the Hawks in overtime to win the regional. After a five-game losing streak in January, Niles West has won seven in a row.
7. Second chances
The regular season was not what Orr had anticipated or hoped for, but it's a new beginning. With a regional title and a looming sectional semifinal date with Riverside-Brookfield on Wednesday, the last four months don't matter a whole lot to coach Lou Adams and the Spartans. Orr star Mycheal Henry and Company have their hearts set on a Class 3A state appearance in Peoria.
6. Big-time test for defending 3A champs
Hillcrest is still a viable Class 3A threat as the Hawks try to defend their 2010 state title. After walloping both regional opponents by a combined 80 points, Hillcrest gets its first test of the 2011 postseason -- Wayne Blackshear and Morgan Park.
5. The Rematch
Crete-Monee and Homewood-Flossmoor, arguably the top two teams in the south suburbs, meet in the Thornwood Sectional semifinal. It will be a rematch of a January meeting that Crete-Monee won 67-62 in a game that really wasn't as close as the score would indicate. Crete-Monee, which received 24 points from Jamee Crockett and 11 assists from point guard Michael Orris in that earlier matchup, led 48-27 at one point in the second half. This one will be different. Homewood-Flossmoor's talented 6-8 junior Tim Williams is back playing and makes a world of difference for coach Jim McLaughlin's club.
4. The Rematch: Part II
The Niles basketball community will be front and center Tuesday night when Niles North and Niles Notre Dame meet in a rematch, only with much more on the line this time around. The two did meet in a high-profile matchup in December in the Wheeling Hardwood Classic title game, which Notre Dame won 61-50. But this is certainly a different Niles North team. Sophomore Malachi Nix has a dozen-plus more games under his belt and Cassius Bell is a much bigger factor than he was in December. Niles North, an impressive 15-1 since that loss to Notre Dame, also boasts a player who is very capable of putting a team on his back in Abdel Nader (see storyline #8).
3. Abdel Nader
An intriguing talent who had a monster game in the regional final, scoring 36 points and pulling down seven rebounds in the win over Glenbrook North. Nader is a matchup nightmare at the high school level, with an ability to step out and change the game with his perimeter shooting to the three-point line and beyond, while also using his size around the basket on both ends of the floor. How good is Nader? The 6-7 Nader (26 ppg) is obviously capable of being a dominating figure this March. While Nader will most likely head to a prep school for a year and re-classify as a Class of 2012 prospect, he would certainly be the top prospect in what is a rather weak junior class in Illinois.
2. Heavyweight battle in Elmhurst
A pair of individually loaded teams square off in Elmhurst in a monster sectional semifinal at York. There could be 10 Division I players on the floor at once when De La Salle and Whitney Young meet. Get a load of this short list of players: Whitney Young's Sam Thompson, Tommy Hamilton and Derrick Randolph; De La Salle's Mike Shaw, Dre Henley, Jaylon Tate, Alex Foster and Alvin Ellis.
1. Benet and the 'Boat Show'
The state's top-ranked team, Benet Academy, and the state's most exciting player, East Aurora's Ryan Boatright, go head-to-head in what will be a wild scene at one of the best high school basketball venues in the state. The defensive-minded Redwings will take their shot at containing the 32-plus point Boatright, who is one of the few players in the state who can absolutely dominate a game.