By Joe Henricksen
How about a little instant analysis from a busy night of basketball? Here are a few Hoops Report points from Friday action around the Chicago area ...
☛ Simeon is a machine. They played without their point guard at 100 percent for the first month of the season. They discipline and sit stars. They keep players in foul trouble on the bench and don't get greedy. They play a tough schedule. And they just keep on cruising. With the way the Wolverines are playing on the defensive end right now, it's not only difficult for opponents to beat Simeon, it's a challenge to score on them.
☛ You do have to feel for Curie, a program that has come so far under Mike Oliver over the past couple of decades. But it's still a program trying to get over that hump and claim its first city or sectional title.
☛ While Curie's Cliff Alexander is a terrific prospect, it's time to put the 2014 Alexander-Jahlil Okafor debate to rest for the time being. It's clear the Whitney Young sophomore is the top prospect in the class with his advanced skill, instincts and understanding of the game for a true and massive on-the-block big man. There is no debate, really.
☛ The old "we can take something out of this loss" adage holds true for Downers Grove South. The Mustangs were smacked around at home in a January loss to West Suburban Gold foe and unbeaten Proviso East. DGS, however, traveled to Proviso East Friday night and held its own, falling 65-62. If Downers South, led by Jerron Wilbut, can take care of business in the East Aurora Sectional, which won't be easy with upstart Plainfield East as the No. 1 seed, it can get a third shot at Proviso East in the supersectional. And knowing how well it played the Pirates on the road Friday night will pay dividends for coach Jay Baum's team if the two were to meet again.
☛ That Class 3A sectional at Glenbard South just gets more and more appetizing by the week. St. Joseph's win over St. Rita Friday night shows how tough a No. 6 seed the Chargers will be this March. Coach Gene Pingatore's team has won six of its last seven games, losing only a close one to the top-ranked team in Class 3A, Peoria Central. The likely Farragut-St. Joseph regional final at Nazareth Academy will be a slugfest.
☛ How will St. Rita bounce back from a very damaging Catholic League loss to St. Joseph? The Mustangs square off with a talented but struggling New Trier team at Proviso West Saturday night in the opening game of the City-Suburban Showdown.
☛ West Aurora must have came out with a chip on its shoulder Friday night in Naperville. The Blackhawks sent a message with an easy win over DuPage Valley Conference leader Naperville North. West Aurora, which lost at home to Naperville North earlier in the season, is now tied for the top spot in the DVC. Has it really been six years since West Aurora last won a DVC title? Naperville North, which is in a 14-year league title drought, must regroup quickly from this emotional loss as rival Naperville Central is waiting for them Saturday night. West Aurora and overachieving Naperville North could meet in a rubber-match in the final of the Oswego regional.
☛ With only last-place Kankakee remaining on the league schedule, Bloom's win over Crete-Monee Friday night virtually wrapped up the Southland Conference title for the Blazing Trojans. What an impressive season for coach Jasper Williams and point guard Donald Moore as Bloom improves to 22-3 on the season. As for Crete-Monee, it's difficult seeing this team put together a long tournament run in March with such an inconsistent perimeter shooting team.
☛ What a first-year coaching job turned in by Mike Howland of St. Viator, who has led the program to its first-ever outright East Suburban Catholic Conference championship. St. Viator also completed its first unbeaten season at home. Hopefully star sophomore Ore Arogundade will return quickly from an ankle injury and be ready to go come regional time.
☛ By the way, Marist, which knocked off Benet Academy by one Friday night, is hot and getting dangerous.
☛ Although it came in a losing effort to Bolingbrook, Joliet West's 6-9 senior Marlon Johnson with 18 points and 16 rebounds. Hoops Report absolutely loves this kid's upside.
☛ Finally, word out of Whitney Young is the entire team will be dressed and ready to play when regional play opens in 10 days. That means a return to action for not only 6-9 sophomore Paul White, who has missed the past couple of games, but also 6-9 junior Tommy Hamilton and 6-8 Colorado State recruit Jermaine Morgan.