By Joe Henricksen
The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the six most tantalizing sectional semifinal games over the next two nights of Class 4A and 3A action around Illinois.
1. Whitney Young (16-9) vs. Simeon (28-1) • Tuesday at Argo
What more could you want in a sectional semifinal? These two programs have won the last three Class 4A state championships. Young won a state title in 2009 and finished second in 2010, while Simeon captured the past two state championships. Aside from a sectional title game berth on the line, fans also get a glimpse of the top two college prospects in the state of Illinois in Simeon's Jabari Parker and Young's Jahlil Okafor -- plus a boatload of other Division I prospects. The first matchup back in December at the UIC Pavilion, a 62-55 Simeon victory, was highly entertaining. But a whole lot more is on the line in this one.
Hoops Report Pick: Simeon 55, Whitney Young 49
2. Peoria Manual (22-6) vs. Washington (25-5) • Wednesday at Bradley
You won't find anything better in Class 3A as the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the state square off in a mammoth showdown. Manual's toughness and defensive pressure, led by senior guard Keke White, can be off the charts, but the Hoops Report respects the coaching of Kevin Brown too much. And when a coach like that has a tandem like 6-7 junior Alec Peters and underrated senior Ben Ryan, the pick becomes more clear.
Hoops Report Pick: Washington 55, Peoria Manual 53
3. Plainfield East (27-1) vs. West Aurora (23-5) • Tuesday at East Aurora
West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman just won his 21st regional championship last Friday. Plainfield East, meanwhile, won its first regional championship in school history. In an intriguing matchup between a traditional power and a fresh face, it will be West Aurora's defense trying to hold down a Plainfield East offense that thrives when it gets out in transition. Led by three veteran guards, headed by Dee Brown, Plainfield East creates transition points off the defensive pressure it puts on foes. West Aurora's young guards, sophomore Jontrel Walker and junior Jayquan Lee, will need to continue their progression and minimize turnovers. Plainfield East has already beaten three DuPage Valley Conference foes in Wheaton South, Naperville Central and Naperville North. But the stakes have been raised for this DVC opponent. Hoops Report is going with the upset.
Hoops Report Pick: West Aurora 57, Plainfield East 53
4. St. Viator (25-3) vs. Mundelein (25-7) • Wednesday at Barrington
You want a Class 4A monkey wrench team, a team that can throw the brackets out of whack and leave people saying, "Who?" in a couple of weeks? Try St. Viator on for size. The Hoops Report loves the way St. Viator plays, loves the way it's coached and loves the chance the Lions have of pulling off an upset or two and reaching Peoria. Keep an eye on two difference-making underclassmen in Mundelein junior Robert Knar and St. Viator sophomore Ore Arogundade. This should be a fun one.
Hoops Report Pick: St. Viator 68, Mundelein 63
5. Marist (25-5) vs. Bogan (26-3) • Wednesday at Argo
If there was ever a way to prepare for a Bogan team that brings speed, quickness and relentless pressure at the highest level, well, it just might be to play Curie. Marist stunned the No. 2 seed, Curie, last Friday in the regional final and will play a Bogan team that will pressure the ball fullcourt and attack for 32 minutes. Fortunately, Marist coach Gene Nolan has the type of guards in senior Tyler Oden (9 ppg) and juniors Lexus Williams (13 ppg) and L.J. McIntosh (17 ppg) to navigate the type of harassing pressure Bogan throws at opponents. The Hoops Report went with Marist over Curie, so it will continue to ride the RedHawk train in another nail-biter.
Hoops Report Pick: Marist 64, Bogan 62
6. Marshall (22-7) vs. St. Joseph (20-8) • Wednesday at Glenbard South
A couple of programs with a whole lot of history and tradition collide in the western suburb of Glen Ellyn. St. Joe's might just be in the middle of a Red-West gauntlet. Coach Gene Pingatore's club took care of Farragut in the regional final, faces Marshall in the sectional semis and could very likely see Crane in the sectional championship. Pulling off this Red-West trifecta would be impressive. But it won't be easy as Marshall boasts Milton Doyle.
Hoops Report Pick: St. Joseph 52, Marshall 48
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport