Hey, 50-plus years is a long time to be in basketball hibernation.
Welcome back, DuSable!
The DuSable basketball program, still recognized most for its state runner-up finish in 1954 and producing the great and memorable Paxton Lumpkin in the mid-1950s, sent shockwaves around the city Friday night with a stunning win. DuSable, a No. 13 seed, went into St. Rita's gym and knocked off a Mustangs team loaded with Division I talent at the buzzer.
Sure, DuSable won Class 3A regional and sectional titles last year before finally falling to Hillcrest in the super-sectional a year ago. But those victories came as a No. 4 seed and over the likes of Urban Prep Charter/West, Perspectives Charter/Leadership, St. Ignatius and Dunbar.
This DuSable team and these Class 4A regional wins in 2013, which came over a pair of Chicago Catholic League teams (Brother Rice and St. Rita) that had been ranked most of the season, have people talking.
I received one text from a high-profile Public League coach Friday night that simply read, "I told U!"
I knew exactly what the text referred to per a previous conversation I had with that coach about DuSable earlier in the week. Thanks for the tip, Rob Smith!
Smith was a believer in DuSable, a team that finished tied for fourth in the Public League's Red-Central. And now his highly-regarded Simeon team, seeking its fourth straight state championship, will face DuSable in Tuesday's sectional semifinal at Argo.
THE UPSETS: Here are the Hoops Report's regional shock factor rankings. The five biggest upsets around the state, ranked in order of shock value.
1. Limestone over Washington
If I had five teams I could have put money on to be playing in Peoria in two weeks, Washington was one of them. In the Hoops Report's mind, the 27-1 Panthers, led by Valpo recruit Alec Peters, were the second best Class 3A team in Illinois behind Morgan Park.
2. O'Fallon over Belleville East
Yes, O'Fallon is a quality basketball name with a whole lot of success over the years. But it finished 2-12 in the Southwestern Conference and headed into its regional semifinal game with state-ranked Belleville East 7-19 overall. Meanwhile, Belleville East was 24-3, featured Mr. Basketball candidate and Illinois recruit Malcolm Hill (25 ppg) and had beaten O'Fallon twice during the regular season by a combined 32 points.
3. DuSable over St. Rita
St. Rita was the No. 5 seed in the most top-heavy sectional in the state. The Mustangs were playing on their home floor. They boast a potential high-major junior in Vic Law, arguably the state's No. 1 sophomore prospect in Charles Matthews and Division I prospects in Dominique Matthews and Myles Carter. DuSable disposed of them anyway.
4. Sandburg over Homewood-Flossmoor
Yes, Sandburg has a terrific talent in 6-7 junior Malek Harris and had been playing better since Harris returned to the lineup in late December after the team started the season 0-11. But the Eagles certainly came in as a double-digit dog on the 'ol Hoops Report line, especially after having lost to H-F twice during the regular season, 69-54 in early January and 52-36 just two weeks ago.
5. Geneva over Hinsdale Central
After losing two tight games to Hillcrest (61-58) and Stevenson (56-54) at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, Hinsdale Central didn't lose again for nearly eight weeks. The Red Devils reeled off 12 straight victories before losing to Proviso East in the regular-season finale. But as the No. 5 seed in the Bolingbrook Sectional, Geneva pulled off the upset.
STATUS QUO: Aside from the five aforementioned upsets, the reality is pretty much everything is status quo heading into sectional semifinal action. Of all the Chicago area Class 4A sectionals, 21 of the 24 teams that advanced to the sectional semis were all expected, based on their seeds, to be there. The only non-top four seeds to reach the sectional semis are No. 5 seed Mundelein (Waukegan Sectional), No. 6 seed Stagg (Thornton Sectional) and No. 13 seed DuSable (Argo Sectional).
Throw in Larkin and Crystal Lake Central in the DeKalb Sectional and 23 of 26 Chicago area teams that were all expected to still be playing next week will be.
PUTTING THE VIKES ON HIS BACK: Malachi Nix may be small, but the 5-6 point guard sure has some broad shoulders and a strong core, because this winner put his Niles North team on his back and carried it past Loyola Academy in a regional championship game win. Nix poured in 30 second half points and finished with 39 in leading the Vikings to a win over a red-hot Loyola Academy.
There isn't enough that can be said of what Nix has meant to this once-downtrodden basketball program that has captured three straight regional titles and has won 20-plus games for the third consecutive season.
STARS AND THE IDEAL SUPPORTING CAST: No, no, no, the Hoops Report is not going to go on and on and tout once again how overlooked and underrated Oswego's Miles Simelton is as a player and college prospect. It's done enough of that. But you want another reason -- or two -- to like Oswego (besides the Hoops Report's crush on the super-charged backcourt of Simelton and Elliot McGaughey) is the fact they have two of the toughest-son-of-a-guns you would ever want to surround your stars with. Seniors Jamaal Richardson and Jack Kwiatkowski are the ultimate role-playing difference-makers. A pair of football stars in the fall, Richardson is a lockdown defender and Kwiatkowski checks the box of every single intangible you would want.
Richardson scored 29 points -- during the ENTIRE regular season. He did, however, take 16 charges in the regular season. Kwiatkowski averages 4.6 points a game, but he provides a physical presence, gets loose balls, rebounds and defends. These two combine to average less than six points a game, yet their impact is felt in so many different measurable and immeasurable ways.
NEW TRIER ANSWERS THE CALL: New Trier should be respected after going 24-5 in the regular season. But they earned a lot more reverence with a regional win over host St. Patrick. Sure, the Trevians were the higher-seeded team and picked to win by most, but coach Scott Fricke's club showed some internal fortitude by winning in a tough gym to win in, overcoming some early foul trouble to star Steven Cook and holding off a late Shamrock run, which got as close as 57-54 with 1:35 to play.
APPRECIATE WHAT YOU HAVE: Note to Glenbard East fans: Don't get spoiled. Over a 25-year period leading up to 2004, the Glenbard East basketball program won a total of two regional championships and enjoyed one 20-win season. Incredibly, as it pertains to incredible basketball doldrums, that futile stretch included 17 years of nine or fewer wins in a season.
After beating Conant Friday night to win the Hoffman Estates Regional, Glenbard East now has won six regional championships and averaged 21 wins a season in the nine years since 2005. Add in a third-place finish in state in 2011 and the fact the Rams have won more DuPage Valley Conference games than any team in the league in that span, it's easy to see why folks in Lombard could be a little spoiled.
FEEL-GOOD TIME AT CARMEL: Although the Hoops Report believed No. 6 seed Carmel would win a Class 3A regional title, it's still a monumental moment for a basketball team that climbed over the .500 mark with a victory over Ridgewood Friday night. This is the first regional championship for Carmel -- and the most wins the program has experienced -- in 22 years.
CONTINUITY A PLUS: Don't underestimate the value of certain high school players having played with each other for years. Playing together since their grade school and junior high days is only a plus. Oswego is one of those teams. Mundelein is another. This group of seniors at Mundelein have now won three straight regional championships after defeating Lake Forest in a down-to-the-wire regional final.
PEORIA HOOPS? YIKES!: How down is Peoria area basketball? Check this out: Of the four regionals that feed into the Peoria Class 3A Sectional, which will be played at Bradley next week, there wasn't a single top-seeded regional team that reached the sectional semis. How does Mendota vs. Limestone and Galesburg vs. Peoria Central get the juices flowing, Peoria basketball fans?
ESCC POWER: Those were five regional plaques the East Suburban Catholic Conference teams were holding Friday night, if you were counting. Benet Academy, Marian Catholic, St. Viator and Niles Notre Dame all are either favored or have legitimate shots of advancing to Class 4A sectional title games next Friday night. Carmel, meanwhile, will take on Lakes in a Class 3A sectional semifinal.
THE OTHER SOPHOMORE: The Jalen Brunson-led Stevenson club is playing like it's on cruise control. This is just an impressive team that has now won 15 straight, often in dominating fashion, and has evolved as a favorite to reach Peoria. While Brunson is everything the Hoops Report believes he is and has said he is -- he scored 19 points with nine assists in the regional title win over Waukegan -- the OTHER sophomore, Connor Cashaw is REALLY good. This kid is a talented 6-4 wing who is poised to open a lot of eyes over the next two-plus years.
CLASS 4A CATHOLIC LEAGUE BLUES: The top Class 4A Catholic League teams -- St. Rita, Loyola Academy, De La Salle and Brother Rice -- all lost in regional play. That's a kick to the you-know-what for a league that continues to try and make a dent in state tournament play. The Catholic League has really been lacking in sectional wins over the past 2-3 years. The good news? Fenwick, Providence, St. Joseph and St. Ignatius all advanced to Class 3A sectional semifinals.
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport