Whether you were sitting in Carver Arena in Peoria or in front of your television set in your living room, you'd have to agree that the Class 3A and 4A tournaments were exciting and thrilling to watch, everything the Illinois High School Association hoped they would be when it adopted the four-class playoff.
Here are some observations from an old-timer who has observed the state tournament since Hebron and the Judson twins beat Quincy in the first televised event in 1952:
* Wouldn't you like to take the floor with a starting lineup that includes Jereme Richmond, James Kinney, Marcus Jordan, Colin Nickerson and Rayvonte Rice? They were the five most productive players last weekend.
* Dick Campbell, Tim Lavin's old high school coach at York and a former assistant at Illinois, must have been proud as the Champaign Centennial coach guided his team to the Class 3A championship.
* Win or lose, Oswego was the best story of the tournament. Imagine if every school that qualifies for the state finals receives the same measure of community support. The IHSA would have to move the state tournament to the United Center.
* Doesn't it drive you nuts when your favorite team has a lead in the fourth quarter and drives down the floor and throws the ball away? I'm sorry, but great teams play under control. North Lawndale didn't and isn't.
* You can be quick and athletic but if you don't exhibit poise under pressure and play under control, it usually doesn't come together. Name the greatest teams in state history and tell me if they ever lost their cool in the last five minutes.
* Given a choice, I'd take DJ Cooper of Class 2A champion Seton Academy or Leo's James Pointer. The Catholic League coaches did, too.
* The television crews did an outstanding job, especially Lee Hall, Bill Hitt and Mark Lindo, did an outstanding job. But I'd still like to see TV profile each school...location, history, great players, notable alumni, human interest story, famous teacher, main street. Do you know anything about Woodlawn or Lewistown or Annawan?
* Did you notice in the state tournament program that, according to Leo's statistics, the team averaged 111.7 points per game, even though the Lions never scored more than 80 during the season?
* I may be wrong but Waukegan's 37-14 first half performance against Dundee-Crown in the Class 4A semifinals was the most impressive effort I've seen since Thornridge's 57-26 first half against Quincy in the 1972 state championship game.
* Waukegan's Jereme Richmond is immature and isn't physically imposing--he needs to put on 25 pounds of muscle--but he is as smooth as butterscotch pudding and as cool as a James Bond movie. If he improves between his junior and senior years as much as he did between his sophomore and junior years, he could rank among the state's all-time greats with Isiah Thomas, Cazzie Russell, Quinn Buckner and Derrick Rose.
* Unlike most schools today, what is so impressive about Thornton's program is, since the days of Lou Boudreau in the 1930s, the basketball team has featured many multi-sport athletes.
* Coach Tyrone Slaughter of Class 4A champion Whitney Young was miffed when none of his players were named to the Chicago Sun-Times All-Area team. Clearly, Marcus Jordan built a case for MVP of the state finals and Chris Colvin was outstanding, too. But they were up-and-down during the season (Colvin averaged fewer than 10 points per game) so it is difficult to judge that they deserved a spot among the top 20 players in the city and suburbs.
* Chicagoans didn't know anything about Champaign Centennial's James Kinney until he showed up in Peoria and stole the Class 3A trophy. He clearly was the best player in the 3A tournament. It will be interesting to see how he develops at Ohio University and how many Big 10 schools will regret that they didn't recruit him.
* Have you ever seen a rebounder who is as relentless as North Lawndale's Jonathan Mills? Well, maybe Bill Russell.
* The fellow you saw walking out of Carver Arena with a big smile on his face was Marty Hickman, the IHSA's executive director who masterminded the four-class format and has been roundly criticized for dumping the two-class system after 35 years. Folks in Oswego, Woodlawn, Dundee-Crown, Lewistown, Annawan and Macon aren't complaining.