The last games of the season in high school gyms, with everything on the line...
GLENBARD WEST vs. EAST AURORA: Who is Tramell Weathersby? The freshman scored 17 points and grabbed eight rebounds last night against Wheaton North. Apparently, the Tomcats have been underrated all season long. Shaun Collins can shoot it and Justin Tiner is scoring in bucketloads as well. The Hilltoppers counter with 6-7 John Shurna. I haven't seen either of these teams this season, so it's tough to make a prediction.
NEUQUA VALLEY vs. LOCKPORT: I like the Porters in this one. Neuqua is fundamentally sound, a very fun basketball team to watch, I just don't think they have the talent to keep up with Bruce Durham and Brian Bradley. Doug Sexauer, a 6-6 center, is a monster on the boards.
STEVENSON vs. BUFFALO GROVE: Speaking of underrated, Stevenson is the real deal. Jong Lee has a deadly midrange jumper.
WARREN vs. ZION-BENTON: It's easy to smell upset in this won. There is no reason Warren shouldn't be playing for the state title eight days. They have it all. Stud point guard/leader: Ceola Clark. Deadly sharpshooter: Logan Derrick. Defensive stopper: Shannon Adams. Inside presence: 6-7 Julian Jones. Bench strength: 6-4 soph sensation Brandon Paul. The problem is, the Z-B's just might have their number. In late January, the Blue Devils beat Z-B 55-54. If anything, Z-B is much better since then. They are stocked with a number of talented freshman and sophomores that are starting to mature. Keep a close eye on this game.
LAKE PARK vs. CONANT: The Lancers pretty much owned Conant in the matchup earlier this season. However, the game was in Roselle and the Cougars were without Matt Collins. Lake Park is playing brilliantly, Andre Lewis and Mike Balleto are scoring forces. But I like Conant in this one.
CRANE vs MARSHALL. A West Side war. This one should be exciting. Can Crane keep up their magical playoff run? The game is bound to be close, but if the Commandos play with the same spirit they did on Wednesday night, there are very few teams in the state that can keep up with them. Expect to see Ryan Hare, Mike Stovall and Darius Smith in Peoria.
NEW TRIER vs EVANSTON: Evanton smacked around New Trier the last time out. But the Trevians basically dominated Loyola, one of the area's top teams on Tuesday. This battle of Central Suburban rivals should be a nail-biter.
THORNWOOD vs THORNTON: When will people finally start to learn? Every year in February all the Thornwood doubters come out of the woodwork, then every March, Bob Curran and Co. are in the state quarterfinals. Thornton is talented. They could pull this one off, but something tells me the battle-tested, experienced play of Reggie Hamilton, Trey Blue and Cameron Snelling will be too much for the Wildcats to handle.
HILLCREST vs BLOOM: I don't think anyone in the state thought as highly of Bloom as I did in the preseason. I ranked them #5, behind only Simeon, Marshall, St. Joseph and Thornwood. Then the Blazing Trojans went out and had a disappointing regular season, dropping out of the rankings altogether. Now, all of a sudden, they are making a run. Bloom beat Joliet by 20 points and knocked off Homewood-Flossmoor last night by nine. They will face Hillcrest tomorrow in the sectional final at Joliet. All the pieces are there with point guard Jamal Daniel, 6-8 center Jawan Nelson, Western Illinois recruit Larry Dumas, 6-8 Delvron Johnson and 6-4 senior Jamal Farmer.
ST. JOSEPH vs. PROVISO EAST: The Chargers won the first two, but I like the Pirates in the one that matters. St. Joseph just turns the ball over too much to go on a deep March run. As usual, the game will probably come down to the final shot.
SIMEON vs LEO: This could be a lot more interesting than expected. The Lions will not be intimidated by the top-ranked team in the state. Stan Simpson needs to have a monster game, Tony Topps and Kevin Woods need to be red-hot from outside. A lot has to go right for the upset to happen, but it isn't inconcievable.