Big Tim's IHSA Class 3A Preview!!!!!!!
America's Original March Madness started on Saturday. I think this is the greatest state tournament in America. I've lived many places because of my military experiences and seen many state tournaments in America. Yes I may be biased because I live here now, but there's nothing like high school basketball in Illinois. This is the best time of the year, big crowds, high school gyms filled with students cheering for their classmates to take the next step. The clever chants to bother opposing teams. The Brother Rice crazies. The Notre Dame College Prep Dons chanting "Sit down shut up". The Evanston Township students chanting "F New Trier"if they clash in the State Playoffs. Well not so nice there. Then the chanting and pointing "Scoreboard, Scoreboard, Scoreboard". Then the "Start the buses, start the buses". Then the "Seasons over, seasons over". Seniors have their high school careers end, and only one team in each class is happy and jumping up and down at mid court in Champaign aka Downstate. You see the players crying on the court, coaches and parents trying to cheer them up. You will likely see buzzer beaters, big time plays, all out war with each step. You have to win seven straight games to win the brass ring. You lose you're done that's just the way we do it here. Regionals, Sectionals, Supersectional Monday (does not sound right I loved Supersectional Tuesday), then the Final Four and finally the State Title game. Supersectional to me is the toughest game of the journey, so close but yet so far from Downstate and the Final Four. So here we go with Class 3A.
HOFFMAN ESTATES (NOW) SUPERSECTIONAL!!!
DeLaSalle Institute (Chicago) Sectional:
Favorite: DeLaSalle Institute (Chicago) #1 seed
Darkhorse: St Ignatius College Prep (Chicago)( third place last season), Westinghouse College Prep (Chicago)
This sectional to me is pretty wide open, more than a few teams could win this one.
DeLaSalle Institute is 20-11 so loosely a favorite, I think only because they are hosting and no other team has really stepped up and taken charge. They won the Chicago Catholic League Metro White which is the weaker division in that league. They did beat St Ignatius College Prep by 5 on the road. Senior wing Evan Jackson (6'7") is their most talented player with junior guard Richard Lindsey (6'4") another top notch player. They will need better guard play to get them over the hump and win a sectional title.
St Ignatius College Prep (Chicago) is 19-11 and to me is my pick to win the sectional. They have players back with experience of getting to Champaign last season and finishing in third place. Those players are George Mason commit Richard Barron (6'5" senior guard) and Miami Ohio commit Jackson Kotecki (6'9" forward) to name two. They will need junior guard Reggie Ray (6'3") will have to be consistently attacking the basket, and sophomore point guard Phoenix Gill (6'3") will need to step up. They've had a late season swoon losing 10 of their last 16 games.
Westinghouse College Prep (Chicago) is 17-11 but their recent history has been when they've had favorable draws they have not gotten the job done. They have a golden opportunity this time to get to a super sectional. Question with this Jekyl and Hyde club is? Will they even get out of their regional? Senior guards Isaiah Giles (5'11") and Terrell Craig (6'1") do a little big of everything. Juniors DJ Bolden (6'3"), Treyvon Ali (6'3") and Askia Bullie (6'1") will need to come up big in these playoffs.
Central (Grayslake) Sectional:
Favorite: Lake Forest #1 seed
Darkhorses: Central (Grayslake), St Patrick (Chicago)
Lake Forest is 20-10 and finished third in North Suburban Conference but is the obvious favorite in this sectional. Clemson commit Asa Thomas (6'7" wing) is the best player in the sectional and is a double/double threat. Another double/double threat is junior Tommy Aberle (6'2" guard) who is a jack of all trades player. They beat the other top contender in the sectional Central (Grayslake) by 21 on their home court which makes them the obvious favorite. Lake Forest was in the super sectional last season.
Central (Grayslake) has a glittering 25-5 record and would otherwise be a favorite in they own sectional. Problem is they have lost to the #1 seed Lake Forest by 21, but that was at their house. They could turn the tables this time in a sectional final. They have a good one/two punch in senior guard Dennis Estepp (6'2") and Lake County College commit Jake Gibson (6'7"). Estepp is a slack ball handling guard who can score from three, get to the basket and finish along with setting up teammates. Gibson is a double/double threat in points and rebounds. Senior guard Sam Cooper is a sniper from three and will be needed as a third scorer for them to win sectional on home floor.
St Patrick (Chicago) is 18-10 and is trying to get Coach Mike Bailey to state finals for the first time. Top players are Andrew Ayeni (6'4" senior). AJ Thomas (junior), and EJ Breland (5'11" sophomore). Ayeni does the dirty work inside, Thomas is a scorer inside and outside, Breland is a sniper from three. Could win this sectional.
CHICAGO (ILLINOIS CHICAGO) SUPSERSECTIONAL!!!
Hillcrest (Country Club Hills) Sectional:
Favorite: Hillcrest (Country Club Hills) #1 seed
Darkhorses: Lemont, Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights)
Hillcrest is 25-3 and would have been a huge favorite when seedings came out, but they lost by a twenty piece at #4 seed Thornton Fractional North (Calumet City). I do think if they meet in the sectional semifinal it could turn the other way. Hillcrest is the host and they have a senior laden team. Leaders are Akron commit Darrion Baker (6'9" wing) and point guard Bryce Tillery (5'10"). If they get the consistent play from Tolu Samuels (6'7" senior wing), and Quentin Heady (6'5" senior wing) like they have all year, they win the sectional.
Lemont is 25-6 and the Castillo twins (Rokas and Matas) missed some time in the middle of the season. They are back now and the Wisconsin Parkside commits have picked up where they left off. 6'2" guards score, rebound, and are good passers with a high toughness quotient. They once again lost to Hillcrest in the regular season, but upset them last year in the sectional. Can they do it again? They will need a third scorer to win this sectional once again.
Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights) is 24-7 and lying in the weeds. Cal Poly commit Quentin Jones (6'5" senior guard) missed some time with a knee injury, but looks like he's back at full strength. Jones is a two end monster who affects the game in many ways. His scoring partner is senior guard Donovan Juzang (6'2") with more help from Tre Davis (5'11" guard). James Bullock Jr (6'6" junior forward) will have to hit the glass at a high level for them to get out of the sectional.
Glenbard South (Glen Ellyn) Sectional:
Favorite: Simeon Career Academy (Chicago) #1 seed I(fourth place last year)
Darkhorse: Mount Carmel (Chicago) #2 seed
Simeon Career Academy is 26-3 and the overwhelming favorite here as they are to win the state title. They finished fourth last year with a lot of players back this year, and a lot of senior experience. They have a big time point guard in Jalen Griffith (5'10"), and size inside with the Rubin twins (Myles (Loyola Chicago commit), Wes (Northern Iowa commit)). They are 6'9" terrors on the interior rim protecting like the Sears Tower. Both can step outside and hit jump shots. If that was not enough they have senior Steve Turner (6'10") off the bench. Sam Lewis (6'6" wing) and Toledo commit. If that's not enough they have Kaiden Space (6'1" guard) and Stony Brook commit coming off the bench too.
Mount Carmel (Chicago) is 24-6 and a month ago I would have said they could give Simeon some problems. Not sure about that now as they have slipped the last month or so. They will have to reset to how they've played most of the season to give them a run. They have speedy Denver commit DeAndre Craig (6'2" point guard) to give teams trouble. The Ciaravino brothers (senior Anthony 6'2" guard), (junior Angelo 6'6" wing) that are knockdown three point shooters. Lee Marks III (6'6" wing) will have to provide scoring and inside play to counteract the size they may see in the sectional.
OTTAWA TOWNSHIP SUPERSECTIONAL!!!!!
Burlington Central (Hampshire) Sectional:
Favorite: Burlington Central (Hampshire) #1 seed in sub-sectional
Darkhorse: Marmion Academy (Aurora) #2 seed in sub-sectional
Burlington Central is 26-5 and should have little issue in winning this Sectional. The #1 team in the other subsection is South (Crystal Lake) which they had no problems with: https://www.bigtimshsbballrevue.com/post/burlington-central-clinches-share-of-fox-valley-title-on-senior-night-notes-and-top-performances. They have the best player in the sectional in Belmont commit Drew Scharnowski (6'9" wing) who can do a bit of everything on the court. He has help from fellow senior Lawrence University commit Nicholas Gouriotis (6'4" wing), and senior guards Nolan Milas (5'10" guard) and Matthew Lemon (5'9").
Marmion Academy (Aurora) is 19-11 and has shown the ability to beat a big time team such as Mount Carmel (Chicago). They have Collin Wainscott (6'0" senior guard), Trevon Roots (6'5" senior forward) and Lewis University commit Jabe Haith (6'3" point guard). The talent and schedule played give them a chance to win this sectional.
Favorite: Metamora #1 seed in sub-sectional (last years runners-up)
Metamora is 27-2 and are on a roll. They have not lost in 2023 and have won 25 straight including a win over defending champ Sacred Heart Griffin (Springfield) who they lost to in title game last year. They have most of their players returning from last season. They look on a mission to finish one spot higher this time as they lost in double overtime last season. They also beat Simeon Career Academy in the semifinal so no fear of them. South Alabama commit Ethan Kizer (6'6" wing) has had a great year. Returning players Matthew Zobrist, Tyler Mason (6'1" senior point guard), Tyler Swanson (6'2" forward) who can jump out of the gym. They also have Luke Hopples (6'7" junior) who has stepped forward this year to give assistance.
SPRINGFIELD (BANK OF SPRINGFIELD CENTER) SUPERSECTIONAL!!!!
Favorite: East St Louis #1 seed in sub-sectional
East St Louis is 20-8 playing a tough schedule as they have played more than a few teams from St Louis, MO. I think they have no problems winning this sectional. They just need to keep a cool head as they've been in some scraps over the last 6 months. Kansas State commit Macaleab Rich (6'6" wing) is by far the most talented player in the sectional. His running partner is Cal Poly commit Antwan Robinson (6'6" guard) and size inside with Damarion Brown (6'8" senior forward). Guard play will be key to win the sectional. I know they want another shot at defending state champ Sacred Heart Griffin (Springfield).
MacArthur (Decatur) Sectional:
Favorite: Sacred Heart Griffin (Springfield) #1 seed in sub-sectional (defending champ)
Darkhorse: MacArthur (Decatur) #2 seed in sub-sectional
Sacred Heart Griffin is 27-3 with one of those losses without their big man Zack Hawkinson. His health will be key to a repeat title. These guys are winners as most of these players have won state titles in both football and basketball. Tough to beat that winning mentality. They have most of their players returning from last season. Hawkinson (6'6" senior forward) is a double/double machine who will have to stay out of foul trouble. They have Air Force football commit Ke'Shon Singleton (6'2" senior guard) who hit the game winning three in title game last year. They have the Hamilton twins (senior Jake (6'4"), Quincy commit, senior Will 6'3" guard). The floor general is J'Veon Bardwell (5'10"point guard). Will be hard to beat Decatur MacArthur for a third time.
Decatur MacArthur is 26-4 with two of those losses coming to Sacred Heart Griffin (Springfield) their conference rival. They may get them again for a second time on their home floor. First game was a 6 point loss. Key players are: Mekhi Wright (6'7" senior forward), and Azarion Richardson (senior guard).
Observation: Could be the same four teams get to Champaign as last season: St Ignatius College Prep (Chicago), Simeon Career Academy (Chicago), Metamora, and Sacred Heart Griffin (Springfield). A lot of other teams hope this is not the case. Other thing looks like the state title rematch would be in the semifinals this time and that is a shame.