State Playoffs start this week in best basketball state in America!!!!!!!
This is the earliest date that IHSA State playoffs start in history. The first games start this Thursday. Also the Sectional Semifinals all being on next Wednesday is the worst decision the IHSA has ever made. I grew up in Lexington, Kentucky and yes Kentucky is one of the best states for basketball in America. Indiana is big time too with 12 of the top 13 largest high school gyms in America. But, Illinois is the state that coined the term "March Madness". Here's the link to that history: https://www.ihsa.org/Sports-Activities/March-Madness-Experience/March-Madness-History. I used to watch the State Finals on television on the WGN Superstation. I learned about the late Ben Wilson(Simeon), Marty Simmons(Lawrenceville), Bruce Douglas(Quincy), Melvin McCants(Mount Carmel), Bobby Tribble(Simeon), Everette Stephens(Evanston Township), Marcus Liberty(King), Jamie Brandon(King) Michael Hermon(King,Westinghouse, Hales Franciscan), Three amigos at Proviso East(Sherell Ford, Michael Finley, Donnie Boyce), and many other greats from Illinois. I came to the area in 1995 right in the middle of the Kevin and Ronnie Show. That is Kevin Garnett and Ronnie Fields of Farragut, the greatest high school show I've ever seen. Out of all that history, this year might be the most important state titles ever. Why you say? Covid19 wiped out 2 years of State Title trophies. I've seen bench clearing brawls, crazy student fans, fans getting thrown out of games and threatening referees. Fans rushing the court after regular season wins, like Brother Rice crazies after beating their rival Marist in overtime for the Battle of Pulaski. Evanston Township fans rushing the floor at Northwestern University after upsetting their rival New Trier. Willowbrook fans rushing the court after beating their rival Proviso East by 2 after a tip in came perilously close to going in for the tie.
The IHSA State Title has always meant a lot, I think more than any other state, but the drought has made all these teams real hungry. More hungry than usual, actually starved for the State playoffs and State Finals. God willing I get to see it all and take it all in. I suggest the coaches, players, fans, media, everyone associated with Illinois High School basketball enjoy and take it all in. This is no matter if you lose the first game, or get to the State Finals, it's just a joy to have it all again. The high school gyms, the smell of the popcorn, the fans jammed in the high school gyms in the Regionals, and Sectionals. I'm so looking forward to Supersectional Tuesday, to me the greatest day on the high school calendar. Also this is the game where the venue transfers to the college size courts for the most part. So close to the State Finals, which this year is back in Champaign at the University of Illinois, but still so far. For so many years it was in Peoria. I'm looking forward to the fans chanting "We're going Downstate, we're going Downstate". The students rushing the court after winning the Sectional, especially one I was in the house for a decade ago, one of the biggest shots in State history in a Sectional Final: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byDUCWs_Hlw. Jereme Richmond's half court shot. Will we have something like this in this tournament? Can't forget the just finished Chicago Public League playoffs where Whitney Young took it. Now they try to pair it with a State Title, which has not been done since Simeon pulled off the double with the legendary Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn. Both are King of the Rings with 4 for 4.
Can Glenbard West finish in IHSA Class 4A? I've said before this is the best high school team I've seen in at least the last 6 years. The Stevenson outfit in 2014-2015 with Jalen Brunson and Connor Cashaw as leaders. The two teams I think could ruin the party are Whitney Young, which is at full strength now with junior Daniel Johnson joined the team full of wings. The other is Glenbrook South which took the Hilltoppers to the wire early in the regular season. They are confident enough to think they can do it. They will though have to get out of their own Sectional, which to me is the toughest in the State in Class 4A. I think Glenbard West breezes to the State Finals before they might be tested. They've NEVER been to the State Finals and some say that could be an issue. Well, THAT'S AN ISSUE WITH EVERY TEAM!!!!!!!! None of these teams or players have been to the state finals because there hasn't been any in 2 years. Coaches who've been there before could make a difference more this year than any other. Robert Smith of Simeon Career Academy, Tyrone Slaughter of Whitney Young, Mike Oliver of Curie and Lou Adams of Orr all have won State Titles. I think this will give their teams an advantage, more than most years with what I just mentioned. They all have teams that are talented enough to win in their respective classes.
Last but not least can Orr Academy win a fourth straight IHSA Class 2A State title? Coach Lou Adams I've heard may be hanging up his whistle. I've heard this for years but the talk has ramped up the last few weeks. He has talent and the rare experienced point guard that has won a title in senior Leontae Lilly. They will not be favored, they are unranked in Big Tim's poll as of now. They are not even the top seed in their Sub-Sectional!!!!!! The state tournament for them was stopped by covid19 though they had already made the Final Four in 2020. That I believe would have been their fourth straight. For some reason the IHSA did not let the Class 1A and Class 2A teams finish, though all the teams were already in Peoria. Orr Academy was heavily favored as it is HARD TO GET OUT OF CHICAGO!!!!!! Will Lou Adams pull his magic and experience and will another team to a title? Will be interesting to check out as Leo Catholic will be favored.
Finally, I'll leave you with a sad picture of the last time boys basketball was in the State Playoffs and covid19 ended it for those seniors with an incomplete season. This picture said it all at the time. Billy Durkin of Hinsdale South(Darien) sitting at midcourt after hearing his season was over. He sat there for hours contemplating a season he was not allowed to complete. This is the epitome of what high school basketball means in the state of Illinois. As the caption said pictures are worth a thousand words. I have a feeling his younger brother Bobby Durkin wants to finish his senior season in style for his brother. Oh yeah to add he's one of the top players at Glenbard West. Karma? Meant to be for the Hilltoppers? Time will tell. https://twitter.com/maxpreps/status/1239701774363013121?s=21