Disabato: It’s time to bring out the crystal basketball
By Pat Disabato email@example.com Twitter: @disabato February 26, 2014 6:16PM
Lamont Walker (23) and his Morgan Park teammates are aiming to repeat as Class 3A state champions. | Worsom Robinson/For Sun-Times Media
Updated: February 27, 2014 2:15AM
Also known in these parts as win or go home, do or die and put up or shut up.
The boys basketball playoffs tip off Monday and culminate with the Class 3A and 4A state finals March 21 and 22 in Peoria. It takes five wins to reach Peoria and seven total to win a state title — a task easier said than done.
So which local team (or teams), if any, will advance through rigorous regional, sectional and supersectional competition and spend that weekend at Carver Arena?
Can Morgan Park repeat in Class 3A? Can red-hot Hillcrest win its second 3A title in five seasons? Will one of the locals, say Marian Catholic or St. Rita, prevent Simeon from registering a five-peat in 4A or upend Cliff Alexander and Curie?
Let’s call on The Swami, the self-titled master bracketologist and local hoops expert. The Swami isn’t perfect, but unlike Adam Dunn, he hits more than he misses.
Class 4A Marist Sectional
With Curie, Young and Simeon among the competition, I don’t like any of the local teams’ chances to win this sectional. The exception may be St. Rita, seeded No. 4. With Dominique and Charles Matthews, Victor Law, Armani Chaney and Treston Forbes, the Mustangs boast the talent to make a run.
Talent, however, doesn’t always win out. Coach Gary DeCesare’s squad will see Curie in the sectional semifinals. Coaches like to say guards win championships, but they obviously never witnessed Alexander. The Kansas recruit is a monster, and will not be stopped until he’s hoisting the 4A trophy in Peoria. It won’t matter which team — Maine South? Loyola? Evanston? — is waiting in the supersectional. That team is toast.
Class 4A Thornton Sectional
Top seed Marian may not have the most skill in the field, but it boasts the best player, Tyler Ulis, and the most unselfish supporting cast you’ll ever lay eyes on. The Spartans’ team harmony resembles a world-class symphony. Providence may pose a threat in the sectional semis, but Marian should survive.
Where a problem looms is in the sectional semifinal, where neighborhood rival Bloom will be waiting. Jared Johnson and Co. are a formidable threat and the outcome could come down to the final possession.
On the other side of the bracket, my upset special will occur at the Eisenhower Regional, where the host Cardinals, behind Vinny Curta and Calviontae Washington, or Sandburg, behind Niko Cahue and Alec Martinez, will take down No. 2 Thornwood — nothing personal, Thunderbirds fans. Thornton will win the Lincoln-Way Central Regional and advance to the sectional final.
Marian defeated Thornton at the McDipper. Will Justin Taylor and Jemani Pierce gain some revenge in their own gym? I believe so. Thornton then will have to eliminate the winner of the East Moline Sectional in the Normal Super. The Wildcats seem to be coming of age and they’ll advance to the Final Four and settle for a third-place finish.
Class 3A Rich East Sectional
This sectional should be extremely entertaining. Behind Don Henderson and Quinton Moore, Rich East will take down Rich South for the Kankakee Regional championship. The Thornridge Regional championship will draw a huge crowd when Hillcrest and Morgan Park butt heads. Hillcrest is on a tear. I have no doubt DeAngelo Isby, Taylor Adway, George McDaniel and Allen Jones can lead the Hawks to victory. However, Morgan Park is a little more battle-tested and will edge coach Don Houston’s club.
Over at the Plano Regional, Lincoln-Way West earned the No. 1 seed. However, the Warriors are badly limping toward the finish line. Unless sophomores Hayden Witt and Jon Marotta can get it together, an energetic Tinley Park squad may pull the upset. It really doesn’t matter, not with defending champion Morgan Park waiting in the sectional. Will the Mustangs, with a potential match-up vs. Orr or St. Joseph in the supersectional, make a return trip to Peoria? The Swami doesn’t see it.