The final four teams in Class 3A and 4A, respectively, converge on Peoria this Friday and Saturday to determine who will take home the trophy in each division.
There are teams that expected to be here from the first day of practice last October and others who nobody thought had a chance. There is committed Division One talent as well as up and coming stars. There are talent laden point guards, big men in the middle and players on the wing that can score at will.
Who will win is anybody's guess as, once a team had made it this far, they have proven they have the ability to withstand any challenges and go all the way. It comes down to the breaks and the bounce of the ball at this point.
In Class 3A's first semi final Friday afternoon, Limestone will attempt to slow down the top ranked Morgan Park express. Nobody has come remotely close to the Mustangs thus far who are led by Billy Garrett, Jr., Kyle Davis and Josh Cunningham. Limestone hopes to take care of the ball and use a balanced scoring attack in order to spring the upset.
The second 3A semi features Chicago Orr and Cahokia in a classic North vs. South match up. Keenan Minor is Mr. Everything for Cahokia while Orr boasts such stars as point guard Jamal McDowell as well as big men Tyquone Greer and Marlon Jones. Many think Orr is the favorite, but don't tell that to Cahokia.
The first 4A semi final Friday night is a game all have anticipated as these teams met last year in the title game. Chicago Simeon beat Proviso East that evening and the Pirates will surely be looking for revenge this time around. This match up is tantalizing to say the least. It is possible that all ten players who take the floor will wind up playing Division One ball. Jabari Parker (Duke), of course, heads Simeon's long list of stars while Sterling Brown (SMU) and Paris Lee (ISU) lead Proviso East. While Simeon, going for their fourth straight title, is probably a slight favorite, this game is really a toss up.
The last game of the day sees surging Edwardsville taking on Lincolnshire Stevenson and their super-soph, Jalen Brunson at point guard. Edwardsville has a fine point guard themselves in Shawn Roundtree and also relies heavily on big Tre Harris and Garrett Covington (25 points Tuesday). Both of these teams have put it together at the right time and this also looks to be a tight battle.
Many interesting sidebars attach to this weekend's competition. Locally, the Limestone Rockets are making their first appearance ever at State. In fact, until last Friday, they had never won a Sectional. Coach Eddie Mathews has assembled a versatile cast of characters with several key players coming over from Mid State 6 schools to form somewhat of a Mid Illini conference and Mid State Six melting pot. There are the Edwardsville Tigers, who last took home a trophy in 1956 with the likes of Mannie Jackson and Gov'ner Vaughn when they finished second to Rockford West. There is the possibility of an all Chicago Public league finale with Morgan Park and Orr. Throw in Simeon up in 4A and that would make three out of the four teams playing for a title from the CPL. In fact, these three teams were also in the final four of the Chicago Public League playoffs last month. The only reason the fourth member of that group isn't here, namely top ranked Whitney Young, lies in the fact that Simeon beat them last Friday night at Argo. Nor will anyone overlook Simeon's attempt to tie Peoria Manual's record (1994-97) of four straight titles.
Lastly, with an eye toward the controversy which stemmed from last weekend's 2A title game, it is hoped here that overreaction and/or overcompensation does not prevail this weekend. In other words, let the games be played fiercely, cleanly and respectfully. Let the players, officials and fans conduct themselves with the dignified fanaticism this event and these teams deserve. Let the players decide the outcome on the floor. This writer believes such will be the case.
Good luck to all !