By Marty Maciaszek
There are always plenty of potential traps which can knock a team off course en route to the state finals in Peoria. The traditionally balanced sectionals in this area usually have more danger lurking than others in the state -- although the trouble for everyone in the Class 4A field at Barrington would be running into state-ranked Warren. Here's a look at what's potentially in store with regional play beginning Monday:
Watch out for: Top-seed Warren (25-3) is on an 11-game winning streak since a 1-point loss at Galesburg, ranked eighth in the state in 3A. The balanced Blue Devils also played Simeon tough in a 58-50 loss for the Pontiac Tournament title and have the discipline under Chuck Ramsey to play at any speed. What's really scary for everyone is the nucleus including 6-6 Darius Paul, 6-8 Nathan Boothe and JoVaughn Gaines has another year left.
Speed traps: Whoever runs into Warren would need to be at the top of its game and have an off night from the Devils to pull off a major upset. An interesting clash of styles Monday has Carmel (10-17) and its frenetic pressure defense against patient Highland Park (12-14), with the winner getting Warren. Hersey (15-11) has talent and size with G Connor Miklasz, 6-5 Tom Sutrinaitis and 6-2 Justin Jobski. Junior-dominated St. Viator (13-12) has struggled in the second half but has dangerous guards in D.J. Morris and Kevin Walsh and Wheeling (7-19) and long-range threat Ricky Schwind lost to Hersey in 2 OTs in December.
Watch out for: Fourth-seed Zion-Benton (21-9) has a formidable inside combination of Owen Worthington and 6-4 freshman Milik Yarbrough. The Zee-Bees also gave Warren a close call in a 3-point loss on Jan. 21.
Speed traps: Facing fifth-seed Fremd (17-9) on its home floor and looking for redemption from last year's stunning first-round exit won't be easy. Zach Monaghan is an all-around threat to go with G Quinton Brown and 6-5 Jack Konopka inside. Rolling Meadows (14-12) had a red-hot second half before stumbling twice at the end of the year -- the key is if PG Brian Nelms can return effectively after missing five games with mono to go with 6-6 Paul Volkman and shooter Tyler Gaedele. Lake Zurich beat Mundelein on Jan. 21.
Watch out for: High-powered second-seed Mundelein (26-4) on its home floor with 6-7 Evansville recruit Ryan Sawvell and another big scoring threat in Robert Knar. Two of its losses were to Warren and another to Barrington.
Speed traps: Speed is the operative word with teams that wouldn't be afraid to run with Mundelein. It could lead to some entertaining matchups -- including Wednesday with Mid-Suburban League champion Prospect (17-8) and G Mike LaTulip, versatile Terry Redding and 6-6 Matt Loebbaka facing Waukegan (11-12), which has played a rugged schedule in the post-Jereme Richmond era but has 6-3 junior and Tennessee State recruit Akeem Springs. Stevenson (14-12) has won five of six and lost by two to Mundelein in December.
Watch out for: Third-seed Barrington (18-10) won its first Mid-Suburban League division title in 20 years and is 12-5 since late December. The balanced Broncos with seniors Tyler Weathered and Greg Gerrard, 6-7 junior John Schneider and sophomore PG Brad Zaumseil can also get after it defensively.
Speed traps: Barrington didn't get any break right off the bat Tuesday. It will either get Libertyville (11-15), which has close losses to Warren, Fremd and Zion, with G Ryan Barth and 6-5 Luke Mathewson or a third meeting with MSL West rival Palatine (9-17). Buffalo Grove (16-10) has a tough combination in outside threat Nick Prus and 6-7 Sam Wacker. It has a tough opener with Deerfield (16-10), which was decimated by graduation but has won 11 of its last 14 -- including wins over Glenbrook North and Maine South and a loss at the buzzer to Central Suburban League champ Niles North -- behind junior G Mack Watts and versatile Sam Sternberg.
New Trier sectional
Watch out for: Top-seed Notre Dame (21-6) has a potent scoring duo in 6-5 Division I prospect Quinton Chievous and 6-4 Rodney Pryor along with some solid complementary parts. The Dons have had a few stumbles down the stretch but have also played a rugged schedule.
Speed traps: Notre Dame didn't get much of a reward for its top seed considering its potential regional final opponent. Conant (17-9) has a solid guard duo in defensive stopper London Dokubo and long-range threat Dylan Bartuch to force a controlled pace and has the homecourt edge that nearly derailed state champions Schaumburg (2001) and Glenbrook North (2005). First for the Cougars is St. Patrick (14-11), which won its only meeting with St. Patrick and is dangerous with Kortney Darby and Jacob Williams.
Glenbrook North regional
Watch out for: Fourth-seed Niles North (20-6) is having a historic season under second-year coach and former Rolling Meadows star Glenn Olson. The Vikings' only loss in their last 13 games was to Hersey and they have a difference-maker in 6-6 Abdel Nader, who recently de-committed from New Mexico and scored 49 in a 74-71 December loss to Glenbrook North, and a lot of people to exert defensive pressure.
Speed traps: Fifth-seeded host Glenbrook North (18-8) has lost six of its last 10 but is still on its home floor with 6-8 sophomore Andrew McAuliffe. The Spartans split with Niles North, losing the rematch in Skokie 48-44. Lake Park has the athletes in 6-4 Zack Cooper and 6-3 Dominique Spencer and a shooter in Eric Eichholz and lost 59-56 to Niles North in the Wheeling tourney semis, but has lost 10 of 12 since finishing third there. Hoffman Estates and junior Austin Terry will try to extend the successful career of retiring Bill Wandro a little longer and Elk Grove and senior John Lorenz look to build off a dramatic OT win over Palatine.
Watch out for: Second-seed Evanston (18-10) adjusted quickly to coach Mike Ellis' arrival from a successful run at Peoria Richwoods. The Wildkits won the Central Suburban South title behind Garrett Jones, 6-8 James Farr and Clarke Rosenberg and have the Beardsley Gym homecourt edge.
Speed traps: Evanston has stumbled a bit after a 14-3 start and seventh-seed New Trier (13-12) won their last meeting 47-43. The Trevians have 6-7 junior horse Connor Boehm and Rockford Boylan transfer G Austin Angel is healthy. Schaumburg (14-11) just beat Monday opponent Glenbrook South 51-30 two weeks ago, but the Titans got 6-7 Jack Ryan and Corey McMahon back from injuries last week. The Saxons and G Javon McDonald know how to make a run after reaching last year's sectional final and have been tested with six OT games and a schedule with Proviso East, Downers Grove South, Simeon, Curie and Lockport. George Edwards has been a dangerous threat for Foreman.
Maine West regional
Watch out for: Third-seed Maine South (20-9) has one of the most versatile and underrated players in the state in 6-6 Matt Palucki, who has been helped by the inside presence of 6-5 Casey Bruce. The Hawks' variety of defenses are always a challenge.
Speed traps: For Maine South, a potential first-round matchup with rival Maine West (16-10), which is at home and has the athletic scoring duo of Odera Eneogwe and Conor Hart. Maine South won their Thanksgiving tourney meeting at Maine West 53-44 in OT. Niles West (15-11) is surging under second-year coach Bob Williams with five straight wins and the return from injury of Lauris Herth, who had 35 points in a 59-55 win over Glenbrook North, to go with Tony Pierce. The Wolves could get a second-round shot to avenge a 64-52 loss to Loyola, led by 6-8 Mike Lang, 6-5 Briggs King and 6-3 David McCoy.
Watch out for: Second-seed Proviso East is young but talented with G Keith Carter and sophomore Sterling Brown.
Speed traps: Leyden (10-16) has played better down the stretch behind junior G Alex Herrera and could get a home rematch of Friday's 61-52 loss to the Proviso East in the semifinals. The Eagles played Niles North tough and also beat Rolling Meadows and Morton in the last week. Proviso West could also make things tough for its rival Pirates along with Lincoln Park.
Rest of the sectional: DeLaSalle is the top seed with one of the state's best in 6-8 Illinois recruit Mike Shaw. The Meteors could get a regional final with York, which has won 13 of 15 for first-year coach Dominic Cannon and has talented senior Will Sullivan. No. 4 Whitney Young has had an adversity-filled year but Ohio State-bound Sam Thompson and crew showed its capability in handing Simeon its first loss in the Public League semifinals. Third-seed Farragut is also a threat and No. 5 St. Ignatius has 6-10 Nnanna Egwu (Illinois).
Class 3A Ridgewood sectional
Gordon Tech regional: North Suburban Prairie champion North Chicago got the top sectional seed despite a losing record but has been tested with its toughest schedule and can test the best of defenses with junior all-state candidate Aaron Simpson.
Fenton regional: No. 2 Grayslake North (19-7) has had a breakthrough season behind senior G Teddy Ludwick and the second-half emergence of sophomore A.J. Fish. But the Knights have a long haul to Bensenville and host Fenton has career 1,000-point scorer Dan Montano.
Lakes regional: No. 3 Ridgewood (17-9) is coming off a 100-80 loss to Riverside-Brookfield where John Caravia, Andy Mazurczak and Pete Mroz scored all but 2 of the Rebels' points. Lakes (8-19) has lost five straight but did stun North Chicago in early January.
Vernon Hills regional: No. 4 Vernon Hills (16-10) started 10-0, stumbled to four losses in the Wheeling tournament but recovered to share the NSC Prairie crown with North Chicago behind all-state candidate and Notre Dame-bound football star Davaris Daniels. But the Cougars's current three-game losing streak was started by probable regional final foe and No. 5 Grayslake Central (15-12), which also had tough tests in road losses to Elgin and Waukegan to end the regular season.