By Marty Maciaszek
At New Trier
No. 11 Niles West (18-11) vs. No. 15 Schaumburg (17-11)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
How they got here: Niles West beat No. 22 Maine East 54-44, No. 6 Loyola 45-42 and No. 3 Maine South 46-45 (ot) to win the Maine West regional. Schaumburg beat No. 19 Glenbrook South 46-31, No. 2 Evanston 58-51 and No. 7 New Trier 49-46 to win the Evanston regional.
Outlook: Second-year Niles West coach and former Schaumburg coach Bob Williams was on the mark when he said "we've had very similar seasons" to get here. They faced rugged schedules, suffered some difficult losses that put them a game under .500 on Feb. 4 and now are on a roll that included having to win 3 regional games. For Schaumburg, which has won 8 of 9, it's the second straight year it's made a postseason run after making the sectional final last year behind G Javon McDonald (15.1 ppg, 54 3s, 3 apg, 3 rpg), F Kurt Kempema (5.5 ppg) and F Christian Spandiary (9.6). "It's a testament to our leadership and the team's overall character," said second-year Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh, whose team is 3-3 in overtime games. "We lost some close games that did nothing but strengthen our resolve. They stuck together and believed in what they were doing and it's a credit to them to be able to turn this around." A big key has been the play of sophomores Kyle Bolger (8 ppg) and Jimmy Lundquist (8.5) -- both hit double figures in the last two regional wins. Niles West won its first regional since 2004 and is on an eight-game winning streak started with a last-second comeback win over Rolling Meadows. Because of injuries and other issues, the Wolves didn't have their regular lineup together until Friday's regional final. Leading a balanced attack is 6-3 G Tony Pierce (15 ppg) and PG Donte Logan (10 ppg). Lauris Herth (6-2 F) missed most of the year with a broken ankle but scored 35 in a late-season win over Glenbrook North and long-range threat Ramsan Younatham has battled hip and ankle injuries. "One thing that stands out with our team is it's a bunch of kids with great character," Williams said. "They've worked extremely hard all year and it's paid off."
What's next: Winner plays in Friday's 7:30 p.m. sectional championship against No. 1 Notre Dame (24-6) /No. 4 Niles North (23-6).
No. 2 Mundelein (28-4) vs. No. 11 Deerfield (18-10)
When: 7:30 p.m. today
How they got here: Mundelein won its regional by beating No. 14 Stevenson 66-57 and No. 10 Waukegan 84-77. Deerfield beat No. 6 Buffalo Grove 54-44 and No. 3 Barrington 45-41 (ot) to win the Libertyville regional.
Outlook: Mundelein's drive to match the school record for wins set in 1994 includes a 73-59 decision over Deerfield on Jan. 22 where Robert Knar (20 ppg, 6 apg, 6 rpg) scored 21 and 6-8 Evansville-bound Ryan Sawvell (22 ppg, 11 rpg, 93 blocks) and Leavon Head scored 18 points apiece. Deerfield is 9-1 since then with its only loss by 2 points to Central Suburban North champion Niles North. "They beat a good Glenbrook North team and they're a good team," said Mundelein coach Dick Knar. "We were hot that game. They put a box-and-one on Robert and doubled Ryan whenever he got the ball and I don't know if they'll do that this time because other guys hit shots. I imagine it will be different." Deerfield is vastly different from last year's sectional semifinalist as it lost all of its key players to graduation -- including all-state standout and Wisconsin freshman Duje Dukan. But the Warriors have grown up in their current stretch where junior G Mack Watts and seniors Scott Fenton, Sam Sternberg and John Carney have led six wins by 7 points or less. "(Bret Just) is a great coach," Knar said. "They execute and they play hard." Mundelein has won seven in a row since a 74-54 loss to Warren with seniors Dickie Knar, Charlie Gandolfi, David Delgado and Josh DeGuia all playing key roles. "Our guys are really focused," Dick Knar said. "They're very resilient."
What's next: Winner plays in Friday's 7:30 p.m. sectional championship against No. 1 Warren (28-3).