2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 3/8/2011 7:12 PM

Schaumburg-Niles West an intriguing matchup

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By Marty Maciaszek

Ten years after Schaumburg's greatest moment as a boys basketball program comes one of its most intriguing games.

Second-year Niles West coach Bob Williams gets his first shot at some old friends and the program he led to a 2001 Class AA state title and three Elite Eight berths in today's 7:30 p.m. 4A New Trier sectional semifinal in Winnetka.

The two schools came close to meeting the last two years in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. This one comes with the higher stakes of a chance to play for a sectional championship.

"The bottom line is we both want to advance," said second-year Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh, who competed against Williams as a player and coach at Conant. "It's undeniable, the attention and the intrigue. What he did here speaks for itself.

"Whenever we played against Tom (Conant coach McCormack), and we're about as close as can be, come game week you have two people who are competing and want to win."

Walsh has become only the fourth coach at an MSL school to win regional titles in his first two seasons -- joining Elk Grove's Ken Grams (1977-78) and Dick Wiseman (1985-87) and Barrington's Gary Cook (1977-80).

He has also extended an MSL record streak of winning seasons to 18 which Williams started before he and the school went their separate ways.

Williams has former Schaumburg players Kyle Braheny and Larry English on his staff. Current Schaumburg assistants Tom Burke, who played on the state-title team, Jim Sullivan, Luke Yanule and Bob Cosentino also worked for Williams.

"It's all been positive so far and that's nice," said Williams, who has Niles West in a sectional for the first time since 2004. "It's fun to compete against your friends and see what happens.

"This year Matt has helped with scouting and its's a good relationship there. There's nothing there that's negative."

And the other positive is both teams have produced eerily similar turnarounds to get here after they dropped to a game below .500 on Feb. 4.

"I'm very impressed with them when I watch them on film and they're playing very well together right now," Williams said of Schaumburg. "Javon (McDonald) is an excellent player and a good point guard is a good place to start. They're very physical and they're big kids."

Walsh called Niles West senior scoring leader Tony Pierce "a special player." He fueled a comeback win over Rolling Meadows that started its current eight-game winning streak.

"We'll have to play a complete game to be successful," Walsh said. "We can't take any possessions off against them. With their ability to shoot the ball and force turnovers they're never out of it."

Mustangs' race toward history: A win over Deerfield in tonight's Barrington sectional semifinal would give Mundelein the single-season school record for victories at 29.

But Mundelein coach Dick Knar thinks a pair of losses may be keeping his team and 6-foot-8 Evansville recruit and all-state candidate Ryan Sawvell off some radar screens outside of Lake County.

"It could be the fact we played Warren and they kicked our butts two times," Knar said of defeats by 38 and 20 points. "I don't know what it is, but I told our guys it's all about the 14 guys in the locker room. As long as we know what we can do we'll be fine."

Knar is definitely a believer in what Sawvell and his sophomore son Robert have done in combining to average more than 40 points a game.

Knar said Sawvell is one of Mundelein's hardest workers and that has transformed to solid leadership that has trickled down through the program.

"He's so undervalued by a lot of people," Knar said. "Before the season he said, 'I don't care if I score as long as we win.' I said, 'Ryan, if we're going to win you have to score a little bit,' but that attitude is what's going to make us good.

"Those two (Sawvell and Robert Knar) are about as unselfish as you'll get."

And if Mundelein takes care of business tonight it would get a third shot at Warren on Friday.

"Our relevance and attention will continue to rise as long as we continue to win," Knar said. "That's been our mantra -- take care of what we can take care of and people will notice."