Class 4A East Aurora sectional
Regional hosts: Neuqua Valley, Oswego, Downers Grove South, Metea Valley.
Top seeds (by regional): No. 1 Plainfield East, No. 4 West Aurora, No. 2 Downers South, No. 3 Metea Valley.
Outlook: A wide-open field doesn't end with the top four seeds, although each of the top four has the playmakers capable of taking home the title. At 25-1, the lone loss coming to Larkin a month ago, Plainfield East definitely has a gaudy record. The Bengals also boast 6-foot-9 Brian Bennett and guard Dee Brown. The only thing lacking is a top-notch schedule, but the Bengals have the advantage of having beaten potential regional opponents Plainfield North and No. 8 Neuqua Valley (17-11). Ninth-seeded Naperville Central (15-11) has shown the ability to play high-caliber basketball, but the Redhawks need 6-foot-8 sophomore Nick Czarnowski to be healthy. If one player in the sectional can carry his team to a sectional crown, it's Downers South senior guard Jerron Wilbut, averaging 19 points a game. The Mustangs (21-5) could face another electrifying player in the regional final in Waubonsie Valley junior Jared Brownridge, or perhaps a balanced lineup from No. 10 Hinsdale Central. Despite Friday's loss to Elgin, No. 3 Metea Valley (22-4) enters the playoffs with an Upstate Eight Valley championship and a ton of momentum. With Kenny Obendorf, Ryan Solomon and others, the Mustangs could bring home the program's first regional title while playing at home. Metea Valley, however, must be wary of the Benet-Bolingbrook semifinal winner. The playoff-tested Redwings, with the tandem of Sean O'Mara and Pat McInerney, are eager for another postseason run. "I just look at all the regionals and how competitive they are," said Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza. "Bolingbrook, Benet, Geneva, Batavia have all beaten good teams and are all capable of winning big games, and at this time of the year anything can happen." Perhaps the most interesting regional is at Oswego, anchored by No. 4 West Aurora (21-5). The Blackhawks and Juwan Starks may face No. 5 Naperville North (19-7) for a third time this season in the regional final. The Huskies claimed the DuPage Valley Conference title outright, but the teams split in league play, including a recent 11-point West Aurora win in Naperville. "We've had a couple of milestones, and we keep telling the kids that they're adding to their legacy," said Naperville North coach Jeff Powers. "I think they are focused." A West Aurora-Naperville North regional final is by no means guaranteed, however. Thirteenth-seeded Hinsdale South (14-11) possibly awaits the Blackhawks in the semifinals, while No. 12 Oswego is in Naperville North's side of the regional.
Advancement: Winners of the Neuqua Valley and Oswego regionals play in the March 6 sectional semifinal; the Downers South and Metea Valley regional winners play March 7, with the sectional final on March 9. The East Aurora champion will meet the Schaumburg champion at the 4A Hinsdale Central supersectional on March 13.
Class 4A Schaumburg sectional
Regional hosts: Proviso East, Lake Park, Lyons Twp., Glenbard West.
Top seeds: No. 1 Proviso East, No. 4 York, No. 2 Oak Park, No. 3 Schaumburg.
Outlook: Proviso East represents the heavy, heavy favorite to win its first sectional title since 2006. The Pirates (25-0) have an unreal amount of talent led by Keith Carter and Sterling Brown, and they'll enjoy the added bonus of hosting a regional. That's bad news for the rest of the regional that includes three DuPage Valley Conference teams in Josh Fleming and Glenbard North (14-11) -- playing without two injured starters in Robin Paye and Ryan Krueger -- Glenbard East (14-11) and Dante Bailey and Sam Otto-led Wheaton North (8-18). Awaiting the Proviso East winner could be the winner of a potential Lake Park regional final showdown between York (21-8) and the host Lancers (18-8). The Dukes have a big-time scorer in David Cohn, while No. 5 Lake Park counters with Dominique Spencer, who recently passed the 1,000-point mark for his career. The Lancers first must contend with a third game against Bartlett in the semis. "First off, for us, it's a tough anxiety game to have to play Bartlett first," said Lancers coach Josh Virostko. "It's a rival game, it'll be the third time we play them and the second time we'll play them in a week." After early stumbles while playing short-handed, Oak Park (18-6) played at a blistering pace late in the year while rolling to the West Suburban Silver title. Guard Ka'Darryl Bell is now healthy and pairs with Gabe Levin to offer a potent two seed at Lyons Twp. Sixth-seeded Glenbard West (15-10) opens at home with No. 11 Conant, and the Hilltoppers could use the homecourt advantage. Since opening the season at 10-0 Glenbard West dropped 10 of 15 games. If the Hilltoppers and a formidable front line of leading scorer Michael Mache, Pat Mazza and Matthew Mache get past Conant, they'll likely faced balanced Schaumburg (21-5). "Hosting is a huge advantage," said Glenbard West coach Tim Hoder. "I think it makes a big difference being in your own gym with your own rims."
Advancement: Winners of the Proviso East and Lake Park regionals play in the March 6 sectional semifinal; the Lyons Twp. and Glenbard West regional winners play March 7, with the sectional final on March 9. The Schaumburg champion will meet the East Aurora champion at the 4A Hinsdale Central supersectional on March 13.