The Class 4A boys basketball state tournament shifts into high gear tonight as Fox Valley teams compete for titles at three regional sites. The winners advance to next week's Dundee-Crown sectional. Here's a look at how the teams compare.
Matchup: No. 1 Huntley (25-3) vs. No. 3 Larkin (16-11), 7:30 p.m.
How they got here: Huntley defeated No. 5 DeKalb 40-37; Larkin defeated No. 2 Dundee-Crown 53-48.
Outlook: The team able to impress its will upon the other stands to gain the upper hand in this contrast of styles. Huntley is a methodical flex-offense team, willing to patiently work for shots. Scoring is balanced between 6-foot-6 sophomore Amanze Egekekze, seniors Troy Miller and Justin Frederick and junior Bryce Only. The Red Raiders win with defense. They've limited opponents to 40 ppg.
"We want to be solid defensively, which means not letting them get open on the break or allowing guys to beat us off the dribble," Huntley coach Marty Manning said. "And we have to handle their pressure. If we don't turn over the ball and we execute offensively, there will be opportunities to get good shots. We're hoping to put them in some different situations and get them a little frustrated. I think it's going to be a close game regardless."
Larkin wants to push the ball up the court at every opportunity, led by all-Upstate Eight River junior guard Quantice Hunter and talented sophomore guard Derrick Streety. Both ballhandlers possess the quickness to drive the lane and the ability to can outside jumpers. Reserve guard Quentin Ruff brings more of the same off the bench. The Royals score 58.6 ppg
"We'll try to speed them up and see how they react, try to make it a full-court game," Larkin coach Deryn Carter said. "I think they'll definitely try to slow us down. We both have different philosophies, but both teams have to execute to be successful. "
Huntley seeks its sixth regional title and fourth in six seasons under the leadership of Manning (123-50). Larkin vies for the 11th regional title in program history overall, its first since the 2005-06 season. The Royals' 16 wins are the most in a single season since coach Joe Kain won 20 games in 2005-06. The program fell on hard times for the next five seasons, winning a total of 20 games combined. A regional championship plaque would be a tangible symbol of the program's resurrection from a 1-26 record in 2010-11 (including 7 forfeits) and a 4-23 mark last year.
"It would be huge," third-year coach Deryn Carter said of winning the title. "It would really vindicate where we are as a program. When we look back on this season we will look at it as a success, but when you're in the middle of it you're always greedy. We'll have time to reflect whenever. Winning a regional was our goal all year, then we'll see what the matchups are in the sectional. We're 32 minutes away from that."
St. Charles North regional
Matchup: No. 1 Elgin (24-3) vs. No. 2 St. Charles East (15-12)
How they got here: Elgin defeated No. 4 South Elgin 41-21; St. Charles East defeated No. 3 St. Charles North 63-50.
Outlook: These Upstate Eight River rivals split two regular-season meetings. The Maroons defeated St. Charles East 55-39 in Elgin on Dec. 16, a win notable due to Elgin's tremendous defense. The Maroons held the Saints to 30-percent shooting as Dennis Moore contained Purdue-bound junior Kendall Stephens and Cortez Scott held Saints point guard Dom Adduci to 8 points. Adduci scored 25 points in Tuesday's semifinal victory over St. Charles North. The Saints gained revenge with a 65-63 victory in St. Charles on Feb. 3. Moore did not play in that game due to a broken hand, and Stephens fouled out with 4:28 to play.
"There was a noticeable difference in how we guarded in the half court," Elgin coach Mike Sitter said of the Feb. 3 loss. "We just didn't play well. We didn't win the 50-50 balls. They are a tough matchup because they always have five guys on the court who can shoot it. There's not one guy you can play off of. Adduci is the key. We have to limit his penetration and playmaking the way we did in the first game. Stephens is going to get his points either way, so our primary focus is Adduci."
The Maroons have won 8 straight games since losing to the Saints. Their 24 wins are the most for the program since Jim Harrington's 1999-2000 squad finished 24-5. Harrington's 1997-98 team won 30 games and qualified for state in Class AA. Elgin seeks the 42nd regional title in program history, its second straight and third in five seasons under Sitter (86-58). St. Charles East seeks the 24th regional title in program history, its first since 2006-07.
Matchup: No. 1 McHenry (11-15) vs. No. 2 Crystal Lake South (9-18), 7:30 p.m.
How they got here: Crystal Lake South defeated No. 3 Jacobs in overtime 41-36; McHenry defeated No. 4 Cary-Grove 45-40.
Outlook: The Valley Division of the Fox Valley Conference is guaranteed to produce a regional champion when division rivals collide for a third time this season. These schools have taken turns ending each other's seasons in regional semifinals. The Warriors knocked the Gators out last season, 61-58; CL South defeated the Warriors 45-44 in 2010; McHenry won 44-41 in 2009.
The teams split their regular-season meetings, each winning on its home court. CL South won 37-36 on Feb. 11. McHenry won 66-58 on Jan. 21, a game in which senior guard Jeff Nichols drained five 3-pointers in the first half. Stopping McHenry's 3-point attack and containing 6-foot-5 leading scorer Robert Tonyan are keys to victory for the Gators.
"We need to make sure they don't get a lot of set shots," CL South coach Dan DeBruycker said. "They have a number of guys who can knock down threes. We have to guard the pick and roll and keep Tonyan and their bigs off the glass. We were out-rebounded by Jacobs in the first half by 9, but we out-rebounded them by 10 in the second half."
CL South junior Max Meitzler (6-5) did not play in the semifinal due to a rolled ankle. He is unlikely to play in the title game, DeBruycker said Thursday. Meitzler led the Gators in scoring in conference play.
CL South seeks the 10th regional championship in program history, its first since Gary Collins coached them to a title in 2001-02. McHenry seeks the seventh regional title in school history and first since the 2008-09 season, when Dundee-Crown defeated the Warriors at the Elgin sectional.
Advancement: The Huntley regional winner will play the winner of the Rockford Auburn regional in a Dundee-Crown sectional semifinal on Tuesday, March 6 at 7:30 p.m. Defending sectional champion Rockford Auburn (27-2) faces Hononegah (20-9) in the Auburn regional final tonight at 7:30 p.m.
The winners of the St. Charles North and Cary-Grove regionals will square off in a semifinal on Wednesday, March 7 at 7:30 p.m.