Could Christian Liberty have been the impetus for a boys basketball state championship?
North Shore Country Day's only loss in its last 16 games was by a point at Christian Liberty in their regular-season finale.
But the surprising Raiders (19-4) emphatically avenged that loss in the regional final. Now, a program that had never won a regional title before last season will be returning home from Peoria this weekend with a Class 1A final four trophy.
North Shore will face Woodlawn (27-5) in today's noon semifinal with Carrollton (29-4) playing Mason City Illini Central (17-12) at 2 p.m. in the Peoria Civic Center's Carver Arena.
In today's 2A semifinals, Rockford Lutheran (29-3) plays Normal U-High (27-4) at 6:30 p.m. and Seton Academy (28-4) plays Breese Central (32-1) at 8:15 p.m.
Two of North Shore's losses were in overtime and another was by 2 points to Chicago Latin. Junior Austin Curren leads the way offensively at 16.2 points a game and is complemented by senior Jake Bruce (11.7) and junior Jamie Swimmer (10.7).
Woodlawn has been here before, taking second in 2009 and third last year, and has the 6-5 duo of Christian Hollenkamp (16.3) and Gabe Owens (15.7).
Carrollton is led by all-state guard Joey Coonrod (14.4 ppg, 11 rpg, 3.5 assists per game). Illini Central recovered from a 3-10 start but its first four losses included Peoria Manual and Marshall.
The entire 2A field has as many combined losses as Illini Central. Rockford Lutheran avenged three regular-season losses to Byron in the sectional semifinals beyond Teyvious Montgomery (16.9) and Normal U-High and sophomore star Keita Bates-Diop (13.6 ppg) suffered all of its losses to bigger schools -- including Peoria Richwoods and Springfield Lanphier.
The final game of the day showcases a pair of all-staters in Breese Central's 6-6 Brandon Book (20 ppg, 9 rpg) and Seton 6-3 guard Mark Weems (14.7).
Saturday's title games are at 2 p.m. for 1A and 8:15 p.m. for 2A.