With two conference games remaining, Mid-Suburban League races are starting to take shape in both divisions.
In the East, Elk Grove (11-12, 5-3) visits Prospect (14-9, 7-1) tonight in a rematch of a thrilling contest on Jan. 11 in which the Knights pulled out a 60-59 victory.
While Prospect has already clinched a share of the East, a win for the Knights gives them the division outright and assures their spot in the Mid-Suburban title game on Feb. 20.
In the West, Schaumburg (14-9, 6-2) hosts Fremd (16-7, 5-3) with the opportunity to lock up a share of their third straight West title. The Saxons won the first meeting in convincing fashion 46-35.
"We know that we're going to get their best effort," said Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh, whose team clinched their 20th consecutive winning season in their victory over Glenbard North on Tuesday. "They do so many things well. It's going to be a real battle, and we have a lot of respect for them.
"They're a very good team and we know it's going to be close game."
Walsh anticipates leading scoring Kyle Bolger will be able to play after sitting out Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury.
"He's hurting a little bit and is banged up, but we certainly expect him to play Friday," Walsh said.
Regardless of the Fremd-Schaumburg outcome, Palatine still controls its own destiny in the division. A victory over Barrington tonight means the Pirates can potentially earn a share of the West when they travel to Schaumburg on Feb. 15.
Speaking of those Pirates, the last time Palatine finished above .500 was 1998. But just one year removed from a 3-win season, the Pirates (14-11, 5-3) are on the verge of ending that drought as a victory tonight would guarantee them a winning record.
"Relative to where we've been the last few years, we've had a pretty good season," said Palatine coach Eric Millstone. "At the same time, it's a mature enough group that they're not satisfied with where we're at. And that's why I think we're going to go on and hopefully finish the season the right way."
The right way would involve a win tonight, but it won't be easy as Barrington (14-10, 4-4) enters the contest coming off a big weekend that featured impressive wins over Conant (13-10, 4-4) and Willowbrook. And the Broncos will be out to avenge a 61-55 loss to the Pirates on Jan. 11 when Palatine sophomore Roosevelt Smart scored 19 points.
"We have to stop their transition game," Millstone said of Barrington's sometimes sneaky up-tempo attack led by Brad Zaumseil. "That's priority number one. We have to have complete possessions because they're so precise and deliberate with their half court offense."
Viator passing gauntlet gut-check: St. Viator coach Mike Howland described his team's five-game stretch of Lake Forest, Marian Catholic, Notre Dame, Benet and New Trier as "going through the gauntlet."
Though the Lions would have liked to do better than two wins, the most important thing is that both were East Suburban Catholic victories, including a 55-54 win over Benet that gave the Redwings their first league loss.
Now St. Viator (15-6, 5-2) gets to sit back and watch as Benet (20-4, 4-1) has three opportunities to pick up their second loss with St. Patrick, Marist and Nazareth still on the schedule. The Lions lone league game remaining is next Friday at last place Joliet Catholic.
Make that six straight for BG: Buffalo Grove is getting hot at just the right time. With six straight wins, including three Mid-Suburban East triumphs, the Bison have gotten themselves back in the conference race.
With a win against visiting Rolling Meadows tonight and a Prospect loss to Elk Grove, BG (13-10, 5-3) would control its own destiny in the East with a Feb. 15 matchup at home against Prospect.
But forgive BG for not looking too far into the future. The team's last conference loss was to the Mustangs on Jan. 11 when Matt Dolan scored 21 points. That night, Meadows did what few teams have been able to do this season, and that's hold BG leading scorer Luke Potnick to single digits. Potnick recently joined the 1,000 point club with his 36-point effort against Niles West.
Spring is in the air: The first sign that postseason basketball is right around the corner took place on Thursday when sectional seeds were announced.
St. Viator is the highest-seeded area team, picking up the No. 3 seed in the 23-team Waukegan sectional. No. 7 Fremd, No. 9 Prospect, No. 10 Palatine, No. 11 Barrington and No. 13 Buffalo Grove are also in the sectional. Lake County teams earned five of the top six seeds in the sectional with Stevenson as the top seed.
The Schaumburg sectional features No. 10 Leyden, No. 11 Schaumburg and No. 12 Conant. Top seed Proviso East is the team no one wants to see early on.
Maine West is the No. 11 seed in a top-heavy Glenbrook North sectional.