The consensus at the Class 2A Westmont boys basketball regional: It's wide open.
"I don't think it's a shoe-in who's going to be there Friday (in the final)," said Lisle coach Mark LaScala, whose fifth-seeded Lions open regional play at 6 p.m. Monday against No. 4 Westmont. "I think the semifinals are going to be the equivalent to regional final games elsewhere."
Even without usual suspects Timothy Christian and 2012 regional champ Walther Lutheran -- the former bumped to 3A, the latter moved out of the DeKalb supersectional -- sub-.500 teams Lisle (12-14) and No. 6 seed Somonauk (11-15) could cause damage on the way to the Byron sectional against the Oregon regional winner.
"Our regional is the most talented, from top to bottom, that we've been in since the 2001 season," said coach Craig Etheridge of Westmont (14-12). In senior point guard Kris Pierce he's got the youngest brother of Final Four superstar Pierre Pierce.
"Every team in the regional has the ability to win it if they play to their full potential; the parity should make for an extremely competitive and fun set of games," Etheridge said.
No. 1 seed IC Catholic Prep (20-5) still has a major goal before the playoffs. The Knights, headed by the one-two, double-figure punch of guard Demetrius Carr and forward Clark Brinkman, aim to win their first consecutive conference titles in history. The defending Suburban Christian Conference Gold Division champions on Friday meet another regional foe in No. 2 seed St. Edward (20-6).
The St. Edward Green Wave is enjoying its best season since 1996-97. Yet after IC lost 51-39 to St. Edward and seniors Adrian Ponce and Antonio Domel at the Westminster Christian Thanksgiving Tournament, IC has beaten the Green Wave at the IC/Westmont Holiday Tournament and once in SCC Gold play. A regional final meeting would be the fifth this season.
IC first plays the Westmont-Lisle winner in a regional semifinal at 6 p.m. Wednesday. Westmont brings something they Knights don't have, the size of 6-foot-5 Jean Pietrzak, who averages 17.5 points and 9 rebounds. Lisle also has height with 6-6 Shane Murray and 6-5 Jeremy Glavanovits to go along with point guard Cody Monson and the athletic twosome of Dawon Burrell and Lamont Ross.
"I think the reason it's so competitive is there are a lot of different matchups and the skills from each team vary," said IC's T.J. Tyrrell, making his playoff debut as head coach after a decade as former coach Darren Howard's top assistant.
Likewise, St. Edward's appearance in the regional final is far from assured. Wednesday the Green Wave gets the winner of Monday's 7:30 p.m. quarterfinal between surging No. 3 seed Aurora Christian and No. 6 Somonauk. In fact in an SCC crossover last Saturday Aurora Christian (15-11) crushed St. Edward 83-44.
"I think we caught St. Ed's on the right night," said Aurora Christian coach Pat McNamara, a veteran in his first season heading the Eagles.
Nonetheless, with junior Johnathan Harrell moving from wing to point guard and a bevy of inside-outside options including guards Ryan Suttle, Wes Wolfe and Haydn McNelis and big men Cory Windle, Ryan McQuade and 6-8 Paxton Singer, the Eagles scored 83 and 84 points their last two games entering Friday.
Somonauk makes the longest trip to Westmont, but the 11-15 Bobcats, out of the Little Ten Conference, bring local flair. Assisting coach Ron Hunt is 1985 Wheaton North graduate Chris Bode, a fundamentals guru out of the Bobby Knight school -- minus the chair-throwing -- with coaching experience at Huntley, Earlville, Foreman and years with the Tom Allen Basketball Academy.
"Size is going to be an issue," Bode said of the Aurora Christian game. His own son, Reece, is no pipsqueak. At 6-3 and 230 pounds Reece Bode has turned into a double-double machine with at least 20 points and 15 rebounds in four of the last five games. He and senior point guard John Wathen, averaging 16 points, helped fuel Somonauk's recent 9-5 streak.
"That kid's a good player," McNamara said of Bode.
Westmont has a lot of them.
"I think it'll be a great regional to come out and watch," LaScala said. "I really do."
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