2014-'15 Season Coverage
Article updated: 1/9/2014 10:00 PM
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Adding another pair of eyes to 'The Five'
 

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Adding another pair of eyes to 'The Five'
  • Naperville Central played Benet in the Class 4A Benet boys basketball regional final Friday night.

    Purchase Photo | Naperville Central played Benet in the Class 4A Benet boys basketball regional final Friday night. Daniel White | Staff Photographer

 

We're here to prove four eyes are better than two.

With a holiday hiatus in the rearview mirror, "Eyes on Five" returns with a twist. After spending the fall focusing on football, this winter we'll be talking about basketball.

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Kevin Schmit will handle the boys basketball discussion, while Orrin Schwarz jumps on board to talk about girls hoops.

There's plenty to talk about, so let's get started.

1. Tough times:

As always, Benet's boys basketball program becomes immediately attached with the phrase "State's Toughest Schedule."

Why do the Redwings consistently play such a harsh slate of teams?

There have been a few things at play in recent years.

First, coach Gene Heidkamp has said on several occasions that he will not deny his players a great competitive opportunity. An era featuring two Benet grads/current Big Ten players (Wisconsin's Frank Kaminsky and Northwestern's Dave Sobolewski) and current standout Sean O'Mara, committed to Xavier, deserves to face the best.

Second, the best seek out Benet. By my count the Redwings play in five shootouts against Redondo Union, Calif., Fenwick, Milwaukee Hamilton, Evanston and Stevenson. Brutal, right?

Benet is an attractive shootout invite. The obvious reason is because of the program's success and Division I talent in recent years, but another reason is because of the crowds Benet attracts from its loyal fan base.

The third element of the "State's Toughest Schedule" label is Benet's life in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Marian Catholic and St. Viator are just another day at the office for the Redwings.

Finally, throw in nonconference games against York and Larkin just for kicks. Add the Hoops for Healing Thanksgiving and Proviso West Holiday tournaments.

It's wire-to-wire for the Redwings until we find out if it pays off in March.

2. Home sweet home:

A few weeks ago the IHSA announced postseason sites and sectional groupings for the Class 4A boys basketball field.

Most of the top teams in DuPage County feed into the East Aurora sectional and Hinsdale Central supersectional, but the first thing I always look at is who's hosting the regionals.

This season's regional hosts include Naperville Central, Lemont, Plainfield East and West Aurora. Expect the top four seeds of the sectional, likely to include West Aurora and possibly Naperville Central, to be spread among the four regionals.

So what jumps out? Without a doubt, it's West Aurora playing host to a regional before feeding into East Aurora.

The Blackhawks (8-3) remain hidden in the weeds a bit, but make no mistake. They're a state-caliber team that came within a last-second dunk by Curie's Cliff Alexander of reaching the Pontiac tourney championship game.

It's not inconceivable that West Aurora will run the table the rest of the regular season. The Blackhawks face a stiff DuPage Valley Conference road test Friday at Glenbard North (9-2), but the rest of the schedule is home-friendly.

And, as we all know, West Aurora's awfully tough to beat at home.

Which brings us to the playoffs. West Aurora will be a heavy favorite to win its own regional, and then it would be right next door in the relatively friendly confines of East Aurora for the sectional.

Benet, Hinsdale Central, Naperville Central and others obviously will have something to say about how the playoffs play out. As of right now, though, West Aurora's sitting in a pretty sweet spot.

3. It's not easy to build:

Last Friday Addison Trail met Lake Park in a nonconference girls game, with the Lancers coming out an easy 62-32 winner.

The game was a confidence booster for the rebuilding Lancers (5-10), who already have surpassed 2013's three-win total.

The Lancers have a winning tradition they can fall back on. Anybody else remember watching 2007-08 Daily Herald All-Area captain Samantha Arnold before she headed off to play at Michigan?

Meanwhile, Addison Trail coach Rob Schader was disappointed by his team's lackluster showing, though he must have felt better the next day after watching his Blazers (4-14) defeat Leyden in the West Suburban Gold.

The point here, however, is that both schools seem to be improving, though that improvement will never be a straight line. It will take time and a lot of work. Schader, for instance, is just building a feeder program for Addison Trail, which the Blazers will need if they hope to compete.

In the meantime Schader is working with some good athletes who are still learning basketball.

Neither team probably will reach .500 this season, but with time and patience, more wins could be on the way.

4. Take that:

In case there was any doubt, Montini (15-1) made it clear it is again a state-title contender by winning the Montini Christmas Tournament. When you can defeat Oak Park, Fremd, defending Class 4A champion Marian Catholic and Rolling Meadows in one week, the latter in a doozy of a championship game, you deserve some respect.

The Broncos are getting it from the Daily Herald; they're now ranked No. 1 in our Top 20, with Rolling Meadows No. 2 and Fremd No. 4.

The Broncos' only loss is to Wheaton Warrenville South, ranked third. They own wins against Moline, Rockton Hononegah and Sterling, for anyone worried about competition outside the Chicago area.

Montini now heads back into Suburban Christian Conference play, where it hasn't lost in years. It will again face a top team at the McDonald's Shootout on Jan. 20 when it meets Bolingbrook.

Hinsdale Central is on the schedule in February also. Then it could be a series of double-digit playoff victories until the Broncos get to the Class 3A Hinsdale Central supersectional.

5. Stat time:

Congrats to West Chicago senior John Konchar on scoring his 1,000th point earlier this season.

The milestone hasn't slowed him down.

The 6-foot-4 wing already boasts outbursts of 49 and 42 points, and he's also putting up 20-rebound games.

As the Wildcats take a 9-6 record into Friday's Upstate Eight Conference game against Waubonsie Valley, Konchar enters with an average of 29.4 points and 14.3 rebounds per game.

Follow Kevin on Twitter @kevin_schmit

Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrin_schwarz

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