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Can you feel it?
Conference championships are being won. The Class 1A and Class 2A girls basketball playoffs are under way, with Class 3A and Class 4A kicking off next week and the boys playoffs just around the corner.
The dog days of winter are fading away. It's that time of year when basketball gets very interesting.
1. Another conference championship:
Montini finished its Suburban Christian Conference Blue Division girls basketball schedule 10-0 for its 11th straight conference championship. The Broncos (27-2) have lost three conference games total since 2003.
Each loss left a small scar on coach Jason Nichols, who can tell you the Broncos lost each of the three in overtime on missed free throws.
It won't be the same next year, however.
With much of the SCC moving to the Metro Suburban, the Broncos will be left in a conference with St. Francis, Aurora Christian and Rosary, Nichols said. With so few conference games filling out the schedule, the Broncos will play plenty of nonconference games.
"I've got 10 nonconference games so if anybody wants to play, give me a buzz," Nichols said with a laugh.
He already has filled most of those games, scheduling the likes of Naperville Central, Homewood-Flossmoor, Burlington Central and Kenwood.
"We're fine. We're not going to struggle," he said.
Figure it's just a matter of time before the remaining SCC teams resolve their league situation.
2. The new sheriff in town:
For years Bolingbrook was the obvious pick for the top seed in the Naperville/Joliet-area Class 4A girls basketball sectional.
This year Neuqua Valley (23-5) is No. 1.
"We were fortunate enough to get that. That could be a blessing or a curse. You never know," Neuqua Valley coach Mike Williams said.
Still, Williams acknowledges the top seed is "well-deserved" by a team that has played a tough schedule and still come out with a strong record and an Upstate Eight Conference Valley Division championship. The Wildcats play at Batavia on Friday night in the UEC crossover championship game.
"These kids have done a great job," Williams said. "They've had some trying times and they've answered the call."
They hope to have several more chances to answer the call in the playoffs. Bolingbrook isn't what it once was, but the Raiders still earned the second seed. Benet and Naperville North also promise to put up a fight.
The fun starts next week.
3. Planting seeds:
It probably won't happen when coaches submit their rankings for the Class 4A East Aurora boys basketball sectional.
But Benet should be the top seed.
If coaches simply look at records, it definitely won't happen. The Redwings sit at 15-7, which is worse than all the other contenders for the No. 1 spot.
No one, however, holds a candle to Benet's overall rèsumè.
The other No. 1 seed contenders -- including West Aurora, Naperville Central, Hinsdale Central and Bolingbrook -- boast quality competition, but there are few high quality wins. Each of them has at least four losses, so it's not like anyone has a runaway record.
Benet not only boasts quality competition against Marian Catholic, Stevenson and St. Viator, it also has quality wins over York, Larkin and others. What also jumps out on the schedule is a 5-0 record against sectional opponents.
The question, though, isn't whether Benet deserves the No. 1 seed at East Aurora. The real question is, does it matter?
But we'll save the answer for another time.
4. A cheer for stability:
Earlier this week we reported that Lake Park, after much internal discussion, has decided to stay in the DuPage Valley Conference. That means the Lancers, despite widespread speculation to the contrary, won't be returning to the Upstate Eight Conference.
Leaving the UEC in the first place -- its athletic home for three decades -- was not easy. A second move in three years may have been tough for the District 108 school board to accept.
But if the board did accept a return to the UEC, that was it. Lake Park may as well plant itself with concrete.
So this was a huge decision, and it's one football folks will criticize. Competitively speaking, outsiders do not expect Lake Park to compete in the sport that dictates these decisions to stay or go.
Insiders like Lancers football coach Chris Roll, with whom Kevin's spoken at length about the Lancers' potential to compete in the DVC, beg to differ.
Regardless, Lake Park will be criticized for staying just as Glenbard North will be criticized if it leaves. That's the nature of this business.
Speaking of Glenbard North, as of late this week the school remained in a holding pattern in terms of deciding whether to leave the DVC for the UEC.
The good news is that once Glenbard North decides, we hopefully will be entering an era of relative stability for the DVC. The Naperville-Aurora bloc will be secure, and the Wheatons don't seem eager to go anywhere.
5. Stat time:
In the last two weeks Glenbard North senior Chip Flanigan and Timothy Christian senior Connor VanderBrug each surpassed the 1,000-point milestone.
Perhaps the most impressive recent milestone, however, goes to York's Frank Toohey. The Air Force-bound forward-center set the program record for varsity victories.
A four-year varsity contributor, Toohey's first three seasons featured 64 wins. With 22 and counting this senior year, Toohey's program mark stands at 86 wins.
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