The gap between the St. Edward boys basketball team and top seed IC Catholic Prep widened Friday with next week's Class 2A Aurora Christian regional looming.
No. 2 seed St. Edward opened the season 9-0, a run that included a 60-57 victory over ICCP in the title game of the Westminster Christian Thanksgiving Tournament.
However, the Green Wave have since posted a record of 11-8. That mark includes a pair of losses to the rival Knights (20-6): a 69-63 defeat in Elgin on Jan. 17 and Friday's 75-51 blowout in Elmhurst.
Friday's result is cause for concern for St. Edward, largely, because of who did not play. Junior Nick Duffy remained sidelined with illness and missed his sixth straight game. The 6-foot-4 forward was leading the Wave with 12.7 points per game. Junior forward Danny Favela (6-3) also missed Friday's game.
Duffy is expected to visit a doctor next week to see if he can be cleared in time to play in some or all of the regional. With or without him, St. Edward coach P.J. White said his team will have to play its best in order to beat No. 3 Aurora Christian (14-11) in Tuesday's semifinal. The Green Wave went 2-0 against Aurora Christian this season, but the capable Eagles defeated ICCP on the road last week, 66-58.
"We're not looking at the Aurora Christian game like we've beaten them twice, we're looking at it like we're the underdogs," White said. "Both games we played against them were wars. We have to play an excellent game. This is it; win or go home. We have to fight, claw and scratch and find a way to beat them."
St. Edward attacks behind senior guard Davontae Elam, who recently committed to play football at Division II Northern Michigan, and junior guard Joe French. Both average 11.5 points per game. Elam scored 23 points and French had 21 in the Wave's 70-62 win against Aurora Christian on Feb. 15.
"Joe has had some really good games and he and Davontae played well against Aurora Christian," White said. "We've been able to get some scoring out of guys who haven't played a lot like Ryan Matthews (6-3), Logan Danner (6-4) and Conall Brannon (6-4). The bench is really helping out. We hope our kids step up to the challenge."
The woodsy campus of Harvest Christian Academy will be the center of Elgin's small-school universe next week as the Lions (13-13) host a Class 1A regional that counts Westminster Christian (15-12) and Elgin Academy (2-16) among the seven participants.
If seeds hold, the regional title game could feature a rematch between neighbors Westminster and Harvest. Coach Bruce Firchau's Warriors are the top seed, having beaten the Lions twice: 63-47 on Nov. 26 and 61-49 on Jan. 17.
"If we can get past our first 2 games, we would have to play disciplined and not turn the ball over to beat them," HCA coach Jeff Boldog said of Westminster. "They are a well-coached, good, disciplined team that doesn't make many mistakes. We have to play really good basketball to beat them."
The Lions -- led by 6-7 senior John Vislisel (21.8 ppg, 8.5 rpg), junior guard Noah Fox (10.3 ppg) and senior forward Dan Turpin (4.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg) -- open regional play on their home court on Tuesday at 6 p.m. against No. 7 Lombard College Prep. A victory would advance them to a regional semifinal against the winner of Tuesday's second quarterfinal between No. 3 Islamic Foundation of Villa Park and No. 6 Elgin Academy.
Westminster Christian opens the postseason on Wednesday at 6 p.m. against the winner of Monday's play-in game between No. 4 Faith Lutheran and No. 5 Bridgeview Universal.
"We're not looking past Universal or Faith Lutheran," Firchau said. "We've scouted Universal already and have some film I'm studying on them. I'm not worried about anything past Wednesday because we're taking it one game at a time. It's a cliché, but you can't win Friday's game on Wednesday. We just have to prepare and hope for the best."
Westminster Christian is led by 6-4 junior guard Sam Carani (17.9 ppg) and 6-2 sophomore Robert Kleczynski (14 ppg). Sophomore guard Dillon Rejman is the team's leading 3-point shooter with 51.