2017-'18 Season Coverage
updated: 1/12/2017 9:47 PM

Eyes on Five: We're back and looking ahead

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  • Wheaton Warrenville South will host a boys basketball tournament this weekend with several top teams playing.

      Wheaton Warrenville South will host a boys basketball tournament this weekend with several top teams playing.
    Paul Michna | Staff Photographer


Well, looks who's back.

Eyes on Five hibernated a bit after football season but now returns for another basketball season. Orrin Schwarz will bring you the latest girls hoops news in DuPage County while Kevin Schmit reports on boys basketball.

Enjoy our opener...we'll be here all season!

1. Never too early:

Eyes on Five knows it's January, but it's never too early to start looking at the playoffs.

One thing that stands out among the Class 4A boys basketball assignments is that the bulk of DuPage County's teams aren't headed to the traditional East Aurora sectional. That's because there is no East Aurora sectional.

Don't get me wrong...the Hinsdale Central sectional has a great sound to it. But it's immensely odd to see East and West Aurora no longer grouped with our DuPage teams. They're now on the other side of the supersectional at the Lincoln-Way East sectional (East Aurora isn't hosting anything this season).

Who's replacing the Auroras (and Proviso West)? Alleviating a talent and geographic logjam from another sectional, it's Batavia, Geneva and DeKalb.

It's additional intrigue in a Hinsdale Central sectional that, until recently, had only three regional hosts -- Downers Grove North, West Chicago and York. The IHSA needed to seek out a fourth host, and Batavia recently stepped up.

It's a tremendous advantage to host a regional, especially if you're a sectional title contender. But there were no takers among Benet (11-3), Naperville North (10-4), Wheaton North (11-3), Wheaton Warrenville South (15-1), Willowbrook (12-1) and others.

Hosting a regional, however, is also a tremendous hassle. Practice for the spring sports starts that week and gym space is at a premium.

We'll have plenty more to talk about as the playoffs approach, but that's a small taste.

2. Busy weekend...for some:

Martin Luther King Day weekend has developed into a pretty big time for prep basketball. At least that's the case for some teams.

Of the 29 DuPage County boys basketball teams, only 11 will compete in MLK events this weekend. Seven are headed to Wheaton Warrenville South for its annual 16-team tournament.

The lure of participating is easy to understand. It's an opportunity to play two games Saturday and two games Monday.

That's also the drawback. Playing so many games in such a small window of schedule takes a lot out of a team. That factor doubles when the field is as strong as WW South's.

Teams shy away from MLK events for that reason. Beyond that, there simply aren't many nearby opportunities.

WW South is the only MLK event in DuPage County. Neuqua Valley heads to Rockton, Willowbrook to Sterling. Lake Zurich and Burlington Central also host events.

If more MLK events were started, though, it's difficult to say whether they'd fill up or not. Downers Grove North, for example, has its annual shootout this weekend. That's another route throughout the season for game-seeking teams.

Regardless, for basketball lovers there's nothing better than WW South this weekend.

Thirty-two games in two days? You can't beat it.

3. Taking a stand against injuries:

We at Eyes on Five have long gone out on a limb by taking a position against injuries.

We don't like them. Especially the season-ending kind. Sorry if that's too controversial.

Every year a couple of DuPage County teams get hit by severe injuries. This year Montini and Lake Park seem to be hit the hardest.

Montini senior Nikki Oppenheimer played the first three games of the season before being sidelined for a month by a knee injury. She returned to the court in December and played two games before injuring her left ankle.

The diagnosis, first thought to be a simple sprain, became a torn retinaculum. Her season is over. She had surgery Monday.

The Syracuse recruit is not the only Montini guard who will spend the rest of the season on the sidelines. Sophomore Zoe Zacker tore an ACL taking a charge in a win against Rock Island, suffering that injury for a second consecutive year.

"I've never seen anything like it. It's definitely tough, but what are you going to do?" Nichols asked rhetorically.

So the Broncos (19-0), ranked No. 1 in Class 4A, will try to win a state championship without two of the best players around.

"We're still a nice team and we're still solid. We're not as deep. We lost two starters in that basically," Nichols said.

There was a lot of excitement around Lake Park this fall about freshman Darrione Rogers. Rogers, a do-it-all kind of player, was being recruited by several Big Ten teams. But her season was even shorter than Oppenheimer's.

Unfortunately, Rogers' season lasted just 4 minutes, 40 seconds. In the first quarter of the Lancers' first game, Rogers landed awkwardly and tore the ACL in a knee.

Without her the Lancers have struggled to a 5-13 record.

"You're talking about probably 15 points a game," Lake Park coach Brian Rupp said. "I think she's a 15-point-a-game scorer, and clearly we need scoring."

Here's to a speedy recovery for all of them.

4. The Subway Classic returns:

One of the highlights of each girls basketball season is the annual Martin Luther King Day weekend showcase at Willowbrook. Teams from around Illinois, plus a couple of out-of-state teams, make the trek to Villa Park to play some top competition.

It's a chance for players, coaches and fans to mingle and watch some basketball. It's also a chance for college coaches at all levels to spend the day watching players and talking to them and their coaches.

It's been a labor of love for decades for organizer Jim O'Boye, one of the most active boosters of girls basketball you'll find. And while there are many boys and girls shootouts this weekend, this one, formerly sponsored by McDonald's, is an original.

Games run all day Saturday and Monday. Naperville North, Downers Grove North, Wheaton North, Benet, Montini and host Willowbrook are the local teams playing.

5. The stat:

Considering Wheaton North won just one game in Dave Eaton's first season as girls basketball coach, it's impressive that it only took him 13 years to get win No. 200 with the Falcons. It came Saturday against Waubonsie Valley.

This might be the Falcons' best season yet with Eaton. They are 13-3 and have won 12 straight games, including the Bill Neibch Falcon Classic championship for the first time since 1990.

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