Girls basketball practice started on Halloween this season. A week later the boys began.
This week the Class 1A and Class 2A girls teams find out their playoff seeding and pairings. Class 3A and Class 4A teams go through the same process next week. Then the boys take their turn to find out their postseason plans in successive weeks.
Yes, we're already to that point in the season. It's gone by quickly, even for the two of us as the Eyes on Five columns zoom along.
Look, Eyes on Five gets it. We get older and the high-schoolers stay the same age.
Sometimes, though, we feel especially old watching some of the area players.
Benet's Colin Crothers and Glenbard East's Alijah Nelson, for example, both are starting for their respective varsity teams ... as freshmen.
It's a fairly common occurrence in girls basketball, but extremely unusual for the boys. Sophomores? Yes, that's something you'll see in a number of starting lineups.
Freshman starters are rare. Not only are they typically not up to the task physically but also mentally. They've never faced high school competition and suddenly they're thrust into games against veteran prepsters three years older than them.
Crothers is the lone non-senior starter for Benet's lineup that's posted a 14-6 record against one of the state's top schedules. At 6-foot-7 he's tasked with holding down the post every game, including last Friday against 6-foot-10 Marist senior Justin Brown.
Nelson, the son of Glenbard East assistant coach Austin Nelson, has an equally daunting task as the Rams' starting point guard. Last week he went up against Willowbrook's backcourt that's among the area's most experienced and most aggressive.
Not an easy challenge for either player, but you've got to hand it to them. The youngsters are holding their own.
At the other end of the experience spectrum is Naperville North's veteran boys squad.
Highly touted heading into the season because of reigning DuPage Valley Conference player of the year Mitch Lewis and all-DVC junior Chris Johnson, the Huskies had four losses by late December. Naperville North remained one of the county's top teams, but those losses allowed the team to slip into the weeds and out of the spotlight.
Even after six straight wins the Huskies managed to stay in the weeds, thanks partly to the emergence and dominance of DVC leader Wheaton Warrenville South. That may have changed on Saturday.
The Huskies stunned Evanston at the When Sides Collide Shootout, handing the state-ranked Wildkits their first loss to an Illinois team. Now Naperville North finds itself back in the conversation for postseason promise.
Life may be easier in the weeds, but the talented Huskies could only stay there for so long.
3. Raiders thinking big:
Looking back at the Glenbard South girls' results this season, a trend emerges.
The Class 3A Raiders are 17-4, but all four of their losses -- Glenbard North in the season opener, Geneva, St. Charles East and Wheaton North -- are to Class 4A teams, i.e., bigger schools.
Some pretty good Class 4A teams at that. Not too shabby for one of the youngest teams around.
The Raiders start juniors Sarah Cohen, Mady Carli, Ashley Dodge and Ally Daca, plus sophomore Maggie Bair, who averages a double-double in points and rebounds.
"It's always hard when you don't have any seniors in your program, but they are leaders, they get along, they work hard and they accept many challenges," coach Morgan Kasperek said. " ... Hopefully, we're peaking at the right time toward the end of the year."
The Raiders are riding a 10-game winning streak going into Thursday night's game against Trinity, the third-place team in Class 4A last year. The challenge of playing Trinity and learning from the experience is worth putting that winning streak on the line. In fact the Raiders won't give it a second thought.
"A winning streak, honestly, in the regular season doesn't mean too much to us. We'd rather get our winning streak going the first day of the playoffs," Kasperek said.
More meaningful than the streak is the Metro Suburban Conference Blue Division, which the 10-0 Raiders lead by two games over second-place Illiana Christian with just Riverside-Brookfield and Fenton left on the Raiders' league schedule.
"We're getting some quality wins," Kasperek said. "I'd like to see us be more consistent with both halves of the game. We'll play some really good quarters, but I'd like to see us put it all together, play some more complete games."
4. Planting time:
And now, back to talking playoffs.
As announced Thursday afternoon by the IHSA, Lisle earned the No. 2 seed in a Class 2A subsectional of the Lisle sectional, behind No. 1 Chicago Tilden. Timothy Christian is the No. 5 seed, and Westmont is No. 7.
In addition to hosting the sectional, Lisle will host a regional.
Pairings will be announced Friday. The Class 1A and Class 2A regionals tip off Feb. 6.
5. Stat time:
That's the number of games played by Lake Park boys basketball coach Josh Virostko when he played at Lewis University between 1998 and 2001. At halftime of Saturday's game against Illinois-Springfield, the former Flyer will be inducted into the school's All-Decades (1990s) Men's Basketball Team.
Virostko is seventh in school history with 151 3-pointers and led the team in scoring in 2001. Knocking down 49 of 51 free throws that same season, he holds the single-season program record for free-throw percentage.
Other honorees being introduced Saturday include Glenbard North graduate Roger Suchy, the Daily Herald's DuPage All-Area Team Captain in 1991, York graduate Bonnie Richrath and Hinsdale South graduate Brenda Wegrzyn.
Congrats to all!
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