By Kevin Schmit
Class 4A NIU supersectional
Naperville North (25-5) vs. Bolingbrook (28-1)
When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday at NIU's Convocation Center in DeKalb.
Road to the supersectional: To win the Hinsdale Central sectional, fourth-seeded Naperville North beat No. 20 Metea Valley 76-34, No. 12 Addison Trail 71-51, No. 1 Wheaton Warrenville South 40-35, and No. 6 Wheaton North 77-72. To win the Lincoln-Way East sectional, No. 1 Bolingbrook beat No. 17 Lincoln-Way West 86-51, No. 9 Lemont 63-54, No. 5 West Aurora 85-66, and No. 2 Joliet West 78-66.
Playoff history: Naperville North won two previous sectional titles in 1994 and 1998 but lost both supersectional games. A victory would match the program record for wins in a season set by the 1998 squad. Bolingbrook also won two sectional titles before Friday, in 1985 and 2015. The team two seasons ago won the program's only supersectional game, beating West Aurora and eventually finishing third in Class 4A. At 28-1 this is the best record in program history.
Naperville North Bolingbrook
Name Ht. Yr. Pos. Name Ht. Yr.
Tyler Carlson 6-3 Sr. G Joseph Yesufu 5-10 So.
Winston Elston 5-8 Sr. G Kaleb Thornton 6-0 Jr.
Mitch Lewis 6-6 Sr. F Nana Akenten 6-6 Sr.
Tom Welch 6-6 So. F Tyler Cochran 6-2 So.
Chris Johnson 6-7 Jr. C Malik Binns 6-5 Sr.
Outlook: When Naperville North purposely fouled Wheaton Warrenville South in last Tuesday's sectional semifinal victory, one of the aims was to give its offense more possessions and speed up the pace. With the pace sped to their liking in Friday's final against Wheaton North, the result was 149 total points and another victory. In this matchup Naperville North needs to be careful what it wishes for against the Raiders. Bolingbrook presents one of the state's most athletic lineups, led by Nebraska-bound Akenten, who averages 17 points and 6 rebounds while knocking down 50 percent of his 3-pointers. How athletic are the Raiders? Trailing by 10 points to Joliet West, they unleashed their pressure defense and seized command with a 20-2 run in just three minutes. Bolingbrook's entire starting lineup scored in double figures including the sophomore contributions from Yesufu's team-high 19 points and Cochran's double-double. The Huskies can't let the pace become too manic because it could play into Bolingbrook's hands -- the Raiders are averaging 80 points in the playoffs. As for the probable starting lineups listed below, it's a loose representation of the depth for both teams. Isaiah Clemons and Brandon Lawani were critical off the bench when the Raiders faced foul trouble on Friday. Cam Hardy, Youcef Merabet and Tabo Tarun all expect to play major roles off the bench for Naperville North. Merabet, an interchangeable starter with Elston, scored 13 points in the sectional final. Lewis, a third-year starter who will play football at Miami of Ohio, has elevated his game to another level. He scored a game-high 21 points against Wheaton North, and averages 14.7 points and 6 rebounds. Beyond Lewis, the Huskies need Johnson and Welch to control the post and the boards against a Raiders lineup that loves to dominate the glass. They also need a consistent perimeter threat from Carlson and others to make the Raiders defend more than Lewis away from the basket.
Intangibles: Northern Illinois' college court is larger than a high school's, which could favor Bolingbrook's style of play. A bigger court, though, allows Naperville North to have more room to operate against the pressure defense and half-court traps. The importance of the Huskies' first supersectional berth in 19 years won't be lost on the players, but that's where the experience of three-year varsity members Lewis, Hardy and Elston come into play. Bolingbrook finished third in Class 4A two years ago, and Akenten and Lawani both were members of that team. Even though the Raiders start two sophomores, they haven't shied away from any pressure-filled moments this season.
Advancement: The winner advances to the Class 4A semifinals at Peoria's Carver Arena to face Tuesday's winner of the Illinois State University supersectional between Simeon (28-3) and Edwardsville (30-1) at 7:15 p.m. Friday.
-- Kevin Schmit