Random acts of basketball
The occasional randomness can be good for the basketball soul.
With that in mind, this week's edition of Eyes on Five looks at a little bit of everything.
Of course, this being February, part of that everything involves the upcoming playoffs.
Boys basketball in the East Suburban Catholic Conference just keeps chugging along.
Considering the amount of talent that transferred out in the off-season, it's been an impressive run for the competitive league. While Benet (17-4, 4-1) is in the thick of the ESCC race, a game behind St. Viator, it hasn't been easy.
The Redwings, also in play for the top seed in the Class 4A Glenbard East sectional, fell at St. Viator (17-5, 5-0) but scored a huge win at Marist (19-3, 4-1). They'll try to hold serve against Marian Central Catholic, Carmel (15-7, 3-2) and Joliet Catholic before a critical trip to Marian Catholic (14-4, 2-3) to wrap up conference play.
As good as the ESCC is this season, it'd be even better if not for those transfers. The losses definitely have been the Chicago Public League's gain.
Simeon's Xavier Pinson, a St. Patrick transfer, holds offers from Georgetown, Kent State, Missouri and Wisconsin. Curie's Maurice Commander, a Marist transfer, is committed to UT-Chattanooga. Chase Adams, a Marian Catholic transfer, is thriving at Orr.
A lot of common threads there, including state-title potential for their new teams. Simeon and Curie are ranked first and second in the Associated Press Class 4A poll while Orr is top-ranked in 2A.
You'll probably see a handful of ESCC teams making solid playoff runs next month, but expect a couple of those transfers to be playing in Peoria.
2. The youngsters:
February is an ideal time to check in on the underclassmen contributing to DuPage County's boys basketball teams.
Before we begin, know that we won't be mentioning every freshman or sophomore on every team.
Among the biggest impact sophomores are Benet's Colin Crothers, already a two-year varsity member, and Naperville Central's Cameron Dougherty, who scored 21 points including a game-winning 3-pointer last week against Neuqua Valley. Glenbard East's Alijah Nelson, another two-year starter, averages 13 points.
They're far from the only sophomores playing like seasoned veterans.
Fenton's Diamon King, Timothy Christian's Matt Owens, Waubonsie Valley's Marcus Skeete and Wheaton Academy's Marcus Bult all average between 9 and 10 points a game.
The West Suburban Conference is loaded with sophomores, with four contributing in District 86: Hinsdale Central's Mac Quast and Ryan Isaacson, and Hinsdale South's Aaron Tims and Billy Durkin. There's Drew Cassens at Downers Grove North and Nate Shockey at York ... not to mention Dukes freshman Jeff Grace.
One more sophomore to keep an eye on is Willowbrook's Everett Stubblefield III. Brought up to varsity in time for last week's win over Larkin, he's scored 43 points in three games.
3. Playoff tipoff:
Timothy Christian can't wait to get the Class 2A girls postseason started next week.
The Trojans will host a regional and are peaking at just the right time, having given Walther Christian a run for its money Tuesday before suffering its first defeat of 2018.
"Considering that we are playing the best we played all season and my girls are finally believing in ourselves, I'm pretty excited," Trojans coach Michele Strube said.
The Trojans earned the No. 1 subsectional seed. They have size, with four 6-footers who see regular playing time. They have strong guard play. They have good depth. But most importantly, Strube said, they have confidence now.
Defeating a 20-win Riverside-Brookfield team in overtime last week and hanging with Walther Christian, which just missed being ranked this week in Class 1A, will do that.
"We're playing like we should be playing," Strube said.
They're playing like they could win their first regional since Strube started coaching five seasons ago. They already are guaranteed to have their best record for the coach, 16-9 going into Thursday night's game against Fenton.
The Trojans will open with a Chicago school, the winner of Collins and Our Lady of Tepeyac, on Wednesday night, a game they should win. That would set up a regional final against the winner of Lisle and Westmont.
Timothy Christian already owns wins this season over both the Lions and Sentinels, but they'd like to see Lisle for a repeat of last year's regional final won by the Lions.
"We're looking for some revenge this year," Strube said.
As for the fourth-seeded Lions, they know better than to look past archrival Westmont, seeded fifth.
"Westmont's a better team than they were when we played them," said Lisle coach Nick Balaban, whose team beat the Sentinels by 12 in November. " ... We can't look ahead. Westmont's going to give us a battle."
The Class 3A and Class 4A girls playoffs are starting to take shape also. The sectional seeds were released Thursday night, with pairings due Friday afternoon.
In Class 3A Glenbard South earned a No. 1 seed in one subsectional of the Genoa-Kingston sectional, where the regional hosts are No. 2 Sycamore and No. 6 St. Francis. Expect the Raiders -- who are very happy to be sent west this season for sectional play instead of east with Chicago schools -- to go to Wheaton.
In Class 4A the Proviso West sectional is loaded with Montini at No. 1 with Benet at No. 2. One of them probably will be sent to Reavis for a regional, the other to Hinsdale South.
The winner at Proviso West will meet the winner of the Neuqua Valley sectional for the right to go downstate. Bolingbrook earned the top seed at Neuqua Valley, with Naperville Central at No. 2.
There's a chance the Redhawks, regional hosts, could find themselves playing No. 7 Naperville North in a regional final. The two cross-town rivals played Thursday night in DuPage Valley Conference action.
Bolingbrook visits Montini for a nonconference game Saturday afternoon in a potential supersectional preview.
As expected, Geneva is the No. 1 seed at the Lake Park sectional. Regional host Wheaton Warrenville South earned the second seed, beating out No. 3 Glenbard West, with Wheaton North at No. 4.
Lake Park earned the fifth seed. The Lancers are led by senior guard Carson Vance, who last week hit the 1,000-point milestone.
York is the seventh seed at Lake Park and might prefer to be sent to WW South than see West Suburban Silver rival Glenbard West a fourth time this season.
Addison Trail, Schaumburg and DeKalb are the other regional hosts in the Lake Park sectional complex.
5. The stat:
It's easy to get caught up in a buzzer-beating finish, but let's not forget an important element of Naperville Central's 52-49 victory over Neuqua Valley. The Redhawks won last Friday's DuPage Valley Conference game on Cameron Dougherty's last-second 3-pointer, and in the process helped one of their own reach a milestone.
Congratulations to Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer, who claimed his 250th victory that night.
No doubt it'll be one he remembers for a long time.
Follow Kevin and Orrin on Twitter