Five boys basketball teams from the Fox Valley area advanced to the Round of 32 last Friday.
Here's a look at what lies ahead in sectional play this week for Bartlett, Dundee-Crown, Larkin and West Aurora in Class 4A and Burlington Central in Class 3A.
Larkin (21-8) faces Rockford Auburn (20-11) in the first semifinal on Tuesday. Dundee-Crown (17-12) tangles with Rockford Jefferson (25-6) on Wednesday. The winners meet for the sectional title on Friday. All games begin at 7 p.m.
Larkin seeks its fifth sectional title and first since 2004-05, when Dayvon Ellis and Carliss Henderson led the program to a Class AA supersectional against Rockford Jefferson in Moline.
The Royals make their second straight sectional appearance and fourth in six years.
Last season's sectional final appearance was the first for coach Deryn Carter in four tries. The Royals lost to Cam Krutwig-led Jacobs 62-39 in a sectional title game played at Elgin.
The Royals are back for another crack at it, led by 6-foot-3 senior guard Anthony Lynch and 6-foot-10 senior Jalen Shaw. Lynch averages 20 points, 5 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Shaw gives them 16 points, 11 rebounds, 3 blocks and 2 assists.
Lynch scored 15 points in the regional title win over St. Charles North, and Shaw enjoyed a dominant second half. Larkin's big man scored 16 of his 17 points after halftime, 10 in the fourth quarter, and grabbed 17 rebounds.
Auburn counters with 6-foot senior guard Yahmir Muhammad and 5-10 senior forward Jamus Neal. Muhammad averages 16.3 points and 4.3 assists per game. He led the Knights with 20 points in a 65-49 regional championship game victory over Rockford East while Neal had 11.
Auburn eliminated the Royals in a 2015 DeKalb sectional semifinal 64-49.
Larkin coach Deryn Carter said the keys to advancing past the Knights this time around are "ball security and being able to get the ball to the guys we need to get it to. They will try to take it out of Jalen's and Anthony's hands so it's a matter of being patient enough to get them the ball so they can be effective for us. I thought we did a good job of that against St. Charles North."
Dundee-Crown is the surprise participant. Playing on their home court, the sixth-seeded Chargers upset No. 3 subsectional seed St. Charles East 57-54 in overtime and knocked off No. 2 Jacobs 45-40 for its first regional title since 2009, when Jeff Beck led D-C to the Final Four in Peoria.
The Chargers have won 10 of their last 11 games, led by 6-foot-8 senior forward/center Gabe Bergeron, senior guard Jack Orndahl (6-0) and junior guard Jordan Hairston (6-0). Bergeron entered the playoffs averaging 11.9 points and 6.7 rebounds per game while Orndahl contributes 11.7 points and Hairston 10.8.
Dundee-Crown must find a way to offset Jefferson's three double-digit scorers: My'Quion Garrett (6-foot-4, 210 pounds), senior point guard Quillin Dixon and senior shooting guard Terry Ford.
"We have to take care of the ball against their pressure and we'll have to figure out a way to stop them," D-C coach Lance Huber said. "They are super-duper athletic and super-duper quick. When they're making shots they are really tough to guard because they can take it to the rim at almost any time. If you try to take that away, they're open for shots. We're going to go out and do what we've been doing and, hopefully, that will work."
Larkin and Jefferson were named No. 1 seeds in their respective subsectionals. If seeds hold, they would meet for the second time this season for the sectional title. Jefferson defeated Larkin 69-58 at the Rockford Tip-Off Tournament on Nov. 25. Garrett led the J-Hawks with 26 points. Jefferson took a 14-point halftime lead and led by 10 or more throughout the fourth quarter. Shaw had 21 points for Larkin but sat most of the first half due to foul trouble. Lynch scored 15 points.
Larkin and Dundee-Crown did not face each other during the regular season.
The winner of the Jacobs sectional advances to play the winner of the Glenbard East sectional in the Northern Illinois supersectional on Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m.
At Glenbard East
Bartlett (17-12) advanced to the Glenbard East sectional as a No. 12 seed by pulling off two upsets on its home floor. The Hawks defeated No. 6 Batavia 42-37 and No. 3 Wheaton Warrenville South 45-42.
It was the first regional title for Bartlett since 2009-10, when it advanced to the Elgin supersectional against Waukegan.
The Hawks will face No. 2 Benet Academy (25-4) in the second game of a semifinal doubleheader on Tuesday at 8 p.m., preceded by No. 1 Naperville North (26-2) vs. No. 5 Willowbrook (25-5) at 6 p.m.
Bartlett was an underdog by seed in regional play, but a 12 seed was a bit misleading considering the Hawks spent seven weeks at midseason without senior guard Ben Tompson, who led the team in scoring as a junior. He averaged 11.7 ppg in 14 regular-season games.
Bartlett's leading scorers are senior Tomas Vikonis (13.7 ppg) and junior Austin Gates (11.8), both named all-Upstate Eight Valley. Ben Fisher adds 10 points and 5.2 rebounds per game. Vikonis banked in a 3-pointer at the buzzer to win the regional title.
Benet counters with 6-8 post Colin Crothers (10 ppg, 6 rpg) and senior wing David Buh (14 ppg).
The Hawks seek their second sectional title while the Redwings seek their ninth and third in five years. Benet was the Class 4A runner-up in 2014 and 2016. The Redwings lost in a regional final last year against Wheaton North.
"We're not going to play the underdog card," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "We might be the upset special because of our seed in our sectional and the teams we knocked off, but the reality is that in a four-class system regional finals are what sectional semifinals used to be because the field is cut in half. All these teams in the sectional are quality teams with quality coaches. Now, it's just about going out and playing your best basketball."
Naperville North is the defending sectional champion, led by 6-7 Chris Johnson (13 ppg, 8 rpg). Ethan Schuemer (6-6) paces Willowbrook with 16 points and 9 rebounds per game. Naperville North lost to Bolingbrook in a supersectional in 2017.
The winner of the Glenbard East sectional advances to play the winner of the Jacobs sectional in the Northern Illinois supersectional on Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m.
What upsets? The top four seeds in this sectional survived regional play.
No. 1 Bolingbrook (21-6) takes on No. 4 Joliet Central (23-5) in Tuesday's semifinal. No. 2 West Aurora (23-4) plays No. 3 Lincoln-Way East (23-5) on Wednesday. The winners meet Friday. All games begin at 7 p.m.
West Aurora advanced to sectional play for the third time in four years by winning the Plainfield South regional. The Blackhawks pounded Waubonsie Valley by 25 points and distanced themselves from Andrew in the fourth quarter of a 15-point title-game victory. It was their 15th straight win.
West Aurora hopes its experience pays dividends. The Blackhawks were a junior-heavy team last year when they lost to Bolingbrook in a sectional semifinal. This will be the third sectional appearance for senior guard Camron Donatlan, who played varsity as a freshman.
"We definitely do have guys who have gone through it," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said. "I think the guys have a different mentality and it's a different team than last year. We've played well together and I think we're prepared for whatever the challenge is."
Donatlan leads the Blackhawks at 19 ppg, but this team thrives due to multiple scoring threats. Senior Jared Crutcher averages 13.2 points and 8.8 rebounds, senior guard Damian Virgen scores 11.7 per game and junior point guard Trae Brown contributes 10.5 points and 4.5 assists.
Defensively, West Aurora is tasked with stopping Southern Illinois recruit Sam Schafer, a 6-5, 180-pound shooting guard.
"He's the best 3-point shooter we'll see all season," Johnson said. "He's been a solid rock for them all year. When they need a basket, he gets it. He will post up a lot. They use him in different ways. He can play inside-outside and he attacks with the ball. He'll make you think drive and pull up for the three. We have to be aware where he is at all times."
If the Blackhawks get by Lincoln-Way East, they could face a rematch against Bolingbrook in the sectional title game. The Raiders ended West Aurora's 2017 season with an 85-66 victory in a sectional semifinal and went on to take third in the state.
The winner of the Romeoville sectional advances to play the winner of the Pekin sectional in the Illinois State supersectional at Redbird Arena on Tuesday, March 13 at 7 p.m.
At Woodstock North
Advancing to a sectional semifinal is a rare experience for Burlington Central, which won a regional for the first time since 2008.
Playing in a sectional title game is even rarer. The Rockets have reached sectional finals twice in program history, losing to Huntley in 2001 and Lisle in 2003. Central coach Brett Porto was a member of the 2003 team.
Central (27-3) plays Johnsburg (19-12) in a Class 3A sectional semi on Tuesday. Rockford Boylan (20-10), which dropped from 4A to 3A this season, plays St. Francis (15-15) in the second semifinal on Wednesday. The winners meet Friday. All games tip at 7 p.m.
The Rockets have won 4 straight since Batavia snapped their school-record, 20-game winning streak. They knocked off Kaneland 49-41 and Montini 89-78 to win the Aurora Central Catholic regional.
Central is led by seniors Zach Schutta and Dejsani Beamon and junior Patrick Mayfield. Schutta (18.2 ppg) and Mayfield (17.2 ppg) are the top scorers while Beamon scores 7 ppg and distributes 4.6 assists.
The Rockets will be short-handed against Johnsburg. Senior Michael Kalusa cannot play by rule after picking up 2 technical fouls in the regional championship game. He averages 8.7 points and leads the team with 96 steals.
"He's a big effort and energy guy and sometimes we feed off that," Porto said, "but this is where being as deep as we are, hopefully, will help us."
Central and Johnsburg finished 1-2 in the Kishwaukee River Conference. The Rockets went undefeated in league play, including a sweep of the Skyhawks by scores of 74-48 on Jan. 19 and 84-68 on Feb. 16.
Johnsburg is led by junior guard Zach Toussaint (6-0), who has scored 701 points this season (22.6 ppg). He has finished with 41 or more three times this season, but Central held him to 14 points and 13 points in their two victories over the Skyhawks.
"When you score the ball as well as he can, he's obviously the focal point of what we'll do defensively," Porto said. "This is his third year on varsity and he keeps getting better and better.
Boylan finished tied with Rockford Jefferson for the NIC-10 title. St. Francis, led by senior forward Andrew Harvey (11 ppg), finished fourth in the White Division of the Chicago Catholic League.
The winner of the Woodstock North sectional advances to play the winner of the North Chicago sectional in the Hoffman Estates supersectional at the Sears Centre on Tuesday, March 13 at 6 p.m.