Scouting Fox Valley boys basketball postseason
Summer league, AAU, fall league, countless practices and three months of high school games served merely as prelude.
Come Monday, the season that matters begins for Class 4A and Class 3A boys basketball teams.
Here's a look at the playoff road ahead for Fox Valley area squads.
Class 4A Bartlett sectional
Top seed Geneva (28-1) opens Tuesday against either Hinsdale Central (9-19) or regional host Metea Valley (12-16).
Beaten only by No. 7 Lake Park (21-10) on Jan. 11, the Vikings are led by three-year varsity guards Jack McDonald (16 ppg) and Mitch Mascari (15 ppg).
McDonald averages 6 assists per game, while Mascari shoots 46 percent from 3-point range. Forwards Kross Garth and Josh Preston contribute 9 points and 5 rebounds apiece.
Geneva was defeated in regional finals each of the last two seasons. The Vikings would face the Wheaton North-Wheaton Warrenville South winner for the regional title. They swept the regular-season series against both.
"We'll be ready," Geneva coach Scott Hennig said of the postseason. "We've got a group of seniors that have played a lot of basketball together, and eight of the nine guys who played in the regional final last year practiced (Friday). They know what to expect as far as how the intensity is ramped up in the postseason and they know what I expect of us."
No. 2 Benet Academy (23-7) is the top seed at the DeKalb regional. The Redwings could face Lake Park or Northern Illinois Big 12 West champion DeKalb (19-12) in the regional final.
No. 15 Batavia (11-18) squares off against No. 19 Naperville Central (10-16) at the Downers Grove South regional on Monday at 6 p.m. A win advances the Bulldogs to a semifinal against No. 3 Downers Grove South (22-7), the West Suburban Gold champion.
No. 20 Bartlett (8-21) plays No. 13 Hinsdale South (13-15) at the Glenbard West regional on Monday at 6 p.m.
The Hawks are led by three-time all-Upstate Eight Conference pick Austin Gates, who recently became the sixth 1,000-point scorer in Bartlett history.
The Hawks dropped 7 of their last 9 games entering the playoffs, but showed potential on Feb. 12, when they handed Upstate Eight Conference champion West Aurora its only league loss.
"When we play a full team game together, we can beat anyone," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "We're finally healthy. At this point in the season, we can't use inexperience as an excuse."
A win would advance Bartlett to a Tuesday semifinal against No. 4 Lyons Township (21-9).
Class 4A Rock Valley College sectional
Cary-Grove (20-7) and Rockford East (29-2) are the top seeds in dual subsectionals.
Cary-Grove is assigned to the South Elgin regional. Led by junior guard Beau Frericks (19 ppg) and 6-foot-8 junior forward Frank Jakubicek (13 ppg), the Jacobs Holiday Tournament champs have 20 wins for the first time since 2000-01, the last season they won a regional.
The Trojans play Tuesday against the winner of Monday's opener between No. 8 Streamwood (12-18) and No. 10 Jacobs (13-17). Streamwood knocked off Jacobs 63-52 in a December tournament game.
Jacobs defeated Cary-Grove 60-57 on Tuesday to split the season series.
"Jacobs is playing really well. Our guys would love to play them again," Trojans coach Adam McCloud said. "Streamwood is a different kind of matchup with some different personnel. They score a ton of points so you can't have a bad night defensively."
No. 3 South Elgin (22-8) hosts No. 5 Hampshire (15-16) in a Wednesday semifinal. If seeds hold, the Storm would face Cary-Grove in a title-game rematch. The Trojans defeated South Elgin 70-62 in a December tournament game at Jacobs, led by Frericks' 33 points.
The South Elgin regional winner will play the winner of the Crystal Lake Central regional, where Fox Valley Conference co-champion Crystal Lake South (23-7) is the top seed.
The Gators open Tuesday, most likely against FVC co-champion CL Central (19-11). The Tigers are led by 6-foot-9 senior Alex Timmerman. Central swept two regular-season meetings by 9 and 6 points, respectively.
"It will come down to which team makes shots and can someone slow Timmerman down," CL South coach Matt LePage said of the regional. "It's really wide open."
No. 3 Harlem will play either Hononegah or Prairie Ridge in the other semifinal.
The six-team St. Charles East regional opens with a play-in doubleheader on Monday. No. 7 Huntley (16-14) and No. 9 Larkin (12-18) tangle at 6 p.m., followed by No. 6 St. Charles North (11-17) vs. No. 11 Elgin (6-23).
No. 4 Dundee-Crown (18-9) awaits the winner of the St. Charles North-Elgin game on Wednesday.
No. 2 St. Charles East (18-13) faces the Huntley-Larkin winner on Tuesday. Led by seniors Nate Ortiz (16 ppg) and Cody Mitchell (14 ppg), the Saints have won 7 of their last 9 games.
"Larkin and Huntley are both capable of beating us," St. Charles East coach Pat Woods said. "We have to make sure we play our game, take care of the ball and control the things we can control."
The Saints would face Dundee-Crown in the title game if the regional plays to seed. Last year, D-C upset St. Charles East 57-54 in a regional semifinal in Carpentersville and eventually won the title.
The St. Charles East regional winner will play the Rockford East regional winner. The favorite to emerge from Rockford is NIC-10 champion Rockford East, which finished 18-0 in league play.
Class 4A East Aurora sectional
Defending sectional champion West Aurora (26-5) is the No. 4 seed behind No. 1 Bolingbrook (19-7), No. 2 Waubonsie Valley (25-4) and No. 3 Oswego East (21-7).
The three-time Upstate Eight Conference champs set a new regular season school record with 26 victories but will likely have to defeat No. 5 Oswego (16-11) on its home floor to win a regional title if seeds hold. West Aurora did just that on Nov. 21, winning 69-66 on the Panthers' home court during the Hoops for Healing Tournament.
First, West Aurora faces the winner of Monday's play-in game between Lincoln-Way Central (15-15) and Minooka (5-21) on Tuesday.
"Lincoln-Way is playing really well," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said. "They're young and will be patient on offense. They have some really good shooters and shoot 30 threes a game. And Minooka is playing well of late."
Four Blackhawks score in double figures, led by Marquise Walker (15 ppg). The senior guard sat out the regular-season finale on Wednesday due to a knee issue but practiced Friday and Saturday and is "ready to go," Johnson said.
Class 3A Marengo sectional
Kishwaukee River Conference champion Burlington Central (23-8) is the No. 2 seed in subsectional A behind Glenbard South (21-6). The Raiders placed third in their inaugural season in the Upstate Eight Conference.
If the region plays according to seed, the Rockets will have to defeat Wheaton Academy on its cozy home court to repeat as a regional champion.
"It's such a unique gym and it being on their home court, if we're fortunate to get to that point, would definitely be a challenge," Central coach Brett Porto said. "Everyone is healthy and our team defense has really improved the last couple of weeks. That's nice going into the postseason when it can become a half-court game and possessions matter."
Central is led by senior Patrick Mayfield, who continues to lead the Fox Valley area in scoring with 27 points per game.
The Rockets begin postseason play on Tuesday against the winner of Monday's opener between No. 7 Sycamore (11-17) and No. 9 Aurora Central Catholic (5-21).
The other semifinal on Wednesday pits No. 6 Marmion Academy (9-21) against No. 3 Wheaton Academy (18-8).
Kaneland (6-24) plays regional host IMSA (12-17) on Monday at 7 p.m. A victory sends the eighth-seeded Knights to a Tuesday semifinal against Glenbard South.