Scouting this weekend's Class 3A and Class 4A state boys basketball tournament
With a collective record of 131-11, this weekend's Class 4A Final Four IHSA state boys basketball tournament at Carver Arena in Peoria promises to be a fan's dream.
And the Class 3A field isn't all bad, either.
The tournament commences with 3A semifinals on Friday afternoon, 4A semis Friday night, 3A third-place and championship games Saturday afternoon and the 4A third-place and championship games Saturday night.
All eight games will be televised live on NBC Sports Chicago.
Here's a look at the semifinal matchups.
No. 6 Evanston (31-4) vs. No. 9 Rockford East (34-2), 5:30 p.m. Friday: Evanston has been on a mission to return to Peoria since finishing third last year.
The Wildkits, who played in the very first IHSA state basketball tournament in 1908, are making their 15th state final appearance. They won the 1968 state title under legendary coach Jack Burmaster, an Elgin High School graduate. Until last season, Evanston had not made a return trip to the state finals since 2008.
The Central Suburban League power had to survive overtime against Stevenson in Tuesday's Sears Centre supersectional, but they did so in resounding fashion, outscoring the Patriots by 12 points in the extra session to come away with a 57-45 win.
Coach Mike Ellis' team has only lost this season to Glenbrook South, Brooklyn South Shore (NY), Alton and Bolingbrook and they are now on a 13-game winning streak. If the Wildkits win Friday it will be Ellis' 200th win at Evanston. He also won 156 games in seven seasons at Peoria Richwoods, a stint that included two second-place finishes at state.
The balanced Evanston scoring attack is led by 6-foot-2 senior guard Lance Jones (15.8 ppg), 6-1 sophomore Blake Peters (12.7) and 6-0 senior Jaheim Holden (11.9).
Rockford East had to come from behind to defeat Geneva, 70-62, in Tuesday's NIU supersectional in DeKalb.
The E-Rabs have flown under most state radars all season but 14th-year coach Roy Sackmaster's team has lost only to Springfield Southeast, a Class 3A Elite Eight team, and Dubuque (IA) this season. They bring a 19-game winning streak to Peoria. They are making their 10th trip to the state finals, first since 1984, and have three state trophies, the last coming in 1978 when they finished fourth in Class AA.
East is led by 6-4 junior Sincere Parker (19 ppg, 119 3-pointers), who had 27 points against Geneva Tuesday. Chris Burnell, a 6-3 senior, averages 14.1 per game and 6-6 senior Sha'Den Clenton 13.4.
No. 1 Curie (34-1) vs. No. 2 Belleville West (32-4), 7:15 p.m. Friday: Prime time game, prime time teams. Fans have been waiting for this one since the brackets were released and the two top-ranked teams in the state should provide a barnburner. Curie's only loss this season was a 63-57 setback on Jan. 4 to Richmond Salesian (CA) and the Condors are the only ranked team (No. 12) in USA Today's national Top 25.
Coach Michael Oliver's 2016 club won the 4A title, beating Benet 65-59 in the title game. It's the only other state appearance Curie has made. Oliver is in his 17th year at Curie with a record of 521-132.
The Condors are led by four double-figure scorers -- 6-3 senior DaJuan Gordon (17.6 ppg), 6-3 senior Justin Harmon (14.2), 6-4 junior Ramean Hinton (11.5) and 6-2 senior Damari Nixon (10.1). Senior guard Trevon Hamilton (6.7 ppg) hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds to play that lifted the Condors over Simeon 56-54 in Tuesday's supersectional at Northwestern.
Belleville West is the defending 4A champion. The Maroons beat Whitney Young 60-56 in last year's title game. They come back to Peoria this year after beating Bolingbrook 72-60 Tuesday in the ISU supersectional at Redbird Arena.
The Maroons are led by one of the nation's top players, 6-7 senior EJ Liddell, who is signed to play at Ohio State. He averages 20.3 points per game and just under 10 rebounds and has proved to be a shot-blocking machine. Senior guard Lawrence Brazil III complements Liddell at 13 points per game.
Coach Joe Muiniz's team entered the state tournament series having gone 3-3 in its final six regular-season games, losing to Collinsville, East St. Louis and Alton, but have righted the ship since then.
DePaul College Prep (25-9) vs. No. 2 Bogan (29-3), 11 a.m. Friday: DePaul Prep heads to Peoria as the first team in IHSA basketball history to have reached a state final tournament via forfeit (since the supersectional era began in 1956). That came about when the 3A sectional final at North Lawndale between the host school and Farragut ended in a double forfeit.
DePaul Prep, formerly Gordon Tech, defeated St. Viator 62-53 to win the Grayslake Central sectional. The Rams are led by 6-4 senior Perry Cowan (18.6 ppg) and 6-3 senior Raheem Anthony (14.4). Junior Lance Mosley (6-3) scores 11.1 ppg.
The Rams are coached by former DePaul University standout Tom Kleinschmidt, who led Gordon Tech to a runner-up finish at state in 1990. He began his coaching career at York High School in 2011-12 before moving on to his alma mater, where he has now won 163 games in eight seasons.
Bogan, which knocked off No. 1 Morgan Park in the sectional finals, is in the state finals for the first time. Its only losses are to Morgan Park, Curie and Class 2A champion Orr.
Coach Arthur Goodwin's Bengals, who beat Normal U-High 68-53 in the Joliet Central supersectional, are led by 6-8 senior Rashaun Agee (19.3 ppg).
No. 4 East St. Louis (28-6) vs. Peoria Manual (19-11), 1 p.m. Friday: East St. Louis, which has finished third at state three times, is in the state finals for the first time since 2006. Coach Mark Chambers' Flyers are led by 6-7 senior Terrence Hargrove Jr. (17.6 ppg).
Manual, which plays in the rugged Big Twelve Conference, lost its last three games prior to the state tournament series, is one of the storied programs of IHSA basketball. The Rams have won five state titles, including four-straight Class AA crowns from 1993-96.
This year's Manual team, which defeated Glenbard South 69-52 to win the NIU supersectional, is led by 6-2 junior Rolando Brown (17.6 ppg).