Sutton's 600 wins spent with 'the people most important'

  • Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton talks strategy during a timeout this season in a game against Oswego in the Hoops 4 Healing tournament at Oswego High School.

    Neuqua Valley coach Todd Sutton talks strategy during a timeout this season in a game against Oswego in the Hoops 4 Healing tournament at Oswego High School. Mary Beth Nolan/For Shaw Media

 
 
Updated 1/29/2020 2:03 PM

Neuqua Valley's Todd Sutton did not become a boys basketball coach to rack up a ton of victories.

"I'm trying to figure out help-and-recover defense rather than how many wins I've got," he said.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

A celebration was still in store after Neuqua Valley (17-5) beat Naperville North 48-44 on Friday, Sutton's 600th victory. That ranks 42nd on Illinois High School Association records.

"It doesn't even cross your mind," said Sutton, who entered Wednesday's game at DeKalb with a record of 600-298 through 30 seasons. He is 438-213 in 21 seasons with the Wildcats; his first nine seasons were at Pecatonica.

His varsity assistant, son Tyler Sutton, was prepared. After the game he gathered the team for proper congratulations while his father shook hands with Naperville North coach Gene Nolan, who gave Todd Sutton the game ball.

A 2012 inductee into the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, Sutton credited "an awful lot of good players and an awful lot of assistant coaches."

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His top assistants have included current Lisle coach Mark LaScala, former Metea Valley coach Bob Vozza, former Joliet Catholic coach Mike O'Toole and Jim Still, Sutton's first varsity assistant at Neuqua and now principal at Newark. Program assistants Chad Cartner and Chris Cebrzynski have been with Sutton since the beginning.

So have his wife, Janet, and sons Tyler and Drew, who attended his first game at 6 days old.

"Janet Sutton's been in the stands for 900 games," Todd said. "The two boys literally have grown up on the sidelines for 900 games. How can anyone ask for anything more than that? You spend it with the people most important to you."

New addition:

Lake Park (16-5) knew its strength this season would come from four returning senior starters -- Luke Sgarbossa, Trevor Montiel, Montrell Perry and Joey Czaja.

Then the Lancers added some surprising strength.

Fellow senior Joe Harrington, who didn't play basketball as a junior to focus on baseball, returned to the program. Coach Billy Pitcher was a little skeptical at first but reality quickly settled in.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"He came to me last May and said he regretted not playing and missed the opportunity to compete with his friends," Pitcher said of Harrington, who was part of a conference championship team as a sophomore.

"My initial thought was that he'd really have to prove himself, especially after not picking up a ball for a year," he said. "But it was just so obvious right away that he fit in with everyone. It was a perfect fit."

In other words the Lancers found their fifth starter. The 6-foot-5 forward hit the ground running and is averaging 5.5 points and 3.4 rebounds.

And Harrington's become a leader on a team full of leaders.

"He's such a great kid," Pitcher said. "Polite, hardworking, great on and off the court. Everything you'd want in a teammate."

Deep and deeper:

Hinsdale South's opponents constantly try to find ways to slow third-year varsity members Billy Durkin and Aaron Tims. Makes sense considering they average a combined 25 points and 11.5 rebounds.

The problem for defenses, though, goes much deeper.

With James Ruzicka, Daeshawn Amy and Bobby Durkin, the Hornets (21-2) are capable of scoring in bunches with everyone on the court.

"James would be the best basketball player on a lot of teams," said Hinsdale South coach Brett Moore. "But it's been a different guy every night and the wins have taken care of themselves."

Ruzicka, Amy and Bobby Durkin each average between 7.7 and 10.9 points. Remarkably, Moore said every member of his starting lineup has notched a 20-point game this season.

That's tough to stop.

"Everyone's bought in," Moore said. "It's defense, rebounding, guys are willing to pass the ball. It's really tough to game plan for us."

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