Scouting Fox area postseason
The Cary-Grove boys basketball team is navigating uncharted waters.
Led by Lewis-bound senior guard Beau Frericks and 6-foot-9 Belmont recruit Frank Jakubicek, the Trojans (28-3) have eclipsed the single-season school record of 26 wins previously owned by former coach Dave Otto's 2000-01 Class AA sectional titlists.
Coach Adam McCloud's team won the competitive Fox Valley Conference outright. It is the program's first league title since Chad McCarron and Nick Richter led the charge to a Valley Division title in 2009-10.
The Trojans also earned a No. 1 subsectional seed for the second straight season.
Great regular-season accomplishments all, but resumes don't matter next week when the unforgiving IHSA tournament begins, according to Cary-Grove's fourth-year coach.
"Your record means nothing," McCloud said. "You don't get seven games to prove yourself. You have to win every night."
Here's a look at the road ahead for the Trojans and all Fox Valley area teams with the Class 4A and Class 3A tournaments set to begin Monday.
Cary-Grove (28-3) and DuPage Valley Conference champion DeKalb (23-8) are the respective No. 1 seeds in an 18-team sectional divided into two sub-sectionals. Regional hosts are Cary-Grove, Elgin, Huntley and Rockford Guilford.
The Trojans seek the program's second regional title. They were eliminated in a regional title game last season by host South Elgin.
Cary-Grove drew a challenging semifinal opponent in No. 8 Larkin (9-20), a talented, young team with a deceptive record. Larkin lost 14 of 15 games to open the season, partly because senior Jashon Johnson-Neals missed almost two months due to injury. He and injured guard DJ Jones returned in early January. Two more contributors became eligible at the semester break.
With the full roster available, coach Deryn Carter's sophomore-heavy Royals won 8 of their last 14 games. They enter the playoffs on a 3-game winning streak.
"It will be a tough game, but I hope that our experience and some of our top-end talent can kind of overwhelm them," McCloud said. "I think they're going to have a tough time guarding Frank."
The winner advances to play the winner of Wednesday's semifinal between No. 4 Jacobs (17-14) and No. 7 Dundee-Crown (13-15). The District 300 rivals split two meetings this season. Cary-Grove defeated each FVC team twice.
No. 2 Huntley (25-6) opens at home against No. 6 Harlem (14-15) on Wednesday. If seeds hold, the Red Raiders would play Rockford Jefferson (25-5) for the regional title next Friday at 7 p.m. The J-Hawks finished second in the NIC-10 Conference to Boylan Catholic.
The Red Raiders are not looking beyond Harlem.
"To go .500 in that league is no easy task," Huntley coach Will Benson said of the Huskies. "They can cause us problems, but I like our chances if we show up and guard and defend, especially in a close game."
Led by seniors Ryan Sroka (15.6 ppg, 6.8 rpg) and Uchenna Egekeze (14.6 ppg, 7.1 rpg), the Red Raiders have won six straight.
A sizable chunk of the St. Charles population will pack Elgin's Chesbrough Field House next Friday if a third meeting comes to pass between DuKane Conference co-champions St. Charles East (23-7) and St. Charles North (21-9).
The North Stars swept two regular-season meetings. Guard Christian Czerniak stood out in the first win. Sophomore forward Ethan Marlowe was the breakout star of Game 2. The Saints didn't shoot well in either contest.
Both teams must survive Tuesday's semifinal doubleheader to realize a third meeting. The North Stars play at 6 p.m. against the winner of Monday's play-in game between No. 6 South Elgin (12-19) and No 9 Elgin (5-26).
The Saints -- led by seniors Chase Monkemeyer (12.5 ppg), Sean Sullivan (10.9) and Thomas Ditsworth (10.4) -- take on No. 5 Streamwood (15-15) at 7:30 p.m. St. Charles East notched a 72-63 nonconference win at Streamwood on Dec. 10.
"They play hard and they play fast like us. It's two similar styles," Saints coach Pat Woods said. "It will come down to which team gets hot and which team is defending better."
DeKalb is the top seed at Guilford. The Barbs play Tuesday against either No. 7 Guilford (14-16) or No. 8 Hononegah (12-19). Wednesday's second semifinal pits No. 4 Rockford East (20-11) -- which placed fourth in Class 4A last year -- against No. 5 Auburn (17-13).
Addison Trail Sectional
Geneva, Batavia and Bartlett are assigned to separate regionals within the Addison Trail sectional complex. Regional hosts are Geneva, Lake Park, Naperville Central and Willowbrook.
Senior forward Josh Preston and No. 6 Geneva (17-12) seek a second straight regional title. The Vikings open Wednesday against No. 12 Metea Valley (11-17). The winner gets the winner of Tuesday's semifinal between No. 4 Wheaton Warrenville South (19-11) and No. 14 Downers Grove South (9-19).
Geneva and Wheaton Warrenville South split two regular-season games with each winning at home.
Led by senior Jayden Johnson and sophomore shooting guard Kyle Neibch, No. 7 Batavia (16-14) takes on No. 10 Glenbard West (16-13) at Willowbrook on Wednesday.
The other semifinal pits Glenbard East (20-9) against the winner of Monday's play-in game between No. 13 Willowbrook (12-19) and No. 18 West Chicago (5-25).
It will be Hawks vs. RedHawks when No. 15 Bartlett (10-19) faces No. 3 Naperville Central (20-10) on Central's home floor on Tuesday at 6 p.m. Bartlett has dropped three straight.
No. 5 Wheaton North (16-14) plays No. 11 Naperville North in the second semifinal at 7:30 p.m.
No. 1 Lake Park (22-8) opens the playoffs at home. The Lancers will play for the title against the winner of No. 8 Hinsdale Central (13-16) and No. 9 Downers Grove North (14-15) if higher seeds prevail.
Regional host West Aurora is playing its best basketball.
Led by senior Kelvin Balfour, the No. 14 seed had won 4 out of 5 games before losing the regular-season finale at Oswego East by 3 points.
Can West Aurora (9-19) convert late-season momentum into an opening-round upset? The Blackhawks face No. 3 Waubonsie Valley (27-4), led by senior Marcus Skeete, in the first game of a semifinal doubleheader on Tuesday at 6 p.m.
"They play very unselfishly and to their strengths," West Aurora coach Brian Johnson said of the Warriors. "Tuesday is a great chance for us to put everything together. We have played a tough schedule and are looking forward to competing against one of the top teams in the state."
No. 6 Lincoln-Way Central (23-8) plays No. 11 Plainfield Central (16-13) in the second semifinal Tuesday.
The other top sectional seeds are No. 1 Joliet West (26-4), No. 2 Bolingbrook (26-5) and No. 4 Plainfield North (20-8).
Rockford Boylan Catholic Sectional
Is this the year the Burlington Central boys basketball team breaks through the sectional wall?
The Rockets advanced to a Class 3A sectional final each of the last two seasons only to be denied. Glenbard South beat them by 4 points last March. Rockford Boylan Catholic nipped them by a bucket the season before.
Central (22-9) and Boylan (24-7) are the top subsectional seeds in the 20-team Boylan sectional complex. Regional sites are Burlington Central, Plano, Woodstock North and Belvidere North.
Central coach Brett Porto said he isn't thinking ahead to another sectional appearance. His focus is Tuesday's opener against the winner of Monday's play-in game between No. 6 Crystal Lake South (16-13) and No. 10 Marmion Academy (5-24).
The Rockets defeated CL South 54-48 on the road on Dec. 20 and 60-55 at home on Feb. 7.
"We had our hands full with Crystal Lake South," Porto said. "If we look past them, it could be a short postseason. It's a tough regional, but this team has exceeded my expectations this whole season. This would be a great time to keep exceeding expectations."
Central's sophomore-centric lineup is guided by steady senior leaders Jake Lenschow (13. 6 ppg, 6.2 rpg) and Josh Hudgens (13.1 ppg, 4.5 rpg). Sophomore Zac Schmidt (9 ppg) has made 41 of 100 attempts from 3-point range.
No. 3 Sycamore (21-9) tangles with No. 5 St. Francis (18-13) in Wednesday's semifinal. The Rockets won 48-43 at Sycamore on Nov. 29. They did not play St. Francis.
No. 2 Hampshire (19-11) is the top seed at Plano. Led by seniors Collin Woods and Nick Erickson, the Whip-Purs open Tuesday against the winner of Monday's play-in game between No. 8 Sandwich (10-19) and No. 9 IMSA (9-21).
The Wednesday semifinal features No. 4 Plano (22-9) against No. 7 Kaneland (16-13). The Knights lost two Interstate Eight Conference games to the Reapers this season. Kaneland is led by seniors Brett David (12 ppg), Will Cushman (9.1 ppg, 3.4 apg) and Bryce Ebert (9 ppg).
Wauconda (20-7) is the top seed at the Belvidere North regional. Boylan is assigned to Woodstock North. Each would face the host school in a regional title game if higher seeds advance.