Mundelein looking forward to Clash of Champions
There may be no IHSA state basketball tournament this year, but some conferences will be staging end-of-season conference tournaments, and some schools may get a chance to play beyond that.
Mundelein, one of the best boys basketball teams in the area, recently accepted an invitation to play in an eight-team season-ending tournament at Notre Dame called the Chipotle Clash of Champions that will occur over the final days of the season.
The IHSA is allowing tournaments at one host site provided the participating schools are within 30 miles of each other.
"It's a pretty good opportunity," Mundelein coach Matt Badgley said of the tournament. "It's an honor to have been invited. The intent behind it is that it's our 'postseason.'
"Boys basketball is the only sport that is not going to have a state series for two straight years. That's a big deal in Illinois. I've been going to the state tournament since 1981. My dad was a coach. I have an understanding of what the postseason means in this state and how important it can be to the kids. Without a state series, this could be a fun way for our kids to end the season."
The tournament also tentatively includes Notre Dame, Evanston, DePaul Prep, Fenwick, St. Patrick, Simeon and Whitney Young.
"Our kids are pretty excited about it, just to be invited to something like that.
"I think it shows where we are as a program and where we have gone. And it is a tribute to what our kids have done to be in this discussion."
Just four years ago, Mundelein was the North Suburban Conference's cellar dweller. Last season, the Mustangs won 30 games and was about to play in a sectional championship game before COVID-19 shut down the boys state tournament.
"That totally took away the closure piece for the kids," Badgley said. "That's been a struggle the last 11 months. We didn't have any finality to last season. This (Clash of Champions) tournament could allow us to have that. But only eight schools get that. I haven't heard of any other tournaments like this yet. What about the other 790 schools around the state? They want to close the season, too. That's the disappointing thing of this whole process."
On its way to a 4-1 start, Mundelein has gotten strong contributions from its usual suspect, veterans Conor Enright, Trey Baker, Scottie Ebube and Jack Bikus.
But a sophomore has been putting up some unexpected numbers that have made the Mustangs even tougher to derail.
Chris Martin, a 6-foot-6 forward played about two to three minutes a game last year. Now, he's averaging about 20 minutes per game and has already had a 14-rebound performance against Vernon Hills.
"He's doing good things as a young kid," Mundelein coach Matt Badgley said of Martin. "It's hard to come in and play with our group of seniors because they've been together for such a long time. But they will accept you if you are as competitive as they are and Chris has been. He's doing a good job of playing to his strengths."
Go for four:
Counting by fours seems to be the way that Josiah McDonald likes to roll.
The Vernon Hills senior guard has made four 4-point plays already this season.
"It's quite amazing," said Vernon Hills coach Matt McCarty, whose team got out to a 2-4 start. "I don't know if I've ever seen this before. It's quite the oddity."
McDonald, a move-in from Florida last year, has been fouled four times after making a 3-pointer, and then has sunk the ensuing free throw each time.
Overall, McDonald has two or more 3-pointers in every game he's played, and three 3-pointers in three games.
In back-to-back games against Maine West this season, McDonald scored 23 and 19 points respectively.
"Last year, Josiah spent a lot of time on our JV team just learning the program," McCarty said. "He's been doing really good things for us this season. He can shoot, but probably his best attribute is that he is a good slasher and driver. He plays with a lot of energy and emotion."
The Round Lake basketball teams will be playing on a new floor this season.
But not the new floor that the players and coaches had long been looking forward to.
Round Lake High School put in a new spiffy wood floor in its main gym over the offseason. But the unveiling will have to wait as the school and gym is being used right now as a COVID-19 vaccination site.
In the meantime, the Panthers will play their games on a floor that is still new to them, down the street at Magee Middle School.
"It was a nice surprise to walk in over the summer and see them working on that floor," Round Lake coach Jay Iden said of the new wood floor. "To not be able to use it hurts but it's kind of been a rallying cry for us."
Round Lake, which is coming off one of its best seasons in history with 29 wins and a Northern Lake County Conference championship, started the season 2-0 and is looking forward to Friday's matchup with Mundelein, one of the other top teams in Lake County.
"We were able to really upgrade our schedule after last year but a lot of those games have gotten canceled. We're really happy that we were able to keep the Mundelein game, and games against teams like Lake Forest and Zion-Benton.
"We've been talking a lot about raising the bar every day. This was supposed to be when our boys grew into men. They are excited to get out there and do that."
Next men up:
At Carmel, two players who were supposed to be key components of the team this year transferred away: point guard Kimahri Wilson and forward Syone Usma-Harper
Wilson is now at North Chicago and Usma-Harper, also a football star, left the state of Illinois in the fall and moved to Texas with the hope of getting in a fall football season.
Two juniors have stepped up their games to fill the voids.
Asher Jackson is the team's leading scorer and Bryce Moore is leading the team at point guard.
"Both of those guys are doing a great job of leading our team," Carmel coach Zack Ryan said. "Asher played a little bit last year as a sophomore and Bryce is adjusting really well. Point guard isn't what he's used to but he's putting together some really good games as a facilitator and he's also starting to get his scoring going."