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Homewood Flossmoor's Rashaan Surles feels the defensive pressure of Bloom's Dejahown Freeman. | Allen Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
Are you excited?
No, not at the site of Kate Upton on the cover of Sports Illustrated’s Swimsuit Edition.
I mean, really, really excited?
Well, you should be if you’re a fan of high school boys basketball.
Come Monday, the playoffs begin and I can’t recall a postseason as potentially unpredictable as this one.
Other than Morgan Park, aiming for a coast-to-coast run atop the SouthtownStar’s Top 10 poll and advancing to Peoria in the Class 3A finals, everything else is up for grabs.
The uncertainty should make for an exciting, if not remarkable, three-week playoff journey culminating with the finals at Peoria’s Carver Arena on March 15 and 16.
I’ve watched a considerable amount of hoops this season and have experienced it all: the good, the bad and the ugly. There’s a bevy of quality local teams capable of making extended runs.
Fearing nothing — not broadsides of the Twitterverse, nor the bons mots of the Crusader Crazies — one man knows, and shares, all: The Swami, who promises a few upsets during these playoffs.
Let’s start things off in Class 4A.
There’s good and bad news here. The good news is the IHSA awarded a sectional site to Thornton, the Wrigley Field of high school gymnasiums. It’s a magnificent structure, a one-of-a-kind work of art swimming in character and tradition.
The bad news? Over at the Argo Sectional, Chicago Public School powers Simeon, Whitney Young and Curie are going to make mincemeat out of the local competition.
Meat? On second thought, there is a bit of good news at Argo. El Faro, the original home of the giant burrito, is just blocks away and open late.
The Swami sees Richards having the ability to knock off Curie in the Richards Regional championship and St. Rita giving Simeon a battle in the sectional semifinal. St. Rita, however, is a year away, with juniors Vic Law and Dominique Matthews and sophomores Charles Matthews and Myles Carter lacking senior leadership. Ultimately, Whitney Young wins this sectional and ends defending state champion Simeon’s chance to four-peat.
Let’s go back to Thornton. I never thought I’d see the day when former SICA East powers Eisenhower and Thornton would be scheduled for a play-in game. Such is the reality of a Monday match-up at the Marian Catholic Regional.
The host Spartans will advance to their own regional final. But that’s where the party will come to a stunning end for the No. 1 seed. Tyler Ulis, a Player of the Year candidate for sure, Ki-Jana Crawford, Terrone Parham and Josh Cohn made this season a record-setting one for the 24-3 Spartans. However, the aforementioned players all are juniors. Crete-Monee, boasting four-year starting guard Marvie Keith and three-year starters Mark Conner and Laquon Treadwell, are seasoned and skilled and will pull off the upset. The Warriors will advance to play T.F. North in a Thornton Sectional semifinal.
The other semifinal will have old rivals Bloom and Homewood-Flossmoor tangling. The Swami really likes this H-F team. Maurius Hill, Rashaan Surles and Julian Scott have had an excellent season.
Bloom, however, not only plays harder than any team in the area, it’s on a mission with this being coach Jasper Williams’ swan song. Seniors Johnny Griffin, Dejahown Freeman, Jataryan Dejareaux and Nhyree Mitchell will make certain Williams goes out with a bang.
The Blazing Trojans take down H-F and then Crete-Monee to win the Thornton Sectional.
In fact, Bloom will advance to the 4A state championship and play Young for all the marbles. The Blazing Trojans will make a game of it but, in the end, fall short against the Dolphins.
In 3A, Morgan Park, behind Billy Garrett Jr. and Kyle Davis, will claim the Julian Regional and St. Laurence Sectional.
So which team will survive the Rich South Sectional and meet Morgan Park in the Joliet Central Supersectional?
Tough call. Providence, behind Kevin Kozan, will emerge from the Lincoln-Way West Regional, but will fall to red-hot Rich East in a Rich South Sectional semifinal. The Rockets, behind Ron Lawton, Nick Horne and Don Henderson, are capable of winning the sectional — but only if Hillcrest stubs its toe, which is unlikely to happen. Jovan Mooring and Kyle Oden help Hillcrest rise to the occasion and win the sectional.
Morgan Park and Hillcrest have a history. Who can forget the incredible sectional final two years ago when Morgan Park’s Wayne Blackshear and Hillcrest’s Julius Brown put on a dazzling show at Rich South?
This year’s Morgan Park team is built to win a title, which it will. The Mustangs knock off Hillcrest in the super and eventually hoist the 3A trophy.
Let the games begin.