With the basketball season well underway, boys and girls teams throughout the area are hitting their stride as they jostle for early position in both the conference races and for postseason seeding. Here are five teams that took steps in the right direction in the past week, listed in no particular order.
1. West Chicago boys
Senior John Konchar had two stellar performances, one a record-setter, as the Wildcats have shown drastic improvement as a team. Two days after scoring 37 points and grabbing 17 rebounds in a 96-68 win over Upstate Eight Valley foe East Aurora, Konchar scored 42 points in a 68-58 win over previously undefeated Bartlett on Saturday. He also snagged 24 rebounds as the Wildcats moved to 5-2 overall. The East Aurora win was WeGo's first in conference play in two seasons as it did not notch any DuPage Valley Conference wins in 2011-12 or 2012-13.
"I'm not surprised by what we are doing on the court so far," head coach Bill Recchia said. "I saw them compete and win games in the summer and I saw them mature as basketball players."
West Chicago hosts Metea Valley in a UEV clash at 7:15 p.m. tonight.
2. Willowbrook girls
Willowbrook's girls played one of their biggest conference games of the season in just the second West Suburban Gold contest of the year. Playing on the road Saturday against a tough Proviso East team that was the only WSG team to win a regional a year ago, the Warriors battled back from a 29-21 halftime deficit to win 60-54.
"The Proviso win was a big win," said Willowbrook coach Terry Harrell, whose team improved to 8-0 overall and 3-0 in the WSG with a 69-24 win over Leyden on Tuesday. "Proviso is rejuvenated this year."
The Warriors will put their perfect record on the line at 7:15 p.m. Dec. 17 when they host WSG rival Morton.
3. Wheaton North boys
The Falcons planned on their football team having a successful deep playoff run, and so delayed the start of their season until Dec. 6. Pushing back the start date to the season apparently had no affect as North topped rival Wheaton Warrenville South in the season opener and won on a thrilling buzzer-beater over Addison Trail on Monday with Matt Biegalski playing hero.
"I just let it go and was hoping it went in, and we were all excited when it did," Biegalski said of his game-winning shot.
The Falcons suffered a setback against Stagg on Wednesday but can remain among the frontrunners in the DuPage Valley Conference race with a win in tonight's 7:30 p.m. home game against Naperville North.
4. Downers Grove North girls
The 2012-13 season saw the Trojans taking some lumps in a slew of close losses. This season, they have learned from those experiences and are quickly approaching last year's win total. At 6-1, North needs just four more wins to surpass the nine wins of a year ago. Senior and University of Indianapolis recruit Sarah Costello has been a steady leader, and junior Peyton Winters and sophomores Jaida Green and Lauren Porcelli are playing key roles.
"We have grown a lot in the last year," said North head coach Stephan Bolt, whose team topped York on Monday to improved to 3-0 in the West Suburban Silver ahead of tomorrow's home game against Hinsdale Central.
5. York boys
The Dukes remained undefeated with West Suburban Silver wins over Proviso West and defending conference champ Hinsdale Central on back-to-back nights last Friday and Saturday. At 6-0 heading into tonight's 7:30 p.m. home game against Lyons Township, the Dukes and head coach Vince Doran know the Lions will present yet another challenge.
"It's definitely going to be a good challenge," Doran said. "They might be the best team we've played to this point. They have a Division I point guard and their kids play hard."