The Class 3A and 4A boys basketball playoffs tip off next week, and while teams from the area will head different directions at the start of the postseason, the end goal is the same — to reach Carver Arena in Peoria for the state finals March 21 and 22.
Seed: No. 4
First game: 6 p.m. Tuesday vs. No. 13 Glenbard West or No. 20 Proviso West
Outlook: Morton is red hot at the right time and could be the hottest team in the sectional.
The Mustangs knocked off No. 2 seed Proviso East for the first time in three tries this season on Feb. 15 and have won nine in a row overall. The improved play of guards Greg Carter and Luke Belcaster have boosted the team, but junior forward Weisner Perez is the clear go-to guy for the team.
Morton hosts the regional and could see No. 5 seed Conant in a possible regional final. The Cougars play a very slow style.
"If we can score, we'll press them and we'll see what happens," coach Tony Martinucci said. "The sectional is so good. There's no clear dominant team like in years past. I'm looking at 12 teams that can probably beat you in a first round game."
Regional: Elk Grove
Seed: No. 7
First game: 8 p.m. Tuesday. vs. No. 10 Wheaton North or No. 23. Willowbrook
Outlook: Despite an undefeated record in the Metro Suburban Conference, the Bulldogs have been inconsistent in nonconference play.
Entering Tuesday's game at Providence, the Bulldogs had a 7-6 record out of conference. Still, they aren't a team that opponents will look forward to facing because RB presents a matchup problem for almost any team. The Bulldogs have more height than just about any other team in the sectional and have a pair of prolific scorers in seniors Jack VandeMerkt and Will Kincanon.
Likely regional semifinal opponent Wheaton North is a balanced offensive team led by senior guards Andrew Slivinski and Matt Biegalski. Proviso East is the favorite in the regional. That would be a speed vs. size matchup thanks to the Pirates' press.
Regional: Addison Trail
Seed: No. 8
First game: 7 p.m. Wednesday, March 5, vs. No. 9 Hoffman Estates or No. 24 Fenton
Outlook: The Lions have struggled lately against tough competition, finishing with an even 6-6 record in the West Suburban Silver after starting 4-2.
A season-ending injury to Chris Hester suffered during the holiday tournament has hampered the Lions a bit in recent games. Guard Harrison Niego still leads the way and fellow junior Jaquan Phipps has filled into Hester's role.
The top seed in the regional and the sectional, York, beat the Lions three times, including an overtime game in La Grange on Feb. 1. The prospect of a fourth meeting might make the Lions a bit sick, but after coming incredibly close in the last meeting, LT could be looking forward to a chance to prove they can beat York.
In order to get to that game, the Lions will likely have to go through No. 9 seed Hoffman Estates.
Sectional: Addison Trail
Seed: No. 20
First game: 6 p.m. Monday vs. No. 13 Glenbard West
Outlook: The Panthers went just 2-10 in the West Suburban Silver and will face off against Glenbard West in the first round. In two regular season meetings against the Hilltoppers, the Panthers won 58-55 in Glen Ellyn, but lost the home game 60-53.
Regional: St. Joseph
Seed: No. 2
First game: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. No. 15 Little Village or No. 18 Wells.
Outlook: Joe's shared the Catholic League North title and took fourth at the CCL tournament over the weekend.
The talented Chargers, which include at least three potential Division I recruits in junior guards Jordan Ash and Glynn Watson and sophomore forward Nick Rakocevic, host a regional. They could see Fenwick, which they just lost to 60-54 at the CCL tournament, in a sectional semifinal.
Seed: No. 3
First game: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. No. 14 VOISE Academy or No. 19 Rauner Prep
Outlook: The Friars have competed in a strong year in the Chicago Catholic League. Fenwick was 8-3 in the Catholic North, good for fourth in the league, and took third in the CCL tournament that concluded over the weekend.
The return of Northwestern-bound senior Scott Lindsey during the second half of the season has provided a boost. The Friars will travel to Farragut for the regional and could face the hosts in a regional final.
Seed: No. 9
First game: 7 p.m. Tuesday vs. No. 8 Urban Prep Charter West
Outlook: The Roadrunners had a big overhaul to the roster this year. Despite a mix of youth and inexperience, Naz has managed a winning record against a tough schedule. Seniors Michael Brooks, Chris Swade and Kevin Connelly have been key players.
1. St. Joseph has won 29 regionals under coach Gene Pingatore.
2. Morton has posted a winning record every year since 2003, but has won just two regionals.
3. This is the first winning season for Lyons Township since the Lions went 26-3 and won a regional in 2010-11.
4. Riverside Brookfield has won 13 conference titles and three regional titles in coach Tom McCloskey's 13-year tenure.
5. Nazareth last won a regional title in 1991.