Carmel Catholic High School's boys basketball team has won 22 games this season – paving the way for a bright future for the team, which has not done so well in past years.
"The last time they went to a sectional was 1984,'' head coach Tim Bowen said.
And now, seemingly overnight, the Corsairs are a winning team again. The IHSA has released its seeds and games for the upcoming playoffs. Carmel is the No. 2 seed in the Antioch Sectional.
But how did Carmel turn it all around after all those years of losing?
"I got lucky here,'' Bowen said. "We have a good staff and good fans. We've got kids who care. It's taken a lot of time and effort."
And now comes the word that Bowen's team will be close to home in the playoffs at Grayslake Central – the last place Bowen coached. Carmel will get a first-round bye and won't play until March 4. Carmel will play the winner of Kelvyn Park and Sullivan, two Chicago schools who have to make the long trek to Grayslake. Later that same night, home-standing Central and Lakes will play. The two winners will meet for the regional championship on March 7.
Now what's making the Corsairs so good this year? It doesn't hurt to have a 6-foot-10 center named Jack George. He is a threat on both the offensive and defensive sides of the ball. George gets help from 6-6 Michael Barr. Christopher Duff may be young (sophomore) but he gives Bowen's team some speed. Billy Kirby and Lee Bowen also help this club.
If Carmel is the highest-rated team in our Lake County Suburban Life area, the next best team would be coach Brian Moe's Rams of Grayslake Central. The Rams have made a mockery out of the Fox Valley Fox Division winning 9 straight games in that division. In fact, a five-point loss to Zion-Benton ended a 7-game winning streak. And Zion is clearly a power in 4A basketball. On Feb. 21, the Rams mauled Woodstock North 59-29. Malcolm Reed and Charlie Anderson are two important Rams on this squad.
An eighth-seeded team is the Warren Blue Devils. On March 4, Warren will be in the McHenry Regional. The Blue Devils will play Deerfield. If they survive they will most likely meet rival Stevenson. The Patriots have beaten Warren twice this season but the games have been competitive. Stevenson has just one loss this season. Warren thrives with the likes of Adrian Deere, Eric Gillespie and Greg Swain.
Next up in the IHSA seed list is the Lakes Eagles. And Brian Snyder and his staff deserve some credit for getting this team ready for the post-season. This was a team that lost its first 6 games of the season. In recent weeks, the Eagles have won 8 out of their last 11. So what happened here for this 9th seeded team in the Antioch Sectional? For one, both Jake Balliu and Michal Tomasiewicz have stepped up their play. Bennett Haviland is an impressive defensive player. And Lakes played well the last time they played Carmel.
Earning a 10th seed is the Wauconda Bulldogs. And Wauconda is destined to hit the road for the playoffs. At least they will see a familiar face in the St. Patrick Regional. Vernon Hills is the fifth seed and will meet Wauconda. Led by Dion Head, Wauconda still has a winning record.
A 12th-seeded team is the Antioch Sequoits. Coach Jim White's club will head to Richmond-Burton High School on March 4. They will play the home team at 8 p.m. that night. The play of Kyle Gofron has been encouraging as Antioch checked off recent wins over Grant and Round Lake.
Grant is seeded 16th in the McHenry Regional. If they can get by McHenry on March 3, they run right into state power Stevenson. Led by Ryan Noda, the Bulldogs did chalk up a recent win over Vernon Hills.
Grayslake North is the 21st seed in the Rolling Meadows Regional. They get started on March 3 against Palatine (12th seed).
Round Lake is the 23rd seed and will get started at Hersey Regional. The Panthers play Prospect.