St. Charles North was originally scheduled to play Morgan Park on Sunday in a shootout at Gordon Tech but the event's schedule was changed
"They're scared. They backed out. They saw us down at Pontiac and they said … ," North Stars coach Tom Poulin deadpanned, before trailing off.
Sure thing, coach. Morgan Park is one of the state's elite teams, which the Mustangs recently reinforced by defeating nationally regarded powerhouse Simeon during the Chicago Public League playoffs.
The North Stars were instead re-assigned to play Niles Notre Dame in Sunday's event, orchestrated by Chicago official and event organizer John Hodel.
"It tends to happen," Poulin said. "Actually we've gone to like three or four different events that he puts on, he's a great guy, and he always tells you, you know, we were going to play Simeon one year, and I say fine, we'll go see what we can do, and it ended up being Anthony Davis and [Chicago Perspectives]. We just say we want in because it'll be fun."
Poulin acknowledged it might have not have been ideal to risk being crushed by a team of Morgan Park's caliber so close to the postseason, which begins next week.
"But there's that wild card where you shoot well and sit in a zone and they don't shoot well, maybe, and it's a closer game than that, and you can take some confidence from it," Poulin said.
As it turned out, the North Stars had enough trouble with Niles Notre Dame. Despite trailing throughout the game, Notre Dame rallied to win, 73-72, when the North Stars were whistled for fouling a 3-point shooter in the final 10 seconds, a call with which Poulin disagreed. Three made free throws later, the North Stars (16-9) saw their five-game winning streak snapped.
Kiddie corps getting their chance for Geneva
Geneva has had two sophomores – Nate Navigato and Pace Temple – in its lineup this season, and the Vikings' sophomore contingent recently doubled.
Sophomore team call-ups Mike Landi and K.J. Santos – both forwards – have seen action in Geneva's last two games, a win against West Chicago and a loss against St. Charles North. Landi, Santos and Temple, a guard, come off the bench for the Vikings, while Navigato is the team's leading scorer.
Working in varsity newcomers so late in the season might be a challenge, but Vikings coach Phil Ralston thinks the reinforcements from Geneva's strong sophomore squad can make the Vikings more formidable down the stretch.
"All we're trying to do is put together a competitive team," Ralston said. "That's all we're trying to do.
"We're trying to develop some consistency. We're trying to make sure that we're putting a fresh lineup out on the floor that's going to be competitive and put us in a position to win."
On the flip side of the depth coin, Geneva lost a contributor last week when junior reserve Jason D'Amico broke his ankle during practice.
Tri-Cities boys basketball teams will end their regular season schedules Thursday with crossover contests against the UEC Valley schools. UEC River and Valley teams are matched up based on corresponding finishes in their respective divisions, with the Valley schools playing host this year after the River schools had the home court last year.
Uncertainty about some of the matchups lingered Monday based on tiebreaker scenarios. On Saturday, Poulin indicated he thought the North Stars would visit Metea Valley and St. Charles East would face Bartlett, but East coach Pat Woods indicated Monday evening he was not yet clear on the Saints' opponent.
East and North tied for second place in the UEC River, while Bartlett and Waubonsie Valley tied for third in the Valley behind first place Neuqua Valley and runners-up Metea Valley.
Ralston also was unsure about fourth-place Geneva's opponent Monday, while Batavia coach Jim Nazos indicated his fifth-place Bulldogs would trek to Lake Park.
The UEC championship crossover, to be played on Friday, will be Larkin at Neuqua Valley. The teams met last week in Elgin, with Neuqua prevailing, 63-53.
IN THE GROOVE
Alex Theisen, Marmion, Sr., G
What he did: Theisen canned five 3-pointers in scoring a game-high 19 points Friday as Marmion rolled past rival Aurora Central Catholic, 60-36. Theisen then tied Mike Sheehan for team-high honors with 14 points Saturday in Marmion's 59-57 loss to Bloomington Central Catholic.
Quinten Payne, St. Charles North, Sr., G
What he did: The Loyola recruit scored 27 points on Sunday in North's 73-72 loss to Niles Notre Dame in a shootout at Gordon Tech. On Friday, Payne chipped in with 10 points in the North Stars' win at Geneva.
WHAT WE LEARNED FROM LAST WEEK
Kaneland is going to the wire in pursuit of a Northern Illinois Big 12 East outright title.
The slumping Knights (6-3 NI Big 12 East) clinched a share of the conference title thanks to Sycamore's loss on Friday against Rochelle but the Knights will need to beat those same Hubs this Friday in Rochelle or risk sharing the title with Morris and Sycamore.
WHAT WE'LL LEARN IN THE WEEK AHEAD
Whether Mooseheart can make some history.
The Red Ramblers are in pursuit of what coach Ron Ahrens thinks would be the first regional title in program history. If the seeds hold, Mooseheart (21-5) and Hinckley-Big Rock (23-4) would meet for the 1A Westminster Christian Regional championship on Friday. The Ramblers must win games today (against Faith Lutheran) and Wednesday to advance to the title game.
COACH SLY SAYS
Sly's not waving the white flag on the Tri-Cities teams' postseason prospects, but it might just be that the most exciting basketball action ahead comes in Class 1A.
Mooseheart hoops is usually an afterthought this time of year (OK, the other times of year, too), but not so with the shot-swatting, rim-rattling squad the Ramblers have this year.
If newfound rivals Mooseheart and Hinckley-Big Rock both make it to Friday's regional championship game, a healthy dose of March Madness should be on display in late February. That could be a heckuva night.