The only thing better than a St. Charles East-St. Charles North boys basketball postseason rumble is one in which the outcome is completely up for grabs.
That'll be the case tonight when East and North square off in an IHSA Class 4A St. Charles North Regional semifinal.
The teams enter with similar records (North is 16-9; East is 17-11), split their regular season matchups and both bring quality senior leadership that could pay off in a pressure-packed scenario.
There is legitimate optimism on both sides. Here are the top three cases to be made for each team's prospects to advance to the regional championship game Friday night against South Elgin, which stunned top-seeded Larkin in overtime Tuesday night.
The case for the North Stars
• Home-court advantage. OK, the not-so-arduous journey to Red Gate Road probably won't deter East's students from flooding enemy territory, but there's still something to be said for playing on your home floor.
North certainly played much sharper against East at home this season (68-58 North win in December) than when the venues were reversed (90-55 East win in January).
• North's rebounding prowess. The North Stars have one of the area's most physically rugged frontcourts, with several football/basketball crossover athletes difficult to outmuscle for position. Jack Callaghan, Garrett Johnson, Camden Cotter and Chase Gianacakos all fall under that brawny umbrella for the North Stars.
That could pay off handsomely since East can be spotty on the glass. The Saints desperately need one of their frontcourt players to help senior AJ Washington fight for rebounds.
• Dom Adduci's health. East coach Pat Woods said Monday night that standout Saints guard Dom Adduci will be "full-bore" for tonight's game but the senior has played sparingly the past two weeks after spraining his ankle in a game against Elgin.
North is a classy program that no doubt wants to beat East at 100 percent, but from a practical standpoint, if East's top scorer isn't quite himself, that obviously helps North's chances.
The case for the Saints
• Superior momentum. East hit a rough patch in late January/early February, losing three games in a row, but the Saints have since straightened out their act to the tune of a five-game winning streak, even with Adduci hobbled.
North, conversely, enters postseason play after consecutive losses to Geneva and West Chicago. The North Stars are capable of bouncing back tonight but East might have better mojo coming in, especially after successfully dipping its toe into the postseason waters with a play-in game rout of Streamwood on Monday.
• Revenge factor. East and North have plenty of postseason history in recent seasons, but the one freshest in both teams' minds is last year's 4A South Elgin Regional semifinal, won by North, 69-53.
It's a new season, but you can bet East's numerous returnees from that team are determined not to leave the floor tonight with a similar feeling.
• 3-point shooting. East can over-rely on the 3-point shot at times, but when the Saints are hot, few teams in the state can fill it up like East. North won't argue that point after East scorched North for 16 3-pointers in the Saints' January win, and East replicated that lofty output in Monday's mashing of Streamwood.
Senior Alec Goetz is no slouch from the 3-point line for North, but the Saints simply have more shooters to keep tabs on at the arc.
What's clear is both teams have plenty to pin their hopes on tonight. That's what gives this East-North battle the potential to be one of the most fascinating installments of a great, crosstown rivalry.
• Jay Schwab is sports editor of the Kane County Chronicle. He can be reached at 630-845-5382 or firstname.lastname@example.org