Johnson: Remaining winter sports schedule is intriguing
It’s rare that, by Feb. 23, our winter prep sports teams are done playing, with the exception of those in the sport (boys basketball) whose postseason hasn’t begun.
That’s where we are this year. The combination of our girls basketball teams striking out on winning regionals, our wrestling teams failing to advance in the dual team state series and the Morris boys swimming and diving team not having any state qualifiers has made it boys hoops and nothing from here on out.
The one remaining sport offers a ton of intrigue, however. Here’s a look at what’s going on with a few of our local boys basketball teams.
The Fighting Irish enter the 2A Princeton Regional, where they’ll begin play tonight as the top seed, on a down note. Their otherwise wildly successful run through their Interstate Eight Conference schedule ended Friday with a 75-73 loss to Reed-Custer.
The loss kept the Irish from a perfect conference season, but it didn’t keep them from winning the I-8 outright; they’d ensured that by beating Lisle three days before. And playoff success will quickly render the loss a distant memory.
At Princeton, the toughest competition the Irish will face, based on seeds, is Hall, which they beat 60-52 at their Turkey Tournament in November. Should the Irish survive their regional, they’ll draw the winner of the Morrison Regional at the Bureau Valley Sectional. That would likely mean a game against Newman Central Catholic, which as of Feb. 18 was ranked third in the state by the Associated Press (Seneca is unranked).
When the Norsemen take the court tonight at the 1A Somonauk Regional, they’ll be playing for the first time since Feb. 14 and the second since Feb. 8.
Two scheduled games were canceled last week, leaving the Norsemen 16-9 overall and having lost two of their past three as the postseason begins. They won their final regular-season game, 63-50, Feb. 14 at Paw Paw, but had previously lost, 64-57, to Somonauk in the Little Ten Conference Tournament championship Feb. 7 and 58-48 to Roanoke-Benson at the Putnam County Shootout the following night.
There are plenty of 1A regionals that the LTC regular-season champion Norsemen would be favored to win. Somonauk, where the field includes a Mooseheart team ranked second in the state by the AP as of Feb. 18, isn’t one of them. A win tonight in a rematch with Somonauk would likely earn the Norsemen a shot at upsetting Mooseheart Friday night.
I’m not discussing the Redskins’ postseason slate here. I’ll have full previews of the 3A Prairie Central Regional — where the field includes them and Coal City, as well as the 4A Eisenhower Regional, which is where Minooka is headed — later this week.
In the meantime is interesting enough, though, for Morris to merit a few paragraphs. Its pursuit of the Northern Illinois Big 12 Conference East championship will go right down to the wire. Friday’s loss to Kaneland, coupled with Sycamore’s Saturday loss to Kaneland, means what had seemingly been a two-horse race for weeks is now inclusive of a third contender.
Should Sycamore beat Morris Friday night, and should Kaneland beat DeKalb, the result would be a three-way tie atop the conference standings. Should Sycamore win and Kaneland lose, the Redskins and Spartans would share the title between themselves. Of course, should the Redskins take care of business, the title is theirs and theirs alone no matter what Kaneland does.