The route taken by the state tournament is almost exactly the same as past seasons for the majority of basketball teams in the region.
The majority of Class 4A teams in the Joliet area will be looking to do some damage in what appears to be a loaded Bolingbrook section group of 17 teams.
Eleven teams in the group are above the .500 mark at this point, and seven of them have already recorded double-digit wins.
Lincoln-Way East, Joliet West, Bolingbrook and Lockport are part of this group of seven teams and seem to be jostling for one of eight dedicated seeds who will have one from the group of the best four seeds and one from the group of the the next four seeds (five to eight) sent to each of the four regional site hosts (East Aurora, Waubonsie Valley, Joliet West, and Lockport).
The four teams that emerge from these regionals will head to the Bolingbrook Section to try to earn a spot in the Illinois State Super Section to face the winner of the Moline Section. Unlike the Bolingbrook Sectional, the Moline Sectional is divided into two subsections of eight teams each. Minooka and Plainfield South end up in Subsection A, with teams going to regionals in Beijing or Bradley-Bourbonnais. Moline is the big favorite to come out of Subsection A and the section in general.
Two of the three Class 3A locals are in the 18-team Hillcrest section – Lemont and Providence. It’s essentially the same group of teams that Lemont emerged victorious from last season before falling in the UIC super section to Simeon. UIC hosts a Super Section again this season, with the winner of the South Glenbard Super Section facing the winner of Hillcrest.
Still in class 3A, Morris finds himself in subsection B of the Galesburg section.
In Class 2A, Joliet Catholic is flying solo among local teams as part of the 25-team Julian Sectional pool where it will host a Regional in Subsection B. This is the second year in a row the Hilltoppers have been placed in a group largely filled with Chicago Public League teams, as opposed to its 2019 run to the Division Finals which largely ran through central Illinois.
Aside from JCA in Class 2A, Coal City, Peotone, Reed-Custer, Seneca, and Wilmington were all placed in Subdivision B of the Herscher Section. Seneca is one of two regional hosts in Subsection B along with Momence.
Dwight will host a Regional in Subdivision A of the Putnam County Class 1A Section. Gardner-South Wilmington is also part of this group.
Joliet West hasn’t shied away from anything when it comes to rostering this season, having already faced several high-quality opponents in its first 15 games.
But because of that, they’ve already experienced something they didn’t expect and can’t happen again: two losses in one day.
The Pontiac Holiday Tournament, which originally set up its format to mirror how the state basketball tournament was set up prior to 2007, plays both its semifinal and final/third round games place the same day. Although the four-class system has eliminated this practice at the state level, Pontiac has stuck to it, which poses an ominous challenge for any team that reaches the semifinals there.
Joliet West lost both meetings on Friday, with a semi-final loss to Benet followed by a loss to Chicago Curie in the third place match.
“We don’t want to be in another tournament, but playing this type of competition lends itself to what we want to do in February and March,” Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger said. “So hopefully, as a team, we can turn those losses into learning experiences that turn into [wins] later down the road. We don’t make the same mistakes or missteps.
“We really believe that we have a very strong group. We spent a lot of energy and time building a good culture, and we asked them if we won or lost that last game. It’s the mental approach you have in your lowest moments when you fail. You just have to be resilient. You have to learn in those moments.
“But yeah, we’re hoping to bounce back after that.”
Joliet West still has several games to prove its mettle against the state’s elite. First, there’s a game on Saturday at the Steve Pappas Shootout where the Tigers will face Rolling Meadows, the recent winners of the 32-team Jack Tosh tournament.
The ranks of the undefeated are dwindling
Seneca went 14 games undefeated surviving a few close calls at the Ottawa Marquette Christmas Tournament.
The Fighting Irish are just one of 11 undefeated teams in the state, including four other Class 2A schools: Princeton, Prairie Central, Rockford Christian and St. Joseph Ogden.
Les autres invaincus sont Decatur MacArthur (3A), Herrin (3A), Simeon (3A), Sacred Heart Griffin (3A), Decatur Lutheran (1A) et Christ Our Rock Lutheran (1A).