Everyone Shares a Goal Next Week -- Survive and Advance

Daily Herald (Arlington Heights, IL), February 24, 2013 | Go to article overview

Everyone Shares a Goal Next Week -- Survive and Advance


There are a few weeks of the year that I enjoy a little more than most.

This coming week is one of them.

Monday night signals the opening tipoff of the Illinois High School Association's annual basketball tournament at gymnasiums throughout the state.

It's America's Original March Madness with a 4-day head start this time around that I like to call, "February Frenzy."

At South Elgin, second-seeded St. Charles East (15-11) and third-seeded St. Charles North (16-10) make up a 6-team regional field that has a definite mini-Upstate Eight Conference River Division tournament feel to it -- with top-seeded Larkin, No. 4 Elgin and No. 5 Streamwood along with the host Storm from the UEC Valley.

"There's obviously familiarity with each other," said North Stars coach Tom Poulin, whose team opens against South Elgin Monday night. "Most of us have played each other two times and we've played (St. Charles) East three times. While we haven't faced South Elgin, we know their system and tendencies."

While that would appear to make scouting reports easier, Poulin looks at another way.

"I think it makes it more challenging in some ways because we do know so much about each other," added Poulin.

"I actually think it's kind of unfortunate," said St. Charles East coach Patrick Woods. "Conference-wise, we've got a lot of strong candidates and because we've played each other so many times you can kind of throw everything out the window.

"It's not a bad thing but it would be nice to see some different teams," added Woods. "It is playoff time though, and you have to beat whoever to get where you want to get. You can't look past Tuesday because if you do, you won't be playing Friday."

If the top seeded teams win Monday, Tuesday's regional semifinal matchups will feature Elgin vs. Larkin at 6 p.m., immediately followed by St. Charles East vs. St. Charles North in a pair of cross-town clashes.

"If that happens, South Elgin might be the best location in the state to watch high school basketball Tuesday night," said Poulin. "It would be a great atmosphere."

St. Charles East went 2-1 in its 3 previous meetings against St. Charles North, as each team successfully defended its home court.

This time, there would be no home court advantage.

"We went 2-2 with East last season and we're hoping to do it again this year," said Poulin.

Last season, the friendly rivals met in the postseason for the first time in 7 years with the Saints winning, 63-50.

Although UEC River champion Larkin (21-5) heads into the playoffs with back-to-back losses (both to Neuqua Valley), the Royals rank as a clear-cut favorite to win their first regional since 2006.

"I've got all the respect in the world for Larkin," said Poulin. "They've beaten us twice convincingly. They're unselfish and they speed you up."

"Larkin is the favorite but you have to look at Elgin, too," said Woods. "Elgin has lost to them three times by about 10 points total (by 3, 9 and 2 points)."

The Maroons also possess one of the regional's top players in senior guard Arie Williams, who lit up the Saints for 35 points earlier this month.

Poulin and Woods agree that their regional is a strong one.

"I think that we have three of the top eight teams in the entire sectional and we're all going to be playing each other in the first or second round (of the regional)," said Woods. "Whoever comes out of our regional has a real strong chance of being in DeKalb on that supersectional date."

"The top three seeds in this regional are as good as anybody in the sectional," said Poulin.

Perhaps no team faces a more daunting task than Geneva.

If the Vikings want to capture their first regional crown since 1986, they'll likely have to knock off West Suburban Conference Silver Division champion Hinsdale Central (18-5) and perennial power West Aurora (20-6). …

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Everyone Shares a Goal Next Week -- Survive and Advance
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