The DePaul Prep Rams defeated the St. Viator Lions 62-53 Friday (March 8, 2019) winning Grayslake 3A Sectional and advance directly to State Finals in Peoria next weekend because of the disqualification of both North Lawndale and Farragut after a fight at the end of their game.
So here we are.
Today is the day of the sectional final between the St. Viator Lions and the DePaul Prep Rams. Many have been waiting for this day since before the IHSA announced the sectional assignments months ago. It was not a secret that the Lions and the Rams are the two best teams in the Grayslake Central Sectional and probably the two best 3A teams north of Madison Street.
Both teams started out gangbusters and hit a rough patch near the end of the season. St. Viator’s Treyvon Calvin broke a bone in his hand and missed several weeks. The Rams suffered a couple losses in their killer schedule and fell out of the rankings for a bit. Each team rallied, the Rams won the Chicago Catholic League Blue and took care of business in the playoffs and here we are.
Some may know that I have connections to both schools. I graduated from St. Viator in 1981. My brother Dan is a Viatorian priest and taught there for many years. My sister is on the Finance Committee. I have several cousins that are students there now.
And my children attended to Gordon Tech, which then became DePaul Prep. I probably have a dozen close friends and relatives that attended Gordon Tech. It’s a neighborhood school. Since my children started at Gordon, I have gotten to know the coaches, teachers and administrators at the school. I have been photographing Gordon Tech and DePaul Prep athletics for several years now.
I like to think of myself as a photographer, a photojournalist. On occasion, my photos are published so I try to work by journalistic standards. Frankly, my photos are much better when I am concentrating on taking pictures and not watching the game. But I am not really a photojournalist—at least not for today’s game. So I guess I could be rooting for a team.
Joe Henricksen in the Sun-Times makes predictions about which teams are going to win sectional finals. I am much too superstitious for that. My Irish heritage won’t allow such a thing. But I will however offer some thoughts.
The Rams and the Lions match up well against each other. Jeremiah Hernandez and Perry Cowen are similar players. Trey Calvin and Raheem Anthony are similar as well. Conor Kochera and Pavle Pantovic can both play and contribute mightily inside. The size of the players over all is pretty close. Both teams can play excellent defense, can run the floor and play a half court game.
The Lions have been ranked higher than the Rams most of the season. I generally agree with Michael O’Brien and Mike Clark’s rankings but at this point in sectional finals rankings don’t mean much. I guess they will just have to play the game. I am lucky that one of my teams will probably make it to Peoria. That will be tough for me to shoot the state finals and have one of my teams playing. There I will be a photojournalist and can’t have a rooting interest. I will have to find a way to deal with it.
And in the immortal words of Paul Chabura . . .
The St. Viator Lions traveled to Benet Academy Wednesday evening (Feb. 20, 2019) for an East Suburban Catholic Conference game with the conference title on the line. If the Lions won, they would be conference champs.
The game started slow with a lot of missed shots. But late first quarter threes from St. Viator’s Trey Calvin gave the Lions a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.
However, despite Benet’s senior forward Kendrick Tchoua sitting out most of the second quarter with two fouls, the Lions had no answer for Benet’s junior center Colin Crothers. Crothers got the ball in the paint and scored to give Benet a 27-21 half time lead.
Benet held its lead throughout the second half increasing it to as much as 12 late in the fourth quarter. With several minutes left, St. Viator starting sending the Redwings to the line. Surprisingly, Benet kept missing free through and the Lions cut the deficit to five inside a minute. Two free throws by Tchoua extended the lead to seven with several seconds to go and Benet held on to the victory.
The Benet victory means that despite losing to St. Viator last Friday night, Marian Catholic is the East Suburban Catholic Conference champions.
The St. Viator Lions finished the season at 23-6 overall and 7-2 in the ESCC. The Lions host a 3A Regional starting Monday, with their first game Tuesday evening against the winner of Noble/ITW Speer and Marine Leadership Academy. The Lions come in as the #1 seed in the Grayslake Central Sectional.
Benet Academy finished the season at 22-7 over all and 7-2 in the ESCC. The Redwings enter the Bartlett 4A Sectional as the #2 seed behind #1 seed Geneva and play the winner of Addison Trail and Glenbard East on Tuesday.
Welcome to playoff time and the beginning of the end of another high school basketball season.
Early in this basketball season I wrote about the high school basketball season coming in phases: Thankgiving tournament, CCL crossover games, Christmas tournament, assorted shootouts. Now we are upon the second to last phase, the Chicago Catholic League Blue final games and await the IHSA playoffs.
I have told anyone foolhardy enough to listen that winning the Catholic League was what I wanted to see the DePaul Prep Rams do. Getting to Peoria would be nice but winning the 100 plus year old Chicago Catholic League is an accomplishment that means something, at least to me.
Well here we are. 8-1 in the Catholic League Blue with a one game lead on St. Laurence. Win out, and the DePaul Prep Rams and their coach, Tom Kleinschmidt will have won the Chicago Catholic League—the Catholic League Blue. But that is a subject for another day. Winning out means beating De La Salle, Fenwick (at Fenwick), Brother Rice (at Brother Rice), Loyola , St. Ignatius and then a chance to cap it off with a win against CCL White leader St. Rita.
There it is. Six CCL games in twelve days. All against historic rivals and good teams. If you do that, you’ve done something.
Even with this formidable task ahead and despite my frequent refrain against looking ahead, last night’s sixth Superbowl victory by Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck has me thinking. I could not stop myself from looking at the 3A IHSA playoffs and playing out the Sectional matchups.
Unlike most years, DePaul is not hosting either a regional or sectional. The IHSA 3A sectional assignments are out and DePaul has landed in the Grayslake Sectional. There are nineteen teams assigned to that sectional, including the formerly highly ranked and still extremely talented St. Viator Lions.
There are four regionals hosted by St. Patrick, Ridgewood, St. Viator and Carmel. It’s my understanding that teams are supposed to be assigned to geographically close regionals and not purely by seeded by the best teams. In practice, I am not sure how that all works. So I improvised. Basically, I just guessed. Looking at geography and over all records, this is what I came up with:
St. Patrick Regional: St. Patrick , Steinmetz, DePaul Prep, Noble/ITW Speer, Marine Leadership Academy.
Ridgewood Regional: Ridgewood, Sullivan, Noble/Pritzker, CICS/Northtown, Alcott.
St. Viator Regional: St. Viator, Northside, Elmwood Park, Amundsen and Intrinsic Charter.
Carmel Regional: Carmel, Antioch, North Grand and Grayslake Central
It’s not going to be exactly this but I would think not too far off. So we are probably looking at the regional champions being, DePaul Prep, Ridgewood (maybe Sullivan), St. Viator and Carmel with St. Viator squaring off against DePaul Prep in the Sectional final. Even with a Trey Calvin being out with a broken hand, St. Viator with Jeremiah Hernandez is very, very good. This is probably the best St. Viator basketball team in the school’s fifty-eight year history. I have been around that school since I started there are a freshman in 1977. This year’s team is the best I can remember and I am old, really old.
DePaul Prep and St. Viator in a sectional final shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Rams and Lions have been the only two ranked teams in the Grayslake Sectional. Each team has scheduled top competition and dominated their conferences.
As for the Super-sectional, the IHSA website hasn’t released which Super-sectionals will play each others. But if last year is a guide, the two northern most Super-sectionals played each other, Sears Center and NIU. If that holds true this year, the DePaul Prep Rams would not face the leading 3A powerhouses, Morgan Park and Bogan until Peoria.
So, there you have it. Win six Catholic Blue games and beat St. Viator. All for the chance to face Morgan Park, Bogan and or Springfield Southeast. This makes that stretch of games in the shootouts look like a walk in the park. Let’s get to work.
The season is half over. 29 regular season games with 14 in books. The DePaul Prep Rams record stands at 11 wins, 3 losses and 5-0 in the Chicago Catholic League. The Rams are ranked #12 in the Sun-Times Super 25 and #15 in the Chicago Tribune top 20.
The Rams have wins over #23 Providence St. Mel and #13 Leo. The three loses have been to Benet Academy, (12-3, 4A, currently ranked #16), Marian Catholic (14-1, 4A, #4) and Oswego East, (11-2, 4A, #17) by a total of nine points. So basically, the Rams have a couple good wins and three “good” losses.
It has been a long time since a DePaul Prep or Gordon Tech team has been this good. The Rams last won the Catholic League in 2000. The 11-3 mark is the best in the tenure of Coach Tom Kleinschmidt.
The first part of the year made believers out of those that thought the Rams might not be very good given the loss to North Chicago in last year’s sectional final. The Rams made a believer out of me early when the just appeared to play angry. Serious as a heart attack. Ask Notre Dame and Lane Tech. Those games impressed me. The Rams put those good teams away. Providence St. Mel came into the Tom Winiecki Gym hot and with a lot of hype. The Knights left soundly defeated.
The Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic, while disappointing for the Rams, was not a failure. They lost a close game to a very, very good Marian Catholic team. I have seen a lot of good teams this year: Evanston, St. Viator, Bloomington, Morgan Park, Curie, Uplift and Bloom. Marian Catholic looked just as good as any of those teams. As for losing to Oswego East in a double overtime 3rd place game, that means nothing. Who cares about a third-place game? Not me.
Still, the season is half over. It’s too early to be a good season. There is a great deal of work left to do and many very good teams to overcome.
The best teams left on the regular season schedule are #5 Morgan Park, #21 St. Laurence, #22 New Trier, and then CCL rivals Brother Rice, Fenwick, Loyola and St. Rita. The best is yet to come, a preview game against Morgan Park, a trip to Quincy, a fun one in a big shootout against New Trier and then the Catholic League games. Win the Catholic League. That’s what I want to see. Win the Catholic League.
After that, we’ll just have to see what happens.
Team Rose Shootout.
The Team Rose Shootout is a great event with top match ups. The Mount Carmel facility is excellent. The light in the gym leaves a little to be desired in terms of quantity but the color temperature is better than most.
St. Viator 72, Oswego East 69. I am more impressed with Trey Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez every time I see them play. These two young Lions hit their shots. I don’t remember either missing a free throw or a lay up when it counted. The Lions are one of the top 3A teams. We may be looking at a Sectional or Supersectional match up between the Lions and the DePaul Prep Rams in 3A.
Uplift drops Br. Rice 71-59 in OT. I was really looking forward to the Markese Jacobs v. Marquiese Kennedy matchup. It did not disappoint. Almost like a DePaul v. Loyola matchup. Both players put there respective teams on their backs in crunch time. It will fun watching them in years to come.
I couldn’t stay for the big game between Bloom and Morgan Park. I understand Bloom won. I saw Bloom last weekend at the Chicago Elite Classic. They are for real. Balanced. Talented. State title contenders.
Morgan Park I have yet to see this year but I think we all know what to expect. They will be there at tournament time. I will get out to see them at least a few times before. Put the Morgan Park v. Whitney Young game on your calendar.
Here are some photos from the games.
I have to apologize for a previous version of this blog post. My remarks about Notre Dame College Prep's gym comparing the it light to light in some other gyms were, well, unfunny and ill-considered. I wrote:
Notre Dame "has a dated fluorescent lighting system. Clearly, one ought not judge the merits of a school by the quality of the light in its gym but maybe we ought rethink that a little. The light in DePaul Prep's and St. Viator's gyms is excellent. (Just a tip for you parents with kids in elementary school.)
I apologize. I wasn't trying to insult Notre Dame. The gym is just fine. It was a humorless attempt at some photographer inside baseball reference to different qualities and quantities of light in school gyms for the purposes of taking photographs. No other purpose than that.
I feel especially bad from causing a problem for Coach Shea Boyle who I have been lucky enough to know for years now. He has always been so gracious to me. Forgive me.
So, with written, back to the matter at hand.
Notre Dame College Prep hosted the all-star game on Friday, April 20, 2018. It was a typical all-star game--all shooting and no defense. But fun nevertheless. Nice to see these kids have some fun without all the pressure. I didn't really have a rooting interest. I attended St. Viator, a million years ago and my brother Dan teaches there now. But my kids went to Gordon Tech/DePaul Prep and I shoot a lot DePaul Prep events as you might have noticed if you looked at my portfolio page.
The game wasn't exactly a true all star game. It was only seniors. And not all the schools sent players--DePaul Prep, Loyola, Mt. Carmel for starters, probably others but I didn't exactly keep count.
I included more photos than I usually do so I could include as many of the players as possible. Some images might not be up to normal publication standards. I included a photo of the referees which I do not ordinarily publish. However, I wanted to honor these refs. Two of whom I see regularly working CCL games. They do excellent jobs. For the most part, all the refs that work CCL games are very good. On occasion, some are not so good but that's pretty rare.
I hope you like the photos.