Benet, Naperville N., Willowbrook, St. Francis advance.
Deceivingly quick is how Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer describes the Benet basketball team.
At Friday night's Class 4A regional final at Addison Trail, the Redwings flashed their quickness, especially in the second half of their 62-49 defeat of Naperville Central. Benet used quick cuts to the basket and quick moves to loose balls and rebounds, and in the end it survived a great start by the Redhawks and quickly turned the game around in its favor.
"They're deceivingly quicker than you think they are," said Kramer, whose team led 18-11 after a strong start. "I think that caught us off guard a little bit. We handled them in the first half and then they really came out and attacked us in the second half. I think we were maybe shell-shocked for about two or three minutes."
The Redwings -- who have won six regional crowns in nine years and will take a 16-game winning streak into Tuesday's sectional semifinal against Bartlett -- closed the gap to 25-23 at the half and then blitzed Naperville Central (20-10) with a 16-6 third quarter to take control.
Redwings senior David Buh was one of several players to come up big in the second half. Buh tallied 14 of his game-high 16 points in the second half.
"I just wanted to be aggressive to get us off to a good start to the second half, because I knew as a team we needed a very good second half to beat a great team," said Buh, who scored 8 points in the third quarter. "Naperville Central really took it to us in the first half. And we realized we had to kind of come out in the second half and try and control the game. We're just very happy we were able to do so."
Tyler O'Brien and Dillon Kane combined for a trio of 3-pointers and the seventh-seeded Redhawks also made 7 of 8 free throws while building that 18-11 first-quarter lead. But Benet regrouped from the slow start to improve to 25-4 on the year.
"We weren't ready to guard at the beginning of the game and that was a huge issue," Benet coach Gene Heidkamp said. "The last three quarters we defended. In the middle quarters I thought we really got better defensively."
While the defense was picking up, so too was a balanced offense that saw three players score in double figures. Jacob Petrovic paced the Redwings in the first half with three 3s on his way to 14 points. Buh and Will Engels caught fire in the second half to combine for 24 of their 28 points over the final two quarters.
-- Stan Goff
Willowbrook 61, Hinsdale South 56, OT:
History wasn't kind to Willowbrook's boys basketball team, so the Warriors had to make their own.
In a thriller typical of the two top teams in the West Suburban Gold, Willowbrook edged Hinsdale South 61-56 in overtime to claim Friday's Class 4A Hinsdale South regional championship.
About that history. The Warriors (25-5) broke last year's program record for victories while winning their first regional title since coach Chris Perkins was a senior in 2004.
Willowbrook's entire starting lineup, meanwhile, made their own personal history. Friday marked their first win in Hinsdale South's gym in three seasons together on varsity.
"It's unreal," said Warriors senior Ethan Schuemer, who had a huge game with 26 points and 13 rebounds. "When we came to Willowbrook High School, we knew we wanted to take over and turn it into a great basketball program."
Fourth-seeded Hinsdale South (21-7) had the momentum after Kaleb Thomas hit a 3-pointer at the end of regulation to send the game to overtime tied at 52. Robert Barnes then scored the first 4 points of the extra period to give the Hornets their first lead since midway through the second quarter at 56-52.
A Schuemer bucket and a three-point play by Matthew Myers, who missed some game time with a shoulder injury, pushed the fifth-seeded Warriors (25-5) to a 57-56 lead with 35.2 seconds left.
Neil Paxton Jr. made a pair of free throws to boost the advantage to 59-56 with 14.3 left, and the Warriors survived a second game-tying 3-point attempt. Paxton sealed it with another two free throws.
"It feels a little heavy but it's fine," Myers said of his shoulder. "I kept it warmed up on the bench so I could go back in. I knew they were going to need me to come out and make a big play."
In his last high school game, Iowa State-bound Hinsdale South senior Zion Griffin battled foul trouble all night before fouling out in overtime. He finished with 15 points and 11 rebounds.
Willowbrook's 15-4 run at the end of the first half gave the Warriors a 32-24 lead, a margin that went as wide as 9 points midway through the third quarter. The Hornets steadily rallied before Thomas drained the tying 3.
"It's a tough one," said Hornets coach Brett Moore, whose team was the outright Gold champion. "But this team brought it every single night for us. They battled right to the end."
Matas Masys scored 13 points and Paxton Jr. added 9 points for Willowbrook, which received a tremendous defensive effort from Sikander Zafar on Griffin. Barnes had 14 points and Aaron Tims scored 10 for Hinsdale South.
Willowbrook advances to the Glenbard East sectional semifinals to face top-seeded Naperville North (26-2), a winner over Geneva, at 6 p.m. Tuesday.
"Both teams are championship level," Perkins said. "Unfortunately we had to face each other in the regional, but we'll take it."
-- Kevin Schmit
Naperville North 64, Geneva 51:
Though Naperville North was playing a regional final on its home court on Friday night, the top-seeded Huskies found themselves in an unfamiliar place after seven minutes, trailing an inspired Geneva team by 12.
But Naperville North used an airtight defensive effort from that point to turn the tables and end up in a very familiar place -- ahead at the final horn, in this case with a 64-51 victory.
"Coach just told us to keep our heads up, that we had the tools to get back in the game," said guard Kevin Lang of coach Jeff Powers' message to the team during an early timeout. "We knew we had to get some deflections that led to steals."
The Huskies (26-2) followed those instructions to a "T" (as in turnover) as they forced Geneva giveaways on 7 of 8 possessions at one point, 5 of them steals, with Lang pilfering a pair of wayward passes and racing in for breakaway layups, which sparked a 13-0 run that turned the early deficit into an 18-17 lead.
Naperville North's defense was so effective that after the Vikings (18-13) made 6 of 7 shots in the first quarter, they scored just 7 field goals over the game's final 25 minutes.
"That's pretty good defense, huh?" Powers asked rhetorically. "Give Geneva a lot of credit, they did do good things, but I'm proud of the way we defended them. We knew what they were doing and we just did a good job of slowing them down."
Geneva built its big lead by following coach Scott Hennig's plan to perfection, namely slowing the game down and taking only good shots. Four of those good shots were 3-pointers, which Mitch Mascari, Jack Hood, Nick Santos and Kross Garth converted in as many attempts.
The Vikings also fought off Naperville North's extended run to grab a 25-23 halftime lead on Santos's buzzer-beating 3.
"We wanted to shorten the game and have a chance to win in the fourth quarter," Hennig said. "The recipe to beat them was to control the game and have the ball more than them. Our first half was almost perfect, aside from a few hiccups, and we were still just up 2. They're just such a tough matchup; they have all the pieces to get downstate."
-- Chris Traczek
St. Francis 66, Wheaton Academy 51:
Due to how the Class 3A boys basketball bracket is drawn St. Francis was the visitor in its own Spyglass Athletic Center in Wheaton, but the Spartans felt right at home.
Guard Mike Cascella made up for his team's 3 quick turnovers by hitting three 3-pointers that launched a 66-51 Spartans victory over Wheaton Academy on Friday, St. Francis' first regional title since 2013 and its third straight year ending the Warriors' season.
"We really started out slow," said Cascella, who hit four 3s and scored a personal-high 20 points. "A lot of nerves were obviously in the air. I mean, this is the most crowded game I've ever been a part of and just to give a spark for our team, I couldn't be happier right now."
It was intense due to playoff ramifications and the bond the players have with each other.
"I have a couple buddies on that team that I've grown up with since I was 8," said Spartans point guard Matt Cooney, who scored 16 points. "It's tough seeing them out, but I mean, it's basketball. It's basketball."
It was fast-paced basketball for St. Francis, which advanced to a Class 3A Woodstock North sectional semifinal at 7 p.m. Wednesday against Rockford Boylan, a 69-59 winner over Rockford Lutheran.
"We tried to push the ball every time, misses and makes, to get up and down," Cascella said. "Drew a lot of fouls, got to the line. We played our pace tonight for sure."
No. 3 seed St. Francis (15-15) made 13 of 21 field-goal attempts and forced 10 Warriors turnovers to post a 38-24 halftime lead. In the second quarter Cooney and Andrew Harvey took over where Cascella left off, Nick Kosmetatos adding a three-point play and a 3.
Behind Jayston Williams and Jack Dykema 3s, Seb Pares' pick-and-roll hoop from J.D. Gunn's assist and Gunn's basket while sprawled in the lane, No. 2 Wheaton Academy (20-7) came within 47-37 at 2:26 of the third quarter.
St. Francis coach Erin Dwyer took time out and the Spartans closed the quarter on a Cooney three-point play and Cascella's fourth 3 to lead 53-37 entering the fourth.
"Just slow down, stay confident, stay aggressive, play fearless," was Dwyer's message. "That's our biggest thing, play fearless."
As the St. Francis fans roared, their team led 62-44 with 2:17 remaining in the game.
"It was an awesome atmosphere, we had the whole Blue Crew, the whole side filled up," said 13-point scorer Harvey. "They were just a real fun game to play. And they play well."
Williams led Wheaton Academy with 12 points, Gunn added 9 and Stephen Garrison scored 7 for a team that went 6-21 last season.
"They'll kick in here in a day or two, hey, we had a great season," said Wheaton Academy coach Steve Thonn. "The seniors did a lot of great things, they kind of turned the whole program around pretty quickly. So there's a lot of good things, we just won't realize it for a few days."
-- Dave Oberhelman
Bartlett 45, WW South 42:
The high school basketball playoffs are a place where dreams can come true, and they sure did for Bartlett senior Tomas Vikonis on Friday night.
With less than a second to play Vikonis banked in a game-winning 3-point shot from just left of the top of the key to lift the host Hawks to a stunning 45-42 victory over Wheaton Warrenville South in the Class 4A Bartlett regional finals.
"That's the kind of play you just dream about a lot growing up as a kid," Vikonis said. "To do it in front of the home crowd and in the regional finals -- it just doesn't get any better than that."
It's the Hawks first regional title since they advanced to the supersectional in 2010. During that seven-year span Bartlett has lost in the regional finals three times.
"It's been way too long," Bartlett coach Jim Wolfsmith said. "This is for all those kids the past several years that carried the torch. The ones who knocked on the door and didn't get through. This win is for them."
The Hawks (15-12) will face Benet in the second semifinal of the Glenbard East sectional Tuesday night.
It should have come as no surprise that the hard-fought battle came down to a final shot after 4 lead changes in the fourth quarter and 3 ties at 38-38, 40-40 and 42-42. WW South tied the game for the final time at 42-42 with 40 seconds to play on a basket inside by Jeff Kratz.
The Tigers (23-7) came up short despite shooting 14 of 22 from the field. The Tigers were haunted by 7 second-half turnovers in a game where every possession was crucial.
Parker Robinson had a team-high 13 points for the Tigers.
"It was extremely intense and a struggle between both teams," WW South coach Mike Healy said. "I certainly can't fault the effort of our kids. They battled the whole way. This is a special group of seniors who can be proud of the legacy they have left."
-- Scott Miller
Burlington Central 89, Montini 78:
It sounds a bit odd but Burlington Central coach Brett Porto was hoping his team wouldn't be "stuck" with its third consecutive 26-win season Friday night.
After suffering agonizing regional title losses to Glenbard South in back-to-back seasons as the top seed, the Rockets captured their first Class 3A regional championship in 10 years by outlasting fourth-seeded Montini 89-78 at Aurora Central Catholic.
"I was a sophomore coach with Coach (Chris) Payne learning how to coach a little bit and now we're here 10 years later," Porto said of the 2007-08 team that claimed the school's last regional crown.
The Rockets (27-4), who will play Kishwaukee River Conference rival Johnsburg on Tuesday in the Woodstock North sectional, led from start to finish, blasting off to a great start by grabbing a 14-3 in the first 2 1/2 minutes on the strength of three straight 3-point baskets from senior Michael Kalusa.
Burlington Central knocked down 21 of its 23 free-throw attempts during a start-and-stop fourth quarter, including its last 15 in a row, to survive a late comeback from the Broncos (17-11).
Montini, which trailed by as many as 22 points at 60-38 with 3:09 left in third quarter, made things interesting down the stretch.
Led by junior Jermari Harris' 13 fourth-quarter points, the Broncos closed the gap to 7 on two separate occasions late -- the last time at 83-76 with 55 seconds remaining before the Rockets scored the game's final 6 points.
"We needed to do a better job defensively," said Broncos coach Daryl Thomas. "When you give up 89 points in a high school game, you're in trouble. That's way too many points. It falls on us."
Matthew Morrissey scored 18 points for Montini.
"When you score 78 points in a high school game, you're supposed to win it," Thomas said.
-- Craig Brueske
Orr 53, IC Catholic Prep 29:
IC Catholic Prep added a matchup zone to its defensive playbook late in the season and had a lot of success with it throughout the playoffs.
Until the first five minutes of Friday's game against defending state champion Orr, that is.
Orr hit its first three 3-pointers -- one each by Chase Adams, Tyronn Mosely and Brian Hernandez -- and never looked back on its way to a 53-29 victory in the Class 2A Timothy Christian sectional championship game.
Hernandez later added a fourth 3-pointer to extend the Spartans' lead to 12-2 with 2:10 remaining in the first quarter. But defense was not the biggest problem Friday for IC Catholic Prep, coach T.J. Tyrrell said.
"We couldn't score," Tyrrell said. "We had a couple of defensive possessions where we really battled and fought for the boards. But they're full of athletes and very talented players. When they hit those 3s to start the game, we dug ourselves a hole and couldn't get out of it."
Orr (26-4) led by as many as 16 points in the second quarter before IC Catholic Prep closed to within 24-13 with fewer than 10 seconds remaining in the first half on a steal and a basket by Kevin Cheng.
But a three-point play by Orr's Dannie Smith at the end of the half and an 18-8 disadvantage in the third quarter closed the curtain on the Knights.
"They had scouted us and they would not even let me touch the ball," Cheng said. "They had their best guys on me and Alex (Meurer). (Orr) can kill you from anywhere. They got their opportunities, and hats off to them for hitting those 3s."
-- Phil Brozynski