Boys basketball: Crystal Lake South plans for building onto school-record season

Tournaments tip off with play-in games on Monday

Crystal Lake South's Christian Rohde ducks the ball during a Fox Valley Conference boys basketball game against Huntley on Tuesday, Feb.6, 2024, at Huntley High School.

There will be a lot of attention focused on Crystal Lake South now that the boys basketball postseason has arrived.

The Gators (27-3) set a school record for wins and finished the Fox Valley Conference at 18-0. But they have bigger plans than that, which start at this week’s Class 3A Cary-Grove Regional.

“It’s a fresh start for everybody and we’re going to have to earn every single one of them, starting with that Wednesday game against (Crystal Lake) Central or Prairie Ridge,” Gators coach Matt LePage said. “These guys have been so good at that all year. They never played the math game, they just focused on the opponent in front of them. If they stay focused, we’ll let the chips fall and whatever happens, happens.”

Here is a look Classes 2A through 4A and the area’s top teams in those tournaments.

Class 2A

Johnsburg is the highest-seeded team of the four area teams playing in Class 2A. The Skyhawks (17-14) won the Kishwaukee River Conference with a 13-1 record and have won 11 of their last 14 games. They are the No. 4 seed in Sub-Sectional B of the Mendota Sectional and will play in the Genoa-Kingston Regional.

Byron (25-2) is No. 7 in The Associated Press Class 2A poll this week and is the top seed.

Johnsburg is strong shooting 3-pointers, with close to 300 3s for the season and 34.2% shooting behind the arc.

“I really like our chances,” Skyhawks coach Mike Toussaint. “When we shoot it well, we are really tough to beat. We need to correct some things on the defensive end over the next week or two, but we won’t quit, and whoever we play will get a battle.”

Class 3A

Crystal Lake South won its first regional since 2002 last season and desperately wants to repeat and go further this season.

The Gators have four new starters to go with their dynamic point guard AJ Demirov. They have size (five starters 6-foot-5 or taller) and depth and their 1-3-1 zone defense often wreaks havoc on opponents.

We have to keep focused on the next game, but we have big hopes. I’m not going to say exactly, but we have big dreams.”

—  Crystal Lake South guard AJ Demirov

“We have a lot of chemistry on this team. We’ve played ball together a lot of years, have a lot of friendships,” forward Colton Hess said. “It’s just fun to play because you want your best friend to win and he wants you to win, so you’re pulling for each other.

“We didn’t know we’d be this good. We knew we’d be good, but this is beyond our expectations and we’re very happy about it.”

Demirov led the FVC in scoring at 20 points per game and does it all for the Gators.

“That’s big. We’re not finished, obviously, but that’s big to go undefeated and break the school record too,” Demirov said. “We have to keep focused on the next game, but we have big hopes. I’m not going to say exactly, but we have big dreams.”

South will see No. 4 Wheaton Academy or No. 5 Cary-Grove in the championship. C-G played the Gators the best of any FVC team, losing in overtime and by four points.

The area’s Class 3A teams are spread out among four regionals, all feeding into the Kaneland Sectional.

Burlington Central (20-10) reached the 20-win mark for the eighth time in nine seasons (the Rockets were 16-1 in the COVID-19 abbreviated 2021 season). They are a No. 3 seed and will try to win their third consecutive regional at Marmion, where Kaneland is the No. 2.

Woodstock (20-9) closed strong with a current area-best eight-game winning streak and is a No. 3 at the Boylan Regional, where No. 2 Freeport is the top seed.

Class 4A

Huntley (20-10) recorded its fourth consecutive 20-win season (excluding the COVID-19 2021 season) and is a No. 4 seed in the Rockford East Regional. Guilford, which hosts the sectional, is the top seed there.

McHenry (23-8) is two wins away from its school record and is a No. 2 seed, the highest at the Jacobs Regional. The Warriors are shooting for their first regional title since 2012.

Class 1A Pecatonica Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1: (15) Alden-Hebron at (1) Pecatonica, 6 p.m.
Game 2: (10) Dakota at (9) Pearl City, 7 p.m.
Game 3: (14) Orangeville at (4) Galena, 7 p.m.
Game 4: (11) Christian Life at (8) Durand, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 5:
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, 6 p.m.
Game 6: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 7:
Winner Game 5 vs. Winner Game 6, championship, 7 p.m.
Class 2A Genoa-Kingston Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1:
(10) Waukegan (Cristo Rey St. Martin) at (9) Marian Central, 7 p.m.
Game 2: (11) Marengo at (7) Genoa-Kingston, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 3:
(1) Byron vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.
Game 4: (4) Johnsburg vs. Winner Game 2, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 5:
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, championship, 7 p.m.
Class 2A Winnebago Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1:
(8) North Boone at (6) Winnebago, 7 p.m.
Game 2: (12) Stillman Valley at (5) Richmond-Burton, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 3:
(2) Rockford Christian vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.
Game 4: (3) Rockford Lutheran vs. Winner Game 2, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 5:
Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, championship, 7 p.m.
Class 3A Belvidere North Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1: (9) Harvard at (8) Belvidere, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 2: (1) Belvidere (North) vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.
Game 3: (4) Sycamore vs. (7) Woodstock North, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 4:
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, championship, 7 p.m.
Class 3A Cary-Grove Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1:
(9) Crystal Lake Central at (8) Prairie Ridge, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 2:
(1) Crystal Lake South vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.
Game 3: (4) Wheaton Academy vs. (5) Cary-Grove, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 4:
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, championship, 6:30 p.m.
Class 3A Rockford Boylan Regional
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 1:
(2) Freeport vs. (6) Boylan, 7 p.m.
Game 2: (3) Woodstock vs. (5) Rochelle, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 3:
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, championship, 7 p.m.
Class 3A Marmion Academy Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1:
(10) IMSA at (7) Plano, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 2:
(2) Maple Park (Kaneland) vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.
Game 3: (3) Burlington (Central) vs. (6) Marmion Academy, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 4:
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, championship, 7 p.m.
Class 4A Rockford East Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1: (9) Rockford East at (8) Harlem, 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 2:
(1) Guilford vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.
Game 3: (4) Huntley vs. (7) Hononegah, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 4:
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, championship, 7 p.m.
Class 4A DeKalb Regional
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 1:
(2) DeKalb vs. (6) Jefferson, 6 p.m.
Game 2: (3) Auburn vs. (5) Hampshire, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 3:
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, championship, 7 p.m.
Jacobs Regional
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 1:
(2) McHenry vs. (7) Grant, 6 p.m.
Game 2: (4) Jacobs vs. (5) Mundelein, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 3:
Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2, championship, 7 p.m.
Dundee-Crown Regional
Monday, Feb. 19
Game 1:
(17) Elgin vs. (14) Dundee-Crown, 6 p.m.
Wednesday, Feb. 21
Game 2:
(1) Barrington vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.
Game 3: (8) Fremd vs. (9) Schaumburg, 7:30 p.m.
Friday, Feb. 23
Game 4:
Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.