Boys basketball: Postseason shaping up to be a wild one across Herald-News area

Class 4A, 3A brackets overloaded with winning teams

Bolingbrook's Davion Thompson (3) brings the ball up the court against Oswego East during a basketball game at Oswego East High School in Oswego on Wednesday, Jan 10, 2024.

Joliet Central had 18 wins through Wednesday, the most the program has recorded since 2018.

In most years, that kind of win of total likely would lead to a pretty good seeding in whatever postseason grouping a team landed in.

But that’s not the case in this year’s postseason, as all that solid regular season will net for the Steelmen is a No. 10 seed in a stacked Rich Township Sectional.

That circumstance isn’t reserved for only the Rich Township Sectional, either. All but one of the Herald-News coverage area squads in the Class 4A postseason bracket find themselves trying to maneuver either the sectional group at Rich or an equally or more daunting postseason bracket provided by the East Aurora Sectional complex.

One has to go all the way down to the No. 14 seed in the Rich Township Sectional to find a sub-.500 team. At East Aurora, Bolingbrook heads a group that, if the seeds hold, could feature the Raiders along with two teams that found themselves among the four teams at the Class 4A state finals last season in Downers Grove North and Benet.

“It’s almost like you can relate it to college basketball, men’s college basketball, just with the parity and the depth of good teams. Any team could win on a given night,” Joliet West coach Jeremy Kreiger said. “So it’s very interesting to look where the number next to the name might not mean as much as it has in years past because the quality of team and where the seed may have fallen.”

Joliet West's Justus Mcnair looks to drive to the basket during a conference game against Romeoville on Friday, Feb. 02, 2024, at Joliet. (Dean Reid for Shaw Local News Network)

Krieger’s Tigers are one of the few area teams that, by seed, is expected to reach a regional title game. Only four Herald-News teams (Bolingbrook, Joliet West, Lincoln-Way East and Romeoville) are seeded in the top eight in any of the regionals they are involved in, which would indicate they are the favorites to reach regional title games.

Joliet West is the No. 5 seed at the Lincoln-Way West Regional, where the hosts are the No. 13 seed. Joliet West, which has won seven games in a row and 11 of its past 13, is playing as well as anyone after dropping to 9-7 on Jan. 5. But an opening-round matchup provides a sterner challenge than most first-round games usually do for a higher seed, and a win there likely would pair them with Rich Township, one of the two teams that beat Joliet West during its recent surge in a 70-53 Rich Township win Jan. 11.

“We’ve closed the conference stretch very strong,” Kreiger said. “And to get wins against the likes of a team like Oswego East bodes well for where we want to be.”

Romeoville is the No. 6 seed in the Rich Township grouping, and although the Spartans have only recently returned to form after a 12-1 start, 11th-seeded and host Andrew provides an imposing opening-round challenge. A win there almost certainly would pit Romeoville against No. 3 seed Bloom in a regional final.

Lincoln-Way East also has scuffled a bit in the second half of the season and likely will get little relief with an opening-round matchup with a solid Joliet Central squad. The winner there likely would draw No. 2 seed Marist (25-4) in the regional final at Thornwood.

At the East Aurora Regional, Bolingbrook certainly feels as if its rigorous schedule and success ratio earned it the No. 1 seed in a stacked group.

Six teams in the 18-team grouping already have 21 or more wins on the season, and four more have 18 or more.

With all that depth, stern challenges will come almost immediately. The Raiders could find themselves facing host school Yorkville in the regional final. The Foxes are playing as well as anyone, winning nine of their past 12 games.

If the Raiders find themselves in the sectional round, they’d likely face imposing challenges from either Benet or last year’s sectional champion, Oswego East, in the sectional semifinals. Oswego East is one of four teams to beat Bolingbrook this season along with Gurnee Warren, Metamora and Homewood-Flossmoor.

The Raiders avenged one of those losses Tuesday with a narrow win over Homewood-Flossmoor, which likely will send them into the postseason with a lot of momentum, but Bolingbrook coach Rob Brost expects his team to channel the same energy it has all season when it maneuvered its way through one of the state’s most imposing schedules.

“We’ll have a mature attitude about this whole thing,” Brost said after the Homewood-Flossmoor win over a team that was ranked No. 1 in Class 4A at the time. “And we’ll be mature about the work ahead, because that’s what we do.”

Lemont’s Alanas Castillo makes a move to the basket against Lincoln-Way Central on Wednesday, Jan. 10th, 2024 in New Lenox.

In the Class 3A draw, Lemont is the best positioned among local squads. As a No. 6 seed, Lemont will open tournament play against 11th seeded Oak Forest at Marian Catholic with a likely date against the host school in the regional final should they advance.

Morris has been hot of late and is 16-13 heading into a Thursday visit to Lincoln-Way Central, but goes to a loaded Class 3A Pontiac Sectional complex that sends Morris to open against top-seeded Kankakee in the Streator Regional. The regional also holds 19-win Pontiac and a 23-win Streator team — both of whom have wins over Morris this season.

Joliet Catholic is the No. 5 seed in the Westmont Class 2A Regional. The Hilltoppers face a play-in game against Chicago Christian in the opening round and would face third-seeded Westmont with a win in the semifinals. The lone undefeated team in the state, Beecher, is the top seed in the Westmont Regional.

Morris's Jack Wheeler eyes the hoop against Ottawa defenders on Wednesday, Jan. 3, 2024 at Kingman Gym.