Goss: Plainfield North a player even as the 15th seed
By Dick Goss email@example.com February 23, 2013 10:14PM
Plainfield North's Trevor Stumpe (15). | File photo
Updated: March 25, 2013 6:34AM
After Bolingbrook beat Joliet West 71-58 last weekend, Tigers coach Luke Yaklich complimented the Raiders:
“As the 8 seed, I wouldn’t want them anywhere close to me as the 1 seed.”
Welcome to the postseason in Class 4A and 3A boys basketball.
Regional firing begins Monday around the state. If one thing has been established, it’s that the Class 4A Bolingbrook Sectional is as deep in quality teams as any.
The Raiders (19-7) can play with anyone. Yet the best they could muster was the 8 seed.
Following up on Yaklich’s comment, how would you like to be the 8 seed and have to face No. 9 seed Lemont (23-3) in the semifinals of the Batavia Regional? Regardless of what you think of Lemont’s schedule, when is the last time a 23-3 team was a No. 9 seed?
Oswego is No. 1, followed by Benet, Neuqua Valley, West Aurora, Hinsdale Central, Waubonsie Valley and Naperville Central. All have plenty to offer, as do Bolingbrook and Lemont.
A measly 15 seed has no business in the sectional discussion.
Plainfield North (13-13) is seeded 15th and deserved nothing better — not in this field — when the seeds were made early this month. However, the Tigers have won eight of their last nine and are confident they can compete in the Benet Regional.
I covered them Thursday in their 78-64 victory over Plainfield Central, which provided a second-place finish in the Southwest Prairie behind Oswego. The Tigers’ only setback since a 75-55 loss to Bolingbrook on the Joliet Central MLK Day of Hoops was 65-46 to Oswego on Feb. 15, ending their seven-game win streak.
Coach Nick DiForti was not bad-mouthing Benet or anyone else, but he said it does not hurt his feelings the Tigers are in a regional away from Oswego. He’ll leave tackling that task to the Bolingbrook-Lemont winner.
Because of its seed, North must beat No. 18 Downers Grove North, which DiForti warned is a tough opponent, before running into Benet in the semifinals. It’s a tough road, but this sectional is not exactly a haven for gimmes.
Regardless of how it plays out, it has been an interesting season for the Tigers.
“This has been a very different year,” DiForti said. “I learned more as a coach this year than ever. I learned to trust my gut sometimes more than my brain or heart.
“We didn’t really change much when we started winning. The kids pressed on, and my assistants did, too. I’m proud of them being 8-1 in the last nine games.”
A difficult schedule the first half of the season was a major factor in North’s 5-12 showing. That also helped get the Tigers where they are now.
What makes them rare is they have two veteran sophomore starters in Trevor Stumpe and Jake Nowak. Stumpe scored 37 points against Plainfield Central and Nowak had 13 of his 15 in the second quarter, when North extended its lead to double digits.
“Trevor and Jake have been around two varsity teams already,” DiForti said. “It’s nice to have two sophomores that have that experience.”
The major reason for the turnaround, though, may be the senior group featuring point guard Marcus Fair, 6-foot-7 center Corey Evak, Kurt Palandech and Andy Schindel.
“Marcus has had a great second half,” DiForti said. “All the seniors have stepped up big time.”
“Coach got on the seniors to turn us around, and guys like Marcus stepped up,” Stumpe said.
Fair noted, “We lost a lot of close games the first half of the season. We got together, had team meetings and the whole team started working off each other.
“We knew we couldn’t continue losing. We kept at it and that prepared us for the second half of the conference. We’ll be ready for the regional.”
It doesn’t always happen that a hot team continues to roll in the postseason. But in this case, North goes in as a more dangerous regional opponent than would have been the case a month ago.
As for how the Bolingbrook Sectional will play out, we’ve established how deep it is in quality teams. Watch for Bolingbrook to get past Lemont and then surprise Oswego in the regional final.
I’d love to see North shock Benet, but I am picking Benet to win the sectional.
The other 4A sectional of local interest is at Thornton. Joliet West will win the Lockport Regional, but the Tigers will run into No. 1 Marian in the sectional semifinals, and it’s difficult to go against the Spartans as the supersectional qualifier.
In Class 3A, the Rich Central Sectional includes interesting regionals at Lincoln-Way West and Herscher. Providence has hovered around the .500 mark but against a tough Catholic League schedule and will win the Lincoln-Way West Regional, beginning with a close victory over Joliet Catholic, even though Plano is the No. 1 seed.
At Herscher, No. 1 Pontiac, 2 Prairie Central, 3 Morris, 4 Coal City and 5 Herscher all have had decent seasons, and anyone can win it. I’ll go with Morris. However, the strength of the sectional will come from the other regionals. Rich East should roll into the sectional final and Hillcrest is good, too. But my feeling is Providence, led by Kevin Kozan and Miles Boykin, will surprise and earn a berth in the Joliet Central Supersectional.
Stranger things have happened.