Boys Basketball: Benet, Waubonsie, Neuqua primed for regional finals
BY BLAKE BAUMGARTNER For Sun-Times Media February 28, 2013 6:12PM
Bryson Oliver (left) of Metea Valley and Gary Sutton of Waubonsie Valley scramble for a loose ball as time runs out in regulation play with the score tied. | Jon Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
BOLINGBROOK 4A SECTIONAL
Friday — Regional finals, Oswego vs. Bolingbrook, 7:30 p.m.
Oswego East Regional
Friday — Regional finals, Neuqua Valley vs. Waubonsie Valley, 7:30 p.m.
Wheaton South Regional
Friday — Regional finals, West Aurora vs. Hinsdale Central/Geneva, 7:30 p.m.
Friday — Regional finals, Benet vs. Naperville Central/Naperville North, 7:30 p.m.
Tuesday — Batavia winner vs. Wheaton South winner, 7:30 p.m.
Wednesday — Benet winner vs. Oswego East winner, 7:30 p.m.
Friday — Sectional finals, 7:30 p.m.
Updated: March 9, 2013 4:54PM
Opening the season in November as part of the Hoops for Healing Tournament with a game at Naperville North, perhaps Benet knew little about what the future down the road would hold.
A combined three games against the two Naperville schools marked a highlight in what proved to be a very daunting regular-season schedule for Benet that was constructed for one simple reason: prepare it for the rigors of the state tournament.
Playing on their home court in the postseason for the first time since 2007, a fourth game overall and third victory against a Naperville school will be required Friday night for the second-seeded and Class 4A host Redwings (25-5) to lay claim to a third regional title in the last four years.
While Benet is guaranteed a meeting with a familiar foe Friday, the exact same can be said for both third-seeded Neuqua Valley and sixth-seeded Waubonsie Valley at the Class 4A Oswego East Regional.
Meeting in the postseason for the first time since 2008, when Neuqua Valley upset Waubonsie Valley, 56-51, as a sixth seed in a 2008 East Aurora Sectional semifinal, the two District 204 rivals come into Friday on long winning streaks.
The Wildcats (27-2) have won their last nine games while the Warriors (21-7) haven’t lost since losing 50-47 at Neuqua Valley on Jan. 18 and have won 12 of their last 13 games.
Beating a team for the third time in a season is a tough task, but it’s the one that awaits Western Illinois-bound guard Jabari Sandifer and the rest of his teammates tonight as they search for the program’s seventh regional title and first since 2009.
Scoring 23 points in the Wildcats’ 61-46 victory over 14th-seeded Oswego East on Wednesday, Sandifer will look to repeat some of the success he’s had against Waubonsie Valley this season, especially coming off a 25-point effort in the 50-47 win over the Warriors on Jan. 18.
Waubonsie Valley’s leader—Santa Clara-bound Jared Brownridge — will be looking to propel his teammates past the Wildcats for the first time this year on their way to the program’s first regional crown since 2008 and 14th overall.
Brownridge, who tallied a game-high 27 points in the Warriors’ 51-48 overtime victory over 11th-seeded Metea Valley on Wednesday, combined to put up 39 points in the two games against Neuqua Valley this year but was held to just 13 points in the game at Neuqua Valley in January.
“Neuqua is always a big game to look forward to. They’ve been our rivalry since I don’t know how long,” Brownridge said of Neuqua Valley prior to the start of the year. “But every time they get ready to come up, we’re always ready to play. You don’t need to pump us up for that type of game.”
With the monkey stemming from three straight postseason losses now off their collective backs, the Warriors can play somewhat loose and easy against a hated rival.
“They’re deep and they’ve 27 games for a reason. So they’re supposed to win,” Waubonsie Valley coach Steve Weemer said. “They’re the three seed. We’re the sixth seed. We’re not supposed to beat them. We’ve lost to them twice. So we’ll have to compete the best we can and see if we can get there.”
But the Wildcats have their own monkey to get off their back, as well — evidenced by the fact they haven’t won a regional since eventually going on to win the 2009 Oswego East Sectional.
“The past two years losing the regional championship has been really tough,” Wildcats senior center Pat Kenny said last week. “I think that it just even adds to it that if we get past Oswego East, playing Waubonsie (or) Metea, most likely, is gonna be a really crazy game. I think it’s gonna be a good game, but I think we’re ready for it and it’s gonna be a fun time.”