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Lemont's Joe Hehir (3) and Plainfield Central's Mitch Young (4). | Larry Kane~For Sun-Times Media

With the Christmas basketball tournaments in the books, area coaches and teams will devote full attention to their conference races, with an eye toward playing the best ball possible when regionals arrive.

Lemont (13-1) is impressive. I had my first opportunity to see the Indians in the championship game of the Romeoville Christmas Classic, in which they beat Plainfield Central 61-53.

The pieces are in place for a nice postseason run. You have to like the way the Indians run the floor, can take the ball to the basket and can shoot it. Every good team needs a point guard adept at running the show, and senior Juozas Balciunas is among the best.

But whatever noise Lemont can make in the postseason, it no longer will be in Class 3A.

The IHSA recently announced assignments and the Indians, whose enrollment has grown just enough to bump up a class, will be in the 4A Bolingbrook Sectional, where they will join the host Raiders, Neuqua Valley, Oswego, Benet, Geneva and Naperville North, among others. As outstanding a season as Lemont is enjoying, coach Rick Runaas’ team may be hard pressed to capture one of those coveted top-four seeds, and whoever wins the sectional certainly will have earned it.

Many of our large area schools are assigned to the Class 4A Thornton Sectional, which likewise provides major stumbling blocks in Marian Catholic, Bloom, Crete-Monee and Homewood-Flossmoor. Perhaps Joliet West, Joliet Central, Minooka or Plainfield Central can catch fire and make a run, but it will not be easy.

Our best bet for a supersectional entry? Perhaps it’s Providence in 3A. If the Celtics can reach the Joliet Central Supersectional, a possible opponent would be highly ranked Morgan Park.

At least, that’s the way things look at the halfway point of the season.

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