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Wheeling, 12/26/12--Niles North's Malachi Nix drives to the basket past Vernon Hills' Dylan McNamara and TJ Flis. Niles North High School played Vernon Hills High School in the 35th Annual Wheeling Wildcat Hardwood Classic Boys Basketball Tournament Wed

No. 1

Maine South hasn’t received the respect it deserves as one of the more successful programs over the past four years. And it’s no different this year for the Hawks, who continue to rely on style, system and execution over any parts flash while flying under the radar.

The Hawks, who have averaged 23 wins a season over the past three years with a pair of regional titles and one sectional championship, are 14-3 with a huge Central Suburban League South win over New Trier last week.

Coach Tony Lavorato’s program has found a niche with its style, which is deliberate and disciplined at both ends of the floor and takes every team it plays out of its rhythm with its matchup zone defense.

“What defines us as a program is our style, with how we attack, how we play defense,” says Lavorato.

No. 2

Marian Catholic’s Tyler Ulis is the unquestioned best undersized guard in the state. But a pretty good case could be made for Niles North’s Malachi Nix as the next in line. There haven’t been many players who have had a bigger impact on their program than this 5-6 point guard.

Nix has been a catalyst for coach Glenn Olson. He has a chance to lead the Vikings (12-3) to a third straight 20-plus win season and a third consecutive regional title. Quite impressive when you consider it’s a program that had just two 20-win seasons and one regional title in the previous 45 years.

Nix, with over 1,200 career points, will graduate as the winningest player in the program’s history and the school’s all-time leading scorer.

“He’s had such a huge impact on our program and has been a part of a historic turnaround,” says Olson.

No. 3

There should be no surprise that West Aurora and Glenbard East head into Friday night’s showdown both unbeaten at 5-0 in DuPage Valley Conference action. Over the past six years, no two teams have won more DVC games, with Glenbard East boasting a conference-best 85 victories and West Aurora with 80.

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