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Lemont's Martynas Einikis (35) dribbles toward the basket as T.F. North's Nicholas Wood (15) defends. | Allen Cunningham~For Sun-Times Media
How about a little déjà vu in the South Suburban Blue?
The Hillcrest-Lemont showdown this Friday has a familiar feel to it. A year ago, Hillcrest held a one-game lead over Lemont going into the regular-season finale. The result? The Indians rallied from a 40-26 halftime deficit to stun Hillcrest, 58-57, in front of a raucous atmosphere at Lemont. Although it was shared, it was the first conference basketball championship for Lemont since 1991.
Now, 12 months later, the circumstances are identical, though Lemont won’t be sneaking up on anyone. Hillcrest (19-6) holds a one-game lead over Lemont (22-2) as the two are set to collide in Country Club Hills.
“We respect Lemont a lot,” says Hillcrest coach Don Houston. “I wouldn’t say we took Lemont lightly last year, but I think our kids took the game lightly knowing we had already won a share of conference. We don’t want to share it, and we want to head into the playoffs on a high note.”
What Lemont has going for it is the confidence in knowing it can play with––and beat—Hillcrest, along with an antidote for Hillcrest’s pressure and trapping defense in underrated point guard Juozas Balciunas.
The fact there isn’t one single Chicago Catholic League champion is ludicrous.
The two Chicago Catholic League division champions—red-hot Loyola Academy, which has won 13 straight games, and talent-laden St. Rita—should be squaring off this week to decide the Catholic League champ. Instead, the two will play out their respective division schedules with no single team being crowned champion.
Fortunately, that will all change next year as the Catholic League gets a little progressive by adding a season-ending playoff for the 2013-2014 season.
Ironically, two of the biggest proponents of adding a Catholic League playoff—St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare and Loyola Academy coach Tom Livatino—were the two division champs this season.
When it comes to parity and competitiveness, look no further than the recently concluded Chicago Public League playoffs.
While it’s true Simeon and Whitney Young have hogged the headlines of the Public League in recent years, this little nugget is quickly forgotten: In the last six years there have been six different city champs, with nine different teams competing in the title game.