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Newark's Grant Riehle-Moeller goes for a layup against Indian Creek's Tyler Reynolds during their Little Ten Conference game at Somonauk High School on Thursday, January 31, 2013. | Brian Powers~Sun-Times Media
Is Chicago Hope Academy — the No. 4 seed that captured last week’s Class 1A Luther North Regional title and opens Tuesday’s Mooseheart Sectional against Newark — a Cinderella story?
While it might seem so, Eagles first-year coach Antoine Johnson apparently doesn’t believe in pumpkin coaches or glass slippers.
“If you look at what happened, we are 13-15, but we graduated 12 seniors from a pretty good team and I inherited a team that is pretty young and played a difficult schedule,” said Johnson, who was a teammate of former Aurora standouts, East’s Rodney Davis and West’s Randy Norman, at Northern Illinois University. "We played a lot of 3A and 4A schools during the season and now we’re playing more schools that are at our level. That, and our kids are finally finding what’s expected of them.”
Hope opened its playoff run with a 68-40 rout of fifth-seeded Islamic Foundation, edged No. 1 seed St. Benedict 75-73 in overtime and then beat second-seeded Luther North 57-35 for the crown.
It’s the third year in a row the private academy has won a regional crown. Hope plays in the Chicago Prep League and finished third, trailing league champ 2A Providence-St. Mel and runner-up Chicagoland Jewish, which meets host Mooseheart in Wednesday’s other sectional semifinal. Tip-off both nights is 7:30 p.m.
Newark (19-11) advanced with wins over Morgan Park Academy (53-37) and Illinois Lutheran (61-46) at the Class 1A Serena Regional.
“We faced (Hope) a couple years ago when we won the state title, facing them (and winning 65-40) in the sectional final,” Newark coach Rick Tollefson said. “And last year we saw them play in the first round of the sectional and beat Hinckley-Big Rock, but I wasn’t able to see them this season. We scouted St. Benedict this year but not when they played Hope.
“I know they’re usually pretty athletic and like to apply pressure and get up and down the court. We’ll see how it goes. We may have to adjust on the fly.”
Senior Brett Anderson (21.6 ppg, 8.7 rpg) and freshman Jack Clausel (14 ppg, 5 rpg) lead the Norsemen attack. Anderson and guards Joe Hughes and Grant Riehle-Moeller are all three-point threats who are each connecting at 34 percent or better from beyond the arc.
“Riehle-Moeller missed some time early in the year with a concussion, and then a few games ago took another shot and was held out as a precaution for a couple games but he was back on Friday,” said Tollefson.
Senior guard Armando Sacluti and 6-6 junior forward Ricky Calvin Jr. (team-high 12 ppg) lead the Eagles, whose roster features two seniors, four juniors, four sophomores and two freshmen.
Hope had a big lead (18-3) early against St. Benedict but saw it whittled away in the third quarter when Calvin was on the bench with foul trouble.