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Curie's Cliff Alexander flies upwards to dunk against Joliet West. | Patrick Gleason~For Sun-Times Media
Simeon’s attempt to equal Peoria Manual’s playoff dynasty is the headline story of the state tournament, but here’s a look at three other big-time storylines:
Jahlil Okafor vs. Cliff Alexander
On March 6 in the Argo Sectional semifinals, fans could be treated to Young’s 6-11 Jahlil Okafor squaring off against Curie’s 6-9 Cliff Alexander, the top two Illinois prospects in the Class of 2014 and two of the top five players nationally in that class.
When was the last time a matchup like this occurred? This would be the biggest and best battle of legit big men in the postseason since 1988. That’s when East St. Louis Lincoln’s LaPhonso Ellis (Notre Dame) squared off with St. Francis De Sales’ Eric Anderson (Indiana) in the state championship.
Ellis and Anderson didn’t disappoint in a memorable battle at Assembly Hall in Champaign. Lincoln beat De Sales 60-52 with Ellis recording monster totals of 26 points, 15 rebounds and nine blocks in the state title game. Anderson also impressed with 23 points, 17 rebounds and two blocks.
Tyler Ulis is for real. Is Marian Catholic?
For all the talk about the mighty Public League trio of Young, Simeon and Morgan Park, along with the city’s three-headed player monster of Simeon’s Jabari Parker, Okafor and Alexander, arguably the best high school basketball story over the past three months has been Marian Catholic.
The Spartans made their first trip to the McDipper championship game over the holidays and beat Chicago Heights neighbor Bloom to win it. The Spartans, who have had just two 20-win seasons in school history (22 wins 2006 and 20 wins in 1993), have already set a school record with 25. The program also has its first dynamic, transcendent basketball star in junior Tyler Ulis.
Now it’s a matter of whether this team, which has earned a top seed in the Thornton Sectional, can rise to the occasion, go out and win the first sectional championship in school history. In all the years of Marian Catholic basketball, there have been three regional championships since 1962. Those regional titles have resulted in one sectional win, a 2009 sectional semifinal victory over Homewood-Flossmoor.
Big-time rematches with more on the line
A possible Simeon-Young game is king of all potential rematches if the two meet in the Argo Sectional championship. But the stakes will also be higher for these potential rematches. Will they develop?
* Oswego vs. Proviso East: Who would have thought there was a chance Oswego and Proviso East could meet three times — and each time with something on the line? The rubber match could materialize in the supersectional if the two No. 1 seeds both win their respective sectional.
* Marian Catholic vs. Bloom: There has never been this much hoops excitement in Chicago Heights in the same season for two teams. These squads collided in the championship game of the McDipper in late December, which Marian Catholic won, and could square off again in the sectional championship at Thornton.
* Maine South vs. New Trier: Some serious work will have to be done by each team in what is a competitive and balanced Glenbrook North Sectional. But if Maine South lives up to the No. 1 seed it received, and third-seeded New Trier can fight off the likes of St. Patrick and No. 2 seed Notre Dame, it would set up a drama-filled sectional final showdown between two Central Suburban League South foes. The first two meetings both went to overtime and both went Maine South’s way.