POINT #1 .... OK, enough of you "I told you so" people out there regarding Richards. No, they haven't played the toughest of schedules. And yes, they did lose at Hillcrest Friday night in what was supposed to be their "shut up" game to all of those doubters. Nonetheless, this Richards team is very talented and dangerous despite the loss. They didn't play to their capabilities, which included way too many Hillcrest second-chance scoring opportunities and too many defensive breakdowns, but coach John Chappetto's team has got a little of everything. I like this team a lot. Khadamus Llongbey and Brendan Styler can really stretch a defense with their perimeter shooting, and rising junior Carl Richard oozes with talent. He reminds me a lot of former Evanston star and current Purdue player Gordon Watt. This team can play with anyone in the state. Yes, anyone. The key in March, though, will be point guard Eliud Gonzalez, Llongbey and Tommie Thomas taking care of the ball. The Bulldogs would win a lot of sectionals around Illinois if it weren't playing in the same one as the state's top team, Simeon.
POINT #2 .... Bloom has size and probably the most talent in the Joliet Sectional. H-F is playing better and better by the week. But I believe if Hillcrest is healthy and fully stocked, coach Tom Cappel's club will win the sectional. That's not an earth-shattering statement considering the Hawks are the top seed. The critics, though, are out there.
This team gets after it both defensively and on the offensive glass, seems to play extremely unselfish and has different players step up game after game. Elliott Jones is probably the heart and soul of this team and is playing with some banged up fingers, Justin Berry is undervalued by most and Justin Taylor was extremely missed when he was out. But when 6-6 Kellen Thornton plays big and makes himself a presence on both ends of the floor, Hillcrest is a different team.
POINT #3 .... Wow, another statement was made by T.F. North with his double-digit win over Thornwood. Suddenly, coach Tim Bankston's team is ranked No. 2 in the most recent Hoops Report rankings, due out in this week's issue. You have to give credit to Bankston for loading up this year's schedule in preparation for the SICA East wars and the tough road his team will face in March.
However, I know there are still those who doubt this team as well. I can't remember a team that has done so much in the regular season against high-quality competition and still people question their staying power. In fact, I will be willing to bet that when the Hoops Report state tournament preview issue rolls out in a little more than two weeks, not one prognosticator will pick T.F. North to reach Peoria when all the picks are made in that issue.