The jam-packed shortened season that recently wrapped up provided just enough time to get a glimpse of several surprise teams. The appreciation continues here with a look at the most pleasant surprises and overlooked teams of this truncated season.
Brother Rice (13-1)
No one saw this team coming.
With just two starters returning from a year ago — 6-7 Luke Moustakas and guard Garrett Greene — the Crusaders were a surprise in claiming a share of a Chicago Catholic League title. That included victories over Loyola, St. Rita, St. Ignatius and a buzzer-beating win over Fenwick.
Coach Bobby Frasor’s team played with precision and chemistry, an oddity in this year of shorter preparation time, pauses and fewer practices.
The sudden impact from sophomore Ahmad Henderson was significant. The 5-9 point guard blossomed this season, averaging 13.5 points, four rebounds and two assists a game while showcasing big-shot ability.
DeKalb’s impressive win total snuck up on basketball fans as the season played out.
Senior Trenton Kyler, the DuPage Valley Conference MVP, was the veteran guard the Barbs knew they could lean on. But the junior trio of Lane McVicar, Tyler Westberg and Martez Jackson helped elevate DeKalb to a level not quite expected.
In particular, McVicar, a transfer from South Elgin, provided a huge boost. The 6-5 versatile wing averaged 13 points a game.
New Trier (13-2)
While all the talk centered around Evanston and Glenbrook South in the Central Suburban League South, it was New Trier that snuck up and grabbed a share of the title with the two favorites.
There weren’t big names and the nucleus is young and only going to get better, but the Trevians impressed by splitting two games with both Evanston and Glenbrook South.
Coach Scott Fricke will return three double-figure scorers in 6-7 junior Jackson Munro (14 ppg), 6-1 junior guard Josh Kirkpatrick and sophomore guard Jake Fiegen (11 ppg).
Anyway you look at this season for Corliss, it was a success, thanks in large part to the arrival of two transfers: senior wings Jeffrey Oakley (from Perspectives) and J Caleb Slawinski (from St. Joseph).
And that’s even after finishing second in the state in Class 2A two years ago and being two wins away from returning to the State Finals last season before COVID-19 shut everything down.
There were the 11 wins, including a victory over Clark, a ranked and much-more-talked-about team. But even the losses stand out. That’s because two of the three defeats were two-point losses while holding its own against highly-ranked Curie (69-62 loss) and Kenwood (76-74 loss).
Yet another Red-South/Central team that opened eyes in the shortened season. Brooks finished among the top four in arguably the state’s toughest league, thanks in large part to the monster season Chaz Harvey put together. He averaged 19.8 points a game, including 22.5 points a game in league action.
Downers Grove North (13-2)
With the talent and experience coach Jim Thomas returned from last season, the success shouldn’t have been a huge surprise. Nonetheless, there wasn’t a whole lot of talk about Downers North heading into the season.
A senior-dominated Downers North grabbed a share of the West Suburban Silver Conference behind 6-6 Jack Mielke. Plus, the Trojans capped off the season with a huge win over previously unbeaten and heavily hyped Glenbard West in the final week of the season.
Wheaton Warrenville South (16-2)
Was there a team that won 16 games more quietly than coach Mike Healy’s Tigers?
Behind hard-nosed senior guard Parker Brown and under-the-radar junior Tyler Fawcett, Wheaton South easily ran away with a DuKane Conference title with a 13-1 mark.
Senior guard George Betevis filled a stat sheet and the emergence three underclassmen who all averaged in double figures: 7-1 junior Conrad Luczynski, junior shooting guard Ian Smith and freshman guard Kelton McEwen. The end result was an Upstate Eight Conference championship, including a UEC tournament title.
Luczysnki was dominant at times with 15.3 points, 11 rebounds, three assists and nearly four blocks a game, while McEwen emerged as one of the more productive freshmen in the Chicago area with 12.5 points a game and shot 40% from the three-point line.