St. Rita celebrates its Stagg Regional title Friday night in Palos Hills. The Mustangs were one of 10 Chicago Catholic League teams to win regional titles this season. Photo by Jeff Vorva
Hoops Wrap | Chicago Catholic League dominates regionals with 10 champs
By Jeff Vorva
For more than a century, Chicago Catholic League football has bordered on being legendary.
For decades, its baseball teams have frequently represented the league at the state tournament.
But what the CCL’s basketball teams did last week was almost unheard of, when 10 of the league’s 14 teams brought home regional championships.
That includes five area squads, including CCL Blue champ St. Rita (23-10) and Brother Rice (29-4), which will meet at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the semifinals of the Class 4A St. Rita Sectional.
Area CCL teams Mount Carmel, De La Salle and St. Laurence earned Class 3A championships.
Other league teams headed to sectional play this week are St. Ignatius, Marmion and Fenwick in Class 3A, and Montini and DePaul in Class 2A.
How many will still be alive when the smoke clears Friday night, when the sectional championships will be contested?
The winner of the St. Rita-Brother Rice game could run into top-seeded Kenwood (26-6) on Friday. Last year, Kenwood knocked St. Rita out of the tournament with a 75-68 win at the Thornwood Sectional final.
Another CCL knockout will be played Feb. 28 in Class 3A. Top-seed and CCL Red champion De La Salle (22-11) will face fourth-seeded Fenwick (20-12) at De La Salle. The next night, second-seeded St. Ignatius (21-11) will battle third-seeded Westinghouse.
That guaranteed at least one CCL team would be alive for the championship game on March 3.
Also in Class 3A, fourth-seeded St. Laurence (23-10) will take on top-seeded Simeon on Feb. 28, and second-seeded Mount Carmel (26-6) faced Hyde Park on March 1 at Glenbard South. The winners of those two games will play March 3.
Last year, a freshman-heavy St. Laurence team put a scare into Simeon before the Wolverines prevailed, 43-41, to win the St. Laurence Regional.
The area’s only other regional champion was fifth-seeded Lyons, which pulled off a 49-46 upset over third-seeded Curie to win its own Class 4A regional title.
Jackson Niego scored 15 points to lead the Lions (26-5), while Graham Smith had 12 points and eight rebounds in the triumph. The Lions face Hinsdale Central on March 1, with the winner facing the Whitney Young-Downers Grove North survivor on Friday, March 3.
SXU teams wait
Both of Saint Xavier’s basketball teams may have had their dreams of playing in the NAIA national tournament dashed.
The men needed to win the Chicagoland Conference tournament to get an automatic bid and caught a break when top-seeded Olivet Nazarene was upset in the semifinals, leaving the Cougars to host the championship game.
But that didn’t work out, as the second-seeded Cougars were upended, 67-65, by Indiana University South Bend on Feb. 25 at the Shannon Center.
The Cougars (24-7) had a last-second 3-point shot blocked.
Jack Halverson led the Cougars with 24 points. TJ Babikir and Cedric Johnson each added 11.
The announcement for the 64-team NAIA tournament comes at 7 p.m. March 2. Olivet, which won the CCAC regular season title, and South Bend will represent the league. The Cougars, which finished second in both the regular season and tournament, can get in only via an at-large bid.
The opening rounds are March 7-8 at various sites across the country.
The Cougars women’s team (20-9) will have a tough time getting a bid after dropping a 68-63 decision to St. Francis Feb. 22 in the CCAC quarterfinals, despite 16 points from Claire Austin.
The NAIA will announce the pairings for the women’s tournament at 6 p.m. March 2.
Long distance threats
SXU’s men finished No. 1 in the NAIA in 3-point shooting, with a 41.3 percent showing during the regular season.
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