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Goss: Competition could heat up for fourth spot on down in boys basketball rankings

The top 3 teams in the area rankings look fixed, but plenty of room for movement after that

Published: Monday, Jan. 9, 2017 10:59 p.m. CST
Caption
(Eric Ginnard - eginnard@shawmedia.com)
Minooka's Jonny Butler puts up a shot from inside during the Indians' 46-21 loss to Joliet Central on Dec. 16.
Caption
(Larry W. Kane)
Bolingbrook's Nana Akenten scores from inside during the Raiders' 67-62 victory over Homewood-Flossmoor in the championship game of the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. | Larry W. Kane for Shaw Media.

The order could be scrambled at any time, but the way the boys basketball season is shaping up, Bolingbrook, Joliet West and Joliet Central will be difficult to displace from the top three spots in The Herald-News’ weekly top-10 rankings.

Joliet Central is at Bolingbrook on Jan. 17 and the Tigers visit the Raiders on Jan. 24, so stay tuned.

Meanwhile, the battle for the fourth spot on down will continue to be interesting as well. As of now, Minooka and Lincoln-Way East are holding down the fourth and fifth spots with respective records of 11-3 and 10-4.

Minooka is playing six games in the next week, beginning with Monday night’s off-site game at Maine South in the Galesburg MLK Tournament. The Indians will visit Joliet Central on Friday night, face Rockford East at 11 a.m. and Peoria at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Galesburg and take on Galesburg at noon and Dunlap at 5:30 p.m. Monday at Galesburg. That is a demanding schedule.

Following Minooka and Lincoln-Way East in our rankings, we cite five teams – Lockport, Joliet Catholic, Romeoville, Lemont and Morris – whose records are either 8-7 or 7-7. Any or all of them are capable of getting on a run and perhaps moving up the chart. Lemont looms as especially dangerous now that standout guard P.J. Pipes is back in the lineup.

Following is our top 10 for this week:

1. Bolingbrook (11-0): Tyler Cochran has not been in the headlines often yet, but the sophomore forward came up big last Thursday as he helped the Raiders remain unbeaten with a 64-55 win at Stagg. The Chargers led, 51-45, early in the fourth quarter, but Bolingbrook finished the game on a 19-4 run. Cochran had nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter, when he also had five steals, five rebounds and three assists. Bolingbrook will entertain Homewood-Flossmoor, which it beat, 67-62, for the championship of the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic, on Friday night.

2. Joliet West (14-1): The Tigers have run into situations where they get into an offensive lull and do not shoot free throws well. They look to get back on track offensively in this week’s games against Oswego East and Plainfield South. Of course, they always have their quick, athletic defense to rely on.

3. Joliet Central (13-1): The Steelmen, who have won 10 straight, have two home games this week, with Plainfield East visiting Tuesday night and Minooka coming in Friday night. Friday’s game will mark the third meeting between the Steelmen and Indians. Minooka won a close game for the WJOL Thanksgiving Classic title and Central went on the road and scored a 46-21 victory in December.

4. Minooka (11-3): When the Indians won 20-plus games last season, it was a big deal because that had not happened in nearly 40 years. Coach Scott Tanaka has his team, which won at Oswego, 52-37, last Friday night, heading toward another 20-win season this time around. If the Indians have success over the next week, they could be knocking on the door of 20 victories sooner than later.

5. Lincoln-Way East (10-4): The Griffins have been off for the last week and a half after finishing fourth in Effingham/Teutopolis Tournament. They are looking to be competitive the rest of the way in the difficult SouthWest Suburban Blue.

6. Lockport (8-7): The Porters did not beat Homewood-Flossmoor last Friday night, but they gave the powerful Vikings a good run as it was a 31-29 game entering the fourth quarter. Matt Smietanski is a senior leader and the arrow is point up for sophomore guard Jacob Karli.

7. Joliet Catholic (8-7): The Hilltoppers have won five of their last six games and are looking to make that six of seven in Tuesday night’s nonconference home game against Manteno. The tough-to-swallow overtime loss to Lockport in December may be working in JCA’s favor now.

8. Lemont (8-7): The Indians rolled over Evergreen Park, 64-44, last Friday night as Pipes scored 25 points in his second game since returning from suspension. No doubt the Indians are much more dangerous with him in the lineup. Meanwhile, some of his teammates picked up valuable experience in his absence.

9. Romeoville (7-7): Romeoville is a young team, indicative of the up-and-down nature of the Spartans’ results to date. However, they do have talent and are a threat to get on a good run in the second half of the season.

10. Morris (7-7): The Redskins finished a stretch where they played eight games in 13 days when they beat Seneca, 46-32, last Saturday at the United Center. Matt Shaw, Tyler Spiezio and JaQuan Boxley are leading the way for coach Joe Blumberg’s team.

• Dick Goss can be reached at dgoss@shawmedia.com.

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