Who will win the IHSA boys basketball state finals? Predicting the Illinois state champions
The Illinois High School Association basketball state finals are back.
From Scales Mound and Yorkville Christian attempting to become the smallest school to win an IHSA state title, to Class 4A favorite Glen Ellyn Glenbard West led by Gonzaga commit Braden Huff, the field includes 12 state-ranked teams among the 16 finalists.
After a one-year hiatus because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IHSA boys basketball state finals return Thursday through Saturday at State Farm Center in Champaign.
Below is information about each semifinal, plus predictions from sports reporters from Gannett Illinois newspapers in Rockford, Peoria and Springfield.
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Steeleville vs. Yorkville Christian, 10 a.m. Thursday
No. 7-ranked Steeleville (29-6) has won 11 in a row to make its first state finals. The Warriors of the Cahokia Conference went 15-0 in the truncated spring and now are in their best season under fifth-year coach Aaron Fiene. Jacoby Gross (11.3 ppg) leads in scoring, followed by Reid Harriss (10.6, 8.4 rpg) and Zach Mevert (9.3).
Top-ranked Christian (23-13) is not your usual Class 1A program; the 64-student school would be the smallest to win a title. The independent Mustangs are led by 6-foot-4 Duke recruit Jaden Schutt (25.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) and play a schedule loaded with larger, state-ranked teams. Christian won its five previous postseason games by an average of 44 points to make its first state finals under eighth-year coach Aaron Sovern.
Liberty vs. Scales Mound, 11:45 a.m. Thursday
No. 4-ranked Liberty (30-5) has four previous state trips, the last a third-place finish in 2016. Coach Greg Altmix is in his eighth year with the Eagles of the West Central Conference. Breiton Klingele (12.7 ppg, 7.2 rpg) leads Liberty, while Cannen Wolf (9.1 ppg), Logan Robbins (9.0) and Devin Klauser (8.7 ppg) round out a balanced offense.
No. 2-ranked Scales Mound (35-2), with about 70 students, is another tiny squad with a chance at becoming the smallest champ in its first final appearance. Erik Kudronowicz is in his 16th season as coach, led by an all-senior lineup that has played together all its lives: Benjamin Vandigo (17.2 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Ben Werner (11.5 ppg, 6.9 rpg), Collin Fosler (10.0 ppg), Zayden Ellsworth (9.5 ppg) and Sam Cocagne (8.3 ppg).
THIRD: 7 p.m. Thursday | TITLE: 11 a.m. Saturday
Adam Duvall's title pick: Yorkville Christian 87, Scales Mound 68
Dave Eminian's title pick: Yorkville Christian 71, Scales Mound 54
Bill Welt's title pick: Yorkville Christian 74, Scales Mound 64
Ryan Mahan's title pick: Scales Mound 46, Yorkville Christian 43
Jay Taft's title pick: Yorkville Christian 88, Liberty 78
Matt Trowbridge's title pick: Yorkville Christian 85, Scales Mound 73
Illinois state rankings:Check out the final Illinois boys basketball poll
Taylor Ridge Rockridge vs. Monticello, 2:30 p.m. Thursday
Rockridge (27-6) brings a 16-game win streak into its third state finals appearance. It is the first for fifth-year head coach Andy Saey, who was an assistant under former Abingdon coach Toby Whiteman for the last two trips (2015 and '16). Whiteman is now an assistant. The Rockets of the Three Rivers Athletic Conference are led by Nate Henry (17.7 ppg, 6.9 rpg) and Jase Whiteman (12.6 ppg), son of Toby.
No. 6-ranked Monticello (32-3) has won 12 in a row en route its fifth state finals appearance and second under 16th-year coach Kevin Roy. The Sages of the Illini Prairie Conference are led by tough 5-foot-9 senior guard Ben Cresap (15.4 ppg). Other top players include Dylan Ginalick (12.0 ppg) and Joey Sprinkle (8.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg).
Chicago DePaul College Prep vs. Nashville, 4:15 p.m. Thursday
No. 3-ranked DePaul College Prep (26-5) of the Chicago Catholic League has one previous state finals appearance under 11th-year coach Tom Kleinschmidt. The former DePaul University great played at now-defunct Chicago Gordon Tech, whose students now attend DePaul Prep. The Rams are led by 6-9 senior Dylan Arnett (13.5 ppg), along with a senior backcourt of Trevon Thomas and Alex Gutierrez. 6-6 sophomores Payton Kamin and Jaylan McElroy round out the big and talented lineup.
No. 5-ranked Nashville (27-4) is back at state for the 12th time overall under first-year coach Patrick Weathers — the seventh head coach to bring the program to state. The defensive-minded Hornets of the Southern Illinois River-to-River Conference have allowed 50 or more just four times this season. They are led by Isaac Turner (15.6 ppg) and Saxton Hoepker (15.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg).
THIRD: 8:45 p.m. Thursday | TITLE: 1 p.m. Saturday
Adam Duvall's title pick: DePaul College Prep 63, Monticello 60
Dave Eminian's title pick: DePaul College Prep 53, Rockridge 52 (OT)
Bill Welt's title pick: DePaul College Prep 60, Rockridge 50
Ryan Mahan's title pick: DePaul College Prep 55, Monticello 50
Jay Taft's title pick: Rockridge 72, DePaul College Prep 70
Matt Trowbridge's title pick: DePaul College Prep 56, Rockridge 45
Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin vs. Chicago St. Ignatius, 10 a.m. Friday
No. 6-ranked SHG (33-3) and fourth-year coach Tim Allen are back at state after their 2020 Class 2A appearance was canceled by COVID. The young Cyclones of the Central State Eight Conference lost their first two games without its football-playing athletes before reeling off 28 in a row. 6-5 junior Zach Hawkinson (15.8 ppg, 9.8 rpg) and junior Jake Hamilton (15.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg) lead a roster with just one senior.
The St. Ignatius Wolfpack (23-12) of the Chicago Catholic League is back at state for the first time since 2000, this time under sixth-year coach Matt Monroe. Ignatius is led by 6-5 junior Richard Barron (15.2 ppg, 77-for-212 on 3s) and senior guard A.J. Redd (11.9 ppg).
Chicago Simeon vs. Metamora, 11:45 a.m. Friday
Top-ranked Simeon (28-5) is one of the state's top programs, with seven state titles overall — including six since 2006 under 18th-year coach Robert Smith. The Wolverines of the Chicago Public League are led by a three-year backcourt of Jaylen Drane, Aviyon Morris and Jalen Griffith. The twin frontcourt of 6-9 Miles Rubin and 6-7 Wesley Rubin round out the lineup.
No. 10-ranked Metamora (29-6) brings the longest active win streak in the state at 17 games into its first state finals under 11th-year coach Danny Grieves. The Redbirds of the Mid-Illini Conference are deep and defensive-minded, led by junior Tyson Swanson (14.2 ppg, 5.3 rpg) college prospect junior Ethan Kizer (12.2 ppg) and senior Zack Schroeder (12.2).
THIRD: 7 p.m. Friday | TITLE: 5:30 p.m. Saturday
Adam Duvall's title pick: Metamora 47, SHG 44
Dave Eminian's title pick: Simeon 67, SHG 61
Bill Welt's title pick: Simeon 65, SHG 58
Ryan Mahan's title pick: SHG 63, Simeon 60 (OT)
Jay Taft's title pick: Simeon 69, SHG 66
Matt Trowbridge's pick: Simeon 60, SHG 56
Chicago Whitney Young vs. Barrington, 2:30 p.m. Friday
No. 4-ranked Young (25-9) is the Chicago city champ and in its sixth state finals since 2009 under 17th-year coach Tyrone Slaughter, who has led the Dolphins to three of its four state titles. 6-8 senior Xavier Amos (11.4 ppg, 6.3 rpg) and AJ Casey (10.7 ppg, 8.0 rpg) lead the frontcourt, while 6-foot junior guard Dalen Davis (10.5 ppg, 6.0 apg) runs the show.
Barrington (28-4) has won 15 in a row including a supersectional upset of No. 2 Glenview Glenbrook South to make its sixth state finals and first since 2002. The Broncos of the Mid-Suburban League are led by 13th-year coach Bryan Tucker, who previously coached at Wilmette Loyola and Chicago Heights Marian. They are led by 6-6 senior Will Grudzinski (19.1 ppg) and 6-10 inside presence Nate Boldt. Guards Daniel Hong (12.3 ppg) and Wisconsin-Milwaukee baseball commit Evan Jno-Baptiste are leaders from the backcourt.
Bolingbrook vs. Glen Ellyn Glenbard West, 4:15 p.m. Friday
Bolingbrook (30-6) comes in having won 16 in a row, but is the decided underdog in its third state finals appearance under 15th-year coach Rob Brost and fourth overall. The Raiders of the Southwest Suburban Conference are led by 6-5 senior Michael Osei-Bonsu (11.8 ppg, 9.3 rpg) and junior Mekhi Cooper (12.1 ppg).
Top-ranked Glenbard West (35-1) is the big favorite here behind 6-11 Gonzaga commit Braden Huff (16.2 ppg, 5.9 rpg). Third-year coach Jason Opoka has Glenbard West in its third state finals and first since 2007. The Hilltoppers of the West Suburban Conference are unbeaten vs. Illinois opponents, their lone loss to Chatsworth (Calif.) Sierra Canyon and Bronny James, son of LeBron.
THIRD: 8:45 p.m. Friday | TITLE: 7:15 p.m. Saturday
Adam Duvall's title pick: Glenbard West 65, Young 63
Dave Eminian's title pick: Glenbard West 87, Young 63
Bill Welt's title pick: Glenbard West 63, Young 56
Ryan Mahan's title pick: Glenbard West 82, Young 73
Jay Taft's title pick: Young 72, Glenbard West 71
Matt Trowbridge's title pick: Glenbard West 63, Young 57