Preps Talk

Curie beats Benet for first state basketball title


Curie beats Benet for first state basketball title

PEORIA -- The past few seasons, the winner of the IHSA boys basketball Class 4A state championship required a superstar talent. Simeon won with Jabari Parker for four consecutive years, Whitney Young made a run with Jahlil Okafor and Stevenson won last season behind Jalen Brunson. All three of those players were McDonald's All-Americans and Parker and Okafor are already playing in the NBA.

Curie didn't have an All-American on its roster entering Saturday night's clash with Benet, but senior point guard Devin Gage played like a star in the Condors' 65-59 state-title win over Benet at Carver Arena.

The boys basketball state title is the first for Curie.

Gage, a DePaul commit and four-year varsity starter, finished the game with 23 points as he took over the game in the third quarter, making back-to-back 3-pointers to give Curie a 39-34 lead entering the final frame.

From there, Curie (28-5) kept the momentum going. The Condors jumped out to a 49-34 lead early in the fourth as Gage pumped in another wing 3-pointer to cap a 19-0 run that left Benet scoreless for nearly nine minutes.

"I'm more than excited; I'm speechless. It's crazy, we've finally got a state title," Gage said. "I've always been confident shooting the ball, I guess tonight I was feeling it."

[MORE: Belleville Althoff captures Class 3A title]

Traevon Martin also had a breakout performance for the Condors as the skinny 6-foot-7 sophomore post player went for 10 points and 14 rebounds. Martin's length was also a problem for Benet's offense at the rim as he altered numerous shot attempts near the basket. Sophomore Landers Nolley II and junior Elijah Joiner scored 10 points each for Curie.

Benet (31-4) came out shooting hot in the first half, but slowed down when Curie started pressuring them the length of the floor. Senior James Dockery led the Redwings with 14 points. Senior Dan Sobolewski finished with 12 points while junior Jack Nolan had 11 points before fouling out. Benet was 11-for-26 from 3-point range for the game, but slowed down significantly after a 5-for-10 start.

The Redwings made an unlikely run to the state title game as they didn't have a single player with a Division I scholarship offer. But Benet still won 31 games this season and knocked off Simeon in a major upset in the state semifinals. During the season they beat Fenwick and won a very difficult ESCC. Nobody on Benet will make the All-Area team -- and Dockery, the team's leading scorer, only averaged around 12 points per game -- but they were one of the most balanced teams in the area in recent memory.

As for Curie, this is a special title for the program after the Condors had to deal with the IHSA mess and first-round state tournament exit two seasons ago with Cliff Alexander. Even after Alexander left for Kansas -- and eventually, the NBA -- the Condors have remained a top-flight program under head coach Mike Oliver and now the veteran coach has his first state title. Curie overcame forfeiting the Public League Playoff title in 2014 and are stronger than ever as a program.

"I'm blessed," Gage said. "I appreciate my teammates and I appreciate my coaches. We went through a lot to get here."

While many have associated Chicago Public League basketball with former state champions like Simeon, Morgan Park, Whitney Young and North Lawndale, the Condors can now also claim a state title in the last decade. The state-title win on Saturday cemented Curie as one of the Chicagoland area's most notable programs as the Public League continues a streak of having a state basketball champion every year since 2006.

"I feel now that I'm with the big boys of Whitney Young and Simeon and Morgan Park and them," Oliver said. "So this feels very good. I told them we could make history if we stick together and we had a good team. The kids stayed together and followed through with it."

Public League champion Simeon remains clear No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

Public League champion Simeon remains clear No. 1 in latest Preps Power Rankings

The Class 1A and 2A regionals begin this week and the regular season is finishing up for every other team in the state. We're getting that much closer to state titles being decided in Peoria. Simeon remains the clear No. 1 in the latest Power Rankings after beating No. 4 Whitney Young and No. 2 Orr by double digits on the way to earning a third straight Public League Playoff title, while a couple of familiar faces are back in the tail end of the rankings.

1. Simeon (25-3, 9-0) (1) -- Simeon stays at No. 1 after winning the Public League Playoffs for the third consecutive year. The Wolverines have now defeated teams No. 2 through No. 6 in the Preps Power Rankings for a 6-0 record on the season in which the average margin of victory has been 14.5 points per game. The clear No. 1 in the state of Illinois, Simeon has the week off before the Class 4A playoffs.

2. Orr (22-4, 9-0) (2) -- Orr put up a good fight but they ultimately fell short to No. 1 Simeon in the Public League Playoff title game. The Spartans did gain revenge on No. 3 Curie, however, with a big semifinal win on Friday. Orr has to forget the title loss ahead of the Class 2A Playoffs that begin this week as the Spartans try to repeat as champions.

3. Curie (23-4, 8-1) (3) -- The Condors have only lost to No. 1 and No. 2 when it comes to in-state losses as they remain one of the most complete and balanced teams in the state. Curie has the week off before the IHSA Playoffs.

4. Whitney Young (22-7, 7-2) (4) -- Whitney Young earned a huge quarterfinal win over Morgan Park before falling to Simeon in the Public League Playoff semifinals. The Dolphins also have the week off before they attempt to repeat as Class 4A champions. 

5. Morgan Park (18-9, 7-2) (5) Disappointing result for the Mustangs as they lost on a buzzer-beater in the Public League Playoffs to Whitney Young. Defending champions in Class 3A, the Mustangs will rest this week before the playoffs begin.

6. Fenwick (18-7, 8-0) (8) -- The Friars earned two wins during the week as they beat Marmion while also getting a huge conference road win at Loyola. Fenwick will battle Taft during the week.

7. New Trier (22-3, 8-1) (9) -- New Trier had one of the best weeks of any team in the area as they picked up wins over Maine South and Evanston. Now the leaders in the rugged CSL South, the Trevians have some more tough games against Niles North and Glenbrook North this week. 

8. Evanston (20-5, 8-2) (6) -- Evanston's red-hot recent play was finally slowed down as they fell to rival New Trier. The Wildkits will try to bounce back when they play Vernon Hills in a Central Suburban crossover this week.

9. Oak Park-River Forest (21-5, 12-0) (11) -- The Huskies finished the West Suburban Silver season unbeaten following wins over York and Proviso West. OPRF gets a great test right before the playoffs when they face Hinsdale South in the West Suburban championship game.

10. Benet (21-4) (6-1) (12) -- Two wins for the Redwings this week when they beat Joliet Catholic and Stevenson. Things aren't easy for Benet this week as they head to Marian Catholic before hosting Carmel in two tough ESCC games. 

11. West Aurora (19-4, 8-0) (13) -- The winning streak is now 11 for the Blackhawks after beating South Elgin. West Aurora will play Bartlett and crosstown rival East Aurora this week as they try to keep the momentum going into the playoffs. 

12. Marist (23-4, 6-2) (15) -- Marist picked up a double-digit win over St. Patrick during the week as they prepare for the Class 4A draw. The RedHawks will have an ESCC game against Marian Central this week. 

13. Niles North (22-4, 5-4) (8) -- The Vikings fell to CSL South rival Maine South and followed that up with an overtime win over a tough Wisconsin team in St. Catherine's. The Vikings get a crack at conference leader New Trier this week before playing Maine West in a tough Central Suburban crossover. 

14. Marian Catholic (20-4, 5-3) (16) -- Three wins for the Spartans during the week as they knocked off Nazareth, Rich Central and Marian Central. Marian Catholic gets a tough test this week when they host Benet in its final ESCC game.

15. Naperville North (23-2, 14-1) (17) -- The Huskies have won eight straight games as they clinched at least a share of the DuPage Valley Conference with a win over Waubonsie Valley this week. Naperville North hosts Wheaton-Warrenville South this week to decide the DVC title.

16. DePaul Prep (20-6, 5-3) (19) -- Picking up a convincing double-digit win over Mount Carmel, the Rams got back on track after the loss to Brother Rice. DePaul Prep will host Montini during the week as they prepare for Class 3A. 

17. Loyola (21-6, 5-3) (10) -- Tough recent stretch for the Ramblers as they fell to St. Joseph and Fenwick to fall out of the Catholic League Blue race. Loyola hosts Steinmetz for a tune-up this week. 

18. Hillcrest (21-5, 13-0) (21) -- Hillcrest survived a tight win over T.F. North before winning convincingly against Oak Forest. The Hawks have the week off as they prep for Class 3A. 

19. Leo (19-5, 8-0) (22) -- Finishing the regular season with a big win over Marmion, the Lions will be one of the area teams to watch in the Class 2A playoffs as they are in the Marshall Regional. 

20. Homewood-Flossmoor (16-6, 7-1) (23) -- Another huge win for Homewood-Flossmoor as the Vikings took down Bolingbrook to keep a lead in the SouthWest Suburban Blue. Homewood-Flossmoor goes on the road this week to battle Sandburg and Lockport. 

21. Hinsdale South (20-5, 10-2) (24) -- The Hornets stayed hot with wins over Addison Trail and Proviso East as they clinched the West Suburban Gold. Hinsdale South has a tough battle against Oak Park-River Forest in the West Suburban championship game this week. 

22. St. Viator (22-5, 8-0) (25) -- The Lions picked up some wins against Carmel and Bartlett. St. Viator will try to close out the ESCC with an undefeated record when they play Nazareth this week. 

23. Bolingbrook (17-6, 5-3) (18) -- Bolingbrook fell out of the SouthWest Suburban Blue conference race when they lost to Homewood-Flossmoor. The Raiders still have some tough games to close out the regular season when they play Lincoln-Way East and Stagg.

24. Maine South (20-7, 6-4) (NR) -- Huge win for Maine South as they knocked off Niles North after losing to New Trier in overtime earlier in the week. The Hawks close out the regular season with a Central Suburban Crossover against Highland Park.

25. Willowbrook (22-5, 9-3) (NR) -- Willowbrook is back in the rankings by earning three double-digit wins over Morton, Leyden and Downers South. The Warriors have only lost to ranked teams like West Aurora and Hinsdale South lately as they've been playing well. 

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

Five top-25 matchups highlight loaded episode of High School Lites

High School Lites had five matchups between top-25 teams on Friday night as the Public League Playoff semifinals and big matchups in the CSL South, Catholic League Blue and SouthWest Suburban Blue took shape.

Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for the latest news and scores for IHSA basketball.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Palatine's Eduardo Orozco

Saint Xavier Team of the Week: Maine West girls basketball


No. 1 Simeon holds off No. 4 Whitney Young

No. 2 Orr gets revenge on No. 3 Curie

No. 9 New Trier takes down No. 6 Evanston

No. 8 Fenwick handles No. 10 Loyola Academy

No. 23 Homewood-Flossmoor rallies past No. 18 Bolingbrook

Oswego East upsets No. 20 Joliet Central

Andrew shuts down Thornridge

Sandburg tops Lockport in OT

Richards runs by Shepard

Maine West captures second straight girls basketball regional title