Preps Talk

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The postseason begins in the latest Preps Power Rankings

The IHSA playoffs are finally here for all of boys basketball as regionals begin this week in the Class 3A and 4A. Since Class 2A only has one team in the top 25, defending champion Orr, most of the focus on the Power Rankings falls on teams in the Class 3A and 4A fields. 

1. Simeon (25-3, 9-0) (1) -- The heavy favorites in Class 4A, the Wolverines start the playoffs against Hubbard or Reavis before potentially facing Sandburg or Crete-Monee for a regional title.

2. Orr (22-4, 9-0) (2) -- The Spartans won a regional in Class 2A as they move on to play Uplift in the sectional semifinals on Wednesday. The Titans might be the toughest team Orr faces in its quest to repeat as 2A champions. 

3. Curie (23-4, 8-1) (3) -- The No. 1 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional of Class 4A, the Condors could face York or Riverside-Brookfield for a regional title as that could be a tough matchup. 

4. Whitney Young (22-7, 7-2) (4) -- The defending Class 4A champions are the No. 2 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could face St. Joseph or St. Ignatius for a regional title next week. 

5. Morgan Park (18-9, 7-2) (5) -- The Mustangs will try to repeat in Class 3A as they might face Vocational or Perspectives/Leadership for a regional title. Now that Ayo Dosunmu is healthy and back, Morgan Park should be the favorites once again.

6. Fenwick (19-7, 8-0) (6) -- Catholic League champion Fenwick is up in Class 4A this year as they're a No. 4 seed in a loaded Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. The Friars might have a showdown with Proviso East for a regional title if both teams win earlier in the week. 

7. Evanston (21-5, 8-2) (8) -- The Loaded Maine East Sectional will be tough but Evanston is the No. 1 seed. The Wildkits could have a tough regional title game ahead of them as Maine West and Notre Dame are both capable of making it a close game.

8. Oak Park-River Forest (22-5, 12-0) (9) -- Knocking off Hinsdale South for the West Suburban crown, the Huskies have a lot of positive momentum entering the Class 4A playoffs. OPRF is the No. 3 seed in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional as they could play Lincoln Park for a regional title.

9. Benet (23-4, 8-1) (10) -- With a 14-game winning streak entering the playoffs, the Redwings are red hot. Benet is the No. 2 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional in Class 4A as they could match up with Naperville Central or Glenbard West for a regional title. 

10. West Aurora (21-4, 10-0) (11) -- Winners of 13 straight, West Aurora is the No. 2 seed in the Romeoville Sectional. The Blackhawks could face Andrew or Plainfield North for a regional title at Plainfield South. 

11. Marist (24-4, 7-2) (12) -- An impressive 24-win season has Marist as the No. 2 seed in the Thornton Sectional as they host a Class 4A regional. The RedHawks might play Thornwood or Bloom to win that regional on Friday night. 

12. Niles North (24-4, 6-4) (13) -- The Vikings took down New Trier to pick up a great win right before the loaded Maine East Sectional in Class 4A. Niles North, a No. 3 seed, might have to face ESCC champion St. Viator for a regional title, which would be one of the most-anticipated matchups in Class 4A. 

13. New Trier (22-5, 8-2) (7) -- Dropping two games during the week, New Trier is limping into the postseason as the No. 2 seed in the Maine East Sectional. It won't get any easier for the Trevians as they might face Mid-Suburban champion Prospect for a regional title.

14. Naperville North (24-2, 15-1) (15) -- The top seed in the Glenbard East Sectional, Naperville North hosts its own regional in Class 4A. The Huskies might play Geneva or Downers North for a regional title. 

15. DePaul Prep (21-6, 5-3) (16) -- The No. 1 seed in the North Chicago Sectional, DePaul Prep hosts its own regional in Class 3A. The Rams could face Foreman or Sullivan for a regional title as DePaul Prep has a winnable sectional. 

16. Loyola (22-6, 5-3) (17) -- Loyola is the No. 4 seed in the Maine East Sectional. The Ramblers could have a tough regional final against host and No. 5 seed Maine South as that would make for a great matchup.

17. Marian Catholic (20-5, 5-4) (14) -- A No. 1 seed in the Pontiac Sectional of Class 3A, the Spartans will be one of the teams to watch in that field. Marian Catholic could potentially take on Thornridge or Rich Central for a regional title during the week. 

18. Hillcrest (21-5, 13-0) (18) -- The Hawks are a No. 2 seed in the Pontiac Sectional in Class 3A as they try to make another deep run in March. Hillcrest could face Rich East or Oak Forest for a regional title.

19. Homewood-Flossmoor (19-6, 9-1) (20) -- The Vikings had some close wins during the week preparing for the Class 4A field. Homewood-Flossmoor could play Oak Lawn for a regional title at T.F. South this week. 

20. St. Viator (23-5, 9-0) (22) -- The unbeaten champs in the ESCC, the Lions are on a six-game winning streak. A No. 6 seed in the Maine East Sectional, St. Viator could have a major test against Niles North for a Class 4A regional title. 

21. Bolingbrook (19-6, 7-3) (23) -- Top seed in the Romeoville Sectional, the Raiders have been a major threat in the postseason the past few years. Bolingbrook might play Lemont or Plainfield East for a regional title.

22. Maine South (21-7, 6-4) (24) -- The Hawks have the recent win over Niles North as they're the No. 5 seed in the Maine East Sectional. As the host in the regional, Maine South could get a home game against No. 4 seed Loyola.

23. Hinsdale South (20-6, 10-2) (21) -- Hinsdale South dropped a close one to OPRF right before the postseason. The Hornets might face Willowbrook for a regional title as the No. 4 seed in the Glenbard East Sectional as the two teams split the season series. 

24. Willowbrook (23-5, 9-3) (25) -- The Warriors had an outstanding season as they are in the tough Glenbard East Sectional. A No. 5 seed, Willowbrook could face Hinsdale South for a regional title, which could be the best title game of the entire week. 

25. Jacobs (24-3, 16-0) (NR) -- Winners of the Fox Valley for the fourth straight year, the Golden Eagles are on a roll as they're a No. 2 seed in the Jacobs Sectional in Class 4A. If Jacobs gets senior Ryan Phillips back from hand injury they could be dangerous. 

Lake Park's Patrick Panasiuk looking to live up to legacy of his brothers

Lake Park's Patrick Panasiuk looking to live up to legacy of his brothers

Lake Park junior offensive/defensive lineman Patrick Panasiuk (6-foot-3, 295 pounds) is hoping to follow in the extra-large footsteps of his two older brothers. DT Mike Panasiuk and DE Jacub Panasiuk are playing for Mark Dantonio at Michigan State. Patrick, who was an all-conference offensive tackle for coach Chris Roll’s Lancers in 2017, has drawn steady recruiting attention this off season.

I had a chance to catch up with the youngest Panasiuk brother at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefited the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School.

Panasiuk was able to take a minute to recap his latest recruiting interests. He also reflected on his relationship — and influence — of his two older brothers.

Check out the interview with Patrick Panasiuk above.


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Orr finishes No. 1 in final Preps Power Rankings

Orr finishes No. 1 in final Preps Power Rankings

The IHSA boys basketball season is in the books as High School Lites has finished up another season of coverage. This season had plenty of drama until the end for the No. 1 spot as a group of Public League superpowers battled for area dominance. In the end, Class 2A champion Orr is the top team in the area, in a very tough decision over Whitney Young, Simeon and Morgan Park. Here's a look at the final top 25, with some season highlights and memorable moments. 

1. Orr (30-4, 9-0) -- The Spartans finish the season in the top spot as the only team in the area to capture a state, conference and major holiday tournament title this season. A special senior class that cruised to back-to-back Class 2A titles, Orr also won the loaded Public League Red North/West by going unbeaten. They also steamrolled the competition in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. Orr is also the only team in the area with 30 wins. They beat another 30-win team in the 2A title game this year. Orr had a lot of tremendous accomplishments while beating a lot of good teams. Dannie Smith, Raekwon Drake and Chase Adams all had stellar senior seasons on a deep and loaded team.

2. Whitney Young (28-8, 7-2) -- Peaking in March once again, the Dolphins just missed winning back-to-back state titles in Class 4A with an overtime loss to Belleville West. Knocking off Lincoln Park, Curie, Simeon and Evanston all in a row is a ridiculous postseason accomplishment. Senior Javon Freeman was a Player of the Year candidate and his hot start was one of the big early storylines of the season. Other seniors like Xavier Castaneda, Justin Boyd and Jake Kosakowski made an impact as well. It'll be interesting to see who steps up alongside Myles Baker and Tyler Beard next season. 

3. Simeon (29-4, 9-0) -- Simeon fell short of winning a Class 4A state title after suffering a stunning overtime loss to Whitney Young in the Chicago State Supersectional. The Wolverines were No. 1 nearly the entire season. The loss to the Dolphins was their only IHSA loss of the season. A nationally-ranked juggernaut that at-times played like one of the best teams in the area of the last decade, the back-to-back city champions still won at Pontiac and won the Public League Red South/Central as well. Senior Talen Horton-Tucker morphed into a superstar and Player of the Year favorite while Messiah Jones, Xavier Pinson, Kenny Pittman, Zion Young and Bakari Simmons were also key ingredients. Junior Kejuan Clements could be a breakout star next year as well. 

4. Morgan Park (25-9, 7-2) -- Claiming a second consecutive Class 3A state title, the Mustangs ended the season on a high note as the dominant team in that field. Senior guard Ayo Dosunmu is one of the Player of the Year favorites while senior Cam Burrell had an outstanding season as a double-double machine. Sophomores like Adam Miller and Marcus Watson also emerged as the wave of the future for the program. While the Mustangs had a great end to the season, they had to fight through injuries to Dosunmu and senior center Tamell Pearson -- who missed most of the season with an eye injury. One of the big "What Ifs?" of the 2017-18 season is how good Morgan Park might have been this season with all of its pieces all of the time. 

5. Evanston (27-6, 8-2) -- Exceeding expectations with a Class 4A third-place finish, the Wildkits had a tremendous season. With a balanced team that featured a lot of non-seniors playing big roles, this young Evanston team knocked off many of the area's best teams during the season. Evanston also finished tied atop the loaded CSL South this season. Junior guards Ryan Bost, Jaheim Holden and Lance Jones are all noted talents while senior big man Matt Hall provided a huge presence on the interior. 

6. Marian Catholic (26-6, 5-4) -- Another team to exceed expectations this season was Marian Catholic. The Spartans advanced to state for the first time in capturing a Class 3A third place win. Junior guard Malik Tidwell knocked in a memorable buzzer-beater to win a supersectional and guard Ahron Ulis started to look like a star in the making towards the end of the season. The interior play of Chris White and Alec Dinwiddie was also underrated for this team as they featured a balanced roster. Many of the key pieces of this team are expected back, and this is a close-knit team. Marian Catholic will likely be Class 4A next season as well. 

7. Larkin (24-10, 11-1) -- Larkin had huge expectations this season after making a supersectional last season. They lived up to the hype by making it to Peoria in Class 4A. The duo of Anthony Lynch and Jalen Shaw was one of the best combinations in the area this season and they helped lead the Royals to an Upstate Eight River title. 

8. Curie (26-5, 8-1) -- Curie didn't claim a lot of the team hardware of many of the top 10 teams, but the Condors had some great wins over Orr and Morgan Park during the season. One of the Public League's best teams once again, the Condors also had convincing wins over sectional title teams like North Chicago and North Lawndale. Seniors Treavon and Tyree Martin both had solid careers while Maurice Commander and Marquise Walker had a lot of bright moments during the season.  

9. North Chicago (22-10, 14-0) -- The Warhawks flew under the radar of a lot of people this season. But they went out in convincing fashion after going undefeated in the Northern Lake County conference taking fourth place in Class 3A. Tyrek Cooper and Pierce Coleman led a strong senior group while Ishaun Walker played well in the state playoffs. 

10. Benet (27-5, 8-1) -- Benet had a great season in winning a sectional title in Class 4A. Winners of 18 straight games at one point this season, the Redwings claimed the Wheaton-Warrenville South MLK tournament and Fenwick Thanksgiving events as well. One of the area's best defenses, Benet held 14 opponents to 40 points or less. This unsung group had a solid senior class led by David Buh. 

11. West Aurora (25-5, 10-0) -- A great season for West Aurora as they won 17 straight games themselves at one point. The Blackhawks went unbeaten in winning the Upstate Eight Valley behind a balanced group. Senior Camron Donatlan is one of the area's best overall athletes in recent memory. Jared Crutcher also came on strong at the end of the season. 

12. Lake Zurich (26-8, 9-5) -- The Bears started the preseason in the Power Rankings and fought back in after a Class 4A sectional title and 26-win campaign. One of the area's better shooting teams, the Bears made history with talented players like Ryan Kutsor, Peter DiCerbo and J.R. Cison. 

13. North Lawndale (18-11, 3-6) -- North Lawndale made the most of its Class 3A run by winning a sectional title and falling to Morgan Park in the supersectional at Joliet Central. The Phoenix had a lot of close losses to elite teams during the season that prepared them for the deep Class 3A run as they were led by Demetrius Douglas and David Forrest.   

14. Marist (27-5, 7-2) -- Marist enjoyed another very successful season as a regional champion and one of the best teams in the tough ESCC. The RedHawks had a star in senior guard Morgan Taylor as this team won 27 games during the year. 

15. New Trier (25-6, 8-2) -- One of the biggest teams in the area, the Trevians used their elite size to share the top of the CSL South standings with rival Evanston. New Trier claimed a regional title while also winning some memorable games against conference rivals like the Wildkits and Niles North. Also winners of the Loyola/New Trier Thanksgiving event, New Trier junior Ciaran Brayboy will be a player to track heading into next year. 

16. DePaul Prep (24-7, 5-3) -- The Rams had a nice season as one of the strongest teams in the Catholic League. DePaul Prep came up short of winning a sectional title in Class 3A, but they beat a lot of quality competition during the season. Junior Perry Cowan was one of the area's top players and he could be a star next season. 

17. Bolingbrook (22-7, 7-3) -- Another good season for the Raiders as they nearly won another sectional title in Class 4A. With some of the better guards in the area in Kaleb Thornton, Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran, Bolingbrook knocked off some really good teams, including a win over Morgan Park on Martin Luther King day.  

18. Willowbrook (26-6, 9-3) -- Willowbrook capped a great two-year stretch with the school's first regional title since 2004 and another 20-win campaign. Senior Ethan Schuemer is one of the best players in school history as he leaves as the program's all-time leading scorer. 

19. Niles North (26-5, 6-4) -- Niles North had a great season in the loaded CSL South while also claiming the Wheeling Hardwood Classic in December. The Vikings had a star in Damaria Franklin and other talented weapons like Jamal Stephenson and Drayvon Clayborn. 

20. Loyola Academy (24-7, 5-3) -- One of the area's strongest defensive teams, Loyola Academy had a great season in the Catholic League. Winning a holiday tournament in Naples, Florida, the Ramblers had a very good 10-game winning streak in the middle of the season. 

21. Homewood-Flossmoor (21-7, 9-1) -- The Vikings won the very tough SouthWest Suburban Blue by two games while also winning a regional title in Class 4A. After a decent start, the Vikings also deserve credit for an eight-game winning streak before losing in the playoffs to Marist. 

22. Joliet Central (23-6, 13-1) -- The Southwest Prairie champions had a very strong season before losing in a heartbreaker to Bolingbrook in the sectional semifinals of Class 4A. The Steelmen seemed to find themselves in a lot of memorable overtime games this season, including two against Romeoville, a triple-overtime win over Wheaton-Warrenville South and the double-OT playoff loss to Bolingbrook. 

23. Lincoln Park (19-10, 6-3) -- One of the Public League's biggest surprises this season, the Lions had some huge wins playing in the Red North/West. Taking down Whitney Young, Uplift, North Lawndale, Marian Catholic and Oak Park-River Forest, the Lions had some star power in senior Terrence Shannon.   

24. Lincoln-Way East (23-6, 7-3) -- The Griffins made history by winning the first regional title in school history for boys basketball. Also beating teams like Bolingbrook and Romeoville, Lincoln-Way East was led by very good senior class.

25. Brother Rice (19-11, 4-4) -- The Crusaders had a strong season while playing a solid schedule. Brother Rice had a convincing win over Kenwood for a regional title before putting up a battle with Simeon in the sectional semifinals. Brother Rice was also the runner-up in the 32-team Jack Tosh Holiday Classic.