Preps Talk

Curie beats Benet for first state basketball title

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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."

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

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NBC Sports Chicago

VOTE: Viewers' Choice Game Of The Week

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland's top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our "Viewers' Choice Game of the Week." Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @NBCSPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights and postgame reaction of that game will appear on that night's "High School Lites" broadcast at 11 p.m. The show also live streams at www.nbcsportschicago.com/watchlive. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. the following Saturday. 

Week 9 is “Bubble Week” for many teams fighting to stay on the right side of the postseason bubble. Who moves on? Whose bubble will burst? Will Wauconda advance to the playoffs after finishing 2-7 last year? Or will Grant end their season on a winning note? Schaumburg and Fremd both stand at 4-4. The winner goes to the postseason. The winner stays home for November. Zion-Benton hasn’t been to the playoffs since 2003. A win over Libertyville gets them there. But for the Wildcats, this ‘is’ their playoff game. Who wins in the North Suburban conference? We’ll send our cameras to one of the following:

Grant at Wauconda, 7:15 p.m.

Schaumburg at Fremd, 7:30 p.m.

Libertyville at Zion-Benton, 7:30 p.m.

— Follow @NBCSPreps on Twitter.
— Note the "pinned Tweet" atop the @NBCSPreps feed. Vote for the game you want us to cover.
— Spread the word! 

We will make an announcement on @NBCSPreps just after 4 p.m. Thursday with the official results of which game will be covered. And as a reminder, be sure to follow @NBCSPreps for updates on the "Viewers' Choice Game of the week," along with other high school sports news, scores and highlights this season.

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Week 9

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NBC Sports Chicago

Edgy Tim's Preps Power Rankings: Week 9

Here are the latest @NBCSPreps Top 25 Power Rankings.
 
1. Lincoln-Way East 8-0 (1)
Last Week: Beat Thornwood, 56-18
This Week: vs Bolingbrook
EDGY's Take: The Griffins get a nice Week 9 test hosting Bolingbrook. Can the Raiders push the Griffins for four quarters?

2. Batavia 8-0 (2)
Last Week: Beat St. Charles North, 27-24
This Week: @ Wheaton North
EDGY's Take: An epic drive late in the game with no timeouts. The Bulldogs pull out the close-call win over St. Charles North.  

3. Brother Rice 8-0 (3)
Last Week: Beat Leo, 48-0
This Week: @ Montini Catholic
EDGY's Take: What were the preseason that the biggest Chicago Catholic League game of the year would be Brother Rice at Montini?

4. Marist 7-1 (4)
Last Week: Beat Marian Central Catholic, 42-6
This Week: @ Benet Academy
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks will get a nice Week 9 on Friday from Benet at Benedictine University. 

5. Mount Carmel 7-1 (5)
Last Week: Beat St. Laurence, 40-0
This Week: vs Fenwick
EDGY's Take: The Caravan have been playing as well as any contenders ranked here.

6. Homewood-Flossmoor 7-1 (6)
Last Week: Beat Andrew, 35-3
This Week: vs Sandburg
EDGY's Take: Head coach Craig Buzea got his 200th career win last Friday over Andrew.

7. Cary-Grove 8-0 (7)
Last Week: Beat Prairie Ridge, 21-14
This Week: vs Naperville Central
EDGY's Take: The Trojans rallied from being down 14-0 and scored 21 unanswered points to defeat their bitter rivals.

8. Simeon 8-0 (8)
Last Week: Beat Taft, 58-7
This Week: @ Curie
EDGY's Take: The big question coming Saturday night-- Will the Wolverines wind up in 8A or 7A? 

9. Nazareth Academy 7-1 (9)
Last Week: Beat Joliet Catholic, 49-20
This Week: vs Marian Catholic
EDGY's Take: The Roadrunners get a nice bounce-back win last Friday over Joliet Catholic.

10. Maine South 7-1 (10)
Last Week: Beat New Trier, 38-21
This Week: vs Niles West
EDGY's Take: The Hawks get another big Central Suburban South win. 

11. Oswego 8-0 (11)
Last Week: Beat Joliet Central, 49-0
This Week: @ Plainfield South
EDGY's Take: The Panthers will take on a very defensive-minded Plainfield South team on Friday.
 
12. Richards 8-0 (13)
Last Week: Beat Reavis, 51-0
This Week: vs Eisenhower
EDGY's Take: The Bulldogs continue to cruise and are gearing for a high seed in Class 6A.
 
13. Phillips 6-2 (14)
Last Week: Beat Westinghouse, 46-6
This Week: @ Raby
EDGY's Take: The Wildcats will look to finish strong this week against Raby.

14. Willowbrook 8-0 (15)
Last Week: Beat Proviso East, 40-7
This Week: @ Downers Grove South
EDGY's Take: The Warriors will look to send Downers Grove South (4-4) home for the holidays on Friday.

15. Naperville Central 6-2 (16)
Last Week: Beat Waubonsie Valley, 35-14
This Week: @ Cary-Grove
EDGY's Take: The Redhawks have won six straight games and have the makings of a team that could make some postseason noise. 

16. Bolingbrook 7-1 (17)
Last Week: Beat Thornton, 43-7
This Week: @ Lincoln-Way East
EDGY's Take: The Raiders will look to derail the "Big Cobalt Blue Machine" this Friday in Frankfort. 

17. Montini 8-0 (18)
Last Week: Beat Providence Catholic, 27-3
This Week: vs Brother Rice
EDGY's Take: The Broncos will host Brother Rice on Friday in the biggest game of the year in the Chicago Catholic League.

18. Oak Park-River Forest 6-2 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Glenbard West, 10-7
This Week: vs Lyons Township
EDGY's Take: The Huskies have a top-notch defense and found a way to beat Glenbard West at Duchon Field. It was OPRF's first win there since 1998.

19. Warren Township 7-1 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Stevenson, 21-0
This Week: @ Mundelein
EDGY's Take: The Blue Devils defense came to play. An impressive 21-0 shutout over Stevenson 21-0 last Friday.

20. Glenbard West 6-2 (12)
Last Week: Lost to Oak Park-River Forest, 10-7
This Week: @ Proviso West
EDGY's Take: The Hilltoppers defense is still salty as ever. But can the offense find a few more options besides standout RB Tyquan Cox?

21. Hillcrest 8-0 (22)
Last Week: Beat TF North, 50-6
This Week: vs Bremen
EDGY's Take: The Hawks have made it look easy this regular season. They'll go for a 9-0 sweep later this week in an effort to claim a high seed in 5A.

22. Notre Dame 7-1 (23)
Last Week: Beat Carmel, 21-7
This Week: vs Joliet Catholic
EDGY's Take: The Dons now host JCA and will try to knock out the Hilltoppers from the state playoff field.

23. Hinsdale Central 8-0 (24)
Last Week: Beat Lyons Township, 57-0
This Week: vs Hinsdale South
EDGY's Take: The Red Devils will get challenged this Friday against crosstown rival Hinsdale South (The "Doings Cup" game).

24. Rolling Meadows 8-0 (NR)
Last Week: Beat Hersey, 38-35
This Week: @ Buffalo Grove
EDGY's Take: The Mustangs get a huge win over Hersey. Why do I get the feeling we could see an RM-Hersey rematch in the postseason?
 
25. St. Charles North 6-2 (21)
Last Week: Lost to Batavia, 27-24
This Week: vs Wheaton South
EDGY's Take: The North Stars drop a last-second loss to Batavia last Friday; they will look to get back on track this week against another tough opponent in Wheaton South.