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."

10 Days to Kickoff: Mount Carmel

10 Days to Kickoff: Mount Carmel preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Mount Carmel

Head coach: Jordan Lynch

How they fared in 2018: 11-2 (4-0 CCL Green Conference). Mount Carmel made the Class 7A state playoff field and defeated T.F. South, Lake Zurich and East St. Louis. They advanced to the semifinal round where they lost St. Charles North.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 vs Calumet New Tech (Indiana) 
Sept. 6 @ Maine South
Sept. 13 vs Montini 
Sept. 20 vs Loyola
Sept. 27 @ Marmion Academy
Oct. 4 @ Marist
Oct. 11 vs De La Salle
Oct. 18 @ St. Viator
Oct. 25 vs Brother Rice

[MORE: 14 Days to Kickoff - Montini] 

Biggest storyline: The new field. So long, Gately Stadium. Hello, Barda-Dowling Stadium at Carey Field. Can the Caravan continue their winning tradition with the first full season on campus at their new facility?

Names to watch this season: OL Jalen Grant (Sr.) and RB/LB Kenenna Odeluga (Jr.)

Biggest holes to fill: The Caravan will need to replace several graduated starters on both sides of the football this summer including nine starters on offense. 

EDGY's Early Take: The changes to Mount Carmel football have been extensive. In just a few shorts years, the Caravan went from (1) playing under Hall of Fame head coach Frank Lenti, (2) with all of their home games at Gately Stadium and (3) participating in the historical Chicago Catholic League. Now? Second-year head coach Jordan Lynch will lead the Caravan into the newly-realigned CCL/ESCC Blue conference while playing on true home field turf at Barda-Dowling Stadium at Carey Field. The Caravan will feature several new starters but the talent level will remain very high. The stacked underclassmen group is worth noting. Keep an eye on senior OG Jalen Grant. But also, RB/LB Kenenna Odeluga, QB Justin Lynch and ATH Benjamin Perry --all juniors-- are just a few of the many underclassmen to watch this fall. This team will be a bit inexperienced on, but they also have the makings of a team that will get better each week in 2019. 

11 Days to Kickoff: Lake Zurich

11 Days to Kickoff: Lake Zurich preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting Aug. 5, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 30.

School: Lake Zurich

Head coach: Ron Planz

How they fared in 2018: 7-4 (5-2 North Suburban Conference). Lake Zurich made the Class 7A state playoff field and defeated DeKalb in the opening round. They lost to Mount Carmel in second round action.

2019 regular season schedule:

Aug. 30 @ Fremd
Sept. 6 vs Marist
Sept. 13 @ Zion-Benton
Sept. 20 @ Lake Forest
Sept. 27 vs Stevenson
Oct. 4 vs Libertyville
Oct. 11 vs Warren Township
Oct. 18 vs Mundelein
Oct. 25 vs Waukegan

[MORE: 95 Days to Kickoff - Fremd

Biggest storyline: New head coach Ron Planz. Can the Bears make the adjustment to their new head coach and keep up their winning ways in 2019?

Names to watch this season: QB/DB Jack Moses (Sr.), LB Bryan Sanborn (Jr.), TE Hunter Welcing (Sr., Northwestern)

Biggest holes to fill: In the trenches. The Bears will need to reload on both the offensive and defensive lines.
EDGY's Early Take: The Bears have a new leader in former Elmhurst College head coach Ron Planz, who originally took the head coaching position at Larkin then took the job at Lake Zurich after Luke Mertens surprisingly stepped down late this spring. LZ welcomes back some key names from a season ago including senior QB Jack Moses, senior TE Hunter Welcing (Northwestern) along with Power Five recruit in junior LB Bryan Sanborn. The Bears schedule is certainly no gimme. Early nonconference tests against Fremd and Marist will great tests right out of the gate. Getting five straight home games to close the regular season is a big plus. This team is hungry to get back into the playoffs and make some noise later this fall.