With the 2019-20 IHSA boys basketball season abruptly canceled last week, it made for a tough time to reflect on everything that just happened. Completely eliminating basketball in the middle of March is unprecedented territory.
But through the rest of the month at NBC Sports Chicago, we'll continue to take a look back at some special teams and players from the 2019-20 season. Today, we take a look at five Chicagoland area teams that exceeded expectations this season.
While some of these teams will never get a proper opportunity to finish a dream season, we can still fondly remember some huge moments during a fun 2019-20 season.
Thornton -- From unranked to having a legitimate case as the best team in the area this season, it was quite a year at Thornton. The NBC Sports Chicago Preps Power Rankings kept Thornton just outside of its preseason rankings. A terrible decision in hindsight, it only served as a precursor to a season that saw Tai Streets and the Wildcats continually overcome expectations.
Thornton rolled through the competition, going 32-1 this season. The only loss came to Bloom, a team that was upset by Marian Catholic heading into the sectional finals. We'll never know if Thornton would have won the Bloom Sectional title or advanced past Curie or Whitney Young to make it to Peoria.
But head coach Tai Streets and his program had a benchmark year in a loaded part of the state. For a team with low preseason fanfare, the Wildcats became a must-see team. And Streets turned a team of under-the-radar players like DJ Williams and Brandon Hall into a team worthy of state title consideration.
Curie -- For the second consecutive season, the Condors defied expectations and became a nationally-ranked juggernaut. And head coach Mike Oliver, and interim coach Larry Wallace, deserve an enormous amount of credit for building a consistent program.
Curie has only produced one high-major player (DaJuan Gordon) and was led by one committed Division I prospect in 2019-20 (Ramean Hinton). Even in a year where the city was brimming with high-major talent, Curie became the No. 1 team in the area for most of the season with a deep and balanced group.
The Condors won at Pontiac and won the Red-South/Central. Curie continually bested strong Illinois and national competition. Through it all, Oliver, who was suspended at mid-season with an unresolved appeal to be heard later on, established Curie as a force to reckoned with.
Curie had the strongest season of any program in Illinois. Despite some of the turmoil surrounding the timing of Oliver's departure, Curie might have very well won a Class 4A title.
Joliet West -- The Tigers went from single-digit wins to 29-4 and undefeated in the Southwest Prairie in just one season.
In his first season coaching Joliet West, head coach Jeremy Krieger turned a roster of freshmen, football players and unsung seniors into a juggernaut that could have easily made it to Peoria. And much of the core is set to return for next season.
The future is now bright at Joliet West these next few seasons, even as Jamere Hill heads to Toledo next season. Jeremy Fears Jr. is a potential star to watch and Jaiden Lee was a fun-to-watch wing. Junior Trent Howland is a strong two-sport athlete with a lot of football attention. This season might just be the start of something bigger at Joliet West as huge expectations are in place for next season.
Glenbrook South -- The Titans achieved a lot of dreams this season with a special group.
Senior Dom Martinelli became a breakout, All-Area-caliber star with a dominant senior season. A young core of players around him, including sophomores Coop Noard and Dom's brother, Nick, elevated their play throughout the season.
And head coach Phil Ralston's creative offense only enhanced Glenbrook South's greatest strengths. The Titans always had unique ways to get Martinelli the ball. Sometimes those plays were designed to draw defensive attention to get looks for other shooters. Most of the time it led to Martinelli scoring or being fouled.
At 29-5 on the season, Glenbrook South surpassed our preseason expectations of No. 22. They quickly became a major storyline throughout the 2019-20 season.
Hinsdale South -- Over the past decade, the Hornets have quietly produced two high-major players (Barret Benson and Zion Griffin).
Yet something clicked in 2019-20 to the point where Hinsdale South had its best team in school history. Head coach Brett Moore had plenty of talent to work with. Billy Durkin was a clutch player and Aaron Tims provided stability in the frontcourt.
But nobody could have anticipated a 30-3 record and winning the West Suburban Championship. This was a special season for Hinsdale South and one that will be remembered for quite some time.