Regional preview: Huntley boys hope to avoid repeat of last year

Huntley senior Amanze Egekeze wants no part of what happened in last year’s postseason.

The Red Raiders were ousted in the first round of the Rockford East Regional by the host E-Rabs, 53-43, marking the first time since 2010 they did not play for a regional title.

“It was pretty bitter, probably the most disappointed I remember being after a high school game,” Egekeze said. “I felt bad for Bryce [Only] and those other seniors going out that way. We just have to take care of the ball. We don’t want to go out that way again.”

Huntley stumbled twice down the stretch in the Fox Valley Conference Valley Division but rebounded to win four consecutive games entering the Class 4A Belvidere North Regional. The Raiders are the top seed and will play the winner of Monday’s play-in game between No. 4 DeKalb and No. 5 Belvidere North in Tuesday’s 6 p.m. game. No. 2 Jefferson and No. 3 Rockford East play in the other semifinal.

“After this win, it feels pretty good because we have some momentum going into the playoffs,” Huntley guard Blake Jacobs said after Friday’s 55-45 victory over Grayslake Central in a meeting of FVC division champions.

Tournaments for Classes 3A and 4A start Monday with play-in games around the state. Locally, the Class 3A Woodstock Regional and Class 4A Crystal Lake Central Regional are six-team tournaments with all local teams competing.

Huntley has won four FVC Valley championships in a row and is trying to add a third regional title over that stretch. Egekeze, a 6-foot-8 forward headed to NCAA Division I Belmont, leads the team in scoring (18.2) and most offensive categories. Zach Gorney, a 6-4 forward scoring 11.0, was another starter who experienced that disappointment last season.

“We’re fired up to play. We really want to win this regional championship,” Gorney said. “We’re going to give a good effort.”

Egekeze missed the first half of last season after undergoing surgery to alleviate tendinitis in his right knee, but the Raiders still won the FVC Valley when he returned. Raiders coach Marty Manning feels better about this team after Friday’s victory.

“We’re playing well in our last game,” Manning said. “Last year we got drubbed by Crystal Lake Central and came out our next game and didn’t play well either. We have some momentum and we’re playing pretty good basketball now.”

Manning said the Raiders would have a primary focus starting Saturday morning.

“[The regional] means everything because the regular season now is flushed down the toilet,” Manning said. “Now it’s on to our next goal. The success of our season depends on how we play this week. Our mindset is that we can’t be satisfied with where we’re at. We have the ability to accomplish good things in the postseason.”

Having a fourth-year varsity player like Egekeze leading the way should be most beneficial.

“It would mean a lot to cap off a pretty good career,” Egekeze said. “We’ve handled the [division championship] and won this game [against Grayslake Central], so now we’re going to put everything we have into going for the regional.”

Class 3A: Marengo has the top seed at Woodstock and has won nine of 11 games heading into the postseason.

The Indians (19-10) have their most wins since 2000, which also was the last year they won a regional.

Hampshire (2) and Marian Central (3) are the next seeds and have played well at the end of the season. Woodstock (4) also came alive late after struggling through a portion of its FVC Fox games.

Richmond-Burton (20-7) hosts a regional in its new Lou Ramirez Gymnasium and is the seventh seed in the Antioch Sectional. The Rockets wrapped up the Big Northern Conference East Division championship.

The Antioch Sectional has had some odd twists in the past week as No. 2-seeded Chicago Uplift (23-4) was tossed out of the tournament for playing in too many tournaments (four), then re-admitted, although without coach David Taylor.

No. 14 Johnsburg thought earlier in the week it was headed to the R-B Regional, but when Uplift appealed and was let back in, the IHSA went back to the original seeds and schedule. Johnsburg now must play No. 19 Chicago Sullivan in a play-in game at 7 p.m. Monday at Ridgewood.

Class 4A: Cary-Grove (15-12) played well enough to earn the top seed but has stumbled in its last three games heading into the Crystal Lake Central Regional. Prairie Ridge (2) and Jacobs (3) are the other top seeds.

Jacobs (15-13) finished second in the FVC Valley and may be playing the best of any team here. Prairie Ridge (17-10) played well near the end, including a win against Huntley.

REGIONAL PAIRINGS

CLASS 3A

Woodstock Regional

Monday, March 3

Game 1: (4) Woodstock vs. (5) Woodstock North, 6 p.m.

Game 2: (3) Marian Central vs. (6) Harvard, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, March 4

Game 3: (1) Marengo vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 4: (2) Hampshire vs. Winner Game 2, 8 p.m.

Friday, March 7

Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.

Richmond-Burton Regional

Tuesday, March 4

Game 1: (15) Chicago CICS/Northtown vs. No. 18 Chicago Senn, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, March 4

Game 2: Winner Game 1 vs. (2) Chicago Uplift, 6 p.m.

Game 3: (11) Lakes vs. (6) Richmond-Burton, 8 p.m.

Friday, March 7

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.

Ridgewood Regional

Monday, March 3

Game 1: (14) Johnsburg vs. (19) Chicago Sullivan, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, March 4

Game 2: (3) Carmel vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 3: (6) Vernon Hills vs. (12) Ridgewood, 8 p.m.

Friday, March 7

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.

CLASS 4A

Crystal Lake Central Regional

Monday, March 3

Game 1: (4) Crystal Lake South vs. (5) Dundee-Crown, 6 p.m.

Game 2: (3) Jacobs vs. (6) Crystal Lake Central, 8 p.m.

Tuesday, March 4

Game 3: (1) Cary-Grove vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 4: (2) Prairie Ridge vs. Winner Game 2, 8 p.m.

Friday, March 7

Game 5: Winner Game 3 vs. Winner Game 4, 7 p.m.

Belvidere North Regional

Monday, March 3

Game 1: (4) DeKalb vs. (5) Belvidere North, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, March 4

Game 2: (1) Huntley vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 3: (2) Jefferson vs. (3) Rockford East, 8 p.m.

Friday, March 7

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.

McHenry Regional

Monday, March 3

Game 1: (16) Grant vs. (19) McHenry, 7 p.m.

Tuesday, March 4

Game 2: (1) Stevenson vs. Winner Game 1, 6 p.m.

Game 3: (8) Deerfield vs. (9) Warren, 8 p.m.

Friday, March 7

Game 4: Winner Game 2 vs. Winner Game 3, 7 p.m.