Analyzing the IHSA Class 4A boys high school basketball sectional assignments

The Illinois High School Association released its basketball sectional assignments Wednesday afternoon. Here’s a look at all the changes.

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Downers Grove North’s coach Jim Thomas talks to his players during a timeout against Curie.

Downers Grove North’s coach Jim Thomas talks to his players during a timeout against Curie.

Allen Cunningham/For the Sun-Times

The Illinois High School Association released its basketball sectional assignments Wednesday afternoon. The assignments change significantly every two years. This is a year of change.

Here’s a look at all the area sectionals in Class 4A with the team to beat — as of mid-December — and if there were any winners and losers based on the IHSA’s movement of teams. 

Elgin Sectional

Thoughts: This looks like a Mid-Suburban League Conference Tournament, along with a small sprinkling of the North Suburban Conference. 

Team to beat: Rolling Meadows

Coach Kevin Katovich’s Mustangs are 7-1 and have a ton of familiarity with a heavy dose of Mid-Suburban League teams. This is where Rolling Meadows should have been playing the past two years (see below). 

Biggest winner: Rolling Meadows

Yes, Rolling Meadows wins because it finally is sent where it belongs, both geographically and with the teams that make the most sense. Instead, the IHSA had them traveling and playing the North Shore powers (New Trier, Evanston, Glenbrook South, Loyola). 

The bitterness is knowing it sure would have been nice to be in this sectional with last year’s loaded team, led by Cameron Christie. 

Rockford Guilford Sectional

Thoughts: This sectional is always quirky, particularly with the two sub-sectionals (Why do we continue to do this in Class 4A?). Once again there won’t be a whole lot of familiarity among many of the teams, and today’s “team to beat” will have to travel 62 miles for its sectional games. 

Team to beat: Warren

The Blue Devils have been one of the big, bright stories of the young season, and it’s a story that could extend well into March in a sectional where the host school, Guilford, and DeKalb could pose the biggest threats. 

Biggest winner: Warren

It’s a new look for Warren with its sectional assignment, and it’s an opportunity to take advantage of it, especially in a sub-sectional that is certainly less than stellar. At this point it would be stunning if Warren didn’t win its first regional title since 2012. 

East Aurora Sectional

Thoughts: The makeup of this sectional is how it looked for years — several years back — both with the teams in it and the host site. It does feel right. This one has the potential to be a dandy but also a seeding nightmare. 

Team to beat: Downers Grove North

With just one loss on the season — a tight loss to No. 2 ranked Curie last weekend — DGN and star guard Jack Stanton look to be the favorite over the likes of Benet, Bolingbrook, Waubonsie Valley, West Aurora, Oswego East, Naperville North and others. 

Biggest winner: Downers Grove North

A year ago the Trojans worked some magic in winning a brutally tough sectional where Young, Curie, Hinsdale Central and Lyons stood in their way. That sectional was a minefield.

While this East Aurora Sectional is far from being a walk in the park — it’s actually extremely deep — the heavy hitters are missing at the top. That’s good news for a team like DGN where it’s sectional title or bust after the year it had a year ago. 

Biggest losers: Benet, Naperville North and Yorkville

If all things remained the same as a year ago, Benet would be a heavy sectional favorite with Lake Park lurking. Now? A rugged game as early as the regional final awaits in this deep field.

Naperville North could look at this sectional assignment and politely ask, “Can we please head back to the Addison Trail Sectional?”

Yorkville came into the season with huge expectations, but they have been flattened in the first three weeks of the season by missing personnel. There is plenty of time to get back in sync. But when it does there will be a whole different postseason look than it had a year ago. 

Yorkville was one of three area schools shipped far west to the Moline Sectional last season. This year that sectional seems way more palatable in trying to win its first regional title in 19 years than where it’s headed in 2024. 

Rich Sectional

Thoughts: There was a shakeup in this sectional assignment as a couple of past sectionals merged this year, bringing the likes of Joliet West, Romeoville and Lincoln-Way East together with Homewood-Flossmoor, Bloom and Marist. 

But, oooooh, this could be fun. A bunch of south suburban teams flexing their March muscle at Rich? There will be no shortage of sleepers in this field. 

Team to beat: Homewood-Flossmoor

Yes, a lot will have to come together for the Vikings to uphold this “team to beat” label. But right now, on paper — and with its win over Bloom — HF is that team. 

Biggest winner: South suburban fans

This sectional will get the fans in this tradition-rich basketball area pumped for the postseason. 

Biggest losers: Romeoville and Joliet West 

Just in comparison to a year ago, the sectional path became a whole lot tougher for both the Spartans and Tigers. 

Riverside-Brookfield Sectional

Thoughts: Downers Grove North, Hinsdale Central and Lyons did it last year, but will anyone be able to take down the public league powers in this sectional this year?

Team to beat: Curie

The Condors have been impressive and are currently ranked No. 2 in the Super 25. 

Biggest winner: The anti-Public League fans.

Virtually all the city powers in Class 4A, including Curie, Young, Kenwood and Simeon — and they even threw Lincoln Park in there for good measure — have been lumped together. Only one can get out of here. 

Biggest loser: St. Ignatius

It was inevitable, really. Once St. Ignatius made the move to Class 4A, it likely would be sent to the near-west suburban sectional, one that is always loaded and top-heavy. 

But let’s compare last year’s road to Champaign to what it potentially could look like this March for Ignatius. 

A year ago the Wolfpack took care of Perspectives-MSA, Westinghouse, Fenwick and Grayslake Central to reach the Class 3A state semifinals. This year? Curie, Young, Kenwood, Riverside-Brookfield, Simeon and Oak Lawn are among the teams standing in their way. 

Addison Trail Sectional

Thoughts: This is a very winnable Class 4A sectional. Right now there is only one team ranked in the Super 25. 

Team to beat: Lake Park

This is the only team currently ranked, sneaking in at No. 23. But it’s a team that also tasted sectional basketball last year and has a bonafide star in Cam Cerese

Biggest winner: Lake Park

First, the IHSA shipped perennial power Benet out of this sectional, the very team that ended Lake Park’s season a year ago in the sectional semifinals.

This isn’t the strongest Wheaton-Warrenville South team, always a nuisance in this sectional. 

Proviso East is down. The two St. Charles schools were brought in and both are just so-so. 

You get the point. This sectional assignment release is a win for the Lancers. But they will have to hold off their DuKane Conference brethren (Batavia and Glenbard North) and a sneaky good York team to advance deep into the state tournament. 

Biggest loser: There are no losers in one of the softest 4A sectionals in the state. 

Maine South Sectional

Thoughts: As always, there will be some tough sledding for the teams on the north shore as the top eight jockey for position over the next two months. The list of contenders here is lengthy. 

Team to beat: Glenbrook North

Even with an upset loss to Prospect on Tuesday, the first of the season for Glenbrook North, this Josh Fridman-led team is a very slight favorite right now over New Trier and Loyola. 

Biggest winner: Glenbrook South

Of all the top contenders in this sectional, and there really are quite a few in this sectional, Glenbrook South is the only one that was awarded a regional. The Titans will be able to play that title game in the comfort of their unique home gym. 

Biggest loser: Oak Park

This is one of the more bizarre moves the IHSA made with their new sectional assignments. Just take a look at the teams in the Riverside-Brookfield Sectional. Then take a glance at the teams in this Maine South Sectional. And then wonder how this makes sense? The Huskies do get to host a regional.

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