For a seven year stretch, North Chicago were one of the most dominant teams in 3A, winning sectional after sectional while making regular appearances in Peoria.
Despite nearly a decade of dominance, the Warhawks success had tapered off over the past few seasons, having not won a sectional title since 2014.
North Chicago’s “drought” ended on Friday night with a 66-58 win over top-seeded DePaul, setting up a date with Boylan Catholic for the chance to head back to Peoria.
Final: North Chicago are sectional champions! They beat DePaul 66-58. pic.twitter.com/UlyLyoPQhK
— IL Preps Insider (@ILPrepsInsider) March 10, 2018
“The main goal this year was to get down state, so we had to tae this” said North Chicago senior Ishaun Walker. “It’s my first sectional championship so it really means a lot, especially since it’s my senior year and it’s a dream come true.”
North Chicago benefitted early from an ice cold DePaul offense. The Rams got plenty of decent looks early on, but really struggled to convert as they started the game one for eight from the field.
Though North Chicago weren’t exactly setting the nets alight either, the Warhawks did just enough to take a 11-6 lead after one quarter of play.
Things did not get any better for DePaul in the second quarter, as Raheem Anthony was forced to to bench after picking up his second foul.
While DePaul’s offensive struggles continued, North Chicago’s nerves of playing in the sectional title game slowly started to fade away as they extended their lead to 17 points behind an extremely balanced offensive attack.
Two Lance Mosely three pointers on either side of the halftime break brought DePaul back within striking distance and gave the Rams confidence to help them get back of the game.
With Anthony’s return to the floor, DePaul started to break down North Chicago’s defense, finally getting easy baskets at the rim and cutting the deficit to single digits.
But every time DePaul seemed to make a run, North Chicago came up with a big response, usually from the hand of junior Raeshaun Samoa.
Throughout the contest, Samoa (17 points, 15 rebounds) had a knack for coming up with a big offensive rebound and put back, including a monster dunk to keep DePaul at bay and regain the momentum for the Warhawks.
“Yea that alley-oop was actually an airball that I caught,” joked Samoa. “We never give up, even if we’re down 100 points we never give up.”
“Coach always tells us that teams make runs,” added Walker. “Basketball is a game of runs and we just had to keep our mindset and stay focused.”
Even with all their troubles throughout the contest, DePaul refused to go away. Anthony led the charge for the Rams late, scoring 16 of his game high 20 points in the fourth quarter to pull DePaul with one point with just over a minute to go.
But that would be as close as DePaul got. Another offensive put back for Samoa followed by two empty possessions from DePaul sealed the 66-58 win for North Chicago and the sectional title.
North Chicago will be the first team to feature in a super-sectional double header at the Sears Center at Hoffman Estates. Their game against Boylan Catholic will tip-off at 6:00 followed by Evanston and Lake Zurich at 8:00.
Walker concluded: “This is fun but we get back to it tomorrow morning. We get back to practice right away.”