Recently in Upstate Eight Conference Category

We are admittedly late posting this, but as a reader pointed out last week, The Courier News has the entire all-Upstate Eight Conference baseball team listed here. The local representatives are:

Mike McKinley, Neuqua Valley, senior pitcher
Ryan Wagner, Neuqua Valley, senior second baseman
Joe Ippolito, Neuqua Valley, junior outfielder
Mike Gerber, Neuqua Valley, junior outfielder

Kris Singh, Waubonsie Valley, junior first baseman
*Sam Carius, Waubonsie Valley, junior third baseman
*Kevin Kirchner, Waubonsie Valley, senior outfielder

* = Unanimous selection

Today we look at the brutal Lockport Sectional, which could produce the eventual Class 4A champion. Naperville North and host Naperville Central are stuck in the same regional. Benet might have to go through top-seed Lincoln-Way East. Once Neuqua Valley and Waubonsie Valley decide the Upstate Eight Conference race, neither team will have an easy draw in the postseason.

The pairings can be found here. What are your predictions?

1. Lincoln-Way East
2. Naperville North
3. Lockport*
4. Plainfield North
5. Neuqua Valley*
6. Downers Grove South
7. Naperville Central*
8. Benet
9. Joliet
10. Hinsdale Central
11. Waubonsie Valley
12. Romeoville
13. Lyons
14. Plainfield Central
15. Plainfield South
16. Providence Catholic
17. Downers Grove North
18. Lincoln-Way Central
19. Oswego East
20. Bolingbrook
21. Hinsdale South
22. East Aurora

*Before the IHSA went to a four-class system last season, the final three Class AA state champions were: Neuqua (2007), Central (2006) and Lockport (2005).

As reported earlier, Neuqua Valley forward Derek Raridon was voted the Upstate Eight Conference's player of the year. Here is the rest of the UEC list:

Ryan Boatright, East Aurora sophomore guard +
Tramell Weathersby, East Aurora junior forward
Marc Little, Bartlett senior guard +*
Luke Labedzki, Bartlett junior guard +
Tom Roth, Elgin senior guard
Dwayne Evans, Neuqua Valley junior forward +
Kareem Amedu, Neuqua Valley junior forward

Alex Sanchez, South Elgin senior guard
Kevin Senechalle, St. Charles East senior center +
Nick Neari, St. Charles North senior guard +
Jon DeMoss, St. Charles North senior guard +
Tem Esikiel, Streamwood senior guard +*
Jelani Johnson, Waubonsie Valley senior forward +

+Unanimous choice
*All-conference in 2007-08 season

Derek Raridon had a big night Tuesday at the Oswego East Sectional, as the 6-foot-6-inch Neuqua Valley forward exploded for 25 points to key a 69-49 victory over Plainfield North. Raridon is a coach's son, but sometimes that's a euphemism for "not athletic." Make no mistake, Raridon can play - the senior was the Upstate Eight Conference player of the year.

For background on this basketball family, be sure to check out Matt Bailey's piece, which details the father-son/coach-player relationship between Todd and Mitch Raridon at North Central College.

"It gets emotional when you see your kid come in as a freshman, those four years go by so quick," Todd said. "I always told my (players) that, but until you experience it with your own son, you don't quite realize just how fast it is."

It will start all over again next season, when Derek goes to play for his father at North Central.

Waubonsie Valley placed two players and Neuqua Valley one on the All-Upstate Eight Conference girls basketball team.

Senior Rachel Bostick and freshman Keiera Ray earned the nod from Waubonsie, while Neuqua senior Morgan Williams was also honored.

Waubonsie Valley placed two players and Neuqua Valley one on the All-Upstate Eight Conference girls basketball team.

Senior Rachel Bostick and freshman Keiera Ray earned the nod from Waubonsie, while Neuqua senior Morgan Williams was also honored.

Not that there was ever any doubt, but Neuqua Valley definitely looks ready for the postseason.

By now, it's used to games like this. The Wildcats dismantled Larkin on Friday night in Naperville, cruising to a 90-55 victory that gave them the Upstate Eight Conference championship outright. That makes it two UEC titles in a row, and four in the last five years.

Against an overmatched Larkin team (7-19, 1-9) on senior night, 11 Wildcats scored, again showing balance with seven finishing between nine and 13 points. They forced 12 first-half turnovers that helped key a 32-14 run through the second quarter.

Forward Dwayne Evans led the way with 13 points and nine rebounds, while forward Derek Raridon added 11. Guard Steve Waeghe and center Kareem Amedu each finished with 10. Chris Sutter, Ryan Wagner and Rahjan Muhammad each had nine.

Neuqua (27-1, 9-1) has now won 19 consecutive games and is the top seed in the Oswego East Sectional, which begins Monday. It awaits the winner of the Naperville North-Benet opening-round game. Legal pads in hand, both schools were out scouting at Neuqua on Friday night.

State tournament projections came bubbling up after Neuqua Valley's 39-point win at Downers Grove South on Saturday, but overlooked in that was how the Wildcats now can win the Upstate Eight Conference outright. They can thank South Elgin, which on Friday handed St. Charles North its second conference loss.

Neuqua (26-1, 8-1) can clinch it outright with a victory Friday against visiting Larkin (6-18). That means a team that hasn't lost a game since December against a team that hasn't won a game since that very same month. Last season Neuqua earned the title with a win on Larkin's floor in the regular-season finale.

Jelani Johnson.jpgTo get an idea of where Waubonsie Valley was - and where it could be going - compare last week's column off the Conference Challenge Classic and Thursday's Focus piece.

The Warriors (12-11, 4-3) are back above the .500 level with three Upstate Eight Conference games remaining: vs. Elgin (10-14, 2-6) on Friday; at South Elgin (15-6, 4-2) on Feb. 25; and vs. St. Charles East (8-15, 3-5).

That 18-point loss to York could have been a nice showcase game. There weren't many other distractions the first Sunday after the Super Bowl, and Waubonsie was playing on the big floor at Loyola University. Instead, it fell to what Waubonsie coach Steve Weemer described as "an ultimate low."

Weemer asked the same question he's presented to previous teams: "I just old our guys - (the seniors) - 'What kind of mark are you going to leave at Waubonsie?'"

We'll find out over the next few weeks. Waubonsie is seeded No. 12 seed in the Oswego East Sectional and will face No. 21 Wheaton North (7-15) in the opening round. A win there at the East Aurora Regional and it advances to face fifth-seeded Plainfield North.

"(We're) right at the .500 mark. (We're) right in the middle of everything," said Waubonsie senior forward Jelani Johnson (pictured). "Hopefully, we'll get that win and then we'll (play) Plainfield North and show everybody else what we got."

Joaquin Phoenix wowed us all with his Andy Kaufman act, hip-hop dreams and ability to mumble and chew gum at the same time while crushing it on "Late Show with David Letterman." That's a good run, but which one of these area teams had the Best Week Ever?

-Neuqua Valley (25-1) wins its 17th consecutive game, blows out Geneva and Lake Park by a combined 36 points, earns the No. 1 seed in the Oswego East Sectional and finds out East Aurora is unraveling. The Wildcats, who are ranked 10th by the Chicago Sun-Times, are now atop the Upstate Eight Conference alongside St. Charles North. Both teams have one loss, while East Aurora has two after weekend losses to Bartlett and Waubonsie Valley.

Best Week Ever.jpg

-Naperville Central (21-2, 11-0) clinched at least a share of its second-straight DuPage Valley Conference championship with a with a 69-55 victory over Glenbard North on Friday night in Carol Stream. The Redhawks also learned they will be a No. 2 seed in the Oswego East Sectional and moved up to No. 20 in the Sun-Times poll.

-Waubonsie Valley (12-11) may have turned its entire season around with weekend victories over Dundee-Crown and East Aurora. The Warriors climbed above the .500 mark and Beacon News hoops guru Rick Armstrong thinks a regional title is a possibility.

-Benet beats Nazareth - the program first-year Redwings coach Gene Heidkamp used to run - by 23 points on Friday night and then follows it up a day later with a 61-47 rivalry game win over St. Francis at Benedictine. Now the Redwings are 10-12 - 5-6 in the East Suburban Catholic Conference - with another winnable game coming up Tuesday night at Wheaton North (6-15).

Neuqua Valley is bracing for another Waubonsie Valley invasion on Friday night. You figure that Waubonsie (8-6) knows the Wildcats as well as anyone, but they get away from the Upstate Eight Conference for the rest of the holiday weekend. Neuqua travels to Hononegah in Rockton for the Martin Luther King Classic, and it should be a good test for a 14-1 team.

"The timing is great," Hononegah coach Mike Miller told the Rockford Register Star. "It's a situation in which a lot of people are looking to upgrade their schedule and try to play against some great competition about a month or so before tournament time gets into full swing. You want to test yourself against the best, and that is what this tournament has grown into."

The Register Star lists the schedule for the Hononegah MLK Tournament:

Saturday, Jan. 17
Hoffman Estates vs. Neuqua Valley, 9:30 a.m.

Guilford vs. Normal Community, 11 a.m.
Normal West vs. Hononegah, 12:30 p.m.
Sterling vs. Zion-Benton, 2 p.m.
Neuqua Valley vs. Guilford, 3:30 p.m.
Normal Community vs. Hoffman Estates, 5 p.m.
Zion-Benton vs. Normal West, 6:30 p.m.
Hononegah vs.Sterling, 8 p.m.

Monday, Jan. 19
Normal West vs. Guilford, 9:30 a.m.
Hoffman Estates vs. Hononegah, 11 a.m.
Normal Community vs. Sterling, 12:30 p.m.
Zion-Benton vs. Neuqua Valley, 2 p.m.
Sterling vs. Normal West, 3:30 p.m.
Neuqua Valley vs. Normal Community, 5 p.m.
Guilford vs. Hoffman Estates, 6:30 (in dome)
Hononegah vs. Zion-Benton, 6:30



Brad Engel

Brad Engel is the longest-tenured member of The Sun sports staff and has won several national and state awards in his coverage of preps as well as the Chicago Bears, Chicago Fire and general sports.

Patrick Mooney

Patrick Mooney covered politics, prep sports and professional baseball for several print and online media outlets before joining The Sun in August 2007. He concentrates on prep sports, writing features, profiles and breaking recruiting news.

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