Two of the nation’s top four teams need overtime to gut out playoff victories, including top-ranked Curie of Chicago, which had to go to four overtimes to pull out a dramatic victory over No. 8 Whitney Young for the Chicago Public League crown. No. 4 Mater Dei of Santa Ana (Calif.), meanwhile, needs an extra four minutes to win its CIF Southern Section Open Division playoff opener. Neither team drops in the FAB 50, but Curie’s victory is clouded by eligibility issues that could potentially derail a championship season.
By Ronnie Flores & Mark Tennis
Contributing: Doug Huff
The playoffs are supposed to provide serious tests for the nation’s top-ranked teams in the Student Sports FAB 50 national boys basketball rankings, but what we followed last Friday wasn’t something we see often.
FAB 50 No. 1 Curie of Chicago needed an incredible four overtimes to outlast No. 8 Whitney Young 69-66 to win its first-ever city title. Senior guard Kamar Marshall only attempted one field goal, but he made it count by nailing a 3-pointer from the right corner with .9 seconds remaining in the fourth overtime to keep the Condors unbeaten with Mr. Basketball USA front-runner Cliff Alexander in the lineup. Alexander finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds while senior guard Joseph Stamps netted a team-high 24 points.
Whitney Young was led by Georgetown bound Paul White with 21 points and 13 rebounds while the Dolphins’ own national player of the year candidate, Duke-bound Jahlil Okafor, fouled out in regulation. Okafor finished with 16 points and eight rebounds.
Speaking of Mr. Basketball USA candidates, Stanley Johnson of No. 4 Mater Dei was held to 17 points (eight below his average) and one field goal in the second half against upset-minded and unranked Cantwell Sacred Heart (Montebello, Calif.). The Cardinals sent the contest to overtime on a late field goal by Abraham Rodriguez, but Mater Dei made its free throws in the extra period to pull out the 66-59 victory.
While Curie beat another top 10 nationally ranked foe and still owns the big win over No. 2 Montverde Academy (whose regular season is now complete), Mater Dei’s scare means the Monarchs won’t flip-flop in the rankings just yet with No. 3 Rainier Beach (Seattle). They are going to have to decisively defeat unranked Mayfair (Lakewood, Calif.) in the CIF Southern Section Open Division quarterfinals and potentially beat a FAB 50 ranked team in the semifinals in order for that to take place.
Shot Clock Blues
There has been growing momentum, mainly through social media, to make a shot clock standard in interscholastic boys games in all 50 states. Currently, only seven states — California, Massachusetts, New York, North Dakota, Rhode Island, South Dakota, and Washington — use a shot clock for boys basketball as the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) voted down a proposal on the issue in 2012.
The hype surrounding the 2014 Chicago Public League title game between Curie and Whitney Young was a big platform for advocates of the shot clock nationwide. Curie did let Whitney Yong back in the game to force overtime because of missed free throws, but it’s doubtful the game would have needed four overtimes if a shot clock was used. In the first overtime, the two teams combined for five possessions and things didn’t get much better from there for fans at Chicago State or the ESPN3 audience.
Perhaps games such as this one will keep the issue in the forefront since it would be a shame to see a team battling for a mythical FAB 50 national title win — or lose — a key game in which stall ball is the main storyline instead of the players and game action.
And Now The Sticky Stuff
Curie might be lucky it won in four overtimes considering the circumstances surrounding Friday’s CPL title game. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Curie arrived hours late to the title game and hadn’t yet arrived when Whitney Young took the floor to warm up. The reason for the delay is that Curie was being investigated for possibly using an ineligible player, a Chicago Public Schools spokesperson confirmed to the newspaper. The Condors were allowed to play without a ruling and as of Monday afternoon, the CPS hadn’t issued a statement on the investigation that was prompted by an anonymous e-mail.
Curie, for now, is the top seed in the Class 4A Marist Sectional with the IHSA monitoring the outcome of the CPL’s investigation. The Class 4A state playoffs begin March 3.
“The Chicago Public Schools Athletic Administration has been in touch with the IHSA regarding its investigation into Curie,” IHSA spokesman Matt Troha said in a statement to the media. “We are awaiting the results of that investigation and will continue to work in conjunction with CPS officials moving forward.”
As we broke it down in last week’s FAB 50, a forfeit loss (or losses) is noted on a team’s record but we count on-court results only with regards to administrative matters such as the situation involving Curie. The Condors defeated Whitney Young on the court and that won’t change in our eyes as national rankings compilers should Curie be stripped of its first-ever city title.
However, if Curie is not allowed to play in the state tournament, it would impact its national rankings positioning. Overall strength of schedule is a factor in determining the end-of-season No. 1 team and if Curie doesn’t play in any more games, other top five teams could potentially hop the Condors as they play and defeat tough competition.
On the court, Curie doesn’t have an easy road to a Class 4A state title — that’s a main reason why it ascended to the No. 1 spot in the first place. Without playing those games and winning a state title, its resume as the nation’s No. 1 team would clearly get weakened.
Updated Student Sports FAB 50
Boys Basketball National Team Rankings
(Ninth poll of the 2013-14 regular season; Through games played on Sunday, February 23; Previous ranking in parentheses)
[table id=36 /]
Dropped Out: Previous No. 37 Sierra Canyon (Chatsworth, Calif.); No. 43 Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, Pa.).
Bubble Teams: Allentown Central Catholic (Allentown, Pa.) 25-0; Archbishop Carroll (Radnor, Pa.) 20-4; Ballard (Louisville, Ky.) 31-5; Blue Valley Northwest (Overland Park, Kan.) 16-2; Capital Christian (Sacramento, Calif.) 24-3; Chaminade (St. Louis, Mo.) 21-2; Chino Hills (Chino Hills, Calif.) 24-4; De Soto (De Soto, Texas) 28-3; East Side (Newark, N.J.) 19-1; Eastside (Paterson, N.J.) 19-1; Fossil Ridge (Fort Collins, Colo.) 23-0; Garfield (Seattle, Wash.) 23-1; Greensboro Day (Greensboro, N.C.) 29-5; J.W. North (Riverside, Calif.) 25-0*; Jackson (Mill Creek, Wash.) 22-1; Johnson (St. Paul, Minn.) 25-2; Jonesboro (Jonesboro, Ark.) 23-3; Lanphier (Springfield, Ill.) 25-0; Linden (Linden, N.J.) 18-3; Marian Catholic (Chicago Heights, Ill.) 23-2; McComb (McComb, Miss.) 26-1; New Castle (New Castle, Pa.) 24-0; North Little Rock (North Little Rock, Ark.) 21-2; North Shore (Galena Park, Texas) 30-3; O’Connell (Arlington, Va.) 17-10; Orr (Chicago, Ill.) 20-4; Patrick School (Elizabeth, N.J.) 18-5; Pleasant Grove (Pleasant Grove, Utah) 20-2; St. Edward (Lakewood, Ohio) 20-2; St. Joseph (Metuchen, N.J.) 22-2; Washington (Charles Town, W. Va.) 18-0; Wesleyan Christian Academy (High Point, N.C.) 24-9; Westchester (Los Angeles, Calif.) 26-5; West Linn (West Linn, Ore.) 18-4.
Note: The STUDENT SPORTS FAB 50 is a continuation of the National Sports News Service ratings that began in 1952. These were the first national high school rankings and they were compiled by the late Art Johlfs of Minnesota. They were compiled for many years by the late Barry Sollenberger of Phoenix, who merged them into the FAB 50 14 years ago.