Goss: Lemont, Providence could be factors in 3A hoopsKevin Kozan (center) has been a team leader this season for Providence.
| Mary Beth Nolan~For Sun-Times Media
Will any of our teams do anything in the postseason?
Boys basketball fans in our area have asked me that many times in the last couple of weeks as we delve into the second half of the season.
Their concern generally is the sectionals in Class 4A, which are at Lockport and East Aurora.
Our top candidates to make a run at Lockport are the Porters, Joliet West and Minooka, plus perhaps Plainfield South or Plainfield Central. But with Andrew, Bloom, Homewood-Flossmoor, Crete-Monee, Marian Catholic and Sandburg also in the sectional, whoever gets through will have earned it.
At East Aurora, unbeaten Plainfield East is headed toward one of the top seeds, perhaps No. 1, and will have a shot at winning the sectional. Metea Valley, West Aurora, Downers Grove South and Benet are others to watch. And if Bolingbrook plays well, the Raiders are capable of making a run.
For anyone with thoughts of making noise in either sectional, it’s important to play well between now and the Feb. 9 online seeding that will be done by the coaches. Because only one 1-4 seed and only one 5-8 seed will be in each regional, there could be a significant difference between the road faced by a No. 4 seed opposed to a No. 5 seed, or a No. 8 seed opposed to a No. 9 seed.
All that said, I admit guilt in overlooking two area teams that could be major factors in Class 3A. Lemont (14-2) and Providence (10-5) both could get good seeds in the Rich East Sectional if they play well between now and Feb. 9. Other top teams in the sectional include Hillcrest, Rich South, Morgan Park and Harlan.
Junior point guard Juozas Balciunas has been a key for Lemont. He transferred from St. Joseph for this season and has helped transform coach Rick Runaas’ team into a smooth operation. The Indians can hurt you from outside and get the ball inside if you contest the perimeter.
Lemont was an afterthought in the preseason as nobody was predicting the Indians would be a factor in the South Suburban Blue race. But those expectations apparently were off base.
A junior point guard also has been a key for Providence as Kevin Kozan has taken his game up a notch. With varsity veterans Brian Oddo and Mike Marietti also playing well, the Celtics are heading in a positive direction.
I talked with coach Tim Trendel at the WJOL Thanksgiving Classic at University of St. Francis. He mentioned then that he felt he had a team capable of progressing and being a factor in the 3A playoffs.
As is the case with area teams in 4A, Lemont and Providence both could help their postseason cause by playing well between now and Feb. 9, when the seeding is done. If Providence could manage a top-four seed, that would be huge since the Celtics then would be the highest seed in the regional they will host.
There are games to negotiate Friday night with Lemont facing Oak Forest and Providence visiting Mount Carmel. But once those are in the books, an interesting match-up looms Tuesday as the Celtics travel to Lemont.
It will be a battle of the point guards, Balciunas against Kozan, but a whole lot more. Providence, especially, may position itself for a better sectional seed with a victory.
Condolences go out to the Joliet Township athletic family on two major losses as Peg Bryan passed away Monday and Doug Ziech died Wednesday.
Bryan, who battled cancer for more than a decade, was the always-present scorekeeper for JT girls and boys volleyball — at both campuses — ever since her daughter Connie, a 15-year-old volleyball player at Joliet Central, was killed when she was struck by a car while riding her bicycle in August 1988.
Last year, the Illinois Athletic Directors Association selected Bryan to receive the prestigious Friends of Athletics Award. Central athletic director Steve Locke said then that in his 12 years of involvement in high school athletics, he had “never met a more giving person that Peg Bryan.”
Ziech, a 1962 graduate, was a basketball standout, scoring 38 points in the sectional in his final high school game, and also a very good baseball player. He went on to start in both sports at Knox College. In fact, he once pitched complete games in both ends of a doubleheader for Knox.
Ziech helped coin the phrase “Steelmen Forever” and was chairman of the “Save Central” committee in the early 1980s, when his write-in campaign kept the school from closing. He remained a strong supporter of Joliet Central and Joliet Township athletics until the end.
“He was just an exceptional guy. His heart was with that school,” former athletic director Paul Morzorati said.
Visitation for both Bryan and Ziech is from 2 to 8 p.m. Friday, Bryan at Carlson-Holmquist-Sayles Funeral Home, 2320 Black Road, and Ziech at Blackburn-Giergerich-Sonntag Funeral Home, 1500 Black Road.