Boys varsity basketball racks up wins as season progresses

Team ranks under 20th in state, shoots for conference title, success in state


Niklas Polonowski ’23 shoots a basket in Jan. 22 game against Proviso East (Chomko/LION).

Brooke Chomko, Sports Editor

Typically a solid team, boys varsity basketball has had an especially exciting season with a record of 20 to 5 and ranking eight in the state, according to MaxPreps as of Feb. 10. The team continues to progress into their season with some big wins behind them, including making it to the championship games of all three of the tournaments they’ve played in so far, and winning two of them overall.

“I think [their ranking] is just a credit to our guys for playing very well so far this season,” head varsity coach Tom Sloan said. “We’ve played a very competitive schedule and we’ve beaten some very good teams.”

In order to have this level of success, the team has been focusing on the fundamentals during practices, Sloan said. 

“Usually, the teams that can dribble, pass, catch, shoot, rebound, and defend at a high level are going to have success,” Sloan said. “We try not to complicate things very much on [offense and] defense with things that the kids need to memorize or get confused about, but allow them to play with some freedom, and the kids have done a good job embracing that.”

The win against rival Hinsdale Central on Dec. 10 stood out because of the support from the fans, which was lost last year due to COVID-19, point-guard Tavari Johnson ‘22 said. 

“It was really cool to beat them at their place,” Johnson said. “We haven’t had a game that packed against Hinsdale since [my] sophomore year, so it’s [a] good feeling to come back to their house [and] beat them at their home court.”

Shooting guard and power forward Niklas Polonowski ’23 echoes Sloan’s sentiments that a lot of the strategy this year has been simple, stepping back and letting stand out players like Johnson and Billy Bach ‘22 do their thing.

“There’s a whole lot of talent on the team this year,” Polonowski said. “With that much talent, comes different plays where guys like Tavari [and] Billy can do their own thing. We’re fine with that because a play where we get a bucket is a play where we get a bucket, two points is two points.”

Although it may seem the team just got lucky with the level of talent this year, the program has known for a few years that this year’s group would be successful, Polonowski said. In the 2019-2020 season, the seniors at the time pulled the underclassmen aside and told them to start working on it now, so the team could be good in the future, he said.

“That [guidance] brought a lot of great relationships and opportunities and a lot of bonds that couldn’t be broken,” Polonowski said. “The seniors definitely helped us out with that one.”

A goal the team has for the remainder of the season is to do well in their remaining conference games, Sloan said. From there, the goal is to win the regional tournament on Feb. 23 and 25 and advance as far as possible in the state tournament on March 11 and 12. 

“It’s always a challenge,” Sloan said. “It doesn’t matter if we’re playing the number one team in the league, or teams that are down towards the bottom, everybody in our league is good. It’s a really competitive schedule, and we’re hoping that we can hang in there and give ourselves a shot.”