NORMAL — Chicago Bogan is ranked second in the state, has a 28-3 record and upset top-ranked and two-time defending Class 3A state champion Chicago Morgan Park in the sectional final.
The Bengals have a 6-foot-8 star in the middle in Rashaun Agee and a guard, Jordan Booker, who lit up Morgan Park for 30 points.
Andrew McDowell is aware of all that. So are his University High School players heading into Tuesday’s Class 3A Joliet Central Super-Sectional against Bogan.
None of it mattered Monday as the unranked Pioneers (24-9) prepared for the 7 p.m. game.
“Our players at practice today … they believe,” McDowell said. “We believe we’re going to win. Maybe it’s only us that thinks that, but that’s all we need is us believing in ourselves.”
U High has stoked its belief by knocking off No. 2 sectional seed Kankakee, No. 1 seed Hillcrest and Rich Central on the way to its first 3A sectional title.
The challenge against Bogan starts with Agee, a first-team All-City and All-Area pick in Chicago averaging 24 points, 16 rebounds and three assists.
Still undecided on a college, Agee was in foul trouble against Morgan Park, fouled out with five minutes left and had just four points in the 85-78 win.
McDowell said Agee reminds him of some players U High has faced in recent years in the Intercity Tournament, namely 6-7 CJ Wilbourn of Normal Community, 6-7 Chris Payton of Bloomington and 6-9 Francis Okoro of Normal West.
“He’s really big and he’s really active like those guys,” McDowell said. “He’s that type of body and he jumps well and moves well.
“It’s going to be key for us to try to limit him and limit his offensive rebounds. And when he touches it, we have to make sure we’re in position to defend him.”
Bogan complements Agee with Booker, a 5-9 senior averaging 16 points and five assists. Another guard, Antoine Bloxton, scored 20 in the win over Morgan Park.
McDowell described Booker as “quick and attack-minded,” adding, “He’s strong and he defends the ball really well.”
“If he takes 10 3s, we’ll feel like we did a good job on him,” McDowell said. “We’ll try to take away the paint and make them jump shooters. They’re a really, really good team. But we have a game plan and our kids will go out and execute it.
“That’s one thing they’ve really done well this season. Whatever the game plan is, they trust it and believe in it and execute it.”
U High has been led inside by 6-4 senior Nate Torres, a 55 percent field goal shooter averaging 18 points and seven rebounds. Junior guard Alex Wood has made more than 60 3-pointers while adding 13 points, four rebounds and three assists per game.
Junior guard Drew Wollenschlager has averaged 12 points, five rebounds and 2.5 assists, including a game-high 24 points in Friday’s 61-48 sectional final win over Rich Central.
Wood points to chemistry as a big part of U High’s run, saying, “This is my first time being with a group of guys like this. We really enjoy playing together. We’re playing hard. We know we’re representing our school and our community, so we come in and work every day. It’s a lot of fun.”
What will it take to continue the joy ride? McDowell said the blueprint is familiar.
“The main points the last few games have been to defend with toughness, value possessions and defensive rebound,” he said. “If we do those things … if we can defend in the halfcourt, value possessions and limit them to one shot, I think we have a really good chance to win.”
The winner advances to Friday’s 11 a.m. state semifinal against DePaul College Prep of Chicago at Peoria’s Carver Arena.
DePaul College Prep will not have to play a super-sectional because of a fight that broke out late in the North Lawndale Sectional final between Chicago North Lawndale and Chicago Farragut. The game was declared a double forfeit by the IHSA and DePaul Prep, winner of the Grayslake Central Sectional, advanced into the semifinals.