By Matt Nestor
Prep Sports Reporter
Before the season started, every NIC-10 coach said it could possibly be the most even conference season ever.
So far, that has absolutely been the case.
As teams get ready to enter the final weekend of conference games before Christmas breaks and tournaments begin, there is a cluster at the top of the conference that doesn’t appear to be breaking any time soon.
“It is going to be incredibly balanced,” said Rockton Hononegah Head Coach Mike Miller. “I think there is upwards of six or seven teams that can probably win it this year.”
After the opening weekend, Belvidere, Rockford Boylan Catholic and Rockford East all were undefeated, while Hononegah, Rockford Auburn and Belvidere North all sat at 1-1.
Boylan and East played a down-to-the-wire game that the Titans won 73-70 in a matchup of preseason favorites. The E-Rabs had chances down the stretch of the game, giving them reason to believe they are far from out of this race.
In the opening weekend of conference play, many thought Belvidere looked like the best team. They went on the road and won at Hononegah to open conference play, and followed that up with another road win at Machesney Park Harlem.
So, with their first home conference game coming against Rockford Guilford, all looked well. But the 0-2 Vikings had other plans, storming back from a deficit in the fourth quarter to pull off a 58-56 victory.
Meanwhile, Auburn was taking care of business against Harlem in a tough-fought 8-point win, and the Blue Thunder dismantled Freeport for both teams to pull to 2-1.
After going 1-1 on the first weekend, Hononegah needed overtime to send Rockford Jefferson to an 0-3 record when many thought the J-Hawks could win the conference.
The Indians then sat at 2-1 as they prepared to host Boylan. The Titans appeared poised to take control of the conference sitting at 3-0.
Hononegah trailed Boylan for most of the first three quarters. But the Indians took control of the game and knocked off Boylan, putting both teams at 3-1.
In all, six teams now sit with one loss in the conference. Boylan and Hononegah have played an extra game and sit with three wins, while Auburn, Belvidere, East and Belvidere North all sit at 2-1. Guilford and Harlem are 1-2, while Jefferson and Freeport are 0-3.
Going into the break, Hononegah will play East, and North will play Boylan on Friday, Dec. 14. Guilford will also take on Auburn as they look for another upset.
It also means for the first time in several seasons, there will be a lot of uncertainty heading into holiday tournaments with several teams looking to figure things out before an entertaining stretch run in the conference.
From the Dec. 12-18, 2012, issue