Neuqua Valley’s John Poulakidas (32) shoots the ball over Lockport. | Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times
The Sun-Times is counting down the 50 high school basketball programs with the most wins during the decade. When high school basketball fans think back to the 1980s, programs like Quincy, Providence St. Mel, East St. Louis Lincoln and the arrival of city powers King and Simeon are easy to think back on.
The 1990s brought us memorable basketball giants in Peoria Manual and Thornton, a few steamrolling Proviso East teams and the continued dominance of King.
The first 10 years of the 2000s included Glenbrook North, Peoria High and the beginning of a Simeon juggernaut.
Now, with the calendar inching closer to wrapping up an unforgettable 2020, the end of this month closes out another decade. And it’s another high school basketball time period to look back on.
Earlier this year we broke down the decade’s best teams and best players. Now, with every season of the past decade complete, it’s time to look at the Chicago area programs who won the most.
This list is comprised of the 50 winningest programs over the past 10 years, starting with the 2010-11 season and concluding with the 2019-20 season. Every team in every class throughout the Chicago area will be broken down in a variety of ways. But total wins, with winning percentage used as tie-breaker, determined the rankings.
We made a mistake in our initial calculations and missed Neuqua Valley. So we are popping back to No. 39 today to correct the mistake and will continue the countdown with No. 32 tomorrow.
39. NEUQUA VALLEY: 189-119
Decade’s biggest storyline: The 2012-13 season, which began with a program-best 15-0 record to start the season, was a memorable one. It included winning 28 games –– the second most in program history –– an Upstate Eight Valley Conference championship and a regional title.
Plus, Neuqua, led that season by standout point guard Jabari Sandifer, enjoyed the added pleasure of beating rival Waubonsie Valley three times in a season, including a 69-61 win in the regional championship. The Wildcats ultimately fell to Benet in the sectional semifinals.
Underrated decade highlight: The record-breaking John Poulakidas. The Player of the Decade, Poulakidas, who is a current senior headed to Yale next year, is just 70 points shy of breaking the career scoring record with a season to play. In three seasons the 6-5 wing has scored 1,221 career points. Poulakidas also set the single-game scoring record this past season when he went for 49 points against Bolingbrook.
Sun-Times file photo
Neuqua Valley’s Jabari Sandifer passes the ball during their game against East Aurora in 2011.
Player of the Decade: John Poulakidas (2021)
All-Decade Team: Jabari Sandifer (2013), Connor Raridon (2014), Demond George (2015), Blaise Meredith (2017) and John Poulakidas (2021)
Other decade news and highlights
-The Wildcats won conference championships in 2013, 2014 and 2015 while winning regional titles in 2013, 2015 and 2020.
-The 2014-15 team reached the sectional championship game where it lost 59-56 to Bolingbrook.
-Jabari Sandifer, who went on to play at Western Illinois, set the the career record for most assists with 370.
-Neuqua is following up a previous decade in which it averaged 24 wins a season.
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