CSN's Top 20 basketball rankings

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CSN's Top 20 basketball rankings

By Joe Collins and Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

1 Simeon (20-1)

Results: Defeated Bogan 68-57 and Harlan 81-59

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Point guard Jaleni Neely, back from an ACL tear last summer, will be playing a major role for the Wolverines down the stretch.

The Drive: Watch the latest behind-the-scenes webisode on Simeon here.
2 Proviso East (17-0)

Results: Defeated Addison Trail 79-36

This Week: Friday vs. Hinsdale South, Saturday at Proviso West

Hoops Talk: Keith Carter sat out vs. A-T, but Sterling Browns efforts (17 points, 12 rebounds) pave the way to another easy conference victory.
3 Curie (20-1)

Results: Defeated Kenwood 49-46, Harper 82-30 and Leo 60-46

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Behind Cliff Alexander and Devin Foster, the Condors could do serious damage in the playoffs, both Public League and IHSA.
4 Warren (15-2)

Results: Defeated Stevenson 64-38 and Mundelein 87-78

This Week: Friday at Lake Forest, Saturday at Zion-Benton

Hoops Talk: Two double-doubles for center Nathan Booth this week and Darius Paul netted a career-high 30 points Saturday against Mundelein

5 Andrew (16-0)

Results: Defeated Tinley Park 58-37, Lincoln-Way West 66-30 and Thornwood 48-45

This Week: Tuesday vs. Thornton, Friday at Stagg

Hoops Talk: Andrew was in need of another marquee win. They got it Sunday in South Holland and it now places them in control of the Southwest Suburban Red.
6 Plainfield East (17-1)
Results: Oswego East 56-55, Oswego 66-63 and Plainfield South 84-66

This Week: Tuesday at Plainfield Central, Friday vs. Minooka and Saturday vs. Naperville North

Hoops Talk: A couple of close calls this week, but the Bengals hold serve in the Southwest Prairie conference behind Dee Brown and Brian Bennett.

7 Bogan (19-2)

Results: Lost to Simeon 68-57

This Week: TBA (Public League Playoffs)

Hoops Talk: Nice second half comeback wasnt enough against the top-ranked Wolverines. They will still be a tough out in the playoffs.

8 New Trier (18-2)
Results: Defeated Glenbrook South 60-54

This Week: Friday vs. Waukegan, Saturday vs. St. Ignatius (at Loyola)

Hoops Talk: The Trevians will enjoy some home cooking before five straight away from Winnetka. Saturdays game against the Wolfpack will be one to watch.
9 Elgin (16-2)

Results: Lost to St. Charles North 55-53

This Week: Friday at St. Charles East

Hoops Talk: Kory Brown scored 23 points but it was not enough as the Maroons have their 12-game winning streak snapped.
10 De La Salle (14-3)

Results: Lost to St. Joseph 68-61; Defeated Loyola 52-33

This Week: Friday at St. Rita

Hoops Talk: Interesting finish to the regular season for the Meteors, whose last five games include three against teams currently ranked in the CSN Top 20.
11 Downers Grove South (15-4)

Results: Defeated Hinsdale South 55-52 and Morton 57-46

This Week: Tuesday vs. Addison Trail, Friday at Willowbrook, Saturday vs. Downers Grove North

Hoops Talk: Jordan Cannon and Kevin Honn came up big in Jerron Wilbuts absence (two-game suspension).

12 Huntley (17-2)
Results: Defeated Cary-Grove 41-32 and Dundee-Crown 45-40

This Week: Tuesday at Prairie Ridge, Friday at McHenry

Hoops Talk: The Red Raiders are now in the drivers seat in the Fox Valley Valley conference after Saturdays triumph over Dundee-Crown.

13 St. Ignatius (15-2)

Results: Defeated Hales 56-43

This Week: Tuesday at Leo, Friday vs. Fenwick, Saturday vs. New Trier (at Loyola)

Hoops Talk: Marty McClure and Peter Ryckbosch each tallied 12 points against Hales. The Wolfpack will face a battle in all three games this week.

14 Whitney Young (10-7)

Results: Defeated Collins 93-31 and Soldan International Studies MO 53-46

This Week: Tuesday at North Lawndale, Thursday vs. Crane

Hoops Talk: The Dolphins continue to roll behind sophomore phenom Jahlil Okafor. He had 15 points against Soldan.
15 Metea Valley (18-1)

Results: Defeated Bartlett 90-53 and South Elgin 58-53

This Week: Wednesday vs. Neuqua Valley, Saturday at Hinsdale Central

Hoops Talk: The Mustangs compiled a 28-0 run against Bartlett. Kenny Obendorf and Milan Bojanic continue to impress in the Upstate Eight.

16 Hillcrest (17-4)

Results: Defeated Crete-Monee 70-60 and T.F. North 74-41

This Week: Friday at Oak Forest

Hoops Talk: The Hawks duo of Jalen Loving and Jovan Mooring have been giving opponents fits this season.

17 Bloom (17-3)
Results: Defeated Homewood-Flossmoor 63-56, Rich Central 69-41

This Week: Tuesday at Kankakee, Friday vs. Rich East

Hoops Talk: Johnny Griffin, Lejavious Johnson and Donald Moore help keep the Blazing Trojans motoring in the south suburbs.

18 Orr (16-3)
Results: Defeated Marshall 68-50, Hales 51-37

This Week: vs. Westinghouse, then Public League Playoffs

Hoops Talk: Marquise Pryor and Deshawn King are two of the reasons that the high-flying Spartans have stood out in the mighty Red-West conference.

19 Hope Academy (19-2)

Results: Defeated Lake Forest Academy 77-71 2 OT, Chicagoland Jewish 72-46 and St. Benedict 75-70

This Week: No games scheduled this week

Hoops Talk: No Jalen James? No problem. Alex Houston, Torrance Johnson and Tyrone Smith could help blaze a trail downstate.

20 Lemont (18-2)

Results: Defeated Providence 70-65, Bremen 56-34 and Oak Forest 69-62

This Week: Friday vs. Tinley Park

Hoops Talk: Yes, another basketball power resides in the South Suburban-Blue besides Hillcrest. Junior guard Juozas Balciunnas is having a fine season.
Looming & Lurking: Marshall, Crane, Farragut, Naperville North, West Aurora, Seton, Foreman, Schaumburg, Rolling Meadows, Mundelein, Homewood-Flossmoor, Notre Dame, North Chicago, Riverside-Brookfield, Crete-Monee, St. Viator, Oak Park, Glenbard West, Herscher, Immaculate Conception, Joliet West, York

Veljko Paunovic: 'We conceded too many innocent mistakes' in New York

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Veljko Paunovic: 'We conceded too many innocent mistakes' in New York

Major League Soccer is very forgiving when it comes to the playoff race. Even now, with less than a month left in the season, every team is mathematically still alive.

However, the Chicago Fire are in last place in the league and are falling out of contact with the teams just above them in the standings. The Fire have 27 points and are five points behind the closest teams, Houston and Columbus, which have both won two games in a row.

With that in mind, coach Veljko Paunovic seems to have slightly changed his tone regarding the team and the season in general. After the 4-1 loss to New York City FC on Friday, Paunovic said the team “had a really bad game” defensively. He also talked about the Fire “coming back” next year, something he has previously avoided doing while keeping his focus squarely on the next game ahead.

Paunovic reiterated some of those thoughts in Monday’s conference call with media.

“Of course we are not happy with our defensive performance (in New York),” Paunovic said. “I think for us the maturity is still something we have to do. It’s our main task this year I think. I think in this game we conceded too many innocent mistakes and opportunities to our opponent who was very motivated.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire home jersey here]

The Fire set a club-record for consecutive minutes without conceding a goal earlier this season (411 minutes), but have given up 18 goals in the past eight MLS matches. The 18th goal the Fire allowed in MLS play came in the 14th match of the season. This is currently the worst defensive stretch, purely in goals allowed, of the season.

The rise in goals allowed has coincided with an improvement from the Fire’s attack. The Fire have scored in 10 straight matches, which is a notable accomplishment considering the team was shutout in four of its first 10 matches in 2016. Despite the offensive improvement, the defensive downturn is concerning for Paunovic.

“I think in some points of the season we were very strong,” Paunovic said of the Fire’s defense. “These last couple of games I’m not happy with the performance, but we are working on that to fix it.”

The Fire have five games left to “fix” these mistakes. The team is not realistically in the playoff race anymore and a tough pair of games are coming up. The Fire visit Seattle on Wednesday and will fly straight to Columbus for a game three days later. Both teams have won two straight and are surging towards the playoff race.

It won't be easy for the Fire to end the season with some positive results. Paunovic said part of his job is keeping the team motivated, but also said there is extra pressure that goes with being in last place in the standings.

“The team is fighting for not being last on the standings in the league,” Paunovic said. “That pressure sometimes is too big.

“We have to mature. Fortunately we had to commit too many mistakes to pay that price and I believe that the team is getting better, but we still have to work on that.”

Stevenson senior Justin Smith commits to Indiana

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Stevenson senior Justin Smith commits to Indiana

Stevenson senior and Mr. Basketball candidate Justin Smith ended his recruitment on Monday night by committing to Indiana on Twitter.

The 6-foot-6 Smith averaged 17 points, 8.2 rebounds and 2.2 assists per game on 52.2 percent shooting last season as the high-flying wing was a third-team CSN All-Area selection.

Regarded as the No. 105 overall prospect in the Rivals national Class of 2017 rankings, Smith is going to be one of the main players to watch in the area this season as he's already helped the Patriots win a state championship as a sophomore while producing big numbers as a junior.

Smith joins three-star point guard Al Durham in Indiana's recruiting Class of 2017.

Now that Smith has ended his recruitment, Evanston's Nojel Eastern and Thornton's Alonzo Verge are the two best uncommitted prospects in the area as all three players are major candidates to win Player of the Year honors.