High School Lites preview

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High School Lites preview

Chicagoland prep basketball is home on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Conference play resumes and a few teams will be looking to capitalize off the momentum from holiday tournaments. Will St. Ignatius continue their surprising run? Will a school record be broken at North Chicago on Friday? Who will be the next hero in the legendary New Trier-Evanston rivalry? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:
Thursday's games

No. 8 Elgin (12-1) @ Batavia (4-7), 7:15 pm

The Maroons continue to build off last years 22-7 squad. The last time they made a supersectional was in 2008 and they have the talent to get there again. Senior Kory Brown is their leader and hes helped by junior guard Arie Williams. But Elgin first needs to take care of business in the Upstate Eight conference, and it starts with a Batavia team that reached the semifinals of the Elgin Holiday Tournament. Senior center Cole Gardner will get a lot of work in the paint for the Bulldogs.

Marmion (8-6) @ Aurora Christian (10-3), 7:30 pm

This Suburban Christian Blue showdown features an Aurora Christian team that some thought would have a down year in 11-12. That's not the case, as the Eagles have had an impressive campaign. They won three of four at the Plano Christmas Classic. C.J. Schutt is one of the go-to guys for A-C. Marmion has benefitted of late from the play of junior guard Alex Theisen. The teams will face each other again at Marmion Feb. 10.

Friday's games

No. 6 Andrew (9-0) @ Lincoln-Way North (5-11), 6:30 pm

The Thunderbolts might be in uncharted waters but they havent been fazed by the recent success. They rolled through the Kankakee tournament, with junior forward Jubril Adekoya picking up MVP honors. Andrew is in a brutal stretch: six of the next seven games are on the road. And pardon the pun, but the Lincoln-Way North Phoenix are on the rise. Daryle Morgan led his team to three wins in four games at Lincoln-Way Easts Medieval Classic over the holidays.

No. 7 Plainfield East (11-0) @ Plainfield North (3-11), 7:00 pm

The Bengals are turning into quite a story. The school has only been in existence for 3 years and they already have a top 10 program with a nice holiday trophy (Pekin Holiday Tournament) in the hallway case. Austin Robinson, Jawan Straughter and Brian Bennett will now look to guide East through Southwestern Prairie conference play. Plainfield North competed in the Pontiac tournament over holiday break. They battled in their last game, a 69-63 loss to Waukegan.

Joliet West (8-4) @ Joliet Central (6-6), 7:00 pm

The battle for Joliet is also a jostle for position in the competitive Southwest Suburban Blue conference. West picked up a win at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and has also played well against the likes of Homewood-Flossmoor and West Aurora. Senior center Marlon Johnson figures is tough to contain on both sides of the floor. Central went 1-3 in the McDipper Tournament at Rich South. Junior guard Jalen Heath leads the Steelmen.

Evanston (11-3) @ No. 15 New Trier (12-2), 7:30 pm

One of the best rivalries in the state features a sneaky-tough Evanston team that quietly took the consolation crown at a very competitive McDipper Tournament. Leonard Garron, Josh Irving and Jordan Perrin lead the Wildkits. New Trier was equally impressive at the Proviso West tournament, taking home second place honors. David Bragiel, Austin Angel, Connor Boehm and Jordan Thomas figure to get a lot of looks on the Trevians offense. The girls teams will square off at 6 pm. New Trier features Northwestern-bound guard Maggie Lyon. Evanston has picked it up of late, winning three of their last five.

No. 9 St. Ignatius (11-1) @ St. Rita (6-5), 7:30 pm

It seems like every game in the Catholic North has Game of the Night potential and this clash is no different. St. Ignatius, CSNs Muscle Milk Team of the Week, is on a serious roll. They tamed the competition at the Jack Tosh Holiday tournament, earning victories over Downers Grove South and De La Salle in the process. St. Ritas record is deceiving. They have only lost one game to an Illinois foe. The guards (Ritas Tony Hicks and Ignatius Brian Howard) drive both offenses.

Wauconda (7-7) @ North Chicago (9-2), 7:30 pm

It could be a memorable night for Illinois State recruit Aaron Simpson and the North Chicago Warhawks. The talented guard needs 12 points to become the schools all-time leading scorer. Simpson, who contributes mightily to the Warhawks 78.8 points per game average, scored 133 points over four games at the State Farm Holiday Classic. He was named to the all-tournament team. The Bulldogs, winners of three of their last four, need to step up on defense to have a chance here. Matt Mead and Kyle Ryan are their threats on offense.

Mundelein (14-3) @ Libertyville (10-3), 7:30 pm

The Mustangs gaudy win total ranks currently ranks near the top of all Illinois teams. A marquee win on the road in the rugged North Suburban Lake could help them bust into the top 20. Their last win was a 110-79 triumph over Buhach Colony (Calif.). Robert Knar and Sean OBrien are two of the featured stars. Libertyville figures to be a good test. They took third place at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. Ellis Matthews and Griffin Pils are leaders on the Wildcats roster.

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from the Chicagoland basketball courts. This week's episode will air just after Blackhawks hockey and SportsNet Central. We'll also have in-depth feature stories and take a look back down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment. This week, be sure to check out CSN's Muscle Milk Team of the Week, St. Ignatius. After a strong campaign last season, the Wolfpack were considered also-rans this season. How did this Chicago school get back on top? Also, we'll have the latest on the Simeon Wolverines in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on csnchicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

For the Bears, defense can’t pick up all the pieces from broken offense

The current state of affairs for the 2016 Bears is seriously concerning when, after adding multiple starting players and investing high draft choices, the best that can be said about the Bears defense is that it isn’t as bad as the Bears offense.

A unit predicted to contend for a spot among the NFL’s top 10 this year was pushed around for 378 yards and 23 points in a 23-7 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. To push all of it off onto the fact that it was a preseason game won’t work, if only because the No. 1 defense allowed 239 of those yards and 20 of those points in the first half.

One mitigating fact is that the Bears offense hit a new preseason low and was coming back off the field before most members of the defense had had time to look at photos and to hydrate. Five of the Bears’ first seven possessions lasted less than 1 minute 30 seconds. Defensive players usually had time to get water or get with their coaches; not both.

And the defense did stiffen in the red zone, forcing the Chiefs twice to settle for field goals with the ball inside the Chicago 10 and a third time at the 23. And players at least bristled at the suggestion that the Bears are soft. “I take that personally,” said safety Harold Jones-Quartey. "I have never heard that word… . The first time I’ve ever heard anybody call us ‘soft’ is [now].”

Coach John Fox found some good in “the way our defense improved. We got a couple turnovers down in the lower-red area.”

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But those were scant positives in a game that saw Kansas City put together drives of 50 yards or longer five of the first six times it had the football, and those were against the supposed front liners.

The Chiefs drove 53 and 62 yards on their first two possessions, which included conversions of third-and-5 and third-and-14, part of the Chiefs converting six of 10 third downs in the first half. (“Obviously our third-and-long defense wasn’t real sufficient,” Fox allowed.)

Kansas City piled up 106 yards in the first quarter and what defensive “stops” there were might just as easily be credited to Kansas City execution as Bears playmaking. The Chiefs arguably had their initial drive stopped as much by tailback Spencer Ware colliding with blocking back Darrin Reaves on a third-and-short (2) for no gain. A fourth long drive of the half ended only when the Chiefs had a Bears blitz blocked, only to have Smith miss wide open wideout Albert Wilson inside the Chicago 10.

Special teams did the defense few favors. Kansas City punt returns of 18 and 15 yards put the ball at the KC 36 and the 50. The Bears did well to leave those possessions giving up only 3 points.

The game, in which starters and first-alternates play the longest of the preseason, had its points of player evaluation. Rookie cornerback Deiondre’ Hall, whose preseason has been marked by impact plays (not all of them good, of course), did generate another in the third quarter with an interception that thwarted a Kansas City scoring drive deep in the Chicago end. This was, however, after he had lost the ball and the receiver on a 58-yard completion the previous Chiefs possession.

And rookie defensive end Jonathan Bullard, after missing practice last week to attend to family matters, collected two quarterback hits, a sack and two tackles for loss among his three solo stops, according to initial game stats.

But rookie linebacker Leonard Floyd, who has missed practice time with three different health issues since the start of training camp, was limited in practice this week with a hamstring strain, and missed an important opportunity for much-needed work against unfamiliar competition.

“We got a chance to look at some young guys and make evaluations,” Fox said, “and that’s what preseason’s for.”

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

White Sox crush four homers to support Jose Quintana in win over Mariners

Fireworks Night started early for the White Sox on Saturday night.

The White Sox homered four times to support Jose Quintana in their 9-3 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field in front of 27,318 fans. Quintana, who set a career high in season wins last week, notched his 11th victory of the season.

"This year is special for me," Quintana said. "Now we have momentum. (We have to) try to keep (it) going to get more for my team. It’s really good. I’m trying to do my job."

Quintana was on point again right from the get-go. After allowing a double to the first batter of the game, the 27-year-old southpaw retired the next 11 batters.

Quintana pitched 7.2 innings with eight strikeouts and two runs on five hits and a walk. He lowered his ERA to 2.77 on the year.

"He's pretty consistent," said manager Robin Ventura. "I think that's the biggest thing for him. Mentality wise and just focus, just his attitude and everything that goes with him is pretty consistent. You're never going to really tell what's going on with him on the game.

"He's had so many games that were close or tied or even behind that he never changes. I think that's what endears him to a lot of guys. He's consistent."

While Quintana has been consistent all year, the offense hasn't been. But on Saturday, the team gave their starter a healthy dose of run support.

"What was really impressive was the offense tonight was really good for us and for me," Quintana said. "It’s fun when you’re throwing when a lot of runs are scored."

The Mariners opened up the scoring with a sac fly from Robinson Cano in the first. But the White Sox answered back right away.

Melky Cabrera drove in Tim Anderson, who tripled in the previous at-bat, with a sac fly. The next batter, Jose Abreu, crushed his 18th homer of the year to put the White Sox in front. Cabrera was the only White Sox who didn’t record a hit in the game.

The White Sox offense began to heat up in the fourth after a quiet second and third from both sides.

After the first two batters of the inning were retired, the next four White Sox got on. It cleared the path for Tyler Saladino’s RBI single, which put the Sox up 3-1. Saladino finished the night with one homer and three RBI.

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The White Sox added four more in the fifth inning.

The scoring started with an RBI triple from Justin Morneau — the team’s second three-bagger of the night.

Back-to-back homers from Avisail Garcia and Alex Avila made it 7-1. It was the fifth time the White Sox hit two consecutive homers this season.

"I think Q's probably the happiest guy of anybody. He was great," Ventura said. "Any time you swing the bat as well as we did tonight and you get some add ons with the homers, you like seeing that kind of offense and you like seeing balls over the fence.

"Guys had a good night of just being patient and being able to cash in."

The Mariners added a run in the sixth from an RBI single by Guillermo Heredia and a sac-fly Franklin Gutierrez in the ninth.

Avila went 1-for-3 with a solo homer and walk in his first game since July 5.

Garcia, who had five extra base hits in June and July, had three on Friday night.

Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

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Preview: Cubs-Dodgers Sunday on CSN

The Cubs take on the Los Angeles Dodgers on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on CSN. Coverage begins with Cubs Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m. Then catch first pitch with Len Kasper and Jim Deshaies. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on Cubs Postgame Live.

CSN will also carry the live audio call of Los Angeles Dodgers broadcasting legend Vin Scully during Sunday's game as the SportsNet LA audio feed will be featured during the third inning.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Jon Lester vs. Kenta Maeda

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

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— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Cubs Pulse.