High School Lites preview: Conference showdown week


High School Lites preview: Conference showdown week

Its Conference Showdown Week on High School Lites. Pivotal games dot the Chicago basketball landscape this weekend. The keys to the West Suburban Gold title could end up going to the Downers Grove South-Proviso East winner. In the Southwest Suburban Red, will Andrew remain undefeated after Fridays tilt at Thornwood? And who takes control of the Mid-Suburban West: Schaumburg or Barrington? 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 games

No. 1 Simeon (16-1) @ Vocational (15-6), 4:00 p.m.

Simeon head coach Robert Smith said that Mondays loss to nationally-ranked Findlay Prep woke the team up a bit. Nowhere was that more apparent than in Wednesdays victory over Urban Prep-Englewood. Jabari Parker had a game high 32 points in the 83-39 victory. That sets the stage for Thursdays game against a Vocational team that took care of Carver on Wednesday, 67-55. The Wolverines will travel to Memphis Saturday for a game against Southwind (TN) in the Penny Hardaway Hoop Fest.

GIRLS: Lincoln-Way Central (10-8) @ Bolingbrook (14-1), 7:00 p.m.

Connecticut-bound senior forward Morgan Tuck is close to unstoppable. She had 32 points and 20 rebounds Tuesday night against Lincoln-Way East (a double-double at halftime) in a 78-48 victory. Lincoln-Way Central has stayed above water this season thanks to the efforts of players like Rachel Post and Autumn Schultz. If the Knights are to improve on their 77-22 loss to Bolingbrook earlier in the season, containing Tuck is a must.

No. 2 Proviso East (14-0) @ No. 10 Downers Grove South (13-2), 7:30 p.m.

Not many teams can say that they will face two top-five opponents in one season, much less in one week. And back-to-back. Such is life for the 10th ranked Mustangs, who face the Pirates for first place in the West Suburban Gold Thursday, then turn around to battle No. 4 Warren on Saturday. Souths Jerron Wilbut and Jamall Millison comprise one of the top backcourts in the state, but Proviso Easts powerful lineup is one that could play in Peoria. Talented St. Louis-bound guard Keith Carter is every bit as good as advertised.

Friday games

No. 15 Whitney Young (8-6) @ North Lawndale (12-5), 5:30 p.m.

Both the Phoenix and the 15th-ranked Dolphins are coming off conference losses on Wednesday, which makes Fridays Red-West contest all the more important. 6-10 sophomore center Jahlil Okafor is coming off a 34 point performance for Whitney Young. Davonte Johnson, Kelvin Grayson and Alonzo Singletary are some of the key contributors for North Lawndale, who are among the teams chasing Marshall in conference play.

No. 5 Andrew (13-0) @ Thornwood (11-5), 6:30 p.m.

The weather forecasters are calling for snow Friday nightbut a thunderstorm might happen in South Holland. Cheesy references aside, the Thunderbolts and Thunderbirds tangle in a game for the outright lead in the Southwest Suburban Red. Both teams stand at 5-0 in the conference. Andrews Adekoya brothers (Jubril and Jawad) will be tested by Thornwood seniors Darrell Combs (G) and Khapri Alston (F). The two teams meet again in Tinley Park on February 21st.

No. 16 St. Ignatius (13-2) @ No. 9 De La Salle (13-2), 7:30 p.m.

Which Catholic North team will be left standing at the top of the mountain? The Wolfpack and Meteors comprise two of the three conference leaders (St. Rita being the other). The game has added significance because it represents a rematch of the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament championship, won by St. Ignatius in overtime. Iggys Brian Howard hit a clutch three in that game but Gavin Schilling and Alvin Ellis of De La Salle are eager to answer the call this time around.

St. Patrick (7-7) @ No. 19 Notre Dame (14-4), 7:30 p.m.

Its one of the classic rivalries in the state. The visiting Shamrocks have won three of their last four, including Saturdays 62-45 triumph over Niles West. They have a pair of talented seniors in forward Ismar Seferagic and guard Royale Ewing. The Dons have won three straight and have wins this season over Crete-Monee, Brother Rice and Marist to their credit. And its all about balance with Notre Dame. No player on their roster is averaging in double figures, but keep an eye on junior guard Matt Mooney.

Niles North (12-5) @ Glenbrook North (13-3), 7:30 p.m.

The Spartans don't have to worry about Abdel Nader on the Niles North roster anymore. However, they have to be concerned about the Vikings' 5-6 point guard Malachi Nix. He is quick on both sides of the floor and has range with his shot. Niles North can tie Glenbrook North for first in the Central Suburban North with a win, but look for head coach Dave Weber and company to respond. Guard Kurt Karis and forward Mark Johnson have been on fire of late.

Glenbard West (11-2) @ Oak Park-River Forest (10-4), 7:30 p.m.

Now that Ka'Darryl Bell is back, look out. The Bradley-bound guard has returned to the OPRF lineup after missing a month with an injury to his right wrist. But this game might come down to the big men. The Huskies feature three players 6-7 and above, including Gabe Levin (16 points, 12 boards against Lyons on Saturday). The Hilltoppers boast twin towers Michael and Matthew Mache (both 6-6) and 6-8 center Pat Mazza.

No. 4 Warren (12-2) @ Lake Zurich (11-9), 7:30 p.m.

The Blue Devils continue to keep their foot on the gas in 2012. Their last two wins have been by a combined 49 points (Libertyville and Lakes). Seniors Nathan Boothe (C) and Darius Paul (F) continue to dominate opponents. But Lake Zurich has been sneaky-tough this year. They have nice wins over Barrington and Stevenson. Their go-to guy is 6-6 Mirko Grcic, a versatile player who can do damage in the paint and from beyond the arc.

Schaumburg (13-4) @ Barrington (12-6), 7:30 p.m.

First place in the Mid-Suburban West is up for grabs Friday night in Barrington, with the host Broncos coming off a 61-41 rout of Fremd. Future Western Illinois forward John Schneider is back in their lineup. He will be playing in his third game of the season after breaking his finger. The Saxons will counter with senior forward Christian Spandiary and junior point guard Kyle Bolger. Barrington took the December 16th contest at Schaumburg, 45-44.

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. This week's episode will air just after the Blackhawks-Panthers game 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, Crane High School. The Condors have several college prospects, including 6-9, 230-pound sophomore Cliff Alexander. Could they play in Peoria this March? Curie has only lost to one team: the Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured 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

Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?


Bears Talk Podcast: What's next for Bears at QB after Brian Hoyer suffers broken arm?

Lance Briggs, Alex Brown and Jim Miller break down where the Bears go at QB following Brian Hoyer’s injury and evaluate the defense’s gutsy performance on Thursday night against the Packers despite numerous injuries. Plus, a look at the big picture and who can help the Bears down the road.

Check out the latest edition of the Bears Talk Podcast here:

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

Anthony Rizzo/Javier Baez antics show how this Cubs team doesn’t feel the same weight of history

LOS ANGELES – Within minutes of the last out on Thursday night at Dodger Stadium, ESPN’s @SportsCenter account sent out a photo of Moises Alou at the Wrigley Field wall to more than 30 million Twitter followers: “The last time the Cubs were up 3-2 in an NLCS was Game 6 of the 2003 NLCS vs. the Marlins. Most remember it as ‘the Bartman Game.’”

As Kerry Wood once said: “Irrelevant, dude.”
Look, the Cubs still need to find a way to beat either Clayton Kershaw or Rich Hill this weekend, with Kenley Jansen resting and waiting for the multiple-inning saves. The obligatory description for Kershaw is “the best pitcher on the planet.” Hill’s lefty curveball – and “the perceptual velocity” of his fastball – freezes hitters. Jansen has a mystical cutter reminiscent of the great Mariano Rivera. The top-heavy part of this Los Angeles playoff pitching staff has held the Cubs to zero runs in 16.1 innings.

But until proven otherwise, forget about this idea of a Cubs team weighed down by the history of a franchise that hasn’t played in the World Series since 1945.

Just look at Javier Baez getting in Anthony Rizzo’s airspace during Game 5, the human-highlight-film second baseman standing right next to the All-Star first baseman as he caught a Kike Hernandez pop-up for the second out of the third inning.

It didn’t matter that this was a 1-0 game and MVP-ballot players Justin Turner and Corey Seager were coming up. This is what the 2016 Cubs do. Rizzo caught the ball, quickly flipped it underhand and it bounced off Baez’s chest – in front of a sellout crowd of 54,449 and a national Fox Sports 1 audience.

“We always mess around,” Rizzo said at his locker inside a tight clubhouse jammed with media after an 8-4 win. “So I’m screaming: ‘Javy! Javy! I got it! I got it, Javy, I got it!’

“And usually he’ll yell at me: ‘Don’t miss it!’ Or I’ll yell at him: ‘Don’t miss it!’

“We do that a lot. If it’s a pop-up to him, I’ll go right behind him. It’s just little ways of slowing the game down and having fun, too.”

Rizzo is a Gold Glove-caliber first baseman for a team that led the majors in defensive efficiency this year. As a super-utility guy, Baez got credit for 11 defensive runs saved in 383 innings at second base, or one less than co-leaders Dustin Pedroia and Ian Kinsler, who each did it in almost 1,300 innings.

“Sometimes when I call (Rizzo) off to get a fly ball, he starts talking to me,” Baez said. “I tell him: ‘Hey, you can do whatever you want. Just don’t move my head. You can touch me if you want. Just don’t move my head.’

“And I told him to be ready for it, because I was going to do the same thing. You just got to be focused on the fly ball. No matter what’s happening around you, you just got to catch it.”

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

This isn’t about Bartman. It’s about a group of young, confident players who are growing up together and absolutely expect to be in this position. It’s manager Joe Maddon designing “Embrace The Target” T-shirts and telling them to show up to the ballpark whenever they want and then blow off batting practice.

“For sure, we’re relaxed,” said Baez, who’s gone viral during these playoffs, the rest of the country witnessing his amazing instincts and flashy personality. “I’m relaxed when I play defense.”

The thing is, Rizzo and Baez could be playing next to each other for the next five years, the same way Kris Bryant and Addison Russell will be anchoring the left side of the infield.

This is how Rizzo introduced Russell to The Show when a natural shortstop tried to learn second base on the fly last year and track pop-ups in front of 40,000 people: “Hey, watch out for that skateboard behind you! Don’t trip!”

“Oh yeah, we yell at each other all the time,” Rizzo said. “It’s just one of those things where you got to stay loose.”