High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 11:33 p.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com
Comcast SportsNet is your number one source for high school sports in Chicagoland. The boys basketball playoffs are underway in class 1A & 2A. Well have highlights of three regional championship games in the area. Well also take you to Chicago Heights where the Southland conference will be decided. Will Crete-Monee win it outright or will Bloom take a share of the title? Plus, we sit down with Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu and Mike Shawthree high school seniors looking to contribute to the Fighting Illini next season. And well bring you the story of the high flying Warriors of Wheaton Academya team that hasnt lost to an in-state opponent yet this year. Here is a snapshot of each game we will cover on Friday night, which include updates on the girls basketball playoff picture:
(17) Lyons @ Proviso West, 6:00pm

The Lions (22-2, 11-0) look to finish the regular season with a perfect record in the West Suburban Silver Friday night in Hillside. Spencer Mahoney, Eric Powers, Nick Zeisloft and company will look to keep the momentum going after a heart-stopping 55-53 win over Proviso East in the City-Suburban Showdown. Proviso West (16-8, 8-3) is currently a distant second in conference and will not factor in the title chase, but theyre having a solid season thanks to a well-balanced attack led by standout guard Nick Frazier.
(12) Crete-Monee @ Bloom, 6:30pm

The only thing standing in the way between Crete-Monee (20-3, 8-1) and a Southland conference title is a Bloom team that has already succumbed to the Warrior attack earlier this year (56-45 on January 21st). So why should 12th ranked Crete-Monee be concerned? Revenge factor aside, the Blazing Trojans (15-10, 7-2) are getting key contributions from forward Lajavius Johnson. He will have to bring his game Friday to help his team get a share of the title. Crete-Monee boasts a rugged lineup featuring DePaul-bound guard Jamee Crockett.
Crystal Lake Central @ Crystal Lake South, 7:00pm

Crystal Lake Central (21-4, 11-1) might not get a lot of the love that their fellow 20-game winners are getting, but the Gators have been thriving on the lack of limelight. They hope to sneak up on teams in the playoffs behind senior Joe Pijanowski and junior Chase Cane. The host Gators (15-10, 4-6) are paced by senior forward Kevin Rogers. Central has not lost a game since January 19th against Grayslake North.

St. Ignatius @ (23) Mt. Carmel, 7:30pm

This game might make you wonder if the Fighting Illini could have used St. Ignatius Nnanna Igwu and the Caravans Tracy Abrams this year. The two Illinois-bound prep stars square off Friday night in a game that could be a nice springboard for the state playoffs that lie ahead. The visiting Wolfpack have won six straight games, including Sundays 52-41 win over Leo. 23rd ranked has been on fire since the Pekin Holiday Tournament, losing only to Halesby four points.

Batavia @ (18) East Aurora, 7:30pm

The 18th ranked Tomcats (19-5, 10-2) hope to have guard Letrell Snoop Viser back for the game against Batavia. He left last during last Friday's game against Lake Park with a sprained ankle. UConn-bound star Ryan Boatright looks for one final regular season tuneup before the playoffs begin. The visiting Bulldogs (13-11, 8-4) have won three straight, including Tuesday's 45-37 win over Streamwood. Senior guard Jesse Coffey hopes to make it back into the lineup for Batavia after an illness kept him sidelined earlier this week.
Elgin @ Streamwood, 7:30pm

Like East Aurora, the Elgin Maroons (20-5, 9-2) can call themselves conference champs after a decade-long wait. Elgin previous Upstate Eight title was in 2000-01, East won it previously in 1998-99. But if the Maroons want to win it outright, they will have to defeat Streamwood (8-17, 3-8) on the road. Elgin's junior guard Kory Brown has been an absolute force this year. He is coming off a season-high 30 points Tuesday against Grayslake Central.

(11) Hales Franciscan vs. Chicago Christian, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Chicago Christian)

Will the 11th ranked Spartans play in Peoria? The magic eight ball consensus would say "yes." Hales Franciscan (22-4), an elite team featuring brothers Aaron and Aaric Armstead, cruised past Dyett Wednesday night 85-46 in the regional semifinal. However, they cannot afford to look ahead, especially after what happened in the other semifinal Wednesday. Chicago Christian (21-6) raised a few eyebrows with a 53-51 win over Leo. Dan VanGroningen talled 17 points and Jason VanderLaan scored 13 for the victorious Knights.

Latin vs. Parker, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Holy Trinity)

It would only seem fitting that Latin and Parker would meet for a regional championship, given the nice rivalry between the two schools that has developed over the years. Latin (16-8) advanced thanks to Chad Stevenson, who led all scorers with 26 points in Latin's semifinal win over Marine Wednesday night. The Romans will take on an F.W. Parker team that defeated Holy Trinity 70-33 in the semis. Langdon Neal is one of the leaders for the Colonels (19-7).
St. Benedict vs. Hope Academy, 7:30pm (1A Regional Championship @ St. Benedict)

St. Benedict,the third-seeded team in the regional, won a thrilling semifinal game Thursday night over Universal, 51-50 in overtime. Krys Gago and Habeeb Olowo had 16 points apiece to lead the Bengals (16-12). Chicagos Hope Academy (19-10), the top seed, is a member of the Chicagoland Prep conferenceas is St. Benedict. The Eagles defeated St. Benedict 75-57 on January 7.

THURSDAY: (24) Maine South 54, (23) Niles West 47 OT-- (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ Maine East)

The 24th ranked Hawks scored the first 13 points of the game and then held off a furious Niles West rally to win their first sectional title since the 2007-08 season. Michelle Maher and Jacqui Grant tallied 14 apiece for Maine South. Kaitlyn Mullarkey had two clutch buckets in overtime for the victors, who defeated the Wolves for the third time this season. Niles Wests Jewell Loyd scored 25 points in the losing effort.

THURSDAY: (9) Proviso East 55, (8) Trinity 47 (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ York)

The 8th ranked Blazers might have limited Illinois-bound Ivory Crawford to 12 points, but they had no answer for Ricquia Jones. The 5-4 guard finished with 18 points, five steals and four assists to lead the Pirates, who won their 18th straight game. They will go on to play Maine South in the Loyola supersectional Monday night. Megan Podkowa finished with 14 points for Trinity, who finished their season with a 28-5 record.

Check us out this Friday night at 10:30. We will also bring you up to speed on the 1A and 2A girls basketball state playoff semifinals from Redbird Arena in Normal. High School Lites streams live at CSNChicago.com.

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Reports: Joakim Noah likely to join Derrick Rose, sign with Knicks

Multiple reports indicated that former Bulls center Joakim Noah will join Derrick Rose and sign with the New York Knicks.

Both the Washington Post and ESPN report that Noah is very likely to sign in New York, his hometown. ESPN's Marc Stein went so far as to say that other teams have already accepted that Noah is all but a done deal to sign with the Knicks.

And according to Tim Bontemps from the Washington Post, Noah's deal with the Knicks will have "a starting salary somewhere in the $18 million per year range," a large but not insane number considering the league's salary cap explosion this summer.

The Vertical's Shams Charania added that Noah will meet with Phil Jackson and the Knicks when free agency begins Friday night.

Noah would fill a void at center left by the Knicks' trade for Rose, which shipped center Robin Lopez back to Chicago. Noah averaged 4.3 points and 8.8 rebounds in 29 games last season before season-ending shoulder surgery in January. Noah spent the first nine seasons of his NBA career with the Bulls and was named Defensive Player of the Year just three short years ago.

But he fell out of grace with Bulls head coach Fred Hoiberg, who opted to bring Noah off the bench for the first time in his career. It was largely assumed that both Noah and Pau Gasol would not return to a Bulls team that missed the playoffs for the first time in eight seasons.

Teams can start negotiating with free agents on July 1, and can sign free agents beginning July 6.

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields earns first victory as White Sox top Twins

James Shields received his first standing ovation of the season at U.S. Cellular Field as he headed to the dugout on Wednesday night.

The White Sox starter settled in after another shaky start and his offense kicked it into high gear in a 9-6 victory over the Minnesota Twins in front of 18,571. Shields limited the Twins to a leadoff solo homer in the first inning and pitched into the seventh to earn his first win for the White Sox.

Brett Lawrie, Tyler Saladino and Todd Frazier all homered for the White Sox, who had to pitch themselves out of trouble in a wild ninth to win for the sixth time in nine games. Nate Jones earned a one-out save after Matt Purke and Dan Jennings combined to allow five runs. Purke was optioned to Triple-A Charlotte after the game. A corresponding move will be announced on Thursday morning.

“(Shields) got back into a rhythm,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “I think this is the best that he looked as far as just feeling comfortable. He was getting ahead. He started really using his fastball and he located it. I think after that, there was some offspeed stuff and he got guys swinging through it. This was a nice little thing to see. I'm sure it's a breath of fresh air for him.”

For a second it looked as if another stinker was in the cards.

Two pitches into the contest, Shields trailed by a run when Eduardo Nunez ripped an 0-1 changeup for a solo homer.

Shields, who had a 21.81 ERA in his first three starts with the White Sox, two of which resulted in him being booed off the mound at home, found even more trouble. He recorded a pair of outs, but walked Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe singled him to third. But similar to his last start in Boston, Shields took another big step forward and got out of trouble.

Two innings later, Shields made his biggest pitch of the night when he induced a double play off Joe Mauer’s bat after allowing consecutive singles to start the third. Dozier’s bunt attempt resulted in a comebacker and Shields escaped unharmed.

Adam Eaton assisted Shields in a big way in the fifth inning when he easily threw out Kurt Suzuki at home. Suzuki, who started the play on first, was forced home as Nunez nearly caught him speeding into third after hitting a liner off the right-field fence.

But Shields stranded Nunez in scoring position as well as another runner in the sixth. He recorded two more outs before giving way after a Byron Buxton double.

“We know what type of pitcher he is and he went out and did what he’s supposed to do,” Eaton said. “I think the proof is in the pudding. He goes out and throws well. We hit and we are going to be pretty good.”

As he exited, Shields was showered with applause from the appreciative crowd.

He allowed a run and eight hits in 6 2/3 innings, striking out five and walking one. Shields threw strikes on 61 of 93 pitches to earn his first victory since May 12th.

“It feels good,” Shields said. “It’s something to build off of.

“It was a tough stretch. It’s nice to get off the schneid there and get a win, but I don’t really focus on that kind of stuff. I’ve been around this game for a long time. My main focus is to win games for this team right now.”

One night after they couldn’t provide for Jose Quintana, the White Sox offense went overboard for Shields. Lawrie’s opposite-field solo homer with two outs in the second inning off Ricky Nolasco tied the game at 1. J.B. Shuck then singled, stole second and scored on an RBI single by Avisail Garcia.

The White Sox never looked back as Saladino’s solo shot in the fifth made it a 3-1 game.

Frazier started a five-run sixth inning with a solo homer -- the team’s 13th consecutive solo homer. Saladino singled in a run with two outs to chase Nolasco and make it 5-1. Tim Anderson’s two-run single made it a blowout and Eaton singled him in to make it 8-1. Shuck added a sac fly in the seventh for the White Sox, who went 5-for-11 with runners in scoring position.

“It was nice,” Frazier said. “It was a little different. (Shields) got out there not worrying about anything. Gave up the homer in the first batter. Nothing really fazed him after that. He has to understand, he’s going to give up runs here and there, and just relax from whatever happens from there. He pitched an exceptional game today.”

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

Denzel Valentine: Bulls' versatility will 'make us so dangerous'

The Bulls are undergoing a "retooling" in their backcourt after dealing Derrick Rose to the Knicks, drafting Denzel Valentine and attempting to re-sign E'Twaun Moore in free agency.

That, combined with Jimmy Butler, the addition of Jerian Grant and an already versatile frontcourt will give Fred Hoiberg plenty of options that Valentine believes will make the Bulls "dangerous" in 2016-17.

"I think that's going to make us so dangerous this year, is we are versatile with our guards," He said on Wednesday night's White Sox broadcast. "And in those three positions I feel like we're going to be able to guard and do a lot of things offensively and throw a lot at you when we're coming down on offense. And the defensive end, too.

"I think we're going to have a really good team this year with all that we have, and I'm glad to be part of the building year, or whatever you want to call it."

On paper the Bulls will have more versatility than a year ago. Valentine is capable of playing either wing position and can handle the ball, though he doesn't project as a point guard. Butler can play and defend four positions, and Grant is capable of playing either guard spot. Bringing back E'Twaun Moore would benefit that versatility greatly, as he's capable of playing on or off the ball.

In the frontcourt, the Bulls will need to replace Pau Gasol and Joakim Noah, neither of whom provided much versatility. Robin Lopez is entrenched at center, which will give the Bulls' stretch forwards Nikola Mirotic and Bobby Portis more room to roam the perimeter.

Wherever Valentine plays, and however Hoiberg uses him in Year 1, the Michigan State rookie said he's ready to do what's asked of him from a franchise known for winning.

"My job is to just come in, do what I can do best and just work on my game and try to lead as best as I can," he said on SportsTalk Live (in the video above). "I'm not coming in to step on anybody's toes but I'm going to do what I can to lead and be a good teammate and try to win some games."