Playoffs wind down on special High School Lites

696672.png

Playoffs wind down on special High School Lites

Whether your favorite playoff basketball team is in 1A, 2A, 3A or 4A, we will have you covered this weekend. High School Lites on Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com will bring you scores and highlights from the 1A & 2A state championships, along with 3A and 4A sectional title games across Chicagoland.

Will Seton win their second state title in four years? Can Simeon and Proviso East continue their dream seasons? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will profile in a special Saturday edition of High School Lites. Friday's matchups for the class 1A and 2A semifinals are listed below. Please note that we will show highlights of Saturday's first and third place state championship games on High School Lites, along with all of the sectional games listed. Rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by the Marines.

Mason City-Illini Central (17-12) vs. Carrollton (29-4), 1A State Semifinal, 12:00 p.m.

It's a matchup of two teams few thought would be remotely close to Peoria's Carver Arena this weekend. Carrollton, who is headed to state for the first time since 1984, shocked top seed Brimfield in the super-sectional 58-48. Joey Coonrod, Tyler Watson and Jordan Harr pace the Hawks. IC is here thanks to a 55-40 win over Fisher. The Cougars, who started the season 3-10, are led by a pair of juniors: Jared Entwistle and Jordan Bradshaw.

Woodlawn (27-5) vs. North Shore Country Day (19-4), 1A State Semifinal, 2:00 p.m.

Winnetka's North Shore Country Day has earned their first trip to state in boys basketball. The Raiders, who feature junior guard Austin Curren, dispatched Sterling Newman Catholic 41-35 to advance. Curren can be deadly behind the arc. They'll face Woodlawn, a school that is quite familiar with championship-level basketball. This will be the third trip to Peoria in four years for the Cardinals. Christian Hollencamp will be tough to contain.

Rockford Lutheran (29-3) vs. Normal-University (27-4), 2A State Semifinal, 6:30 p.m.

The Crusaders have earned their first state championship playoff ticket since 1995. Keep an eye on a talented pair of underclassmen, freshman Nate Wieting and sophomore Thomas Kopelman. They combined for 33 points in Tuesday's victory over Fieldcrest. U-High overcame an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Teutopolis to advance. The Pioneers feature Keita Bates-Diop, a 6-6 sophomore forward who is drawing considerable interest from Big Ten schools.

No. 18 Seton Academy (28-4) vs. Breese-Central (32-1), 2A State Semifinal, 8:15 p.m.

The Sting won a state championship in 2009 and they certainly have the talent to do it again this year. Russell Robinson, Jr. leads a very balanced and deep attack. The 6-9 senior racked up 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in Tuesday's super-sectional win over Providence-St. Mel. Central has been one of the state's top-ranked teams all season. Their go-to guy is senior Brandon Book. The Cougars or Sting will be very tough to beat in Saturday's championship game.

Wheaton-St. Francis (20-7) vs. No. 13 Marshall (23-7), 3A Glenbard South Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Look out for St. Francis and dont let the seven losses fool you. This team, with coaching veteran Bob Ward at the controls, stunned top-seed Orr in the sectional semis and will be looking for more Friday night behind 6-6 senior Ryan Coyle, who is averaging 16 points a game. He will be integral in the offense. Can they compete with one of the top teams in the city? Marshall features Florida International-bound guard Milton Doyle in their arsenal.

No. 20 North Chicago (22-6) vs. Lakes (20-10), 3A Grayslake Central Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

The top two teams in the North Suburban-Prairie go head-to-head. The Warhawks, who feature Illinois State-bound Aaron Simpson, have yet to be tested in the playoffs. They have won their games (Fenton, Elmwood Park and Grayslake Central) by an average of 26 points. Lakes defeated Ridgewood 75-60 on Wednesday to get to the title game. They played NC twice this season (both losses) but one of them was a 90-86 nail-biter in double overtime. Lakes Direll Clark had 24 points in that game.

No. 10 Bloom (27-3) vs. Homewood-Flossmoor (22-7), 4A Lockport Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

The Bloom offense, behind Lejavius Johnson, Johnny Griffin and Donald Moore, usually gets the rave reviews in this space. But their defensive effort against Thornton in the sectional semis was one for the ages: 1 FG and four points given up in the second half. Homewood-Flossmoor also knows a thing or two about defense. They held Andrew to 22 points in Wednesdays semifinal. On offense, the Vikings Tim Williams can cause fits for the opposition.

No. 7 Elgin (26-3) vs. Rockford-Auburn (29-2), 4A Dundee-Crown Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

If youre a fan of guards, look no further than Fridays contest between Elgin and Auburn. The Maroons heart and soul is Kory Brown. He is one of the top shooting guards in Chicagoland, and he shares the backcourt with a talented point guard in Arie Williams. But as point guards go, Auburns Fred Van Vleet is one of the best in Illinois. The Wichita State-bound star, who also showed off his skills at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, is very tough to contain.

No. 3 Warren (25-3) vs. Mundelein (26-7), 4A Barrington Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

The No. 3 Blue Devils are looking to send long-time head coach Chuck Ramsey out on a high note. Ramsey, who has 402 career wins and is retiring after the season, has a loaded team this year. Both 6-9 Nathan Boothe and 6-8 Darius Paul can turn a game in a heartbeat. Theyll take on fellow North Suburban-Lake foe Mundelein and their standout guard Robert Knar. Warren has already beaten Mundelein twice this year, 61-45 and 87-79.
No. 2 Proviso East (29-0) vs. Schaumburg (24-5), 4A Schaumburg Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

If Proviso East needs any motivation in this game, they should look no further than the Curie-Marist shocker last Friday. Marist, on their home floor, stunned No. 3 Curie in the regional championship. The No. 2 Pirates could face similar adversity in Schaumburg. The Saxons, fresh off a 64-60 win over Oak Park-River Forest, have home-court advantage. Keith Carter, Sterling Brown and the Pirates face Christian Spandiary, Kyle Bolger and a talented Schaumburg team. Expect a classic March Madness atmosphere.

No. 1 Simeon (29-1) vs. No. 15 Marist (26-5), 4A Argo Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

There was talk in a few circles that Whitney Young a suddenly healthy Whitney Young could give Simeon a serious run in the sectional semifinal. A 12-0 run by Jabari Parker and company squashed the upset talk and the Wolverines went on to win by 10. And then theres Cinderella, known as Marist in Illinois. The RedHawks followed up last Fridays epic comeback vs. Curie with a 67-63 thriller over Bogan. Marist is well balanced, but they have a marquee player in L.J. McIntosh. With apologies to Gus Johnson, will the slipper still fit for Marist after Friday?

As a reminder, this weeks episode will air on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. We head to Lombard to feature our Muscle Milk Team of the Week, the Montini Broncos. This west suburban powerhouse has won three consecutive girls basketball state championships. What has been their secret to success?

Plus, well take a drive down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment, and well have in-depth coverage of the Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than. This week's segment takes a look a thrilling win over one of their biggest rivals, Whitney Young, in the sectional semifinal.

IHSA State Championship games can be found on NBC Chicago Nonstop (Digital Channel 5.2, Comcast 341, RCN 50, WOW 130, and AT&T U-Verse 1742).

High School Lites streams live on CSNChicago.com. We invite you to share your story ideas as well by clicking here.

Big Ten preview: Can Tommy Armstrong better get the ball to Huskers' offensive weapons?

tommy-armstrong-0828.png

Big Ten preview: Can Tommy Armstrong better get the ball to Huskers' offensive weapons?

Tommy Armstrong has some terrific weapons on the offensive side of the ball at Nebraska. In Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly, Armstrong — the Huskers’ fourth-year starting quarterback — has one of the best wide receiver tandems in the Big Ten.

But the question is: Can Armstrong put the ball in their hands more often than he puts it in the hands of opposing defenders?

It seems like a pretty straight-forward fix for a senior quarterback, but Armstrong’s Achilles’ heel has been accuracy. For someone as talented as Armstrong, for someone as capable as he when it comes to big, game-changing plays, getting the ball to his receivers has been a surprising struggle.

Last season, Armstrong ranked third in the Big Ten with 3,030 passing yards and 22 touchdown tosses. But his completion percentage was just 55.2 percent, which ranked 11th among conference quarterbacks, and he threw a league-high 16 interceptions, more than either of the quarterbacks at Maryland, which had the most picks thrown of any team in college football.

Maybe it comes down to leaning on his receivers a little more. In Westerkamp, he has one of the all-time best to play the position at Nebraska. Westerkamp ranks fourth on the program’s all-time receiving list. In Reilly, he has a big-play threat. Reilly caught eight passes for 30 or more yards last season.

And those two aren’t the only guys Armstrong will be throwing too, either. The return of receivers Stanley Morgan Jr. and Alonzo Moore plus tight end Cethan Carter and running back Terrell Newby mean all six of the team’s top receivers from a season ago are back. Oh, and the electrifying De’Mornay Pierson-El will be back from injury, too.

“They’re real good,” Armstrong said during the team’s media day earlier this month. “They’re talented, they’re the most talented group I’ve had since I got here. Those guys make it easier for me. They make it easier for the running backs. They give defenses trouble, and they’re going to help us a lot. It’s good that they’re all going to be healthy. They’re going to do what they do best.”

“I think that’s great for Tommy,” head coach Mike Riley said. “I think that when you have versatility that way — that’s a big factor when you have to look at a group like that defensively, especially when you have an interior that will sometimes have Cethan Carter and Jordan Westerkamp as inside receivers. Then you’re always talking defensively where you’re going to put the strength of the coverage. Are you going to roll over the top of the corners to help them because we have pretty good wide receivers? Are they going to stay inside to help the linebackers and cover those slots and the tight ends?

“I love having all those threats like that. With our style of game, utilizing those people as much as we can, really gives you balance attacking a defense, and I think the better we run the ball, the more effective we can be in getting the ball to those guys. That’s going to have to be our game. We’ll have to put it all together like that.”

Armstrong, of course, has also proven his ability to make plays by himself with his legs, and the dual-threat nature of his game is what makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the Big Ten. He was the team’s third-leading rusher last season and scored a team-high seven touchdowns on the ground. That ability makes the Huskers’ offense even that more multi-faceted and that more dangerous.

In the end, Armstrong will be judged on what he does to make sure last season’s six-win campaign was a fluke. And in the eyes of many, that means whether he’ll be able to take care of the ball and better get it to all those weapons mentioned above.

If he can, Nebraska could be right back where it historically has been: competing for a conference championship.

Patrick Reed wins Barclays, Rickie Fowler loses Ryder Cup spot

patrick_reed.jpg

Patrick Reed wins Barclays, Rickie Fowler loses Ryder Cup spot

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (AP) -- Patrick Reed had a crystal trophy, a clear shot at the richest payoff in golf and a spot on the Ryder Cup team.

All he could offer Rickie Fowler was best wishes to join him at Hazeltine.

Reed picked up two victories Sunday at The Barclays. He rallied from an early two-shot deficit to win the FedEx Cup playoff opener and assure himself a clear shot at the $10 million bonus. And he secured a spot on the U.S. team at Hazeltine that will try to win back the Ryder Cup.

"Everyone's been talking about the Ryder Cup, been talking about, 'Oh, you're in the eighth spot and you're on the bubble' and all that," Reed said after his one-shot victory. "If you go and win, it takes care of everything else. ... It takes care of everything."

The way Fowler finished only leads to two weeks of uncertainty.

Fowler needed only to finish alone in third place, which was the farthest from his mind as he battled Reed at Bethpage Black.

"I wasn't trying to get a decent finish," Fowler said. "I was trying to win."

Two shots behind with four holes to play - and two shots clear of third place - Fowler missed a 4-foot par putt on the 15th hole and made double bogey on the next hole. His late meltdown sent him to a 74, a tie for seventh and kept him off the Ryder Cup team.

Reed built a big enough lead that a few sloppy mistakes over the final hour didn't matter. He made bogey on the final hole for a 1-under 70 and a one-shot victory over Sean O'Hair and Emiliano Grillo.

Fowler still could have made the Ryder Cup team with a birdie on the 18th hole. He missed another fairway and took bogey. It was the fourth time Fowler has failed to convert a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, though he remained optimistic.

"He just told me, 'Hey, I'm going to go get my work done. I'll see you in Minnesota,'" Reed said.

Sunday was the final day to earn eight automatic spots on the U.S. team. Fowler's late collapse allowed Zach Johnson to claim the eighth and final spot. Davis Love III still has four captain's picks over the next three weeks.

Reed, who finished at 9-under 275, wasn't the only player who felt like a big winner.

O'Hair was among five players who moved into the top 100 in the FedEx Cup, advancing to the next playoff event at the TPC Boston that starts Friday. And he made a big move, closing with a 66 to tie for second. That moved him all the way up to No. 15, assuring two more playoff events and giving O'Hair a good shot at staying in the top 30 who qualify for the finale at the Tour Championship.

Grillo birdied the final hole for a 69 and moved to No. 6.

Defending champion Jason Day struggled all week with his accuracy and had to settle for a 69, tying for fourth with Gary Woodland (69) and Adam Scott (71).

Reed had gone 55 tournaments worldwide since starting 2015 with a victory at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. A bogey on the par-3 third hole put him two shots behind Fowler, but not for long. Reed made three birdies on the next four holes to tie for the lead.

Even so, Reed could sense another tournament slipped away. Just seven holes into the final round, he already had missed four putts from 10 feet or closer and began to think back to other lost opportunities that kept him from winning.

That's when his caddie, brother-in-law Kessler Karain, told him to let it go and look ahead. A pair of tough par saves and a birdie at No. 12 gave Reed a two-shot lead, and he was on his way.

Fowler missed the 11th fairway and ended his streak of 55 consecutive holes without a bogey, losing the lead in the process. Reed holed a 12-foot birdie putt on the next hole for a two-shot lead, and Fowler never got any closer.

Sung Kang matched the course record with a 64 to move from No. 122 to No. 88. John Huh, Tyrone Van Aswegan and Derek Fathauer also moved into the top 100, while Shane Lowry, Peter Malnati, Robert Streb, Lucas Glover and Jonas Blixt fell out and ended their season.

The top 70 after next week advance to the third playoff event, with the top 30 going to East Lake for the Tour Championship.

With his victory, which moves Reed to No. 9 in the world ranking, Reed goes to No. 1 in the FedEx Cup. He will be assured of being in the top five who only have to win the Tour Championship to capture the $10 million prize.

Big Ten preview: After six-win season, can Huskers find normalcy under Mike Riley?

mike-riley-0828.png

Big Ten preview: After six-win season, can Huskers find normalcy under Mike Riley?

The change in direction at Nebraska would have been a little easier to stomach had the Huskers won more than six games last season.

Six-win seasons are hardly the norm in Lincoln and an even starker contrast to all the winning that preceded last season, when Bo Pelini led the team to seven straight nine-win campaigns. But athletics director Shawn Eichhorst was no longer comfortable with Pelini at the helm — with talk of him not winning the “right” games — firing him in favor of Mike Riley.

There are still plenty of questions surrounding Riley’s credentials for such a big-time job, but here he is heading into his second season at Nebraska. And it would seem he needs to start winning some games fast to make sure that mediocre finishes don’t become the new normal in Lincoln.

Riley’s first season wasn’t exactly a normal one, with the Huskers dealt a handful of brutal last-second losses. Hail Marys and overtimes and walk-off field goals and last-second drives accumulated with astonishing fashion, and Nebraska was at one point 3-6 with the six losses coming by a total of 23 points (and one was by 10, making the other five by a combined 13 points). That’s unusual, though Nebraska’s defense was certainly to blame in some cases. It’ll have to be better this year to avoid a repeat of some of those stunning losses.

“If you look at the numbers and what you’ll expect to need to win games, we did OK, offensively big plays. But we were bad defensively. We gave up way too many big plays,” Riley said during the team's media day earlier this month. “And oftentimes some of those times, right at the first game, was a really big play at the end of the game. I think being sounder, being able to prevent long passes and long runs. I think maybe the two main factors in winning and losing games are turnovers and big plays. Explosive plays. And it goes both ways. Not turning the ball over offensively and getting explosive plays and defensively getting some turnovers and not giving up big plays. I think those are main factors there.”

This offseason, too, has been anything but normal, featuring the tragic death of punter Sam Foltz in a car accident late last month. The team still has games to play, but much of the attention of the season will be placed on honoring Foltz. The Huskers will wear decals and play for their teammate. The athletics department set up a scholarship in Foltz’s name.

Dealing with Foltz’s death will be a challenge enough, but then there’s the far less important task of winning football games in an always loaded Big Ten. It makes for quite the job for Riley & Co. in a season where normally great improvement in the win column would have been the main focus.

Nebraska has plenty of reason to be excited on the offensive side of the ball, though, with Tommy Armstrong in his fourth season starting at quarterback. And Armstrong will be throwing to an experienced and potent pair of receivers in Jordan Westerkamp and Brandon Reilly. Terrell Newby is a quality running back. But will that be enough to turn things around in such drastic fashion? After all, all those guys were there a season ago.

There were signs of what the Huskers could do at the end of last season. Nebraska shredded Michigan State’s defense in a stunning upset victory toward season’s end, and the Huskers triumphed over UCLA in the bowl game. Those positive steps could be all the Huskers need to head into 2016 with confidence and a chance to be better.

And while Riley gets deserved questioning for never presiding over a consistent stretch of winning as a head coach, he also deserves some slack for the way many of those games ended last season. A couple seconds here, a couple seconds there, and the Huskers could have been a 10-win team.

But hey, that’s college football.

So what’s the team hungry to do, coach?

“Win. And whatever winning means — winning the games, winning championships — I think they invested a lot,” Riley said. “My hope is, and it’s an educated hope, is that they have the last part of the season with a couple really good wins in there. It kind of made them confident in what we do and also anxious to prove we can do that consistently, which we did not last year. I think with veteran leadership we have coming back, with the fact that I think there was some confidence coming out of that and some excitement about what might be, it’s allowed me to say I think this is a hungry team.”