IHSA: Top 20 basketball rankings

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IHSA: Top 20 basketball rankings

1. Whitney Young (17-1)
PrepsTalk: Think the Dolphins are ready for Saturday's game against Simeon? Jahlil Okafor, Paul White, Ausar Madison and company absolutely crushed nationally ranked Long Beach Poly (CA) over the weekend, 85-52.

2. Simeon (15-2)
PrepsTalk: Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn (28 and 21 points, respectively) came to play in another nationally-televised game. This time, they take down Oak Hill (VA) at the Spalding Hoophall Classic.

3. Morgan Park (17-2)
PrepsTalk: The Mustangs bounced back after a tough loss to Simeon with a 74-45 win over Perspectives-Calumet. They will have another Red-South tilt Wednesday against Julian.

4. North Chicago (19-1)
PrepsTalk: The Warhawks survived a missed T.F. North three-point attempt at the buzzer to get a quality 59-57 win at Whitney Youngs MLK Dream Classic. JaVairius Amos-Mays racked up 22 points.

5. Proviso East (14-3)
PrepsTalk: The Pirates continue to make quick work of the West Suburban Gold. Branden Jenkins and Sterling Brown each scored 16 points as East ran away from Downers Grove South on Saturday, 80-55.

6. Oswego (16-2)
PrepsTalk: The Panthers tamed the competition at Wheaton Warrenville South, defeating the host school, Bartlett and Metea Valley. Quick turnaround for Oswego, with Romeoville and Plainfield South this week.

7. Benet (18-3)
PrepsTalk: Pat McInerney (21 points, 10 rebounds) hit a game-winning free throw with 1.8 seconds left to propel Benet to an exciting 51-50 win over Marian Catholic Thursday. Keep an eye on this team come March.

8. Marian Catholic (19-2)
PrepsTalk: The Spartans picked up two wins at the Rockford Jefferson MLK Tournamenta 67-41 win over the host school and a 64-51 triumph over Belvidere. Tyler Ulis continues to impress.

9. Notre Dame (16-2)
PrepsTalk: Another statement win for the Dons, this time on the floor of arch-rival St. Patrick. Jake Maestranzi, Donte Stephenson and Eddie Serrano all scored in double-figures in NDs 54-51 win Friday.

10. Orr (15-2)
PrepsTalk: Another game, another win against an out-of-state foe. This time it was Saturday's 63-45 victory against Ottawa Hills (MI). Now things get interesting, with games against Farragut and Whitney Young this week.

11. Bloom (15-3)
PrepsTalk: The Blazing Trojans were successful at Joliet Centrals MLK Day of Hoops. They beat Danville 72-38 behind 14 points from James Coleman. Bloom now faces H-F Tuesday, then Rich Central Friday (both at home).

12. Niles North (18-3)
PrepsTalk: Lorenzo Dillard, B.J. Beckford and Malachi Nix continue to pace the Vikings, who were busy over the weekend at the Lake Zurich MLK Classic. Among the victims: Streamwood, Harlem and Wheaton North.

13. Neuqua Valley (19-2)
PrepsTalk: Neuqua's defense gets torched by Mundelein on Monday, falling 80-59. The Wildcats look to get back on the winning track at Lake Park on Thursday.

14. West Aurora (14-3)
PrepsTalk: The Blackhawks, after a tough loss to DuPage Valley foe Glenbard East on Friday, bounced back to defeat long-time rival East Aurora 78-45 on Saturday. Jontrel Walker scored 20 points in the win.

15. Stevenson (13-4)
PrepsTalk: The Patriots tie the Zee-Bees atop the North Suburban Lake standings with a 66-56 victory Friday night. Jalen Brunson was unstoppable26 points, 12 rebounds and three assists. Up next: Tuesday at Warren.

16. Brother Rice (16-2)
PrepsTalk: Jim Barista paced the Crusaders with 23 points in a road win at Nazareth last Tuesday. Tough stretch now for Rice: Tuesday vs. Marist, Friday vs. Seton, January 29th at Marian Catholic.

17. Curie (12-5)
PrepsTalk: The Condors took care of business in Michigan on Saturday in a 63-43 win against East Lansing. Cliff Alexander scored 26 points with 14 rebounds. Red Central foes Phillips and Harper are on deck.

18. Maine South (19-3)
PrepsTalk: The Hawks were very impressive in Galesburg. Their efforts included a 54-48 overtime thriller against Bloomington. Can Maine South ride the momentum off that win into Friday against Niles West?

19. Larkin (16-3)
PrepsTalk: The Royals saw their impressive 11-game winning streak come to an end Saturday against Geneva, 61-56. Note: Quentin Ruff hit six three-pointers Thursday against Streamwood.

20. York (15-4)
PrepsTalk: The Dukes forced 25 turnovers in a 68-31 win over the weekend against Elgin. David Cohn continues to shine. York goes back into West Suburban Silver play this Friday against Proviso West.

Looming and Lurking: Zion-Benton, Providence-St. Mel, New Trier, Oak Park-River Forest, Glenbard East, Bartlett, Seton, Stagg, Homewood-Flossmoor, St. Viator, Lemont, Montini, Lake Forest, Crystal Lake Central, St Rita, St. Edward, Bogan, Woodstock, Bartlett.

You can catch High School Lites, sponsored by Discount Tire, every Friday night at 10:30. We stream the show live at csnchicago.com.

Be sure to follow @PrepsTalkCSN and @JoeCSN for prep basketball coverage.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Cole Kmet

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Cole Kmet

St. Viator senior tight end Cole Kmet is a four-star recruit who plans to commit to Notre Dame in February.

But growing up, Kmet also played baseball, which happened to be his best sport as coaches were eyeing his abilities.

Kmet was faced with the difficult decision of having to pick one or the other as a career, and ultimately chose football.

See why he was named this week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week in the video above.

Halftime speeches propel resilient Griffins to come-from-behind victory

Halftime speeches propel resilient Griffins to come-from-behind victory

For 24 minutes in Bolingbrook last Friday night, the Lincoln-Way East Griffins were lost.

A week after suffering a home loss to No. 3 Homewood Flossmoor – a game in which they led 14-0 in the first quarter – Rob Zvonar’s group was reeling in what was expected to be another litmus test for one of the top-ranked teams in Illinois. In front of the Griffins was a second chance to prove against a ranked opponent that they belonged in the top tier, and for quarterbacks they looked anything but.

An offense with two poised quarterbacks and myriad talent at the skill positions had come to a screeching halt after a touchdown drive on their first possession. A pair of lost fumbles and an interception negated three successful drives into Raiders territory in the game’s opening half; three turnovers in two quarters almost always spells doom, let alone doing so on the road at one of the state’s toughest home venues.

And an inexperienced yet talented defense littered with future collegiate talent had allowed three long scoring drives, though a goal-line stand in the first quarter that limited the Raiders to a field goal helped. The lackluster performance on both sides of the ball pinned the Griffins with a 16-7 deficit – that felt like much more than nine points – as the team trotted into the south end zone to meet with coaches for halftime adjustments.

And it was during that 15-minute intermission that something clicked for Zvonar’s group. A fiery halftime speech from wide receivers coach Lance Lokanc, and another from Zvonar before the team took the field in the second half acted as a rallying point for their most impressive half of football to date.

The Griffins reeled off 34 unanswered points in the second half, and only a late Raiders touchdown in the game’s final minute kept Lincoln-Way East from pitching a second-half shutout in the 41-23 victory.

“At some point they’ve got to turn it on themselves,” Zvonar said after the game. “You can be a real clever coach, but they’ve got to make up in their minds (to do it). And I’m glad they did.”

All week in practice Zvonar had been preaching three words to his team: persistence, resolve and perseverance. And while his message was in relation to the previous week’s loss – wanting to see how his team learned from their first setback of the year – they received an in-game test, and passed with flying colors.

The offense bounced back in a major way. Quarterback Jake Arthur threw for a touchdown and ran for another, while Max Shafter connected on a 20-yard touchdown pass to Ken Anderson, who found the end zone for the fourth time. Jeremy Nelson was on the receiving end of Arthur’s, controlling his body on a fade route to the back of the end zone that got the offense going in the third quarter.

It was one of 11 receptions on the evening for Nelson, the Griffins’ leading receiver who finished with 133 yards.

“A lot of us had our heads down (at halftime),” Nelson said after the game. “Then Coach Z fired us up, Coach Lokanc fired us up, and that really got us going. We came out really strong.”

Four scores from the offense – running back Nigel Muhammad iced the game with a 37-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter – were a boon, but it was the defense that ramped up its intensity after halftime.

Zvonar’s group allowed just 39 yards in the second half. The Raiders completed three of 14 passes and averaged a measly 2.2 yards per rush. Defensive end Devin O’Rourke showed why he’s one of the most highly sought-after juniors in the state, tallying three sacks – two in the second half – and finishing with a game-high seven solo tackles.

Linebacker Brett Stegmueller was everywhere, racking up six tackles, an interception and a fumble recovery. The swarming Griffins defense took a lesson from the halftime talks, and persevered with their backs against the wall on the road.

“Just coming out making plays, just motivating the whole defense to come together playing as one,” he said. “That’s what allowed us to do what he did.”

Zvonar’s definition of showing resolve was illustrated clearly by wide receiver Nick Zelenika. The slot receiver fumbled in the first half and had a ball go off his hands that resulted in an interception early in the third quarter. But the senior responded, returning a punt 38 yards for a touchdown that gave the Griffins a 20-16 they did not relinquish.

“It’s easy to talk about what we’re going to do,” he said of the halftime speeches, “but to go out there and actually do it is a whole other thing. And I think we really showed that in the second half.”

It was only one game, albeit the Griffins’ last real steep competition before the playoffs roll around in six weeks. But the stark contrast from the prior week, when the Griffins came out firing against HF and fizzled down the stretch, gave them another difficult situation to look back on should they find themselves in a similar spot later in the year.

And unlike Week 3, the Griffins showed persistence, resolve and perseverance. They learned something about themselves in that loss, but were also able to take away an important lesson in what became their most impressive victory to do date.

“I think we found out maybe we’ve got a group that won’t quit when the chips are down,” Zvonar said. “I think that was the biggest thing. They kept battling, and we came out with a decisive win.”