High School Lites Preview: Public League Playoffs

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High School Lites Preview: Public League Playoffs

The IHSA playoffs might be a few weeks away, but playoff basketball is alive and well in Chicago. Simeon and Curie have the top seeds in this years Public League playoff bracket. Will there be a Cinderella this year? We will check in with the top-ranked Wolverines and a few games featuring teams from the stacked Red-West conference. Our CSN cameras will also bring you action from classic rivalries in the area: New Trier-Evanston and Elgin-Larkin. Plus, who will win the rubber match between Bloom and Rich South? Can H-F go on the road and tame Bolingbrook? 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:

FRIDAY GAMES

Hyde Park (9-8) @ 1 Simeon (21-1), 4:00pm (Public League Playoffs)

Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor, Kendrick Nunn and company are sure to use the Public League playoffs as a test for the IHSA playoffs next month. Simeon had no problem in the first round, crushing Douglass 98-31. But Hyde Park could be one of those sneaky-tough teams that will cause problems. Like Simeon, Hyde Park dismantled their first round opponent, beating Schurz 88-21. Lamont Bryant no longer coaches the team, but the Thunderbirds still have a nice roster, including junior guard Kyle Davis.

Perspectives-Calumet (10-13) @ Taft (17-7), 4:00pm (Public League Playoffs)

Perspectives claimed one of the first mini-upsets of the Chicago Public League tournament, taking down a 12-8 Von Steuben team 59-43. You may know Perspectives-Calumet as the school that Kentucky phenom Anthony Davis once called home. Yehosua Craig, Terrence Sardin and Henry Crawford lead this years team. Taft, who won the Red-North conference title, has solid players in Tim Reamer and John Joyce.

Farragut (13-7) @ Orr (17-3), 4:00pm (Public League Playoffs)

Not many people had Orr among Chicagos elite when the season started. If they can get by Farragut, look out. The first of two Red-West battles in the Public Leagues second round features a high-flying Orr team paced by junior Marquise Pryor, a dominating rebounder and scorer. On Friday, he will match up against another premiere big-man, 6-9 Rashaun Stimage. Dont let Farraguts record fool you. They are battle-tested and can compete with any team in the city. This game will be a must-see Friday, along with...

11 Whitney Young (11-8) @ Marshall (19-6), 4:00pm (Public League Playoffs)

Marshall is the textbook example of a team peaking at the right time. The Commandos were on the incline when they stunned Whitney Young 79-75 in overtime on Jan. 18th on the Dolphins home floor. Can they do it again? Marshalls 6-4 guard Milton Doyle -- a Florida International recruit -- could give them an edge. However, Whitney Young has done a tremendous job this season playing with a roster hit by injuries. Sophomore center Jahlil Okafor is the real deal. It adds up to an epic matchup between Red-West foes.

Morton (9-10) @ 2 Proviso East (19-0), 6:00pm

Can any stop the 2 Pirates? Looking at their record, the answer is quite obvious. The biggest challenge for Proviso East, though, might be maintaining focus between now and the IHSA playoffs. It might make Friday's game against Morton all the more intriguing. East is loaded: Sterling Brown, Keith Carter, Trashaun Carroll, Paris Lee and Paris Burns are all contributors. Morton, who has battled injuries this year, has a talent in center Rocco Belcaster.

16 Bloom (19-3) @ Rich South (18-5), 6:30pm

Baseball season might be a few months away, but a true "rubber game" will take place in the Southland conference. Bloom defeated Rich South in the McDipper Holiday Tournament in December, but the Stars came back one week later and took down the Blazing Trojans in conference play. South is coming off a huge win against Crete-Monee on Tuesday, where John Ruffin (18 points, 20 rebounds) calmly sank two game-winning free throws with 10 seconds left. Bloom, behind guard Donald Moore, will be tough to stop.

Homewood-Flossmoor (17-5) @ Bolingbrook (13-8), 7:00pm

The Raiders may have one of the dominant girls programs in the area, but keep an eye on the boys basketball team. Bolingbrook won their sixth straight game, a 54-46 victory over Lockport Tuesday night. 6-foot-7 center Ben Moore is a force for the 'Brook and they get good production from their guards. H-F, behind forwards Devlon Rencher and Tim Williams, come in as the first place team in the Southwest Suburban Blue...but Bolingbrook is nipping at their heels. Vikings guard Tyrone Sherman is one of the area's best.

Marist (20-5) @ Marian Catholic (13-8), 7:00pm

Marist might be one of the quietest 20-win teams out there. They reached that landmark Wednesday night, beating Tinley Park 62-45. Junior guard LJ McIntosh will get a lot of looks for the Redhawks Friday night. Marian Catholic, like Marist, finds themselves close behind St. Viator in the East Suburban Catholic conference. Marian comes in with momentum as well. They defeated T.F. South 54-52 on Tuesday. Tyler Ulis, averaging over 22 points per game, is the go-to guy for the Spartans.

10 Elgin (18-3) @ Larkin (14-8), 7:15pm

This all-Elgin clash stands as one of the better rivalries in Chicagoland. The 10th-ranked Maroons are trying to come out of a mini-slump. After two straight defeats, theyve put together back-to-back wins against DeKalb and Batavia. Senior Kory Brown continues to impress. He had another 19 points, 10 rebounds, four blocks and five assists Wednesday against Batavia. Larkin, coached by Deryn Carter, has put together a solid season behind guard Derrick Streety.

14 New Trier (18-4) vs. Evanston (14-9), 7:30pm at Welsh-Ryan Arena

It doesn't matter which sport it is. New Trier-Evanston is one of the best rivalries in the state and a new chapter will be completed in boys basketball on Friday. The Trevians took the first battle in Winnetka 58-48 back on January 6th. Senior forward Connor Boehm dominated the Wildkits, racking up 28 points and seven rebounds. Evanston will need stellar play out of Leonard Garron and Josh Irving to pull the upset in this Central Suburban conference tilt.

GIRLS: New Trier (18-9) vs. Evanston (14-11), 6:00pm at Welsh-Ryan Arena

Evanstons 46-44 win over New Trier last month was one of the signature wins of the year for the Wildkits. Can they do it again? Like the Bloom-Rich South matchup, this will be the rubber game in the series (the other game being the Dundee-Crown tournament matchup. Evanstons Sinclair Cunningham played well in the previous game, as did Alecia Cooley. New Triers Northwestern-bound star Maggie Lyon will get reacquainted with the court she will play on next season.

GIRLS: Glenbrook North (18-7) @ Maine West (11-16), 7:30pm

Its been quite a season for the Warriors of Maine West. They lost their first five games of the season and theyve come back to put themselves in a position to win the Central Suburban North title outright Friday night. West, who is guided by legendary coach Derrill Kipp, features one of the top sophomores in the area, center Brittany Collins. North has been very impressive as well. Senior Rachel Blitt, a guard, and center Gracie Sanchez lead the attack for the Spartans.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is New Trier High School. The Trevians have had many future Ivy Leaguers walk the halls in Winnetka over the years and this year is no different. Dartmouth and Princeton will be getting talented players over the next few years. Our Kip Lewis has that story. 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.

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

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

Bullard a prime example of how, why and where Bears can improve

This Bears rebuild has taken longer than expected. Ideally, in year three of a GM/head coach tandem, they should be contending for the playoffs. 

That’s not to say the 2017 Bears can’t. It’s just unlikely. They don’t have enough players opponents have to gameplan for. They don’t have the depth to overcome key injuries. When franchises get on a winning roll, it’s when they have enough of those studs on both sides of the ball, and have the depth to avoid as many emergencies as possible. And that happens when second- and third-year players make a jump in their play.

Offensively, we saw an impressive jump by Cam Meredith, but another left leg injury still have us wondering exactly what Kevin White is, and how good he can be. Jeremy Langford’s growth was stunted by his ankle injury. Second-year center Hroniss Grasu missed the entire year. On the defensive side, we never got to see if Kyle Fuller could’ve proven his first-round status in his third year. Safety Adrian Amos started another full season, but is now in a battle to do the same a third straight year. We can see star qualities in Eddie Goldman, but how much of a difference-maker can he be by remaining on the field? We’ll learn the same about Leonard Floyd if he can do that this fall. And there are a handful of other second-year players we’ll be watching, from Deon Bush to Deiondre Hall to Cre’Von LeBlanc. There’s also 2016 third-round pick Jonathan Bullard, who learned what it took to become a 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

“It was okay. I got about 17 snaps a game,” Bullard said of his rookie season during last month’s minicamp. “That’s not what I wanted coming in. But it is what is. I want to move on to the next year and hopefully be able to help this team in a big way.”

Rookie seasons for every player lay the groundwork. How high their ceiling goes starts to get established in year two, between the player’s effort, and getting coached-up correctly.

“They asked me to gain a few pounds. I was like 282 last year, and right now I’m at 296, so hopefully that helps me, said Bullard. “I’m just trying to make all this solid and not lose my burst that got me here. So I’m looking forward to it. I got a year under my belt now, I know what they expect. I’m gonna be ready.”

Part of Bullard taking things upon himself was hooking up with a former defensive end, from the same alma mater, who happens to be fourth in franchise history in sacks (albeit in a 4-3 scheme): CSN’s very own Bears analyst, Alex Brown.

“We saw each other at the Florida spring game and we kind of linked up and put in some work at his facility down the road,” Bullard explained. “We’ve met up quite a few times, just working on little things. He’s just trying to give me a better understanding of the game, and some of the veteran things he knows that I want to incorporate into my game.”

So what kind of a teacher is Alex?

“He’s alright. I make him him jump in there. I tell him he’s not that old.”

And while Pace didn’t make the big splash in free agency as he tries to match up salary with his grades for players, Bullard has to prove he’s now better than last year’s starter, Mitch Unrein, as well as a hungry fellow former Gator, Jaye Howard, who was brought in on a “prove it” one-year deal after being cut just before the draft by Kansas City.

“As far as him being a Gator, it’s exciting. But it’s a competition. He’s gonna come in and try to win the starting job, and I’m gonna do the same. It’s just gonna have to be a friendly competition when training camp comes, and may the best man win.”

Let this, and many other Bourbonnais battles, begin.

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

Kyle Hendricks is back, but Cubs will likely have to wait for their next shot at Yu Darvish

Within the first several weeks of the Theo Epstein administration, the Cubs finished second in the Yu Darvish sweepstakes, though nowhere close to the $51.7 million the Texas Rangers bid for the exclusive rights to negotiate a six-year, $60 million deal with the Japanese superstar.

The Cubs will probably have to wait a few more months for their next shot at Darvish, who is “unlikely to move” before the July 31 trade deadline, a source monitoring the situation said Monday. Darvish means enough to the franchise’s bottom line as a box-office draw and magnet for corporate sponsors that the Rangers would be reluctant to trade a player with global appeal and potentially jeopardize that relationship heading into free agency this winter.

Beyond the possible impact on re-signing Darvish, that would also mean foreclosing on a season where Texas is only 2.5 games out of an American League wild-card spot, making this final week critical to the buy-or-sell decision.

The Cubs would obviously prefer to stay out of the rental market after shipping two top prospects to the White Sox in the Jose Quintana deal. Quintana’s reasonable contract – almost $31 million between next season and 2020 once two team options are picked up – creates financial flexibility for a free-agent megadeal (Darvish?) or the next big-time international player.

But the cost of doing business with the White Sox probably means the Cubs wouldn’t have the super-elite prospect to anchor a trade for Darvish, anyway. That would be another obstacle in any possible deal for Sonny Gray, with an AL source saying the New York Yankees are going hard after the Oakland A’s right-hander (and have a deeper farm system and a greater sense of urgency after missing on Quintana).

All that means Kyle Hendricks could function as the trade-deadline addition for the rotation, with the Cubs instead trying to shorten games and deepen their bullpen by July 31.

After spending more than six weeks on the disabled list, the Cubs activated Hendricks for the start of this week’s crosstown series, watching him pitch into the fifth inning of Monday’s 3-1 loss to a White Sox team that had lost nine straight games.

[Willson Contreras may be ‘the f------ Energizer Bunny,’ but Cubs still need to get another catcher before trade deadline]

Hendricks is a rhythm/feel pitcher who blossomed from an overlooked prospect in the Texas system into a piece in the buzzer-beater Ryan Dempster deal at the 2012 deadline into last year’s major-league ERA leader.

Hendricks clearly isn’t locked in yet. He gave up eight hits, but minimized the damage against the White Sox, allowing only one run while putting up five strikeouts against zero walks.

“He wasn’t as normal,” manager Joe Maddon said. “The velocity was still down a little bit. There was not a whole lot of difference between his pitches. He was not what you would call ‘on.’ He would be the first one to tell you that. He looked fine delivery-wise, but the ball just wasn’t coming out as normal.”

Hendricks described his fastball command as “terrible,” called his secondary pitches “OK” and ultimately came to this conclusion: “Health-wise, everything felt great, so we’ll take that. Just got to get back (to my routine).”

The biggest takeaway is Hendricks didn’t feel any lingering effects from the right hand tendinitis that was initially classified as a minor injury in early June. Meaning the Cubs (51-47) are just about at full strength and have another week left to upgrade the defending World Series champs.