Playoffs wind down on special High School Lites

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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.

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

White Sox courting of Luis Robert leads to 'Christmas in May'

When he learned last November that elite talent Luis Robert could be available by June 15, Marco Paddy didn’t hold back: It was time for the White Sox make their move.

Much like with Yoan Moncada before, the team’s international scouting director had an extensive history scouting Robert, who on Saturday signed with the White Sox after he received a $26 million signing bonus. After watching him for five years, Paddy believed in Robert enough to recommend the White Sox pay several severe penalties to sign a player the franchise thinks could be an everyday center fielder with power.

By signing Robert, 19, the White Sox must not only pay a luxury tax of almost equal value to the bonus, but they’re also unable to sign any international prospect for more than $300,000 in each of the next two classes. But given the limited competition and the unique talent he saw, Paddy let the White Sox know Robert -- a potential top-30 prospect in baseball -- was a player they couldn’t afford to bypass. Thus begun the team’s courtship, one the Cuban cited as having a major impact on his desire to sign with the White Sox. Now, the White Sox not only have Moncada after trading for him in December, but they also have another potential cornerstone to build around.

“From the beginning we were very serious about it,” Paddy said. “Knowing we weren’t going to have 29 other clubs competing against us was a good thing for us because we knew our competition pool was a lot smaller. We went in it with everything we had and if we missed out on some guys that’s fine, that’s the risk you take.

“It’s a dream come true to be honest with you, having those guys with that kind of ability together. There’s still a lot of work that needs to be done. But I saw Moncada about the same age I saw Robert and it’s like Christmas in May.”

The pursuit of Robert -- a player general manager Rick Hahn describes as a “dynamic, potential talent” -- began in December at the winter meetings at National Harbor, Md. Having learned that Robert would potentially be a late addition to the 2016-17 international class, Paddy asked for a meeting with Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. Paddy and Hahn had previously held several similar state-of-the-international-picture meetings to determine when to make a splash on the market.

This was different.

“Marco approached us and said, ‘This is the guy,’ ” Hahn said.

It was still a “what if” proposition because Robert not only had to establish residency, but he also had to receive clearance from Major League Baseball to be part of the 2016-17 class, a critical factor. Under the old Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams could spend whatever they wanted on a player as long as they paid a luxury tax. But under the new CBA, teams are limited to a maximum of $5.25 million for bonuses.

While the White Sox felt Paddy’s familiarity with Robert would give them a chance if he wasn’t eligible until July 2 (the next class), they knew they’d compete against fewer teams for his services under the old rules. Hahn said back in March the White Sox intended to be a player either way. On Saturday, he said it was Paddy’s initial determination that spurred him into action.

“Marco personally was willing to suffer the penalties that it has on his world for the betterment of the organization,” Hahn said. “Marco’s evaluation and presence and willingness to sacrifice potential future signings for this reinforced the notion that this was the right move to make.”

Then everyone else got involved and the White Sox went overboard to recruit Robert.

If Saturday’s pregame presentation is any indication, the White Sox pulled out all the stops.

As Robert was introduced for his press conference, he sat in front of banners featuring current and former White Sox from Cuba, including Alexei Ramirez, Minnie Minoso, Jose Abreu and Moncada.

Once he was on the field to throw out the first pitch, the team played a short video that was filmed Friday night on the scoreboard with numerous White Sox fans welcoming Robert to Chicago. As Robert trotted to the mound to throw his pitch to Abreu, team employees stood atop the home dugout with a sign that read “bienvenidos” and holding Cuban flags.

But the post-signing efforts were nothing compared to the team’s full-court press of Robert last month.

[MORE: Luis Robert will start journey through White Sox organization in Dominican Summer League]

Hahn and Williams brought several showstoppers with them when they traveled to the Dominican Republic for a private workout with Robert last month. Included were a power point production and an iPad with a video presentation that the White Sox communications department put together in six days, Hahn said. Manager Rick Renteria narrated the short video in Spanish and it included personal messages for Robert from Abreu, Moncada and Michael Ynoa, who shares the same trainer (Edgar Mercedes) and worked out with Robert in the offseason.

“It was a beautiful video,” Robert said through an interpreter. “The part (that stood out) the most was when Ricky Renteria was talking straight to me, saying they need me here to win several championships.”

But more than the video, Robert said the desire displayed by the White Sox made his decision easy. Hahn said the White Sox felt confident heading into the final 24 hours that they were in the lead for Robert. Not only had they bid aggressively, Hahn thought the White Sox made a strong pitch. That feeling only increased last Saturday morning when Robert changed his Instagram avatar to a picture of him wearing a White Sox cap.

“The video helps a lot, but the thing that made me make a decision was who was the team that showed more interest,” Robert said. “That was something that made me feel good.”

Paddy had seen enough in five years to feel confident in pushing the White Sox to be a player for Robert.

He first scouted Robert at the under-15 Pan American Championships in 2012 in Chihuahua, Mexico. Paddy’s interest in the 6-foot-3, 175-pound center fielder only grew as Robert matured physically. Paddy suspected that once Hahn and Williams would be on board once they saw the passion with which Robert played.

Robert described himself on Saturday as player who likes to fight and “give all that I have for my team.” Paddy said it wasn’t a difficult call to push Hahn when he considered the player’s tools and makeup, as well as the last opportunity to spend big on an international talent.

“You put all those things together, it becomes easy,” Paddy said. “As I watched him over the years grow, get stronger and get better, it became evident to me that if we had an opportunity to sign this guy, it would be a good thing for the organization.

“The level of ability, the tools that I saw that he had, and the past and now present, it’s something you don’t see every day.”

Tyler Danish gets win in first big league start as White Sox beat Tigers in first game of doubleheader

Tyler Danish gets win in first big league start as White Sox beat Tigers in first game of doubleheader

Usually when a pitcher walks six batters in one game, it’s an outing to forget.

Not the case, though, for Tyler Danish, who will always want to remember what went down Saturday on the South Side.

After making three relief appearances last season, Danish made his first big league start in the first game of Saturday’s doubleheader against the visiting Detroit Tigers. And despite issuing a sextet of free passes, he allowed a goose egg on the scoreboard, earning his first major league victory in the White Sox 3-0 win.

“That's great. I mean you dream as a kid to pitch in the big leagues,” Danish said. “To get my first win in my first career start was special. I'm glad my mom was here, I'm glad she got to enjoy that. It was a very special day, something I'll always remember.”

Danish got into some early trouble and looked like he might’ve been heading for the same type of sky-high ERA that he put up in his blink-and-you’ll-miss-it call up in 2016, when he turned in a 10.80 earned-run average in 1.2 innings. He walked three batters in the first inning Saturday, escaping thanks to a double play and a bases-loaded ground out to end the inning.

Twice more he had multiple runners on base, but he got out of those innings unscathed, too.

“He was throwing enough strikes that with the sinking action, he was able to get that ground ball in the first inning, the double play,” manager Rick Renteria said after the game. “Then most of the game he was still staying down in the zone. He was missing but just missing off on the fringes of the plate.

“I think he was very composed. The first couple of innings he was a little accelerated but he slowed down. In the end we wanted to make sure he was ready to go out and finish it.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Despite the walks, Danish impressed. In addition to throwing five scoreless innings, he allowed just three hits and struck out seven Detroit hitters. Danish became the first White Sox pitcher to throw at least five scoreless frames and give up three or fewer hits in his first big league start in nearly a decade. The last guy to do it was Lance Broadway in September 2007.

“I definitely was nervous in the first inning. I was expecting it,” Danish said. “I came in and tried to pitch as well as I could with that. But I did settle in after the first couple innings and just started breathing a little more. I felt comfortable and the bullpen did a great job, the defense did a great job.

“I think a little bit of nerves. Obviously you don't want six (walks) every game, but I thought I made good pitches when I needed to. Now, go and enjoy this thing and tomorrow we'll be back again.”

Even though offense was hard to come by, the White Sox hitters managed three runs against an otherwise dominant Michael Fulmer. The reigning American League Rookie of the Year yielded just six hits through his first seven innings of work, the lone run in that span scoring on a bases-loaded double play in the fifth.

The White Sox got to Fulmer slightly more in the eighth with runs scoring on a Leury Garcia triple and a Jose Abreu broken-bat bloop single. Fulmer still finished with fewer than 100 pitches thrown in his eight innings, recording every out for Detroit.

The White Sox bullpen was perhaps the most impressive unit of the game. Chris Beck, Anthony Swarzak, Tommy Kahnle and David Robertson threw four scoreless innings and struck out nine hitters, including eight straight at one point.