We've finally made it to Peoria. The Class 3A and Class 4A semifinals tip off on Friday afternoon as March Madness in Illinois comes down to the final four teams in each class.
While there is plenty of star power still left, there are also some surprise teams in the field. Can Whitney Young grab the Class 4A state title as the favorite? Can Morgan Park repeat in Class 3A? Those are some of the big questions surrounding this weekend.
Comcast SportsNet will have cameras in Peoria on Friday and Saturday filming for this week's edition of "High School Lites," but the show will air on a new night as you can now find "High School Lites" late on Saturday night. "High School Lites" will also air again at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning and, as always, the show is also streamed live at csnchicago.com.
Lincoln vs. Rockford Lutheran, 12:15 p.m.
Lincoln will be heavily favored in this contest, and they're potentially the favorite to win it all in Class 3A thanks to its balanced lineup and the play of senior guard Max Cook and junior forward Gavin Block. Lincoln (33-2) gave Springield Lanphier its first loss of the season and they've also beaten tough teams in Glenwood and Champaign Central this season.
Cook is one of the better shooters in the state, while Block has emerged on the scene this year as a versatile forward who has been highly productive.
Rockford Lutheran (30-2) will try to match Lincoln with senior guard Thomas Kopelman, who is capable of playing both guard spots and scoring from nearly anywhere on the floor. James Robinson and Nate Wieting have both had solid playoff performances as well as those three led Rockford Lutheran past Sycamore for the sectional title.
Morgan Park vs. Orr, 2 p.m.
Two Public League powers match up in the other Class 3A semifinal on Friday, as both teams are back in Peoria for the second straight season. Morgan Park (21-6) is the defending Class 3A champion and are led by seniors Josh Cunningham, Lamont Walker and Torry Johnson -- sophomore point guard Charlie Moore is also a very talented player for the Mustangs.
Orr (25-4) counters with a senior-laden group that is deep and talented. The Spartans are looking to improve on last season's fourth-place finish in Class 3A, as they're led by senior guard Lou Adams Jr., center Marlon Jones and forward Tyquone Greer. Greer was shot in the leg at a party on March 9, but knocked in the game-winning 3-pointer to lift Orr over North Chicago to return downstate in an incredible story that sounds like a sports movie.
Can Orr get past Morgan Park and improve on last year's finish? They'll need role players like Sire Carroll and Isaiah Haayes to step up to do so.
Whitney Young vs. Stevenson, 6 p.m.
The only disappointing thing about this game is that this isn't for the Class 4A state championship. The two best teams in Illinois with the two leading Player of the Year candidates, this should be a tremendous matchup on Friday night. Whitney Young (27-5) is the favorite in Class 4A as 6-foot-10 senior center Jahlil Okafor (Duke) is a load to handle and the McDonald's All-American is having a fantastic season.
Senior forward Paul White (Georgetown) and senior guard Miles Reynolds (Saint Louis) are also talented and experienced cogs for the Dolphins, and role players like senior Erwin Henry and sophomores Skylar Nash and Rodney Herenten have stepped up their play in the postseason.
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The Patriots (31-1) have been in the top three in Illinois all season as they look to get back to the championship game after falling to Simeon last season. Junior point guard Jalen Brunson is having an unbelievable playoff run, including 35 points in the Supersectional win over Rockford Auburn. He also has talented junior guards around him like Connor Cashaw and Matt Johnson. Can Stevenson handle the size of Okafor down low? That will be the big key in this one.
Benet vs. Edwardsville, 8:15 p.m.
Can Sean O'Mara and Benet (24-7) reach the state title game? That's what the Redwings are hoping as they take on a very talented Edwardsville team that beat Tyler Ulis and Marian Catholic in Supersectional play for the second straight season. Colin Pellitieri has played tremendously for Benet during its Class 4A playoff run with eight 3-pointers in the Supersectional win against Glenbard North on Tuesday.
O'Mara, a senior center and Xavier commit, is also a matchup nightmare down low as he can score or find open teammates when a defense collapses. But can Benet get additional scoring from role players like Liam Nelligan and Colin Bennett if O'Mara and Pellitieri come up short? That'll be the big question for the Redwings.
Edwardsville (30-2) counters with Southern Illinois commit Armon Fletcher, a 6-foot-5 senior forward and senior point guard Shawn Roundtree, who has picked up six Division I scholarship offers during a strong season. The Tigers' 2-3 matchup zone can be difficult to face and they'll be favored over Benet because they're a bit more balanced and their defense causes a lot of problems.