High School Lites Preview: Top two teams face major tests

High School Lites Preview: Top two teams face major tests
January 9, 2014, 4:30 pm
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Conference play hits full swing on Friday night as teams from across the Chicagoland area finally begin regularly facing opponents from their own league. The top two teams in our latest CSN Preps Power Rankings — No. 1 Stevenson and No. 2 Marian Catholic — will both face major tests in conference play, while a number of other intriguing contests fill the schedule.

Comcast SportsNet will have cameras across Chicagoland for "High School Lites," which will air at a special time Saturday night at 10:30 p.m. and is streamed live at CSNChicago.com.

No. 7 Simeon at Harlan (Thursday)

The 9-2 Wolverines could have their hands full in this Red-South contest against an experienced and feisty Harlan team. Harlan, led by senior guard Andre Hogan, gave Morgan Park a scare earlier in the season with a three-point loss and they won't be intimidated by Simeon. Harlan enters the contest at 8-7.

Rich South at Bloom, 6:30 p.m.

This will be a good one in the Southland as both Rich South and Bloom enter Friday night at 2-0 in the conference. Both teams also sport an identical 8-5 record and but are trending in opposite directions. Rich South lost three straight games at the McDipper and struggled to find consistency while Bloom had a 2-2 showing at Pontiac, but it included respectable close losses to Oak Park-River Forest and Warren. Bloom's Jared Johnson is playing really well lately and is an emerging senior forward.

No. 17 St. Viator at No. 2 Marian Catholic, 7:00 p.m.

This will be a big-time matchup of guards as St. Viator and senior Ore Arogundade and junior Roosevelt Smart will take on Marian Catholic and point guard Tyler Ulis in an East Suburban Catholic Conference clash. The Spartans (11-1, 1-0) are unbeaten against Illinois competition and already own a big conference win over Benet and Xavier commit Sean O'Mara to start the conference season, while the Lions (11-2, 2-0) will look to shake off their Wheeling Hardwood Classic title game loss to No. 10 Fremd.

[MORE: Ten intriguing IHSA conference races]

Plainfield East at Oswego, 6:30 p.m.

New Illinois commit Aaron Jordan and his Plainfield East (7-5, 2-1) teammates take on Oswego (5-5, 2-1) in an (up-for-grabs) Southwest Prairie conference contest. The Southwest Prairies currently has a five-way tie of teams at the top with a 2-1 record and the rest of the league — besides 0-3 Romeoville — sit a game behind at 1-2. Friday night's Southwest Prairie action, including this contest, should help dictate a lot of the future for that league. Jordan isn't the only talented junior guard to be featured in this one. Oswego junior Zach West, is averaging 23.2 points per game for a young Oswego team that plays a lot of sophomores and a freshman in their rotation.

No. 16 Larkin at Neuqua Valley, 7:15 p.m.

This Upstate Eight crossover features the No. 16 Royals (13-2, 5-0) and their talented backcourt of Derrick Streety and Kendale McCullum traveling on the road to face Neuqua Valley (10-3, 5-0) in a battle of 5-0 teams in conference play. Both of these teams are coming off of minor holiday tournament letdowns as both Larkin and Neuqua Valley fell in the semifinals at Jacobs and East Aurora, respectively. Can Neuqua Valley earn a huge home win behind senior Elijah Robertson? Larkin has proved they can play in big games against top competition, but they could certainly use another strong road win.

St. Charles North at Geneva, 7:15 p.m.

This is an intriguing Upstate Eight River contest featuring the North Stars (7-5, 3-1) and Vikings (13-3, 3-2) as both teams try to make up ground on first-place Larkin. Geneva is playing great ball, fresh off a holiday tournament win at East Aurora, and junior forward Nate Navigato might be the best player you aren't aware of in the area. St. Charles North is coming off of a decent showing at Pontiac in which they put a serious scare into Simeon before losing by a point to Bloom. While the North Stars went 1-2, they played well and could be a team to watch during conference play.

No. 19 West Aurora at Glenbard North, 7:30 p.m.

This is a big-time clash in the DuPage Valley conference as the No. 19 Blackhawks (8-3, 3-0) and senior guard Jontrell Walker travel to face Glenbard North (9-2, 3-0) in a battle of unbeatens in the league. Glenbard North is led by Chip Flanigan and Jeremiah Fleming, but they have yet to be tested like West Aurora's talented bunch will. The Panthers own DuPage Valley home wins over Naperville North and Lake Park, but the rest of their schedule has been rather light and West Aurora had a good showing at Pontiac in nearly toppling Curie in the semifinals.

No. 1 Stevenson at No. 8 Zion-Benton, 7:00 p.m.

Talk about a big-time matchup. The unbeaten Patriots (13-0, 3-0) travel north to face the Zee-Bees (12-1, 3-0) in a tremendous matchup in the North Suburban Lake. The Zee-Bees are coming off of a win in the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs while Stevenson won at Proviso West in that loaded field. The high-scoring duo of Milik Yarbrough and Admiral Schofield will lead the Zee-Bees while Jalen Brunson continues to be a strong Player of the Year candidate as he plays alongside fellow junior guard Connor Cashaw.

Barrington at No. 10 Fremd, 7:30pm

Unbeaten Fremd (13-0, 3-0) is clearly the class of the Mid-Suburban League during the first part of this season, but they'll face a Barrington (8-9, 2-1) team with some talent. Senior Austin Madrzyk and sophomore Rapolis Ivanaskaus can both score for the Broncos and Ivanaskaus — in particular — is an interesting match-up in an MSL that doesn't see a lot of tall and talented scorers like the 6-foot-8 sophomore. Fremd is a well-oiled machine, however, and will be the big favorite in this one.