While we're witnessing a truly great senior class play this season as we enter conference play and holiday tournament season, there are a number of juniors playing at a high level and leading teams to victory as well.
On Friday, I had a chance to check out one of those juniors, Hinsdale Central forward Matt Rafferty, during the Red Devils' big road win over previously-unbeaten Oak Park-River Forest. The 6-foot-7 Rafferty only had 13 points, but it was the way he commanded attention on both ends of the floor and played a great overall floor game that made me take notice.
Rafferty's pass out of a double team in the post to teammate Chase Hamilton gave Hinsdale Central the go-ahead three-pointer with under two minutes left against OPRF and Rafferty had 12 rebounds and three blocked shots to go along with it. Rafferty followed that up with a 17 and 10 performance the following night in a win over Naperville Central and is coming on strong for a Hinsdale Central team that could be really dangerous once they return 6-foot-7 forwards George Kiernan and Ian Bunting.
[MORE: Simeon stays at No. 1 in CSN Preps basketball power rankings]
A pair of North Suburban Lake juniors are also putting up huge numbers early in the year to lead their teams.
Forward Evan Boudreaux had performances of 28 points and 39 points and 15 rebounds last week for Lake Forest (5-2, 2-1) while Stevenson (7-0, 2-0) point guard Jalen Brunson continues to pile on points for the undefeated No. 4 Patriots.
Many of the top juniors in the area are paired with talented teammates to carry a lot of the burden so far this season, but those three juniors are getting it done and carrying winning teams.
Top Two Teams Tested This Week
While it seems like many of the top teams in the state have been playing out-of-state opponents early on in the season, this week, No. 1 Simeon (4-0) and No. 2 Morgan Park (3-0) will have two tough games this week, including a Thursday clash against each other.
The game Thursday will be a nice win for either the Wolverines or Mustangs in the heated Red-South rivalry that also happens to double as No. 1 vs. No. 2 in our CSN Preps Basketball Power Rankings, but there is also a long way to go in the season.
Simeon and Morgan Park also have Tuesday Red-South tests to worry about before facing each other. Simeon can't overlook a feisty Vocational team that is 5-0 and the Mustangs have to face No. 12 Bogan in a game that will really test their backcourt.
No matter how the Wolverines and Mustangs fare, they'll have to prepare for Pontiac and Proviso West, respectively, following a tough week in the Red-South.
Elgin, Wheeling and Pekin release schedules
Holiday Tournaments are beginning as soon as Saturday with the Hinkle Holiday Classic at Jacobs and the Chuck Dayton Holiday Tournament at DeKalb both tipping off, as well as some first round games from the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.
CSN Chicago will have plenty of holiday tournament coverage this week and next as we get into the full swing of things through until January.
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Elgin Holiday Tournament
Games will be played Dec 23, 26, 27, 28 (title)
Monday, Dec. 23
Harlan vs. Buffalo Grove, 9 a.m.
Rockford East vs. St. Francis de Sales, 10:30 a.m.
TEAM Englewood vs. Dundee-Crown, 12:15 p.m.
Elgin vs. South Shore, 1:45 p.m.
Walther Christian vs. Rockford Guilford, 3:30 p.m.
Glenbard North vs. Corliss, 5 p.m.
Huntley vs. Phillips, 6:45 p.m.
Batavia vs. Francis Parker, 8:15 p.m.
Pekin Holiday Tournament
Games will be played Dec. 26, 27, 28 (title)
Thursday, Dec. 26
Morton vs. Peoria Richwoods, 9 a.m.
Springfield Lanphier vs. Normal West, 10:30 a.m.
Freeport vs. Mount Carmel, 12:45 p.m.
Evanston vs. Washington, 2:15 p.m.
Limestone vs. Peoria Central, 3:45 p.m.
Pekin vs. Hersey, 6:30 p.m.
Plainfield East vs. United Township, 8 p.m.
Rockford Boylan vs. Lake Zurich, 9:30 p.m.
Wheeling Hardwood Classic
Games will be played Dec. 23, 26, 27, 28 (title)
Monday, Dec. 23rd
Notre Dame vs. Glenbrook South, 9 a.m.
Prospect vs. Maine West, 10:30 a.m.
Deerfield vs. Lake Park, 12:15 p.m.
St. Viator vs. Hope Academy, 2:00 p.m.
Fremd vs. Alcott, 3:45 p.m.
Niles North vs. Clark, 5:15 p.m.
Wheeling vs. Vernon Hills, 7:15 p.m.
Streamwood vs. Naperville Central, 8:45 p.m.