High School Lites Preview: Championship weekend

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High School Lites Preview: Championship weekend

739 Illinois high school boys basketball teams had dreams of playing in Peoria in March. Only four of them get the right to call themselves state champs. Two schools have already been crowned. Two more will take home first place trophies on Saturday night. Who will get the honor? Will Hillcrest win their second title in three years? Can Simeon win their third state championship in a row? Will Proviso East finish off an undefeated season?

High School Lites will air on Comcast SportsNet Chicago on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. this week and will feature highlights from the 3A & 4A championship and third place games.

The following capsules will be for Fridays semifinal games, which can be seen on NBC Chicago Nonstop (Digital Channel 5.2, Comcast 341, RCN 50, WOW 130 and AT&T U-Verse 1742). Rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by the Marines:

No. 7 North Chicago (24-6) vs. Springfield-Lanphier (28-3), 3A State Semifinal, 12:00 p.m.

The North Chicago Warhawks, who are making their second consecutive trip to Peoria, are putting up point totals that would make some college programs blush. N-C is averaging close to 80 points per game in the postseason. They put 91 on the board versus Marshall on Tuesday, 32 of which came from Illinois-state bound Aaron Simpson. The 5-10 senior guard can score from anywhere on the floor and is especially deadly from behind the arc. The key for Lanphier will be containing Simpson. Everett Clemons, who is the son of former Illinois guard Rennie Clemons, is their go-to guy, racking up close to 20 points per game. Larry Austin Jr. is also a threat. He is coming off a 24-point performance which helped his Lions defeat East St. Louis in the supersectional.

No. 5 Hillcrest (26-5) vs. Peoria (26-3), 3A State Semifinal, 2:00 p.m.

If Hillcrest is to advance to the state championship this weekend, they will have to focus on closing out the opposition. The Hawks, who are looking for their second state title in three years, let a 21 point lead slip away against DuSable in Tuesday's supersectional. But the Hawks survived, winning 47-44. Hillcrest does have balance and a few scorers who can create instant offense, namely Jayone Troutman, Jovan Mooring and Jalen Loving. But they could face matchup problems with Peoria High School. Four of their regular contributors are monsters. Seniors Shamar Hill (6-6), Trey Kellum (6-7), Kevin Jordan (6-10) and 6-5 junior Josh Augusta can overwhelm opponents. Kellum had 14 points and eight rebounds in the Lions' 77-59 supersectional victory over Rockford East on Tuesday.

No. 2 Proviso East (31-0) vs. Rockford-Auburn (31-2), 4A State Semifinal, 6:30 p.m.

Aside from a slim three-point victory over Glenbard North in the regional final, all of Proviso East's playoff victories have been by double-digit margins, including Tuesday's 62-51 triumph over West Aurora. Is Proviso East just that good or have they not been thoroughly tested yet? Whatever the case, they're going to face a major challenge against Rockford-Auburn. The Knights feature one of the top point guards in the state, Wichita State-bound Fred Van Vleet. He scored a game-high 27 points in Auburn's 49-43 supersectional win over Warren. That said, Proviso East is one of the deepest teams in the state and already own a victory over Auburn at the Proviso West Holiday tournament. First-year head coach Donnie Boyce, St. Louis-bound Keith Carter, Sterling Brown, Paris Burns, Paris Lee and Trashaun Carroll have had a dream season thus far. Carroll, though, will miss Fridays semifinal due to an ejection during the supersectional.

No. 1 Simeon (31-1) vs. No. 4 Bloom (28-3), 4A State Semifinal, 8:15 p.m.

A lot has been said about Simeon's offensive weapons this season --namely phenom Jabari Parker, who had another double-double to help his team take down Evanston in Tuesday's supersectional-- but their defense has been the proverbial x-factor in the playoffs. They held an upstart Evanston team to only 34 points in that victory and have defeated their playoff opponents by an average of 23 points. Their semifinal opponent, Bloom, has a lot of similar characteristics. They have scoring power with Donald Moore, but they also can put the clamps on the opposition. Blazing Trojans head coach Jasper Williams has said that this year's team has the best defense he's seen in his two decades-plus of coaching. But will it be enough to take down nationally-ranked Simeon?

High School Lites will also feature highlights from Saturdays semifinals of The Illinois State High School Hockey Championship, presented by Hinckley Springs." The boys championship will air on Comcast SportsNet at 6:30 p.m. on Friday March 23rd.

This week, we head to Glen Ellyn to feature our Muscle Milk Team of the Week, Chicagos Wheelchair Warriors state champion basketball team. The Warriors just won their fourth consecutive state championshippart of seven overall. 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 will feature behind-the-scenes footage of their sectional win against Marist, and their supersectional victory over Evanston.

High School Lites streams live on CSNhicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Austin O'Connor

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Austin O'Connor

Four years, four state championships. 

That's what St. Rita senior wrestler Austin O'Connor accomplished over the past four years, becoming the 15th wrestler in IHSA history to do so. The Mustangs' grappler went undefeated this season and finished his IHSA career with a record of 181-4. 

O'Connor is planning on continuing his time on the mat at the University of North Carolina next season. Learn more about O'Connor in the video above. 

In the Gym at EFT: Vertical jump training

In the Gym at EFT: Vertical jump training

In the latest installment of In the Gym at EFT, performance specialist Kerry Neal teaches some valuable techniques to improve an athlete's vertical jump. 

Former Western Michigan Linebacker Grant DePalma gives an assist by demonstrating the drills. An athlete's vertical is an important tool and can be the difference during evaluation.

Learn some valuable tips above and be on the lookout for the next edition of In the Gym at EFT.