By Joe Henricksen
Bears-Packers on Sunday. The No. 1 college basketball team in the country visits Champaign on Saturday. And there is a plethora of big high school basketball matchups on the docket this weekend. The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a quick look at five must-see games on tap over the next couple of days.
SIMEON vs. MORGAN PARK
Saturday, Jan. 22 at Chicago State University
What to watch: Is there really a need to ask this question? There is massive talent, a defending state champ, a defending city champ, state title contenders, Mr. Basketball candidates, storylines and sub-plots. Jabari Parker of Simeon and Wayne Blackshear of Morgan Park are unique talents. This hyped up game is one of the premier matchups in the state this season. And it wouldn't be a surprise if both Simeon and Morgan Park won state titles in Class 4A and 3A, respectively, this March.
What's at stake: Control of arguably the state's toughest conference -- the Chicago Public League's Red-South. Simeon would love to keep its unbeaten record intact, but the game is clearly bigger for Morgan Park. Coach Nick Irvin and star Wayne Blackshear have a golden opportunity to make a gigantic statement. Morgan Park and Blackshear do have a city championship under their belt, but a win here over the state's premier basketball program? Meanwhile, Simeon can add to its ever-growing invincibility perception it's gaining.
BENET ACADEMY vs. GLENBARD EAST
Saturday, Jan. 22, 8:30 p.m. at Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates
What to watch: An unbeaten Benet Academy has emerged as a prohibitive favorite every time it steps on the court these days. There aren't many tandems better than the David Sobolewski-Frank Kaminsky duo for coach Gene Heidkamp. Kaminsky, with his 6-11 size, is such a huge presence on both ends of the floor, especially at the high school level where most everyone around the towering future Wisconsin Badger is in the 6-3 to 6-5 neighborhood. And from a pure "team" standpoint, Benet gets it done on both ends of the floor with execution and a physical brand of basketball. Glenbard East, led by the standout backcourt of Johnny Hill and Zach Miller, have handled everyone but the two toughest teams on its schedule -- Peoria Notre Dame and Proviso East. The Rams are finesse, will run, score points and will be a great test for the No. 2 ranked Redwings. But will Glenbard East be able to rebound and handle the physical play of Benet?
What's at stake: The top-seed in the East Aurora Sectional. The winner will undoubtedly receive the top seed. Glenbard East looks for a little revenge after Benet ended the Rams season last March in the sectional final. Meanwhile, Benet's unbeaten record is at stake. And an unblemished record would look awfully impressive -- and increase the hype -- heading into a monster showdown with No. 1 Simeon next month at UIC.
HALES FRANCISCAN vs. WHITNEY YOUNG
Saturday, Jan. 22, 6:00 p.m. at Whitney Young Shootout
What to watch: Talent. Athleticism. And two quality ranked teams. This is part of a solid day of basketball at the Whitney Young Shootout (see schedule below). Hales is led by the Armstead brothers. Aaron Armstead, a UW-Green Bay recruit, has put together a terrific senior year, while Aaric Armstead is one of the top juniors in the class. Plus, junior athlete Eddie Alcantera has provided a huge boost to coach Gary London's attack. The list of talent at Young is endless. Tommy Hamilton is looking to build off perhaps his best game of the season earlier this week. The Dolphins, with 6-6 Sam Thompson, are looking to continue to build towards when it matters most -- in March.
What's at stake: There are no conference implications and it's not a rivalry, but the Hales-Young matchup is an opportunity for both of these powerful teams to build momentum and confidence in a high-profile game. Young wants to get back on track as a rock solid schedule has provided a bump or two in the road for the Dolphins.
DE LA SALLE vs. ST. IGNATIUS
Friday, Jan. 21, 7:30 p.m. at St. Ignatius
What to watch: All eyes will be on a pair of University of Illinois recruits -- Mike Shaw of De La Salle and Nnanna Egwu of St. Ignatius. There aren't many players playing better or impacting games on both ends of the floor more than Egwu. He's averaged 22 points a game over his last five, while experienced Tyrone Staggers is putting together a consistent and productive senior year. Coach Rich Kehoe's club is a quiet 12-3 and has won seven of its last eight. Will St. Ignatius be able to handle De La Salle's quickness, athleticism and overall team size? And will De La Salle be bothered by the execution and style St. Ignatius will throw at them? Catholic League favorite De La Salle, which has played six of its last eight games against out-of-state foes, has bounced back nicely after an upset loss to Fenwick earlier this month.
What's at stake: Bragging rights between two Chicago Catholic League schools and sectional seeding implications. Both these teams will be part of the strong York Sectional this March.
DOWNERS GROVE SOUTH vs. PROVISO EAST
Friday, Jan. 21, 6:00 p.m. at Proviso East
What to watch: Both teams come in playing extremely well. Proviso East has some impressive wins, the latest being a win over ranked Glenbard East last weekend. Downers South has won seven straight games and boasts great balance between junior guards Jamal Millison and Jerron Wilbut and a pair of reliable and consistent seniors -- 6-7 Ziggy Riauka and unsung guard Dan Jurgutis. The Mustangs are prepared, having played a competitive schedule that has featured East Aurora, Hales Franciscan, Lyons Twp. (twice), Morton and Riverside-Brookfield. Senior Tino Vazquez and juniors Keith Carter and Traushaun Carroll are the backbone for Proviso East, but the continued emergence and impact of sophomore Sterling Brown puts the Pirates at another level.
What's at stake: The West Suburban Gold Conference race figures to be a wild one with these two ranked teams, along with Morton, fighting for the top spot. This game, the first of two matchups between these two, will go a long way in determining the league champ. Both have played competitive schedules and a win here would be a nice addition to the résumé with sectional seeds coming out in a couple of weeks. Both DGS and Proviso East are in tough-as-nails sectionals -- DGS at East Aurora and Proviso East at York -- and could use an eye-opening win here to move up the seeding ladder.
Whitney Young Shootout
at Whitney Young High SchoolVon Steuben vs. Niles Notre Dame (12 noon)
Crane vs. Leo (1:30 p.m.)
Brooks vs. St. Ignatius (3:00 p.m.)
Hillcrest vs. Romulus (Mich.) (4:30 p.m.)
Whitney Young vs. Hales Franciscan (6:00 p.m.)
Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Theo Bowman (Ind.) (7:30 p.m.)
14th Annual High School Hoops Showdown
at Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates
Aurora Central Catholic vs. Marmion Academy (4:30 p.m.)
Lockport vs. Schaumburg (6:30 p.m.)
Benet Academy vs. Glenbard East (8:30 p.m.)
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