Throughout the high school basketball season there are weeks that feature a few of those must-see games. This third week of January is one of them.
What else would you call a week where four teams all ranked among the top 10 meet in a pair of big-time matchups that could decide conference titles?
The City/Suburban Hoops Report breaks down a heavy dose of big-time matchups throughout the week.
Game of the Week
Simeon vs. Morgan Park • Wednesday, Jan. 16, 7 p.m. • Chicago State
You won't find many games better than this when it comes to talent level, intensity and plenty to play for. The more you watch Morgan Park, you more you come to realize the Mustangs are as talented and deep as any team in the state this side of Simeon and Whitney Young. Well, here is Morgan Park's chance to prove it's right there with the two kingpins of the Chicago Public League. It's hard to imagine a team so talented, ranked so high and off to such a great start could be in need of a big win like this as Morgan Park. They're tired of living in the shadow of Simeon. All eyes will be on the backcourt battle: Simeon's Jaylon Tate and Kendrick Nunn vs. Morgan Park's Billy Garrett, Jr. and Kyle Davis. This will be intense. This will be close. But Simeon took a big step forward tactically and emotionally with its win last weekend over Southwind (Tenn.). And as Simeon star Jabari Parker inches his way closer to 100 percent, the odds start going down for opponents.
Simeon 64, Morgan Park 60
Other Showdowns ...
St. Rita at Marist • Tuesday
This 4th annual Griffin-Callahan Classic will be a dandy. While it's true the three-happy attack and Marist's lack of size scares me against a team with the type of size and length St. Rita possesses, I think after falling a bit off the radar the Redhawks are poised to make a splash with their talented and, more importantly, experienced guards. The combination of Lexus Williams and L.J. McIntosh are the Division I recruits and the catalysts, but 6-0 senior Zak Niemiera has averaged over 14 points over his last six games. St. Rita's Vic Law, a 6-7 junior, is really coming into his own, while senior Scott Kingsley has provided some scoring punch to go along with Charles and Dominique Matthews. In the end, overall talent -- and difference in size -- prevails as St. Rita wins a dogfight.
St. Rita 60, Marist 58
Marian Catholic at Benet • Thursday
A huge East Suburban Catholic Conference game featuring two teams ranked in the Hoops Report's Top 10. Throw in contrasting styles and the two best players in the ESCC who are both top 10 prospects in the Class of 2014 -- Benet big man Sean O'Mara and Marian Catholic point guard Tyler Ulis -- and you have a truly intriguing matchup. Playing against Benet can sometimes resemble a root canal, but if any player can avoid Benet mucking it up, it's Ulis. But playing at home and possessing a big size advantage, Benet prevails.
Benet Academy 48, Marian Catholic 43
York at Oak Park-River Forest • Friday
A couple of high-scoring guards, York's David Cohn and Oak Park's Erick Locke, will have a lot to say in deciding this one and determining the West Suburban Silver Conference race. I didn't quite jump off the York bandwagon after the Dukes lost to both Naperville North and Hinsdale Central in December, but I was on the bottom step by the door. This is a must-win for York, which trails Oak Park by a game in the league race.
Oak Park 55, York 50
West Aurora at Glenbard East • Friday
Over the past eight seasons, no two teams in the DuPage Valley Conference have won more league games than these two. Glenbard East has 85 DVC wins and West Aurora is next with 80. So it's no surprise these two will once again battle it out for the top spot in the conference. West Aurora clearly comes in as the favorite with solid guard play in Jayquan Lee and Johnny Walker. But the difference this season for the Blackhawks has been the consistent presence of 6-7 Josh McAuley. If coach Gordie Kerkman's club can defend the perimeter and prevent open looks from the three-point line, it will take a big step forward in claiming in a DVC championship.
West Aurora 63, Glenbard East 55
Zion-Benton at Stevenson • Friday
The two best talents in the North Suburban Lake go at it as Zion-Benton's Milik Yarbrough and Stevenson's Jalen Brunson meet. More importantly, it's a pivotal game that will go a long way in deciding the league champ. A loss would drop Stevenson two games back. Yarbrough is fresh off a monster performance this past weekend in a win over Lakes. The junior scored 18 points in the fourth quarter, 30 for the game and pulled down 15 rebounds. But I believe Stevenson realize and understand a little better just how small their margin for error has become.
Stevenson 55, Zion-Benton 52
Seton Academy at Providence St. Mel • Tuesday
Even with a challenging schedule, no one expected Seton to be heading into January with a 9-8 record. A win over De La Salle last week was maybe a kickstart to a strong second half for the Sting. St. Mel, with its collection of talented guards, has been impressive. The sub-plot to this one is the fact it's a preview of what could very well be a colossal March matchup in the Joliet Central Supersectional, with a trip to Peoria on the line.
St. Mel 67, Seton 61
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