By Joe Henricksen

February 2013 Archives

Every regional title game pick

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There were a few minor upsets and a couple of big ones (R.I.P. - Hinsdale Central and Homewood-Flossmoor) in the first four days of regional action. The Hoops Report believes there will be plenty more Friday night. Here is a look -- and picks -- for every regional final that will be played in the Chicago area.

Batavia Regional
Oswego over Bolingbrook
Toughest matchup any No. 1 seed has in a regional final. A Bolingbrook team with SMU recruit Ben Moore, guard Prentiss Nixon, one of the top 10 sophomores in the state, and a 20-win team that has played a competitive schedule. THAT'S what the No. 1 seed gets to play in a regional final? But too much chemistry and unselfishness, along with too much Miles Simelton and Elliot McGaughey. Oswego pulls away in the fourth quarter.

Wheaton South Regional
West Aurora over Geneva
One of the Hoops Report's real sectional sleepers, red-hot No. 5 seed Hinsdale Central, was stunned by Geneva on Thursday night. Now West Aurora can't afford a letdown mentally playing the lower-seeded team. Coach Gordie Kerkman gets two wins away from a 12th sectional title in his career.

Benet Academy Regional
Benet Academy over Naperville Central
Let me count the disadvantages for Naperville Central: A tough, emotional game overtime game against city rival Naperville North the night before, playing back-to-back nights in regional play, and against a team that is better and playing on their home floor.

Oswego East Regional
Waubonsie Valley over Neuqua Valley
Neuqua Valley knocked off Waubonsie Valley back in the middle of January, but I like how hot coach Steve Weemer's Waubonsie team has been. This is the Hoops Report's first upset pick of the night. Waubonsie Valley's Jared Brownridge comes up big, beats conference and district rival in a down-to-the-wire finish.

Proviso West Regional
Proviso East over Proviso West
There is nothing more the Proviso West basketball team would love to do than upset its biggest rival and the top seed in the sectional. Just not going to happen.

Hoffman Estates Regional
Glenbard East over Conant
A couple of well coached teams with different styles go head-to-head. Glenbard East finished the season strong, winning seven straight and nine of its last 10 behind the DuPage Valley Conference POY Tahron Harvey.

York Regional
York over Bartlett
With a little late-season funk behind him and his team, David Cohn, who dropped in 25 in the win over LT, leads the Dukes to a win over Bartlett and his Illinois Wolves teammate, Lance Whitaker.

Glenbard North Regional
Schaumburg over Oak Park-River Forest
You just don't want to play Schaumburg in March. Not against this particular group, no matter what seed they are. Two years ago the Saxons reached the sectional championship game -- as a No. 15 seed. Last year it again reached the sectional championship game, beating second-seeded Oak Park in the sectional semis. So, yes, there is some history here. Another upset as the No. 11 seed Saxons find a way to win their fourth straight regional title.

Maine South Regional
Maine South over Niles West
Niles West pulled off a minor upset, beating Glenbrook North in overtime in the regional semis. These two met twice during the season, with Maine South winning 43-33 and 50-29 in January. The home floor, tricky style and this team's will to win overcomes Niles West's adrenaline from knocking off GBN.

Loyola Academy Regional
Loyola Academy over Niles North
This is one of the best regional title games anywhere in Illinois. Loyola lost to Niles North, 64-49, back on Dec. 27 as Malachi Nix poured in 20. But this isn't the same Loyola team. The Ramblers haven't lost since that late December defeat. I like that momentum and Loyola playing in its own gym. Loyola in a mild upset.

Glenbrook South Regional
Niles Notre Dame over Foreman
While Red-North representative Foreman squeaked by Glenbrook South, Niles Notre Dame put a thumping on another Red-North team, Von Steuben, 67-42. This one will be closer, but the Dons have too many perimeter weapons.

St. Patrick Regional
St. Patrick over New Trier
The good news for New Trier? The Hoops Report has picked against the Trevians a couple of times this season and has been wrong. The bad news is St. Pat's is battle-tested having played in the East Suburban Catholic Conference, is on its home floor and has the guard play to get one of the upsets of the night done.

Mt. Carmel Regional
Simeon over Marist
Sorry, but there just isn't any Marist magic left in the tank this postseason after such a memorable run a year ago. As it did last weekend, Simeon rolls over Marist.

St. Rita Regional
St. Rita over DuSable
DuSable plays hard, upset Brother Rice in the regional semis and won't be intimidated. But it won't be enough against talented St. Rita on its home floor.

King Sectional
Whitney Young over De La Salle
I suspect De La Salle and Alvin Ellis will hang with the Dolphins a little longer than people expect, but won't come close to pulling off an upset in the end.

Richards Regional
Curie over Bogan
Another dandy and a Public League dogfight with the season on the line. Bogan will need a big night from high-scoring sophomore Luwane Pipkins. And, oh, the Bengals will have to figure out a way to contain Cliff Alexander. That will prove to be impossible.

Marian Catholic Regional
Marian Catholic over Crete-Monee
Although Crete-Monee didn't exactly finish the regular season strong, it's still a team with quickness, athleticism and enough talent to pull off an upset. The Warriors are a dangerous No. 8 seed. But this dream season for Marian Catholic isn't ending this soon.

Lockport Regional
Joliet West over T.F. North
A potential physical, low-scoring, defensive brawl between these two. But I'll take the team with the best player on the floor -- Joliet West's Morris Dunnigan.

Thornwood Regional
Bloom over Lincoln-Way North
Sure, the upstart 20-win team with a conference co-championship and no-name recognition might be the trendy pick in an upset, but Bloom's defense and rebounding, along with last year's state tournament experience, will get them into the sectional semis.

Sandburg Regional
Sandburg over Stagg
So do we have our Cinderella? Another win from Sandburg (10-17), a No. 18 seed that stunned fourth-seeded Homewood-Flossmoor in the semis, and then we can start talking. Stagg may be spent coming off a double overtime victory over Andrew just 24 hours earlier. We'll ride the momentum, the home floor, Sandburg's fresh legs and the play of 6-7 junior Malek Harris to another upset victory.

South Elgin Regional
Larkin over St. Charles North
The key may be how well of a job Larkin coach Deryn Carter gets his team to forget about the previous two meetings with St. Charles North, which the Royals won easily -- Larkin beat St. Charles North 76-56 back in January. Yes, it's tough to beat a team a third time, but Larkin just has too much perimeter talent and was able to contain Quentin Payne in its last meeting.

Jacobs Regional
Crystal Lake Central over Jacobs
Can Jacobs, which will be playing on its home floor, send out retiring coach Jim Hinkle with a bang? The favorite, Crystal Lake Central (24-3), prevails.

Prospect Regional
Stevenson over Waukegan
Grayslake North gave Stevenson and the young talented Patriots a test in the semis, while Waukegan snuck by Prospect. These two met in early February, with Stevenson winning 66-49, though Waukegan was without starting point guard Jordan Johnson. Jalen Brunson and the Patriots' crisp motion and well-executed sets will continue to give the Bulldogs issues.

Lake Zurich Regional
Lake Forest over Mundelein
A toss-up, really -- just as the regular-season games were, with the North Suburban Lake foes splitting two games. The Hoops Report will take Lake Forest's size, with 6-9 Sam Downey and 6-7 Evan Boudreaux, over Mundelein's perimeter talent.

Deerfield Regional
Zion-Benton over Fremd
Too ... Much ... Milik ... Yarbrough.

Warren Regional
St. Viator over Warren
Love this regional title matchup. Both coaches -- Warren's Ryan Webber and St. Viator's Mike Howland -- have done terrific jobs in their own way this season with their respective teams. But the backcourt of Mark Falotico and Ore Arogundade, who has raised his level of play, gives St. Viator the edge.

Woodstock North Regional
Woodstock over Woodstock North
The Silver Streaks have Jordan Turner and own a pair of wins (60-52 and 63-51) over Woodstock North. Make it three in a row and the program's first regional title since 2000.

Burlington Central Regional
Hampshire over Sycamore
One of the Hoops Report's real underrated players in the senior class, Hampshire's Tyler Crater, takes care of business and helps the Whip-Purs add to their 23-win total already compiled.

IMSA Regional
Aurora Central Catholic over Wheaton St. Francis
This will be a barnburner between two Suburban Christian Blue teams that split during the regular season and have had their share of postseason success in recent years.

Julian Regional
Morgan Park over St. Laurence

Evergreen Park Regional
Fenger over Evergreen Park
Hold on, let me find my Fenger and Evergreen Park scouting reports ... Wait. Hold on ...

Robeson Regional
Harlan over Robeson
A couple of teams with ho-hum regular seasons go for some glory and a regional plaque.

Brooks Regional
Brooks over Perspectives Charter/Leadership
Could this be the fifth Red-South team to capture a regional title on this night?

Peotone Regional
Rich East over Rich South
The Rockets, led by the athletic Ronald Lawton, are in position to snatch just their second regional championship in the last 45 years.

Lincoln-Way West Regional
Providence over Plano
They can play a little basketball at Providence, you know. Kevin Kozan and the Celtics are poised to win back-to-back regional championships.

Hillcrest Regional
Hillcrest over Oak Forest
The heavily-favored Hawks handled them easily in the regular season and, with more on the line, will do so again.

North Chicago Regional
North Chicago over Northside Prep
This one could get ... (you fill in the adjective).

Senn Regional
Gordon Tech over Uplift
It's good to be in 3A. This would be Gordon Tech's fourth regional championship in the last five years, with the win total for the Rams following the regional title game victories at 11, 10, 15 and 17 victories.

Vernon Hills Regional
Lakes over Wauconda
No one has paid much attention but Lakes has put together a nice little two-year run with back-to-back 20-win seasons and, soon to be, consecutive regional championships. Lakes handled Wauconda by 15 and 17 points in two regular-season wins.

Ridgewood Regional
Carmel over Ridgewood
Name the last time Ridgewood won three consecutive regional titles? Never. Coach Chris Mroz and his Rebels shoot for their third straight. But Carmel is ready to pull off an upset and make a little history of its own. The Corsairs (13-13), which played a very competitive schedule and some high-profile teams tough, will win their first regional title and record the most wins since 1992.

Glenbard South Regional
Orr over Montini
Football ... Wrestling ... Girls basketball ... Montini can't win in boys' basketball, too, can they? Orr CAN NOT AFFORD TO LOSE after last year's regional final stunning loss as the No. 1 seed.

Marshall Regional
Fenwick over Marshall
The Hoops Report liked Fenwick in the preseason. It waited for them during the season. It felt it could be a sleeper in 3A. Now it's time. Show us something, Friars!

St. Joseph Regional
St. Joseph over Westinghouse
Isiah Thomas and Mark Aguirre go at it one more time in this clash of .... Wait, three decades off.

St. Ignatius Regional
St. Ignatius over Farragut
One of the better 3A regional title games in the Chicago area. Catholic League. Public League. Ignatius completes one of the real surprising seasons of the year in the Chicago area in what will be a battle down to the wire.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Tourney time storylines to follow

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Are you ready?

On the night the state high school basketball tournament tips off here in Illinois, the Original March Madness, every hoophead across the state wants to know: What are the storylines that will develop over the next three weeks.

There will be many, a couple that no one saw coming, but here are several storylines we already know to follow.

Simeon's dynasty
Maybe the biggest storyline of them all. Can Simeon become just the second team in state history to win four consecutive state championships? Simeon can equal Peoria Manual's dynasty in the 1990s with seven more victories.

➤ Simeon-Young clash
The Argo Sectional is tough and there is plenty of basketball to be played over the next two weeks. And there are worthy foes for both Simeon and Whitney Young. But virtually everyone, aside from the players and coaches from St. Rita, Curie and Brother Rice, will be surprised if the Simeon-Young clash doesn't materialize. Regardless of how March plays out, right now, as we head into state tournament action, these are the top two teams in Class 4A by a fairly wide margin. The talent on display, with the stakes this high, is cause for hyperbole when/if these two meet Mar. 8.

➤ Big-time rematches with more on the line
The Simeon-Whitney Young rematch is king of all potential rematches if the two meet in the Argo Sectional championship. But the stakes will also be higher for these potential rematches. Will they develop?

• Oswego vs. Proviso East ... Who would have ever thought there was a chance Oswego and Proviso East could meet three times -- and all with something on the line? The rubber match could materialize in the super-sectional if the two No. 1 seeds both win their respective sectional.

• Marian Catholic vs. Bloom ... There's never been this much hoops excitement in Chicago Heights in the same season for two teams. These two collided in the championship game of the McDipper in late December, which Marian Catholic won, and could square off again in the sectional championship at Thornton.

• Maine South vs. New Trier ... Some serious work will have to be done by both in what is a competitive and balanced Glenbrook North Sectional. But if Maine South lives up to the No. 1 seed it received, and third-seeded New Trier can fight off the likes of both St. Patrick and No. 2 seed Niles Notre Dame, it would set up a drama-filled sectional final showdown between two Central Suburban League South foes. The first two meetings both went to overtime and both went Maine South's way.

➤ Jahlil vs. Big Cliff
When was the last time a matchup like this occurred? If Whitney Young and Curie were to meet, as expected in the sectional semifinals, this would be the biggest and best battle of legit big men in the postseason since 1988. That's when East St. Louis Lincoln's LaPhonso Ellis (Notre Dame recruit) squared off with St. Francis De Sales' Eric Anderson (Michigan recruit) in the state championship.

Well, on Wednesday, Mar. 6, fans will be treated to 6-11 Jahlil Okafor vs. 6-9 Cliff Alexander, the top two prospects in the state in the Class of 2014 and two of the top five players nationally.

Ellis and Anderson didn't disappoint back in the day in a memorable battle for anyone who took in that game in Assembly Hall in Champaign. Lincoln beat De Sales 60-52 with Ellis putting up monster totals of 26 points, 15 rebounds and 9 blocks in the state title game. Anderson impressed as well with 23 points, 17 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Your turn, Jahlil and Cliff.

➤ Morgan Park's road
Morgan Park coach Nick Irvin can't be pleased by the new IHSA ruling that will require his team to play each sectional game with one eye blind-folded to help even the playing field in the St. Laurence Sectional. That still probably won't be enough.

Morgan Park will play two regional games and two sectional games in the next two weeks. The Hoops Report is putting Morgan Park's total winning margin of those four games at 115.5 points. Are you taking the over or the under?

There is no reason Morgan Park won't be playing in the super-sectional in two weeks.

➤ Tyler Ulis is for real. Is Marian Catholic?
For all the talk about the mighty Public League trio of Young, Simeon and Morgan Park, along with the city's three-headed superstar monster of Simeon's Jabari Parker, Young's Jahlil Okafor and Curie's Cliff Alexander, arguably the best high school basketball story over the past three months has been Marian Catholic.

Marian Catholic made its first-ever trip to the McDipper championship game over the holidays and beat Chicago Heights neighbor Bloom to win it all. The Spartans, who have had just two 20-win seasons in school history (22 wins 2006 and 20 wins in 1993), have already set a school record for most wins with 25. The program also has its first dynamic, transcendent basketball star in junior Tyler Ulis.

Now it's a matter of whether this team, which has earned a top seed in the Thornton Sectional, can rise to the occasion, go out and win the first sectional championship in school history. In all the years of Marian Catholic basketball, there have been three regional championships -- total -- since 1962. Those regional titles have resulted in one sectional win, a 2009 sectional semifinal victory over Homewood-Flossmoor.

Why not add to this record-breaking season?

➤ Other potential postseason breakthroughs?
Marian Catholic is not the only No. 1 seed out there in search of its first-ever sectional championship or a simple postseason breakthrough.

● Orr, which was stunned last year as a No. 1 sectional seed in the regional final by Wheaton St. Francis, is primed to end its sectional drought. Orr has never won a sectional championship. But with the Division I trio of 6-6 Tyquone Greer, 6-8 Marlon Jones and 6-2 Louis Adams, Jr., the Spartans are again the No. 1 seed in a very winnable Nazareth Academy Sectional.

● Do you know how many regional championships Rich East has won in the last 45 years? One. The Rockets, who won a regional title in 2009, are in position to put together a nice little run over the next two weeks. In fact, Rich East is one upset win away -- if it can beat Hillcrest in the sectional final -- from claiming the program's first sectional championship since 1955. Rich East must take care of Rich South in the regional and either Pontiac or Morris in the sectional semis to set up a likely showdown with Hillcrest.

● St. Rita won its second straight Catholic League South title. It boasts arguably the top sophomore in the state in Charles Matthews. The Mustangs have three other high-profile, Division I prospects in sophomore Myles Carter and juniors Vic Law and Dominique Matthews. Coach Gary DeCesare's team will host a regional. Now, all St. Rita has to do to win the school's first-ever sectional championship is beat a 20-win Brother Rice team for a second time, dispose of three-time defending champ Simeon, and then take care of Whitney Young, the No. 1 team in the state. Come on, that's child's play.

➤ How will the big, bad ESCC do?
With the Chicago Public League's Red-West down this year and the strong Red-South top heavy with Simeon, Morgan Park and everyone else, the deepest and most competitive league over the past three months has been the East Suburban Catholic Conference. Now, what will the ESCC do for an encore in state tournament play?

The ESCC by the numbers:

● There are six ESCC teams with 17-plus victories, including three teams with 22-plus wins.

● There are four teams heading into state tournament play this week as a No. 1 or No. 2 seed in their respective sectional -- and all four are in different sectionals.

Benet Academy (No. 2 in the Bolingbrook Sectional), Niles Notre Dame (No. 2 in the Xxcc Sectional) and Marian Catholic (No. 1 in the Thornton Sectional) all have realistic chances of winning sectional championships.

St. Viator is expected to win a regional title and is a sleeper and No. 3 seed in the Waukegan Sectional. St. Patrick has the ability to ruin the hopes of a team or two (are you listening New Trier?) as a tough No. 6 seed in the Glenbrook North Sectional. Even Nazareth Academy, which finished 1-7 in the ESCC, could be a scary regional final opponent for top-seed Orr in the Class 3A Nazareth Sectional. Nazareth played well down the stretch, losing to Benet on the road, 48-47, and beating Fenwick.

The East Suburban Catholic, just as it did all season, is in position to make noise.

➤ Can the big names, big teams make it?
The state tournament has set up nicely for high school basketball fans. If the higher-seeded, ranked teams around the state, both in Class 4A and 3A, make it through to Peoria, we could be looking at something that looks like this:

Class 3A semifinals: Washington vs. Morgan Park and Cahokia vs. Orr.

Class 4A semifinals: Proviso East vs. Simeon/Whitney Young and Belleville East vs. Stevenson.

And those four teams bring unique styles, various storylines and a whole bunch of star-level talent.

How about this list of players in Carver Arena in Peoria (choosing top-seed Simeon in this case over Young) on the final weekend of the season: Washington's Alec Peters (Valpo); Morgan Park's Kyle Davis (Dayton), Billy Garrett, Jr. (DePaul) and Josh Cunningham (top 15 player in 2014); Orr's Marlon Jones (top 15 player in 2014) and Tyquone Greer (top 15 player in 2014); Cahokia's Darius Austin (top 25 player in 2014); Proviso East's Sterling Brown (SMU), Paris Lee (Illinois State) and Jevon Carter (top 20 player in 2014); Simeon's Jabari Parker (Duke), Kendrick Nunn (Illinois), Kendall Pollard (Dayton), Jaylon Tate (Illinois) and D.J. Williams (top three player in 2015); Belleville East's Malcolm Hill (Illinois) and Darreon Reddick (top 25 player in 2014); Stevenson's Jalen Brunson (top three player in 2015).

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

20 reasons why Jahlil Okafor should be POY

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There is no shortage of legitimate Player of the Year candidates, both in the Chicago area and statewide. With a number of possibilities, the chase for the various POY awards and the coveted Mr. Basketball has been an intriguing subplot to the season.

Simeon's Jabari Parker, who won virtually every award possible last season as a junior, entered the season as the favorite. Marian Catholic's Tyler Ulis, Curie's Cliff Alexander, Belleville East's Malcolm Hill and Washington's Alec Peters all joined Parker and entered the conversation as the season has played out.

Yes, there are legit, worthy candidates. No disrespect to any of the players who have put together stellar seasons, but there is just one choice: Whitney Young's Jahlil Okafor.

The Hoops Report gives you 20 reasons why the 6-11 junior should be your 2012-2013 Player of the Year.

1. This one is pretty simple: Jahil Okafor is the best player on the state's No. 1 team, one that has been ranked among the top 10 nationally all season and currently sits No. 7 in the ESPN Top 25 Power Rankings and No. 8 in the Top 25 national rankings.

2. While maybe not worthy or even fair when it comes to POY requirements, Okafor plays for a high-profile program with legit state championship aspirations. Voters rarely lend themselves to players on middle-of-the-road teams, so playing on the big stage has only helped his profile and résumé.

3. Okafor is one of the most recognizable names locally and nationally. No, being ranked No. 1 nationally in the Class of 2014 -- or highly ranked, period -- shouldn't matter in any POY consideration. But he passes the reputation test for those that put stock into it and, most importantly, he's justified the enormous hype.

4. With a win over Morgan Park last Friday night, Okafor now has a city championship on his résumé.

5. Okafor provided monster, late-season performances in big games. In leading the Dolphins to their first city championship since 1998, Okafor was dominant. In the semifinal win over Orr he put up 26 points and 13 rebounds. For an encore he scored 19 points with 14 rebounds and controlled the game defensively with 7 blocks in the title game victory over Morgan Park.

6. Unlike the majority of the other top candidates, Okafor is the one player who doesn't have the ball in his hands whenever he wants it. Fans and media always like flashy guards more than productive, dominating big men. So as a non-perimeter player, others dictate when Okafor touches the ball and how many times he gets it. Yet ...

7. Even under the aforementioned circumstances, Okafor is putting up Player of the Year type numbers. On the season he's averaging 20.7 points, 8.8 rebounds and 2.8 blocks a game while shooting over 60 percent from the field.

8. More than any other Player of the Year candidate, Okafor impacts the game at a higher level on the defensive end. His massive size alone can disrupt an opposing teams' offense just by accident. He clogs the lane, takes up space and makes it difficult to score easy baskets at the rim when playing Whitney Young. While he's not an Anthony Davis-type shot blocker, Okafor still blocks nearly 3 shots a game and alters many more.

9. The in-state schedule. No player in the state produced at a higher level while playing the state's toughest schedule. Whitney Young will have played five games against teams ranked in the top 10 all season here in Illinois -- Simeon, Morgan Park, Orr (twice) and Benet Academy.

10. The out-of-state schedule. The Dolphins played a rigorous national schedule, which included a number of nationally-ranked programs and various state champions on the slate. Young won a highly-competitive Beach Ball Classic in South Carolina, beating nationally-ranked Bishop Gorman out of Las Vegas. The Dolphins also played in the country's premier event, the City of Palms Classic in Florida, where it faced Montervde Academy (Fla.), currently the No. 3 team in the country, Chester (Pa.), two-time defending state champs, and Omaha Central (Neb.), which has won four consecutive state championships.

11. A dominating and commanding presence. The likes of L.J. Peak, Paul White and Miles Reynolds have all had solid and consistent seasons for the Dolphins. A big reason why is Okafor. Whitney Young thrives on the attention Okafor draws, allowing others to flourish with constant double-teams and focus on the big man inside. And at no point will you find a teammate jeer or hiss, "I hate playing with this jag" or "He cares about himself more than the team." Okafor realizes it's a team game.

12. When watching Okafor, it's hard to find anything to complain about in his game these days. He's not a great free-throw shooter, but he's a respectable 64 percent. He's a better, risk-free prospect than Thornwood's Eddy Curry was a decade ago, so that makes Okafor the best true big man prospect out of Illinois since ...???

13. When it comes to star players, Okafor is about as unselfish as they come. He produces within the concept of his team's offense and game plan. The more and more you watch him, you see some of his best qualities in the game's subtleties and in seeking to guarantee team victory in a society which tends to focus attention on individual achiever.

14. He does a lot with little. Okafor doesn't get 20-plus shots -- or even 15. In the seven games played at the City of Palms and Beach Ball Classic, Okafor didn't have a single game where he had more than 14 shot attempts.

15. He's been a model of consistency. There's no Jekyll-and-Hyde with him. He didn't have any stretches where he struggled or slumped. Thus, he never took a serious hit to his POY campaign.

16. From the start of the Whitney Young season on Dec. 1 through last Friday's city championship game, no player has been as consistently productive against a better schedule than Okafor. He started the season with a bang, scoring 34 points and 9 rebounds against DeMatha Catholic and North Carolina State big man recruit, 6-9, 275-pound BeeJay Anya.

17. He brings zero baggage. He's the anti-prima dona. He respects the game, his teammates and opponents. Yes, high school kids SHOULD be this way. But more and more aren't. Hey, Jahlil! Stay this way! It's appreciated.

18. He's sharp, articulate and easy to like with traits that are appealing. Again, these might not be necessary to win an award that focuses on putting a ball in a basket, but Okafor is real. When the Chicago Sun-Times caught up with Okafor following the big win over Morgan Park and asked him if he is aware of all the attention he's garnered as The Next Big Thing, he answered honestly. "Of course I hear that, I'm on Twitter," said Okafor. Yes! Of course! He's a teenager! It wasn't a calculated, orchestrated answer.

19. Proven winner. It's not a lifetime achievement award, this Player of the Year deal. But he has a city title now. He also has a couple of gold medals while playing for Team USA in the FIBA World Championships, including being named the tournament's MVP this past summer. A state title is next on the to-do list. In time we will find out if Okafor is obsessed with winning with that over-competitive DNA, like so many of the greats are.

20. And here is the Hoops Report's biggest argument for Okafor as Player of the Year. Go ahead and take the other Player of the Year candidates and swap Okafor for each of them. If Okafor is on any other team in Illinois in place of any other POY candidate, that team's record is intact or may even be better. If you replace Okafor with any other player, with the national schedule Whitney Young plays, the Dolphins are not 23-3.

Follow Joe Henricksen on Twitter @joehoopsreport

This is why I love high school basketball

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Soon, I will traipse around from gym to gym taking in a whole bunch of meaningless AAU basketball games, where individual glory and accomplishments -- from improving their "player ranking" to trying to get a college coach to take notice -- trumps all else.

Then I will think back to this late February night, where players and coaches put everything on the line to win a team championship. When it comes to those AAU games in April, May or July, it just can't match the stakes, the energy and the fact wins and losses really matter at this time of the year.

If you were a high school basketball fan, hopefully you were able to get out Wednesday night for one of the handful of top-notch, high-level games that left thousands of people talking long after the games finished. And hopefully you got really lucky and hit one of a trio of overtime thrillers, including two that went to double overtime.

Maybe you had to "settle" for watching superstar sophomore Jalen Brunson put Stevenson on its back to beat North Chicago, 73-58. And, along the way, relish with a Patriots team, program and fan base that got to experience winning a conference championship for the first time since 1992.

Brunson, arguably the top sophomore in the state in the Class of 2015, put up 32 points, including six 3-pointers, and dished out six assists.

If you were in the north suburbs, maybe you were fortunate to catch Maine South's scratch-and-claw double overtime victory over Niles North to capture the Central Suburban League championship.

From the sounds of it, there was blood, knockouts and both individual and team comebacks in this thriller. This blue-collar bunch from Maine South received a game-tying layup with 1 second remaining in regulation from Frank Dounis and went on to a 64-61 victory in double overtime.

Maybe you were in the northwest suburbs and snuck into a packed house at Prospect, where the host school and crowd was buzzing after junior Bobby Frasco drilled a game-tying 3-pointer with 12 seconds left to force overtime with Schaumburg.

But even in a tough environment, Schaumburg claimed its second straight Mid-Suburban League championship in a 43-40 double-overtime victory behind its seniors. Seniors Jimmy Lundquist and Kyle Bolger, both three-year varsity starters with plenty of big-game experience, stepped up once again. Lundquist hit a critical 3-pointer in the second overtime and Bolger scored a game-high 24 points in this typical MSL defensive dogfight.

Or maybe you were with me to take in the drama of what was the single best game I've watched this season on the West Side of Aurora, where Glenbard East beat West Aurora in an exhilarating and exhausting double overtime game filled with big-time, gut-check plays.

Glenbard East, in front of a raucous West Aurora crowd, beat their DuPage Valley Conference rivals for an eighth straight time. Find me the last team (any team?) to beat a Gordie Kerkman-coached West Aurora team eight consecutive times.

Among the highlights in this game that decided the DuPage Valley Conference championship:

• How's this for a run: Glenbard East trailed 36-23 at the half and less than seven minutes into the third quarter was leading 53-44. Yes, behind a barrage of 3-pointers and a freakish stretch of multiple Rams with their own personal "heat checks" in drilling eight straight shots, the Rams went on a 30-8 run on the road in seven minutes.

• The end of regulation was wild. JaRon Hall came off a screen at the top of the key to drill an off-balance, go-ahead three-pointer to put Glenbard East up 63-60 with 5.7 seconds remaining.

• West Aurora's Jontrel Walker, who exploded for 20 points in the fourth quarter alone, took the inbounds pass and launched a 37-footer just before the buzzer sounded. The dramatic three-pointer set off euphoria, with the entire West Aurora student body -- and even fans and parents -- storming and piling on the floor in mayhem with the players. Many observers half-wondered if West Aurora would be assessed a technical to start the overtime in a scene never seen before a game is over.

• After a back-and-forth first overtime, which included a last-second Glenbard East shot rolling off the rim, the game looked to be in West Aurora's hands in the second overtime, leading 75-71 with less than a minute to play. But Tahron Harvey knocked in a 3-pointer to trim Glenbard East's deficit to 75-74.

• Then it was Brandon Havenga's turn to add to the drama. Trailing by one, the senior big man calmly stepped to the line with 15 seconds to play and knocked down a pair of free throws to give Glenbard East a 76-75 lead.

• West Aurora had a couple of final shots in the closing seconds, but the fireworks were finally over when Harvey blocked Spencer Thomas' game-winning jumper at the buzzer and Glenbard East claimed sole possession of the DVC title.

This is one of those nights that make you want to write a blog in the middle of the night.

This is one of those nights where you don't sound so crazy telling people at work the next day you went to a high school basketball game on a Wednesday night.

This was one of those nights where you remember how passionate the high school basketball game in this state can still be.

This is one of those nights where you realize just how boring that Raptors-Wizards game is and how insignificant the Kings-Timberwolves, Sixers-Cavs, Bobcats-Pistons, Suns-Blazers (Wow, there's a lot of bad NBA teams) match-ups are.

This was one of those nights where you wished you were able to get home from whatever game you took in and you were able to flip on SportsCenter for highlights of all the ones you missed but can't.

This was one of those nights where you were just glad you lucked out in picking the right game.

And it's not even March yet!

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Conference title tilt primer and some picks

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You know what I realized this week? That today is an underrated day of the high school basketball season. With the start of state tournament play now just days away, you almost forget about it.

Several years ago many of the conferences decided to move their final conference game on the schedule up a day or two, playing them on Wednesday and Thursday in preparation for the state playoffs the following week. It makes sense. I've never understood why every conference wouldn't do the same and get away from playing the final Friday night of the regular season. If I'm a coach, give me an extra day or two to prepare for my regional opponents.

I digress ... The last thing I want to be doing is playing a game on Friday or Saturday, especially if it's one that matters, and turn right back around and play my regional opener on Tuesday. In addition, you're also looking ahead to a potential regional championship game opponent.

Now, because of that move by many conferences, we have today -- conference championship Wednesday.

#10 North Chicago (24-2) at #13 Stevenson (22-4)
If this game is half as good as I think it will be, it's the best game of the night. Superstar sophomore Jalen Brunson up against the speed and talent of North Chicago. Forget the fact both these teams will be even better NEXT season; this is a must-see matchup in the north suburbs between two teams that could be playing in Peoria next month -- Stevenson in 4A and North Chicago in 3A.
Hoops Report Pick: Stevenson 58, North Chicago 55

#12 Niles North (24-3) at #17 Maine South (25-3)
Who's jumping on the Malachi Nix train with me? Anyone? The kid has been a ton throughout his career and grabbed some attention earlier in the week with his 44-point performance. You could make an argument there aren't five players in the Chicago area more important to their team than Nix.

The problem is this: Maine South is a different animal. I just think their style of play at both ends could give this Niles North team, in particular, issues. But I will be shocked if this game is anything but a one or two possession game.
Hoops Report Pick: Maine South 50, Niles North 47

#4 Proviso East (21-3) at #22 Hinsdale Central (18-5)
Hinsdale Central is smoking hot. Winners of 12 straight and a very dangerous No. 5 seed in the Bolingbrook Sectional, the Red Devils are fresh off winning their first West Suburban Silver championship since 2000.

It has a rising talent in 6-7 sophomore Matt Rafferty (15 ppg, 11 rpg), but it's a balanced team with a number of players who can hurt you. The underrated aspect of this team is the size and versatility of the perimeter players. Brian Owens, Alec Hutcherson, Chase Hamilton and Jared Eck are all guards with size and scoring ability.

A win over favored heavyweight Proviso East would certainly sound the alarm throughout the Bolingbrook Sectional field. That's no small task with the speed and quickness Proviso East brings to the table. Sterling Brown, Paris Lee and the Pirates haven't lost in a while, either -- the last lost coming Dec. 31 to Morgan Park. I'm really wanting to pick upset here ... Just do it. ... Pick it! .... Ughhhhhh. Just can't.
Hoops Report Pick: Proviso East 63, Hinsdale Central 56

Schaumburg (16-9) at Prospect (15-9)
When it comes to crossover conference championship games, the Mid-Suburban League is the grandfather. And when it comes to the MSL title tilt, Schaumburg and Prospect have been regulars in recent years. Prospect is making its fourth trip in the last six years to the MSL championship game as the MSL East representative. Schaumburg won this game a year ago.

No, these aren't ranked teams, but they're the two best programs the MSL. Schaumburg, with veteran seniors in Kyle Bolger and Jimmy Lundquist who have played in their share of big games, is playing well. The Saxons are 9-2 since starting the season 7-7. Prospect has the home floor, balance, some size and a promising junior in Bobby Frasco. But Schaumburg's been here and done that.
Hoops Report Pick: Schaumburg 57, Prospect 48

Glenbard East (18-6) at #21 West Aurora (22-5)
This one isn't a crossover conference title matchup. It's just a regular-season finale for all the marbles -- or at least a share of them -- in the DuPage Valley Conference. These are the two best basketball programs in the league. Glenbard East knocked off West Aurora back in January behind the play of Tahron Harvey and holds a one-game lead on the Blackhawks. The home court and the do-or-die situation West Aurora is in gives them a slight edge in the rematch.
Hoops Report Pick: West Aurora 55, Glenbard East 50

And on the weekend ...
The final weekend of the regular-season offers some exciting matchups as well, headed by a showdown between Whitney Young and Benet Academy in the annual City-Suburban Showdown. In addition, Lemont and Hillcrest go at it in Country Club Hills to decide the South Suburban Blue, while Neuqua Valley and Larkin square off in the Upstate Eight Conference crossover title game.

The City-Suburban Showdown, which is always one of the premier events in this state and nationally, moves to the House of Hope on Chicago's South Side for a tripleheader Saturday evening. Here is the City-Suburban Showdown lineup:

• De La Salle vs. Proviso East @ 4 p.m.
Proviso East will be coming off its Wednesday West Suburban Conference championship game with Hinsdale Central. With Alvin Ellis leading De La Salle, Proviso East can't afford an emotional letdown after playing in Wednesday's emotional conference title tilt.

• Benet Academy vs. Whitney Young @ 6 p.m.
It's rare when you get to see two quality, back-to-the-basket big men square off at the high school level. But that's what fans will get when Young's 6-11 Jahlil Okafor and Benet's 6-9 Sean O'Mara meet in this battle of top 10 teams.

• Marist vs. Simeon @ 8 p.m.
The season hasn't gone as planned for a Marist team that was hit hard by the absence of 6-5 Nic Weishar, who was lost for the season due to injury months ago. Here is an opportunity for Marist and its talented backcourt of Lexus Williams and L.J. McIntosh to find a way to shock the world.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

City champs and other prep hoops musings

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Poor, Morgan Park.

This talented Chicago Public League powerhouse only had about 48 hours to pump out its chest and play king of the city mountain.

For three months Simeon and Whitney Young swapped positions atop the rankings. They will swap again when the rankings come out again today, while Morgan Park will be on the outside looking in after falling to Whitney Young in overtime in the city championship Friday night.

"We don't have time to enjoy," Whitney Young coach Tyrone Slaughter told the Hoops Report the day after his team's thrilling city title win. "We have a really good Benet team coming up and then the state playoffs. It's right back to work."

The Dolphins, though, captured their first city championship in over a decade and should take a little time to enjoy it. While the Public League isn't as deep as it's been in past years, it's especially strong at the top. And whether people want to recognize it or not, the rugged national schedule Whitney Young played all season prepared Slaughter's club for the city playoffs.

What more can you say about Whitney Young junior Jahlil Okafor? The 6-11 junior dominated Orr in the semifinals and did the same in the title game victory over Morgan Park. Right now, there just isn't another player in the state like him.

IHSA supports city hoops?
The Chicago Public League coaches and the IHSA haven't always seen eye-to-eye. But it was a positive sign to see IHSA executive director Marty Hickman at Chicago State Friday night to take in the Public League final. Even with IHSA State events taking place this weekend, Hickman made the trip to Chicago to show his support for Public League basketball.

The best 3A team in the state
Morgan Park may not have won the Public League's Red-South, falling to Simeon in its regular-season showdown. And the Mustangs didn't win a city championship, losing to Whitney Young in the final. But coach Nick Irvin's club will enter the IHSA state tournament next week as the favorite in Class 3A, though the Hoops Report still loves the team down in Washington, led by Alec Peters. That, my fellow high school hoops friends, would be a fun one in a Class 3A state semifinal.

It's not very often when we think of an individual player being vitally important to a loaded, talent-filled team. But as Morgan Park embarks on a 3A title chase in the coming weeks, it's so clear how valuable Billy Garrett, Jr. is to that team loaded with Division I prospects. Garrett, a DePaul recruit, is a calming influence on a team that absolutely needs that type of presence. The 6-4 point guard can run a team, score when necessary and, most importantly, gives Morgan Park a true leader with a command of his team and game situations.

Record-breaking Marian Catholic
Every win going forward is big for coach Mike Taylor's Marian Catholic Spartans. That's because every win breaks a record for the most single-season victories in school history.

In yet another East Suburban Catholic dogfight, Marian Catholic held off red-hot Matt Mooney and Niles Notre Dame Friday for a 55-50 victory. What? No Tyler Ulis mention yet?

Ulis was quiet, scoring just 12 points but still impacting the game in the many ways he does. But the biggest reason this was such an important victory for Marian Catholic is the fact it showed that the Great Surprise of the season, the 2012-2013 Spartans, can beat a quality opponent without Ulis having to drop 30. That's a nice omen for a 24-3 team heading into March as the No. 1 seed in the Thornton Sectional.

Solari leads Maine South's no-namers
The average hoops fan in the Chicago area will certainly need a program heading into the gym to watch any Maine South game. The Hawks just don't have THAT guy. But it's refreshing to see a team have the success it's had without a star, win within a system and defy plenty of stereotypes, starting with Maine South is only a football school.

At first glance, Maine South doesn't look the part of a ranked 25-win team that just won its first CSL South title since 1999. And John Solari, a 6-4, 225-pound football-playing hooper, is not what you would call your prototype centerpiece.

Solari, who put up 12 points and 13 rebounds in a huge overtime win over New Trier this past weekend, is a rock inside with strength, physicality and production. He's averaging 13.3 points and 6.4 rebounds a game but is averaging close to 17 points in Maine South's last seven games.

Making a run at another Coach of the Year
There are so many candidates for the City/Suburban Hoops Report postseason Coach of the Year honors, including Tony Lavorato of Maine South, Kevin Schnable of Oswego and several others. But Stevenson's Pat Ambrose is making a serious run at winning the award for a second time.

This Stevenson team is a year ahead of schedule of when the Hoops Report expected it to be winning a conference title, being awarded a No. 1 seed, ranked almost all season and a favorite to reach Peoria. WIth a young group, Ambrose, with the help of sophomore star Jalen Brunson, has speeded up that process.

Ambrose, who has never had a losing season in 14 years and has won 17-plus games a season in 11 of those 14 seasons, won City/Suburban Hoops Report Coach of the Year honors in 2007 when he led the Patriots to a fourth-place finish at state.

How deep is Bolingbrook Sectional?
Forget about the top four seeds in the Bolingbrook Sectional for a moment, a group of teams who've been ranked all season long. Look beyond the top eight seeds, which includes a red-hot Hinsdale Central team, a surging Waubonsie Valley team led by a difference-making player in Jared Brownridge and a Bolingbrook team boasting Division I talent.

Lemont is the No. 9 seed -- with 22 wins. How dangerous might this team be if it can somehow pull off an upset this week against Hillcrest to grab a share of the South Suburban Blue title? Lemont, though, was upset last year by Providence in a Class 3A regional final after winning 25 games.

• The No. 10 seed, Naperville North, has now won 19 games, including weekend wins over No. 4 seed West Aurora and No. 7 seed Naperville Central. Maybe the lower seed will reverse Naperville North's postseason fortunes. Last year the Huskies, a No. 5 seed, won 19 games. But Oswego ended North's season quickly, beating them in North's regional opener.

• Metea Valley, the No. 11 seed, is 17-9 and has handed No. 3 seed Neuqua Valley one of its two losses on the season. Plus, Metea has played powerhouses in Proviso East and Oswego (twice) in non-conference play, and recently lost to No. 5 seed Hinsdale Central in overtime. The Oswego East Regional will be filled with a whole lot of intensity with Upstate Eight Conference Valley rivals Neuqua Valley, Metea Valley and Waubonsie Valley all lumped in together in what looks like an Indian Prairie School District 204 postseason tournament.

• And the No. 12 seed, Geneva, sits 18-8 with an impressive win over St. Viator and a 16-win Quincy team recently. Last year as a No. 14 seed, Geneva gave No. 3 seed Metea Valley a run in the regional semis before falling 45-42.

Stretch run for Class of 2013

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This is the time of year when seniors rise to the top and tend to take over, leading their teams to conference titles and monumental victories in regional and sectional play. Get out and enjoy a talented Class of 2013 for one more month before they're off to college programs across the country.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the updated Class of 2013 prospect rankings as we head into the stretch run of their senior season. (Editor's Note: One small change was made immediately after the initial posting in making a correction.)

1. Jabari Parker, 6-8, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
Still the No. 1 prospect in the class. Still in pursuit of a fourth straight state championship. But still not sure if we will see the complete, high-level, 100 percent version of Jabari Parker we all hoped to watch and enjoy during his senior season. Unfortunately, the setback from the foot injury in the summer, the time off and the long process getting back has taken a little something away from Parker's final season.
2. Malcolm Hill, 6-6, WF, Belleville (East)
Has been a fixture at the No. 2 spot in the Hoops Report rankings for quite some time, and he's done nothing but solidify that this season. The Illinois recruit is overlooked nationally and should be a serious contender for any state Player of the Year honors. Love his scoring versatility and size on the perimeter. Putting up over 25 points, 5.8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals and 1.6 blocks a game for a state-ranked team.
3. Kendrick Nunn, 6-1, 2G, Chicago (Simeon)
The tough, athletic guard who has signed with Illinois dealt with some nagging injuries early on that slowed him up in November and December. But he's been playing at a high level over the past month, using his athleticism and strengths to his advantage.
4. Kendall Stephens, 6-5, 2G, St. Charles (East)
Was off to a sensational start to the season, even with the shoulder injury that would ultimately end his season, need surgery and months of rehab. Stephens is just a silky smooth shooter with range and a picture-perfect release. Hoops Report has always been higher on Stephens than some, but surround him with some talent and he will flourish.
5. Sterling Brown, 6-5, WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
Continues to put up solid, consistent numbers that fill a stat sheet (17 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists per game) for a team that has remained among the top five teams in the rankings all season. SMU-bound Brown still provides a lot of versatility on both ends of the floor.
6. Billy Garrett, Jr., 6-4½, PG, Chicago (Morgan Park)
Putting together a rock solid, steady season. Handling the point guard duties while knocking down shots from the perimeter. Great size and has a solid feel for the game for the point guard position. Too bad DePaul didn't have a couple more of his classmates in 2013 coming with him, because he can be a key piece going forward with other pieces around him.
7. Kyle Davis, 6-0, 2G, Chicago (Morgan Park)
An Energizer bunny whose battery never stops. Just goes and attacks, makes plays, brings toughness and has that high-level energy and explosiveness. The shooting has to improve, but the Dayton recruit continues to impress in helping Morgan Park to the No. 1 ranking in Class 3A.
8. Alvin Ellis, 6-4, WF, Chicago (De La Salle)
A little special place in the Hoops Report's heart for sticking it out at the South Side private school when others bailed. He's flourished in what has been one of the real overlooked seasons by any individual player in this class. Athletic, long and makes plays with a still-improving jumper. He will prove to be a solid recruit for Minnesota.
9. Kendall Pollard, 6-5, WF, Chicago (Simeon)
While Jabari Parker was still coming back and the guards were still settling in early and struggling a bit, it was Pollard who was Simeon's best and most consistent player. He's been a rock. Defends. Rebounds. Brings a high-level of toughness and physicality. Finds a way to score when needed. A junk yard dog. He's going to be a good one for Dayton.
10. Ben Moore, 6-8, PF, Bolingbrook
He hasn't put up monster numbers, but he's still progressing as a player and prospect, was a late bloomer and is far from maxing out. When you really look at things, Moore has come a looooong way in the past 12 months. SMU hopes that same type of improvement occurs over the next 12 months.
11. Alec Peters, 6-7½, WF/PF, Washington
Great senior season, terrific career and leader of one of the top teams in the state in Class 3A that is sporting a 22-1 record. Right there with Kendall Stephens and Jared Brownridge as the best shooter in Illinois. Has poise, knows how to play and found a great fit at Valpo, where he will be one heck of a Horizon League player in time.
12. David Cohn, 6-2, PG/2G, Elmhurst (York)
The kid can just play and go get buckets; it's just that so few see him play. Plays hard and competes. He will always surprise those who watch him with his quickness and better-than-you-think athleticism. Colorado State is getting a player who can play both guard spots comfortably, not by default.
13. Jaylon Tate, 6-2, PG, Chicago (Simeon)
Steady, consistent play after settling in at Simeon and finding his way in running the state's top-ranked team. He's taken care of the ball, set the table for the bigger names and has gained the trust of his head coach. He won't wow you, but he gets done what is asked of him -- and has been big in crunch time of games.
14. Nathan Taphorn, 6-7, WF, Pekin
There is a lot to like with a player that brings the size, length, skill and versatility of Taphorn. He may not always get to showcase all of that in the system he plays in, but Northwestern is getting a player that can fill various roles for them down the road.
15. Paris Lee, 5-10, PG, Maywood (Proviso East)
The catalyst for a team ranked among the top five. Possesses a disruptive game. Headed to Illinois State next year, Lee makes his mark in three ways: toughness, an ability to just find a way to make a play and being a menace defensively.
16. Jubril Adekoya, 6-6, PF, Valparaiso
The Valpo signee continues to be the player that gets things done, sometimes quietly. But before you know it he's averaging 21 points, 12 rebounds, 3 assists, 1.8 steals, 1.2 blocks and shoots 60 percent from the field on the season. That's some darn good production for a player who brings his lunch bucket to work every day.
17. Russell Woods, 6-8, PF, Chicago (Simeon)
Has provided a presence for No. 1 Simeon. When he's out running the floor, finishing at the rim, blocking shots, playing with energy, he can impress. Still a long ways to go on the offensive end, for sure, but he's going to be a high priority junior college recruit this spring.
18. Alex Foster, 6-7, PF, South Holland (Seton Academy)
Made the move to Seton this offseason and is now a few weeks away from challenging for a Class 2A state crown. Brings a body and frame to work with and an ability to move well at his size. Still at his best when he sticks his nose in there around the basket and battles, rebounds, competes.
19. Sean O'Brien, 6-6, 2G/WF, Mundelein
He doesn't get a whole lot of attention, but he should. SIU snuck in under the radar and secured a commitment from a versatile and skilled perimeter player with size. And what a whopper of a senior year he's putting together. How about this for productivity: 20.7 points, 11 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 3 blocks a game.
20. Jared Brownridge, 6-1, 2G, Aurora (Waubonsie Valley)
The best player in Waubonsie Valley school history is a dead-eye shooter with an ultra-quick release and sound mechanics. There might not be a better catch-and-shoot player in the class. He's evolved into more than just a shooter over the past year. Santa Clara nabbed a good one last fall.
21. Miles Simelton, 6-0, PG/2G, Oswego
Yes, the Hoops Report has hit people hard with Miles Simelton pub. But no player has increased his stock more than anyone in the class this season -- and college coaches are now finally getting serious about him. He will just go his own basket and shot when he needs to with his explosiveness, elevation on his jumper, pull-up game and terrific range. Off-the-charts character and the fact he really gets it on the floor makes him even more appealing.
22. DeShawn Munson, 6-3, 2G/WF, East St. Louis (Sr.)
There are still some deficiencies when it comes to his perimeter shooting (he shoots just 25 percent from the 3-point line and just over 40 percent from the free-throw line), but he overcomes that with a high motor, great body and athleticism. And he puts up crazy numbers: 17.1 points, 11.2 rebounds, 8.8 assists and 4.2 steals per game.
23. Morris Dunnigan, 6-2, 2G, Joliet (West)
What a terrific story that has developed here in watching Dunnigan, a prize prospect as a freshman, bounce back from an ACL injury his sophomore year to get back to the point of being a dominating presence. He's put together an outstanding season. A strong, athletic scorer whose game is now more complete.
24. Marquise Pryor, 6-6, PF, Chicago (Orr)
Unfortunately, off-the-court issues have derailed his season up to this point. But he has taken care of those issues and could be back for Orr before the season is over. Tough, rugged rebounder who plays with an edge, has a motor and finishes around the basket.
25. A.J. Riley, 6-2, PG, Peoria (Notre Dame)
Another unfortunate situation in that Riley was ruled ineligible after leaving Peoria Manual. Was headed the prep school route but instead ended up at Notre Dame, where the IHSA ruled him ineligible. Big-bodied point guard whose recruiting is still being sorted out.
26. Andrew McAuliffe, 6-8½, PF/C, Northbrook (Glenbrook North)
Fundamentally sound big man with just enough skill for a player his size to open your eyes. Davidson secured a promising prospect who will do very well in the Southern Conference.
27. A.J. Patty, 6-8½, PF, Westchester (St. Joseph)
Still raw and still about projection. But Patty has had his moments and shown improvement over the past 12-18 months. Rangy big who runs the floor and has some length and bounce.
28. Lexus Williams, 5-11, PG, Chicago (Marist)
The Valpo recruit is one player who has a true position -- he's a natural point guard. Good feel for the game and the position.
29. Moshawn Thomas, 6-8, PF/C, Chicago (Hyde Park)
Big body who when he plays with energy and a chip on his shoulder can be pretty productive and be a factor on the glass and around the basket. Still has a ways to go on the offensive end.
30. Brandon Jenkins, 6-3, WF, Maywood (Proviso East)
Still needs to figure how to play and be effective on a consistent basis, but his physical tools, athleticism and upside make him a very intriguing junior college prospect.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Sensational city semis -- and picks

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Ho-hum, just another night in the Chicago Public League.

The Chicago Public League and high school basketball fans couldn't have asked for anything bigger or better than the semifinal matchups that will take place Wednesday night at Chicago State. The top four teams in the city -- and the top four ranked teams in both the Chicago Sun-Times and the City/Suburban Hoops Report Top 25 polls -- square off.

But the key word here that makes it even more enticing? Rematch.

It's going to be a lot of fun watching how Simeon-Morgan Park and Whitney Young-Orr go at it in Round 2 of what will be a couple of hotly contested rematches.

Orr stunned Whitney Young just 10 days ago on a buzzer-beating 3-pointer from Jamal McDowell in a game that decided the Red-West title.

The Simeon-Morgan Park battle went down to the wire as well back in mid-January. Simeon edged Morgan Park 53-51 in a game that, unfortunately, is remembered for all that happened after 32 minutes of basketball were played.

Here is a little Hoops Report primer for Wednesday's city semifinals.

Simeon (22-2) vs. Morgan Park (25-2) • Wednesday, 5:00 p.m.
You're going to have a hard time finding a pair of backcourts better than Morgan Park's Billy Garrett, Jr. and Kyle Davis and Simeon's Kendrick Nunn and Jaylon Tate. These are talented seniors who all compete, get after it and play with pride. Morgan Park's perimeter talent MUST get the better of Simeon's if it wants to reverse the outcome.

Look for Simeon to try and go inside early and often. Star Jabari Parker may benefit being on the block more than floating around the perimeter in this matchup. The 6-8 Parker and the 6-8 Russell Woods provides coach Robert Smith and the Wolverines an advantage along the frontline. It's been 24 months since Simeon lost a truly meaningful in-state game. Simeon fell to Whitney Young (in the city playoffs) and to Benet Academy in a big-time late season showdown in February of 2011. No reason to pick against them now.
Hoops Report Pick: Simeon 58, Morgan Park 53

Whitney Young (21-3) vs. Orr (23-2) • Wednesday, 7:00 p.m.
Does everyone forget Orr is the No. 1 seed in this city tournament? No one ever talks about coach Lou Adams' club in the same breath as Simeon, Whitney Young and Morgan Park. And the Spartans have noticed. While the win over Young 10 days ago grabbed plenty of attention, a second win over the Dolphins and a trip to the city championship would put one heck of a scare into all those Class 3A foes that Orr will face in a couple of weeks.

As far as Young is concerned, it truly does -- and should -- play an inside-out game with 6-11 Jahlil Okafor wreaking havoc in the paint. But that idea has been thwarted in losses to Simeon and Orr, who both played a compact zone. The answer is simple: try to score a little more in transition and KNOCK DOWN OPEN JUMPERS. Plus, versatile 6-9 Paul White will be in action after missing the first Young-Orr showdown.
Hoops Report Pick: Whitney Young 55, Orr 47
Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Early bracket breakdown

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The seeds have been planted and the brackets laid out by the Illinois High School Association. And here's what we know ...

• There aren't two sectionals in the Chicago area stronger than the Argo Sectional and the Bolingbrook Sectional. How talent-filled are these two sectionals? At Argo, imagine having to beat both Whitney Young and Simeon to win a sectional title. There are nine teams who are either ranked or have been ranked at some point this season in this sectional. The top four teams in the Bolingbrook Sectional -- Oswego, Benet, Neuqua Valley and West Aurora -- have been ranked virtually all season. There are 13 teams with at least 13 wins, including 12 teams with 15-plus victories on the season so far.

• If you go strictly by seeds and consensus rankings, here is what the Class 4A semifinals in Peoria would look like next month: Proviso East vs. Simeon and Belleville East vs. Stevenson. And in 3A we would get Washington vs. Morgan Park and Cahokia vs. Orr. That's a pretty star-studded cast with big-named players and high-profile teams. ... Sure, there won't be any upsets.

• The most heavily anticipated postseason matchup -- Simeon vs. Whitney Young -- would take place Friday, Mar. 8 in Summit, if the two take care of business in their regional final and sectional semifinal games.

• It's not often where individual matchups take center stage in March, but that's the case in a potential Argo Sectional semifinal where Curie could meet Whitney Young. Thus, we would have Jahlil Okafor vs. Cliff Alexander. The top two prospects in the Class of 2014, both dominating big men and among the top 10 prospects nationally in the junior class, would meet in a win-or-go-home matchup Wednesday, Mar. 6.

• Staying with the Argo Sectional, will there be a better regional championship game in the Chicago area than the St. Rita-Brother Rice battle? Want a preview of that one? The two will hook up for a Catholic League tussle Tuesday night at St. Rita.

• If you would have said Marist and Hyde Park would meet in a regional back in November, one would be excited. They are meeting, indeed -- in a regional opener as a No. 8 and No. 9 seeds. Marist just hasn't been the same since losing Nic Weishar to a season-ending injury in November. In two measuring stick games this calendar year, Marist fell in lopsided losses to St. Rita, 76-56, and Brother Rice, 67-49. That doesn't bode well for a team that shocked so many last March.

• The depth in Class 3A basketball, especially around the Chicago area, is lacking. There are a couple of abysmal sectionals in 3A. But the most power-packed potential matchup prior to Peoria would take place in the Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional between two highly-ranked teams in Orr and North Chicago.

• In this season of absolute parity, where the Top 25 rankings have been more fluid than usual, don't expect many sectionals to get the top four seeds through regional play. With that being said, here are two No. 5 seeds that are red-hot: Loyola Academy and Hinsdale Central. Neither have lost a game since the calendar turned to 2013 and are in position to win their respective conferences.

• And how about those early regional semifinal games, where some whacky things can take place and close scares occur? Here is a quick rundown of some of the more enticing games to watch before the regional championships take place, including many rivalry games that will take on even more importance.

Bolingbrook vs. Lemont ... An 8/9 game featuring a Bolingbrook team with Division I talent and, possibly, 19 wins on the year, facing a 20-plus win Lemont team for the right to face No. 1 seed Oswego in the regional championship at Batavia.

Naperville North vs. Naperville Central ... Does anyone really want to play their rival in a regional semifinal? Both teams will have 16-plus victories on the season.

Waubonsie Valley vs. Metea Valley ... Yet another local battle in the regional semis between two teams that split this season.

Riverside-Brookfield vs. Conant ... A contrast of styles, for sure. But it's also a rematch from December, where No. 5 seed R-B lost to No. 12 seed Conant over the holidays.

Larkin vs. Elgin ... Favored and top-seeded Larkin has had its hands full with local rival Elgin, winning 66-62, 60-51 and 76-73 this season. It's bad enough having to beat a rival a third time, but the Royals will have to do it a fourth time.

Palatine vs. Fremd ... It will be Round III for these district and MSL West rivals in a regional semifinal matchup. Fremd won back in late November, while Palatine won the most recent matchup.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Hoops Report thoughts and city playoff primer

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The Hoops Report's notebook of basketball thoughts is starting to overflow. Lets get to it, along with a little Public League Playoff primer.

➥ Has anyone noticed that Hinsdale Central has quietly climbed atop the league standings in the West Suburban Silver? Most would have assumed it was either York or maybe Oak Park-River Forest on top, but it's Hinsdale Central that's holding a one-game lead.

There is a trio of senior perimeter players in Brian Owens, Alec Hutcherson and Jared Eck that have been instrumental in the 7-1 league mark and 14-5 overall start, but the Red Devils have reached another level due to the development of Matt Rafferty. The 6-7 sophomore provides size and a versatile big man who can get work done around the basket and step out to the three-point line.

If coach Nick Latorre's team can take care of both Proviso West and Lyons Twp. this weekend, it would set up a league showdown with York Feb. 12.

➥ When you talk about Mundelein basketball, the ACL injury to high-scoring senior Robert Knar and the play of Southern Illinois recruit Sean O'Brien has been the center of conversation. But a couple of seniors, Quinn Pokora and Chino Ebube, are worth mentioning as they've put together very solid seasons in a supporting role. Pokora is a gutty perimeter threat on both ends, while Ebube is an uber-athlete headed to Division II Missouri S&T.

You can't help but discuss Mundelein in a bit of a "What if?" dialogue. The expectations were through the roof for this team heading into the season. While the Mustangs have persevered -- they currently sit 12-9 -- it's a shame no one could see just how potent this team might have been with a healthy Knar, a 20-plus point scorer who is headed to Northern Iowa. Knar made a brief debut recently, so we'll see how big of an impact he can make in the postseason. This is a senior group that has played together since they were kids, so it would be terrific and rewarding for them to get a chance to play out their dreams this March with a healthy (or at least a somewhat healthy) Knar.

➥ I realize Palatine is a very modest 14-11 on the season, but this team has shown a marked improvement over a year ago. The 14 wins may not jump out at the average fan -- and maybe not even the big win over rival Fremd last week will -- but it's a team that went 3-24 a year ago.

But this IS eye-popping: Palatine is on the verge of its first season above the .500 mark since the 1990s.

As long as 6-3 sophomore Roosevelt Smart, who isn't talked about enough in the Class of 2015, is around, the arrow will continue pointing up for this program. Smart is putting up an impressive 18.3 points a game and is one of the Hoops Report's top 10 prospects in the sophomore class. Smart's game continues to grow. Then there is fellow sophomore Chris Macahon, an unknown but solid point guard who will continue to impress. Macahon is averaging close to 10 points a game for coach Eric Millstone.

A regional championship this March may be a bit much to ask for a team prominently featuring two sophomores, but the next two years could bring the most back-to-back years of success since coach Ed Molitor's teams in the early 1980s.

Oswego is a fantastic 22-2 and running away with the Southwest Prairie. Meanwhile, the season has been a showcase for senior guard Miles Simelton, who has arguably enhanced his recruiting stock as much as any uncommitted player in the Class of 2013 over the course of the season. But Elliot McGaughy, a 6-2 senior, has grown up, matured as a player and become so much more consistent in his third season as a varsity starter.

As a result, the Panthers are thriving and McGaughy is putting together a heck of a season. How about these numbers from McGaughy, who will be a high-value junior college recruiting target this spring: 17 points, 4 assists and 5 rebounds a game.

How much have Simelton and McGaughy meant to the Oswego basketball program over the past three-plus years? Aside from the Simeon duo of Jabari Parker and Kendrick Nunn, it could be argued no two seniors have had a bigger impact on their respective program over four years than Simelton and McGaughy. Both have scored well over 1,400 career points and are on pace to combine for more than 3,000-career points. Impressive.

➥ The Player of the Year conversation in the Chicago area has been more fluid than expected this year. In a recent conversation with Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce, the second-year coach is surprised his star, Sterling Brown, hasn't been mentioned more prominently. Brown is averaging 17 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists, 2 steals and 1 block a game for a team that has been ranked among the top five all season.

➥ Speaking of Donnie Boyce, the Proviso East coach hasn't even finished his second season on the bench and already has 50 wins. Boyce is 50-4 in his young coaching career.

➥ The Benet Academy team I saw play in the first half against West Aurora last weekend was, as I tweeted that day, one that would not lose in a strong and balanced Bolingbrook Sectional this March. That's how dominant and impressive the Redwings were in building a 19-point lead at the half. Junior big man Sean O'Mara gets the the much-deserved pub, but what more can you say about all that 6-4 senior Pat McInerney has and continues to do for this team?

➥ Talk about a little "Take that, Hoops Report!" New Trier did just that last weekend. The Hoops Report picks last week included calling a Waukegan upset win over New Trier, followed by a pick of St. Viator over New Trier the following day. New Trier went out and handled Waukegan and then took care of St. Viator. That's an impressive weekend that should help the Trevians lock up a top four sectional seed. Since losing to Maine South Jan. 11, coach Scott Fricke's team has reeled off nine straight wins.

➥ Lets talk some Round Lake basketball. Round Lake, you ask? Uh, yeah. I know, I know, the Panthers are 3-18 on the season. But it's still worth mentioning this: James Mobley, a 6-4 freshman, is putting together a season. Mobley is averaging 10 points, 4.3 rebounds, 1.1 assists and 1.5 steals a game.

➥ One of my feel-sorry-for teams in the Chicago area is Nazareth Academy. This is a pretty solid team with some nice pieces, but this is not the year to be playing the schedule it plays. The Roadrunners are now 10-11 after a 6-1 start to the season.

A trip to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament in December and non-conference games with St. Ignatius and Brother Rice are one thing, but the rigors of being a bottom half East Suburban Catholic Conference team this year will take its toll on any team. Nazareth played Ignatius tough on Tuesday, losing 48-45. It did the same in losses to Marist (68-62), St. Viator (86-81) and St. Patrick (75-70).

➥ A look at the national rankings shows both Simeon and Whitney Young remain among the top 10 in the country. Simeon is currently ranked No. 4 nationally in the most recent USA Today Top 25 and Whitney Young checks in at No. 10. The MaxPreps Top 25 has Simeon ranked No. 2 in the country, with Whitney Young No. 9. And's Top 25 rankings feature Simeon and Whitney Young at No. 7 and No. 8, respectively.

Public League Primer
Overall, from top to bottom, the Chicago Public League is not what it's been in comparison to past years. The top dogs, though, are prepared to do some heavy lifting in the next five to six weeks. The top five teams in the city -- Simeon, Whitney Young, Morgan Park, Orr and Curie -- are head and shoulders above the rest of the pack. It will be fun to watch these teams sort things out over the course of the city playoffs.

But how about when March rolls around? While Simeon, Young and Curie will bounce one another out of the Argo Sectional, with the winner likely headed to Peoria as the 4A favorite, there is a chance both Morgan Park and Orr could join them in Peoria.

Morgan Park will cruise to a sectional title and then likely face Hillcrest in the super-sectional. Orr, meanwhile, will have to overcome some of its past regional/sectional demons (hold off St. Ignatius, St. Joseph, Farragut, Fenwick, etc. in the Nazareth Sectional in the process) and then beat North Chicago in the super-sectional.

But first things first ... the Chicago Public League playoffs. Here is a quick Hoops Report city forecast.

Team to beat: Simeon.
With the improved play of the Wolverines over the past few weeks, along with wins over Morgan Park and Whitney Young, coach Rob Smith's team is the one to beat -- again. Are they invincible? No. But it's still easy to attach the label of favorite to them.

Most in need of making a statement: Whitney Young
Boy, have people stopped talking about Whitney Young. And it happened like overnight ... tsk-tsk-tsk-tsk. This is still the same Dolphins team that was so impressive playing a rugged slate of national teams. This is still the same Dolphins team that features 6-11 Jahlil Okafor. But after falling to both Simeon and Orr, a city title would quickly make people forget about those losses. And it would instill a little bit of that mojo Whitney Young was feeling post-holidays.

Most anticipated (potential) quarterfinal matchup: Curie vs. Morgan Park
We will have to wait for Curie to take care of North Lawndale and Morgan Park to dispose of Lane Tech first on Thursday night, but this is a highly-anticipated matchup. It wasn't all that long ago when superstar Wayne Blackshear, now at Louisville, bolted Curie in the middle of the season and transferred to Morgan Park. That adds some sizzle. Same two programs; same two coaches. But these are two new teams. Will the size of 6-9 Cliff Alexander give Morgan Park's guard-dominated team problems? Will Morgan Park's loaded backcourt give Curie's guards fits?

Hoops Report's projected semifinal matchups
• Whitney Young over Orr
The Dolphins get some quick revenge over the team that knocked them off in Red-West finale.
• Simeon over Morgan Park
Red-South rivals collide again with similar results. Morgan Park plays the defending champs tough but falls in a close one.

City Championship Pick
• Simeon over Whitney Young
Round II between these two giants. But until someone can prove it can knock off Simeon in a meaningful game, I'm picking the Wolverines.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

Hoops Report's sectional seeds

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The IHSA determined a few years ago to do away with the annual seeding meetings, where coaches would huddle in a room, argue their case, listen to other coaches and decide where to seed the 20-plus teams in each sectional.

So now coaches, who spend winter nights driving to scout teams and drive to camps, summer leagues and endless shootouts in the offseason, can't get together for one important night to seed a sectional?

Sadly, everything is now done online with a very little accountability as coaches can hide behind a computer, choose not to do much homework before seeding. The seeds will be entered early this week and released later this week.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes a look at the 4A sectionals around the Chicago area and provides the top eight seeds in each sectional. The Hoops Report took into account won-loss records and head-to-head results, which coaches all look at. But what is sometimes not looked at close enough is schedule strength and how teams are playing of late. And no one takes into account the old fashioned eye test.

It's not easy, especially with a flurry of upsets this past weekend the Hoops Report highlighted in this blog, but here is a look at how the Hoops Report would seed the top eight teams in each Class 4A sectional.

Bolingbrook Sectional
1. Benet Academy
2. Oswego
3. West Aurora
4. Neuqua Valley
5. Bolingbrook
6. Naperville Central
7. Hinsdale Central
8. Metea Valley

Overview: An awfully tough sectional to seed, especially due to the fact there has only been one matchup between any of the top five teams -- West Aurora vs. Benet on Saturday. Although there could be an argument made for the top seed, no team has played a tougher schedule or recorded bigger wins than Benet, including a very convincing win over West Aurora this past weekend. Oswego's record and impressive victories over the likes of Proviso East, New Trier and Homewood-Flossmoor gets them the No. 2 seed. Although it was early, Naperville Central did beat Hinsdale Central and has 14 wins, which gets them the No. 6 seed. The Hoops Report pushes Hinsdale Central, which beat Metea Valley and is playing very well, up to the No. 7 seed. The Red Devils don't have a single bad loss among their five. Metea Valley, which has played very well since a 1-4 start, gets the edge over Waubonsie Valley and Lemont for the No. 8 seed.

Schaumburg Sectional
1. Proviso East
2. York
3. Oak Park-River Forest
4. Proviso West
5. Glenbard East
6. Bartlett
7. Morton
8. Riverside-Brookfield

Overview: There isn't a sectional in the Chicago area with so few head-to-head matchups between teams to help sort out the top eight seeds. Proviso East and York are no-brainers in the top two slots. Then it gets messy. Trying to figure out 3-10? Good luck. Proviso West has played a quality schedule and has played well of late, beating Oak Park and York in the last two weeks. Glenbard East knocked off West Aurora, has played a competitive schedule and has a 14-6 record.

Glenbrook North Sectional
1. Niles Notre Dame
2. Niles North
3. Maine South
4. New Trier
5. Loyola Academy
6. St. Patrick
7. Foreman
8. Glenbrook North

Overview: A pretty deep, balanced sectional that might be the most difficult sectional to seed at the top. Just when you think you had it all figured out, Loyola Academy and New Trier record huge wins this past weekend. Niles Notre Dame owns a close win over Niles North back in December and, over the course of two-plus months, has been the best team. And how about this? Maine South, New Trier and Loyola have a combined one loss in the month of January -- and that was Maine South beating New Trier. All three are red-hot, but Maine South beat New Trier and New Trier beat Loyola back in November.

Argo Sectional
1. Simeon
2. Whitney Young
3. Curie
4. Brother Rice
5. St. Rita
6. Bogan
7. Marist
8. De La Salle

Overview: This one, despite loaded, is simplistic when figuring out the seeds. Simeon beat Young; Curie beat St. Rita. But St. Rita's loss this past weekend to Hales Franciscan was puzzling and leaves them with seven losses. Brother Rice is 18-3, with a pair of losses to teams (Marian Catholic and Neuqua Valley) with a combined record of 44-5). Flip a coin but these two Catholic League teams will play one another in a regional final either way.

Thornton Sectional
1. Marian Catholic
2. Bloom
3. Homewood-Flossmoor
4. Joliet West
5. T.F. North
6. Crete-Monee
7. Lincoln-Way North
8. Thornton

Overview: How about this: Marian Catholic is a No. 1 seed ... In basketball! Bloom and H-F split this year, but it's clear Bloom, which beat H-F earlier this month, has been the more impressive team this season. Joliet West has played a very competitive schedule, while Crete-Monee has scuffled of late. Lincoln-Way North knocked off Thornton 66-51in January and has won eight of its last 10.

Waukegan Sectional
1. Stevenson
2. St. Viator
3. Warren
4. Mundelein
5. Lake Forest
6. Zion-Benton
7. Waukegan
8. Fremd

Overview: A nightmare of a sectional to try and figure out. After Stevenson at No. 1, everyone else has similar records and have knocked each other off among the teams that will be seeded 2-6. So the Hoops Report went with strength of schedule and awarded St. Viator the No. 2 seed. After that, the Hoops Report's seeds may surprise you. But here's the logic ... Zion-Benton suffered a recent bad loss, falling to Libertyville, which dropped the Zee-Bees from top four consideration. Lake Forest has scuffled of late, losing three of its last four. So Mundelein, with two wins over Zion-Benton and a recent win over Lake Forest, moves up the seeding ladder despite just a 12-9 record. And so does Warren. The Blue Devils beat Mundelein and Lake Forest in the past week, knocked off top-seed Stevenson earlier this year, has won four out of five and has played a very tough schedule (losses to ranked teams in North Chicago, West Aurora and Curie). Waukegan's schedule and win over Schaumburg this past weekend pushes the Bulldogs ahead of the Mid-Suburban League teams.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

The magnitude of five big Friday upsets

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How wild of a Friday night was it in the Chicago area? The Hoops Report's No. 2, No. 4, No. 6, No. 7 and No. 12 teams were all upset in key conference games. No. 11 Bloom needed two overtimes to hold off Rich East, while No. 20 Larkin edged rival Elgin 68-66.

The City/Suburban Hoops Report breaks down the magnitude of the night's five biggest upsets, looking at just how big each upset was (based on an Upset Richter Scale of 1-10) and the ramifications it might have for both teams going forward.

Hales Franciscan over St. Rita
Upset Richter Scale: 10
How big? Lets put this into context. For starters, Hales is now 12-11 on the year. It lost to Morgan Park by 33 points. In the past two weeks, the Spartans fell to Bishop McNamara and lost to De La Salle by 29 points. Maybe St. Rita was still reeling from its home loss to Curie on Tuesday night, but this talent-laden Mustangs team falling to Hales is a complete shocker.
Ramifications: This was a kick in the gut to St. Rita, which drops out of first place in the Catholic League South with losses to both St. Ignatius and Hales Franciscan. Despite the loss, St. Rita shouldn't drop any lower than No. 5 in the Argo Sectional.

Carmel over Niles Notre Dame
Upset Richter Scale: 9.5
How big? The East Suburban Catholic Conference is the deepest league in the state. But to extend the depth to include Carmel, a team that was 8-12 overall and just 1-4 in the ESCC? But Carmel, 3-8 in its last 11 games, stunned No. 7 Notre Dame 48-42.
Ramifications: With what should have been an expected win over Carmel, Notre Dame would have moved into a tie for first place in the East Suburban Catholic. Instead, it remains a game back. Even with the upset loss, Notre Dame probably has an impressive enough résumé to maintain the No. 1 seed in the Glenbrook North Sectional. Hopefully, a loss like this doesn't shake the confidence of a team that should have high hopes this March.

Orr over Whitney Young
Upset Richter Scale: 9
How big? Strictly based off the rankings, No. 8 Orr over No. 2 Whitney Young may not seem huge. But this was big. Real big. Whitney Young was at home and had just two losses on the year -- a three-point loss to Simeon and an overtime loss to Montverde Academy, both ranked among the top 10 teams in the country. And the belief was that the city (and state?) was Simeon, Whitney Young, Morgan Park and everyone else.
Ramifications: For starters, Orr captured the Red-West title with the win and grabbed a whole lot of confidence going forward. Whitney Young, meanwhile, can say "we lost this game without one of our top players, Paul White, and we aren't very deep to begin with." But there is no doubt a loss at home to Orr, while left battle-tested as a result, raises some questions internally and externally.

St. Viator over Benet Academy
Upset Richter Scale: 7.5
How big? This one registers on the upset richter scale due mostly to the fact Benet has one of the real homecourt advantages in high school basketball. Plus, St. Viator had lost to Niles Notre Dame by 16 and Lake Forest by 13 in the past 10 days. But to think Benet was going to run the table in arguably the state's toughest conference was probably a bit much to ask.
Ramifications: The impact of St. Viator's win will be felt. First, Benet drops its first conference game (fortunately Benet received help from Carmel, which upset Notre Dame), while St. Viator puts itself within striking distance of at least a share of the title. The timing of the upset couldn't be better for St. Viator, which can now legitimately argue for a No. 2 seed (behind Stevenson) in the Waukegan Sectional. As for Benet? A bounce back game Saturday night against West Aurora is badly needed if it wants to secure the No. 1 seed in the Bolingbrook Sectional.

Lakes over North Chicago
Upset Richter Scale: 6.5
How big? It measures a little lower on the Upset Richter Scale due to North Chicago's team being turned upside down by the suspension of leading scorer JaVairius Amos-Mays and a couple of key reserves. Still, on paper, North Chicago, which beat Lakes 78-61 back in December, had plenty of firepower to put the North Suburban Prairie Conference race to rest.
Ramifications: The thought that North Chicago might not win the North Suburban Prairie would have been laughable a couple of weeks ago. Now it's real as both Lakes and North Chicago are tied for the top spot at 9-1. As far as sectional seeds go, this one might not have much of an impact either way as these two will likely meet again in the Antioch Sectional.

Follow Joe Henricksen and the Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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