Michael O’Brien’s notebook: Jan. 9, 2017

Waukegan's Bryant Brown (25) backs Zion-Benton's Joshua Meeks (50) out of the lane. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

The Waukegan vs. Zion-Benton game on Thursday had just about everything anyone could want in a high school basketball game. The gym in Zion was packed, the event clearly meant a lot to both communities.

Zee-Bees guard Rod Henry-Hayes lived up the little bit of hype he’s been getting lately. He’s definitely one of the area’s best unsigned seniors. But the big takeaway from the game, basketball-wise, was Waukegan’s talent level.

Bulldogs coach Ron Ashlaw had all three of the Brown’s on varsity last year when they were freshmen: Bryant Brown, Ja’Dyn Brown and Jordan Brown. They are not related, but they are all very promising players. All three have made significant strides just halfway through their sophomore years and senior Carson Newsome is playing like a superstar.

Waukegan hasn’t cracked the rankings yet this season. The Bulldogs are 9-5. They don’t have any bad losses, but they’ve lost to most of the good teams they have faced.

That changed on Thursday. Waukegan went in to a literal bees’ nest and came out with a victory. Newsome seemed to be able to score at will and Ja’Dyn Brown displayed a play-making knack that was really special. The Bulldogs tried to give the game away at the end, but they managed to hang on.

“We just have to understand time and score situations,” Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw said. “The situation of the game is always changing and we have to learn to adjust to what it is. That’s something that is just going to take time with our young guys.”

Thursday could have been a turning point for Waukegan. The Bulldogs have the talent to hang with, and beat, some of the areas best teams.

There were very few changes to the rankings this week, a lot of teams were idle. The upcoming week is loaded with big games. There are Martin Luther King weekend tournaments and shootouts all over the area.

This week’s top games:

Curie at Kenwood, Tuesday: The Condors looked the part of the area’s No. 1 team until Pontiac. A win at Kenwood would bring back some of that luster. This is Curie’s best rivalry and the teams played three intense games against each other last year.

Orr at Westinghouse, Wednesday: The Warriors might be the best unranked team. They have played a brutal schedule and are due for a big win after nearly pulling off several upsets at the Hinsdale Central Holiday Tournament. Coreyoun Rushin is an electric talent for Westinghouse. Orr has size and shooters and could be the state’s best Class 2A team.

Benet at St. Patrick, Friday: The Shamrocks are another talented team looking for a resume-building win. The Redwings, led by senior Jack Nolan, proved a lot at Pontiac. St. Patrick will have the edge in speed and athleticism, but if Benet is knocking down three-pointers it is tough to beat.

Thornton vs. Curie at TF North, Saturday: It’s a big week for Curie. Alonzo Verge and the Wildcats have been waiting a few months for a chance to prove themselves. This is their opportunity. Thornton plays ferocious defense, and if Verge gets hot anything could happen.

Wheaton-Warrenville South Tournament, Saturday-Monday: It seemed like a wacky idea when it started a few years ago, but it has turned into a success. The field is strong, led by No. 10 Homewood-Flossmoor, No. 14 Benet, No. 22 Wheaton-Warrenville South, No. 25 Notre Dame and state-ranked Bloomington. All eight first round games are on Saturday, the title game is Monday.

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  • Coach Davis

    Wheaton Warrenville South Tournament update… I only attended the second round games in the winners brackets… Very disappointed in the crowd especially when there were some top teams playing.. Homewood Flossmoor 48 Benet 45 Warren 77 Oak Park River Forest 69 in overtime Wheaton Warrenville South 46 Rockford Aubrun 40 Bloomington 81 Rockford Lutheran 69… Impact Players Homewood Maurion Scott , Nicholas Holmes, Elijah McCreary Benet Liam Lyman Warren Jayson Dorsey, Juwan Perry, Branden Ellis, Declan O’Conner OPRF Isiah Fuller ,Cameron Gross, Jared Scott,Dashon Enoch WWS Dillion Durrett Rockford Auburn Terry Ford Bloomington Colton Sandage, Patrick Fisher, Dazon Farris, Chris Payton Rockford Luthern Kenny Strawbridge ,Jake Greeny, Luke Harper…

  • P Wayne

    First point of going to high school, is to be educated, build character. Playing basketball is way down on the list. To the public schools, outside the great magnet schools, start doing your jobs and changing the focus to learning first, sports second. That goes for schools like Waukegan, Joliet West and Joliet Central, that are not known for being good educational institutions. Sort of the Alabamas of high schools…Good football team , not a highly ranked University.

  • James

    Mike did you see the nominations for all Americans that just came out? Three st Rita players, none from Curie or Kenwood. No keller no williamson. Is this just the coaches not nominating their own players? Seemed like kind of a joke?

  • rick

    HF lucky game got close in Hinsdale… Brook wins by 15+ this time

  • P Wayne

    St. Pat’s has multiple players who shoot down lot’s of three pointers. Benet isn’t the only one !

  • suburban baller

    The only team in the state playoffs that can beat Simeon before they get to Peoria is three stripe shirts from central Illinois who will officiate at ISU Supersectional.

    • P Wayne

      Simeon is not invincible. I think , this year, they will NOT make it to the finals !

    • David R.

      Or Simeon may beat themselves by playing an ineligible player. The IHSA by-laws state: Our rules would restrict a player from competing for one of our high schools if the student participated in a practice, try-out or contest for a previous school in that sport. They just had a kid who did so transfer back in Dec, and he is now playing. He should be immediately ineligible and they would have to forfeit any games he participated in. IHSA by-law always supersedes CPS rules.

      • Im a Simeon Auntie

        You really think Simeon Athletic Dept. havnt did their homework. Please Simeon always have an X on their backs. Coach Rob will not risk it knowing we hv people like you lurking and planting a seed! Stop it.

      • Mike

        Do your homework David R. Obliviously IHSA doesn’t have to contact you before they rule a player eligible to play. Nor do they have to tell you personally, the circumstances that allows this student-athlete to play. So it looks like you’re not as smart as you think you are!

  • suburban baller

    Hoop fan that will be a great game. HF sends it to overtime but still looses to the Brook

  • suburban baller

    St. Patrick is playing Orr on Monday the 16 at Attack Center don’t see it in the list of games for MLK weekend?

  • Hoops Fan

    HF at Bolingbrook on Friday?

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