Are you ready for the biggest regular-season weekend of the year, where drama will be high and championships won? Lets get to it …
• Stevenson (21-2) vs. Simeon (23-2) • Saturday, Feb. 21 at Niles West
The game and date everyone circled when the season began is here. It’s not often a No. 1 vs. No. 2 showdown materializes, especially this late in the season, so enjoy this special high school basketball treat. Jalen Brunson’s star power and Stevenson’s well-oiled machine come in as the slight favorite. But Ed Morrow’s size, motor and athleticism could give the smallish Patriots fits on the glass and around the basket. How close are these two teams? If you’re talking seven-game series, you’re looking at it going seven. This very well could be a preview of what we’ll see in Peoria a month from now. Simeon as an underdog, though, is enough to go with the hungry Wolverines in a nail-biter.
The pick: Simeon 66, Stevenson 63
North Suburban Lake Showdown
• Lake Forest (23-1) at Stevenson (21-2) • Friday, Feb. 20
Before Stevenson can even think about mighty Simeon, it must first take care of some North Suburban Lake business. The rugged and productive Evan Boudreaux and Lake Forest head to Lincolnshire in a quest to grab a share of the league title.
Stevenson handed Lake Forest its only loss of the season in January as the Patriots beat the Scouts 76-69 in a raucous gym. A month ago, Lake Forest simply didn’t have an answer for Jalen Brunson, who continuously got to the line and dominated the second half, scoring 16 in the third quarter and 14 more in the fourth quarter to finish with 41. Brunson scored 82 points in two wins last year. So until Lake Forest can figure out a way to at least slow Brunson down –– he’s averaging 41 points a game in the last three wins over the Scouts –– there’s no reason to pick against the favorites.
The pick: Stevenson 69, Lake Forest 62
Public League Championship
• Simeon (23-2) vs. Bogan (21-6) • Sunday, Feb. 22 at Chicago State
A Red-South showdown for city supremacy. After three months of basketball, we are now starting to see the Bogan we all expected when the season began. Coach Arthur Goodwin and the Bengals have put themselves in position to show Bogan is a bonafide city power.
Simeon has two wins over Bogan this season, but it’s certainly a different, more cohesive Bogan team this time around. Luwane Pipkins hasn’t had the dominating season many expected, but he was special in a semifinal win over Young on Wednesday. Big man Antonio Thomas isn’t Ed Morrow, but he’s playing very well and at 6-7 is at least a presence inside.
Another big factor will be the emotions and mindset of Simeon one day after playing in the hyped Stevenson game. Win or lose Saturday, how do the Wolverines respond? Simeon coach Robert Smith has told his players to look at this weekend just as they would a trip to Peoria in March: Needing to beat two great teams on a big stage in back-to-back days.
The pick: Simeon 62, Bogan 57
Catholic League Championship
• Providence (18-9) vs. St. Joseph (22-5) • Saturday, Feb. 21 at DePaul
When the season began everyone certainly could have envisioned St. Joseph in the Catholic League championship game in late February. On paper, with three high-major college prospects in 6-10 junior Nick Rakocevic and the senior backcourt of Glynn Watson and Jordan Ash, the Chargers are extremely talented. No one, however, could have predicted that coach Gene Pingatore’s boys would be playing Providence in the title game.
What a run Providence has put together, upsetting both St. Rita and Hales Franciscan to reach the Catholic League championship game. This is a nice, shiny hidden gem of a team playing with confidence at the right time. The Providence resurgence shows the importance of football star Miles Boykin, who returned to the court last month. It’s now a team boasting scoring options at a number of different positions with Boykin off the dribble and on the offensive glass, shooter Troy Howat, versatile wing Jack Brody and point guard Tyler Pygon. Can the Celtics pull off a third straight upset? Doesn’t the mojo have to come to an end at some point?
The pick: St. Joseph 65, Providence 60
Southwest Suburban Blue title bout
• Bolingbrook at Homewood-Flossmoor • Friday, Feb. 20
This matchup is way more appetizing now than it would have been two months ago. That’s because these two are smokin’ hot, with H-F winners of eight straight and Bolingbrook on an 11-game winning streak. Bolingbrook won the first one, 65-55, back in December. Now the two are tied for top spot at 10-1 in the Southwest Suburban Blue. Bolingbrook, playing its best basketball, is poised to put some of those past big loss blues away.
The pick: Bolingbrook 56, Homewood-Flossmoor 53
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