The last three weeks of action in January have been wild and busy. This upcoming Weekend Forecast, however, is a bit light. But here we go …
■ Niles North at Evanston
The game of the weekend as Evanston is in the midst of a brutally tough stretch of games. The Wildkits have faced DePaul Prep, Maine South and Geneva (combined 48-20) in its last three games and will play Niles North, Oak Park and Loyola (combined 56-9) in its next three.
There will be speed, athleticism and some outstanding talent in a game featuring two teams with legitimate conference, sectional and Peoria hopes. It’s also a big game for seeding purposes when it comes time for the rugged Maine East Sectional.
Niles North knocked off Evanston 64-52 back in December. The Wildkits, who get a lot of their offensive production from the trio of juniors Lance Jones and Jaeheim Holden and freshman Blake Peters, jumped out to a quick start in the first matchup with Niles North. But behind Damaria Franklin’s big performance (27 points, 9 rebounds), Niles North stormed back. That win came without versatile 6-4 Jamal Stephenson playing for Vikings.
We’ll go with the team that boasts a little more size, length and experience in what should be a down-to-the-wire finish.
Hoops Report pick: Niles North 65, Evanston 63
■ Lincoln-Way East at Homewood-Flossmoor
Both these teams have to be feeling pretty good about themselves. Lincoln-Way East beat two ranked teams last weekend, knocking off Bolingbrook on the road and Joliet Central. After dropping a pair of games to Bolingbrook and St. Joseph, H-F beat Sandburg and picked up an impressive win over Hillcrest.
The first meeting between these two was a 78-63 win for H-F in a game that wasn’t as close as the score indicates. The Vikings blitzed the Griffins early, jumping out to a 27-point lead in the second quarter as Maurion Scott, Isaac Stanback and R.J. Ogom dominated. Lincoln-Way East standout Sam Shafer was limited to 10 points.
Lincoln-Way East must be licking its chops for this one after being embarrassed at home, where it turned the ball over against H-F’s length and quickness and dug a monster hole. But those weekend wins were a confidence boost for Lincoln-Way East, a team that many had questions about. Talk about a true measuring stick: How far have the Griffins come since that lopsided loss to H-F in December? We’ll find out here.
Hoops Report pick: Lincoln-Way East 64, Homewood-Flossmoor 60
■ St. Laurence at Leo
The Catholic League’s White Division takes a back seat to the much stronger Catholic League Blue. But the White takes center stage Friday night.
Leo is unbeaten in Catholic League White play and St. Laurence sits one game behind the Lions. These two have put together solid seasons –– Leo at 15-5 and St. Laurence at 16-6 –– and will play in their very own “big game” Friday night.
Leo junior point guard Fred Cleveland has been a catalyst all season, while 6-6 junior Dechaun Anderson is a load around the basket and on the glass. Throw in 6-4 senior Malcolm Bell and 6-5 sophomore Kendale Anderson and Leo has size that will give St. Laurence problems.
But St. Laurence’s senior contingent of guard Isaiah Harvey, Timothy Molloy and 6-5 Zion Fortune has helped put a spotlight on this program, one which is on pace to win the most games in over a decade.
Hoops Report pick: Leo 68, St. Laurence 60
■ Willowbrook at Hinsdale South
A key game in the West Suburban Silver. These two teams tied for the top spot a year ago and are trying to repeat. The top of the league is a jumbled mess with Willowbrook and Proviso East at 6-2 Hinsdale South at 5-2 and Morton sitting at 5-3.’
These two met in December with Willowbrook winning 61-53. Willowbrook’s Ethan Schuemer, who has over 1,200 career points, was dominant in the win. The senior star had 20 points, 15 rebounds and 7 blocks. Two of the top players in the league, Hinsdale South’s Zion Griffin and Schuemer, go at it in trying to win back-to-back titles.
Hoops Report pick: Willowbrook 60, Hinsdale South 55
■ Prospect at Rolling Meadows
While Prospect is humming along, unbeaten in the Mid-Suburban League East and 15-4 overall after winning 15 of 17, Rolling Meadows has quietly moved itself into second place. Prospect’s David Swedura has received ample support of late. He will continued to need it against a team the Knights squeaked by, beating Rolling Meadows by just two points back in December.
Rolling Meadows, meanwhile, has a freshman in Max Christie who has already become the focal point of opposing team’s game plans. He just gets better and more impactful by the week.
Hoops Report pick: Prospect 58, Rolling Meadows 53
■ Barrington at Conant
We are heading into February and, surprisingly, both Conant and Fremd are looking up at Barrington in the Mid-Suburban League West standings.
Conant is at home and has the best player in the league in 6-8 senior Ryan Davis. When the dust settles Friday night, don’t be surprised if there is a four-way tie for first in the MSL West with Barrington, Conant, Fremd and Palatine.
Hoops Report pick: Conant 50, Barrington 42
■ Oswego East vs. Aurora Christian at East Aurora
This game may not get the juices flowing for the average high school basketball fan. But Aurora Christian is the last unbeaten team in the Chicago area, ranked No. 1 in the state in Class 1A, while Oswego East has won 10 of its last 11. This is a nice test for a Class 1A school.
Aurora Christian is led by the brother combination of senior Jake Wolfe and sophomore Will Wolfe. While Oswego East hasn’t exactly beaten any juggernauts in its recent run, the Wolves do have some fine young talent, starting with junior point guard Raymond Dennis, 6-7 sophomore Sam Schultz and 6-5 junior Kamron Battle.
Hoops Report pick: Aurora Christian 58, Oswego East 56
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport