The Chicago Public League’s semifinals and championship game highlight a Weekend Forecast that includes a few conference showdowns with first-place on the line.
The top four teams in the Central Suburban League South all square off, while first-place is on the line in the West Suburban Gold and the Southwest Suburban Blue.
Chicago Public League Semifinals at Chicago State • Friday
■ Simeon vs. Young
This one has it all, including history –– these two powers met last year for the Class 4A state championship –– and a freshness to it as these two powers have yet to face one another this season. Then you throw in Division I talent and bonafide all-state players in Simeon’s Talen Horton-Tucker and Young’s Javon Freeman and this is as appetizing of a game as you’ll find.
Simeon has been the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s No. 1 team from wire to wire, while Young is feeling really good following Jake Kosakowski’s buzzer-beating three to knock off Morgan Park in the quarterfinals.
The Dolphins have a steady, experienced and talented point guard in Xavier Castaneda. People tend to forget this is a player who helped steer coach Tyrone Slaughter’s Dolphins to a state championship as a junior. He won’t be overwhelmed by the magnitude of this game. Plus, sophomore Tyler Beard recently returned after missing the majority of the season and adds a completely different dimension to this team.
With Simeon, it starts with Horton-Tucker, the do-everything wing who can take over a game. The favorite for Player of the Year did it again in the quarterfinals with 27 points and 14 rebounds in the quarterfinal win over Uplift. But for all the talk about Horton-Tucker and the presence and production of 6-5 Messiah Jones, the unsung player has been Kenny Pittman. The senior shooter spreads the floor for Horton-Tucker and Jones and has been a key offensive figure over the second half of the season. He scored 20 points in the quarterfinal win.
Expect Young to give Simeon a bigger test than any other team in Illinois has up to this point. But Simeon is still the best team in the state.
Hoops Report pick: Simeon 68, Young 62
■ Orr vs. Curie
It’s been a long time since these two met way back in the first week of the season, a game Curie won 50-49. But these really are two different teams since then that November matchup.
Curie’s Maurice Commander didn’t play in that game, nor did Orr’s Chase Adams. Plus, Orr’s Ty Mosely, who had 18 points and 8 rebounds in the quarterfinal win over Bogan, is playing his best basketball of the season right now for the No. 1 ranked 2A team in the state.
What will be interesting is if the Martin brothers –– 6-8 Treavon Martin and 6-7 Tyree –– can contain Orr’s dynamic duo of Dannie Smith and Raekwon Drake. The Martins, who played very well in the first game with Orr, bring size and experience for Curie. When Smith and Drake are physically dominating a game around the basket, Orr is very difficult to beat.
Marquise Walker and Commander are the big names for Curie, but the emergence of Dajuan Gordon makes this team more dangerous than it’s been all season. The flashes here and there that have made the smooth 6-3 wing one of the Hoops Report’s top 10 prospects in the Class of 2019, have turned into major offensive production for coach Mike Oliver.
Orr plays with confidence and has more experience than any team in the city. That matters at this time of the year. The Spartans win the rematch in a dogfight.
Hoops Report pick: Orr 58, Curie 55
Other top games this Friday
■ New Trier at Evanston
This one is special no matter what’s at stake. But this late season showdown between rivals could very well decide the Central Suburban League South. Evanston won the first matchup in Winnetka back in January, 50-49, in overtime.
Evanston’s speed and quickness against New Trier’s size and length. Evanston junior guard Lance Jones was instrumental in holding off the Trevians last time. Jones had 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and a big block shot. New Trier junior big man Ciaran Brayboy scored 16 in the last matchup.
Evanston, which leads the overall series 114-94, has won nine straight in this historical rivalry that began in 1913. Playing this one at home, Evanston makes it 10 straight.
Hoops Report pick: Evanston 55, New Trier 51
■ Fenwick at Loyola
A lot of the steam and drama was taken out of this game with Loyola’s loss to St. Joseph earlier this week. The loss gave Fenwick a two-game lead in the Catholic League and another conference championship. But if these two both bring it, this should still be a good one featuring two ranked teams.
Loyola’s stingy defense will have its hands full with talented Fenwick sophomore D.J. Steward.
Despite there being less on the line than expected, a win here for either team would be a nice springboard into postseason play.
Hoops Report pick: Fenwick 52, Loyola 47
■ Niles North at Maine South
These two are out of the Central Suburban League South picture while Evanston and New Trier battle if out for the top spot. But this is still a big one as these two talented teams want the arrow pointing up when regional play begins in a little over a week.
Can Niles North’s speed, athleticism and pressure get to Maine South? Can Maine South muck it up enough, stay away from an up-and-down game and force Niles North to operate in the halfcourt?
Both teams put up points in the first battle a month ago when Maine South won 79-73 behind a monster performance behind Essam Hamwi. The junior. who leads the Hawks in scoring with 15.3 points a game, scored a season-high 31 points.
It will be difficult for Maine South to win a second game over Niles North if the score reaches the 70s once again. Niles North and its trio of seniors, Damaria Franklin, Dravon Clayborn and Jamal Stephenson, avoid the sweep and get a tough road win.
Hoops Report pick: Niles North 64, Maine South 60
■ Bolingbrook at Homewood-Flossmoor
When the season began no one would have predicted H-F being in the conference driver’s seat in the middle of February. But that’s where the Vikings sit –– all alone atop the Southwest Suburban Blue, one game ahead of Bolingbrook.
These teams met a month ago with Bolingbrook winning 53-39 as H-F dug a hole early and couldn’t get out of it. But the Vikings, led by senior guard Sean Jones and the underclass trio of 6-4 junior Maurius Scott, 6-4 junior Isaac Stanback and 6-4 sophomore R.J. Ogom, are playing their best basketball of the season. H-F has won five straight, including wins over Lincoln-Way East and Hillcrest.
Bolingbrook has battled injury and illness in the second half of the season. Big man Joey Saracco, who was sidelined earlier this month, was a big factor in the last win over H-F. Saracco, while not 100 percent, is back for the Raiders. While the big 6-7 senior caused problems, the duo of Tyler Cochran and Joseph Yesufu continue to make this team go.
Coach Rob Brost and the Raiders are awaiting the return of senior guard Kaleb Thornton, who has been close to returning to action from injury.
Hoops Report pick: Bolingbrook 58, Homewood-Flossmoor 56
■ Proviso East at Hinsdale South
With Proviso East’s upset loss to Morton earlier this week, Hinsdale South was able to grab at least a share of the West Suburban Gold for the second straight year. But the Hornets want an outright title and have that chance here. Hinsdale South has a one-game lead over Proviso East and Willowbrook.
Hinsdale South handled Proviso East a month ago, going on the road and picking up a 60-49 win. Even better for the Hornets? Zion Griffin, the 6-6 difference-maker headed to Iowa State, scored well below his average in the win over Proviso East with just 15 points.
Hoops Report pick: Hinsdale South 58, Proviso East 54
Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport