Weekend Forecast: Conference showdowns, major shootouts on tap

DePaul Prep's Darren Shower (12) holds the ball. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.
DePaul Prep's Darren Shower (12) holds the ball. Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

This is just one of the those weekends.

Whether it’s a big-time rivalry game that matters (Hello, New Trier and Evanston!), major conference showdowns all across the Chicago area Friday night or super shootout matchups of intrigue, this first full-blown January weekend of basketball has plenty to offer.

Here is a look at the Weekend Forecast for what is a busy and enticing weekend of high school basketball.

Friday

New Trier (15-2) at Evanston (16-3)

This great rivalry can’t get much bigger than this. Well, maybe it can in about two months in a sectional game. But they’re both ranked and have glitzy records. These two split games last year.

There is plenty of intrigue from a personnel and execution standpoint. Can a small Evanston team handle New Trier’s size? The Trevians can make things difficult with 6-9 Ciaran Brayboy, 6-8 Spencer Boehm and 6-5 Sam Silverstein. Can New Trier handle Evanston’s speed and quickness in the backcourt? Pressure can cause problems for this New Trier team.

The Wildkits rustle up enough turnovers, turn them into transition baskets and open looks on the perimeter for Lance Jones, Blake Peters and Jaheim Holden to secure Round I between these two Central Suburban League South rivals.

Hoops Report pick: Evanston 64, New Trier 56

 

Riverside-Brookfield (13-3) at Aurora Christian (14-3)

A great test for a Class 2A power as Aurora Christian gets a solid R-B on its home floor in a key Metro Suburban Blue.

There are a wealth of scoring options on the floor for both teams, starting with the R-B trio of 6-5 Andrew Veon, point guard Zach Vaia and shooter Patrick Hanley. Aurora Christian counters with talented 6-6 Will Wolfe, one of the better juniors in the Chicago area, junior guard Taaj Davis and up-and-coming sophomore guard Jaehshon Thomas.

Hoops Report pick: Riverside-Brookfield 64, Aurora Christian 60

 

York (15-1) at Oak Park (10-6)

When the season began Oak Park was the favorite in the West Suburban Silver. Now with a league loss and York unbeaten in league play, Oak Park is looking at a near must-win home game.

To this point it’s been an up-and-down season for the Huskies, who are just 4-4 in their last eight games. A win here would be a big step in the right direction for a senior group with big expectations this season.

York is rolling. The defense is one that can give a team like Oak Park fits while the offense has shown it can play at different speeds and tempo with the perimeter attack of junior Nate Shockey and senior guards Nick Kosich and Erik Cohn.

Hoops Report pick: York 55, Oak Park 52

 

Schaumburg (12-5) at Fremd (12-3)

The top two teams in the Mid-Suburban League collide in this MSL West battle for first place.

Schaumburg’s impressive 6-8 sophomore Chris Hodges poses a matchup problem, while experienced guards Michael Hodges and Heze Trotter are legitimate weapons on the perimeter.

While versatile 6-5 senior Bryce Hopkins has been a constant for Fremd, the Vikings impress with a variety of players who have stepped up at various times this season, including senior guards Dean Ganas, John Smryos and Tim Carlisle and juniors Kayman Hopkins and Jake Schoffstall.

Hoops Report pick: Fremd 52, Schaumburg 45

 

Waukegan (13-3) at Stevenson (12-3)

A big one in the North Suburban Conference. Stevenson has had a stranglehold on the league in recent years but Waukegan can open up a two-game lead with a win.

Waukegan’s Bryant Brown has been a productive force for four seasons. Can the supporting cast rise to the occasion in this key game?

Stevenson has limited foes with its defense and is anxiously awaiting the return of top scorer Matt Ambrose, a 6-3 junior who could be back from injury this week. The Patriots keep the league race interesting with a win at home.

Hoops Report pick: Stevenson 58, Waukegan 54

 

St. Laurence (16-3) at Leo (13-3)

This should be a fun, up-and-down game loaded with transition points between two teams who love to get up and down.

Leo’s diminutive point guard Fred Cleveland and St. Laurence junior Jeremiah Williams are on star watch in this one. But the difference could be the inside presence of 6-7 DaChaun Anderson of Leo, who St. Laurence simply doesn’t have an answer for on the glass or around the basket.

Hoops Report pick: Leo 72, St. Laurence 62

 

Romeoville (11-3) at Oswego East (12-3)

The favorite against top contender in the Southwest Prairie.

Oswego East raised a few eyebrows with its double-digit loss to Normal, a solid team but one a ranked Wolves team should handle. But Normal’s big man, CJ Wilbourn, gave Oswego East fits inside.

Romeoville has put together a really nice start, though the Spartans could use a signature win over a ranked foe to prop up that record. This would be one.

Look for Oswego star RayJ Dennis and a solid supporting cast, including 6-7 junior Tommy Schultz, 6-5 Kam Battle and guard Demari Grant, to get back to business at home and secure a key conference win.

Hoops Report pick: Oswego East 68, Romeoville 60

Saturday

Loyola vs. Marian Catholic at DePaul Prep

We’ve learned and gathered how good this Marian Catholic team is with their balance, length, obvious cohesiveness and terrific start. But how good is this Loyola team?

Ranked in the preseason before falling out of the Top 25, the Ramblers have strung together some wins. Loyola and coach Tom Livatino are ready to see how much progress they’ve made in what is a terrific midseason measuring stick.

The difference between these two teams, however, is in the guard play. Marian Catholic junior Ahron Ulis continues to set the tone for the Spartans and provides a big advantage in this matchup with his talent and presence.

Hoops Report pick: Marian Catholic 50, Loyola 44

 

DePaul Prep (12-3) vs. Morgan Park (12-3) at DePaul Prep

Chicago Public League vs. Chicago Catholic League. The Super 25’s No. 5 ranked team playing at No. 12. This is the game of the week right here.

How will coach Tom Kleinschmidt and his Rams try and slow down Morgan Park junior Adam Miller, a gifted scorer and shooter who is averaging 30 points a game? That will be the game within the game.

Maybe stalwart defender Perry Cowan, who has size at 6-4 and a blue-collar approach at the defensive end, can be part of the answer.

Hoops Report pick: Morgan Park 63, DePaul Prep 58

 

St. Viator (14-2) vs. Waukegan (13-3) at DePaul Prep

A big double dip this weekend for Waukegan with a huge conference tilt on Friday night and this non-conference showdown 24 hours later against the No. 10 ranked team. What will the emotions be for the Bulldogs following Friday night’s tilt? And how will people be viewing Waukegan if it sweeps both Stevenson and St. Viator this weekend?

The loss to Geneva over the holidays left St. Viator hungry. The outstanding tandem of Trey Calvin and Jeremiah Hernandez comes through in a high-profile event.

Hoops Report pick: St. Viator 67, Waukegan 61

 

Hillcrest (10-6) vs. Simeon (7-9) at T.F. North

Don’t let the combined records of 17-15 fool you. While this is a city power and south suburban giant both in the unfamiliar role of badly needing a win, it’s a fun and intriguing matchup.

Although it’s played a brutally tough schedule with all of its nine losses coming to either out-of-state foes or top 10 teams in Illinois, Simeon is inching towards the .500 mark. But more importantly the Wolverines are looking to get healthy and gain some momentum.

Key players have missed time with injuries and now coach Robert Smith will miss a couple games as he takes off some time for health reasons.

Hillcrest has fallen in all of its key matchups this season, losing to Bloom, Marian Catholic, Kenwood, Bloomington and Fenwick.

However, you get the feeling Simeon is close to stringing some wins together.

Hoops Report pick: Simeon 64, Hillcrest 55

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