The City/Suburban Hoops Report takes an up close look at the top matchups this weekend, where first place is up for grabs in several conference showdowns and sectional seed implications are on the line in a few others.
■ Marian Catholic (22-3) at Benet (18-6)
A big one in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. If Benet can pull out a win here it would really muddy up the league race. Marian Catholic is all alone at the top. But St. Viator, Benet and Notre Dame are all just one game back.
Marian Catholic has excelled with its defensive length and quickness but has struggled somewhat scoring the basketball. Benet can put points on the board, but its defense hasn’t been up to typical Benet standards. Something has to give.
Benet has played its typical grueling schedule but is in need of a signature win to re-establish itself, and the Redwings are talented enough to win this game with their size and scoring punch. Ahron Ulis-led Marian, however, has been the more consistent team and should be able to neutralize Benet’s easy scoring opportunities.
Hoops Report pick: Marian Catholic 61, Benet 56
■ Mundelein (15-8) at Stevenson (19-3)
My Three-Pointer column this week highlighted the improvement the Mundelein program is showing, particularly with the rise of three sophomores — guard Conor Enright, 6-8 Scottie Ebube and 6-3 Jack Bikus –– who are leading them in scoring.
This game should have a different look than the first time these two met back in December, a game Stevenson won 50-45 The Mundelein youngsters have nearly a full season of games under their belt; Stevenson was without leading scorer Matt Ambrose in that first matchup.
While this is a golden opportunity for Mundelein to take another big step in its turnaround, Stevenson is at home, healthy and with 10 straight wins is playing very well.
Hoops Report pick: Stevenson 58, Mundelein 52
■ Niles North (18-7) at New Trier (21-3)
The Central Suburban League South is a two-team race featuring Evanston and New Trier. But even with Niles North in third place and three games back, it’s a team with the type of quickness and athleticism that can give New Trier issues.
New Trier won the first matchup 59-50 in early January. And there still has to be a bitter taste in the mouth of Niles North from last year after New Trier came back from 22 points down to stun the Vikings in the sectional. Niles North has won seven of eight since then, including wins over Maine South and Glenbrook South.
Hoops Report pick: New Trier 56, Niles North 50
■ Oswego (15-8) at Oswego East (18-6)
A crosstown rivalry game with first place on the line in the Southwest Prairie Conference.
Oswego East, led by star guard Ray J Dennis, has received the majority of the hype this season. But the Wolves are licking their wounds after being blown out by York last weekend, though injured guard Damari Grant did not play.
Oswego has gone 9-3 in its last 12 games but suffered a blowout of its own earlier this week, losing to Waubonsie Valley 65-47. Senior Dylan Engler has put together a solid season, averaging just over 15 points a game with five rebounds and two assists.
Oswego East won the first matchup handily, beating Oswego 67-49, in what was a quirky non-conference game. This one matters more.
Hoops Report pick: Oswego East 62, Oswego 55
■ York (23-3) at Downers Grove North (18-8)
A huge weekend for York starts with a road date at DGN, a team that boasts an outstanding backcourt in Semaj Henderson and Trey Boston. Those two will have to figure out how to best attack York’s matchup 1-2-2 zone defense.
York has multiple three-point shooters, led by the trio of Erik Cohn, Nate Shockey and Nick Kosich. But you also can’t forget about John Milling from beyond the arc, while 6-4 Sam Walsh is the unsung player for the Dukes.
Pick your poison with York as Cohn (12.4 ppg), Kosich (12.2 ppg), Walsh (12.2 ppg) and Shockey (10.6 ppg) all average in double figures.
The Dukes took care of DGN back in December with a 63-53 win and are playing even better now, beating their last four opponents with an average margin of victory of 23 points a game.
Hoops Report pick: York 61, Downers Grove North 56
■ Oak Park (14-8) at York (23-3)
A first-place showdown in the West Suburban Silver as both teams have one loss in conference play heading into the weekend, though both teams will first have to take care of business Friday night. York faces Downers North while Oak Park will host Evan Taylor and Glenbard West.
The last time these two met Oak Park squashed York to the tune of 59-30. We’ll find out Saturday night if it was just “one of those nights” or if Oak Park is just a bad matchup for York.
Oak Park has been a bit up and down while playing a rigorous schedule and battling some injuries. The Huskies have played 10 teams that have been ranked at one point this season, going 5-5 against those teams.
Athletic 6-5 senior Anthony Roberts has had a breakout senior season, averaging 16 points and eight rebounds a game, while Chase Robinson has been a stat-sheet stuffer with 14 points, four rebounds, 3.5 assists and 2.5 steals a game.
Both of these teams are fighting for a sectional seed at Proviso West, so there is added importance in this February showdown.
Hoops Report pick: Oak Park 64, York 59
■ Oswego East (18-6) at Waubonsie Valley (21-3)
A big weekend for Oswego East as it faces rival Oswego on Friday night for first place in the Southwest Prairie and then travels to face a 20-win team on the road the following night.
Both these teams need a quality win. This one is especially important with sectional seeding implications on the line in the East Aurora Sectional.
Senior Eric Cannon and 6-5 junior Marcus Skeete are two double-figure scoring weapons for a Waubonsie team that’s lost just once in its last 10 games.
Hoops Report pick: Oswego East 57, Waubonsie Valley 53
■ Prospect (13-10) at Fremd (16-4)
The Mid-Suburban League East leader takes on the Mid-Suburban League West leader in what could be a preview of the MSL title game later this month.
Prospect, which has already clinched at least a share of the MSL East, is in position to repeat in the MSL. And that’s coming after the Knights lost four starters from last year’s 22-win team. But coach John Camardella has nice balance with Jon Kriedler, T.J. Johannesen and Sam Murray, who are all capable scorers.
When Fremd is in its patented rhythm offensively, it’s a tough team to beat as the Vikings simply don’t beat themselves very often. The guards, including John Smyros, Jake Schoffstall and Dean Ganas, are efficient in what they do, while Bryce Hopkins and Kayman Hopkins provide some size, length and versatility.
Hoops Report pick: Fremd 54, Prospect 48
■ DePaul Prep (15-7) at Brother Rice (16-7)
A pair of Chicago Catholic League teams meet up soon after Sunday mass. Add the top two contenders for the Catholic League’s Lawless Award, Brother Rice’s Marquise Kennedy and DePaul Prep’s Perry Cowan, and it’s an intriguing Sunday matinee.
Hoops Report pick: DePaul Prep 55, Brother Rice 50