Scott Phillips

High School Lites features several teams with long winning streaks

High School Lites features several teams with long winning streaks

High School Lites is focused on the small schools this week as the show sticks with Class 1A and Class 2A teams that you need to get familiar with before the state tournament. The show has some long winning streaks to keep an eye on as teams with 15, 14, 13 and 12-game winning streaks will all be featured on Friday night.

Be sure to catch an all-new edition of High School Lites on Friday on 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago.


Fenger at Corliss, 6:30 p.m. -- We head to the Public League White-South for this one as Corliss hosts Fenger. Corliss (16-2, 7-0) is riding a 14-game winning streak as they've only lost to one Illinois opponent this season. Senior big man George Conditt is a major All-Area threat as the Iowa State commit is putting up massive numbers. Fenger (8-7, 2-5) has dropped three straight games as they try to earn a win over a rival to get back in the conference mix.


Aurora Christian at Mooseheart, 7:30 p.m. -- Undefeated Aurora Christian heads to Northeastern Athletic rival Mooseheart in this one. The Eagles (15-0, 5-0) are the only unbeaten team left in the area as they feature senior guard Jake Wolfe, an All-Area candidate and Lipscomb commit. Mooseheart (8-2, 4-1) is also in the midst of a solid season as they had an easy win over Alden-Hebron in their last game. 

Alden-Hebron at Westminster Christian, 7:30 p.m. -- Staying in the Northeastern Athletic, Westminster Christian hosts Alden-Hebron. The Warriors (13-3, 5-0) have won three straight games, including an important win over Mooseheart that helped keep them tied for first place with Aurora Christian. Alden-Hebron (2-13, 1-4) wil try to earn its first win in over a month.

Burlington Central at Marengo, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the Kishwaukee Valley play here. Marengo (10-5, 1-1) is coming off a 10-day layoff after beating Genoa-Kingston on the road. Burlington Central (16-2, 3-0) has won 13 straight games as they won the Plano Christmas Classic and their own Martin Luther King event. 

Crane at Collins, 5:00 p.m. -- Two unbeatens collide in the Public League White-South in this one. Collins (11-5, 7-0) has won three of its last four as they held off Jones for a win earlier this week. Crane (11-8, 7-0) is also hot as they've won three straight games heading into this one, as they also got a win earlier this week over Clemente. 

Momence at Watseka, 7:30 p.m. -- A matchup of unbeatens teams in the Sangamon Valley in this one. Watseka (13-5, 2-0) has won four straight games as they look to take the lead in the conference. Momence (14-2, 3-0) had an 11-game winning streak snapped when they lost to Herscher on the road. 

Northridge at Latin, 6:00 p.m. -- The Independent School League's top two teams do battle in this one. Latin (12-6, 5-1) is trying to catch up with Northridge for the conference lead as they just had a major test against Niles North in a non-conference loss. Northridge (12-5, 6-0) is coming off a win earlier this week against Morgan Park Academy as they 

Beecher at St. Anne, 7:00 p.m. -- The River Valley is one of the most hotly-contested conference races in the area, as four teams sit within one game of first place. St. Anne (8-8, 5-1) currently leads the league over three other teams as they've won four of the their last five games. Beecher (9-11, 4-2) gave St. Anne its only conference loss with a 52-44 win on Nov. 30 at home. Now the Bobcats see if they can pick up the season sweep on the road.  

Christ The King at Hope Academy, 7:30 p.m. -- A Chicago Prep Red conference game in this one. Hope Academy (15-4, 1-0) has won seven of its last eight as they're one of the better small schools in the city. Christ the King (10-7, 1-1) is coming off a win over Eisenhower earlier this week as they try to gain a game on Hope Academy in the league standings. 

Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

Ellison at Northtown, 6:30 p.m. -- Our Viewers' Choice Game of the Week heads to the Chicago Prep Black as two conference unbeatens play. Northtown (13-4, 1-0) has won 12 straight games since a 1-4 start as they haven't lost since Nov. 30. Ellison (9-10, 2-0) has won two straight games as they try to take the conference lead. These two teams also play a second conference game at Ellison later this season on Feb. 5.

Five new teams enter the latest Preps Power Rankings

Five new teams enter the latest Preps Power Rankings

The Preps Power Rankings featured some shakeups this week as five new teams enter the mix. With many of the area's top teams facing elite competition during the Martin Luther King weekend, it was a good chance to see where teams stand heading into the home stretch of the regular season. 

1. Simeon (15-3, 5-0) (1) -- The clear No. 1 team in the state right now, the Wolverines picked up another double-digit win over a top-ten team by beating Fenwick on the road. Also losing by two to Montverde Academy, the unbeaten No. 1 team in the country, the Wolverines have impressed basketball analysts all over the country.

2. Orr (14-3, 5-0) (2) -- Orr lost in Michigan but bounced back with a double-digit win over Bloom. The Spartans get a tough road test this week at North Lawndale while they also host Westinghouse in conference play. 

3. Curie (14-2, 5-0) (3) -- The Condors earned two league wins over Bogan and Kenwood last week as Curie has won four consecutive games since falling to Simeon. Curie has three games against Public League opponents this week as they battle Hyde Park, Vocational and North Lawndale. 

4. Whitney Young (14-4, 4-1) (5) -- The Dolphins had a quiet week as they took down Von Steuben. Things pick up for Whitney Young this week as they face Uplift, North Lawndale and Bloomington. 

5. Bolingbrook (13-2, 3-0) (9) -- Huge week for the Raiders as they picked off Stagg in conference play before earning a win over No. 6 Morgan Park. Bolingbrook gets some more challenging games during the week when they play Joliet Central and Homewood-Flossmoor.

6. Morgan Park (12-7, 4-2) (6) -- Morgan Park fell to Bolingbrook in a big showcase game as the Mustangs are still trying to get fully healthy. Nick Irvin's ballclub has two conference games against Dunbar and Brooks before another test against No. 7 Fenwick. 

7. Fenwick (13-5, 4-0) (8) -- The Friars dropped a home contest against Simeon as Fenwick was able to hang with the Wolverines until the fourth quarter. Fenwick gets more tough matchups this week as they host St. Rita in a Catholic League game before taking on No. 6 Morgan Park in a shootout on Saturday. 

8. Lincoln Park (13-4, 5-1) (10) -- The Lions earned a home win over Westinghouse last week as they're still a major factor in the Public League Red North/West. Lincoln Park gets a pair of winnable conference games this week as they face Marshall and Farragut.

9. Marist (17-1, 3-0) (13) -- Impressive ESCC win for Marist as they took down Marian Catholic last week. The Redhawks are playing with a ton of confidence heading into a difficult week that features matchups against two ranked teams in Brother Rice and Benet. 

10. Niles North (17-2, 3-2) (4) -- An up-and-down week for the Vikings as they finally lost for the first time this season by dropping games to New Trier and Maine South. Niles North recovered with four wins over the weekend at their own event as they're one of only a only teams in the state with 17 wins.

11. Evanston (13-3, 4-1) (14) -- Huge overtime road win for Evanston at New Trier last week as the Wildkits remain right in the thick of the Central Suburban South race. Junior Lance Jones stepped up with some clutch plays on both ends of the floor in the win over the Trevians. 

12. Marian Catholic (13-3, 1-2) (11) -- The Spartans lost a tough conference clash with No. 9 Marist in ESCC play but they bounced back with a win over an Iowa opponent at Loras College. Marian Catholic gets a road game at Notre Dame this week as the Dons are coming off a solid win over OPRF. 

13. DePaul Prep (16-4, 2-1) (12) -- Strange week for the Rams as they lost to Loyola in conference play on Friday night, only to beat Loyola for an MLK tournament title on Monday. Also earning a win over Riverside-Brookfield this weekend, DePaul Prep will get another test when they play Evanston this week.

14. Loyola (16-3, 3-1) (17) -- Splitting two games with DePaul Prep over the weekend, the Ramblers won the conference matchup but lost in the championship of the MLK event the two schools help host. Riding a 10-game winning streak before losing on Monday, Loyola remains one of the hotter teams in the area. 

15. Oak Park-River Forest (13-4, 4-0) (7) -- The Huskies had some losses during the week as they dropped tight contests against Notre Dame and Wheaton-Warrenville South. Still the favorite in the West Suburban Silver, OPRF travels to Hinsdale Central this week.

16. Hillcrest (15-4, 7-0) (18) -- Hillcrest has continued to win since the Proviso West Holiday Tournament as they remain one of the best teams in the South suburbs. The Hawks will look to stay unbeaten in the South Suburban Blue when they host Tinley Park this week. 

17. North Lawndale (13-4, 3-2) (15) -- The Phoenix fell to Lincoln Park and a team from Minnesota last week while also earning a win over Von Steuben. This week sees North Lawndale play perhaps the toughest stretch of any team in the area all season. In a four-day span, the Phoenix have to play Orr, Whitney Young and Curie. That brutal stretch will teach us a lot about this team.

18. Joliet Central (14-2, 7-0) (21) -- Riding a four-game winning streak, Joliet Central is playing good ball over the last several weeks. The Steelmen have an important week ahead as they get a crack at No. 5 Bolingbrook while also facing rival Joliet West. 

19. Brother Rice (12-6, 2-2) (22) -- Brother Rice earned a double-digit win over Mount Carmel in Catholic League play last week. The Crusaders get a chance at a top-ten team when they travel to No. 9 Marist this week while they also host De La Salle in league play.

20. Batavia (18-3, 5-1) (23) -- The first team in the area with 18 wins this season, the Bulldogs are red hot, having won eight consecutive games. Winning the Rockford Jefferson tournament was an impressive feat, especially since Batavia knocked off the 17-win hosts on the way to the title. 

21. New Trier (14-3, 4-1) (NR) -- The Trevians enter the mix after an impressive win over Niles North. Although New Trier dropped an overtime heartbreaker to rival Evanston, they recovered nicely with a strong showing at the Rockford Jefferson event, including a beatdown of Larkin.

22. Naperville North (14-1, 6-0) (NR) -- With four consecutive wins, Naperville North is back in the Power Rankings after defeating conference rival and previously-ranked Naperville Central. The Huskies have only lost to No. 20 Batavia this season as they look like the favorite in the DuPage Valley Conference.

23. Romeoville (15-3, 7-0) (NR) -- The Spartans are back in the mix after some double-digits wins since losing during the holidays. Still a threat in the Southwest Prairie, Romeoville will get a big test with a game against No. 25 West Aurora on Saturday night.  

24. Benet (14-4, 2-1) (NR) -- An impressive weekend for the Redwings as they won four games to capture the title at Wheaton-Warrenville South. Benet's offense was more potent than they've shown in the past during Saturday's two wins while they're still able to grind out wins if they need to.

25. West Aurora (12-4, 4-0) (NR) -- The Blackhawks have won four consecutive games since the Pontiac Holiday Tournament with all of those coming by double-digits. A dangerous team with no bad losses, West Aurora remains the favorite in the Upstate Eight Valley.

Simeon impresses national audience in loss to No. 1 Montverde Academy

Simeon impresses national audience in loss to No. 1 Montverde Academy

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. -- Through the first few months of the high school basketball season, Simeon has clearly been the best team in Illinois.

The Wolverines are undefeated against in-state competition, they've defeated city rivals like Morgan Park and Curie by double digits and they've been No. 1 in the NBC Sports Chicago Preps Power Rankings for over a month.

Although Simeon is clearly the cream of the crop in Illinois, they've also impressed national basketball analysts around the country by playing one of the toughest national schedules of any public school. The Wolverines have already played games in Texas, Florida, Tennessee and Massachusetts. Twice, the Wolverines took the No. 1 team in the country to the brink, including a tightly-contested 62-60 loss to undefeated Montverde Academy on Saturday night at the annual Spalding Hoophall Classic.

Even though the Wolverines lost to Montverde in front of a sold-out crowd at Springfield College, Simeon made a strong impression on everyone at the Hoophall. Undersized compared to other teams in the national rankings, the Wolverines are competing against the nation's best thanks to a ferocious defense and a relentless competitive drive.

"They really got into us defensively. They really did a great job defensively. That was the best team we've played, defensively, this year," Montverde head coach Kevin Boyle said about Simeon.

"They've played five teams in the [national] top five and they're 2-3. They could easily be 4-1."

What makes Simeon's rise in the national rankings unique is the lack of size that head coach Robert Smith has at his disposal this season. Other teams in the national rankings generally have a dominant post player who can command double teams and manhandle opponents on the interior. The Wolverines rely on 6-foot-5 players like Talen Horton-Tucker, Messiah Jones and Bakari Simmons as the team's tallest regular rotation players. And all three of those players are ideally suited to play on the wing as opposed to battling on the interior.

USA Today national high school basketball reporter Jim Halley currently has the Wolverines at No. 11 in his national rankings. Halley stressed that Simeon is one of his only ranked teams that doesn't feature significant size.

"It's very uncommon because what happens is, you can be really good and beat a bunch of teams but then you run into a team that has a depth of guys who are 6'10", 6'11"," Halley said. "Like La Lumiere, Findlay Prep, they all have three or four guys that are 6'10" and above so you can't defend that easily when your tallest guy is 6'7". That's a major mismatch. So that is a problem for teams like Simeon who don't have a lot of size." 

Even without a traditional post presence, Simeon has remained competitive, or even beaten, top national opponents with five-star centers. It feels weird that the Wolverines have played Memphis East High School and five-star junior center James Wiseman twice this season (and conference rival Morgan Park only once) but Simeon earned a 1-1 split with the nationally-ranked squad, beating Memphis East in their own city with a five-point win last week.

The revenge game against Memphis East saw Horton-Tucker make a huge national statement as he went for 24 points and nine rebounds against a bigger and more athletic team. After that game, elevated Horton-Tucker to the No. 31 overall prospect in the national Class of 2018, putting the Iowa State commit firmly in the discussion as a potential McDonald's All-American this spring.

"It was great because it was this big crowd, probably 3,500 to 4,000 people. Chicago vs. Memphis. Two hard-playing squads. Deep, lots of athletes, and he came out and finished three threes right in a row -- just banged them right off the bat," national recruiting analyst Eric Bossi said of Horton-Tucker's performance. "Then he had this monster block on a dunk attempt. And it's funny; it's almost like he turned the crowd in favor of Simeon. It was fun because he definitely put a charge in the building and it's always fun to see an out-of-town guy win over the local crowd." 

National prestige aside, Smith is happy that his team has been able to compete with some of the biggest names in high school basketball. Montverde features Duke commit R.J. Barrett, considered by some to be the No. 1 senior high school basketball prospect. Memphis East features Wiseman, who has also been ranked as the No. 1 player in the junior class.

Simeon knows that if they can defend and compete against teams and players of that caliber that they'll be prepared to face anyone in the state of Illinois.

"It's done wonders for us because we're not going to see teams this big and this athletic and this skilled," Smith said. "We just wanted to make sure we could guard these guys so when we went back home we'd guard the guys we needed to. This is what we wanted to do. Come out and play a national schedule.

"I don't think that anybody else might have thought that [this team would be this good nationally] but the guys that we have are warriors. Those guys, they just want to fight. They're not going to give up."

Simeon looks like the team to beat in Illinois over the next several months but Smith warned that the Wolverines still have room to grow. Although Simeon has received high praise for their defensive capabilities, the team's offense is still learning to gel after the addition of talented transfers like Xavier Pinson and Zion Young this offseason.

Pinson, in particular, is starting to play with a lot of confidence as the senior picked up a scholarship offer from Georgetown and head coach Patrick Ewing following Simeon's loss to Montverde. Ewing watched as Pinson brought the Hoophall crowd to its feet with a massive dunk as the guard is becoming more of a force with the ball in his hands. 

"I still don't think we're doing a great job of moving the basketball offensively yet -- which is good. We don't want to peak too early," Smith said.

"Getting them to trust each other [is the final step]. When you have two new guys, who are really impacting the game, they're trying not to step on toes. And with the new guys, the other guys have to trust them because they don't know them well enough yet when they give them the ball. I think the trust part is starting to come."

Losing to Montverde wasn't an easy thing for Simeon to handle. When you have a chance to topple the No. 1 team in the country and come up short at the buzzer it isn't something that's quickly forgotten. Even though the loss to Montverde won't mean much in the grand scheme of things, the Wolverines are still hungry to knock off every opponent they face.

But beating national opponents was never the main goal for the Wolverines this season. Smith is convinced that the national schedule has been the best approach for preparing his team for the postseason.

Simeon can't hang their heads too long after Saturday's loss with another big game coming up on Monday against a top-ten team in Fenwick. The Wolverines might be finished with most of their national schedule, but the local schedule that lies ahead will also feature a number of daunting challenges. 

"We've learned that we can compete with any team in the country. You know, we just want them to understand and shake this one off. They're very upset because they're competitors and they want to win every game," Smith said. "But, you know, this is not the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal was not to beat Montverde. The ultimate goal is a city and state championship. So it's just making sure that these guys are focused and preparing for Monday's game."