Blackhawks

High School Lites Preview

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High School Lites Preview

Call it the Diamonds In the Rough edition of High School Lites, if you will. We will head out to two basketball powerhouses that you may not have heard of in 2012. Herscher and Immaculate Conception are part of a select few Illinois programs in that have put together 20-win seasons. Well bring you highlights of their games, along with conference duels in the DuPage Valley and Catholic North. And will Simeon or Curie claim the Chicago Public League trophy Friday night? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

FRIDAY GAMES

3 Curie (24-1) vs. 1 Simeon (24-1), 7:00pm (Public League Championship at Chicago State)

Its the rematch that Chicagoland -- and especially Public League -- basketball fans have waited for since the holiday tournament season. Simeon, coming off a 61-51 victory over Orr in the semis, took down Curie in the championship game in Pontiac thanks to a healthy rebounding edge and solid performances by Jabari Parker and Steve Taylor. Will Curie respond in the rematch? They held off Bogan on Wednesday night and will need sophomore center Cliff Alexander and senior guard Devin Foster to help contain one of the most talented teams in the nation.

8 Downers Grove South (19-4) @ 2 Proviso East (22-0), 6:00pm

The West Suburban Gold conference is up for grabs in Maywood. If Proviso wins, they take the league title outright. East, behind Paris Lee, Paris Burns, Trashaun Carroll, Keith Carter and Sterling Brown have been unstoppable this season. As for the 8 Mustangs, Jerron Wilbut is back from a suspension, but don't overlook Jordan Cannon, Kevin Honn and Jamall Millison, who have stepped up nicely in the Wilbut's absence. A win makes DGS the co-champ and it'll ease the pain of a 78-70 loss to the Pirates back in January.

16 St. Rita (14-8) @ St. Joseph (15-8), 7:30pm

The Catholic North figured to be a three-headed monster this season, with St. Rita, St. Ignatius and De La Salle fighting for the top spot in the conference. But St. Joseph is enjoying a huge late-season push, thanks to senior Reggie Johnson and sophomore Paul Turner. St. Rita has played a rigorous out-of-state schedule and is also 8-1 in conference. They have star-power in guard Tony Hicks. He scored 24 points for the Mustangs in the previous meeting between the two schools, won by St. Rita, 60-44.

Walther Lutheran (14-10) @ Immaculate Conception (22-3), 7:30pm

Many recall the winter of 1967 as a time when two feet of snow blanketed Chicagoland. Others recall this time as when the first Super Bowl took place. But for the folks at ICHS, it was the last time the boys basketball team won a conference title. Until now. Everybody is looking up at the Knights, the 2012 Suburban Christian-Gold champs. Forward Brian Harvey and guard John Cheng are tough to contain. As for Walther, 5-9 senior guard Patrell Green is the centerpiece of the Bronco attack.

West Aurora (19-4) @ Naperville North (17-6), 7:30pm

Expect a raucous Friday night in Naperville. The Huskies will have a chance to earn at least a share of the DuPage Valley conference with a win on their home floor. North, who hasn't won the DVC in 14 years, will look to senior forward Mike Keane and sophomore guard Anthony Rehayem to lead the way. However, the Blackhawks are more than battle-tested. Talented senior forward Juwan Starks is one of their go-to guys. West Aurora, who can tie North for the DVC lead, fell to NN 53-51 back on January 7th.

Peotone (10-14 TUES) @ Herscher (23-1), 7:00pm

Herscher has dominated teams in the Interstate Eight conference -- not to mention the Kanakakee Valley area in general -- rather thoroughly this season. They are part of only a handful of teams in Illinois who have won 23 games on the season. Ben Wenzelman, Justin Ruckman and Jordan Ruckman pace the Tigers. Peotone will have some momentum on their side though, after a 48-38 win over Grant Park Tuesday night.

4 Warren (20-2) @ Libertyville (14-10), 7:30pm

Everybody has talked about the success of Warren's Darius Paul and Nathan Boothe this season. But JoVaughn Gaines is another player in the Blue Devils' arsenal that can create mismatch issues for opponents. The 6-5 forward tallied 14 points in Tuesday's 60-38 Warren victory over Lake Zurich. Libertyville has been good in stretches. Senior guard Griffin Pils has had a solid season for the Wildcats. Warren took a 77-53 decision in Gurnee earlier this season.

Mundelein (21-6) @ Stevenson (15-9), 7:30pm

Both teams are in the meaty part of the upper half of a tough basketball conference, the North Suburban-Lake. The visiting Mustangs, who beat Stevenson 59-51 in Mundelein earlier in the year, feature talented guard Robert Knar. He is the son of head coach Richard Knar. The Patriots will be a tough out, though. They have standouts in Michael Fleming and up-and-coming sophomore Matt Morrissey.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. Our Muscle Milk Team of the Week is Immaculate Conception. This Elmhurst school just won their first conference championship in 45 years. But the Knights goals are much higher in the postseason. Our Kip Lewis has their story. Also, Mark Schanowski catches up with a legend on the girls basketball circuit who has reached the 700-win mark: Maine Wests Derril Kipp. Plus, well take a drive down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment, and well have in-depth coverage of the Simeon Wolverines, who will be featured in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on CSNChicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Five takeaways from Blackhawks' overtime loss to Lightning: Missed opportunities and one too many penalties

Here are five takeaways from the Blackhawks’ 3-2 overtime loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday night:
 
1. One too many penalties.

The Blackhawks flirted with danger in the first period when they handed the Lightning three straight continuous power plays, a four-minute double minor high-sticking penalty from John Hayden and a Jonathan Toews hooking call that resulted in a 5-on-3 opportunity for Tampa Bay for 43 seconds. 

The penalty kill unit that ranked fourth in the league entering the matchup, however, killed off all three of those penalties against the NHL's top-ranked power play, and did so in commanding fashion.

The Blackhawks went 5-for-5 on the penalty kill in regulation, but couldn't stop the sixth one — a questionable slashing call on Nick Schmaltz —  in overtime when Brayden Point buried the winner on a 4-on-3 opportunity.

It was also interesting that Jon Cooper elected to go with four forwards (Nikita Kucherov, Vladislav Namestnikov, Point and Steven Stamkos) and zero defensemen during that man advantage, putting all of his offensive weapons out on the ice. It's something more teams should do in that situation.

2. Patrick Kane gets going.

After scoring just one goal in his previous 10 games, Kane found the back of the net twice in the opening frame against Tampa Bay and stayed hot against a team he historically plays well against. And he nearly netted a hat trick in overtime but couldn't cash in on a breakaway opportunity.

Kane has 20 points (eight goals, 12 assists) in 14 career regular-season games against the Lightning, and extended his point streak to five games. He has three goals and four assists over that stretch.

We wrote about how important it is for the Blackhawks' superstars to get going again with the offensive contributions mainly coming from role players as of late, and Kane getting into a groove is a perfect step in that direction.

3. How about that goaltending battle?

Corey Crawford and Andrei Vasilevskiy showed us exactly why they belong in the Vezina Trophy discussion, and as of this moment, it's hard not to include both of them as finalists. They put on a goaltending clinic, seemingly topping the other as the game went on.

The two teams combined for 71 scoring chances, and Crawford and Vasilevskiy came up big when their teams need them the most.

Crawford finished with 35 saves on 38 shots (.921 save percentage) in the loss while Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 31 (.935 save percentage), and improved to 15-2-1 on the season. 

4. Missed opportunities.

You couldn't have asked for a better start for the Blackhawks. They scored the first goal 3:49 into the game and the second on the power play at 15:54, killed off three penalties, including a 5-on-3, had 24 shot attempts (13 on goal) compared to the Lightning's 16 attempts (11 on goal) and led in even-strength scoring chances 9-6.

It was a different story the rest of the way.

The Blackhawks took their foot off the gas pedal a bit and let the Lightning back in the game by getting away from what they do best, and that's control the puck. Obviously, you expected the league's best offense to push back and it's certainly not an easy task to keep them off the scoresheet all together. 

But the Blackhawks had their chances to stay in front or retake the lead and just couldn't bury them. Tampa Bay had 50 shot attempts from the second period on while the Blackhawks had only 32, and finished with 44 scoring chances compared to Chicago's 27.

5. Richard Panik in the doghouse?

Joel Quenneville didn't go to his line blender in this one, but he did shorten some leashes. Panik, most notably, had a season-low 12:28 of ice time in the loss and had 15 shifts, which was second-fewest only to Ryan Hartman (13) on the team.

Panik had a prime chance to break a 2-2 tie in the third period but was denied by Vasilevskiy, who made a remarkable left-pad save. Instead, Panik extended his goal drought to 12 games and didn't get a shift in overtime.

He's certainly better and will get his scoring chances when playing on the top line with Toews and Brandon Saad, but the missed opportunities are magnified in tight losses. It doesn't look like a move down in the lineup is coming given the success of Alex DeBrincat, who gives the Blackhawks an offensive weapon on the third line, but perhaps it should be considered.

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

Bring your own stuffing: Jazz swat Bulls on Thanksgiving Eve

On the second (turkey) leg of a back-to-back, the Bulls didn't bring much energy in a 110-80 loss to the Utah Jazz. 

Instead of diving into the nitty-gritty of the uninspiring effort, though, we decided to just serve you up a Thanksgiving meal of highlights. Here are the top blocks from Wednesday's game: 

5. Derrick Favors is no Rudy Gobert -- that we know -- but imitation is the highest form of flattery. 

4. Are Bobby Portis chase down blocks the new LeBron James chase down blocks? Let's not get carried away... yet. We'll chalk it up to just a real nice hustle play by Bobby. 

3 and 2. Speaking of hustle plays... Jonas Jerebko isn't exactly known as a dominant defender. He sure made it hard for the Bulls on what should of been an easy fast-break bucket in the third quarter, though. First, he silenced Kris Dunn's reverse. Then, he met Lauri Markkanen at the rim and sent the rookie packing. The Baby Bulls 2.0 can blame it on fatigue, but they just handed Jerebko a highlight tape for years to come.   

1. In fairness, Jerian Grant had to get up a shot as the quarter was coming to a close. It is as vicious as it looks, though.