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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

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

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USA TODAY

With Leonard Floyd going on injured reserve, will the Bears have a pressing need at outside linebacker in 2018?

The Bears placed Leonard Floyd on injured reserve Thursday morning, ending the second-year outside linebacker’s season following a knee injury suffered Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Floyd suffered an MCL and PCL injury and will have surgery in the next week, coach John Fox said, and the Bears do not have a timetable for his recovery yet. But that Floyd didn't suffer damage to his ACL is potentially good news for Floyd's recovery timetable. 

Still, with Floyd on injured reserve and out for the season, the Bears’ current outside linebacker depth chart consists of two veterans (Pernell McPhee and Sam Acho) and two practice squad signees (Isaiah Irving and Howard Jones). These final six games of the 2017 season could serve as auditions for all four players for roles on the 2018 Bears. 

If every team needs at least three good pass rushers, the Bears can count on Akiem Hicks and Floyd for 2018, provided Floyd comes back healthy. But who’s the third?

The Bears could save about $7.5 million in cap space if they release McPhee in 2018; if they were to cut ties with Willie Young, who’s on injured reserve right now as well, it would provide $4.5 million in cap relief. McPhee will be 29 in December, while Young will turn 33 next September. 

The Bears won’t necessarily need the cap relief next year, and could certainly decide to keep both players, who’ve shown they’re still productive when healthy. But even if both players are back, the Bears may need to add another outside linebacker via free agency of the draft — remember, the team could’ve began the season with Floyd, Young, McPhee, Acho and Lamarr Houston as their outside linebackers; an injury Houston suffered in the fourth preseason game ended his time in Chicago. 

Needs at wide receiver and cornerback are pressing, but outside linebacker may need to be in that same conversation. If the Bears have a top-10 pick for the fourth consecutive year, plus some cap space, they perhaps could have the ability to address all three needs in March and April. 

That may be looking a little too far into the future, though. The best-case for the Bears is McPhee finishes the season strong and Irving and/or Jones shows something in the opportunities they receive in these final six games (Jones, for what it’s worth, had five sacks as a rookie with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015). But the worst-case — and perhaps the most realistic — is that the Bears go into the offseason needing to fill at least one pass-rushing spot.