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High School Lites Preview

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High School Lites Preview

March Madness is officially here! High School Lites on Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com are the only places where you will get highlights from regional, sectional and state semifinal highlights on Friday night. Which boys teams will take home regional or sectional plaques? And which girls teams will move on for a chance to take home a state championship? 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:

BOYS
Providence-St. Mel (22-7) vs. Tilden (16-13), 2A Lisle Sectional Championship, 7:30pm

The Lisle sectional will get two number-one seeds squaring off for the right to advance to Tuesdays super-sectional at Joliet Central (vs. either Seton or Leo). Providence-St.Mel advanced by defeating Latin, 61-45. Khalil Small was impressive, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 boards. Tilden is two wins away from advancing downstate for the first time since 1950, when Johnny Red Kerr guided the team to a city championship and the state quarterfinals.
No. 16 Marshall (21-7) vs. Westinghouse (11-9), 3A Marshall Regional Championship, 6:00pm

It was destined to be a Red-West matchup no matter what, but Westinghouse wasnt the expected team to face Marshall. Instead, the Warriors upset North Lawndale 51-48 in Wednesdays semifinal. Marshalls backcourt is one of the best in the city, with Milton Doyle and Korbin McClain running the show. Westinghouse senior Ricky Battles missed a few weeks earlier in the season with an injury, but the standout guard has come back to lead the team down the stretch.

St. Joseph (19-8) vs. Farragut (13-8), 3A Nazareth Regional Championship, 7:30pm

Two programs steeped in tradition will go head-to-head in LaGrange Park. Legendary head coach Gene Pingatore's Chargers advanced by beating Glenbard South Tuesday night. Senior Reggie Johnson scored 30 for the victors. They will now face a Farragut team anchored by one of the top big-men in the area, 6-7 senior power forward Rashaun Stimage. The Admirals defeated the host school 74-47 Tuesday behind 21 points from Stimage.

Glenbrook North (20-6) vs. Niles North (19-8), 4A Niles North Regional Championship, 7:30pm

It will be the rubber game between two talented Central Suburban North squads. The 20-6 Spartans blew past the Vikings on December 6th in Northbrook, 67-39, while North stormed back on January 20th, winning 56-54 in Skokie. How much will home-court advantage play a role in this one? North has a talented and quickguard in Malachi Nix. North will counter with a pair of juniors, guard Kurt Karis and forward Andrew McAuliffe.

Metea Valley (23-4) vs. Benet (21-6), 4A Metea Valley Regional Championship, 7:30pm

Can Benet recapture some of the magic of the last two seasons? They have quietly won 21 games and feature one of the top up-and-coming players in Chicagoland, 6-8 Sean OMara. Pat McInerney is one of the leading seniors. Metea Valley stormed out of the gates this season and hung on in the regional semis, defeating Geneva by three. Kenny Obendorf and Ryan Soloman have played very well for the Mustangs this year.

No. 1 Simeon (27-1) vs. Vocational (18-8), 4A Oak Lawn Regional Championship, 7:30pm

It wasn't the prettiest game by Simeon standards, but the Wolverines won their playoff opener Tuesday night by defeating Oak Lawn 64-25 in the regional semis. Steve Taylor (16 points, 10 rebounds) made up for a little bit of rusty play by the rest of the starters. They now face a Vocational team who is coming off a 57-53 win over Hyde Park. The Wolverines defeated Vocational 63-42 back on January 20th.
St. Rita (16-10) vs. Whitney Young (15-9), 4A Whitney Young Regional Championship, 7:30pm

Although Young is still without the services of junior forward Tommy Hamilton (torn patella tendon), they received good news when Paul White returned to action Tuesday after sitting out a month with a toe injury. These two teams have one unique bond: they have played grueling schedules against out-of-state foes. St. Rita, who is paced by Western Michigan-bound A.J. Avery and Penn recruit Tony Hicks, is coming off a 56-47 win over Stagg.

No. 3 Curie (25-2) vs. Marist (24-5), 4A Marist Regional Championship, 7:30pm

It'll be interesting to see how far home-court advantage will take the Marist Redhawks. Junior guard L.J. McIntosh scored 30 points for Marist en route to a 77-61 victory over Brother Rice in Tuesday's semifinal. Could an upset be in the cards? Not if Devin Foster, Cliff Alexander and the rest of the Condors have their way. Curie rolled to a 76-42 victory over Reavis on Tuesday. Alexander, a 6-9 sophomore power forward, scored 16.

No. 6 Bogan (25-3) vs. No. 18 De La Salle (17-6), 4A Mount Carmel Regional Championship, 7:30pm

This will be the only game pitting two ranked teams against one another. Ironically, both teams are fortunate to be playing for a regional title. Bogan survived a major upset scare Tuesday, nipping Mount Carmel 65-64. Devonte Smith scored 26 points against the Caravan and will pose a threat to De La Salle. The Meteors advanced by beating Kenwood; however, they will once again be without 6-8 forward Gavin Schilling on Friday (ankle injury).

GIRLS

Springfield (29-4) vs. Vernon Hills (26-5), 3A State Semifinal, 12:00pm
Vernon Hills will be making their first trip to the state tournament. Sophomore Lauren Webb has been a catalyst. She tallied a double-double (22 points, 11 rebounds) in her team's victory over Belvidere North in the super-sectional. As for the Senators, they're going to state for the fourth consecutive season. They defeated Saled 77-50 to advance. Zahna Medley scored 33 points in the victory.

Montini (31-5) vs. Hillcrest (27-3), 3A State Semifinal, 2:00pm

Going downstate has become a common theme for both the Montini and Hillcrest girls basketball programs. Two-time defending 3A champ Montini features 6-4 junior Malayna Johnson, a Wisconsin recruit. The Broncos have a deep team, but they will get a big challenge from a Hillcrest team who defeated Morton (IL) in the super-sectional behind 12 points from Shannise Heady. Montini has defeated Hillcrest in the last two state championship games.

Bartlett (31-1) vs. Whitney Young (32-0), 4A State Semifinal, 6:30pm

Will Whitney Young have anything left in the tank? The Dolphins survived an epic four-overtime battle with three-time defending state champion Bolingbrook on Monday. The key for Bartlett has to be containing Kentucky recruit Janee Thompson, who scored 34 points in the win over the Raiders. Bartlett, who has a star of their own in Haley Videckis, advanced to state by defeating DeKalb 48-30.

Edwardsville (33-1) vs. Loyola (26-7), 4A State Semifinal, 8:15pm

Loyola doesn't necessarily have height (their tallest starter is 5-10), but they're one of the toughest defending teams in the state. Loyola limited their first four playoff opponents to an average of 27 points before this week's 43-41 win over Wheeling in the super-sectional. Senior Lauren Kriz guided her team to an upset of top-seeded Maine South in the sectional semis. Edwardsville, led by Emmonnie Henderson, advanced by beating Marist.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. This weeks episode will air at 10:30pm, just after our Bulls and Blackhawks coverage. Just as teams go dancing in March, we are doing the same with our Muscle Milk Team of the Week. Well introduce you to Maine Souths Hawkettes, a nationally-ranked dance team that is Luvabull. 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

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks hit road to face Blue Jackets

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. One big reunion.

The Blackhawks will square off with the Blue Jackets for the first time since Oct. 7, which was the second game of the season. In that game, they won 5-1 led by Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad, each of whom scored a goal and added an assist.

Of course, that was the first game since the offseason trade that sent Artemi Panarin to Columbus and Saad back to Chicago, along with Anton Forsberg. Artem Anisimov, of course, was part of the original deal that sent Saad to Columbus in 2015, so there are a lot of emotional ties between the two teams.

Forsberg didn't get a chance to face the Blue Jackets in the first meeting, but there's a chance he will this time with it being the second of a back-to-back and Jean-Francois Berube getting the start in Friday's 3-1 win over San Jose.

2. Panarin and Kane bromance.

The emotions of a difficult break-up have probably died down by now, but Panarin and Kane gave us this moment at center ice during pregame warmups in their first game against each other and it hit Chicago right in the feels:

Panarin has spent enough time apart from Kane for people to realize how big of a star he is in his own right, leading the Blue Jackets in all three scoring categories: goals (17), assists (32) and points (49).

He hasn't gone more than three games this season without recording a point, and is looking to extend his point streak to four games, which would tie a season high.

3. Struggling Blue Jackets special teams.

The Blue Jackets got off to a great start but are barely clinging onto a wild card spot going into Saturday's game, and a big reason for that slide is their lack of success on special teams. Usually one can pick up the slack for the other, but they've been brutal in both departments.

The Blue Jackets are 0-for-9 on the power play in their past five games and are ranked 31st overall, converting on only 14.1 percent of their opportunities. They also have own the 27th-ranked penalty kill with a 76.3 percent success rate.

So if there's an area the Blackhawks can exploit, it's that. But, you know, still be mindful of that Russian winger's one-timer from the faceoff circle.

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

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USA TODAY

Jean-Francois Berube impressed in his first Blackhawks start

Jean-Francois Berube got his first start of the season on Friday night, and it couldn't have gone any better.

The 26-year-old goaltender stopped 42 of 43 shots, a career-high for him in saves, in the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the San Jose Sharks at the United Center.

Since Corey Crawford went down with a head injury last December, the Blackhawks have been searching for consistency in the crease. 

The pair of Anton Forsberg and Jeff Glass — who was assigned to Rockford on Feb. 15 and replaced with Berube — have had their ups and downs since then. With the Blackhawks out of the playoff picture, Berube had an opportunity showcase his skills, and he didn't disappoint.

"We were very happy with him," said coach Joel Quenneville. "I thought he did a great job. He was comfortable. I thought he was very patient in his net. Absorbing a lot of pucks with people in front of him was good. Closed some gaps and got … of the top of the paint. Rebound control was effective. Nice response from a long absence."

Berube's last — and only — appearance with the Blackhawks prior to Friday's game came on Dec. 6, relieving Forsberg in a game against the Washington Capitals. He recorded 12 saves of 14 shots. 

When Crawford got injured, Berube was the primary candidate to become the team's backup goaltender. The only problem? He was injured too, so the Blackhawks promoted Glass.

"I didn't want to sit and think about it," Berube said of his injury. "At the same time, it was great for Glasser. He was one of those guys that probably deserved it earlier in his career and he finally got his chance. Sometimes you need a guy to go down to have your chance. So I was mostly happy for him.

On Friday night, he got his chance.

"You always want to have a good impression for your first game," Berube said. "I know what I can do at this level, so it was just a matter of getting the opportunity to play and showing people what I can do."

Celebrating his 22nd birthday, Nick Schmaltz also had a goal and an assist. Artem Anisimov scored an empty-netter.

"It's a lot more fun coming to the rink when you're winning, enjoying each other, playing well as a team," Schmaltz said of the Blackhawks' win, which have now won three of their last four games. "Hopefully we can keep that good energy and bring it to the rink every day, and build off of that.

"You never know where this team can go, a lot of great players, lots of guys that have had a lot of success. Hopefully we can continue to put together solid efforts."