Fire

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

Playoff scenarios and scoreboard watching will permeate Sunday for Fire

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Playoff scenarios and scoreboard watching will permeate Sunday for Fire

The Fire will have to keep the travel itinerary open.

Heading into the final day of the regular season on Sunday, the Fire can finish anywhere from second to fifth in the Eastern Conference. As it stands, the Fire sit third and would host a first-game playoff game, but could also head on the road to Columbus in the first round or even earn a bye.

Depending on what the Fire do in Houston in the regular season finale and what happens elsewhere there are six possible scenarios for the Fire. The Fire could hold onto the No. 3 seed and host the New York Red Bulls, drop to fourth and host either Columbus, Atlanta or New York City FC, fall all the way to the No. 5 seed and travel to New York City or move up to the No. 2 seed and earn a bye into the conference semifinals.

In order to get the bye, the Fire must win and have NYCFC fail to beat Columbus. A draw in Houston would result in a home game in the first round, regardless of other results.

“Definitely things can happen,” defender Matt Polster said. “We’ve looked at it obviously. Columbus can do something and then we do something obviously things happen. It’s not that we don’t look at it as players, but at the end of the day we just want to win.”

Winning in Houston won’t be easy considering the team has an 11-1-4 record at home this season. On top of that, Houston is also fighting for playoff positioning. The Dynamo clinched a playoff berth last weekend and could move into a top four spot with a win and some help.

Expect the Fire to control the possession. Houston likes to play on the counter to utilize speedy attackers Alberth Elis (10 goals, 4 assists), Mauro Manotas (9 goals, 5 assists) and Erick Torres (14 goals, 3 assists).

“We know they’re fast up top so I think for myself, especially being very attacking-minded I definitely have to play a little bit more defensive and wait for the right opportunities to go forward,” Polster said. “Maybe more something like Montreal with (Ignacio) Piatti.”

The Fire’s midfield will still be shorthanded with Bastian Schweinsteiger expected to sit out to continue to rest his calf injury. Juninho returned to training this week after missing the past five games and could play next to Dax McCarty. The Brazilian described the injury as chronic with a bone bruise and some cartilage issues, but he said he feels 100 percent now.

All 11 MLS games on Sunday will start at 3 p.m. The Fire will be on NBC Sports Chicago+ with coverage starting with Fire Pregame Live at 2:30 p.m.

The other games of importance to the Fire are Columbus at NYCFC and Atlanta hosting Supporters’ Shield-winning Toronto. Coach Veljko Paunovic said he will be drawing on his experience coaching the Serbian Under-20s for how to handle the scoreboard watching aspect of the day.

“Obviously you cannot ignore what’s going on in the other games,” Paunovic said. “We know what we have to say or not say and when to say and all these things so it’s a craft that this job is.

“It’s good to know the information. Then you can manage it.”

Big play from Justin Jackson sets up Northwestern's overtime win over Iowa

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USA TODAY

Big play from Justin Jackson sets up Northwestern's overtime win over Iowa

Justin Jackson is one of the top 10 rushers in Big Ten history for a reason: He's very, very good at this football thing.

Put it was a big play Jackson made not as a ball-carrier but as a pass-catcher Saturday that set up Northwestern's second straight win, a 17-10 takedown of Iowa in Evanston.

Jackson took a pass from quarterback Clayton Thorson and went all the way down to the 1-yard line, picking up 23 yards and shedding multiple tacklers on the game's biggest play.

Two plays later, Thorson plunged in for the go-ahead score. Iowa failed on a fourth-down conversion attempt on its ensuing overtime possession, ending it with a dropped pass that finished the game.

The game's result rapidly altered the social-media conversation, which moments prior had been mighty critical of Pat Fitzgerald, who made a controversial decision at the end of regulation.

Iowa tied the game at 10 on a field goal inside of two minutes to play, forced to kick after a false start was committed on fourth and 1. Fitzgerald had a minute and a half and two timeouts to try to get his own team into field-goal range for a shot at a win but instead ran the clock out and headed to overtime.

Fitzgerald explained after the game that the blustery wind at Ryan Field played a big role in that decision, plus his team had a long way to go against an Iowa defense that played well throughout the game.

Northwestern's defense was very strong, too, holding Iowa to 312 total yards, only 89 of which came on the ground. Hawkeyes quarterback Nathan Stanley was also picked off in the second half for the game's only turnover.

Jackson finished with 93 rushing yards and 38 receiving yards. Thorson was 21-for-36 passing the ball for 192 yards. Backup running back Jeremy Larkin scored the Wildcats' lone regulation touchdown.

The win improved Northwestern to 4-3 on the season and 2-2 in Big Ten play. After a 2-3 start, the Cats have won back-to-back games and take on a ranked Michigan State team next weekend.