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High School Lites Preview: Holiday Tournaments

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High School Lites Preview: Holiday Tournaments

As the song goes, "there's no place like home for the holidays." Why not make Comcast SportsNet your home this holiday weekend? Next to playoff basketball, there is no time on the high school basketball calendar that churns up more excitement than holiday tournament week. On Friday's edition of High School Lites, our cameras will venture to championship games from the far northwest suburbs all the way down Interstate 55 to Pontiac. We will bring you the latest highlights, scores and postgame interviews. Which high school basketball teams will carry momentum into 2012? Here is a snapshot of each tournament Comcast SportsNet will be covering this week on High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:

THURSDAY GAMES

Dundee-Crown Charger Classic

The 29th annual Charger Classic girls basketball tournament will feature a Bartlett team with a player coming off an exceptional performance. Kristin Conniff scored a career-best 32 points Wednesday night as her Hawks took down Fremd 70-61. Their opponent will be New Trier and Northwestern-bound guard Maggie Lyon. She tallied 22 points with 12 boards and battled an ankle injury briefly in the third quarter of Wednesday's victory over Fenwick.. She should be ready to go for the championship at 8p.m. Thursday. The third place game, Fenwick vs. Fremd, precedes it at 6:30 p.m.

FUN FACT: Bartlett is a familiar team in this tournament come championship time. They lost to Fenwick in the title game 65-47 last season.

FRIDAY GAMES

McDipper Tournament (at Rich South)

Thursday's semifinals should be wildly entertaining. Seton Academy will put their undefeated record to the test as the battle Crete-Monee, while the host Stars take on Bloom. The winners of each game meet up on Friday at 7p.m. Seton has been paced so far by J.R. Toliver, while Crete-Monee got 27 points from LaQuon Treadwell in Monday's first round game against Tinley Park. Lejavius Johnson and Donald Moore have carried Bloom to two early victories, while Rich South advanced by beating Joliet West and Hales.

FUN FACT: RIch Central has won this tournament nine times since its inception back in 1973, including 1985 -- the year that former Bull and current CSN analyst Kendall Gill won tournament MVP.

Pontiac Holiday Tournament

It's the 81st edition of this prestigious central Illinois tournament, which is about two hours southwest of Chicago via I-55. Last year, Warren High School gave eventual state champion Simeon a run in the championship game. Could a rematch be in the works? Warren dealt with Plainfield North accordingly in the opening round, winning 71-40. Nathan Boothe and Darius Paul are two key weapons in the Blue Devil arsenal. They will take on Joliet West in the second round while Simeon, a 70-31 winner over Bloomington Wednesday, faces United Township (East Moline) next. Simeon and Warren could meet in the championship, but not if teams like Peoria Manual and Curie had their way. Thursday's West Aurora-Curie matchup could be worth the price of admission in its own right.

FUN FACT: Peoria Manual holds the record for most points in a game at this tournament with 126 in 1986.

Proviso West Holiday Tournament

Could New Trier's basketball have both of their programs land in holiday tournament championship games? It's a distinct possibility now, as New Trier earned a big feather in their cap Wednesday night, taking down Homewood-Flossmoor 61-58 in the quarterfinals. Dartmouth-bound Connor Boehm had 25 points in the victory. They will take on Morgan Park, who advanced by defeating Glenbrook North 42-28. That semifinal will take place at 6:30 p.m. Thursday while the other, Proviso East vs. Rockford Auburn, tips off around 8p.m. East took down last year's champs, Benet, in the quarterfinals while Auburn fought off a 12-point deficit to trump Hillcrest, 69-60. The winners of each semifinal will battle for the championship trophy Friday night at 8 p.m., while each game's loser will square off the third place crown 90 minutes prior.

FUN FACT: NBA players Mark Aguirre, Jeff Hornacek, Doc Rivers, Isiah Thomas, Hersey Hawkins, Marcus Liberty, Michael Finley, Kevin Garnett, Juwan Howard and Shannon Brown once played at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament...just to name a few.

Jack Tosh Holiday Classic (at York)

Downers Grove South, St. Ignatius, De La Salle and Naperville North comprise the final four in Elmhurst. Defending champion Downers Grove South advanced over Maine South 69-52 with the help of Jerron Wilbut's 24 points, while their Thursday opponent, St. Ignatius, took down Riverside-Brookfield 62-52. DGS will have to find a way to contain Brian Howard, who scored 29 points in the win over R-B. De La Salle is loaded this year. Naperville North could have their hands full with the likes of Gavin Schilling, Alvin Ellis and Alex Foster. But Naperville North looked impressive in trouncing last year's runner-up, Lyons, last night in a 59-56 victory. Matt Robare led the Huskies with 13. De La Salle and North lock horns at 5:45 p.m. Thursday while DGS and St. Ignatius follow at 7:15 p.m. The two winners duke it out for the championship Friday at 7:15 p.m.

FUN FACT: Jack Tosh was the long-time athletic director for York High School.

Every Friday night at 10:30 p.m., High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from the Chicagoland basketball courts. This week's episode will air just after Blackhawks hockey and SportsNet Central. We'll also have in-depth feature stories and take a look back down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment. This week, be sure to check out CSN's Muscle Milk Team of the Week, the Elgin Maroons. How did this northwest suburban school knock off national powerhouse La Lumiere? Also, we'll have the latest on the Simeon Wolverines in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

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

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Submit them below.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.