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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.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Blackhawks take on the Ottawa Senators tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Blackhawks Pregame Live.

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?