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High School Lites Preview: Playoff action begins

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High School Lites Preview: Playoff action begins

The regular season meets the playoffs on this weeks edition of High School Lites. IHSA postseason action begins in Class 1A and 2A. We will pay a visit to a few schools that are predicted to play basketball into March. Will Seton or Hope Academy be in the mix? Conference titles and bragging rights are also up for grabs in the north, west and south suburbs. Who will gain momentum as March Madness approaches? 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:

THURSDAY GAMES

Girls: Lincoln-Way East (26-4) vs. Marist (31-1), 7:30pm -- 4A Sandburg Sectional Championship

The 26-4 Griffins have many weapons, including Taylor Johnson, Caitlin McMahon and Meaghan McMahon. All three helped East push past Homewood-Flossmoor in the semifinals. Can they reach the Elite Eight? It all depends if they can contain Leah Bolton. The Marist junior forward racked up 25 points and seven rebounds against Marian Catholic on Tuesday. The winner will take on the champion of the Bloomington sectional on Tuesday.

Girls: Whitney Young (30-0) vs. Trinity (30-1), 7:30pm -- 4A Lyons Sectional Championship

Want to know how good Whitney Young is this year? The Dolphins faced Proviso East, a team with ample talent and future NCAA players, and ran out to a 44-17 halftime lead in Tuesdays semifinal. Youngs Janee Thompson, Linnae Harper and Alexis Lloyd all scored in double figures in the 69-34 victory. Trinity, behind DePaul recruit Megan Podkowa, will challenge Young. They advanced by beating another girls basketball powerhouse, Fenwick, 64-45. Trinitys only loss this season? A 62-47 loss to Whitney Young in December.

FRIDAY GAMES

Girls: Aurora Central Catholic (25-6) vs. Quincy Notre Dame (31-1), 6:30pm

ACC will have their work cut out on Friday as they take on Quincy, the defending 2A state champs. Central is paced by four-year varsity standout guard Jackie Cardona. Other state semifinals scheduled for Friday include Leroy vs. Freeport Aquin (12:00pm) and Illini Bluffs vs. Cowden-Herrick (2:00pm) in Class 1A, and Breese Central vs. Stillman Valley (8:15pm) in Class 2A. All state championship games will air on Chicago Nonstop, Comcast 341.

Grayslake Central (21-4) @ 8 Huntley (23-2), 7:00pm

This year's Fox Valley Championship features a Huntley team with a stout defense and one of the most talented sophomores in Chicagoland: 6-6 forward Amanze Egekeze. The Red Raiders are looking to surpass last year's 25-5 team that reached the sectional final. Grayslake Central has a team with senior leadership in center Casey Boyle and guard Jordan Taylor. This will be a great test for the Rams, as they could also face talented North Chicago down the road in sectional play.

Ridgewood (19-6) @ Riverside-Brookfield (21-4), 7:00pm

Will history repeat itself? R-B went into Norridge four weeks ago and walked away with a 71-63 win. Ridgewood couldn't contain 6-7, 220-pound center Miki Ljuboja, who racked up 23 points and 10 rebounds in the win. The Bulldogs also feature talented players in forward Luke Nortier and guard Damonta Henry. Ridgewood has a star in senior guard Andy Mazurczak, who scored 25 points in that previous game. It'll be senior night in Riverside and the Metro Suburban title will be up for grabs.

11 Hillcrest (21-4) @ 20 Lemont (23-2), 7:00pm

The visiting Hawks can win the South Suburban-Blue conference outright. Lemont, who will be looking for a share of the title, will be one of the toughest opponents of the year for Hillcrest. The Indians have a standout point guard in Juozas Balciunas. But Hillcrest is loaded: Jayon'e Troutman, Jalen Loving and Jovan Mooring are all threats with the ball. These two teams could also end up playing each other in the loaded 3A Rich East sectional.

Joliet West (15-9) @ Lockport (16-10), 7:30pm

If there was a matchup of two of the best sneaky-tough teams in Chicagoland, Joliet West vs. Lockport could be front and center on the marquee. Lockport has quality wins this season over Waukegan, at Homewood-Flossmoor and took West Aurora to overtime. The Porters feature Kyle Ward and Courtney Cole on the attack. Joliet West, who beat Lockport 49-48 back on January 27th, has one of the best centers in the conference, senior Marlon Johnson.

19 Seton Academy (23-4) vs. Hales (10-17), 7:30pm 2A ChicagoUniversity Regional Championship

Phew. That was the collective sigh of relief by the entire Seton program Wednesday night as they survived a massive semifinal scare by University High, 72-64 in double overtime. Russell Robinson, Mark Weems, Kamai Shasi, Jordan Foster and the rest of the Sting hope the rest of the playoffs are a little more on the smooth side. They will get the defending state champs in Fridays final. Hales advanced by beating St. Francis de Sales 80-60.

Latin (17-6) vs. Parker (18-8), 7:30pm 2A Holy Trinity Regional Championship

Its already one of the best rivalries in Chicagoland. So why not have another meeting where one team moves on and the other goes home? Latin advanced by beating the host school 67-42. Senior guard Chaz Stevenson leads the attack for the Romans. Parker got here by defeating Wells 62-51. Junior guard Langdon Neal should get a lot of looks for the Colonels. Latin beat Parker in triple overtime in December. Parker followed up with a rout of Latin earlier this month. An exciting night of basketball awaits.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. This weeks episode will air at 11:00pm, just after MVC basketball. In addition to the games above, we will check out the 1A regional championship at Chicago Hope Academy (semifinals are on Thursday). Our cameras will also head to Glenbard North High School for our Muscle Milk Team of the Week. At this west suburban school, well introduce you to one dedicated student who is going above and beyond in bringing basketball and cheerleading to new heights. 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. Email us at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: