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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

Thursday, Jan. 13, 2011
9:47 PM

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Comcast SportsNet Chicago is your source for prep basketball highlights in Chicagoland! Were covering all compass points in this Fridays edition of High School Lites, including a key DuPage Valley showdown between 14 Glenbard East and West Aurora.

Well head north to check in with 3 Warren and Stevenston. Our cameras will also travel to the south side for a key Catholic League matchip between Hales Franciscan and Fenwick. Also, Luke Stuckmeyer visits Eisenhower High School to witness a rather unique offense run by head coach Mike Curta including an emphasis on three-pointers and substitutions that are reminiscent of a hockey game.

Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover Friday night:

Hubbard @ (23) Curie, 4:00pm

Is there such a thing as a quiet 17-1 team? If so, the 23rd-ranked Condors might fit the bill. They racked up another win Wednesday night over King, 90-67. Greg Travis had a solid night (16 points, eight assists, six rebounds and five steals). The visiting Greyhounds will face a stiff challenge, but they do have a few threats of their own. Cleo Jones and Javon Fields each scored in double figures in Wednesdays 76-67 win over Chicago Richards.

Palatine @ Vernon Hills, 6:00pm

Palatine hasnt had the best of luck this season (6-10, 2-2 in the Mid-Suburban West) but they did score a nice victory last week over a Conant team that came into the contest 11-3. Senior guard Peter Bony will have the Pirates in the game. The host Cougars will hope to bounce back from an 81-70 loss to North Chicago. Did you know that Vernon Hills standout wide receiver (and Notre Dame recruit) DaVaris Daniels also is one of the stars on the basketball team?

Lincoln-Way West @ (18) Thornton, 6:30pm

Think the Wildcats will be ready to get the bad tastes out of their mouths? They will have waited almost a week to erase the jarring memories from last weeks stunning 55-53 loss to unranked North Lawndale. Brian Greene Jr. will look to help raise Thorntons record to 14-1. The Warriors will be looking for their first win since December 27th (Oak Forest). They might have their work cut out for them Friday night in Harvey.

(5) Homewood-Flossmoor @ Bolingbrook, 7:00pm

The 5th ranked Vikings bounced back nicely after the tough overtime loss against Benet in the Proviso West championship. They defeated Lincoln-Way East last week behind Julian Lewis 18 points. H-Fs Delvon Rencher should also pose problems for Bolingbrook, who will be looking to erase a three-game skid. The Raiders have played tough, losing those three by a combined 13 points, including a 62-61 heartbreaker against Glenbard West. Devon Hodges, Chad Cooke and Nick Malonga are the go-to guys for Brook.

Fenwick @ (11) Hales-Franciscan, 7:30pm

The Friars were the big story in Chicagoland prep basketball last Friday night as they shocked then 3 De La Salle 49-48. Although they suffered a letdown the very next night against Ridgewood (48-42), the win over the Meteors should serve as a warning flare to the 11th ranked Spartans. Aaron and Aaric Armstead lead the way for Hales, who have won two straight after the Rich South McDipper tournament. Fenwick guard Dylan Barnett is back after missing some time in the Proviso West tournament with a high ankle sprain.

(25) Lyons @ Oak Park-River Forest, 7:30pm

Keep an eye on Lyons Township. Their 81-55 victory over Waukegan, a long-time prestigious program, should serve as a wake-up call for the rest of the opponents on the Lions schedule. Senior guard Nick Zeisloft can flat-out shoot. He scored 20 points and went 5-for-7 from behind the arc in that victory over Waukegan. But OPRF will be a tough out. The Huskies came back from a 10-point deficit to shock Proviso West last Friday 75-68. KaDarryl Bell scored 22 in that one and he will be needed to counter the Lions attack on Friday.

(13) Glenbard East @ West Aurora, 7:30pm

Is this the first big test for Glenbard East? The Rams, 5-0 in the DuPage Valley conference, head out to play a West Aurora teamalso 5-0 in the DVC. Illinois State recruit Johnny Hill and Zack Miller, an NIU recruit will be the ones to contain on GBEs roster. The Rams beat Glenbard North and Naperville North last week. The Blackhawks, who blew out West Chicago (67-34) and slipped past Glenbard North last weekend (55-54), boast high-flying junior Juwan Starks. Jontrel Walker and Jayquan Lee are tough to contain as well.

Stevenson @ (3) Warren, 7:30pm

The Blue Devils are a force to be reckoned with in the northern suburbs. They dismantled Lake Zurich and then beat Lake Forest by double figures last weekend. They go for their third in a row with Nathan Boothe, Darius Paul and Brandon Ferguson (just to name a few) starring as key contributors. Fellow North Suburban Lake foe Stevenson will come to Gurnee looking for their fifth straight win. Ryan Chapman and Michael Fleming, Colby Cashaw and Troy Radtke are keys to the Patriot attack.

St. Ignatius @ St. Joseph, 7:30pm

Nnanna Igwu is one of the dominant big men in the state. And the 6-10 senior might have St. Ignatius making some noise in the playoffs in the near future. They have won three straight, including a 58-40 decision over St. Rita last Friday. Igwu led all scorers with 23 points. Its been a tough season for St. Joseph so far, but a recent two game winning streak could have the Chargers headed back towards respectability. Joe Edwards, Reggie Johnson and Cameron Harvey will look to give St. Joes their third straight win Friday in Westchester.

GIRLS: Joliet West @ (1) Bolingbrook, 5:30pm

Will Bolingbrook be looking ahead to their Monday showdown against 3 Montini at Willowbrooks McDonalds Shootout? Well find out that answer Friday night as the Raiders battle a Joliet West team that has won three of their last four, including a 58-38 victory over Joliet Central Wednesday night. Bolingbrook, anchored by Morgan Tuck, Taylor Tuck and Ariel Massengale, is one of the elite high school girls basketball programs in the country. They have won their last four games by an average of 29 points, including a 98-37 triumph over Lockport last week.

THURSDAY GAMES:

(15) Crane 57, Marshall 53

Willie Connor scored 18 points and Kieran Woods tallied 16 more as the 15th ranked Cougars beat the Commandos in another hotly contested game in the storied rivalry. The Cougars 14-0 second quarter run offset 29 turnovers on the night and a 5-14 free throw mark from the free throw line in the fourth quarter. Marshalls Keifer Sykes (17 points), Shamon Monck 11 points) and Marlon Sykes (9 points) paced the Commando attack.

(13) Farragut 51, (4) Whitney Young 49

The Admirals get a huge upset win on the road. DJ Tolliver made some key baskets down the stretchpart of his 21 points on the night. Whitney Young had key contributions from Ohio State recruit Sam Thompson. He had 11 points but it was not enough, as Farragut iced the game late with free throws. Farragut got the win without the help of their center, Rashaun Stimage, who has a broken hand. Youngs Luke Hager missed a three pointer from the corner as time expired.

Check us out this Friday night at 10:30. High School Lites streams live at csnchicago.com.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks visit first-place Lightning

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

1. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.

There hasn't been a more dynamic duo in the NHL so far this season than Kucherov and Stamkos, who have combined for 68 points (27 goals, 41 assists) through 20 games, and sit first and second in the scoring race.

They've each recorded a point in every game except three — which coincidentally have been the same games — and they've lost all three of those contests. Kucherov has also scored a goal in 15 of 20 games this season. That's absurd when you consider he's scoring on a consistent basis; it's not like they're coming in spurts.

To put all that into perspective, he reached the 17-goal mark in his 36th game last year and still finished second in the league with 40 goals. He hit the 17-goal mark in 16 fewer games this season. How many can he realistically finish with? 60?

2. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews.

Tampa Bay knows how dangerous Chicago's dynamic duo can be as well, as evidenced in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. The Blackhawks' superstars know how to get up for a big game.

In 13 career regular-season games against the Lightning, Kane has 18 points (six goals, 12 assists). Toews has 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 14 games.

They're both producing at or above a point-per-game pace, and they're going to need more of that against this powerhouse Lightning team.

3. Something's gotta give.

Tampa Bay's offensive prowess is off the charts up and down the lineup. It has four lines that can come at you at waves, and a strong, active blue line led by potential Norris Trophy finalist Viktor Hedman and Calder Trophy candidate Mikhail Sergachev.

Although Chicago allows the fourth-most shots per game (34.0), it actually hasn't been bad at preventing goals — a large reason for that is Corey Crawford. 

The Lightning rank first in goals per game (3.95) and first in power play percentage (28.0) while the Blackhawks rank sixth in goals against per game (2.65) and four in penalty kill percentage (84.9).

Who's going to crack first?

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

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USA TODAY

For one writer, Hall of Fame semifinalist selection of Brian Urlacher closes a career circle

The news on Tuesday wasn’t really any sort of surprise: Brian Urlacher being selected as a semifinalist for the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. Some of the immediate thoughts were, however, for one writer who covered Brian from the day he was drafted on through the unpleasant end of his 13-year career as a Bear.

Good thoughts, though. Definitely good.

The first was a flashback, to a Tuesday in late August 2000 when the ninth-overall pick of the draft, who’d been anointed the starting strong-side linebacker by coach Dick Jauron on draft day, was benched.

It happened up at Halas Hall when Urlacher all of a sudden wasn’t running with the 1’s. Rosie Colvin was in Urlacher’s spot with the starters and would be for a few games into the 2000 season. I caught up with Brian before he walked, in a daze, into Halas Hall after practice and asked about what I’d just seen.

"I'm unhappy with the way I'm playing and I'm sure they are, too," Urlacher said. "I don't think I've been playing very well so that's probably the cause for it right there. I just don't have any technique. I need to work on my technique, hands and feet mostly. I've got to get those down, figure out what I'm doing. I know the defense pretty good now, just don't know how to use my hands and feet."

Urlacher, an All-American safety at New Mexico but MVP of the Senior Bowl in his first game at middle linebacker, had been starting at strong side, over the tight end, because coaches considered it a simpler position for Urlacher to master. But he was not always correctly aligned before the snap, did not use his hands against blockers effectively and occasionally led with his head on tackles. His benching cost him the chance to be the first Bears rookie linebacker since Dick Butkus to start an Opening Day.

It also was the first time in his football life that Urlacher could remember being demoted.

"It's not a good feeling," he said. "I definitely don't like getting demoted but I know why I am. I just have to get better."

Coaches understood what they were really attempting, subsequently acknowledged privately that the SLB experiment was a mistake. While the strong-side slot may have been simpler than the other two principally because of coverage duties, "we're trying to force-feed the kid an elephant," then-defensive coordinator Greg Blache said.

"So you see him gag and what do you do? You give him the Heimlich maneuver, you take some of it out of his mouth, try to chop it up into smaller pieces. He's going to devour it and be a great football player. But he wouldn't be if we choked him to death."

Urlacher didn’t choke and eventually became the starter, not outside, but at middle linebacker when Barry Minter was injured week two at Tampa Bay.

We sometimes don’t fully know the import or significance at the time we’re witnessing something. Urlacher stepping in at middle linebacker was not one of those times – you knew, watching him pick up four tackles in basically just the fourth quarter of a 41-0 blowout by the Bucs.

That was the beginning. Over the years came moments like Urlacher scooping up a Michael Vick fumble in the 2001 Atlanta game and going 90 yards with Vick giving chase but not catching him. Lots of those kinds of moments.

And then cutting to the ending, in 2013, when he and the organization came to an acrimonious parting after GM Phil Emery managed to alienate the face of the franchise both with the one-year contract offer and the way it was handled. Butkus had a nasty separation at the end of his Bears years, too, and Bill George finished his career as a Los Angeles Ram after creating the middle linebacker position as a Bear. Maybe that’s just how Bears and some of their linebackers wind up their relationships.

In any case, while there is no cheering in the pressbox, the hope here is that Brian goes into the Hall in a class with Ray Lewis in their first years of eligibility. Somehow that just seems like it all should close out for that confused kid from New Mexico who lost his first job out of college, but responded to that by becoming one of the all-time greats in his sport.