Cubs

Highlighting High School Lites

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Highlighting High School Lites

By Joe Collins and Taylor Bell
CSNChicago.com

Chicagoland prep basketball is home on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. The Public League has the spotlight this week, as well hit key rivalry games in Simeon vs. Morgan Park and Whitney Young vs. Farragut. Plus, our cameras will take you to the Southland Conference for a pivotal battle between Crete-Monee and Bloom. Who wins the battle of Naperville? And will Bogans solid run continue? 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:

FRIDAY GAMES
Morgan Park (8-4) @ No. 1 Simeon (14-0), 4:00pm

The biggest challenge for Simeon Friday will be avoiding the temptation to look ahead to Sundays epic showdown with Nevadas Findlay Prep, a team like Simeon that is ranked in the top 10 nationally. Jabari Parker and Simeon come into the Battle of Vincennes off a 95-61 thrashing of Brooks on Wednesday. Talented junior guard Billy Garrett Jr. will lead the Morgan Park attack. The Mustangs, paced by Garretts 30 points, were victorious Wednesday against Vocational.
Brooks (6-11) @ No. 8 Bogan (15-1), 5:30pm
Luwane Pipkins, Kendall Wesley, Juwan Henry and Devonte Smith continue to cause fits for every Bogan opponent. The Bengals ran past Corliss Wednesday 99-38. Pipkins finished with 23. If Bogan wins, they will join either Simeon or Morgan Park as the lone undefeateds in the Red South conference. Brooks is in rare companyand not necessarily in a good way. Friday will mark their third straight game against a top 10 opponent (Tuesday- De La Salle, Wednesday- Simeon).

No. 16 Whitney Young (7-5.) @ Farragut (7-5), 5:30pm

Classic Red-West rivalry game on the west side. Is Whitney Youngs sophomore center Jahlil Okafor a future No. 1 draft pick? One writer thinks he has the potential to become one. Okafor is proving his case for multiple awards on the high school level this season, as hes carrying a team that has been limited due to injuries to Tommy Hamilton and Paul White. Rashaun Stimage is the heart and soul of the Farragut attack. The senior center racked up another double-double (19 points, 10 boards) Wednesday in a loss to Marshall.
Crete-Monee (11-3) @ No. 14 Bloom (14-2), 6:30pm

It's a good thing that Crete-Monee will have two days to rest up for Bloom. They were on the winning end of a triple overtime marathon Tuesday night against Thornwood, 74-63. Illinois recruit Michael Orris was clutch, hitting a key 3 in the third overtime. He, along with teammates Marvie Keith and LaQuan Treadwell will be eager to challenge a Bloom team that ran out to a 19-0 lead against Joliet Central Tuesday, winning 55-35. Senior guard Donald Moore leads the Blazing Trojans in a game that could go a long way in deciding the Southland conference.
Rich East (6-10) @ No. 20 Rich South (14-4), 6:30pm

Crete-Monee and Bloom have company in the Southland conference. The Stars got their biggest win of the year last week in a buzzer-beater against Bloom, avenging an earlier loss to the Blazing Trojans in the McDipper Tournament. Center John Ruffin and forward Marquell Small should get a lot of looks. The Rockets are coming off a nice 57-41 win over Kankakee. Ronald Lawton, Raheem Jackson and 6-foot-5 forward Shamond Kemp will create challenges for South.
Prairie Ridge (4-11) @ No. 13 Huntley (13-1), 7:00pm

The Red Raiders are proving to be one of the nice success stories in the northwest suburbs this season. They haven't taken their foot off the gas yet, as Tuesday's 43-33 win over Crystal Lake South would indicate. Six-foot-six phenom Amanze Egekeze, who is attracting attention from several Division I schools, is their go-to guy. Prairie Ridge played well against Dundee-Crown Tuesday night but faded down the stretch, losing 51-40. Luke Keller had 13 points for the Wolves and will look for more on Friday.

Grayslake Central (10-5) @ Hampshire (8-7), 7:00pm

The 8-7 Whips might have the quietest six-game winning streak around. They took four straight at the DeKalb Holiday tournament, and won two more over Fox Valley conference foes to start the new year. Tyler Crater, Brock Ralphs and Tyler Watzlawick are all key contributors for Hampshire. Grayslake Central will also come in with momentum, as they defeated Woodstock 73-53 Tuesday night. Senior center Casey Boyle, who scored 16 for the Rams in the victory, will get a lot of looks Friday night as well.
Leo (9-6) @ Brother Rice (10-5), 7:30pm

Speaking of quiet winning streaks, the Leo Lions have rattled off five straight victories. Their latest effort was a 69-65 overtime thriller on Tuesday against Hales. Brother Rice will need to contain Leos senior center Russell Woods. He tallied 23 points and 12 rebounds in the game against Hales. The Crusaders have a few weapons of their own in Garrett ONeill, Alex Majewski and Sean Fitzpatrick. Each team needs a win to keep pace with Seton in the Catholic South.
Naperville Central (10-4) @ Naperville North (10-4), 7:30pm

This battle of Naperville doesnt receive the headlines that the football game gets, but this matchup should go a long way in deciding the fate of an up-for-grabs DuPage Valley. North is on a roll, off to a 5-0 start in conference, highlighted by Saturdays 53-51 win over then-first place West Aurora. Mike Keane, Derek Westman and Matt Stachio are key contributors for the Huskies. Central, 2-3 in conference and winners of the Wheeling Hardwood Classic, is paced by sophomore center Nick Czarnowski.

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from the Chicagoland basketball courts. This week's episode will air just after the Bulls-Celtics game 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, Huntley. Forget junior or senior leadership: a sophomore is guiding the Red Raiders to the upper echelon of the rankings. Also, we'll have the latest on the top-ranked Simeon Wolverines 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

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

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USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.