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Playoffs wind down on special High School Lites

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Playoffs wind down on special High School Lites

Whether your favorite playoff basketball team is in 1A, 2A, 3A or 4A, we will have you covered this weekend. High School Lites on Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com will bring you scores and highlights from the 1A & 2A state championships, along with 3A and 4A sectional title games across Chicagoland.

Will Seton win their second state title in four years? Can Simeon and Proviso East continue their dream seasons? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will profile in a special Saturday edition of High School Lites. Friday's matchups for the class 1A and 2A semifinals are listed below. Please note that we will show highlights of Saturday's first and third place state championship games on High School Lites, along with all of the sectional games listed. Rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by the Marines.

Mason City-Illini Central (17-12) vs. Carrollton (29-4), 1A State Semifinal, 12:00 p.m.

It's a matchup of two teams few thought would be remotely close to Peoria's Carver Arena this weekend. Carrollton, who is headed to state for the first time since 1984, shocked top seed Brimfield in the super-sectional 58-48. Joey Coonrod, Tyler Watson and Jordan Harr pace the Hawks. IC is here thanks to a 55-40 win over Fisher. The Cougars, who started the season 3-10, are led by a pair of juniors: Jared Entwistle and Jordan Bradshaw.

Woodlawn (27-5) vs. North Shore Country Day (19-4), 1A State Semifinal, 2:00 p.m.

Winnetka's North Shore Country Day has earned their first trip to state in boys basketball. The Raiders, who feature junior guard Austin Curren, dispatched Sterling Newman Catholic 41-35 to advance. Curren can be deadly behind the arc. They'll face Woodlawn, a school that is quite familiar with championship-level basketball. This will be the third trip to Peoria in four years for the Cardinals. Christian Hollencamp will be tough to contain.

Rockford Lutheran (29-3) vs. Normal-University (27-4), 2A State Semifinal, 6:30 p.m.

The Crusaders have earned their first state championship playoff ticket since 1995. Keep an eye on a talented pair of underclassmen, freshman Nate Wieting and sophomore Thomas Kopelman. They combined for 33 points in Tuesday's victory over Fieldcrest. U-High overcame an 18-point deficit in the fourth quarter against Teutopolis to advance. The Pioneers feature Keita Bates-Diop, a 6-6 sophomore forward who is drawing considerable interest from Big Ten schools.

No. 18 Seton Academy (28-4) vs. Breese-Central (32-1), 2A State Semifinal, 8:15 p.m.

The Sting won a state championship in 2009 and they certainly have the talent to do it again this year. Russell Robinson, Jr. leads a very balanced and deep attack. The 6-9 senior racked up 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven blocks in Tuesday's super-sectional win over Providence-St. Mel. Central has been one of the state's top-ranked teams all season. Their go-to guy is senior Brandon Book. The Cougars or Sting will be very tough to beat in Saturday's championship game.

Wheaton-St. Francis (20-7) vs. No. 13 Marshall (23-7), 3A Glenbard South Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.
Look out for St. Francis and dont let the seven losses fool you. This team, with coaching veteran Bob Ward at the controls, stunned top-seed Orr in the sectional semis and will be looking for more Friday night behind 6-6 senior Ryan Coyle, who is averaging 16 points a game. He will be integral in the offense. Can they compete with one of the top teams in the city? Marshall features Florida International-bound guard Milton Doyle in their arsenal.

No. 20 North Chicago (22-6) vs. Lakes (20-10), 3A Grayslake Central Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

The top two teams in the North Suburban-Prairie go head-to-head. The Warhawks, who feature Illinois State-bound Aaron Simpson, have yet to be tested in the playoffs. They have won their games (Fenton, Elmwood Park and Grayslake Central) by an average of 26 points. Lakes defeated Ridgewood 75-60 on Wednesday to get to the title game. They played NC twice this season (both losses) but one of them was a 90-86 nail-biter in double overtime. Lakes Direll Clark had 24 points in that game.

No. 10 Bloom (27-3) vs. Homewood-Flossmoor (22-7), 4A Lockport Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

The Bloom offense, behind Lejavius Johnson, Johnny Griffin and Donald Moore, usually gets the rave reviews in this space. But their defensive effort against Thornton in the sectional semis was one for the ages: 1 FG and four points given up in the second half. Homewood-Flossmoor also knows a thing or two about defense. They held Andrew to 22 points in Wednesdays semifinal. On offense, the Vikings Tim Williams can cause fits for the opposition.

No. 7 Elgin (26-3) vs. Rockford-Auburn (29-2), 4A Dundee-Crown Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

If youre a fan of guards, look no further than Fridays contest between Elgin and Auburn. The Maroons heart and soul is Kory Brown. He is one of the top shooting guards in Chicagoland, and he shares the backcourt with a talented point guard in Arie Williams. But as point guards go, Auburns Fred Van Vleet is one of the best in Illinois. The Wichita State-bound star, who also showed off his skills at the Proviso West Holiday Tournament, is very tough to contain.

No. 3 Warren (25-3) vs. Mundelein (26-7), 4A Barrington Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

The No. 3 Blue Devils are looking to send long-time head coach Chuck Ramsey out on a high note. Ramsey, who has 402 career wins and is retiring after the season, has a loaded team this year. Both 6-9 Nathan Boothe and 6-8 Darius Paul can turn a game in a heartbeat. Theyll take on fellow North Suburban-Lake foe Mundelein and their standout guard Robert Knar. Warren has already beaten Mundelein twice this year, 61-45 and 87-79.
No. 2 Proviso East (29-0) vs. Schaumburg (24-5), 4A Schaumburg Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

If Proviso East needs any motivation in this game, they should look no further than the Curie-Marist shocker last Friday. Marist, on their home floor, stunned No. 3 Curie in the regional championship. The No. 2 Pirates could face similar adversity in Schaumburg. The Saxons, fresh off a 64-60 win over Oak Park-River Forest, have home-court advantage. Keith Carter, Sterling Brown and the Pirates face Christian Spandiary, Kyle Bolger and a talented Schaumburg team. Expect a classic March Madness atmosphere.

No. 1 Simeon (29-1) vs. No. 15 Marist (26-5), 4A Argo Sectional Championship, 7:30 p.m.

There was talk in a few circles that Whitney Young a suddenly healthy Whitney Young could give Simeon a serious run in the sectional semifinal. A 12-0 run by Jabari Parker and company squashed the upset talk and the Wolverines went on to win by 10. And then theres Cinderella, known as Marist in Illinois. The RedHawks followed up last Fridays epic comeback vs. Curie with a 67-63 thriller over Bogan. Marist is well balanced, but they have a marquee player in L.J. McIntosh. With apologies to Gus Johnson, will the slipper still fit for Marist after Friday?

As a reminder, this weeks episode will air on Saturday at 10:30 p.m. We head to Lombard to feature our Muscle Milk Team of the Week, the Montini Broncos. This west suburban powerhouse has won three consecutive girls basketball state championships. What has been their secret to success?

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. This week's segment takes a look a thrilling win over one of their biggest rivals, Whitney Young, in the sectional semifinal.

IHSA State Championship games can be found on NBC Chicago Nonstop (Digital Channel 5.2, Comcast 341, RCN 50, WOW 130, and AT&T U-Verse 1742).

High School Lites streams live on CSNChicago.com. We invite you to share your story ideas as well by clicking here.

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

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USA TODAY

Ben Zobrist breaks down how Dodgers pitching has made Cubs offense disappear

Ben Zobrist didn’t look for any deeper meaning in Kyle Schwarber’s first-inning homer off Yu Darvish on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, or hope that one swing could change the entire momentum of this National League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Zobrist knows what it takes to win in October, the Cubs identifying him as the missing piece to their lineup after he helped transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into a championship team, and then getting a World Series MVP return on their $56 million investment.

That “Schwarbomb” turned out to be fool’s gold, the only run the Cubs would score in front of a quiet, low-energy crowd of 41,871, the defending champs one more loss away from golfing/hunting/fishing/signing autographs at memorabilia shows.

“That was great to get a homer, but I’d rather see some hits strung together,” Zobrist said after a sloppy 6-1 loss, standing at his locker for almost 10 minutes, answering questions in the underground clubhouse. “I’d like to see a couple doubles together, a few singles, three or four hits in an inning. We just haven’t done that.

“That’s what makes rallies. They’ve stayed away from those kinds of innings. That’s why they’re ahead right now.”

Darvish – Jake Arrieta’s replacement in the 2018 rotation? – canceled out the two singles he allowed in the first inning by getting two of his seven strikeouts and answering some of the questions about how he would respond to all the pressure in October.

Darvish – a trade-deadline acquisition that had echoes of Theo Epstein’s “If not now, when?” explanation for last year’s Aroldis Chapman trade – walked one of the 25 batters he faced and pitched into the seventh inning before handing the game over to a lights-out bullpen.

“There’s nothing that we didn’t see beforehand on video,” Zobrist said. “It’s just a matter of we need him to make more mistakes, and we got to take advantage of those mistakes when he makes them.

“When he got to 3-2 counts, he wasn’t throwing a heater. He was throwing the cutter, and it’s a tough pitch to hit. You have to sit on it, and even then it’s got good movement to it. He kept us off-balance.”

Forward-thinking manager Dave Roberts is at the controls of a Los Angeles bullpen that can match up against right- and left-handed hitters, target locations, unleash upper-90s velocity, execute the elevated fastball that messes with eye levels and lean on All-Star closer Kenley Jansen for multiple innings.

The Dodger relievers essentially put together a no-hitter that lasted nine-plus innings across Games 1, 2 and 3. Together, they have pitched 10.2 scoreless innings, facing 36 batters and allowing two hits and a walk and hitting Anthony Rizzo with a pitch.

“They kept the ball on the edges and kept us off-balance,” Zobrist said. “They’re not throwing the pitch in the middle of the plate when we need them to. They’re keeping it on the edges and those are hard (to hit). When you got guys with good stuff on the mound, you need them to make some mistakes for you, or at least start walking some guys.

“When they’ve gotten in those situations with a three-ball count, they’re still making the pitch when they need to. They’re not walking many guys – and we are.

“That’s why they’re up 3-nothing.”

Zobrist (4-for-23 this postseason) is now more of a part-time player/defensive replacement, no longer the switch-hitting force who dropped the bunt at Dodger Stadium that helped end the 21-inning scoreless streak during last year’s NLCS.

Zobrist insisted the Cubs are still all there mentally, not checked out after a grueling first round against the Washington Nationals and a brutal walk-off loss in Game 2 at Dodger Stadium. He owns two World Series rings and one has the Cubs logo and this inscription: “We Never Quit.”

“We keep it loose all the time,” Zobrist said. “We know what’s at stake. And we don’t shy away from it. We look forward to the challenge ahead. It would be a great story for us to be able to come back in this series and win this series.

“We make adjustments, we take advantage of mistakes and we come out with a victory tomorrow. That’s what we have to do.”

Winter is coming for Cubs team that looks checked out of 2017

Winter is coming for Cubs team that looks checked out of 2017

Kyle Schwarber took a Babe Ruth swing on Tuesday night at Wrigley Field, posed for a moment and dropped the bat out of his follow through, watching that Yu Darvish pitch soar 408 feet out toward the left-center field bleachers.

Those carefree Cubs relievers shown on the video board – wait, was that John Lackey bouncing around? – danced in the bullpen in the first inning. This is exactly what the Cubs wanted: Grab an early lead? Check. Get one of their big boys going? Check. Energize the crowd of 41,871? Check.

That sense of momentum lasted less than the time it takes to buy a beer or go to the bathroom at Wrigley Field, because the Los Angeles Dodgers look like the unstoppable force this October.

Now Wade Davis may never pitch in this National League Championship Series and Wednesday night could be Jake Arrieta’s final start in a Cubs uniform. Winter is coming after a 6-1 loss left the defending World Series champs looking mentally checked out of 2017.

The Cubs played AC/DC and Motley Crue in their underground clubhouse and answered questions about why they believe they can match the 2004 Boston Red Sox who took down the New York Yankee Evil Empire, becoming the only team to come back from an 0-3 deficit since the LCS expanded to a seven-game format in 1985.

But Kris Bryant’s glassy look and bloodshot eyes told a different story, the reigning NL MVP admitting how “draining” those five games felt against the Washington Nationals in Round 1.

“But you kind of expect that around this time when games mean a lot,” Bryant said. “It takes a lot of energy to get ready for these games, and at the end, you feel wiped out. It’s expected.”

But no one could have predicted this lack of buzz in Wrigleyville, which felt less than a lot of midweek games during the regular season. A silence fell over the old ballpark when Andre Ethier – who has three homers across the last two seasons combined – lined a Kyle Hendricks pitch off the video board in right field to lead off the second inning.

Hendricks – who has made 10 postseason starts across the last three years and kept the Dodgers completely off-balance last October on the night the Cubs clinched their first NL pennant in 71 years – watched in the third inning as Chris Taylor crushed another home-run ball that bounced off the roof of the batter’s eye in center field.

“I wouldn’t say we’re running out of gas,” shortstop Addison Russell said. “Every time we step on the field, I feel like we have a pretty good chance of winning. We’re going to come into the clubhouse tomorrow positive and just ready to strap it on.”

The Dodgers will be out for beer and champagne on Wednesday night and the chance to kick back and watch the Yankees and Houston Astros expend all their energy in the ALCS.

Dodger manager Dave Roberts – who pushed all the right bullpen buttons in Games 1 and 2 (eight no-hit/scoreless innings combined) – toyed with the Cubs by letting Darvish hit against struggling reliever Carl Edwards Jr. with a two-run lead and two outs and the bases loaded in the sixth inning.

Darvish showed bunt on all four pitches – and drew a four-pitch walk and slammed his bat to the ground in celebration. The fans booed after Edwards struck out Taylor on three pitches to end the inning.

“We were there just as much as any other game,” said Ben Zobrist, last year’s World Series MVP. “Mentally, there was no letdown. Physically, there was no letdown. It was just a matter of them capitalizing on some mistakes that we made. That’s part of the game. And they didn’t make a lot of mistakes.

“They played better baseball than us tonight. That’s why they got the W.”

The Cubs committed two errors in Game 3 and then had a National-style meltdown in the eighth inning, from Zobrist misjudging the flyball to right field that dropped in front of him, to Mike Montgomery throwing a wild pitch, to catcher Willson Contreras getting crossed up on a swinging strike three, his glove nowhere near Montgomery’s 92.7-mph fastball, which crashed into his right arm and ricocheted into the visiting dugout.

A three-run game became 6-1 – and head for the exits and then the offseason. There was Albert Almora Jr. in the ninth inning, driving a ball into the ivy in left field and sprinting right into lead runner Alex Avila at third base, bailed out only because Kike Hernandez waved his hand to signal a ground-rule double.

At least that made All-Star closer Kenley Jansen work the last three outs, accumulated stress that might benefit the Yankees or Astros more than the Cubs.

“They are done,” an NL scout wrote in a text message. “You can see it in their faces.”