Preps Talk

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

Boys Basketball Playoffs begin on busy week of High School Lites

High School Lites is down to the final week of the regular season in local high school hoops as the Class 3A and 4A schools finish up conference play. The boys basketball playoffs have also started as the Class 1A and Class 2A regional championships will be played on Friday night.

The girls basketball Class 1A and 2A state semifinals will also be featured. You can catch all of those games on NBC Sports Chicago on Friday beginning at 11 a.m. with the 1A semifinals. High School Lites will air Friday night at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago

East Aurora at No. 11 West Aurora, 7:00 p.m. -- These two rivals meet for the 225th time. The Blackhawks (20-4, 9-0) won the first matchup by 22 points as they try to finish the season on a 12-game winning streak. 

Jacobs at Dundee-Crown, 7:00 p.m. -- Fox Valley rivals match up as Jacobs tries to go unbeaten in the conference. The Eagles (23-3, 15-0) has been playing very well as they've won 20 of 21 games heading into this one -- including an earlier win against Dundee-Crown. The Chargers (14-11, 10-4) has won seven consecutive games since dropping to the Golden Eagles as they're second in the Fox Valley heading into this one. 

Yorkville at DeKalb, 7:00 p.m. -- The top two teams in the Northern Illinois Big 12 East play in this one. DeKalb (16-11, 11-1) has already clinched a share of the conference title as the team's only league loss has come against Yorkville. The Foxes (17-8, 10-2) knocked off DeKalb at their place on Feb. 3 as they try to win again to get a piece of the division title. 

T.F. North at Lemont, 7:00 p.m. -- Two of the better teams in the South Suburban Blue battle on the eve of the playoffs. Lemont (17-8, 9-3) has picked up three straight wins entering this one. T.F. North (11-9, 9-3) is trying to build some momentum after recent close losses to Hillcrest and T.F. South.

Carmel at No. 10 Benet, 7:30 p.m. -- The ESCC closes out its season with this one. Benet (22-4, 7-1) is coming off a nice road win at Marian Catholic earlier this week. Carmel (17-10, 4-4) knocked off Joliet Catholic during the week as they've been a dangerous team in the ESCC. 

Class 2A Boys Basketball Regional Championships

Leo vs. Marshall, 6 p.m. -- The Lions are the favorites but the Commandos are the host of this regional title game. Leo (20-5, 8-0) has a 13-game winning streak as they won the Catholic League White. Marshall (8-17, 4-5) struggled in the win column but they were a competitive 4-5 in a very deep Public League Red-South. 

Uplift vs. Northridge, 7 p.m. -- This should be an interesting battle as Uplift is playing on the road at Northridge. Uplift (17-9, 6-3) has played an extremely competitive schedule that includes a recent close loss to No. 1 Simeon as Kansas commit Markese Jacobs and senior forward Toraze Dobbs are one of the best combinations in the Class 2A field. Northridge (22-5, 12-0) went unbeaten in the Independent School League this season as they're riding a 13-game winning streak.

Class 1A Boys Basketball Regional Championships 

Aurora Christian vs. Harvest Christian, 7 p.m. -- These two teams play for the third time this season in what should be an interesting regional title game. Aurora Christian (23-1, 10-0) is the host as they only lost to Winnebago this season. The Eagles beat Harvest Christian twice in a six-day span in December. Harvest Christian (18-8, 8-2) finished third in the Northeastern Athletic as they played the second game within two points. 

Class 1A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Okaw Valley vs. Stockton, 11 a.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Okaw Valley (29-5) is making its first state appearance after winning its first regional title in school history. Stockton (31-2) finished under .500 last season (13-15) and had an amazing turnaround that includes a current 15-game winning streak. 

Lebanon vs. Schlarman, 12:45 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- These two teams have combined for two losses this season as this should be a good one. Lebanon (31-1) just won its first sectional title in school history as they've now moved on to state. Schlarman (31-1) is led by junior Anaya Peoples, a Notre Dame commit and five-star prospect in the Class of 2019. 

Class 2A Girls Basketball State Semifinals

Harlan vs. Eureka, 5:30 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two red-hot teams play in the first semifinal in Class 2A. Harlan (25-6) is riding a 12-game winning streak as this is its first appearance at state for girls basketball. Eureka (28-3) has a 19-game winning streak as they make their first state appearance since 1988.

Marshall vs. Teutopolis, 7:15 p.m., NBC Sports Chicago -- Two storied programs in the state match up in this one. Marshall (20-7) will be making its 21st state appearance as head coach Dorothy Gaters is one of the most storied coaches in Illinois. Teutopolis is making its 17th appearance at state as the Lady Shoes (28-6) seek their first title since 1995. 

Orr finishes No. 1 in final Preps Power Rankings

Orr finishes No. 1 in final Preps Power Rankings

The IHSA boys basketball season is in the books as High School Lites has finished up another season of coverage. This season had plenty of drama until the end for the No. 1 spot as a group of Public League superpowers battled for area dominance. In the end, Class 2A champion Orr is the top team in the area, in a very tough decision over Whitney Young, Simeon and Morgan Park. Here's a look at the final top 25, with some season highlights and memorable moments. 

1. Orr (30-4, 9-0) -- The Spartans finish the season in the top spot as the only team in the area to capture a state, conference and major holiday tournament title this season. A special senior class that cruised to back-to-back Class 2A titles, Orr also won the loaded Public League Red North/West by going unbeaten. They also steamrolled the competition in the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. Orr is also the only team in the area with 30 wins. They beat another 30-win team in the 2A title game this year. Orr had a lot of tremendous accomplishments while beating a lot of good teams. Dannie Smith, Raekwon Drake and Chase Adams all had stellar senior seasons on a deep and loaded team.

2. Whitney Young (28-8, 7-2) -- Peaking in March once again, the Dolphins just missed winning back-to-back state titles in Class 4A with an overtime loss to Belleville West. Knocking off Lincoln Park, Curie, Simeon and Evanston all in a row is a ridiculous postseason accomplishment. Senior Javon Freeman was a Player of the Year candidate and his hot start was one of the big early storylines of the season. Other seniors like Xavier Castaneda, Justin Boyd and Jake Kosakowski made an impact as well. It'll be interesting to see who steps up alongside Myles Baker and Tyler Beard next season. 

3. Simeon (29-4, 9-0) -- Simeon fell short of winning a Class 4A state title after suffering a stunning overtime loss to Whitney Young in the Chicago State Supersectional. The Wolverines were No. 1 nearly the entire season. The loss to the Dolphins was their only IHSA loss of the season. A nationally-ranked juggernaut that at-times played like one of the best teams in the area of the last decade, the back-to-back city champions still won at Pontiac and won the Public League Red South/Central as well. Senior Talen Horton-Tucker morphed into a superstar and Player of the Year favorite while Messiah Jones, Xavier Pinson, Kenny Pittman, Zion Young and Bakari Simmons were also key ingredients. Junior Kejuan Clements could be a breakout star next year as well. 

4. Morgan Park (25-9, 7-2) -- Claiming a second consecutive Class 3A state title, the Mustangs ended the season on a high note as the dominant team in that field. Senior guard Ayo Dosunmu is one of the Player of the Year favorites while senior Cam Burrell had an outstanding season as a double-double machine. Sophomores like Adam Miller and Marcus Watson also emerged as the wave of the future for the program. While the Mustangs had a great end to the season, they had to fight through injuries to Dosunmu and senior center Tamell Pearson -- who missed most of the season with an eye injury. One of the big "What Ifs?" of the 2017-18 season is how good Morgan Park might have been this season with all of its pieces all of the time. 

5. Evanston (27-6, 8-2) -- Exceeding expectations with a Class 4A third-place finish, the Wildkits had a tremendous season. With a balanced team that featured a lot of non-seniors playing big roles, this young Evanston team knocked off many of the area's best teams during the season. Evanston also finished tied atop the loaded CSL South this season. Junior guards Ryan Bost, Jaheim Holden and Lance Jones are all noted talents while senior big man Matt Hall provided a huge presence on the interior. 

6. Marian Catholic (26-6, 5-4) -- Another team to exceed expectations this season was Marian Catholic. The Spartans advanced to state for the first time in capturing a Class 3A third place win. Junior guard Malik Tidwell knocked in a memorable buzzer-beater to win a supersectional and guard Ahron Ulis started to look like a star in the making towards the end of the season. The interior play of Chris White and Alec Dinwiddie was also underrated for this team as they featured a balanced roster. Many of the key pieces of this team are expected back, and this is a close-knit team. Marian Catholic will likely be Class 4A next season as well. 

7. Larkin (24-10, 11-1) -- Larkin had huge expectations this season after making a supersectional last season. They lived up to the hype by making it to Peoria in Class 4A. The duo of Anthony Lynch and Jalen Shaw was one of the best combinations in the area this season and they helped lead the Royals to an Upstate Eight River title. 

8. Curie (26-5, 8-1) -- Curie didn't claim a lot of the team hardware of many of the top 10 teams, but the Condors had some great wins over Orr and Morgan Park during the season. One of the Public League's best teams once again, the Condors also had convincing wins over sectional title teams like North Chicago and North Lawndale. Seniors Treavon and Tyree Martin both had solid careers while Maurice Commander and Marquise Walker had a lot of bright moments during the season.  

9. North Chicago (22-10, 14-0) -- The Warhawks flew under the radar of a lot of people this season. But they went out in convincing fashion after going undefeated in the Northern Lake County conference taking fourth place in Class 3A. Tyrek Cooper and Pierce Coleman led a strong senior group while Ishaun Walker played well in the state playoffs. 

10. Benet (27-5, 8-1) -- Benet had a great season in winning a sectional title in Class 4A. Winners of 18 straight games at one point this season, the Redwings claimed the Wheaton-Warrenville South MLK tournament and Fenwick Thanksgiving events as well. One of the area's best defenses, Benet held 14 opponents to 40 points or less. This unsung group had a solid senior class led by David Buh. 

11. West Aurora (25-5, 10-0) -- A great season for West Aurora as they won 17 straight games themselves at one point. The Blackhawks went unbeaten in winning the Upstate Eight Valley behind a balanced group. Senior Camron Donatlan is one of the area's best overall athletes in recent memory. Jared Crutcher also came on strong at the end of the season. 

12. Lake Zurich (26-8, 9-5) -- The Bears started the preseason in the Power Rankings and fought back in after a Class 4A sectional title and 26-win campaign. One of the area's better shooting teams, the Bears made history with talented players like Ryan Kutsor, Peter DiCerbo and J.R. Cison. 

13. North Lawndale (18-11, 3-6) -- North Lawndale made the most of its Class 3A run by winning a sectional title and falling to Morgan Park in the supersectional at Joliet Central. The Phoenix had a lot of close losses to elite teams during the season that prepared them for the deep Class 3A run as they were led by Demetrius Douglas and David Forrest.   

14. Marist (27-5, 7-2) -- Marist enjoyed another very successful season as a regional champion and one of the best teams in the tough ESCC. The RedHawks had a star in senior guard Morgan Taylor as this team won 27 games during the year. 

15. New Trier (25-6, 8-2) -- One of the biggest teams in the area, the Trevians used their elite size to share the top of the CSL South standings with rival Evanston. New Trier claimed a regional title while also winning some memorable games against conference rivals like the Wildkits and Niles North. Also winners of the Loyola/New Trier Thanksgiving event, New Trier junior Ciaran Brayboy will be a player to track heading into next year. 

16. DePaul Prep (24-7, 5-3) -- The Rams had a nice season as one of the strongest teams in the Catholic League. DePaul Prep came up short of winning a sectional title in Class 3A, but they beat a lot of quality competition during the season. Junior Perry Cowan was one of the area's top players and he could be a star next season. 

17. Bolingbrook (22-7, 7-3) -- Another good season for the Raiders as they nearly won another sectional title in Class 4A. With some of the better guards in the area in Kaleb Thornton, Joseph Yesufu and Tyler Cochran, Bolingbrook knocked off some really good teams, including a win over Morgan Park on Martin Luther King day.  

18. Willowbrook (26-6, 9-3) -- Willowbrook capped a great two-year stretch with the school's first regional title since 2004 and another 20-win campaign. Senior Ethan Schuemer is one of the best players in school history as he leaves as the program's all-time leading scorer. 

19. Niles North (26-5, 6-4) -- Niles North had a great season in the loaded CSL South while also claiming the Wheeling Hardwood Classic in December. The Vikings had a star in Damaria Franklin and other talented weapons like Jamal Stephenson and Drayvon Clayborn. 

20. Loyola Academy (24-7, 5-3) -- One of the area's strongest defensive teams, Loyola Academy had a great season in the Catholic League. Winning a holiday tournament in Naples, Florida, the Ramblers had a very good 10-game winning streak in the middle of the season. 

21. Homewood-Flossmoor (21-7, 9-1) -- The Vikings won the very tough SouthWest Suburban Blue by two games while also winning a regional title in Class 4A. After a decent start, the Vikings also deserve credit for an eight-game winning streak before losing in the playoffs to Marist. 

22. Joliet Central (23-6, 13-1) -- The Southwest Prairie champions had a very strong season before losing in a heartbreaker to Bolingbrook in the sectional semifinals of Class 4A. The Steelmen seemed to find themselves in a lot of memorable overtime games this season, including two against Romeoville, a triple-overtime win over Wheaton-Warrenville South and the double-OT playoff loss to Bolingbrook. 

23. Lincoln Park (19-10, 6-3) -- One of the Public League's biggest surprises this season, the Lions had some huge wins playing in the Red North/West. Taking down Whitney Young, Uplift, North Lawndale, Marian Catholic and Oak Park-River Forest, the Lions had some star power in senior Terrence Shannon.   

24. Lincoln-Way East (23-6, 7-3) -- The Griffins made history by winning the first regional title in school history for boys basketball. Also beating teams like Bolingbrook and Romeoville, Lincoln-Way East was led by very good senior class.

25. Brother Rice (19-11, 4-4) -- The Crusaders had a strong season while playing a solid schedule. Brother Rice had a convincing win over Kenwood for a regional title before putting up a battle with Simeon in the sectional semifinals. Brother Rice was also the runner-up in the 32-team Jack Tosh Holiday Classic. 

De La Salle's Steven Hawthorne talks about growing list of offers

De La Salle's Steven Hawthorne talks about growing list of offers

Why would students from De La Salle, a Chicago high school, take part in a charity dodgeball tournament over 30 miles away in Wheaton? For fun and games, of course. But to also raise funds and awareness for a good cause.

I had a chance to catch up with De La Salle’s three-star ranked junior defensive end Steven Hawthorne (6-foot-4, 220 pounds) at the sixth annual Franklin Middle School Dodgeball Tournament in Wheaton. Proceeds from the event benefitted the Northern Illinois Food Bank, Cammy Can, Jack’s Army and Franklin Middle School. Hawthorne is an upcoming senior who recently added his second Big Ten offer (Nebraska) this offseason. He could be on the verge of a major recruiting breakout this spring.

And Meteors head coach Mike Boehm and company may have picked up their first victory on the season. De La Salle took home a first place finish in their first-ever appearance.

Check out the interview with Steven Hawthorne above.