Preps Talk

James Jones leads Bogan to a title at Riverside-Brookfield

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James Jones leads Bogan to a title at Riverside-Brookfield

Luwane Pipkins, Charles Matthews and Aaron Jordan all showed up to watch their former teams at the annual Riverside-Brookfield Shootout this weekend. The attendance of three decorated seniors was a reminder that a lot of star power left Illinois high school basketball with the graduation of the Class of 2015.

The era of stars leading powerhouse teams to state titles has an uncertain future entering the 2015-16 high school basketball season.

There isn't a Jalen Brunson, Jahlil Okafor or Jabari Parker type of individual talent to make a team nearly unbeatable as they roll to Peoria. The Class of 2016 will likely be the second time ever the state of Illinois doesn't produce a McDonald's All-American. Rivals only has three players from the Land of Lincoln listed in its current national top 150 for the 2016 class and no one from Illinois is in the top half.

The local headlining stars of the future appear uncertain, but it will make for an exciting and wide-open high school basketball season for 2015-16.

Action at Riverside-Brookfield this weekend indicated that we could be in for a close (and fun) year. On Sunday alone, Morgan Park beat Whitney Young on a buzzer-beater, Kenwood topped Simeon on a buzzer-beater and Bogan captured the title over Kenwood with a late 3-pointer in the final seconds from senior James Jones -- all in a three-hour window.

It was the culmination of a good opening June weekend of summer basketball that makes it appear that things could go in a number of different ways this season.

Bogan emerges as a legitimate threat once again

Defending city champion Bogan was led by the spectacular play of Jones, who had multiple high-scoring performances on Sunday against talented teams in Marian Catholic and Kenwood. The 6-foot-3 Jones is already a known mid-major recruit who was consistently dominant scoring the ball at R-B. Of the five biggest scoring performances of the weekend, Jones had three of them, and his biggest outing came with 31 points in the championship game win over Kenwood.

Using his quick first step and explosiveness, Jones finished plays above the rim, hit perimeter jumpers and also made clutch plays throughout the weekend. The consistent scoring ability of Jones -- who wasn't shabby on the defensive end, either -- made the Bengal role players comfortable staying within their strengths as the Red-South power went unbeaten over the weekend.

Head coach Arthur Goodwin has another experienced returning guard in Bryce Barnes, who had a nice spring playing reserve minutes in the Nike EYBL for the Mac Irvin Fire.

The combination of Barnes and Jones is a big reason the Bengals will be a favorite for the city and a state title this season.

Kenwood makes a statement

The Red-Central was won by Kenwood last season and the Broncos return most of the pieces from that 2014-15 group that had a breakthrough year. Led by senior forward Nick Robinson and senior guard Zion Morgan, Kenwood has multiple Division I prospects in the starting lineup and they have a good amount of size.

[RELATED: Simeon, Downers South lead Day 1 charge at Riverside-Brookfield]

In a tight win over Simeon, junior big man Manny Patterson showed he was healthy and ready to make an impact with 14 points on putbacks and post touches. With a smaller Wolverine team than last year, they had a tough time stopping Patterson in the semifinals. Junior forward Dave Hunt provides a lot of energy among the starting group as well and he buried the game-winning 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Simeon on Sunday.

Head coach Marlo Finner has done a great job of building a winner in a short amount of time and it should be an interesting year in the Red-Central with Curie returning to the Red Division.

Other Observations

- While James Jones helped his recruiting stock more than any other player this weekend, Morgan Park senior guard Jarrin Randall was also tremendous. The 5-foot-11 guard hit a 30-foot 3-pointer at the buzzer to beat Whitney Young and buried a lot of tough perimeter shots this weekend. After shooting 43 percent (25-for-58) in the Nike EYBL this spring, Randall looked really good shooting the ball off the catch or off the dribble. With his quick release and ability to space the floor, Randall should have a lot of low-major eyes on him this July. Teammate Jamal Burton was also very good and they picked up the slack when teammate Charlie Moore sat out with injury.

- Speaking of Whitney Young, they're on the younger side, but they have some talented pieces. Senior point guard Derrick Freeman is one of the fastest end-to-end players in the state while sophomore Justin Boyd is comfortable hunting shots from 3-point territory. Junior wing Lucas Williamson also showed flashes of solid play this weekend.

- Strong showing from Marian Catholic, who is very young but has the talent of a potential CSN Preps Power Rankings team. The sophomore backcourt of point guard Chase Adams and shooting guard Brandon Hurt is talented while junior Austin Ritchie can also get going as a perimeter scorer. Senior Myles Howard was an intriguing 6-foot-8 forward who defended everyone from James Jones on the perimeter to post players on the interior. This team didn't have talented junior wing T.J. Smith for the weekend and the Spartans gave Bogan everything they had on Sunday in a close loss after a 3-0 opening day.

[RELATED: End of the year CSN Preps Boys Basketball All-Area Team]

- While I mentioned the strong play of sophomore wing Alan Griffin from the first day of action, Oak Park-River Forest has a lot more talent than that. Senior guard Breshawn Wilkerson constantly plays in attack mode and it rubs off on the rest of a talented team that plays an aggressive brand of ball. Griffin continued to hit more shots on Sunday and this team has many more capable scorers on the roster as well.

- Another talented sophomore to keep an eye on this season will be West Aurora guard Camron Donatlan. The 6-foot-0 lefty has long arms and good athleticism as he can already score in multiple ways while finding teammates with solid passing ability. Donatlan put up some big numbers at R-B and could be one of the more productive second-year players in the area this season.

- Playing without injured star junior guard Nojel Eastern, Evanston took home the title in the second-place bracket. Besides a two-point loss to eventual champion Bogan, the Wildkits went 5-1 on the weekend playing a disciplined brand of team ball. Head coach Mike Ellis has a lot of hard-playing guards (senior Micquel Roseman, junior Chris Hamil) for a team that should be tough to beat this season.

- Be on the lookout for some good basketball coming from Downers Grove this year. I mentioned Downers South from my report on Saturday and Downers North also won their pool before running into a tough matchup with Simeon on Sunday. Head coach Jim Thomas has a talented wing to build around in senior Devin Blake the Trojans have some pieces in place for a good season.

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. 

Check out the AP boys basketball polls as regular season winds down

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NBC SPORTS

Check out the AP boys basketball polls as regular season winds down

Here is the latest AP boys basketball polls. The girls basketball polls are done with the playoffs underway in all four classes.

Class 4A

School                                 W-L       Pts   Prv

1. Simeon (9)                      25-3      90    1

2. Belleville West                23-2      75    3

3. Curie                                22-3      74     2

4. Danville                           23-2      67      4

5. Whitney Young               22-7     52     T5

6. Normal West                   21-6     28     T5

7. Quincy                              19-4      21     T10

8. Bloomington                   18-7      15     8

9. Evanston                          20-5      14     7

10. New Trier                       22-3       12     NR

Others receiving votes: Moline 11, Niles North 10, Lisle (Benet Academy) 10, St. Viator 5, Naperville North 4, Maine South 2, Rockford Jefferson 1.

Class 3A

School                                            W-L          Pts    Prv

1. Morgan Park (7)                       18-9         88     2

2. Springfield Southeast (2)        22-3         82     1

3. Marian Catholic                        20-4         67     4

4. Hillcrest                                      21-5         57     5

(tie) Springfield Lanphier             22-3         57     3

6. Alton Marquette                       28-0         44      6

7. Centralia                                    21-4          32      7

8. DePaul College Prep                20-6          31      8

9. Champaign Central                  17-7          13      10

10. Decatur MacArthur                 18-8         9        NR

Others receiving votes: Lincoln 6, Burlington Central 6, Bogan 3.

Class 2A

School                                       W-L          Pts     Prv

1. Orr (11)                                 23-4         110     1

2. Warsaw West Hancock      22-2         83       3

3. Pinckneyville                       25-3         76       T4

4. Winnebago                          24-2         75       2

5. Monticello                            22-1         69       6

6. Leo                                        19-5         65       T4

7. Bloomington Central Catholic       21-6         42   8

8. Effingham St. Anthony                    25-3         23   7

9. Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley               24-3         12   NR

10. Trenton Wesclin                             24-4         9     NR

Others receiving votes: Eldorado 7, Corliss 6, St. Joseph-Ogden 6, Bureau Valley 5, Uplift 5 Teutopolis 4, Williamsville 3, Quincy Notre Dame 2, Farmington  2, Casey-Westfield 1

Class 1A

School                                      W-L          Pts      Prv

1. Aurora Christian (9)            22-1        108      1

2. DePue (1)                              24-2        85        2

3. East Dubuque (1)                26-3        80        4

4. Annawan                              25-3        75        5

5. Payson Seymour                 26-2        68        3

6. Sterling Newman                 23-4       57        6

7. Colfax Ridgeview                  24-4       48        7

8. New Berlin                             25-3       33        8

9. Cairo                                       21-5       22        9

10. Nokomis                              21-7         9        NR

Others receiving votes: Newark 8, Quest Academy 5, Milford 4, Cissna Park 2. Okawville 1.