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Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA Semifinals

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Saturday on CSN: High School Lites - IHSA Semifinals

CSN Chicago will have cameras covering the biggest IHSA semifinal football playoff games across Chicagoland and beyond on High School Lites, Saturday at 11pm. In Class 8A, can Palatine keep the magic alive and slay another giant in #1 ranked Loyola Academy? Also, in a game that can be seen on CSN Chicago and NBC Live Extra, can Waubonsie Valley advance by beating Marist on Chicago’s South Side? In 7A, can Cary-Grove win a slugfest against Glenbard West in Glen Ellyn? In 6A, can Prairie Ridge win on the road against power Montini Catholic? Catch highlights from games in 3A through 8A on this Saturday IHSA playoff edition of High School Lites.

Class 8A

Loyola (12-0) at Palatine (10-2), 5:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Loyola Academy was able to beat H-F 34-28 last Saturday as the Ramblers put together a 97-yard touchdown drive in the 4th quarter to advance. Loyola will look to its shotgun spread offense led by senior QB Emmett Clifford, senior RB Dara Laja and Northwestern commit WR Eric Eshoo. Palatine has simply played its best football all season in the playoffs. The Pirates needed to rally in last week's 28-24 win over Brother Rice. Palatine will rely heavily on senior QB Zach Oles (2,302 yards rushing, 20 TD; 2,063 yards passing, 19 TD), who is a threat with both the pass and the run at all times. Can the Palatine offense dent a very strong Loyola defense? Can the Loyola offense avoid turnovers and can the Pirates defense force some three and outs?

EDGY's Pick: Loyola Academy 31, Palatine 20

Waubonsie Valley (8-4) at Marist (8-4), 6:00 p.m. on CSN and NBC Live Extra

EDGY's Take: This matchup features two lower seeds who have caught fire at the right time. Waubonsie Valley and veteran head coach Paul Murphy entered the postseason after having lost its last two regular season games and drew a lowly #30 seed. The Warriors have gotten it done behind the running of senior RB Max Irhy and credit the offense in their refusal to give the football back quickly to opposing teams. Their defense is stingy as well. As for Marist? Head coach Pat Dunne has been lighting up the scoreboard once again behind the Redhawks spread passing game. Like Waubonsie Valley, Marist also entered the playoffs on a two game losing streak. For QB Brendan Skalitzky (3,412 yards 36 passing TD's) has been having an All-State caliber season. His main target has been senior RB Darshon McCullough (South Dakota State). Can the Marist defense get the football back from the Waubonsie Valley offense? Could rough weather be a factor here? 

EDGY's Pick: Waubonsie Valley 28, Marist 27

Class 7A

Cary-Grove (11-1) at Glenbard West (12-0), 1:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: If you like the running game and old school hard-hitting physical football, this is the game for you. Cary-Grove and head coach Brad Seaburg will run their triple option offense as junior FB/LB Ty Pennington (1,255 yards rushing 21 touchdowns) is the featured back. Glenbard West and head coach Chad Hetlet will establish the run first with Vanderbilt commit senior RB Sam Brodner (1,332 yards and 40 touchdowns). They will mix in the play action passing game, led by senior QB Brian Cochrane. Can Cary-Grove run the football consistently against the Glenbard West defense? Can the Glenbard West offense keep the Trojans offense on the sidelines? This game has the makings of being one of the top games statewide on Saturday.

EDGY's Pick: Glenbard West 17 Cary-Grove 14

[MORE PREPS: Edgy Tim's candidates for Player of the Year in Illinois]

Libertyville (12-0) at Bradley-Bourbonnais (9-3), 3:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Libertyville and head coach Mike Jones has been one of the favorites since the preseason to advance deep in the 7A field. So far, so good for the Wildcats. Libertyville senior QB Riley Lees (2,156 rushing yards 29 TD/1,663 passing yard 26 TD) has been one of the most electric players in the state in 2015. Lees runs the Wildcats shotgun read option attack and is a big time threat with the run. He has also proven his underrated passing ability in the postseason. Bradley and head coach Mike Kohl has been terrific so far in the playoffs. The Boilermakers have gotten contributions on offense from both the passing game led by QB Owen Starr and WR Camron Harrell along with the running game led by RB Noah Fritz and RB Donnie Ringo. Can the Boilermakers defense contain Riley Lees? Can Libertyville defend both the pass and run threat from Bradley? Can Libertyville play well on the road?

EDGY's Pick: Libertyville 27, Bradley-Bourbonnais 21

Class 6A

Prairie Ridge (11-1) at Montini, 1:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Prairie Ridge and head coach Chris Schremp is back making a deep postseason run. The Wolves feature a speedy triple option offense that has averaged 46 points per game so far in the playoffs. The Prairie Ridge offense starts with sophomore QB Samson Evans, who has game breaking ability on every carry. RB Nate Griffin is another big time runner for the Wolves.  Montini Catholic and veteran head coach Chris Andriano can also score some points when required. The Broncos attack starts with senior QB Justin Blake, who has amassed over 2,300 yards of total offense. Blake has a ton of weapons including junior RB Prince Walker and senior WR Tyler Millikan. Can the Montini defense slow down the option game from Prairie Ridge? Can Prairie Ridge defend the entire field against the Montini offense? 

EDGY's Pick: Montini Catholic 37, Prairie Ridge 35

Crete-Monee (10-2) at Hinsdale South (9-3), 6:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This matchup features two teams that look very similar on both sides of the football. Crete-Monee and head coach John Konecki is still coming off a stunning 38-35 win over Sacred Heart-Griffin. The Warriors offense is led by senior RB Clint Ratkovich, who will also see snaps under center along with sophomore QB Isiah Rucker.  Crete-Monee has a ton of speed in the offensive skills area, including senior WR Landon Lenoir (SIU), WR Kevin Pate and sophomore RB Xavier Ledet. Hinsdale South and head coach Mike Barry might have one of the state's most balanced and productive offenses. Senior QB Sean McCormack (2,810 passing yards 33 TD) and senior RB Marcus Curry (1,202 yards 15 touchdowns) give the Hornets offense sting, while senior DE Josh King (Michigan State) is the top ranked recruit in Illinois for the Class of 2016. Can Hinsdale South continue to move the ball at will this week like they have all postseason long?

EDGY's Pick: Hinsdale South 38, Crete-Monee 35

Class 5A

Nazareth (10-2) at St. Laurence (10-2), 1:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: Nazareth Academy and head coach Tim Racki look to make a repeat visit to the IHSA state finals after winning the Class 6A state title a season ago. The Roadrunners once again have some impact names to watch. That list includes senior WR/DB Julian Love (Notre Dame), junior RB Ivory Kelly-Martin, senior OL/DL Matt Prendergast (Lehigh) and junior OL/DL Devonte Dunn. St. Laurence and had coach Harold Blackmon has the Vikings in the state semifinals for the first time since 1979. The Vikings’ offense has also been a strength with QB Alex Martinez and RB Fayezon Smart. Can the Vikings defense find an answer for the Roadrunners’ multiple weapons? Can the Roadrunners ‘D slow down the Vikings offense? The key matchup here could be in the trenches on both sides of the ball.

EDGY's Pick: Nazareth Academy 34, St. Laurence 17

[MORE PREPS: Stanford, Oregon, Wisconsin courting Thomas Schaffer]

Lincoln-Way West (10-2) at Champaign Central (11-1) 2:00 p.m. at Centennial High School

EDGY's Take: Lincoln Way West and head coach Dave Ernst got a huge game last Saturday from senior RB Gabe Montalvo, with a credit to the oversized Warriors offensive line, in a 40-13 win over Peoria. Lincoln-Way West features three D-1 caliber offensive linemen in senior Justin Witt (NC State), Bryan Brokop (Nebraska) and junior Nate Henry (6-foot-4, 310 pounds). Champaign Central and head coach Nate Albaugh has the Maroons in the state semifinals for the first time in school history. Champaign Central is a run-first offense that can spread the wealth. They feature hard running FB Matt Brown along with QB Walker Stillman and a speedy group of wing backs. Can Champaign Central's defense match-up against the extra large Lincoln-Way West offensive line?  Can the Warriors defense slow down a highly productive Maroons offense

EDGY's Pick: Lincoln-Way West 35, Champaign Central 17

Class 4A

Marengo (12-0) at Phillips (12-0), 5:00 p.m. at Gately Stadium

EDGY's Take: Marengo and head coach Matt Lynch took full advantage of nine Rockford Lutheran fumbles in its 38-28 win last Saturday. Most impressive was the Indians defense, which held the state's all time leading career rusher James Robinson to just 108 yards. The Indians are a pass-heavy team with QB Zach Knobloch and a strong group of offensive skills led by RB Jarren Jackson and WR Cration Nice. Phillips, coached by Tim McAllister, are knocking on the door once again. They’re hoping to make a back-to-back Class 4A state title game appearance with a win on Saturday. The Wildcats are led on offense by senior QB Quayvon Skanes (UConn) plus junior RB Kahmari Mosby and a big and physical line on both sides of the football. Can the Indians throw the football consistently against the Wildcats defense? Can Phillips offense spread the field and make the Marengo defense cover the entire field? Could weather be a big factor?

EDGY's Pick: Phillips 38, Marengo 21

Class 3A

Bishop McNamara (11-1) at IC Catholic Prep (11-1), 4:00 p.m.

EDGY's Take: This game is a rematch from Week One as Bishop McNamara beat Immaculate Conception 49-32. Bishop McNamara and head coach Rich Zinanni will look towards senior RB Jonathon Ware (Central Michigan) to lead the way. QB Kobe Shutter is also very capable in the play action passing game. Immaculate Conception and head coach Bill Krefft also has a top-flight running back in junior Jordan Rowell, who has been drawing considerable recruiting interest this fall. Can the Fighting Irish beat the Knights for a second time in 2015? Can Immaculate Conception's defense slow down Jonathon Ware this time around? What adjustments can IC make this time around against Bishop Mac?

EDGY's Pick: Bishop McNamara 35, Immaculate Conception 27

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

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AP

Strikeout machine Alec Hansen wants to be the best ... OK, one of the best

GLENDALE, Ariz. — On a day when Jose Abreu and Yoan Moncada took live batting practice for the first time this spring, off in the distance was a lanky White Sox prospect standing in the outfield grass.

But Alec Hansen was doing more than shagging flies. He was watching both hitters very closely.

“I was looking to see how much pop they had,” Hansen said of Abreu and Moncada. “I kind of look at that to see the difference in power between minor league ball and the major leagues. It’s nice to see it’s not a huge difference. That makes me feel a bit more comfortable.”

At 6-foot-8 — actually 6-foot-8-and-a-half, according to his spring training physical — Hansen is a big man with big plans for his baseball career. He might be quiet on the outside, but he has booming expectations for himself on the inside.

“I want to be the best,” Hansen said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago.

The best? The very best?

That’s what Hansen aspires to become, though later in our conversation, he did dial back a notch, settling for becoming “one of the best.”

Either is fine with manager Ricky Renteria, who is overseeing these uber-confident White Sox prospects and accepts their lofty expectations.

“I think their mindset is where it’s supposed to be,” Renteria said. “None of these kids are concerned or consumed with the possibility of failure. Much more they’re consuming themselves with the understanding that they might hit some stumbling blocks, but they’re going to have a way to avoid overcoming them and push forward and be the best that they can be.”

In his first full season in the White Sox organization, Hansen led the minor leagues with 191 strikeouts. He’s proud of that accomplishment but admitted something: He’s not that impressed because he didn’t do it where it really matters — in the major leagues.

When you watch Hansen pitch, it’s easy to see that the talent is there. His coaches and teammates rave about his ability. With his enormous size and power arm, he is loaded with strengths.  

Though there is one weakness that Hansen acknowledges he needs to work on.

“Sometimes I have a tendency to think too much and worry. I think worrying is the worst thing that I do just because I want to be perfect,” Hansen said. “I think everyone wants to be perfect, some more than others, and I worry about things getting in the way of achieving perfection.”

To Hansen, that doesn’t mean throwing a perfect game. He actually takes it one step further.

He wants to strikeout every single hitter he faces.

“I love striking people out,” Hansen said. “Not having to rely on anyone else and just getting the job done myself and knowing that the hitter can’t get a hit off me. That’s a great feeling. That they can’t put it in play. Like a line drive out. That’s terrible.”

At some point, Hansen will have to lower these impossible expectations for himself. This is an imperfect game. There’s no place for nine-inning, 27-strikeout performances. Players end up in the Hall of Fame because they learn how to succeed with failure.

In the meantime, Hansen is here in big league camp watching and learning anything and everything.

“I’m a good observer. I listen. I don’t really talk too much. I’m a pretty quiet guy. I like to sit back and observe and see how these guys go about their business. Just trying to be at their level, hopefully one day surpass them.”

Surpass?

“It’s kind of hard to surpass some of these guys. I mean, they’re at the tip-top, like the pinnacle of the sport,” Hansen said. “I guess you could say, to get on that level and then be one of the best in the league.”

He might be on his way.

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

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USA TODAY

Reflective Jimmy Butler looks back on time in Chicago during All-Star weekend

LOS ANGELES — Jimmy Butler was absent from the scoresheet of the All-Star Game, unless you count a “DNP-Coaches’ Decision” as activity. Whether due to the All-Star festivities of the weekend or even the grinding minutes he plays under Tom Thibodeau, it wasn’t truly surprising to see him want to have a night off of sorts.

But what was mildly surprising was the reflection he displayed on Saturday at All-Star Media Day in reference to his time with the Chicago Bulls. Usually, Butler’s armor is up because of his feelings surrounding his draft-night departure.

“I learned a lot in Chicago,” Butler said. “Just all through the season and life in general. What to do, what not to do and how to adapt to any situation that you’ve been in. I’ve done that to the best of my abilities. I have a ways to go in that.”

It’s clear he’s still grasping the weight of his words as the best player on a team, or at least, the player whose words impact everything around him.

“A people pleaser? No, I just didn’t say much,” Butler said. “Now I just don’t care. I never talked whenever I was in the league at an early age. It really didn’t matter, nothing I did was gonna make or break us when it comes to losing a game. Now it does and I have a lot to say. Half the time it’s not the right time or right way to say it but it’s okay.”

Whether it was the battles with Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg or the internal struggles in the Bulls’ locker room through his ascension from bench warmer to rotation player to impact player to now, a legitimate star, he’s modifying his approach—just a tad.

“I’ve never been the best player on my own team. I was in Tomball,” he joked, in reference to his beginnings in small town Texas. “I wasn’t in junior college. At Marquette I wasn’t. I’m probably not now. In Chicago I wasn’t. You just pick up on it, watch others and learn.”

He admitted to writing in a journal and reading self-help books now that he’s in Minnesota. The novel he’s reading now, “Faith, Forward, Future” is authored by Chad Veach, a Los Angeles pastor and the subtitle of the book says “Moving past your disappointments, delays and destructive thinking.”

Whether he started the book following a slow start with the Timberwolves in November, where his nightly numbers looked like one of a high-level role player, he took some self-evaluation before leading the charge since, playing like an MVP candidate with 25.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists on 49 percent shooting since the start of December.

“It’s relatively new. Yeah, basketball is still basketball but it’s hard when somebody else is coming in and roles change overnight,” Butler said. “You gotta see where you fit in with the group. At the end of the day you gotta win. I didn’t feel the way I was playing was our best opportunity to win games.”

Bringing along the likes of Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, with Towns being a fellow All-Star for the first time, has been a process.

“I’ve never actually had to be a leader,” Butler said. “I just always done what I was supposed to do, didn’t say much and played hard. Now you know, everybody wants to call someone a leader.”

He disputes taking a softer hand, especially as Towns and Wiggins seem to struggle with sustaining concentration at critical moments. The Timberwolves won’t be able to make those mistakes during the playoffs, but he’s being more selective with his words.

“I’m not soft,” he said. “If I see something wrong, I speak on it. If you don’t like it, oh well. You’ll get over it.”

One thing he could take a bird’s eye view of was the aftermath of LeBron James and Kevin Durant’s comments to the “Uninterrupted”, where they were criticized by cable news hosts for speaking out against President Donald Trump.

No stranger to criticism, Butler would likely have the same approach if he dipped his toes into that arena.

“I like it. You got the right to say what you want and you speak on what you think is right,” Butler said. “Good for them. And they are magnified in a very big way. They embrace it and they’re doing the right thing, I’m all for it.”

And if the day comes where he doesn’t stick to sports, Butler’s directness and lack of diplomacy would certainly cause an interesting reaction.

“I don’t care. Whatever I believe in, I believe in,” Butler said. “Everybody else does it. You see everybody on Twitter and the Internet doing it and saying what they want to say. We just have a different job than the person to our left and right.”

Well, not quite a warm and fuzzy Jimmy Butler.