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High School Lites Preview

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High School Lites Preview

March Madness is officially here! High School Lites on Comcast SportsNet and CSNChicago.com are the only places where you will get highlights from regional, sectional and state semifinal highlights on Friday night. Which boys teams will take home regional or sectional plaques? And which girls teams will move on for a chance to take home a state championship? 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:

BOYS
Providence-St. Mel (22-7) vs. Tilden (16-13), 2A Lisle Sectional Championship, 7:30pm

The Lisle sectional will get two number-one seeds squaring off for the right to advance to Tuesdays super-sectional at Joliet Central (vs. either Seton or Leo). Providence-St.Mel advanced by defeating Latin, 61-45. Khalil Small was impressive, scoring 19 points and grabbing 15 boards. Tilden is two wins away from advancing downstate for the first time since 1950, when Johnny Red Kerr guided the team to a city championship and the state quarterfinals.
No. 16 Marshall (21-7) vs. Westinghouse (11-9), 3A Marshall Regional Championship, 6:00pm

It was destined to be a Red-West matchup no matter what, but Westinghouse wasnt the expected team to face Marshall. Instead, the Warriors upset North Lawndale 51-48 in Wednesdays semifinal. Marshalls backcourt is one of the best in the city, with Milton Doyle and Korbin McClain running the show. Westinghouse senior Ricky Battles missed a few weeks earlier in the season with an injury, but the standout guard has come back to lead the team down the stretch.

St. Joseph (19-8) vs. Farragut (13-8), 3A Nazareth Regional Championship, 7:30pm

Two programs steeped in tradition will go head-to-head in LaGrange Park. Legendary head coach Gene Pingatore's Chargers advanced by beating Glenbard South Tuesday night. Senior Reggie Johnson scored 30 for the victors. They will now face a Farragut team anchored by one of the top big-men in the area, 6-7 senior power forward Rashaun Stimage. The Admirals defeated the host school 74-47 Tuesday behind 21 points from Stimage.

Glenbrook North (20-6) vs. Niles North (19-8), 4A Niles North Regional Championship, 7:30pm

It will be the rubber game between two talented Central Suburban North squads. The 20-6 Spartans blew past the Vikings on December 6th in Northbrook, 67-39, while North stormed back on January 20th, winning 56-54 in Skokie. How much will home-court advantage play a role in this one? North has a talented and quickguard in Malachi Nix. North will counter with a pair of juniors, guard Kurt Karis and forward Andrew McAuliffe.

Metea Valley (23-4) vs. Benet (21-6), 4A Metea Valley Regional Championship, 7:30pm

Can Benet recapture some of the magic of the last two seasons? They have quietly won 21 games and feature one of the top up-and-coming players in Chicagoland, 6-8 Sean OMara. Pat McInerney is one of the leading seniors. Metea Valley stormed out of the gates this season and hung on in the regional semis, defeating Geneva by three. Kenny Obendorf and Ryan Soloman have played very well for the Mustangs this year.

No. 1 Simeon (27-1) vs. Vocational (18-8), 4A Oak Lawn Regional Championship, 7:30pm

It wasn't the prettiest game by Simeon standards, but the Wolverines won their playoff opener Tuesday night by defeating Oak Lawn 64-25 in the regional semis. Steve Taylor (16 points, 10 rebounds) made up for a little bit of rusty play by the rest of the starters. They now face a Vocational team who is coming off a 57-53 win over Hyde Park. The Wolverines defeated Vocational 63-42 back on January 20th.
St. Rita (16-10) vs. Whitney Young (15-9), 4A Whitney Young Regional Championship, 7:30pm

Although Young is still without the services of junior forward Tommy Hamilton (torn patella tendon), they received good news when Paul White returned to action Tuesday after sitting out a month with a toe injury. These two teams have one unique bond: they have played grueling schedules against out-of-state foes. St. Rita, who is paced by Western Michigan-bound A.J. Avery and Penn recruit Tony Hicks, is coming off a 56-47 win over Stagg.

No. 3 Curie (25-2) vs. Marist (24-5), 4A Marist Regional Championship, 7:30pm

It'll be interesting to see how far home-court advantage will take the Marist Redhawks. Junior guard L.J. McIntosh scored 30 points for Marist en route to a 77-61 victory over Brother Rice in Tuesday's semifinal. Could an upset be in the cards? Not if Devin Foster, Cliff Alexander and the rest of the Condors have their way. Curie rolled to a 76-42 victory over Reavis on Tuesday. Alexander, a 6-9 sophomore power forward, scored 16.

No. 6 Bogan (25-3) vs. No. 18 De La Salle (17-6), 4A Mount Carmel Regional Championship, 7:30pm

This will be the only game pitting two ranked teams against one another. Ironically, both teams are fortunate to be playing for a regional title. Bogan survived a major upset scare Tuesday, nipping Mount Carmel 65-64. Devonte Smith scored 26 points against the Caravan and will pose a threat to De La Salle. The Meteors advanced by beating Kenwood; however, they will once again be without 6-8 forward Gavin Schilling on Friday (ankle injury).

GIRLS

Springfield (29-4) vs. Vernon Hills (26-5), 3A State Semifinal, 12:00pm
Vernon Hills will be making their first trip to the state tournament. Sophomore Lauren Webb has been a catalyst. She tallied a double-double (22 points, 11 rebounds) in her team's victory over Belvidere North in the super-sectional. As for the Senators, they're going to state for the fourth consecutive season. They defeated Saled 77-50 to advance. Zahna Medley scored 33 points in the victory.

Montini (31-5) vs. Hillcrest (27-3), 3A State Semifinal, 2:00pm

Going downstate has become a common theme for both the Montini and Hillcrest girls basketball programs. Two-time defending 3A champ Montini features 6-4 junior Malayna Johnson, a Wisconsin recruit. The Broncos have a deep team, but they will get a big challenge from a Hillcrest team who defeated Morton (IL) in the super-sectional behind 12 points from Shannise Heady. Montini has defeated Hillcrest in the last two state championship games.

Bartlett (31-1) vs. Whitney Young (32-0), 4A State Semifinal, 6:30pm

Will Whitney Young have anything left in the tank? The Dolphins survived an epic four-overtime battle with three-time defending state champion Bolingbrook on Monday. The key for Bartlett has to be containing Kentucky recruit Janee Thompson, who scored 34 points in the win over the Raiders. Bartlett, who has a star of their own in Haley Videckis, advanced to state by defeating DeKalb 48-30.

Edwardsville (33-1) vs. Loyola (26-7), 4A State Semifinal, 8:15pm

Loyola doesn't necessarily have height (their tallest starter is 5-10), but they're one of the toughest defending teams in the state. Loyola limited their first four playoff opponents to an average of 27 points before this week's 43-41 win over Wheeling in the super-sectional. Senior Lauren Kriz guided her team to an upset of top-seeded Maine South in the sectional semis. Edwardsville, led by Emmonnie Henderson, advanced by beating Marist.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. This weeks episode will air at 10:30pm, just after our Bulls and Blackhawks coverage. Just as teams go dancing in March, we are doing the same with our Muscle Milk Team of the Week. Well introduce you to Maine Souths Hawkettes, a nationally-ranked dance team that is Luvabull. 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.

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

Some perspective on Pedro Strop's tough outing and struggles

Some perspective on Pedro Strop's tough outing and struggles

Pedro Strop has had a tough go of it lately, but that doesn't mean it's time to panic on one of the most consistent relievers in Cubs history.

After blowing the game Monday night in San Francisco — his third blown save of the month — Strop now has a 5.47 ERA on the year and an 8.22 mark in July alone. In fact, nearly half the runs he's allowed in 2019 have come this month — 7 of 16.

But Strop has been pitching better than his ERA indicates — his FIP (Fielding Independent Pitching) is nearly a full run lower than his ERA this season. His strikeout rate (27.4 percent) and walk rate (8.5 percent) are the lowest they've been since 2016. 

That being said, the 34-year-old has also seen a precipitous spike in hard contact rate and his soft contact percentage is way down. He's been plagued by the home run ball this year more than ever before, serving up 1.7 dingers per 9 innings, the highest rate of his career (though the same can be said for many pitchers this season).

So Strop clearly hasn't been his typical dominant self this year, but he also deserves a better fate than he's had to this point in the season.

Take Monday night, for example. 

Strop came on to pitch the eighth inning of a game the Cubs were leading 4-2 and promptly gave up a leadoff double to Pablo Sandoval. On paper, that's obviously not a great start, but look at where this pitch was when the Giants third baseman hit it:

Strop followed that by striking out Stephen Vogt before executing a nice pitch to Brandon Crawford and inducing a groundball...only to see it sneak through the infield for an RBI hit:

Then came a groundout before Austin Slater's game-tying double that came just inches away from Albert Almora Jr.'s glove in center field. 

The final blow was the go-ahead double by Joe Panik...on a ball that was higher than Strop would've liked it, but still not a bad pitch off the plate outside:

These are not bad pitches; it's not like Strop was leaving the ball over the heart of the plate all inning.

How's this for bad luck — the Sandoval double was pegged for just a .070 expected batting average. 

Crawford's single was hit at 89.7 mph and had an expected batting average of .360. By comparison, Kyle Schwarber hit a grounder in the top of the inning at 102.9 mph with an expected batting average of .630 and it was an out. It was simply a matter of Crawford's ball finding a hole while Schwarber hit his right at a defender. 

No matter which way you slice it, this was a tough luck outing for the veteran setup man. 

But bad luck or not, Strop still hasn't been getting the consistent results the Cubs need in crucial innings of a tight playoff race, so it's understandable manager Joe Maddon was asked about the bullpen usage on his weekly appearance with 670 The Score Tuesday afternoon:

"When Pedro's in the game, I really feel good about it," Maddon said. "We all do. I think last night, it was more about pitch selection than it was necessarily about stuff. He was one pitch away from getting out of that thing. 

"If you replay and look at it, you see the hit by Sandoval — that ball literally almost bounced. It really did and it almost hit his back foot. I don't know how he kept that ball fair, but he did. Good for him. And then Crawford hits a slow ground ball up the middle that gets between two guys that are outstanding infielders and that's a hit."

Maddon went on to say the last hit — Panik's double — was the more concerning one because it was a sinker that just didn't drop enough. Maddon said he'd rather see Strop go to his wicked slider in that situation than lean on a pitch (the sinker/fastball) that has seen a dip in velocity and value this season.

"I don't think Pedro's that far off," Maddon said. "Maybe the velocity's down a little bit more than anything. To utilize his cutter/slider and really get that to where he wants it — those are the devastating pitches. So that was my bigger concern last night."

Moving forward, it doesn't sound as if Maddon will shy away from utilizing Strop in high-leverage situations again, but the Cubs also have the luxury of a pretty deep bullpen where they could utilize some other arms (Steve Cishek, Brandon Kintzler) to pitch the eighth inning and help bridge the gap to closer Craig Kimbrel.

Strop is 34 now and has dealt with some health issues over the last calendar year, but he has such a long track record of success that it wouldn't be surprising to see him once again emerge as a lights-out reliever before the season ends.

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Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

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USA TODAY

Dave Leitao suspended 3 games, DePaul put on 3-year probation

The DePaul men's basketball team has been placed on three-year probation and head coach Dave Leitao has been suspended three games for the 2019-20 season, the NCAA announced on Tuesday.

The program was found guilty of "failing to promote an atmosphere of compliance while Leitao did not "prevent violations from occurring in his program."

A Division I Committee on Infractions panel concluded that a "former DePaul associate head coach violated NCAA ethical conduct rules when he knowingly directed the former assistant director of basketball operations to provide impermissible recruiting benefits to a recruit."

The NCAA found that three coaches knew about the situation but failed to report the infractions. DePaul will vacate all wins earned while the ineligible player competed and suffer recruiting restrictions. They were also fined $5,000 plus 1% of the men's basketball program budget.

In 2019, DePaul had their first winning season since 2007 by going 19-17.