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High School Lites Preview: Playoff action begins

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High School Lites Preview: Playoff action begins

The regular season meets the playoffs on this weeks edition of High School Lites. IHSA postseason action begins in Class 1A and 2A. We will pay a visit to a few schools that are predicted to play basketball into March. Will Seton or Hope Academy be in the mix? Conference titles and bragging rights are also up for grabs in the north, west and south suburbs. Who will gain momentum as March Madness approaches? 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:

THURSDAY GAMES

Girls: Lincoln-Way East (26-4) vs. Marist (31-1), 7:30pm -- 4A Sandburg Sectional Championship

The 26-4 Griffins have many weapons, including Taylor Johnson, Caitlin McMahon and Meaghan McMahon. All three helped East push past Homewood-Flossmoor in the semifinals. Can they reach the Elite Eight? It all depends if they can contain Leah Bolton. The Marist junior forward racked up 25 points and seven rebounds against Marian Catholic on Tuesday. The winner will take on the champion of the Bloomington sectional on Tuesday.

Girls: Whitney Young (30-0) vs. Trinity (30-1), 7:30pm -- 4A Lyons Sectional Championship

Want to know how good Whitney Young is this year? The Dolphins faced Proviso East, a team with ample talent and future NCAA players, and ran out to a 44-17 halftime lead in Tuesdays semifinal. Youngs Janee Thompson, Linnae Harper and Alexis Lloyd all scored in double figures in the 69-34 victory. Trinity, behind DePaul recruit Megan Podkowa, will challenge Young. They advanced by beating another girls basketball powerhouse, Fenwick, 64-45. Trinitys only loss this season? A 62-47 loss to Whitney Young in December.

FRIDAY GAMES

Girls: Aurora Central Catholic (25-6) vs. Quincy Notre Dame (31-1), 6:30pm

ACC will have their work cut out on Friday as they take on Quincy, the defending 2A state champs. Central is paced by four-year varsity standout guard Jackie Cardona. Other state semifinals scheduled for Friday include Leroy vs. Freeport Aquin (12:00pm) and Illini Bluffs vs. Cowden-Herrick (2:00pm) in Class 1A, and Breese Central vs. Stillman Valley (8:15pm) in Class 2A. All state championship games will air on Chicago Nonstop, Comcast 341.

Grayslake Central (21-4) @ 8 Huntley (23-2), 7:00pm

This year's Fox Valley Championship features a Huntley team with a stout defense and one of the most talented sophomores in Chicagoland: 6-6 forward Amanze Egekeze. The Red Raiders are looking to surpass last year's 25-5 team that reached the sectional final. Grayslake Central has a team with senior leadership in center Casey Boyle and guard Jordan Taylor. This will be a great test for the Rams, as they could also face talented North Chicago down the road in sectional play.

Ridgewood (19-6) @ Riverside-Brookfield (21-4), 7:00pm

Will history repeat itself? R-B went into Norridge four weeks ago and walked away with a 71-63 win. Ridgewood couldn't contain 6-7, 220-pound center Miki Ljuboja, who racked up 23 points and 10 rebounds in the win. The Bulldogs also feature talented players in forward Luke Nortier and guard Damonta Henry. Ridgewood has a star in senior guard Andy Mazurczak, who scored 25 points in that previous game. It'll be senior night in Riverside and the Metro Suburban title will be up for grabs.

11 Hillcrest (21-4) @ 20 Lemont (23-2), 7:00pm

The visiting Hawks can win the South Suburban-Blue conference outright. Lemont, who will be looking for a share of the title, will be one of the toughest opponents of the year for Hillcrest. The Indians have a standout point guard in Juozas Balciunas. But Hillcrest is loaded: Jayon'e Troutman, Jalen Loving and Jovan Mooring are all threats with the ball. These two teams could also end up playing each other in the loaded 3A Rich East sectional.

Joliet West (15-9) @ Lockport (16-10), 7:30pm

If there was a matchup of two of the best sneaky-tough teams in Chicagoland, Joliet West vs. Lockport could be front and center on the marquee. Lockport has quality wins this season over Waukegan, at Homewood-Flossmoor and took West Aurora to overtime. The Porters feature Kyle Ward and Courtney Cole on the attack. Joliet West, who beat Lockport 49-48 back on January 27th, has one of the best centers in the conference, senior Marlon Johnson.

19 Seton Academy (23-4) vs. Hales (10-17), 7:30pm 2A ChicagoUniversity Regional Championship

Phew. That was the collective sigh of relief by the entire Seton program Wednesday night as they survived a massive semifinal scare by University High, 72-64 in double overtime. Russell Robinson, Mark Weems, Kamai Shasi, Jordan Foster and the rest of the Sting hope the rest of the playoffs are a little more on the smooth side. They will get the defending state champs in Fridays final. Hales advanced by beating St. Francis de Sales 80-60.

Latin (17-6) vs. Parker (18-8), 7:30pm 2A Holy Trinity Regional Championship

Its already one of the best rivalries in Chicagoland. So why not have another meeting where one team moves on and the other goes home? Latin advanced by beating the host school 67-42. Senior guard Chaz Stevenson leads the attack for the Romans. Parker got here by defeating Wells 62-51. Junior guard Langdon Neal should get a lot of looks for the Colonels. Latin beat Parker in triple overtime in December. Parker followed up with a rout of Latin earlier this month. An exciting night of basketball awaits.

Every Friday night, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from around Chicagoland. This weeks episode will air at 11:00pm, just after MVC basketball. In addition to the games above, we will check out the 1A regional championship at Chicago Hope Academy (semifinals are on Thursday). Our cameras will also head to Glenbard North High School for our Muscle Milk Team of the Week. At this west suburban school, well introduce you to one dedicated student who is going above and beyond in bringing basketball and cheerleading to new heights. 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. Email us at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada is back at the top of the White Sox batting order

Yoan Moncada’s time down near the bottom of the White Sox batting order came to a quick end this weekend. After just five games, Moncada returned to the top of the lineup for Friday’s game and was there again for Game 2 of the series with the visiting Kansas City Royals on Saturday.

It ended up being the “break” that manager Rick Renteria described it as, and the skipper, for one, believes that short stretch was beneficial to Moncada, who was struggling mightily when Renteria made that move last week.

Through the first 19 games of the second half, Moncada slashed .122/.250/.216 with three extra-base hits, four RBIs and 33 strikeouts. It was as noticeable a period of struggles at the plate as he’s had in his first full season in the majors, a campaign that has to this point failed to meet the big expectations the former No. 1 prospect in baseball carried with him into this season.

Renteria said that bumping Moncada down in the lineup would allow him to watch opposing pitchers face several other batters and remove the need to do certain things that come with batting leadoff.

For what it’s worth, Moncada got four hits — two of them for extra bases and one a home run — and walked twice in 18 plate appearances over the five games against the Cleveland Indians and Detroit Tigers. He struck out nine times. Friday, he returned to the leadoff spot and went 1-for-4 with a walk and a run scored (and no strikeouts).

“When we put him down in the bottom of the lineup, it’s because I wanted to have him see other players have multiple at-bats over the course of a couple of games,” Renteria said Saturday. “When you’re leading off, you have a chance of either working very well, working on base, getting your hits, whatever the case might be. But if it’s not working out, you start to get a little frustrated. You’re still grinding through it.

“The perspective that I’m giving him is, ‘Hey, listen, no matter who I put in there, they also make outs. Sometimes they don’t get on. Understand it’s just not you. It’s a difficult position in which you lead off the ballgame.’ I just wanted him to take a breath, take a step back, look at it, and then make an adjustment, allow him to get back into that situation.”

While the numbers from that five-game stretch aren’t enough to determine whether this is the start of a second-half turnaround for Moncada, Renteria said he did believe the experience to be a beneficial one for his second baseman.

“I thought it was beneficial,” he said. “I didn’t necessarily have this conversation to say, ‘Hey, did it work out for you for the last few days?’ Nothing like that. But as you’re talking to him, just in passing, as you go through conversations and you see where they’re at, hopefully we’re making the right decision and the right adjustments for them.”

Moncada still owns a .149 batting average in the second half. He’s on pace to strike out 235 times this season, which would be a new single-season major league record.

But this rebuilding season was always going to be about developmental growing pains. And the idea is that the experiences he’s going through now will pay dividends down the road, when the White Sox shift from rebuilding to contending and Moncada, the hope is, shifts from the developmental stage to the superstar stage.

Power Rankings: #6 - Nazareth

Power Rankings: #6 - Nazareth

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Nazareth Academy

Head coach: Tim Racki

Assistant coaches: Casey Moran, Joe Reynolds, Rudy Luna, Brody Budmayr, Jeff Tumpane, Joe Battaglia, Steve Gray, Tom Minogue, Matt Letcher, Larry White, Jonathon Bittle, Joe Felice

How they fared in 2017: 12-2 (6-1 East Suburban Catholic Conference), Nazareth Academy made the 2017 Class 6A state playoff field, defeated Springfield, Danville, Sacred Heart Griffin and Providence Catholic before losing to Prairie Ridge in the 6A state title game.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs. Lutheran North (Mo.)

Aug. 31 @ Lake Zurich

Sept. 7 @ Marian Central Catholic

Sept. 14 vs. St. Patrick

Sept. 21 @ Benet Academy

Sept. 28 @ Carmel

Oct. 5 vs. Marist

Oct. 12 vs. Joliet Catholic

Oct. 19 @ Marian Catholic

Biggest storyline: Can the Road Runners move up a class to 7A and win a state title in 2018?

Names to watch this season: RB/DB Devin Blakley (Miami of Ohio), WR/DB Michael Love (Bowling Green)

Biggest holes to fill: The Roadrunners welcome back 16 returning starters (7 offense, 9 defense) from last year's Class 6A state title runner-up team, yet more depth will be needed playing "up" in 7A this playoff season.

EDGY's Early Take: The Roadrunners and head coach Tim Racki (who will be playing up in Class 7A this year due to the IHSA Success Factor rule) came up just short in winning the Class 6A state title in 2017 and the 2018 Roadrunners bring back nearly every key player from that squad this fall. The offense will need to settle on a starting quarterback (including D1 recruit sophomore QB JJ McCarthy) while the offensive skills group is a major strength this fall. The Nazareth Academy defense is also loaded and senior DB/WR Diamond Evans along with senior DT Cameron Leach are just names among several others who are expected to make a major impact this season. If the Roadrunners offense can settle in under a new quarterback this team has the potential to win a state title in Class 7A.