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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 11:33 p.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com
Comcast SportsNet is your number one source for high school sports in Chicagoland. The boys basketball playoffs are underway in class 1A & 2A. Well have highlights of three regional championship games in the area. Well also take you to Chicago Heights where the Southland conference will be decided. Will Crete-Monee win it outright or will Bloom take a share of the title? Plus, we sit down with Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu and Mike Shawthree high school seniors looking to contribute to the Fighting Illini next season. And well bring you the story of the high flying Warriors of Wheaton Academya team that hasnt lost to an in-state opponent yet this year. Here is a snapshot of each game we will cover on Friday night, which include updates on the girls basketball playoff picture:
(17) Lyons @ Proviso West, 6:00pm

The Lions (22-2, 11-0) look to finish the regular season with a perfect record in the West Suburban Silver Friday night in Hillside. Spencer Mahoney, Eric Powers, Nick Zeisloft and company will look to keep the momentum going after a heart-stopping 55-53 win over Proviso East in the City-Suburban Showdown. Proviso West (16-8, 8-3) is currently a distant second in conference and will not factor in the title chase, but theyre having a solid season thanks to a well-balanced attack led by standout guard Nick Frazier.
(12) Crete-Monee @ Bloom, 6:30pm

The only thing standing in the way between Crete-Monee (20-3, 8-1) and a Southland conference title is a Bloom team that has already succumbed to the Warrior attack earlier this year (56-45 on January 21st). So why should 12th ranked Crete-Monee be concerned? Revenge factor aside, the Blazing Trojans (15-10, 7-2) are getting key contributions from forward Lajavius Johnson. He will have to bring his game Friday to help his team get a share of the title. Crete-Monee boasts a rugged lineup featuring DePaul-bound guard Jamee Crockett.
Crystal Lake Central @ Crystal Lake South, 7:00pm

Crystal Lake Central (21-4, 11-1) might not get a lot of the love that their fellow 20-game winners are getting, but the Gators have been thriving on the lack of limelight. They hope to sneak up on teams in the playoffs behind senior Joe Pijanowski and junior Chase Cane. The host Gators (15-10, 4-6) are paced by senior forward Kevin Rogers. Central has not lost a game since January 19th against Grayslake North.

St. Ignatius @ (23) Mt. Carmel, 7:30pm

This game might make you wonder if the Fighting Illini could have used St. Ignatius Nnanna Igwu and the Caravans Tracy Abrams this year. The two Illinois-bound prep stars square off Friday night in a game that could be a nice springboard for the state playoffs that lie ahead. The visiting Wolfpack have won six straight games, including Sundays 52-41 win over Leo. 23rd ranked has been on fire since the Pekin Holiday Tournament, losing only to Halesby four points.

Batavia @ (18) East Aurora, 7:30pm

The 18th ranked Tomcats (19-5, 10-2) hope to have guard Letrell Snoop Viser back for the game against Batavia. He left last during last Friday's game against Lake Park with a sprained ankle. UConn-bound star Ryan Boatright looks for one final regular season tuneup before the playoffs begin. The visiting Bulldogs (13-11, 8-4) have won three straight, including Tuesday's 45-37 win over Streamwood. Senior guard Jesse Coffey hopes to make it back into the lineup for Batavia after an illness kept him sidelined earlier this week.
Elgin @ Streamwood, 7:30pm

Like East Aurora, the Elgin Maroons (20-5, 9-2) can call themselves conference champs after a decade-long wait. Elgin previous Upstate Eight title was in 2000-01, East won it previously in 1998-99. But if the Maroons want to win it outright, they will have to defeat Streamwood (8-17, 3-8) on the road. Elgin's junior guard Kory Brown has been an absolute force this year. He is coming off a season-high 30 points Tuesday against Grayslake Central.

(11) Hales Franciscan vs. Chicago Christian, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Chicago Christian)

Will the 11th ranked Spartans play in Peoria? The magic eight ball consensus would say "yes." Hales Franciscan (22-4), an elite team featuring brothers Aaron and Aaric Armstead, cruised past Dyett Wednesday night 85-46 in the regional semifinal. However, they cannot afford to look ahead, especially after what happened in the other semifinal Wednesday. Chicago Christian (21-6) raised a few eyebrows with a 53-51 win over Leo. Dan VanGroningen talled 17 points and Jason VanderLaan scored 13 for the victorious Knights.

Latin vs. Parker, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Holy Trinity)

It would only seem fitting that Latin and Parker would meet for a regional championship, given the nice rivalry between the two schools that has developed over the years. Latin (16-8) advanced thanks to Chad Stevenson, who led all scorers with 26 points in Latin's semifinal win over Marine Wednesday night. The Romans will take on an F.W. Parker team that defeated Holy Trinity 70-33 in the semis. Langdon Neal is one of the leaders for the Colonels (19-7).
St. Benedict vs. Hope Academy, 7:30pm (1A Regional Championship @ St. Benedict)

St. Benedict,the third-seeded team in the regional, won a thrilling semifinal game Thursday night over Universal, 51-50 in overtime. Krys Gago and Habeeb Olowo had 16 points apiece to lead the Bengals (16-12). Chicagos Hope Academy (19-10), the top seed, is a member of the Chicagoland Prep conferenceas is St. Benedict. The Eagles defeated St. Benedict 75-57 on January 7.

THURSDAY: (24) Maine South 54, (23) Niles West 47 OT-- (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ Maine East)

The 24th ranked Hawks scored the first 13 points of the game and then held off a furious Niles West rally to win their first sectional title since the 2007-08 season. Michelle Maher and Jacqui Grant tallied 14 apiece for Maine South. Kaitlyn Mullarkey had two clutch buckets in overtime for the victors, who defeated the Wolves for the third time this season. Niles Wests Jewell Loyd scored 25 points in the losing effort.

THURSDAY: (9) Proviso East 55, (8) Trinity 47 (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ York)

The 8th ranked Blazers might have limited Illinois-bound Ivory Crawford to 12 points, but they had no answer for Ricquia Jones. The 5-4 guard finished with 18 points, five steals and four assists to lead the Pirates, who won their 18th straight game. They will go on to play Maine South in the Loyola supersectional Monday night. Megan Podkowa finished with 14 points for Trinity, who finished their season with a 28-5 record.

Check us out this Friday night at 10:30. We will also bring you up to speed on the 1A and 2A girls basketball state playoff semifinals from Redbird Arena in Normal. High School Lites streams live at CSNChicago.com.

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

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AP

Evaluating Blackhawks options after Anton Forsberg is placed on waivers

The Blackhawks have said all along that they don't plan on carrying three goaltenders, but wanted to do so during the three games in four days stretch just in case, with Corey Crawford coming back from a 10-month layoff because of a concussion.

After being encouraged by how Crawford has responded to his return, the Blackhawks placed goaltender Anton Forsberg on waivers Monday morning. Teams have 24 hours to put in a claim for the 25-year-old goaltender and would have to keep him on their NHL roster for 10 games and/or 30 days before he's eligible to go through the waiver process again.

His chances of getting claimed by any of the other 30 teams essentially depends on which teams believe Forsberg would be an immediate upgrade over their current backup — or starter, for that matter — or whether there's an injury to one of the team's two goaltenders that requires a placeholder, like we saw the Carolina Hurricanes do by claiming Curtis McElhinney from the Toronto Maple Leafs after Scott Darling's injury in the preseason.

If Forsberg goes unclaimed, the Blackhawks can assign him to the American Hockey League with the Rockford IceHogs. With Collin Delia and Kevin Lankinen sharing the goaltending duties in Rockford, it's possible Lankinen gets sent to the Indy Fuel in the East Coast Hockey League to get consistent starts under his belt.

The third option, one that isn't very common but we've seen in the past as recently as last October with Maple Leafs goaltender Kasimir Kaskisuo, is that Forsberg can be loaned to any AHL team while still being a part of the Blackhawks organization. This would allow the Blackhawks to keep Delia and Lankinen in Rockford while Forsberg gets his starts in the AHL, too.

Forsberg was 10-16-4 with a 2.97 goals against average and .908 save percentage in 35 appearances last season but has not appeared in a game yet this year. He was acquired as part of the Brandon Saad package for Artemi Panarin in June 2017.

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks looking for defensive improvement from everyone, not just defensemen

The Blackhawks were able to get away with their defensive lapses in the past solely because of Corey Crawford. When he went down with a concussion last December, those issues were magnified because he wasn't there to mask the flaws.

But it's reached the point where they can't rely on their goaltender to bail them out on a nightly basis, which is becoming another trend. Cam Ward allowed six goals to Tampa Bay on Sunday night, but made 49 saves — including 30 in the second period alone. He did everything he could to keep his team withing some sort of reaching distance and without his timely stops, the scoreboard could've looked much worse for the Blackhawks.

Something's got to change. 

When the Blackhawks talk about tightening things up defensively, they're not just putting it all on the defensemen. All five guys on the ice need to do their part and they're not doing it right now.

"I think we're trying to do too much and running around trying to do each other's job," Jonathan Toews said. "Sometimes we just need to simply and finish our checks and support each other."

No team has given up more even-strength high-danger chances through eight games than the Blackhawks at 110. That's 15.77 per 60 minutes. For reference, the New York Islanders finished worst in the league in that category last season and their number was at 12.96.

It didn't help that the Blackhawks spent nearly the entire second period in their own end on Sunday.

"We just couldn’t get it out of our zone, couldn’t get our stick on it, didn’t see pressure, didn’t feel pressure when we had it, were stripped," coach Joel Quenneville said. "Hence, we didn’t advance it. Kept looking like we were going up the ice and there were going to be some odd-man situations and then we’re the ones who were facing it."

That's one way to eliminate those high quality scoring chances, is getting the puck out of their own zone effectively or else it opens the door for Grade-A opportunities because of self-inflicted wounds. And it usually happens at the end of shifts when guys are tired, which often leads to goals.

"We have to learn how to play without the puck better and learn how to keep it," Quenneville said. "Whether it was our execution going up the ice, first pass poor and then we couldn’t change. A lot of things that happened yesterday were there tonight."

The Blackhawks weren't using three games in four nights as an excuse because Tampa Bay was in the same situation. It was an even playing field in that respect.

It's all about execution from everyone involved, forwards and defensemen. And the Blackhawks feel they're correctable issues.

"Of course," Toews said. "We've had some good periods this season so far. The first three, four, five games, everyone was excited and you guys are all talking to us much differently than you are right now. It's just getting back to playing that smart defensive game and playing with effort and letting our offense do the work. We know what's got to improve. It's right there in front of us."