Preps Talk

High School Lites Preview: It's playoff time!

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

High School Lites Preview: It's playoff time!

It's playoff time on High School Lites.

The IHSA boys and girls basketball state playoffs are in full swing as we have a lot of great matchups on this week's show. We'll check in on Class 3A and Class 4A boys basketball regional finals from around the area while also seeing if three-time defending Class 2A state champion Orr can win another sectional in Class 2A. 

And we also have highlights from the Class 3A and Class 4A girls basketball state semifinals from Redbird Arena as more state-title hardware will be crowned this weekend.

High School Lites airs at 11 p.m. on Friday night on NBC Sports Chicago with replays airing at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m. on Saturday morning. Be sure to follow us on Twitter @NBCSPreps for all of the latest IHSA state playoff coverage.

Class 2A Sectional Championships, 7:00 p.m.

Orr vs. Clark -- Two Public League teams face here for the Marshall Sectional Title. Orr (20-7, 7-2) is trying to win its fourth consecutive Class 2A state title as the Spartans are rolling through the IHSA State Playoffs so far. Orr has won all three of its playoff games by at least 27 points each. Clark (22-6, 8-1) won the Public League's White-West Division this season as they've had some impressive playoff wins over rival Crane and a blowout win over Wells in the sectional semifinals. Although the Eagles come in as underdogs, they won't be phased by playing a ranked team. They've earned quality wins over Niles North and Rich East during the regular season.

Class 3A Regional Championships, 7:00 p.m.

Morgan Park vs. Tinley Park -- One of the state's best teams battles a young and talented team with the state's top sophomore in this one. Morgan Park (20-9, 6-2) has expectations to reach Peoria behind the trio of Adam Miller (Illinois), Marcus Watson Jr. (Wake Forest) and Brandon Weston. The Mustangs are the No. 1 seed in the Thornridge Sectional. Tinley Park (18-11, 6-7) is led by the state's best sophomore in forward A.J. Casey. Although the Titans are talented, their youth has cost them a few games this season. This is a chance for Tinley Park to pick off a state title contender early.

Riverside-Brookfield vs. Glenbard South -- This should be a fun No. 4 versus No. 5 seed matchup in the Hinsdale South Sectional. Glenbard South (25-4, 16-2) claimed the Upstate Eight title this season. The Raiders are riding a 14-game winning streak as they haven't lost since Jan. 14. Riverside-Brookfield (21-10, 9-3) is led by an underrated senior in Paul Zilinskas as he's coming off of a recent career-high 31-point performance. The Bulldogs will be playing this matchup at home, so it gives them an advantage in this one.

Hillcrest vs. Rich Central -- Does Rich Central have another big upset in them? The Olympians knocked off No. 5 seed Richards in the regional quarterfinals in one of the bigger upsets of the opening round. Rich Central (11-19, 7-9) struggled to open the season but has played significantly better down the stretch. Hillcrest (22-8, 12-1) will be heavily favored as the home team and No. 4 seed in the Thornridge Sectional. The Hawks are led by a strong core of juniors, including Division I prospects Jacobi Heady and Julius Rollins while guard Mar'Keise Irving has been a dynamic playmaker. With recent wins over Homewood-Flossmoor and Oak Forest, Hillcrest appears to be peaking at the right time.

Class 4A Regional Championships, 7:00 p.m.

Evanston vs. New Trier -- One of the state's most storied rivalries goes down for with a regional title on the line. Evanston (27-4, 9-1) is trying to make it back to Peoria after last season's Class 4A runner-up finish. Juniors Jaylin Gibson and Blake Peters have been outstanding this season as both were key players for the Wildkits during last season's run. New Trier (19-10, 6-4) lost both regular-season matchups to the Wildkits by a combined total of 16 points as they seek revenge here. This No. 3 seed versus No. 6 seed matchup will take place at Maine East. 

Glenbrook South vs. Maine West -- Maine West tries for another upset in this Class 4A regional title. Glenbrook South (28-4, 9-1) has put together a strong season behind senior Dom Martinelli, as the prolific scorer recently surpassed the 2,000-point mark for his high school career. Maine West (13-16, 5-5) just knocked off Rolling Meadows and star junior Max Christie in the regional semifinals. The Warriors have played a tough schedule to prepare them for this, including close losses to ranked teams like York and Niles North. 

Homewood-Flossmoor vs. Oak Lawn -- A fun one in the south suburbs in the Bloom Sectional. Homewood-Flossmoor (24-5, 7-1) has been ranked in our Preps Power Rankings the entire season as they're led by senior forward R.J. Ogom (College of Charleston) and senior guards Josiah Palmer and Joel Watts. The Vikings had a blowout win over Shepard in round one to bounceback from a late regular-season loss to Bolingbrook. Oak Lawn (24-7, 10-3) should be a formidable challenge for H-F. Sami Osmani and Trey Ward are two seniors who can really score as both are capable of 30-point games and getting hot from the perimeter. The Spartans have embraced challenges all season as they shouldn't be intimidated.

Morton vs. York -- We check out a West Suburban Crossover battle for the Morton Regional Title here. York (28-4, 11-1) has been ranked in our Preps Power Rankings for most of the season until a late-season loss to Hinsdale South in the West Suburban Championship game. The Dukes have senior guard Nate Shockey back in the lineup after he missed five games at the end of the regular season battling mono. Morton (22-7, 10-2) is a dangerous team at home this season. The Mustangs have a dangerous perimeter threat in Manny Rodriguez while Jesus Perez and Kendall Nichols can also make plays.

Bloom vs. Thornwood -- The No. 1 seed Bloom Blazing Trojans try to claim a regional title over Southland rival Thornwood here. Bloom (27-5, 15-1) has five senior starters who are all Division I prospects as Dante Maddox Jr., Donovan Newby, Keshawn Williams, Christian Shumate, and Martice Mitchell are one of the most talented teams in the state. Thornwood (14-16, 7-9) hosts this one as they're already played Bloom multiple times this season -- falling in each contest. Although the Thunderbirds were sluggish to close the regular season, they earned a small upset over Eisenhower in an impressive regional semifinal victory. 

Marian Catholic vs. Brother Rice -- Two 20-win teams face here in another No. 4 vs. No. 5 seed matchup. The Spartans (23-8, 8-1) are hosting this one as Ahron Ulis and company have been consistently ranked in our top 15 throughout the regular season. After making it to Peoria two seasons ago, Marian Catholic is hoping for another deep playoff run in a tough Bloom Sectional. But Brother Rice (21-10, 11-4) shouldn't be counted out in this one. The Crusaders have recent wins over DePaul Prep and Loyola Academy, so beating another top-20 team shouldn't be out of the question.

IHSA 3A & 4A Girls Basketball Semifinals

Class 3A

Simeon vs. Montini, 11 a.m. -- Two juggernauts clash in this semifinal opener. Simeon (32-3) captured a Public League Playoff title this season as junior Aneesah Morrow (26.7 ppg) is having a monster season. Although Simeon has a rich boys basketball tradition, this is the second time the Wolverines' girls team has made it to state. Montini (32-4) has only lost to two Illinois teams all season as the Lady Broncos return to state after making it eight times the previous decades --winning in 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. A balanced outfit, this is a young roster that features waves of players. 

Morton vs. Lanphier, 1 p.m. -- Will unbeaten Morton get tested here? The Potters (36-0) have been the No. 1-ranked Class 3A girls team in the state's AP poll this season as they try to capture their fifth girls state title in six seasons. The 2019 champs are led by senior Lindsey Dullard (14.9 ppg). Lanphier will be the underdog as the No. 2 seed in the Champaign Central Sectional has advanced to Peoria with some big wins. This is the first girls basketball state appearance for the Lady Lions as they're led by senior guard Martice Brooks (16.2 ppg).

Class 4A

Fremd vs. Lake Park, 5:30 p.m. -- A newcomer to the girls basketball final four faces a program familiar with Redbird Arena in this one. Lake Park (26-8) is led by DePaul commit Darrione Rogers as the senior is averaging 25.9 points per game. This is the first time the Lancers have made it to state in girls basketball. Fremd (28-7) is back at state after three straight appearances from 2015-2017. The Vikings are still looking for their first girls basketball state title as senior guard Emily Klaczek (12.6 ppg) leads the charge. 

Lincoln-Way West vs. Bolingbrook, 7:15 p.m. -- Can Lincoln-Way West continue a dream season? Or will state tournament veteran Bolingbrook spoil the party? The Warriors (31-3) are going to state for the first time behind four double-figure scorers. Lincoln-Way West is led by senior Taylor Gugliuzza (17.5 ppg) as they are riding a seven-game winning streak. The Raiders (25-7) are back to state for the first time since 2011 when the program made it an astounding seven consecutive times and won four state titles. Kennedi Perkins (14.1 ppg) and Treasure Thompson (13.5 ppg) are the double-figures scorers to watch for Bolingbrook in this one.

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

Jerry Sloan, Bulls player and Jazz coaching legend, stayed true to Illinois roots

There’s country strong. And then there’s Jerry Sloan.

The NBA Hall of Fame player and coach, a tenacious defender and steady offensive threat, became a household name with the Chicago Bulls in the 1970s. Four-time NBA All-Defensive First Team. Two-time NBA-All-Star.

Sloan died Friday after a courageous battle against Parkinson’s disease and Lewy body dementia. He was 78.

But it was Sloan’s perseverance as a child and his dedication to the game of basketball —and his home town— 300 miles south of the Windy City that made him a real star.

[MORE: Remember ‘Original Bull’ Jerry Sloan as he lived: tough, humble and honest]

The former Bull, who went on to lead the Utah Jazz to the playoffs in 15 of his 23 seasons there as a head coach, grew up on a farm near McLeansboro, Illinois. The youngest of 10 children, Sloan would routinely wake up in the wee hours to do family chores. He’d then walk two miles to the town’s high school for basketball practice.

The foundation of a hard work ethic and a ferocious competitive nature paved the way for Sloan’s rise to stardom.

Sloan played on several great McLeansboro teams in the late-50s. In his junior season, he helped guide his squad to a 19-6 record for coach Gene Haile. He followed that up with a senior season most kids would dream of: 26 wins, 3 losses. He was named to the All-State team.

He would later guide the Evansville Purple Aces to two Division II national championships. He became known as “the Original Bull” shortly after the startup Bulls franchise drafted him in the 1966 expansion draft. The rest was history—a brilliant 10-year career in Chicago as a player and nearly three more as a head coach on West Madison before becoming a legend in Salt Lake City.

But it was his small-town roots that made Jerry Sloan all the more genuine.

He would return to McLeansboro several times in 1984 —the year he became an assistant with the Utah Jazz— to watch his high school team play. His son, Brian, led the Foxes to the Class A state championship that year, going 35-0 in the process. Brian went on to play for Bobby Knight at Indiana.

Sloan would return frequently to this Southern Illinois town many times during his run with the Jazz— a run where he only finished below .500 once and racked up an astonishing career 1,221 wins. Hamilton County High School, formerly known as McLeansboro, dedicated its gym in Sloan’s honor in Dec. 2012. A road in McLeansboro is now called Jerry Sloan Avenue.

In a statement, a representative from McLeansboro High School said the following:

“Today is a sad day for Hamilton County and the Foxes. Coach Jerry Sloan has passed away. Coach Sloan graduated from McLeansboro High School in 1960 and was always a hometown boy. Whenever he returned he was just one of us. He will be greatly missed. RIP Coach Sloan.”

McLeansboro will always be Sloan Country.

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Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

Michigan recruit J.J. McCarthy to transfer from Nazareth to Florida's IMG Academy

J.J. McCarthy, the state’s top-ranked high school quarterback and overall player according to Rivals, is transferring from Nazareth Academy to IMG Academy in Florida.

McCarthy made the announcement on his Twitter page Monday afternoon.

The news sent shock waves throughout the national prep football landscape. McCarthy, committed to play at Michigan, led the Roadrunners to an IHSA 7A second place finish back in November. As a sophomore in 2018, he threw for over 3,200 yards and 36 touchdowns. It culminated in a state title win and a 13-1 season.

The move makes sense for McCarthy, as he will team up with offensive lineman Greg Crippen, a fellow Michigan commit. According to Rivals, McCarthy (6-foot-2, 195 pounds) is ranked as the No. 5 pro-style quarterback and No. 33 overall recruit in the country.

The loss is a huge one for head coach Tim Racki and company at the La Grange Park school. That said, the Roadrunners are one of the dominant programs in IHSA football, compiling a 38-4 record the past three seasons with three state titles in the previous six campaigns.

The big questions: Will other high-caliber Illinois high school athletes follow McCarthy? When will the IHSA commit to a fall sports schedule? What will Illinois high school football look like in the fall? What guidelines will be in place? There are many uncertainties.

What is known: The IHSA chose to cancel the state basketball tournament and all 2020 spring sports due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Illinois is currently in a phased reopening of businesses and other institutions. Florida is ahead of Illinois in respect to some of those aforementioned facilities.

The risk, or perhaps the unknown, was worth it for McCarthy and his family. Will Florida —or other states, including Illinois— even be cleared to play football come August? Will his move be a productive one in retrospect?

Time will tell.