Preps Talk

High School Lites Preview: Plenty of girls playoff highlights while boys regular season finishes

High School Lites Preview: Plenty of girls playoff highlights while boys regular season finishes

High School Lites has tons of boys and girls basketball highlights this week. The regular season concludes for boys basketball in Class 3A and 4A. For the rest of the state, the playoffs are in full swing.

We'll check in on the Class 1A and Class 2A girls basketball state semifinals from Redbird Arena while the Class 1A and 2A boys basketball regional finals will also be a focus.

High School Lites airs at 11 p.m. on Friday on NBC Sports Chicago with replays coming Saturday mornings at 7:30 a.m. and 8:30 a.m.

BOYS BASKETBALL

St. Francis de Sales 1A Regional Championship, Leo vs. Grant Park, 7:00 p.m. -- We check on a Class 1A favorite in this one. Leo (18-14, 10-5) has won three straight games after being one of the Catholic League White's better teams this season. The Lions are a major contender in Class 1A as one of the No. 1 seeds in the Marquette Sectional. Grant Park (13-18, 7-5) is a No. 4 seed as they held off St. Francis de Sales for a road quarterfinal win. 

2A Regional Championship, Timothy Christian at St. Joseph, 7:00 p.m. -- An interesting clash for a regional title in Class 2A. Timothy Christian (24-5, 12-0) raced past Montini in the regional quarterfinals as they've won five straight games. The Metro Suburban Red champions are a deep and balanced team as they're the No. 1 seed in the Genoa-Kingston Sectional. St. Joseph (14-17, 7-8), the No. 4 seed, ran past Westmont in the quarterfinals to secure the home game here. Sophomore Kyle Thomas is a lot to handle on the inside as he'll be one to watch for the Chargers.

Christ The King 2A Regional Championship, Clark vs. Crane, 7:00 p.m. -- Clark (20-6, 8-1) advanced with a blowout win over Phoenix in the regional semifinals. The No. 2 seed Eagles won at Crane on Jan. 17 during conference season as these two teams battled before. Crane (22-5, 7-2) had to hold off No. 5 seed Marshall in the quarterfinals. The No. 3 seed is the only Class 2A team to beat Orr during the season as they try to get past their conference rival. 

2A Regional Championship, Longwood at Corliss, 7:00 p.m. -- Corliss (15-10, 5-4) made Peoria last season as they try to make another run as the No. 2 seed in the Carver Sectional. The Trojans were respectable in the Red South/Central this season and recently lost to Orr in the Public League Playoffs. Longwood (18-8, 8-1) won the Public League White-South with a strong season as they held off No. 5 seed Harlan in the regional semifinals. The No. 3 seed Panthers have been tested during the season with losses to Curie, Bogan and Oak Lawn. 

No. 25 Hillcrest at No. 20 Oak Forest, 6:30 p.m. -- The South Suburban Blue has one more regular season battle to monitor. Hillcrest (20-8, 11-1) is one of the most dangerous teams entering the Class 3A playoffs behind a loaded junior class that includes Jakobi Heady and Julius Rollins. Oak Forest (26-2, 12-0) is trying to win the conference with an unbeaten record behind seniors Jayson Kent and Juan Avila as well as super sophomore Robbie Avila. 

Benet at St. Charles North, 7:00 p.m. -- An interesting non-conference clash to close the regular season. Benet (21-9, 7-2) just fell out of the Preps Power Rankings but the Redwings have been impressive lately. Senior big man Colin Crothers is ton to handle on the interior. St. Charles North (21-7, 12-1) counters with senior big man Connor Linke (Bradley) and a talented backcourt that includes Luke Scheffers and Christian Czerniak. 

Sycamore at Plano, 7:00 p.m. -- The two best in the Interstate Eight meet for a final time here. Sycamore (21-8, 10-3) has won eight of their last nine games as they had a blowout win over Plano on Jan. 21. The Reapers have won four out of five with their only loss coming to Class 1A powerhouse Indian Creek. 

GIRLS BASKETBALL

Class 1A: Eastland vs. Shiloh Coop, 11:00 a.m. -- A rematch of last season's Class 1A state semifinals in this one. Eastland came out the winner last season in a 64-63 thriller. Eastland (32-3) ended up a second-place finisher in Class 1A after falling in the title game. Senior Erin Henze leads the Cougars at 20.1 points per game this season. Shiloh Coop (28-5) is riding an 18-game winning streak as they haven't lost in 2020. Junior Tayler Barry leads the Lady Titans in scoring at 18.6 points per game this season.

Class 1A: Aurora Christian vs. Lewistown, 1:00 p.m. -- Two 30-win teams clash in this one. Lewistown (32-1) has only lost to Class 2A semifinalist Pleasant Plains this season as they try to improve on last year's third-place finish. Senior Anna Heffren (20.0 ppg) and senior Sydney Schaeffer (16.1 ppg) form a high-scoring duro for the Lady Indians. Aurora Christian (30-4) is making its first state appearance. Junior Anna Griffin (17.6 ppg), sophomore Thaya Luse (13.4 ppg) and freshman Aspen Weeks (10.4 ppg) are all double-figure scorers for the Eagles.

Class 2A: Pleasant Plains vs. Riverdale, 5:30 p.m. -- Two teams making their first state appearance battle in this one. Pleasant Plains (26-3) started the season 2-2 but has only lost to O'Fallon since Nov. 23. A balanced team, the Lady Cardinals are led by junior guard Asya Smith (11.4 ppg). Riverdale (28-3) is led by senior Sidney Garrett (13.1 ppg) as she's the only double-figure scorer for the Rams. 

Class 2A: Marshall vs. Carterville, 7:15 p.m. -- One of the state's most storied girls programs faces another newcomer at state. Marshall (21-10) is making its fourth straight trip to state as the Commandos try for their 11th state title under legendary head coach Dorothy Gaters. Junior guard Jayonna Smith leads the Commandos at 15.0 points per game. Carterville (30-2) has four double-figure scorers in its lineup led by senior Jeniah Thompson (14.4 ppg). The Lady Lions are riding a 10-game winning streak entering this one. 

Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week

Class 3A Hampshire Sectional Championship, Sycamore vs. Montini, 7:00 p.m. -- Two No. 1 seeds clash for a sectional title in Class 3A. Sycamore held off Burlington Central to advance earlier this week to advance. Spartans senior Kylie Feuerbach has been featured as a Wintrust Athlete of the Week earlier this season as the Iowa State commit is a major factor. Montini got past Boylan with a double-digit win in the sectional semifinals. The Broncos have been a consistent presence in the AP top 5 Class 3A poll this season. Montini hasn't lost to an Illinois opponent since Benet on Dec. 30. 

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Max Christie selects Michigan State over Duke, several Big Ten schools

Sparty Nation got another reason to flex. And it may have Coach K seeing green.

Max Christie, a five-star shooting guard (Rivals) and the top Illinois player in the Class of 2021, is headed to play for Michigan State and legendary head coach Tom Izzo. The Rolling Meadows High School product made his decision Tuesday in an interview with Fox’s Andy Katz.

“It just felt like it was a place that I was needed and a place I wanted to go to,” Christie said. “I think Coach Izzo and his staff and all my teammates there can push me to be the person I want to be, not just on, but off the court.”

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Christie selected Michigan State —his only official visit— over, namely, Coach Mike Krzyzewski and Duke. Also on his list of potential choices were Villanova, Virginia, Purdue, Ohio State, Northwestern, Illinois and several others. While Christie is excited for Izzo to help improve his game, he also prides himself on his versatility and making an immediate impact.

“I think I can be a great facilitator and a great scorer,” Christie said. “I feel like I can do anything that Coach Izzo or the players need be to do if that means rebounding, pushing the ball, setting up an offense or coming off screens, I feel like I am versatile enough of anything that is asked of me.”

The 6-foot-6 Christie may get another boost on the court a few years down the line, as Class of 2022 phenom Emoni Bates, the top player in the current junior class, committed to play for MSU on June 30. All of this assumes Bates keeps his commitment to East Lansing and doesn’t hop the NBA. Christie remains steadfast in his committed to Michigan State and is not exploring any G-League options at the moment.

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Christie has grabbed headlines in Chicagoland since his freshman year. He has tallied a 50-point game and a triple double and had several clutch moments during his junior season. He is coming off the first 20-win campaign at ‘Meadows in nearly 30 years.

And there’s more Christie magic in the pipeline. Cameron, his younger brother, is one of the quickly-rising sophomores in the area.

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

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USA Today

Illinois high school boys basketball state finals return to Champaign

It’s time to party like it’s 1995 —especially if you’re a high school basketball fan who likes watching the game in the Champaign-Urbana area.

The Illinois High School Association (IHSA) board of directors voted Monday to move the host venue for the boys state basketball finals from Peoria to Champaign’s renovated State Farm Center for the next three seasons.

“We see this as the passing of the torch from Peoria to Champaign-Urbana,” IHSA Executive Director Craig Anderson said in a statement. “It is bittersweet because there is incredible passion from high school basketball within these two communities, and both have done so much to elevate the state final experience as hosts. The State Farm Center is one of the best arenas in the country, and we are excited to crown state champions there once again. The timing simply felt right to make a change as the tournament format shifts in 2021."

The boys tournament will run on March 11-13, 2021, March 10-12, 2022 and March 9-11, 2023.

“We are thrilled with today’s news that the Illinois high school boys basketball state finals will return home to the campus of the University of Illinois, Illinois Athletic Director Josh Whitman said in a statement. “We are grateful to the IHSA and its leadership for choosing State Farm Center and Champaign-Urbana to host the state finals.

The boys tournament, which had been located in Champaign for 77 years, moved to Peoria’s Civic Center (Carver Arena) starting in 1996. The girls tournament was also in Champaign until 1992 before moving to Redbird Arena. The girls tournament will remain in Normal.

The Champaign area was steeped in prep basketball glory for generations. The first televised championship came in 1952 when Hebron, a school of 98 students defeated a Quincy school boasting an enrollment over 1,000. Six years later, the first Chicago school —Marshall— won state. In 1972, the tournament was split into Class A (small schools) and AA (large schools). The late Ben Wilson helped Simeon win in a title in Champaign in 1984 while future NBA stars (Kevin Garnett, Melvin Ely) and NFL receivers (Antwaan Randle El and Tai Streets) graced the floor at Assembly Hall during the 1995 tournament.

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The next year was a perfect one for the city of Peoria to grab the reins for the boys tournament. Hometown Manual High School won their third and fourth consecutive state titles in 1996 and 1997. Later, Derrick Rose guided Simeon to back-to-back state titles in 2006 and 2007. A four-class system was instituted for the 2007-08 season. Simeon dominated again from 2010-13 with Jabari Parker in the spotlight.

This year’s basketball tournaments were cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.