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. 

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.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Bulls easily on your device.

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.