Preps Talk

Phillips Final Thoughts: Saturday's IHSA Basketball Things to Know

Phillips Final Thoughts: Saturday's IHSA Basketball Things to Know

Thanksgiving events mostly wrapped things up on Saturday. It meant a lot of championship games all over the state as the Saturday schedule of games had some intriguing showdowns.

A Player of the Year candidate dropped 50 points in another win while a squad from the South burbs opened eyes with a notable double-digit win. Here are the Saturday things to know with some things to watch for with Tuesday's games.

If you have scores, stories, highlights or updates, don't be shy to hit us up on Twitter @NBCSPreps or @Phillipshoops. Coaches, players, ADs, parents and fans are also encouraged to email me (phillipshoops@gmail.com) with any stories we should be tracking this season.

Be sure to catch High School Lites this Friday at 11 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. We transition full time to basketball season as we'll have highlights and reactions from games all over the area -- including the annual Chicago Elite Classic.

1. Glenbrook South senior Dom Martinelli drops 51 in win over Buffalo Grove

The leading candidate for Player of the Year after the opening week of the season is Glenbrook South senior wing Dom Martinelli. I've already been mentioning his big scoring numbers and impressive free-throw stats as the Titans started 3-0 at Buffalo Grove's Thanksgiving event this week.

Saturday night, Martinelli took his game to another stratosphere. 

Martinelli dropped 51 points as the Titans held off the host Bison with an 86-79 win. The insane effort for Martinelli is a new Glenbrook South school record as he's now averaging 35.5 points per game through four games this season.

It's nearly impossible to score 50-plus points during an IHSA high school game. There's only 32 minutes of regulation basketball. No shot clock means that if any one team holds the ball for more than a minute then it might disrupt the pace needed to make it to 50.

But Martinelli's 50-point game happened on the road against a legitimately solid Buffalo Grove team. This will be one of the most impressive individual performances we see all season. And, perhaps most importantly, Glenbrook South remains undefeated as the difficult CSL South schedule begins.

  

2. Thornton states its case with impressive win over Bolingbrook

It's unfortunate that these two local powerhouses had to play so far away from Chicagoland in Decatur. But we still need to take notice of Thornton's impressive 76-60 win over No. 9 Bolingbrook. 

The Wildcats firmly planted themselves in the top-25 conversation by running away from a previously top-ten team. This is perhaps a combined case of Thornton being underrated and Bolingbrook being slightly overrated in the preseason.

Regardless of circumstances, Thornton will be a factor in the South burbs this season. Junior guard Brandon Hall was named MVP of the event at Decatur as he appears to be blossoming into a potential go-to player for the Wildcats. Veteran senior guard Ari Brown was also named to the all-tournament team as well.

In a fascinating Southland race that now features Thornton, Thornwood and Thornridge this season, it'll be fun to see how the Wildcats stack up with talented teams like Bloom and Kankakee.

For now, welcome to the Preps Power Rankings, Thornton! They probably should have been there all along.

  

3. St. Rita wins Riverside-Brookfield with notable comeback win over Morton

St. Rita was a big unknown entering this 2019-20 season. They have a new head coach in Roshawn Russell. The starting lineup features mostly new players besides senior guard Alec Millender. Forward Jeremiah Oden (graduated; prep school) and guard Joel Watts (transfer to H-F) are gone.

Even with significant change, St. Rita proved they still have plenty of talent to keep an eye on with a notable 71-70 comeback win over Morton. Big man Connor Severn -- a role player who showed promise off the bench last season -- tallied a double-double with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Christian Henry led the team in scoring with 17 points. Freshman Kaiden Space put in double-figures with 14 points.

St. Rita is not going to be a star-driven outfit this season. But if they have balanced scoring and four or five guys chipping in every night then they have to be accounted for in the crowded Catholic League race. 

TUESDAY'S THINGS TO WATCH FOR (12/3)

(With limited IHSA basketball in the area Sunday and Monday, there won't be notebooks on those days as we prepare for a busy Tuesday night slate of games)

Morgan Park at Bogan, 5:00 p.m. -- The Public League Red-South/Central schedule starts off with a bang as two top-ten teams and bitter rivals square off. Simeon vs. Morgan Park gets a lot of the casual-fan interest. But Bogan and Morgan Park showdowns are generally more intense. 

Lindblom at Simeon, 5:00 p.m. -- This could be a fascinating game. Lindblom is the new guy in the Red South/Central this season after moving up from the White Division. But they aren't your typical new-Red-team pushover. The Eagles are 4-0 after capturing the tournament title at Stagg during the week. Na'Shawn Howze is averaging 15 points per game in taking home MVP honors from that event while Marshun Williams and Kevin Wortham both earned all-tournament honors. Simeon hasn't even played yet. If the Wolverines come out cold or disjointed then Lindblom has a chance to open some eyes. I'm still expecting Simeon wins but I'm anxious to see how Lindblom fares against one of the state's true powerhouses. 

Kankakee at Bloom, 6:30 p.m.  -- Southland play starts off with a great matchup here. We know that Bloom is an elite contender based on their ultra-impressive first-week showing -- including wins over Hillcrest and Marian Catholic. Kankakee shouldn't be slept on though. They're off to a 2-0 start and expectations are high that they can compete for the Southland title with a host of talented returning players. This is a chance for Kankakee to prove themselves right away.

FINAL THOUGHT

Stevenson went 4-0 this week and claimed the championship at Palatine.

Nobody seemed to notice -- even though the Patriots are a top-five team returning nearly everyone from last season.

The problem for Stevenson is that they don't have a lot of compelling games until the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic that starts on Dec. 23. That's no fault of head coach Pat Ambrose -- who generally puts together a tough schedule for his program to play.

But potentially noteworthy December non-conference matchups against Westinghouse and OPRF have lost some luster after both of those teams had disappointing first-week showings. 

Besides Mundelein (who Stevenson plays twice after the New Year), the North Suburban Conference doesn't appear particularly tough this season. 

This means we could see Stevenson run the table, and not get many tests, until holiday tournament time. During a first week in which we saw mega matchups featuring top-ten teams, the Patriots are the unknown when it comes to top-five teams.

Stevenson was nearly unbeatable when Matthew Ambrose was healthy last season. But we might have to wait on what their potential ceiling is until weeks into the season.  

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

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NBC Sports Chicago

High School Lites basketball roundup: Week 8

Check out our high school hoops highlights from some of the best games around the state, and be sure to follow @NBCSPREPS for all of the latest scores, highlights, and analysis

Windy City Legends: Jimmy Garoppolo

Athlete of the Week: Lincoln-Way West's Taylor Gugliuzza

Team of the Week: Hinsdale South boys basketball

Highlights: Oak Lawn 61, Richards 60

Highlights: No. 10 DePaul Prep 78, St. Laurence 57

Highlights: Deerfield 33, Highland Park 29

Highlights: No. 2 Evanston 49, New Trier 43

Midweek Mixtape: Zion-Benton 90, No. 2 Evanston 71

Highlights: No. 9 Homewood-Flossmoor 64, Lincoln-Way East 43

Highlights: Austin 76, Prosser 43

Highlights: DeKalb 53, Naperville Central 51

Highlights: No. 24 Joliet West 59, West Aurora 54

Highlights: Simeon 88, No. 14 Morgan Park 86

Whitney Young's DJ Steward, Maine West's Angela Dugalic named to McDonald's All-American games

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

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NBC Sports Chicago

Whitney Young's D.J. Steward ends the Illinois McDonald's All-American drought

Whitney Young senior guard D.J. Steward became the latest Burger Boy from the Land of Lincoln with his selection into the game on Thursday afternoon. The Duke commit is the first Illinois boys basketball player to be selected for high school basketball's most prestigious game since Stevenson's Jalen Brunson in 2015.

Maine West girls basketball star and Oregon commit Angela Dugalic was selected for the girls McDonald's game. Illinois native and former Morgan Park standout Nimari Burnett was also selected for the boys game. Burnett helped the Mustangs to a Class 3A state title as a freshman before moving to California for his last three seasons of high school basketball at Prolific Prep. 

While Illinois will have multiple local storylines in both McDonald's game, the 6-foot-2 Steward being included on the boys team is a big deal for a number of reasons.

For starters, Illinois has been without a boys McDonald's All-American since 2015. From the game's debut in 1978 until 2009, Illinois had at least one McDonald's All-American every year. In the past 11 years, Illinois has been held out of the McDonald's six times -- including the past four classes. The talent drought has been noticeable over the past several years. 

More importantly, the McDonald's distinction caps off an already stellar high school basketball career for Steward. His accomplishments already include a state finals appearance and two All-Area selections (with a third almost assuredly coming later this season). 

Starting his career at Fenwick the first two seasons, Steward earned Catholic League Player of the Year honors as only a sophomore. Now dominating in the Public League this season, Steward could also own the unique distinction of being perhaps the best player in both the Chicago Catholic League AND Public League during his four-year high school career.

By making the McDonald's game, Steward also follows in the footsteps of other Whitney Young legends like Jahlil Okafor (2014) and Quentin Richardson (1998). Steward will now forever be linked to those two first-round NBA Draft picks for the rest of his career. The only thing missing from Steward's profile at this point is an elusive IHSA state title -- something the other two captured their senior season.

While Steward's selection into the McDonald's game is an important personal accomplishment, it's also huge for the rest of the local high school season. It's no secret that Illinois high school basketball has been starving for big-name talent. The buzz for the state tournament has continued to die down in recent seasons. 

Star power like Steward, and Illinois commit Adam Miller, should draw more casual interest in the local high school basketball season down the stretch. Steward making the McDonald's game makes him an even bigger draw locally for casual fans. It's likely Whitney Young will play in front of a lot of fans as they travel in the state tournament in-part because of Steward's high-profile career. 

There is still plenty of basketball to be played the rest of the 2019-20 season. Steward has time to add to his legacy as Whitney Young prepares to play for a city and state championship. Even if Steward falls short of some personal goals, he'll always be remembered among the state's greats now that he's playing in the McDonald's game.