Preps Talk

Why to watch: Naperville North vs. Lyons Township Tale of the Tape

Why to watch: Naperville North vs. Lyons Township Tale of the Tape

Matchup: No. 19 Lyons Township (7-2) at No. 14 Naperville North (8-1)

Where to watch: Live broadcast on CSN at 7 p.m. and a live stream available on CSNChicago.com and the NBC Sports app.

Overview: This Class 8A showdown features teams from two of the top largest public school conferences in Illinois. Lyons Township and head coach Kurt Weinberg fired off six straight wins to start the 2016 season (including an impressive, 28-14, road win over Glenbard West) before dropping two straight games in Weeks 7 and 8 to Hinsdale Central (28-21) and Oak Park-River Forest (27-3). Naperville North and head coach Sean Drendel posted a 2-7 record last season. However, the Huskies welcomed back 18 returning starters this fall. The Huskies only loss this season was to Neuqua Valley (35-20) back in Week 6.

When Lyons Township has the football: The Lions will look to expand the field with both the pass and run, via its no-huddle shotgun spread offense. Junior quarterback Ben Bryant is already drawing FBS scholarship offers and has several weapons including senior wide receiver Hasahn Austin, junior wide receiver Nate Rusk and junior running back Reggie Terrell Jr. Lyons Township also features a big offensive line. 

[MORE PREPS: IHSA Football Playoffs First-Round Matchups]

When Naperville North has the football: The Huskies will look to establish thunder and lightning in the backfield with senior running backs Cross Robinson and Eric Wright. Then, mix in Naperville North's play-action passing game, led by senior quarterback Luke Cegles, junior wide receiver Nick Calcagno and senior wide receiver Mitch Lewis (6-foot-6, 220 pounds). North also has a good size and experience on the offensive line.

Key matchups to watch: The Naperville North offensive line vs. the Lyons Township defensive line. Naperville North wants to run the ball and also control the clock. The Lions defensive line is very good. Keep an eye on senior Andrew Ezell and junior Mickey Brown. Also, how well can the Naperville North secondary handle the spread passing attack from Lyons? Naperville North has an experienced secondary, led by seniors Cam Hardy and Grant Ericksen. This group will be tested by a speedy group of Lyons receivers and backs..

Impact player for Lyons Township: Bryant. He is an experienced signal-caller who can take over a game when he's on.

Impact players for Naperville North: Robinson and Wright. The Huskies backfield has been special. according to those in and around the Huskies program.

Prediction: Naperville North 28, Lyons Township 21. The keys here will be (1) time of possession for Naperville North and (2) which team wins the turnover battle. I fully expect this to be a close game from start to finish, but I'll give the nod to the home team here. 

More on Friday's matchup and the first round of the IHSA football playoffs:

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Posted by NBC Sports Chicago on Wednesday, October 26, 2016

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.