Henricksen: Stevenson-Lake Forest highlights busy weekend

SHARE Henricksen: Stevenson-Lake Forest highlights busy weekend

Now we’re cooking.

A really big one is upon us as Stevenson, the No. 1 ranked team in Illinois, travels to unbeaten Lake Forest Thursday night. If that wasn’t enough for coach Pat Ambrose’s team, the Patriots hook up with the nation’s best, Findlay Prep, Saturday in Springfield, Massachusetts,

Here is a breakdown of that monster North Suburban Lake showdown, Stevenson’s battle with the country’s No. 1 ranked team, Findlay Prep, and a few others to look forward to — along with some picks — during this busy weekend of high school basketball.

▪ Stevenson (14-1) at Lake Forest (16-0)

Thursday, Jan. 15, 7:00 p.m.

How much do I like these two teams? Well just out these stories –– here on the Scouts and here on the Patriots –– highlighting both Lake Forest and Stevenson. This could be the first of three, with both of these teams headed for a likely sectional showdown at some point this March. Remember last year? In the second of two meetings, Jalen Brunson pumped in 57 points as Stevenson beat Lake Forest 95-93. Led by 6-7 Evan Boudreaux, Lake Forest is big, strong and physical. How Stevenson, which plays man-to-man, decides to defend and match up with the mega-productive Boudreaux could decide if this one stays close. We know Brunson and Connor Cashaw, but 6-5 sophomore Justin Smith is blossoming. Just what Stevenson needs: another weapon. I just don’t see Stevenson losing in league play.

The pick: Stevenson 68, Lake Forest 59

▪ Benet Academy (9-4) at Niles Notre Dame (12-3)

Thursday, Jan. 15, 7:00 p.m.

Teams around the East Suburban Catholic Conference have to look at Benet this year and think, “Gosh darnit! They’re back for more?” Benet’s surprising, confidence-building win over Curie and subsequent run to the Pontiac Holiday Tournament title game opened eyes. And so has Colin Bonnett, a 6-3 guard who has been sensational since Christmas. You know who else has been pretty sensational? Notre Dame guard Joe Mooney. Notre Dame has lost to a pair of really talented teams, Lake Forest and Hinsdale Central, by a total of seven points. This has the makings of a fun –– and important –– one.

The pick: Notre Dame 60, Benet 54

▪ St. Joseph (13-3) at Fenwick (11-4)

Friday, Jan. 16, 7:00 p.m.

Aside from its head-scratching loss to DePaul Prep, St. Joseph has been consistently very good. With that much-talked-about trio of Glynn Watson, Jordan Ash and 6-10 Nick Rakocevic, the Chargers may have needed a wake-up call. Fenwick is well coached and, led by junior point guard Mike Smith, has the guard play to contend with just about anyone. Plus, they’re fresh off a nice road win at Benet. But Rakocevic sure does create a dilemma for coach Rick Malnati as the Friars just don’t have any size.

The pick: St. Joseph 63, Fenwick 55

▪ Hillcrest (11-3) at Eisenhower (10-5)

Friday, Jan. 16, 7:00 p.m.

For pure entertainment value, just the mere fact Hillcrest is typically known for its attacking defense and Eisenhower has scored 100-plus point four times creates some interest. But Eisenhower has quality guards, has won some games, played an incredibly high number of close games and boasts experience with four starters back from last year. Senior guard Vinny Curta can score. Eisenhower needs a marquee win. But with all this Eisenhower talk, balanced Hillcrest, which has played a rugged schedule, still wins.

The pick: Hillcrest 80, Eisenhower 66

▪ Thornwood (10-5) at Bradley-Bourbonnais (12-1)

Friday, Jan. 16, 7:00 p.m.

We will shall see how Bradley responds to playing the role of favorite, something new and different for a program with its trajectory clearly pointing up. This would be Bradley’s most impressive win to date, which says a little about the schedule up to this point. Micah Bradford is a dynamite, difference-making guard for the Boilermakers, while Thornwood really has an under-appreciated guard in Chelby Frazier. It’s been a mixed bag for Thornwood up to this point, but the T-Birds have rattled off four straight wins.

The pick: Bradley 68, Thornwood 62

▪ St. Charles East (14-1) at St. Charles North (11-6)

Saturday, Jan. 17, 6:00 p.m.

Hard to believe it’s mid-January and this is already the third meeting between these two crosstown rivals. St. Charles East won both of the previous matchups by double digits –– 70-49 and 72-62. But this one should be fun and still has plenty on the line –– in this case a share of the Upstate Eight River lead. A couple of overlooked guards in St. Charles East’s Cole Gentry and St. Charles North’s Jake Ludwig will go at it.

The pick: St. Charles East 70, St. Charles North 62

▪ Neuqua Valley (14-1) vs. Rockford Auburn at Hononegah

Saturday, Jan. 17, 9:30 a.m.

This is a terrific measuring stick for a one-loss Neuqua team a whole lot of people don’t know a lot about. Rockford Auburn, led by Wisconsin-Green Bay recruit Antoine Pittman and NIU recruit Laytwan Porter is fast, offensively potent and just flat-out good. But a 9:30 a.m. game? Come on! This isn’t a 9:30 a.m. game! The joy of the endless Martin Luther King weekend games and shootouts.

The pick: Rockford Auburn 72, Neuqua Valley 63

▪ Stevenson vs. Findlay Prep @ Springfield, Mass.

Saturday, Jan. 17, 5:30 p.m.

Fresh off a huge conference game with Lake Forest on Thursday night, the Patriots will then hop on a plane, fly east and face, oh, the best team in the country in the HoopHall Classic. Findlay Prep ascended to No. 1 this past week in both the USA Today Super 25 and MaxPreps’ Xcellent 25 rankings. The Pilots are 16-0 and boast the following ridiculous of riches who have arrived from all over the country and Canada:

• A top 15 player in the country in 6-3 guard Allonzo Trier, who is headed to Arizona.

• Top 2016 point guard Derryck Thornton, who has offers from Arizona, Duke, Kentucky, Louisville and others.

• Junior Justin Jackson, a 6-7 forward who has committed to UNLV and is among the top 35 players in the Class of 2016.

• P.J. Washington, a 6-8 sophomore and one of the top players in the country in 2017 with offers from UConn, Arizona, Baylor, Memphis and Miami-Florida.

• Three other Division I prospects in the sophomore class in 6-6 Donnie Tillman, 6-8 O’Shae Brissett and 6-3 guard Shakwon Barrett.

• Horace Spencer, a 6-8 senior power forward who is committed to Auburn.

• Jayce Johnson, a 6-11 center and high-major prospect in the junior class.

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