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Henricksen: 50 of the best high school games to see in 2016-2017

Morgan Park head coach Nick Irvin tries to get his team back in the game against Simeon. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

The many Thanksgiving tournaments across the state have been played. As this 2016-2017 season plays out, here are the regular season games to circle on the calendar –– 50 in all –– conveniently stretched out over the course of the season to get you through the winter.

Joliet West at Minooka • Dec. 2

Look who’s back! Minooka is off to an impressive 4-0 start. What better way to get the new-look Southwest Prairie Conference started than the league favorite traveling to the defending league champs in the conference opener.

Fenwick vs. Oak Park-River Forest • Dec. 2

An early-season showdown at UIC between two Oak Park rivals with a lot to prove. Fenwick has walked away victorious the past two years at this event. But will the long football run for the Friars impact this early basketball date? OPRF is off to a 4-0 start.

Curie vs. East St. Louis at UIC • Dec. 2

The defending state champs will get a big test from the state’s premier prospect, Illinois commit Jeremiah Tilmon, in the marquee game of the Chicago Elite Classic’s opening night.

Curie vs. Belleville Althoff at Marshall County • Dec. 3

Quite a weekend for the defending 4A champs as the Condors make the trek to the Marshall County Hoopfest in Kentucky to face the defending 3A champs and Jordan Goodwin one day after facing Jeremiah Tilmon in Chicago.

Joliet West vs. North Lawndale at UIC • Dec. 3

Talent, speed and athleticism in this matchup between two highly-ranked teams. This should be a fun one on day two of the Chicago Elite Classic.

Thornton at Proviso East • Dec. 3

Both are off to slow starts. Regardless, these are two of the most tradition-rich high school basketball programs in the state. What’s extra cool is the fact two graduates –– Tai Streets at Thornton and Donnie Boyce at Proviso East –– coach their respective teams.

Thornton at Lincoln-Way West • Dec. 9

How will Lincoln-Way West and star Marco Pettinato handle being the hunted? Big home test early on for the Warriors, who have a target on their back after reaching Peoria last March.

Fremd at Conant • Dec. 9

Fremd has heard all the talk about how good Conant is during the preseason. The Vikings simply went out and walloped four opponents over Thanksgiving and get a chance to make an early statement on the road. It’s also a chance for one of these two teams to get a leg up in the Mid-Suburban League West race.

Romeoville at Bolingbrook • Dec. 14

Welcome to the big stage, Romeoville. The young, talented and dangerous Spartans could open eyes with an early-season road win over district rival and highly-ranked Bolingbrook.

Young at North Lawndale • Dec. 14

North Lawndale, led by senior guard Carlos Hines, will be primed and ready for a visit from the Dolphins in a key Red-West battle.

Simeon at Morgan Park • Dec. 15

Simeon. Morgan Park. That says all you need to know. A pair of South Side powers collide in what has become the biggest rivalry in the Chicago Public League and, arguably, the state.

Bloom at Homewood-Flossmoor • Dec. 16

Yes, the two just met in the final of the Thanksgiving tournament in Chicago Heights, but it’s worth watching twice. Bloom’s Jalen Lee is a talented senior scorer ready for a big year.

Downers Grove South at Downers Grove North • Dec. 17

The battle of Downers Grove will mean a little more this season as both should be stronger than a year ago. Both teams have hopes of challenging for titles in their respective divisions in the West Suburban Conference.

Benet at Conant • Dec. 17

A December coaching clinic as a pair of the game’s top coaches –– Conant’s Tom McCormack and Benet’s Gene Heidkamp –– square off. These two have built programs where their teams typically overachieve.

Simeon vs. Young at UIC • Dec. 21

In the past eight years these two have played in seven state championship games, with Young winning two and Simeon winning four. Now these friendly and respectful rivals, meet in a pre-holiday showdown.

St. Charles East at St. Charles North • Jan. 7

Did you see the first East-North game last weekend and how it ended? The thriller ended with St. Charles East full-court pass and buzzer-beating shot for a one-point win. This one will be the third meeting between the two and, possibly, the most important as the Upstate Eight River gets sorted out.

Young at Orr • Jan. 11

With Orr’s return to the Red-West from the White-West this year, you better believe this junior-dominated Orr team has circled a few dates on the schedule. This is one of them.

Uplift at Lincoln Park • Jan. 13

This shapes up as arguably the biggest city game on the North Side. It maybe doesn’t have the glamour other city showdowns have, but it’s a ranked and hyped Uplift going into a sneaky good Lincoln Park.

Marist at Brother Rice • Jan. 17

If you haven’t been to a Marist-Brother Rice game, it’s time to get to one. It’s one of the real underrated non-conference battles you’ll find in Illinois. The stakes will be even higher as both teams have visions of 20-win seasons.

Simeon at Bogan • Jan. 19

Bogan is laying a bit low heading into this season. However, with an influx of transfers –– and if any sense of chemistry develops –– the Bengals could surprise. Plus, big games at Bogan always seem to lead to entertainment.

Young vs Joliet West at Glenbard East • Jan. 21

Joliet West hopes to get a crack at Public League powers Simeon and Curie at Pontiac in December. This should be another chance at a highly-ranked Public League power in the “When Sides Collide” shootout.

Jacobs vs. Hillcrest at Glenbard East • Jan. 21

Jacobs, a preseason top 25 team with big expectations this season, will face its toughest test in the regular season. Hillcrest will have to find a way to neutralize 6-9 Cameron Krutwig.

Evanston vs. Naperville North • Jan. 21

Naperville North, the DuPage Valley Conference favorites, will get a big midseason measuring stick against the Hoops Report’s preseason No. 2 team.

Joliet West at Bolingbrook • Jan. 24

This has been a pivotal conference game in recent years. While Joliet West left the conference, these two will still meet in what should be a terrific non-conference game featuring a boatload of individual talent on the floor.

Morgan Park at Simeon • Jan. 24

This one is always so good we’ll list both dates between these two rivalries with a bevy of Division I prospects.

North Lawndale at Young • Jan. 25

Just a guess but we’re betting people are talking about this North Lawndale team a lot by this time of the year. This could be for a Red-West title.

Kenwood at Curie • Jan. 26

This Red-Central matchup has heated up over the past couple of years. It will stay hot this winter.

Fenwick at St. Joseph • Jan. 27

Remember the last time these two met? St. Joseph stunned Fenwick in the sectional en route to a fourth-place finish in Class 3A last March. Jacob Keller, Jamal Nixon and the Friars have this one circled on the calendar.

Proviso East at Downers Grove South • Jan. 28

Downers Grove South, led by the tandem of T.J. Clifford and Dennis Alibegovic, will be trying to hold off perennial power Proviso East in the West Suburban Gold.

Lyons Twp. at Oak Park-River Forest • Jan. 28

The West Suburban Silver is going to be a dogfight. LT and Connor Niego are looking to go from worst to first. A win here on the road would go a long way towards accomplishing that goal.

Libertyville at Waukegan • Jan. 28

A chance to see two of the top 10 prospects in the Class of 2019. Libertyville is led by 6-6 sophomore Drew Peterson, while Waukegan boasts Bryant Brown and a super strong sophomore class.

Evanston vs. Homewood-Flossmoor at War on the Shore • Jan. 28

So much to like in this one as a south suburban power meets a north suburban power at the annual War on the Shore at Evanston.

Wheaton North at Naperville North • Jan. 31

A late January matchup that could decide the DuPage Valley Conference. League favorite and defending champ Naperville North hosts a Wheaton North, led by the offensive shooting tandem of Luke Anthony and Rowan McGowan, is a more dangerous team than people realize.

New Trier at Evanston • Feb. 3

It’s still one of the best rivalries you will find. New Trier will enjoy its role of underdog while Evanston tries to live up to Central Suburban League South favorites.

Marist at Niles Notre Dame • Feb. 3

A pair of teams people aren’t talking enough about. The East Suburban Catholic Conference race will be wide open and heated up by early February.

Evanston vs. Belleville Althoff • Feb. 4

The Bank of O’Fallon Shootout is one of the best basketball smorgasbords you’ll find, with perhaps the best game featuring two of the top five seniors in Illinois: Althoff’s Jordan Goodwin and Evanston’s Nojel Eastern.

Belleville East vs. Peoria Manual • Feb. 4

Alright, so it’s not a Chicago area team. But it’s a good one. A pair of the top seniors in the state who are both Illinois recruits — Manual’s Da’Monte Williams and Belleville East’s Javon Pickett — meet in the Bank of O’Fallon Shootout.

Prospect at Lyons Twp. • Feb. 4

Underrated non-conference battle right here between two teams the City/Suburban Hoops Report was a lot higher on heading into the season than most.

Hillcrest at Homewood-Flossmoor • Feb. 4

A monster south suburban non-conference matchup for these two programs and overlooked seniors: H-F’s Jeffrey Boyd and Hillcrest’s Marcus Garrett.

Bolingbrook at Homewood-Flossmoor • Feb. 10

There should be a lot on the line in the Southwest Suburban Blue when these two go at it in February. It’s quite a stretch of games for H-F as the Vikings play St. Joseph, Stagg, Evanston, Lincoln-Way East, Hillcrest and Bolingbrook in a 20-day stretch.

St. Charles East at Geneva • Feb. 10

These two have battled it out for conference and regional titles of late and played in front of some fun crowds. Expect more of the same as both the Saints and Vikings are off to 4-0 starts this season.

Hillcrest at T.F. North • Feb. 10

Hillcrest has won 28 straight conference championships. Yes, that number is correct – TWENTY-EIGHT. If there is any chance at all of that streak ending this year, it’s T.F North and this home date for the Meteors that would do it.

Stevenson at Waukegan • Feb. 17

Welcome to the North Suburban Lake, Waukegan! If projections hold up this could be a tasty conference showdown late in the season that could decide a league title. Plus, Stevenson’s Justin Smith and Waukegan’s Carson Newsome and Bryant Brown provide star quality.

Crete-Monee at Bloom • Feb. 17

Another south suburban clash. Both of these programs will be pushing towards Top 25 status and battling for a Southland Conference championship. Dwayne Rose of Crete-Monee and Bloom’s Jalen Lee are two seniors to watch.

Morgan Park vs. Stevenson at Robert Morris University • Feb. 18

The City-Suburban Showdown has a new location, but it’s always an event that brings together attractive matchups. There is some star power here with Morgan Park’s Ayo Dosunmu, one of the top 25 juniors in the country, facing Stevenson’s Justin Smith, a top 100 senior headed to Indiana.

Simeon vs. Evanston at Robert Morris University • Feb. 18

The 22nd annual City-Suburban Showdown brings a rematch of last year’s battle between these two heavyweights. These two are expected to be ranked among the top five teams in the Chicago area and contend for a Class 4A state championship.

Riverside-Brookfield at Lyons Twp. • Feb. 18

A pair of high-powered teams meet in what should be a raucous atmosphere between two schools separated by only 4 miles. A terrific non-conference showdown and tuneup for March for both teams.

Thornwood at Thornton • Feb. 21

Thornwood is a legitimate sleeper this year, which should make this always intriguing rivalry game a must-see in the south suburbs.

Marian Catholic at Benet • Feb. 22

These two have hooked up for some good ones in recent years. This latest edition in the regular-season finale could decide the East Suburban Catholic Conference.