Henricksen: Weekend forecast


Young’s Craig Beaudion (3) gets pressured by Orr’s Emanuel O’Neal (2). Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

After a busy Martin Luther King weekend, the City/Suburban Hoops Report breaks down the top games –– with some picks –– of what looks to be a really nice slate of weekend basketball.

There are two mega-conference showdowns Friday night with Marist traveling to Benet and unbeaten Fremd playing Conant for a second time, while Saturday provides the game of the weekend: Joliet West vs. Whitney Young.

Last week’s picks: 7-2

Overall picks: 18-6

Friday. Jan. 20

Marist at Benet

After suffering its first loss of the season to rival Brother Rice in a gut-wrenching overtime defeat on Tuesday, Marist must now bounce back for a key East Suburban Catholic Conference game on the road.

The trio of 6-8 senior Justin Brown and the junior backcourt of Maurice Commander and Morgan Taylor will give Benet all it can handle inside and on the perimeter.

And how’s this for a intriguing side note? Marist coach Gene Nolan has the task of trying to find a way to shut down his nephew, Benet star Jack Nolan.

The 6-0 senior has been on fire over the past month. He scored 24 against Lockport, 30 against Bloomington, 20 against Simeon and 35 against St. Patrick in the past three weeks. In addition, Benet senior Liam Lyman continues to be a factor and is fresh off a day last Saturday where he put up 49 points and 23 rebounds in two games.

Hoops Report pick: Benet 53, Marist 50

Conant at Fremd

Fremd is in the midst of a historical run, trying to match its own unbeaten regular season of 2013-2014. There is chemistry and cohesion that’s fueled this two-month run. But the biggest obstacle standing in its way is league foe Conant.

Fremd won the first meeting between the two back in December, beating the Cougars 48-37 behind the floor game and scoring of guard Kyle Sliwa, along with the defensive job junior Ryan Martin did on Conant star Jimmy Sotos.

If Fremd is able to win this one, then a lot more people will begin to realize this team can run the table. I’ve been pumping Fremd up for a few weeks, and I’m not bailing, but it’s hard to go three months without losing.

The Cougars utilize their size and find a way to win the rematch in a final possession game.

Hoops Report pick: Conant 46, Fremd 44

Saturday, Jan. 21

Jacobs vs. Hillcrest at 2:30 p.m.

at When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East

Up until last week Jacobs was one of the few remaining unbeaten teams left in the state. But Prairie Ridge snuck up and took the Eagles down. The fact Jacobs turned the ball over 23 times in that loss is worrisome coming into this matchup with a quick, athletic Hillcrest team.

If Jacobs can take care of the ball, value possessions and utilize the one big advantage it has ––6-9 star Cameron Krutwig –– the Eagles can win this big regular season matchup and pass a huge measuring stick.

Hillcrest, led by senior guard Marcus Garrett and 6-4 junior Isaac Stanback, has fallen short in its biggest tests with losses to Bloom, Marian Catholic, Bloomington, Morgan Park and Larkin. But the Hawks, who have won four straight, take down the Eagles and keep their second half momentum going.

Hoops Report pick: Hillcrest 64, Jacobs 57

Joliet West vs. Young at 4:00 p.m.

at When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East

The highlight of the weekend with a Chicago Public League power taking on a suburban power in what should be a fun one. Both teams have legitimate visions of playing in Peoria this March.

There is talent lined up on both sides, but the point guard matchup will be one to watch as junior Xavier Castaneda of Young and Joliet West senior Teyvion Kirk go toe-to-toe. Castaneda sat out Young’s win over Orr on Wednesday night but should be ready to go in this non-conference battle. Kirk is one of the top uncommitted prospects remaining in the Midwest.

The difference, however, is the amount of firepower Young brings to the table. In addition to Castaneda, senior Lucas Williamson has been a steady force all season and put his name in the Player of the Year conversation. Junior Javon Freeman gets better and better and Justin Boyd has returned from an ankle injury that sidelined him for a month.

Hoops Report pick: Young 67, Joliet West 62

Evanston vs. Naperville North at 5:30 p.m.

at When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East

A lot of the preseason luster Naperville North entered the season with has worn off. Here’s a chance to restore it against highly-ranked Evanston, which still hasn’t lost to a team from Illinois.

The Huskies have size to throw at the Wildkits in 6-6 Mitch Lewis and 6-7 Chris Johnson, along with an experienced group that still has big expectations in the second half of the season.

Evanston plays in its first marquee game in Illinois since the loss to powerful Montverde Academy in the Chicago Elite Classic in early December. Nojel Eastern was terrific in helping the Wildkits to a second-place finish at the prestigious Beach Ball Classic in Florida in December, while the supporting cast –– from 6-5 Elyjah Williams to perimeter scorer Chris Hamil to up-and-coming sophomore Lance Jones –– has taken turns chipping in.

City/Suburban Hoops Report pick: Evanston 62, Naperville North 52

Kenwood vs. Downers Grove South at 6:00 p.m.

at High School Hoops Showdown at Robert Morris University

Kenwood came crashing back to earth pretty hard last week after being walloped at home by Curie. We shall see how the Broncos recover from that shellacking and the pride they show in coming back from that defeat. While there may not be a headliner, there is talent in place to become a threat in the city and state playoffs.

Downers South comes into this one having lost seven of its last nine. With Western Michigan recruit T.J. Clifford and sweet-shooting Denis Alibegovic, the Mustangs remain dangerous.

Hoops Report pick: Kenwood 71, Downers Grove South 60

Marian Catholic vs. Fenwick at 8:00 p.m.

at High School Hoops Showdown at Robert Morris University

Big weekend for Marian Catholic as it plays ESCC foe Notre Dame Friday night and then battles ranked Fenwick on Saturday.

We are all well aware of the defections at Marian Catholic, with the latest one –– junior guard Brandon Hurt leaving in the middle of the season for a prep school in Florida –– hurting the most. The Spartans have lost three of their last five and are now 10-7 on the year.

Fenwick has been its reliable self, beating everyone it should and losing only to elite teams (Benet, Uplift, Young and Simeon). But you know what the loss at Simeon on MLK day did? It made the Friars better.

While Jacob Keller and Jamal Nixon have been steady, consistent performers as expected, freshman D.J Steward has added some punch offensively.

Hoops Report pick: Fenwick 64, Marian Catholic 51

Waukegan at Stevenson

A modern edition of a North Suburban Conference showdown as newbie Waukegan travels to face the program that’s dominated this league in recent years. Once again, Stevenson is on top at 5-0 while Waukegan is one game back.

What we do know is this young Waukegan team is talented enough to beat Stevenson. But is that still youthful lineup with three sophomore starters ready to win a game like this?

Carson Newsome, a senior headed to UW-Milwaukee next season, has missed the last two games but is expected to be ready for Stevenson. The Bulldogs split those two games, beating St. Charles East and falling to Rockford Jefferson in overtime in Newsome’s absence.

But there is more than just Newsome. DeShawn Davidson is the unsung senior who produces. Then there is the sophomore trio of Bryant Brown, one of the better prospects in the Class of 2019, Ja’Dyn Brown and Jordan Brown. All together it’s a talented group that’s striving for consistency.

Stevenson and Indiana-bound Justin Smith have quietly ripped off six dominating wins since an opening-round tournament loss at Hinsdale Central over the holidays. With a win over Waukegan, Smith and Company will have put two games between themselves and their stiffest challenger. And a win would put the Patriots in solid shape in their quest for a fifth straight conference championship.

Hoops Report pick: Stevenson 63, Waukegan 60

Geneva at St. Charles East

Geneva has been a record-breaker of late, winning a school record 30 games in 2014-2015 and off to the best start in the program’s history this season with a 20-0 record.

St. Charles East plays a fun offensive style and system, so when the Saints are shooting it well and making it easier for junior Justin Hardy to operate, they’re dangerous. And capable of handing Geneva its first loss of the season.

Hoops Report pick: St. Charles East 63, Geneva 59

La Lumiere (Ind.) at DePaul Prep • 5:00 p.m.

A local David vs. a national Goliath as DePaul Prep, a Class 2A team out of the Chicago Catholic League, hosts a prep school monster that was ranked No. 1 in the country until falling this past weekend in the Hoop Hall Classic in Massachusetts.

There is young talent in place at DePaul Prep, including super sophomore Perry Cowan and freshman guard Elliot Sieger. But La Lumiere is a different animal. La Lumiere features 6-8 Brian Bowen, one of the top 20 players in the country, along with a host of other Division I players and prospects.

In 16 wins prior to the loss this past weekend, La Lumiere beat 11 of those 16 teams by 29 or more points with an overall average victory margin this season of 34 points a game. In only one win this season has a team even come within 15 points of La Lumiere.

Will it be a measuring stick for the young and improving Rams or simply a learning experience playing one of the elite prep schools in the country?

Hoops Report pick: La Lumiere 76, DePaul Prep 54

Follow Joe Henricksen and the City/Suburban Hoops Report on Twitter @joehoopsreport

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