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Young coach Tyrone Slaughter talks to his players against Joliet West. Worsom Robinson/ For the Sun-Times.

Henricksen: One big and busy weekend rewind

SHARE Henricksen: One big and busy weekend rewind
SHARE Henricksen: One big and busy weekend rewind

There were some real statements made this past weekend across the Chicago area, including some big ones at the When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East, presented by the City/Suburban Hoops Report.

Here is a weekend rewind of a busy few days of basketball.

➤ There was a reason Naperville North was ranked in the preseason and why it was invited to play Evanston in the When Sides Collide Shootout at Glenbard East. This was a team that won 23 games and a conference championship last season and returned the bulk of that team.

But the preseason hype had subsided with four regular season losses before the calendar turned to January. But a win like the one the Huskies had on Saturday, upsetting highly-ranked Evanston, is one that can jump-start coach Jeff Powers’ team. Don’t be surprised if Naperville North goes on a run before closing out the season with a huge DuPage Valley game with Wheaton South.

➤ A crazy side story to the big Naperville North win over Evanston was the performance from Youcef Merabet. There’s no way Evanston coach Mike Ellis could have had much, if anything at all, of a scouting report on or prepared for the senior guard. Merabet has played spot minutes here and there but came out of nowhere to score 20 points in the win.

➤ Time to add Cameron Krutwig to the Player of the Year conversation? You bet it is. The Loyola-bound big man was sensational in leading Jacobs to a dominating win over Hillcrest. Krutwig’s dominance was highlighted HERE in the Hoops Report’s weekly Three-Pointer.

➤ The fact two young players –– freshman Tyler Beard and sophomore Myles Baker –– continue to play better and better and were big factors in Whitney Young’s win over Joliet West isn’t good news for future opponents of the Dolphins. The last thing an opposing team needs to deal with is for this team to have another offensive option or two to go with Lucas Williamson, Javon Freeman, Xavier Castaneda and Justin Boyd.

Young’s Javon Freeman has grown as a player. His game has grown and he’s grown mentally as he’s matured and become more and more acclimated to his surroundings at Young. The 6-4 junior is pushing his way towards top five status in the Class of 2018.

➤ Give credit where credit is due as Jacobs seriously took it to Hillcrest on Saturday at the When Sides Collide Shootout. Cameron Krutwig manhandled Hillcrest on the glass and picked them apart with his passing, while people underestimate the defense Jacobs is playing.

But that did not look like a typical Don Houston coached team on Saturday for Hillcrest. The Hawks were beaten down the floor and to loose balls and didn’t play with the sense of urgency you always see from Hillcrest teams.

The Hawks are still a solid 13-6 and will be a factor in Class 3A this March, but this is one of the rare times I’ve felt one of the longest streaks in high school basketball was in serious jeopardy.

Hillcrest has won 28 straight conference championships. Yes, that’s TWENTY-EIGHT! But with Hillcrest looking susceptible and T.F. North now 14-3 overall (8-0 in the South Suburban Blue), continuing the streak is no guarantee. The two will meet Feb. 10 at T.F. North.

➤ Was there a team that needed a win this weekend more than Downers Grove South? The Mustangs had lost seven out of their last nine games, including four of those losses by double digits. But DGS dug deep and found a way to beat Kenwood, 53-52, Saturday night.

Geneva just keeps rolling. While some darts have been thrown at Geneva over its schedule strength, the Vikings are beating everyone on their schedule, including a nice win over St. Charles East over the weekend. With the 22-0 start to the season the Vikings have now won 20-plus games for five straight seasons.

➤ Speaking of unbeaten teams, Fremd passed its biggest remaining hurdle to a perfect regular season with a dramatic win over Conant this past weekend. Going forward I just don’t see a loss remaining on their schedule. In the pretty remarkable department, if the Vikings can run the table in these final seven games it will amazingly be their second unbeaten regular season in four years.

Fenwick was able to pull out a 52-50 win over Marian Catholic this past weekend. But it had to do so without star guard Jacob Keller, who missed the game with a foot injury.

➤ While it’s obvious Fenwick becomes way more vulnerable without Keller –– it remains to be seen how much time he will miss –– the Catholic League has a few teams flying under the radar who could be dangerous in next month’s Catholic League Tournament.

Brother Rice has the 1-2 punch of Josh Niego and Mike Shepski and made a statement last week in handing Marist its only loss of the season. The red-hot Crusaders are 17-3 and have won 12 of their last 13 games.

Keep an eye on an improving Loyola Academy. The Ramblers now sit 13-5 and have won eight straight. While Loyola has fallen short against the heavy hitters on its schedule, coach Tom Livatino’s team has also lost four of its five games by a grand total of seven points –– Yes, four games by seven points! –– including two overtime games.

➤ Is there a team that can take more positives from a loss this season than DePaul Prep can take from its defeat this past weekend? No one likes to have to take positives from a loss, but the Class 2A school hung with the mighty prep school giant, La Lumiere out of Indiana, which is loaded with Division I players. Coach Tom Kleinschmidt’s team hung with La Lumiere all game long, before ultimately falling 70-59 in front of a sold out gym.

If the young talent in place at DePaul Prep, including sophomore Perry Cowan and freshman Elliot Sieger, doesn’t put a scare into sectional foes Orr and and Uplift, the score of this game –– even in defeat ––should.

➤ It looks as if the Division I world has finally opened its arms to small school hotshot Taylor Bruninga of Illini Bluffs. The belief here was that he was a Division I prospect coming out of the summer and bolstered that with his play right from the start of his senior season. We’re talking about a kid who’s a shade over 6-7, can really shoot the basketball and is putting up massive numbers. Yet until the past couple of weeks there wasn’t a Division I offer on the table. Now Eastern Illinois and Illinois State are on board with offers for a player who is the classic late bloomer from central Illinois.

➤ There isn’t a team that’s more beat up right now than Homewood-Flossmoor. The Vikings, though, have no time to feel sorry for themselves with the schedule it faces.

Coach Marc Condotti has been playing without its top two players, Jeffrey Boyd and Jarret Tribble, along with athletic big man Cortez King-Parks. After beating St. Joseph in triple overtime this past weekend to improve to 15-5, the Vikings must now to travel to Evanston this weekend.

Marist tested themselves in a big way last week. And even with a two-game split, which did include an overtime loss to rival Brother Rice, coach Gene Nolan has to feel very positive coming out of the week. Marist was able to bounce back from the loss to Brother Rice and secure a win over Benet in a tough road win environment.

The Marist defensive game plan and effort it put together for Benet star Jack Nolan was executed to perfection. It’s not every day a coach has to prepare and come up with a plan to lock up a nephew. But that was the interesting position Gene Nolan had as coach in trying to stop Jack Nolan, who was held in check.

➤ I tweeted this during the Marist-Benet game but it’s worth repeating: I can’t get over the huge strides and improvement 6-8 Justin Brown has made at Marist over the past three years. It’s a credit to Brown how far he’s come as a player. There was a time I wasn’t sure he would ever be a viable varsity contributor. Now he’s a stud for a 20-1 team and is a scholarship-type prospect.

➤ We’ve all grown accustomed to ridiculously high standards of Benet basketball under coach Gene Heidkamp over the last several years. But don’t underestimate the job Heidkamp has done in getting this team, in particular, to 14-6 with the schedule it plays. The Redwings have played nine teams that have been ranked in some poll at one point this season.

North Lawndale added a big weapon this past week. Junior transfer David Forrest, a super athlete and powerful perimeter player, became eligible after averaging over 20 points a game last season at Foreman. This is a serious Class 3A contender.

Stevenson’s Justin Smith has the Patriots off to a 6-0 start in the North Suburban Conference, averaging 21.9 points, 9.5 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 1.2 blocks a game. The ultra-athletic Smith, who is headed to Indiana next season and has 45 dunks on the year, has been a part of a dominating run in the North Suburban Conference as Stevenson is in search of its fifth straight league title. Stevenson has now gone 49-5 in four-plus years in league play.

➤ There is no question Mike Healy of Wheaton South is my Midseason Coach of the Year. But I’ve also been raving about the underrated job Nick Latorre has done at Hinsdale Central, which was highlighted HERE in this week’s Hoops Report weekly three-pointer.

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

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