Henricksen: Evanston-Niles North, other traditional conference showdowns highlight weekend forecast

SHARE Henricksen: Evanston-Niles North, other traditional conference showdowns highlight weekend forecast
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Fenwick coach Rick Malnati calls out a play against Young in the Like Mike Invitational at Chicago Navy Pier, November 26, 2017 Worsom Robinson/For the Sun-Times.

There is a big, full slate of weekend games before holiday tournament talk takes over. With several pivotal conference games and traditional clashes this weekend, the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s weekend forecast is here.

As major or minor as they may be, I’m feeling some upsets this weekend.

Friday, Dec. 15

Evanston at Niles North

A big one in the Central Suburban League South. Evanston, the defending league champs, is young but showing this is more of a reload than a rebuild. The trio of juniors Lance Jones (19 ppg) and Jaheim Holden (16 ppg) and sophomore Blake Peters (10 ppg) are all scoring in double figures. Niles North remains a bit shorthanded with Jamal Stephenson out, but the Vikings and Damaria Franklin (15 ppg) are unbeaten, nonetheless.

Hoops Report pick: Niles North 62, Evanston 56

Benet at St. Viator

This was the year everyone would get their licks in on Benet, right? Are the Redwings overachieving at the No. 17 ranked team or better than we thought? The tandem of sophomore big man Colin Crothers (11 ppg) and senior David Buh (10 ppg) have been steady and consistent in Benet’s strong start.

On paper, St. Viator is the more talented team with senior Pete Lambesis and juniors Jeremiah Hernandez and Treyvon Calvin. More talent, at home and an opportunity to establish itself in the ESCC pushes St. Viator to a close win.

Hoops Report pick: St. Viator 50, Benet 45

Conant at Fremd

There’s no way this rivalry can live up to last year’s epic battles. Can it? These top two MSL West teams go at it again after Fremd swept all three games last year, including a pair of thrilling one-point wins. While the majority of the key players from those teams have moved on, Conant big man Ryan Davis and Fremd guard Ryan Martin are still around. And Davis, in particular, has been a monster thus far.

They both might not be ranked like last year, and Fremd, currently ranked No. 23 in the Super 25, isn’t scratching and clawing to stay undefeated as it was a year ago. But there is still a lot at stake. Expect another down-to-the-wire finish. I kept picking Conant last year, only to see Fremd pull out one dramatic win after another. We’ll switch it up this year which probably means bad news for Fremd.

Hoops Report pick: Fremd 44, Conant 41

Hinsdale South at Willowbrook

These two tied for the top spot in the West Suburban Gold last year. These two are back as favorites, with an improved Proviso East breathing down their necks. And these two have arguably the two best players in the league in Hinsdale South’s Zion Griffin and Willowbrook’s Ethan Schuemer.

An experienced Willowbrook, led Schuemer, need this one. The Warriors are at home and have already dropped one conference game.

Hoops Report pick: Willowbrook 59, Hinsdale South 54

Fenwick at Brother Rice

This new Catholic League setup is going to get interesting. Week after week there will be a battle in the deep, competitive Catholic League Blue, starting here with Fenwick going into an always tough environment.

Fenwick’s up-and-down start to the season can be partly blamed on the rugged schedule it has faced. Brother Rice has nice balance and an emerging junior in guard Marquise Kennedy. But Fenwick’s sophomore star D.J. Steward and Company right the ship and find a way on the road.

Hoops Report pick: Fenwick 64, Brother Rice 57

St. Joseph at St. Ignatius

“Surprising start” and “St. Joseph” don’t typically go together for one of the elite basketball programs in state history. But coach Gene Pingatore’s Chargers have been impressive in their 6-1 start to the season.

St. Ignatius, despite its home loss to Sandburg last week –– and maybe with the way Sandburg is playing it wasn’t such a surprise! –– is a vastly improved and dangerous team from a year ago. The Wolfpack boast size and have strong, veteran lead guard play in Carter Higginbottom. We’ll go with a bounce-back upset here.

Hoops Report pick: St. Ignatius 50, St. Joseph 48

Geneva at Batavia

The rivalry games are revving up in the Upstate Eight River. This one will be fun. This is a perfect opportunity for Geneva, led by point guard Jack McDonald, to get a road win as Batavia is still working its way into pure basketball mode after so many players were part of the state football championship run. But the Hoops Report is extremely high on the potential of this Batavia team, and that potential starts to show in this one.

Hoops Report pick: Batavia 65, Geneva 60

West Aurora at Glenbard East

The Upstate Eight Valley is clearly West Aurora’s to lose. But with Bartlett struggling out of the gate, Glenbard East is the one team with a chance to muck things up for the Blackhawks. But West Aurora, led by a Camron Donatlan, is a notch above everyone in the league right now.

Hoops Report pick: West Aurora 68, Glenbard East 57

Saturday, Dec. 16

Evanston at St. Joseph

A young Evanston team squaring off with a veteran St. Joseph team with a ton of varsity experience, including seniors Jalen and Jordan Boyd, Joffari Brown and Ahmad Muhammad. Evanston caps off a rough nine-day stretch with yet another road game. Both teams are coming off tough road league games Friday night.

Hoops Report pick: Evanston 61, St. Joseph 54

West Aurora at St. Charles North

Both these teams are rock solid and head to Pontiac for the holidays but are in opposite brackets. St. Charles North is a pesky, balanced team. If it can handle West Aurora’s quickness and pressure, the North Stars can pull this upset off.

Hoops Report pick: St. Charles North 57, West Aurora 54

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