Believe it or not, we are already heading into the second half of the season, which brings us another weekend of key conference clashes and some Saturday shootouts.
But this early edition of the Weekend Forecast includes a Thursday night showdown featuring the Sun-Times’ top two teams in the most recent Super 25.
Here’s the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s Weekend Forecast.
■ Curie at Simeon
Simeon coach Robert Smith may believe his team didn’t play well in his team’s most recent win over Dunbar, calling it his team’s worst game of the year. But there are always going to be a few of those in a season. You can be sure playing Curie at home will solve any malaise Smith may have.
This is still the same team, with the same players who have dominated and clearly looked the part of a No. 1 team for the first two months of the season.
Curie seems to be settling in nicely since its only loss to a team from Illinois. The problem is that loss came to Simeon, by 19 points, in the championship game of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament. Junior Marquise Walker scored 20 points in that loss but the remaining key Curie pieces –– Dajuan Gordon, Maurice Commander, Tyree Martin, Treavon Martin and Jayden Gasby –– all combined to score a paltry 15 points. That’s obviously going to have to change if Curie has any hopes of pulling off the upset.
But the Condors, led by a balanced attack featuring junior guard Marquise Walker, have a growing résumé full of nice wins over Orr, St. Rita, Morgan Park, West Aurora, Oak Park, Bogan and North Lawndale.
While the Hoops Report expects this one to be much closer, Simeon still trots out Talen Horton-Tucker, who went for 25 points, 10 rebounds and 4 assists in the December win over Curie, and a strong supporting cast. The Wolverines revert back to their impressive ways and get the win.
Hoops Report pick: Simeon 68, Curie 60
■ Fenwick at DePaul Prep
This is the game of the weekend as rugged Catholic League play rolls on. The gym should be jumping with Fenwick coming in on Tom Kleinschmidt Jersey Retirement Night at DePaul Prep.
Kleinschmidt, the former Gordon Tech legend and DePaul star, is a coach with a player in Perry Cowan who has elevated his play as a junior. Cowan, highlighted earlier in the week in the City/Suburban Hoops Report’s Three-Pointer column, is an all-around threat that Fenwick will certainly have a game plan.
Raheem Anthony is another weapon for the Rams, while big man Pavle Pantovic needs to make his presence felt in this one, especially if Fenwick big man Mike O’Laughlin doesn’t play or is limited due to an injury that knocked him out of the Morgan Park game last weekend.
Can Cowan be the best player on the floor in a game featuring Fenwick’s super sophomore, D.J. Steward? He will have to be if DePaul Prep wants to pull this one off.
Hoops Report pick: Fenwick 52, DePaul Prep 48
■ Maine South at Evanston
A big road test for a Maine South team that needs this win to stay in the Central Suburban League South hunt. Evanston is atop the CSL South at 5-1; Maine South sits 3-2.
Maine South has balance and size with four players –– 6-7 Grant Miller, 6-7 Tommy Gardiner, 6-4 Fillip Bulatovic and leading scorer Essam Hamwi –– all averaging between 10 and 16 points a game.
Evanston, led by juniors guards Lance Jones and Jaheim Holden, went into Park Ridge and won back in December, edging the Hawks 61-57. This will be just as tough, but the Wildkits make it a clean sweep with a win at home in similar fashion.
Hoops Report pick: Evanston 63, Maine South 60
■ Palatine at Barrington
With three teams tied for the top spot in the Mid-Suburban League West, including these two surprises, this is a key game. The two met in the middle of December with Palatine pulling out at 46-40 win.
The emergence of Barrington junior guard Jason Boock has helped propel the Broncos to their surprising 15-4 start to the season. Boock has put together some big offensive production, including including a 35-point effort with seven three-pointers in a win over Cary-Grove at the Jacobs Holiday Tournament and a 33 point (with six three-pointers) barrage in an early January win over Conant.
Palatine is a senior-laden team with balance, can shoot it a little and continues to get production from various sources. But seniors Lamon Berry, with his perimeter shooting and scoring, and 6-3 Johnny O’Shea have been a constant for coach Eric Millstone.
Hoops Report pick: Palatine 43, Barrington 41
■ Romeoville at Joliet Central
Despite the blowout non-conference losses to Bolingbrook and West Aurora and the skepticism that’s come with it, Romeoville still has a lot of season left and plenty to play for. It starts here with the Southwest Prairie Conference lead on the line as both teams are unbeaten in conference play.
Ryan Saunders has quietly been one of the more productive players in the Chicago area and Cameron Blackmon an underrated one in leading Joliet Central. The Steelmen also have multiple players capable of knocking down perimeter shots.
Have we all talked about Romeoville too much and Joliet Central not enough? This one will at least decide that and have implications on both conference standings and sectional seeds.
Hoops Report pick: Joliet Central 52, Romeoville 48
■ Lincoln-Way East at Bolingbrook
OK, Lincoln-Way East, here’s your chance to put yourself back on the big scale radar. The record can’t be dismissed — the Griffins are 14-3 on the season –– but the win column is lacking overall substance, at least in terms of being considered a top 25-type team. Can Sam Shafer and Company go into Bolingbrook and pull off an upset –– or at the very least compete and play the ’Brook tough?
That speed and quickness of the Raiders, however, is difference-making. And it’s what can give this Lincoln-Way East team troubles. Joseph Yesufu, Tyler Cochran and Bolingbrook stay unbeaten in Southwest Suburban Blue play.
Hoops Report pick: Bolingbrook 68, Lincoln-Way East 59
■ Proviso East at Willowbrook
The West Suburban Gold tightened up last week when Hinsdale South went into Maywood and knocked off Proviso East. Now coach Donnie Boyce’s Pirates head to Willowbrook, the league’s preseason favorite, with a one game lead.
Willowbrook is a veteran group that may be finding its groove after knocking off Larkin earlier this week. Ethan Schuemer is a load and sophomore Everette Stubblefield, who transferred in from Proviso East, made a smashing varsity debut this week. If Willowbrook can handle the Proviso East quickness and pressure, utilize the advantage it has with Schuemer, the Warriors win at home and really muddy up the West Suburban Gold.
Hoops Report pick: Willowbrook 62, Proviso East 60
■ Batavia at Geneva
If either one of these teams wants to at least grab a share of the Upstate Eight River, this is a must win. Both teams sit two games back of Larkin. But Batavia has two games remaining with the league leader while Geneva still has one.
Tough weekend for Geneva as the Vikings play rival Batavia on Friday and then travel to face Evanston on Saturday in Loyola’s War on the Shore.
Hoops Report pick: Batavia 60, Geneva 55
■ Batavia Night of Hoops
•Downers Grove North vs. Highland Park at 3:00 p.m.
Since starting the season 0-4, Highland Park has gone 10-3. Keep an eye on Highland Park senior guard Ziv Tal and a strong junior class for Downers Grove North, led by guard Semaj Henderson.
Hoops Report pick: Downers Grove North 52, Highland Park 47
•DeKalb vs. St. Charles East at 4:30 p.m.
•Willowbrook vs. West Aurora at 6:15 p.m.
Willowbrook caps off a huge week –– the Warriors beat Larkin on Tuesday and play Proviso East on Friday –– with a tough non-conference tilt with a hot West Aurora team.
Hoops Report pick: West Aurora 60, Willowbrook 56
•St. Joseph vs. Batavia at 7:45 p.m.
The host school faces a St. Joseph team that’s dangerous with a senior group of 6-5 Jalen Boyd, 6-6 Jordan Boyd, point guard Ahmad Muhammad and Joffari Brown. But the Chargers have been very up and down. Since their 5-0 start to the season, St. Joseph is just 6-6.
Hoops Report pick: Batavia 63, St. Joseph 55
■ War on the Shore at Loyola
• New Trier vs. St. Viator at 1:30 p.m.
This should be a good one. Plenty of junior firepower on display. New Trier boasts great size in 6-9 junior Ciaran Brayboy and 6-8 junior Spencer Boehm. St. Viator counters with perimeter firepower in junior guards Jeremiah Hernandez and Treyvon Calvin.
Since starting the season with a 8-1 record and wins over Marian Catholic and Benet in December, St. Viator, a team that can really score points, has been searching for another marquee win. Here’s a chance to do so. But New Trier’s size inside and the play of tough senior guard Andrew Kirkpatrick gets it done.
Hoops Report pick: New Trier 64, St. Viator 60
•Evanston vs. Geneva at 3:00 p.m.
Geneva junior point guard Jack McDonald is a good one, and he will have to handle the speed and pressure Evanston throws at the Vikings. Geneva has fallen short in matchups with the top teams on its schedule and Evanston is the best team it has faced.
Hoops Report pick: Evanston 66, Geneva 56
•Loyola vs. Detroit Jesuit (MI) at 4:30 p.m.
Coach Tom Livatino’s team is a bit overlooked and under-appreciated, considering the Ramblers are 17-3, own a win over Lincoln Park and have won 11 of 12 with its only loss in that stretch coming to a ranked DePaul Prep.
But this will be a big test for Loyola, who will need to score some points in this one. Detroit Jesuit heads to the Chicago area with a 10-2 record. Led by a pair of juniors who both sport Division I offers, 6-9 Jalen Thomas and point guard Daniel Friday, Detroit Jesuit is ranked No. 10 in the state of Michigan.
Hoops Report pick: Detroit Jesuit 56, Loyola Academy 49
■ Orr Breast Cancer Shootout
• Prosser vs. Roosevelt (IN) at 9:00 a.m.
• Providence St. Mel vs. Kankakee at 10:30 a.m.
• Farragut vs. Vocational at 11:40 a.m.
• Uplift vs. Leo at 1:00 p.m.
•Curie vs. North Chicago at 2:30 p.m.
•Orr vs. St. Louis Vashon (MO) at 4:00 p.m.
• Kenwood vs. Thornton at 5:20 p.m.
•Bowman (IN) vs. Racine Park (WI) at 6:40 p.m.
• Bogan vs. Washington (WI) at 7:10 p.m.
•Proviso East vs. Gary Lighthouse (IN) at 8:30 p.m.
While the Uplift-Leo matchup will be interesting and likely entertaining, the headliner is the Orr-Vashon showdown, a game featuring two of the best teams from their respective state. Vashon brings to Chicago one of the more electric guards in the Midwest in Mario McKinney, a junior with multiple high-major offers.