High school basketball weekend forecast: Previewing and predicting the top games

The Saturday schedule offers up a bundle of outstanding non-conference matchups throughout the area.

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Evanston’s Elijah Bull (10) delivers the ball to the basket against Glenbrook South.

Evanston’s Elijah Bull (10) delivers the ball to the basket against Glenbrook South.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The Friday night slate of high-profile matchups is light. However, the Saturday schedule offers up a bundle of outstanding non-conference matchups throughout the Chicago area. 

Tinley Park at No. 18 Oak Forest, Friday, 6:30

Unbeaten in the South Suburban Blue, Oak Forest maintains a one-game lead over league heavyweight Hillcrest. Those two won’t meet until the final regular-season game of the year. 

With its youth, Tinley Park continues to be a work in progress. There have been some ups and downs throughout the first two-plus months of the season. There is the Tinley Park team that has beaten Schaumburg and played Bolingbrook tough in defeat. There is the Tinley Park team that lost to Oak Lawn and Hillcrest by 30-plus points.

But what puts this game on the map are the two sophomores: Tinley Park’s A.J. Casey and Oak Forest’s Robbie Avila. The 6-8 Casey is the No. 1 player in the Class of 2022 in Illinois, while the 6-8 Robbie Avila is ranked among the top 10. That high-profile player matchup will be fun to watch. 

While Casey averages 21 points a game, senior Yitonis Nash, junior Maurice Evans, and sophomores AaReyon Munir-Jones and Keon Richardson all average between six and nine points a game. 

But with Robbie Avila, 6-5 wing Jayson Kent and stat-sheet-stuffer Juan Avila, Oak Forest has too much firepower in this one. Those three average close to 50 points a game between them. Kent leads the Bengals in scoring with 17.8 points a game. Robbie Avila averages 17.3 points, 8.1 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game, and Juan Avila chips in 10.9 points, 4.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists a game. 

Look for Oak Forest to pick up its 20th win and improve to glitzy 20-1 on the season. 

Hoops Report pick: Oak Forest 67, Tinley Park 59

York at Lyons, Friday, 7:30

York is on top of the West Suburban Silver behind the play of Nate Shockey and its tricky ball press defense. 

While Lyons is likely out of the West Suburban Silver race with four league losses, this is a different team of late. The Lions have won five in a row and are 10-2 since their 3-4 start to the season. 

Keep an eye on two high-scoring perimeter players in Shockey, who is averaging 22 points a game, and Grant Niego, who is just under 20 points a game on the season. 

Hoops Report pick: York 44, Lyons 40

No. 11 Marian Catholic at No. 5 Bloom, Saturday, 1

Chicago Heights will be primed and ready for a big one Saturday. These two schools that sit just down the road from one another collide for a second time as ranked teams. That’s a good thing for a Bloom team that is fresh off an emotional win over Thornton earlier this week. 

Marian Catholic and Bloom met back in November in the title game of the Chicago Heights Classic. Bloom broke open a tight game in the fourth quarter and cruised to a 77-60 win. 

Iowa-bound point guard Ahron Ulis and Company have shown it can beat some of the state’s best, knocking off Homewood-Flossmoor, Stevenson and Morgan Park this season. 

But what this comes down to is this: Bloom simply has more reliable weapons and options offensively. The arsenal is loaded with Dante Maddox, Jr., Keshawn Williams, Donovan Newby, Martice Mitchell and Christian Shumate. They share the wealth and are such a difficult team to contain with their speed, athleticism in the open floor and just enough three-point shooting. 

Hoops Report pick: Bloom 66, Marian Catholic 56

No. 15 Stevenson at Zion-Benton, Saturday, 4

Both of these teams hope to avoid a 0-2 week in conference play as Libertyville beat Zion-Benton and Lake Forest upset Stevenson on Wednesday. 

Zion-Benton’s lopsided win over Evanston last week should have put some teams on notice. The 1-2 punch of 6-5 senior Damontae Taylor and 6-5 junior Amar Aguillard should as well. This is a potent combination offensively as Aguillard is averaging 27.5 points a game, including over 30 a game in his last nine, while Taylor adds 20.3 points a game. 

Stevenson, however, isn’t a team that’s going to run up and down the court with the Zee-Bees. The Patriots will try and control tempo, execute in the halfcourt and make things difficult with its defensive principles. Can Zion-Benton adjust?

Stevenson, led by the senior trio of Matthew Ambrose, John Ittounas and R.J. Holmes, gets back on track and stays even with Mundelein in the North Suburban Conference. 

Hoops Report pick: Stevenson 58, Zion-Benton 52

No. 9 DePaul Prep at Benet, Saturday, 5

A Chicago Catholic League vs. East Suburban Catholic League clash where points should be hard to come by with two sound, defensive-minded programs. 

But DePaul Prep has been scoring of late, led by TY Johnson (21.2 ppg) and Lance Mosley (15.1 ppg). The Rams have scored 75-plus points in three straight games. But the Benet defense will make DePaul Prep’s offense grind it out a little more than it’s used to.

Big man Brian Matthews (12.1 ppg) continues to make big strides while guard Rasheed Bello (8 ppg) is one of the best-kept secrets in the Chicago area. Bello is an elite defender who fills a stat sheet with rebounds, assists and steals. 

Benet has battled injuries and illness all season long but are poised to put things together down the stretch, a stretch that includes a brutally tough schedule. The Redwings close out the season with games against DePaul, Marian Catholic, Notre Dame, prep school power La Lumiere out of Indiana, Stevenson and St. Charles North. 

Hoops Report pick: DePaul Prep 61, Benet 54

No. 8 Homewood-Flossmoor at Hillcrest, Saturday, 1:30

These south suburban powers met two months ago in the Chicago Heights Classic. Homewood-Flossmoor had its way with Hillcrest in a 72-54 win. H-F’s Josiah Palmer was hot from the perimeter in that one and the Vikings rolled.

Since then coach Marc Condotti’s team has lost just once, falling to No. 2 Thornton, and has been so impressive all season with multiple three-point threats and rock solid R.J. Ogom. 

Hillcrest has looked like it’s a team close to turning around its fortunes. The Hawks, who are led by juniors Julius Rollins, Jakobi Heady and Mar’Keise Irving, recently played Evanston tough in a five-point loss and then hammered Tinley Park. But coach Don Houston’s team, which is 1-5 against teams that have been ranked this season, is still in desperate need of a signature win to recharge itself. 

Hoops Report pick: Homewood-Flossmoor 71, Hillcrest 66

Oak Park at No. 2 Evanston, Saturday, 6

The January schedule doesn’t let up for an Evanston team that just faced Bloom, Loyola and Glenbrook South, three ranked teams with a combined record of 60-10, in the past week. 

The dazzling display of perimeter speed, quickness and three-point shooting continues to propel a team that can score in bunches. While Blake Peters and Jaylin Gibson remain the key cogs, coach Mike Ellis has found ample support for them in the form of Daeshawn Hemphill, Jaheim Holden, Elyjah Bull and Rashawn Bost. 

A talented Oak Park team, led by juniors Isaiah Barnes and Josh Smith, gets a perfect measuring stick. How far have the young Huskies come this season? This road date in Evanston could provide the answer to that question. 

Hoops Report pick: Evanston 68, Oak Park 59

No. 20 Bolingbrook vs. No. 12 Joliet West at Lewis, Saturday, 6

This should be an entertaining, back-and-forth basketball game where both of these teams will be able to get out and go with the space a college court will provide at Lewis University. 

Bolingbrook’s Darius Burford, who has signed with Elon, and Joliet West’s Jamere Hill, who has committed to Toledo, are two of the best senior guards in the class. Burford is electric scoring the basketball, especially in the open floor. Hill is one of the real breakout players in the senior class. 

Could this be a preview of the Lockport Sectional championship game in March? 

Hoops Report pick: Joliet West 62, Bolingbrook 60

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