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

It’s a loaded Friday with the Public League semis and several key conference showdowns.

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Bogan’s Antione Bloxton (3) drives the ball to the basket against Morton.

Bogan’s Antione Bloxton (3) drives the ball to the basket against Morton.

Kirsten Stickney/For the Sun-Times

The Friday night action includes several monster games, including the Chicago Public League semifinals and a couple of showdowns in the North Suburban Conference and the DuKane Conference that will decide league races.

Public League Semifinals

Simeon (20-8) vs. Curie (24-1), Friday, 5 at Jones Armory

Curie, the defending city champs, hasn’t lost to an in-state team all season long. But you know who came the closest? Simeon.

In a dramatic December win, Curie beat Simeon 67-66 on a clutch, game-winning shot from Ramean Hinton. It was too much of Hinton (23 points) and Elijah Pickens (17 points) in the first matchup. Those two have been the backbone all season for the No. 1 team in the state.

Curie continues to roll despite the absence of its head coach, Mike Oliver, who remains under investigation by CPS for an alleged altercation with a student. But it’s a team that just seems to be playing with a chip on its shoulder –– all season long.

This is a different Simeon team, however, than the one Curie faced two months ago. The Wolverines and Jeremiah Williams are playing their best basketball of the season, winning eight straight games, including impressive wins over Morgan Park and a pair of state-ranked teams, Notre Dame and Collinsville.

There are a couple of players in Williams and Ahamad Bynum who are capable of taking over any game. Plus, there are a host of players who seem to be settling into their respective roles.

You get the feeling Curie has to lose at some point. And maybe even needs a defeat before state playoff time? Simeon keeps the positive mojo rolling in an upset.

Hoops Report pick: Simeon 65, Curie 63

Morgan Park (18-8) vs. Bogan (23-2), Friday, 7 at Jones Armory

These are two city powers who have experienced two completely different seasons.

Bogan has lost twice all season –– by a combined five points –– to Curie and Notre Dame, the No. 1 and No. 4 teams.

There have been some doubters over the course of the season when it comes to Morgan Park. But after beating Young and D.J. Steward on the road Tuesday night, the Mustangs have quieted some critics as coach Nick Irvin’s team rolls into the semifinals.

This was a much-needed boost for a Morgan Park team that has eight losses and beat “mighty” Ag Science by just six points in the city playoff opener. The win should have re-energized the Mustangs, who are led by the Adam Miller-Brandon Weston tandem.

On a side note, two of the most dynamic scorers in the state will square off. The heralded Miller, who is committed to Illinois, scored 23 points in the win over Young and can put up 30 on any given night. Bogan’s Antione Bloxton poured in 41 points in the lopsided quarterfinal win over Crane.

Bogan won the first meeting, 71-68, way back in early December behind a balanced scoring attack, with the backcourt of Darrion Jones and Bloxton leading the way. Brandon Weston scored 24 for Morgan Park in that loss.

Expect another down-to-the-wire, one-possession game.

Hoops Report pick: Morgan Park 72, Bogan 70

Stevenson (19-4) at Mundelein (22-3), Friday, 7

These are the types of games you want to be a part of late in the season. The fans will fill the gym, just as they did the first time these two met –– a 67-64 Stevenson win in early January –– and both teams will benefit from it in what amounts to a high-stakes tune-up for March basketball.

The winner of this should be rewarded with the top seed in the Prospect Sectional.

Stevenson’s defense has the ability to frustrate opponents. The Patriots are stingy and extremely disciplined at that end of the floor. There hasn’t been a team to score more than 55 points in a game against Stevenson all season –– except Mundelein.

Offensively, you won’t find a more balanced team than coach Pat Ambrose’s Patriots. Matthew Ambrose and Matt Kaznikov both average 11 points a game, followed by R.J. Holmes (10 ppg), John Ittournas (9 ppg) and Evan Ambrose (8 ppg).

Mundelein is a little more offensively blessed, led by the inside-outside punch of 6-8 Scottie Ebube (15 ppg, 10 rpg) and the perimeter play of Conor Enright (13 ppg) and Trey Baker (14 ppg).

Mundelein’s firepower and playing on its home floor is enough to tie things up in the North Suburban Conference.

Hoops Report pick: Mundelein 63, Stevenson 60

St. Charles East (19-6) at St. Charles North (18-6), Friday, 7

There will be a lot at stake in this one, including St. Charles supremacy, sectional seeding implications and first place in the DuKane Conference.

St. Charles North, led by 6-9 big man Connor Linke and guard Luke Scheffers, beat its rival 66-53 back in December.

But this is a difference St. Charles East team, one that is riding a 10-game win streak. During that stretch the Saints, led by a balanced attack featuring senior Chase Monkemeyer, is averaging a whopping 75 points a game.

St. Charles North controls the tempo, rides the defense provided by Linke and the home court advantage for a tight win.

Hoops Report pick: St. Charles North 56, St. Charles East 54

Notre Dame (25-3) at Benet (18-7), Friday, 7

There doesn’t appear to be a team in the East Suburban Catholic Conference that can touch Notre Dame. The Dons are loaded with talent, unbeaten in league play and are a legitimate state title contender in Class 3A.

A road game at Benet, however, is never easy and is always going to be a challenge. But Notre Dame has too much talent and cohesiveness for a Benet team that can struggle scoring the basketball consistently.

Hoops Report pick: Notre Dame 60, Benet 48

Fenwick (20-6) at DePaul Prep (21-3), Friday, 7

There are some extremely talented underclassmen leading the way for two teams that have already surpassed 20 wins on the year.

The headliner, of course, is Fenwick’s nearly unstoppable junior Bryce Hopkins, a matchup nightmare with his size, skill and strength. Plus, sophomore Trey Pettigrew is monster offensive weapon as well.

Tyler Johnson has emerged as one of the elite players in the league for DePaul Prep. The junior guard impacts at both ends of the floor and can take over a game because of it. The perimeter trio of Johnson, senior Lance Mosley and junior Rashard Bello complement one another so well.

The difference here, though, is that one of these teams has played stellar defense all season and the other not so much. That will be the difference.

Hoops Report pick: DePaul Prep 57, Fenwick 50

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