Last weekend, highlighted by the dramatic Notre Dame win over Fenwick, was a good one. My quick 5-0 start in the Weekend Forecast business has me feeling good in this snap of a season.
This weekend has several pivotal conference showdowns, including one that could determine a league title and tournament berth in the season-ending Chipotle Clash of Champions in March. That would be the battle of unbeatens –– Glenbrook South and Evanston –– in the Central Suburban League South.
In addition, Mundelein can take a big step towards its first conference championship since 1994, Brother Rice can show it’s more than just a surprise in the Catholic League and two Public League teams, Clark and North Lawndale, tip off their season in style in a matchup of ranked teams.
Here is the Weekend Forecast with a half dozen picks.
Fenwick (7-1) at Brother Rice (6-0), 7 p.m.
Unbeaten Brother Rice impressed in a win over St. Ignatius and hopes to play the roll of the surprise Catholic League team. With the ball in the hands of impactful point guard Ahmad Henderson, the Crusaders can be that team. The 5-8 Henderson is surrounded by 6-7 Luke Moustakas, shooter Garrett Greene and tough, hard-nosed Cullen Cosme.
Everyone knows Fenwick has the star in Bryce Hopkins. The Kentucky-bound recruit can manhandle just about anyone, especially now that junior David Gieser is back to space the floor for the Friars with his outstanding shooting ability. The combination is difficult to defend.
The pick:Fenwick 64, Brother Rice 57
Lake Forest (8-1) at Mundelein (8-1), 7:30 p.m.
It’s a first-place battle in the North Suburban Conference –– and Stevenson isn’t a part of it.
League favorite Mundelein lost to Lake Forest in its season opener earlier this month, falling 71-60 with big man Scottie Ebube sidelined. But it wasn’t considered a league game. Ebube, a Southern Illinois recruit, is back and has been very productive since. Drake recruit Conor Enright and Trey Baker are a pair of offensive-minded guards.
Lake Forest’s Walt Mattingly, who played last year at Deerfield, scored 19 points in the first matchup between these two, while tough and steady senior Jack Malloy scored 20. That senior combo, along with the shooting and scoring prowess of 6-6 sophomore Asa Thomas, has the Scouts as a legit conference title contender. Keep an eye on talented freshman Tommy Aberle.
Mundelein gets its revenge and the all-important conference win.
The pick:Mundelein 65, Lake Forest 60
Clark (0-0) at North Lawndale (0-0) , 7 p.m.
Terry Head has elevated the Clark program since his arrival as head coach in 2017. He’s brought energy to the program and has guided the Eagles to a pair of Class 2A regional titles the past three years.
But now Clark gets a taste of an upper-division battle in the Public League’s Red-West/North.
From a personnel standpoint, the battle in the backcourt will be one to watch. Clark has a scorer in junior guard Darrius Perryman, who knocked down 63 three-pointers last year as a sophomore, who is set to make a name for himself. Senior Michael Hardges, who led the team in rebounding and is a defensive warrior, also returns for a fourth varsity season.
Plus, Head welcomes Mikell Jones and Miquwon Jones, a pair of 6-3 guards who have transferred in from Farragut. They are seasoned juniors who have been through the rigors of the Public League’s Red-West/North.
North Lawndale is young and dangerous. They counter with a dynamite perimeter attack. While 6-2 senior guard Daequan Davis is the team’s returning leading scorer, the excitement surrounding the sophomore guard tandem of Ronald Chambers and Damarion Wyatt is building.
When you add 6-4 athletic dynamo Larry Johnson to the mix, North Lawndale is a big city sleeper.
A season opener for both could prove to show plenty of rust.
The pick:North Lawndale 69, Clark 64
Evanston (8-0) at Glenbrook South (10-0), 2 p.m.
This is the second of a back-to-back, so what happens on Friday will matter as these two tee it up in what could decide the Central Suburban League South title –– and a trip to the Chipotle Clash of Champions.
The Evanston reign over the CSL South has included at least a share of the league title in each of the previous six seasons. That’s the longest conference title streak in Evanston basketball history. Star shooting guard Blake Peters has been front and center in each of the past three.
The firepower on the perimeter continues with seniors Isaiah Holden and Elyjah Bull and junior Rashawn Bost.
Perhaps the most unheralded tandem in the Chicago area just might be Glenbrook South’s junior pair of Nick Martinelli and Cooper Noard. The 6-6 Martinelli averages 23.2 points and 5.3 rebounds. In addition to being a major threat from beyond the arc, where Noard is shooting 43 percent, the 6-0 guard is putting up 17.9 points.
We’re going with a split this weekend –– Evanston wins Friday night; Glenbrook South comes back and wins a squeaker in the quick turnaround rematch on Saturday.
The pick: Glenbrook South 60, Evanston 58
Hersey (8-2) at Fremd (6-1) , 7:30 p.m.
Fremd will do what it does under coach Bob Widlowski: defend, control tempo and limit Hersey’s opportunities. The Vikings have only given up more than 44 points in a game once in seven games.
With space-eating Jack Walsh inside and the guard trio of juniors Eli Schoffstall and Chris Smyros and sophomore Ryan Sammons, a balanced Fremd should be able to control the pace of the game.
Hersey, meanwhile, has averaged 70 points a game since its opening-season loss to Glenbrook South. And it’s been a pretty simple formula: Put the ball in the hands of Ethan Roberts, the high-scoring senior guard who has been brilliant thus far this season.
The supporting cast has also done its job, whether it’s point guard Andrew Wagner, agile 6-7 big man Ben Randall or versatile 6-5 wing Griffin Ginder.
Hersey, which boasts more firepower and experience, ekes out a win.
The pick:Hersey 53, Fremd 50
Young (3-0) at Thornton (2-1), noon
The immediate highlight is a Chicago Public League giant like Young traveling to Harvey to play a perennial power in that great, historic gym.
The state’s top junior prospect, 6-8 AJ Casey, is the big name that garners a lot of attention for Young. Casey is capable of doing things others simply can’t with his size, length and skill. But Grant Newell, an uncommitted 6-7 talent, and guard Jaehshon Thomas are set to make the most of their senior campaign. The emerging Xavier Amos is one to watch for the Dolphins.
Thornton is led by 6-3 senior Brandon Hall, an East Tennessee State recruit who is a strong, athletic, downhill guard with size. But the Wildcats will be without point guard Sean Burress, an unheralded player who is a significant loss.
The pick: Young 70, Thornton 59