The heavyweight bouts taking place Saturday in the annual When Sides Collide Shootout at Benet will bring together the ideal mix of top-flight basketball: Division I talent, highly-ranked teams and intriguing storylines.
When Sides Collide, presented by the City/Suburban Hoops Report, is an event showcasing seven ranked teams, including five of the top eight teams in the Sun-Times Super 25 rankings.
The highlight of the four-game smorgasbord are two matchups featuring a pair of suburban powers and two perennial city basketball giants. City vs. suburban bragging rights in a mid-January clash should rev up the area’s basketball fanbase.
From a talent perspective, there will be eight of the top 25 prospects in the senior class on display, including four of the top seven.
Here is a preview of Saturday’s When Sides Collide and a few other top games in this Weekend Forecast. After going 4-3 last week, thanks to a pair of incorrectly picked one-point games (Bolingbrook beating HF 83-82 and Libertyville edging Stevenson 51-50), it’s time to improve that 21-7 overall record on the weekly picks.
No. 22 Yorkville Christian vs. No. 8 New Trier at Benet, Saturday
There are few, if any, Class 1A schools who have ever played the schedule Yorkville Christian has put together this season. On paper, this is another tall task, even with Duke-bound guard Jaden Schutt (27 ppg), one of the state’s elite scorers and shooters.
While Yorkville Christian has some potent scorers, starting with Schutt, KJ Vasser (18 ppg), Tyler Burrows (12 ppg) and DJ Douglas (11 ppg), the defense has not matched its offensive production. In their 11 losses this season the defense has been problematic, allowing a whopping 86 points a game in those defeats.
New Trier has size, length, shooting and depth. Jackson Munro is a 6-8 force who can score inside and face up to the basket with his perimeter jumper. Junior guard Jake Fiegen is an outstanding, space-the-floor shooter.
The complementary players surrounding Munro and Fiegen, however, are the difference. The likes of Noah Shannon, Karlo Cook, Josh Kirkpatrick and point guard Peter Kanellos have been rock solid.
Hoops Report pick: New Trier 77, Yorkville Christian 62
No. 4 Glenbrook South vs. No. 2 Simeon at Benet, Saturday
A must-see game featuring two red-hot teams with one loss apiece. This has the makings to be on the short list of potential “Games of the Year” in this 2021-22 season.
This is a monumental opportunity for the Glenbrook South program. With its only loss coming by three points to No. 1 Glenbard West in December, the Titans will be ready for mighty Simeon with 6-7 Nick Martinelli and guard Cooper Noard. This is a veteran scoring combo that packs a punch. They’ve both scored over 1,000 career points and combine to average over 40 points a game.
Can the Titans handle a Simeon defense that has the capability to lock up opponents on the perimeter and size on the back end to protect the rim? Asking any team to sustain good, hard, straight-up defense against Glenbrook South for 32 minutes is challenging. Yet that Simeon defense can wear down even the best opponents down. This will be quite a clash.
Simeon’s Aviyon Morris is a defensive dynamo. Jaylen Drane has evolved into a consistent weapon and the top uncommitted senior in the state. The 6-8 brother combination of Miles Rubin and Wesley Rubin provide an inside presence.
More impressively, Simeon has been taut from tip to final buzzer in building quite an impressive résumé, taking care of business in Illinois and holding its own nationally.
If Glenbrook South can take care of the basketball, expect some high-leverage, possession-by-possession moments that will determine this one down the stretch.
Hoops Report pick: Simeon 60, Glenbrook South 54
No. 1 Glenbard West vs. No. 6 Young at Benet, Saturday
A highly-anticipated showdown that’s been circled on the high school basketball calendar since the game was announced.
Both teams have been heavily hyped, boast stars, Division I talent and have state championship aspirations. The Young program has played in these types of games for years. This will be a new experience but a valuable one for upstart Glenbard West and its best team in school history.
Glenbard West’s unbeaten run through the first two months of the season has been relatively smooth, thanks to its vaunted 1-3-1 defense and 6-11 Gonzaga recruit Braden Huff. But with 6-8 AJ Casey (17 ppg), who is headed to Miami, and 6-8 Northern Illinois-bound Xavier Amos (15 ppg), there is size, length and athleticism to throw at Huff.
But whose night will it be to step up?
Young’s talented point guard Dalen Davis (16 ppg) will be a key, both in navigating the 1-3-1 in the halfcourt and getting the Dolphins out in transition to avert the tricky-to-score-against defense.
Glenbard West has so many players who can hurt you with four double-figure scorers: Huff, Caden Pierce, Bobby Durkin and Paxton Warden.
Huff plays all over the floor, even as the quasi point guard, but the Dolphins big men have the capability to follow Huff to the perimeter and contend with him inside. The supporting cast for Glenbard West, however, provides so much balance. The numbers don’t lie.
Pierce (12 ppg, 5.9 rpg, 3.9 apg, 2.4 spg) is a do-it-all 6-5 senior who fills a stat sheet and can defend anyone on the floor. Durkin, who averages 12.8 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.7 assists, has shown he’s more than just a shooter. Unheralded Paxton Warden, who recently committed to Illinois as a walk-on, chips in 11.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.4 assists, while 6-7 Ryan Renfro adds physicality and a presence inside.
Someone may have to provide some crunch-time heroics in this one.
Hoops Report pick: Glenbard West 64, Young 61
No. 18 St. Ignatius at Benet, Saturday
Benet, led by guard Brennan White, junior wing Brady Kunka and 6-9 Eastern Illinois commit Kyle Thomas, gets a crack at a red-hot ranked team on its home floor.
The Redwings have beaten the teams they’re supposed to beat but are 0-5 when facing teams currently ranked. Thus, Benet welcomes another opportunity to play a ranked team.
After a bumpy start to the season, St. Ignatius has been rolling of late behind veteran guard AJ Redd and junior Richard Barron. Coach Matt Monroe’s team, which came into the season with such high expectations, have three straight wins over Bolingbrook, DePaul and Mount Carmel. The Wolfpack offense looked armed and fully operational in scoring 75 points to hand Mount Carmel its first loss of the season last week.
But keeping that momentum going in what should be a raucous atmosphere will be tough.
Hoops Report pick: Benet 55, St. Ignatius 54
Loyola (16-5) vs. No. 18 St. Ignatius (11-7) at UIC, Friday
The 2022 Jesuit Cup battle between these two rivals will be played at UIC’s Credit Union 1 Arena. Both teams are playing well. But St. Ignatius is due.
Loyola has won five straight Jesuit Cup games –– and eight in a row over its Catholic League rival, including a 51-49 win this season back in Thanksgiving Tournament play.
Without all that many people noticing, Loyola appears again to be on its way to another 20-win season. The Ramblers, though, are badly in need of a signature win to boost its own résumé.
Loyola has taken its lumps against the best on its schedule, but the young, talented backcourt of junior Alex Engro (12.2 ppg) and sophomore Miles Boland (12.2 ppg) have gained more experience and confidence, while Connor Casper (10.3 ppg, 7 rpg) has been productive.
St. Ignatius’ up-and-down start to the season may be a thing of the past. The Wolfpack appear to have turned things around. Now Ignatius faces a challenging weekend with Loyola and Benet on back-to-back nights.
The positive momentum continues for Ignatius.
Hoops Report pick: St. Ignatius 46, Loyola 41
Wheaton Warrenville South (20-1) vs. Orr (10-3) at Batavia, Saturday
A matchup of completely different styles and an ideal measuring stick at this point in the season for both teams in Batavia’s Night of Hoops.
Can Wheaton South handle Orr’s pressure and quickness? Can Orr make the decisions in the halfcourt and manage Wheaton South’s ball press?
Orr will be a contender in Class 2A this March. But this weekend it faces a suburban team in Class 4A that ripped apart North Lawndale out of the Public League last month.
Orr has been led by three seniors: 6-7 wiry athlete Caleb Hannah and guard Cameron Lawin, who are both averaging right around 20 points a game, and guard Leontae Lilly.
This would be another quality win for Wheaton South if the Tigers can add Orr to a list that includes Brother Rice, Rolling Meadows, and Benet. Coach Mike Healy’s team is fresh off winning its own MLK Tournament with senior leader Tyler Fawcett getting plenty of help from a balanced team, including a pick-me-up from junior Braylen Meredith.
Wheaton South dictates the tempo, keeps the game at its pace and neutralizes Orr’s fast pace for the win.
Hoops Report pick: Wheaton South 52, Orr 45
Proviso East (14-3) at Lyons (16-3), Saturday
An intriguing West Suburban Conference crossover featuring two teams who are piling up wins.
This is big test for Proviso East. Can the Pirates secure a marquee win? Proviso East’s Jaloni Johnson and Javon Johnson are capable of putting points on the board in a hurry on the perimeter.
Lyons has won 13 of its last 14 games, the lone loss coming in a blowout to No. 1 Glenbard West in the title game of the Jack Tosh Holiday Tournament. Akron recruit Tavari Johnson is the catalyst at point guard.
Hoops Report pick: Lyons 70, Proviso East 62
Homewood-Flossmoor (11-5) at Bloom (13-3), Saturday
An old school south suburban showdown between teams very familiar with one another.
What do we make of this H-F team? Which Vikings team will show up in Chicago Heights? The one that went 2-2 at Thanksgiving? The red-hot one that ripped off four wins in capturing the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic and won nine straight games? Or the one that’s lost three of its last four game?
Aside from a hiccup at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament, losing to Joliet West in the opening round, Bloom has played some solid basketball over the past month. That has included wins over Evanston, Thornton and Kankakee while also riding a current six-game win streak.
Keep an eye on the impact of a couple of big men: H-F’s Christian Meeks and Bloom’s Emondrek Erkins-Ford. But it’s the collective talent on the perimeter for Bloom, including Jordan Brown, Raeshom Harris, Kimarion Cobb and Gianni Cobb, that gets the Blazing Trojans a big win for sectional seeding purposes next month.
Hoops Report pick: Bloom 67, Homewood-Flossmoor 65