Crunch Time

Eight teams have one last game left in their season. Four will win, only two will be state champions. We take a look at the slate.

The Illinois high school basketball season wraps up Saturday with a slate of four bigtime games. Here's a look at the action.

3A Third Place Game: Orr v. Limestone

Limestone ran into a blitzkrieg in Morgan Park in the semifinals. Morgan Park has eclipsed the 100 point mark on more than one occasion this season, and while they didn't do it in this one, they still used a 19-1 run to put away Limestone.

Limestone will take another crack at it on Saturday as they take on Chicago's Orr High School in the third place matchup. Led by senior Hank Matthews, Limestone will need to play mistake-free basketball against a resilient and talented Orr squad to have a chance in this one.

Orr, led by a pair of talented juniors in Tyquone Greer and Marlon Jones, fell short in a close matchup against Cahokia. Greer, who for a while was nursing a foot injury, is now back and is really picking up steam at the right time. Jones has also been playing well as of late, and if both he and Greer turn it on against Limestone, they should end their season with a win.

4A Third Place Game: Edwardsville v. Proviso East

This could be a really interesting matchup. Edwardsville is the best team that nobody talked about for most of the season, and they gave Stevenson all they could handle until about the middle of the fourth quarter. The same could be said for Proviso East's matchup against Simeon.

For Edwardsville, it all starts with Western Illinois commit Garrett Covington as well as fellow guard Tre Harris. Edwardsville's was good early on in the matchup against Stevenson, but as good as the Edwardsville D was, the Stevenson offense just shot that much better. If Edwardsville can cause problems on defense for Proviso, especially in transition, then the pace of the game should significantly slow down.

But Proviso East, led by seniors Sterling Brown (SMU) and Paris Lee (Illinois State), do a lot of damage in transition. One of the big questions will be which Sterling Brown shows up to the game. Brown has traditionally played well during postseason play, but on occasion will disappear for stretches. If he does, look for streaky shooting sophomore Jevon Carter to try to pick up the slack.

And of course, there's always the debate about whether downstate teams can compete with Chicago teams. Edwardsville will get another shot to prove themselves.

3A State Final: Morgan Park v. Cahokia

Morgan Park can really rack up a lot of points in a hurry. Led by DePaul bound senior Billy Garrett Jr. and Dayton signee Kyle Davis, Morgan Park's uptempo offense and aggressive defense can build up a lead quickly, forcing turnovers and getting runout layups.

Cahokia may not be the most probable team to be in the state final, but the Comanches earned their way into the championship game. Senior Keenan Minor and junior Darius Austin lead the way for Cahokia. For the Comanches, this game is more than just a chance to claim a state championship.

Due to cutbacks in the school district, Cahokia has decided to terminate the athletic programs, specifically the basketball program following this year. So not only is this the last game of the season for the Comanches, it's their last chance to leave their mark on the program.

I still think Morgan Park is favored in this one, but never count out a team that's playing with a purpose, and Cahokia will be doing just that.

4A State Final: Simeon v. Stevenson

It's the one everyone's been waiting for all season.

Simeon played big games all over the country all season, but ask any player on that team, and they'll tell you that this is the one that counts.

What makes this one interesting is just how different these teams are. Simeon's starting five is entirely comprised of seniors. Stevenson's two top players are sophomores. Simeon has size at nearly all positions. Stevenson has no player taller than 6'3".

But both have traits and skills that make them a threat to bring home the hardware. For Simeon, there's no better weapon than senior and Duke signee Jabari Parker. Parker has been money all tournament, and he's a big reason they're in this game in the first place. Add in consistent performances from Jaylon Tate, Kendrick Nunn, Kendall Pollard, and Russell Woods, and Simeon is poised to bring home an historic 4th straight state title.

But a young Stevenson team might be more of a threat to derail that than any team Simeon has faced up to this point. Sure, the Whitney Young game was a marquee matchup, and a rematch of last year's state title game against Proviso East was a thriller just like last year, but Stevenson has been on a tear through the postseason and have been playing their best ball at the best time.

Sophomores Jalen Brunson and Connor Cashaw have taken the bull by the horns and have Stevenson playing dangerous basketball in March. Brunson, who tallied 21 points in the win over Edwardsville hit several difficult shots and could loosen up the Simeon defense. And when it's not Brunson, it's Cashaw getting in the lane and making smooth drives to the hoop.

Still, bigtime players make plays when it matters most, and Jabari Parker has been nothing short of sensational in the state playoffs. If he has a "Jabari Parker" type game and gets some solid play from his teammates, the Wolverines are looking at making history in Peoria yet again.

For Coverage:

Check in on IlliniPlaybook tomorrow for updates throughout the day, and follow @RyanEasterling on twitter for in-game updates.

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