High school basketball: This season’s 30 must-see games

With a busy opening week and Thanksgiving tournament results in the books, the sprint into the regular season begins.

Here are 30 circle-the-date matchups in this 2022-23 season. Whether it’s key conference games, heated rivalries, shootout showdowns or non-conference measuring sticks, these are all big, important games featuring in-state teams.

Hillcrest at Oak Lawn, Dec. 2

Perennial power Hillcrest is fresh off winning the Chicago Heights Classic with wins over Bloom and Marian Catholic. Oak Lawn has grabbed people’s attention with its 4-0 start, including a win over ranked Mount Carmel.

Simeon vs. St. Rita, Dec. 3

Chicago Elite Classic at UIC

Arguably the best the Public League and Catholic League have to offer take center stage in a high-profile event. Extra intriguing is a matchup of multiple big men you don’t always get at the high school level.

Kenwood vs. Joliet West, Dec. 3

Chicago Elite Classic at UIC

There will be no shortage of high-level talent and bonafide stars in this showdown, highlighted by Joliet West’s Jeremy Fears, Jr. and Kenwood’s Darrin Ames, two of the elite players in the state.

Hillcrest vs. East St. Louis, Dec. 10

Midwest Showdown in St. Louis

A long trip for the highly-regarded Hawks as coach Don Houston takes his team to play Missouri recruit Macaleab Rich and a loaded Flyers team. East St. Louis is a legit Class 3A state title contender.

Hillcrest vs. Normal, Dec. 11

Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel

Hillcrest coach Don Houston and the Hawks travel back from St. Louis to play a talented Normal team the next day, one featuring a pair of Division I junior prospects: big man Jaheem Webber and guard Braylon Roman.

Evanston vs. Marian Catholic, Dec. 11

Team Rose Shootout at Mt. Carmel

A pair of preseason ranked teams looking to make an early non-conference statement. Evanston, led by senior Prince Adams, is off to a quick 4-0 start.

Marian Catholic at Benet, Dec. 16

This is the first of two key East Suburban Catholic Conference games between the two as the league has adopted a home-and-home for every conference team. This one sets the tone in a game featuring the two ESCC favorites.

New Trier vs. Evanston, Dec. 22

at Northwestern

This pre-holiday rivalry game is a must on the North Shore. It’s a key, early-season CSL South battle in front of thousands of fans at Northwestern.

Simeon vs. Young, Dec. 23

at UIC

The two premier programs in the state collide. These two have nine state championships between them — and 14 state title game appearances — since Simeon coach Robert Smith and Young coach Tyrone Slaughter have led these programs. Throw in a unique, pre-holiday date and it’s a special holiday gift for the high school basketball fan.

Curie at Kenwood, Jan. 5

A pair of preseason top 10 teams will start the new year off with a big one. Kenwood knocked off Curie 65-61 last year.

Downers Grove North at Lyons, Jan. 6

Move over Glenbard West. The West Suburban Silver will ultimately go through either Downers Grove North or Lyons this year. This will go a long way in deciding it.

Joliet West vs. Rolling Meadows, Jan. 7

Pappas Shootout at DePaul Prep

The state’s top two senior prospects, Cameron Christie and Jeremy Fears, Jr., go head-to-head while leading state-ranked teams.

Kenwood at Simeon, Jan. 10

The game of the year in the Chicago Public League? This one just might be.

Oswego East at Bolingbrook, Jan. 11

A sectional preview in this non-conference showdown? Plus, a couple of under-appreciated Division I players in Oswego East’s Mehki Lowery and Bolingbrook’s Mekhi Cooper will be on display.

Oswego East at Joliet West, Jan. 13

These two won their respective sides of the Southwest Prairie a year ago and are favored to do so again.

St. Ignatius at Loyola, Jan. 13

The Jesuit Cup always means something. But when these two teams are as solid as they continue to be, the rivalry means even more. Ignatius has the Division I senior combo of Richard Barron and Jackson Kotecki to help turn the tide in this rivalry. Loyola has won eight of the last nine.

Hillcrest at Lemont, Jan. 17

Hot 4-0 starts to the season for these two only enhances the anticipation for this showdown in the South Suburban Blue. Hillcrest is the favorite, but Lemont and the Castillo brothers, senior guards Rokas and Matas, will be ready.

Brother Rice vs. Rolling Meadows, Jan. 21

When Sides Collide

These two seasoned, veteran teams with Division I stalwarts (Cameron Christie and Ahmad Henderson) leading the way began the year ranked among the top 10. And both impressed over Thanksgiving with 4-0 starts.

Simeon vs. Moline, Jan. 21

When Sides Collide at Benet

Chicago area fans are able to get a glimpse of arguably the best Class 4A team in Illinois and the Iowa-bound tandem of point guard Brock Harding and 6-9 Owen Freeman.

Benet vs. Kenwood, Jan. 21

When Sides Collide at Benet

Coach Mike Irvin takes his loaded Kenwood team into what will be a hostile environment in the When Sides Collide finale. This is one of those games where both teams will truly be better from playing it.

Joliet West vs. Young, Jan. 21

When Sides Collide at Benet

Joliet West will get a possible shot at all the Public League heavyweights, including this one where two elite point guards, Jeremy Fears, Jr. and Dalen Davis, square off.

Bolingbrook at Downers Grove North, Jan. 21

A fun midseason battle featuring an established and dynamic senior guard, Bolingbrook’s Mekhi Cooper, and an up-and-coming junior, Downers North guard Jack Stanton.

St. Rita at Mount Carmel, Jan. 24

The South Side will be buzzing when talented and hyped St. Rita heads to 64th and Dante for a big-time road test. This one could mean a lot in the Chicago Catholic League.

Glenbrook North at Evanston, Jan. 27

Could this one decide the always tough Central Suburban League South? GBN has the experience and solid guard play with Ryan Cohen and Josh Fridman to go into Evanston and win.

Rolling Meadows vs. Moline, Jan. 28

at Glenbrook South

Talented Moline’s second trip to the Chicago area in eight days. This one involves three future Big Ten players in Moline’s Brock Harding and Owen Freeman, who are both headed to Iowa, and Minnesota recruit Cameron Christie of Rolling Meadows.

Mount Carmel at Brother Rice, Feb. 3

Should be a fun atmosphere and a good one in the Catholic League with two veteran, impact Division I-bound point guards — Brother Rice’s Ahmad Henderson and Mt. Carmel’s DeAndre Craig — leading the way.

Rolling Meadows at Glenbrook North, Feb. 7

These two were top four sectional seeds last year. If sectional assignments remain the same they could be together again as top four sectional seeds.

DePaul Prep at Brother Rice, Feb. 10

The last of many big Catholic League battles this year for a young but talented DePaul Prep team. But that youthful talent will be seasoned by February — and will need to be — facing the experienced and highly-ranked Brother Rice.

St. Ignatius at St. Rita, Feb. 17

We squeeze one more Chicago Catholic League matchup on the list. Who knows what the league standings will look like in the final week of the season. But these two could be at the top.

Lake Forest at Evanston, Feb. 17

This is a heck of a state tournament tune-up for these two teams — Lake Forest in Class 3A and Evanston in Class 4A. Asa Thomas, the sharpshooting Clemson recruit, takes Lake Forest into E-Town in an intriguing non-conference battle.

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