Here’s a look at Friday’s Class 3A state semifinals:
North Chicago (24-6) vs. Springfield Lanphier (28-3) at noon
The story: Both teams are powered by their guards and will be looking to get out and run on a college floor. Both teams often score 70-plus points, so this could be a high-scoring affair. North Chicago is led by two-time all-area selection Aaron Simpson. He’s talented enough to get to the basket whenever he wants, but he often prefers to pull from NBA range. North Chicago sophomore forward JaVairius Amos-Mays is also a star in the making. Sophomore Larry Austin and seniors T.J. Davis and Everett Clemons all score in double figures for Springfield Lanphier. Clemons averages a team-best 18.9 points and went off for 40 points in a game early this season.
North Chicago player to watch: Simpson may just be the most entertaining player in the state. He likes to shoot from long distance and put on a show, and his coach allows him to do so. He’s averaging 26.3 points.
Springfield Lanphier player to watch: Clemons is Lanphier’s best player now, but sophomore Larry Austin is the team’s biggest college prospect. He already has a number of high-major schools after him.
Pick: North Chicago
Hillcrest (24-5) vs. Peoria Central (26-3) at 2 p.m.
The story: These are two programs that have been here before. Hillcrest won a state championship just two years ago. Peoria Central hasn’t been to state since 2004, but has four state championships under its belt. Peoria Central has succeeded thanks to its size. The Lions have four starters who are 6-5 or taller. They’ve balanced with five players averaging between 6.8 points and 12.6 points. Hillcrest doesn’t have the height Peoria Central does, but it’s not small. Senior starters Delmon Brame and Jalen Loving are both 6-6. Hillcrest wins often by its defense. It’s held opponents to less than 50 points in 15 games this season.
Hillcrest player to watch: All-area selection Jovan Mooring is willing to take any shot whenever he’s got an inch of space. He was of 156-of-396 shooting this season. He also attempted 191 3-pointers.
Peoria Central player to watch: Forward Trey Kellum leads the Lions in scoring at 12.6 points and rebounds with 7.0 rebounds.
Pick: Peoria Central