The best IHSA playoff performances

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The best IHSA playoff performances

It is every Illinois high school basketball player's dream to register his greatest individual performance in the championship game of the state tournament, as Breese Central's Brandon Book did in last week's Class 2A finals.

Max Hooper started it all in 1950. The two-time All-Stater from Mount Vernon scored a then single-game record of 36 points as the top-rated Rams crushed second-ranked Danville 85-61 for their 46th victory and second state title in a row.

Hooper scored 104 points in the last four tournament games to lead all scorers. His 36-point standard stood for 22 years. One of the state's all-time best teams, Mount Vernon overpowered its opponents by margins of 17, 25, eight and 24 points.

In 1953, in the highly ballyhooed "Battle of the Decade" pitting top-ranked Kankakee and Harv Schmidt vs. third-rated La Grange and Ted Caiazza in the sectional semifinal at Joliet, Caiazza had 31 points and 14 rebounds as La Grange won 83-74. Schmidt finished with 37 points.

Both teams were unbeaten. La Grange went on to win the state title with a 29-0 record with no opponent coming within nine points. The Lions swept past their last four tournament opponents by margins of 17, 32, 13 and 12 points. Caiazza, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior, averaged 30 points per game and had over 200 scholarship offers.

After being upset by Morton of Cicero in the 1941 semifinals, Centralia came back in 1942 to beat favored Paris 35-33 as the legendary Dike Eddleman emerged as the tournament scoring leader and capped his high school career by scoring 16 points and sparking the Orphans' dramatic comeback victory in the final.

Jay Shidler became a rock star in 1976. The Lawrenceville senior scored a then record 157 points in four games to turn the Class A finals into a personal Woodstock. No one else on his team scored more than 28 points. On the final Saturday, he scored 48 in a semifinal loss to Oneida ROVA in the afternoon, then came back at night to score 45 in a consolation victory over Buda Western. In a 29-2 season, Shidler averaged 32.7 points.

Dave Robisch was just as sensational in 1967. The 6-foot-9 senior from Springfield averaged 32 points per game as the Senators finished 30-3 and third in the state tournament. In the last four games, he set records of 152 points and 77 rebounds. In a semifinal loss to eventual state champion Pekin, he scored 41 points. In beating West Rockford for third place, he scored 39. His scoring record stood until 1987. His rebounding record has never been surpassed.

Boyd Batts always played in the shadow of his older and more celebrated brother Lloyd Batts, a two-time All-Stater at Thornton, and his Thornridge teammate, Quinn Buckner. But in Thornridge's 104-69 rout of Quincy in the 1972 Class AA championship game, the 6-7 senior scored 37 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He shot 14-of-18 and converted 9-of-10 free throws.

In 1970, 6-foot-8 junior Owen Brown put a cap on La Grange's 31-0 season by scoring 24 points and grabbing a record 24 rebounds in the Lions' 71-52 victory over East Moline in the state final.

In Class A, Pierre Pierce of Westmont set a tournament record with 159 points in 2001. He scored 28, 41, 42 and 48 points as Westmont finished fourth.

In Class AA, Marcus Liberty of King set a tournament record with 143 points in 1987. He scored 41, 23, 38 and 41 points as King finished second to East St. Louis Lincoln. His 41 in a 79-62 loss in the state final also is a tournament record.

Hinckley-Big Rock's Jim Edmondson continues to hold the tournament single-game scoring record with 55 against Winnebago in the 1984 supersectional.

Glenbrook North's Jon Scheyer holds the Class AA mark with 48 points against Waukegan in the 2005 supersectional.

Shawn Jepson of Spring Valley Hall scored 51 against Warsaw in the 1997 Class A championship game, most ever in a Class A state final.

But did you know that the most points ever scored in state tournament competition is 62?

Dennis Brown of Canton and Don Slusarek of La Salle-Peru each scored 62 in regional games, the most points ever scored by an Illinois high school player in a single game in the month of March.

Brown scored 62 against Illini Bluffs in 1970. He made 24-of-27 shots and 14-of-17 free throws. Slusarek scored 62 against Chillicothe IVC in 1976. He made 24-of-35 shots and 14-of-17 free throws.

Let's speculate: Could Les Miles come back to the Big Ten?

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Let's speculate: Could Les Miles come back to the Big Ten?

Les Miles was fired Sunday after 12 seasons as the head coach at LSU.

Miles has an awesome resume: a 114-34 record with 62 SEC wins, plus a national championship in 2007 and another trip to the national title game in 2011. Seven of his 12 seasons ended with double-digit wins, and two of them ended in SEC championships.

So he's sure to be a hot commodity when teams look to fill not-yet-existent head-coaching vacancies this offseason.

As far as we're concerned here in Big Ten Country, though, will a Big Ten program be able to land the Mad Hatter as a high-profile splash?

Miles is a Big Ten product, remember. An Ohio native, he played for Bo Schembechler at Michigan and later coached under Schembechler and Gary Moeller as a Michigan assistant from 1987 to 1994. He has familiarity with the conference and the recruiting grounds.

It's all pure speculation right now, as it's quite possible there will be no openings in the conference when the regular season wraps in late November. But if we were to project which Big Ten programs might be looking for new coaches this offseason, could we find a spot for Miles?

The obvious team that might be parting ways with its current head coach is Purdue. Darrell Hazell has had almost no success running the Boilermakers, currently with a 8-31 record in three-plus seasons and a grotesque 2-22 mark in Big Ten play. That's usually enough for a tenure to come to an end, but is it too much losing to keep Purdue from being an attractive choice for the free agent Miles? Certainly we've seen high-profile coaches take jobs at less-than-power programs before, particularly after wearing out their welcome at their previous spot of employment. Lovie Smith just surprised by taking a job at Illinois after a long career as an NFL head coach. Perhaps Purdue can use similar tactics — new athletics director Mike Bobinski just started his tenure and would surely like to make a splash — and of course there's all that Big Ten TV money that should make competitive pay no problem at all.

But there will more than likely be other suitors from bigger programs and ones with more storied traditions. Could one of them be Penn State? James Franklin is only in Year 3 in Happy Valley, but the Valley isn't so happy at the moment, with the Nittany Lions getting crushed by Michigan on Saturday to show just how big the gap currently is between the top of the Big Ten East Division and Penn State. Bill O'Brien worked wonders in the immediate years after the Jerry Sandusky scandal had such a big effect on the program, but Franklin's continued reclamation effort isn't going too swimmingly in that ultra-competitive division with 7-6 records in each of his first two campaigns. There's certainly a case to be made for giving Franklin more time, but college football fans (and athletics departments) aren't famous for their patience. The tradition and profile of Penn State would have to be attractive to Miles, who dealt with a high-profile environment at LSU, and if the university is real serious about getting the Lions back to the top of college football's heap, bringing in Miles — and his track record of recruiting success — would do it, at the very least from a public-relations standpoint.

And then there's the obligatory mention of Michigan. Michigan? Jim Harbaugh is just in the second year of his tenure and seemingly has a lifelong title set up as the King of Ann Arbor. But should Harbaugh, who's had great success turning the Wolverines around in lightning-quick fashion, head back to the NFL, that would create an opening. Who better to fill that hypothetical vacancy than another Michigan Man in Miles? Miles has had his name linked to Michigan before, of course, with the obvious connection sparking speculation when the Wolverines needed to find replacements for Lloyd Carr, Rich Rodriguez and Brady Hoke. There's no indication Harbaugh's going anywhere, of course — we're in speculation land, remember? — but because it's Miles, the possibility has to be at least addressed.

It's all a guessing game at this point, and there are sure to be other high-profile openings around college football that will become speculative destinations for Miles, not to mention other job titles that aren't "head coach." But it'd be something to see him join the Big Ten's already-loaded roster of head coaches.

White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

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White Sox grieve Jose Fernandez's death along with rest of MLB

CLEVELAND -- Whether they knew him or not, the overwhelming sentiment throughout the White Sox clubhouse on Sunday is that baseball was robbed of one of its most likeable players when Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez was tragically killed in a boating accident.

Known for his vivid celebrations on the field and his wide, endless smile, Fernandez made a strong impression, whether with his skillset or infinite love of the game. White Sox players had their eyes fixed on several televisions littered throughout the visiting clubhouse at Progressive Field on Sunday during a morning press conference confirming the death of Fernandez, 24, and two others.

White Sox reliever Dan Jennings played with Fernandez for two seasons. Though he enjoyed a 3-0 White Sox win over the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, Jennings said his happiness was muted as he mulled the death of Fernandez, who was killed when the boat he was on slammed into a jetty in Miami Beach, Fla.

“He seemed invincible is what it was,” Jennings said. “A lot of guys know what I mean when I say he was invincible on the mound. There were days he was unstoppable, and that’s how you viewed him is invincible. It’s too hard to really put into words what he meant to the game and what he meant to Miami.”

“I just hope to love the game as much as he does some day. It’s tough to do, but he did. He had fun, and he loved the game more than anything.”

Todd Frazier remembers how approachable he found Fernandez in their limited interactions. The two met in the outfield one day after they faced each other for the first time and joked around.

“I was like, ‘Dog, you don’t throw me any fastballs,’ ” Frazier said. “He was like, “Why would I throw you fastballs?’ And we just started laughing.

“That’s the kind of guy he was. You could come up and talk to him. He had an infectious smile and just had a love for the game that I hope every ballplayer could have. It’s a terrible, terrible day.”

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said Fernandez’s death reminded him of the March 22, 1993 accident that took the lives of Indians pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews. Only pitcher Bob Ojeda survived that crash and Ventura remembers the shockwaves it sent through clubhouses throughout baseball.

“I can still remember … just how sad that was,” Ventura said. “You don’t have to know them personally. But they’re within their group, and it breaks everybody up. It really does.”

White Sox pitcher Carlos Rodon didn’t have a chance to meet Fernandez, a pitcher he admired for his competitive style and bulldog mentality. But another reason Rodon looked up to Fernandez is for the way he seemed to play the game with such joy. Marlins manager Don Mattingly said during a press conference Sunday that Fernandez enjoyed the game like a Little Leaguer does.

Rodon recently spoke about rediscovering his own joy of baseball. Naturally, Rodon’s thoughts drifted toward Fernandez when he took the mound on Sunday.

“You could tell,” Rodon said. “We had a beautiful day to come out and play and sad to say that one person is never going to get to play again. He’ll be very missed. You can’t take these days for granted. Just hope you guys go home today and tell the people you love, you love them. Losing a person like that is hard.”