Can anyone beat Simeon in Class 4A?

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Can anyone beat Simeon in Class 4A?

Everybody is asking the same question: Can anyone derail Simeon's bid for a third Class 4A championship in a row and fifth state title in the last eight years?

Not likely.

But consider this: Simeon is coming off its first Public League championship since 2007. Could the Wolverines be emotionally drained? It wouldn't be the first time a city school peaked for the Public League playoff, then was psychologically worn out for the state finals.

It happened to top-ranked Phillips in 1977. The Wildcats beat second-rated Westinghouse and Mark Aguirre and Eddie Johnson before 12,000 in the city final at the International Amphitheater, then lost to St. Laurence and Kevin Boyle and Jim Stack in the state quarterfinals.

In 1994, Westinghouse upset top-ranked King for the Public League title 59-58, then lost to eventual state champion Peoria Manual in the quarterfinals.

In 1995, top-ranked Farragut with Kevin Garnett and Ronnie Fields won the city title, then lost to Thornton in the state quarterfinals.

Simeon is on a mission. Smith is seeking a fifth state title, most in state history, one more than East St. Louis Lincoln's Bennie Lewis and Lawrenceville's Ron Felling.

Smith's other goal was to make history, to be universally recognized as the greatest team in state history, better than Thornridge's 1972 team of Quinn Buckner, Boyd Batts, Mike Bonczyk and Greg Rose that won two state titles and 58 games in a row.

Simeon (26-1), whose only loss was a 75-50 decision to Fendlay Prep of Henderson, Nevada, the top-rated prep school in the country, boasts arguably the No. 1 player in the nation regardless of class in 6-foot-8 junior Jabari Parker. Smith rates Parker as the best player he has coached, even better than Derrick Rose.

But Parker isn't a one-man wrecking crew. He is surrounded by 6-foot-8 Steve Taylor, who is committed to Marquette, 6-foot-2 junior Kendrick Nunn and senior point guard Jelani Neely, who runs the show in what Smith describes as "the Simeon way."

"We are moving in the right direction," Smith said. "But we still haven't put four quarters together. It would be scary when we do. But I like what we do on defense and we're sharing the ball on offense. Neely controls the game. And Jabari doesn't have to score 30 for us to win."

But Simeon's anticipated trip to Peoria could be a bumpy ride. The Wolverines are top-seeded in what shapes up as the most competitive sectional tournament in the state. The field at Argo includes Curie, whose only two losses this season were to Simeon, in the championship games of the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and the Public League playoff, Bogan, Whitney Young, St. Rita and De La Salle.

Curie coach Mike Oliver rates his current 24-2 squad better than last year's 26-3 finisher. The Condors are senior-laden with 6-foot-3 Devin Foster, point guard Jabreel Jackson, guard Malcolm Hill-Bey and 6-foot-5 Thomas Smith surrounding highly rated 6-foot-9, 230-pound sophomore Cliff Alexander.

Bogan, which lost to Curie 50-47 in the Public League semifinals, is anxious to turn the tables. Coach Arthur Goodwin counts on point guard Ronnell Buckner, 6-foot-3 DeVaughn Johnson, 6-foot-1 Kendall Wesley, 6-foot-5 Dante Jackson and 6-foot-5 Devonte Smith.

Whitney Young is healthy for the first time this season. Coach Tyrone Slaughter has tested his players against one of the most competitive coast-to-coast schedules in the country, most of it without 6-foot-9 junior Tommy Hamilton. Now Hamilton is due to return with 6-foot-11 Jahlil Okafor and 6-foot-9 Paul White, two of the top-rated sophomores in the nation. Slaughter hopes to get more consistency and leadership from sophomore point guard Miles Reynolds.

St. Rita (15-10), led by 6-foot-2 senior Tony Hicks, the Catholic League's player of the year, also has played a tough schedule filled with out-of-state opponents. Hicks is averaging 26 points per game.

De La Salle has faded in recent weeks but coach Tom White still has the makings of a team that can compete with anyone. He has plenty of talent with 6-foot-8 junior Alex Foster, 6-foot-9 junior Gavin schilling, 6-foot-4 junior Alvin Ellis and 5-foot-8 junior Marcus White.

Proviso East (26-0), another school with a glorious tradition, is the most likely threat to end Simeon's streak. The Pirates are unbeaten and could meet Simeon in the Class 4A final. Interestingly, they also are seeking a fifth state championship in school history, the first since 1992.

First-year coach Donnie Boyce, who collaborated on Proviso East's 1991 state championship team with Sherrell Ford and Michael Finley, has a star-studded lineup featuring St. Louis-bound guard Keith Carter, 6-foot-4 junior Sterling Brown and guards Paris Burns and Paris Lee.

Other contenders are Plainfield East, Downers Grove South, West Aurora, Warren, St. Viator, Rockford Auburn, Huntley, Elgin, Collinsville, Edwardsville, Normal Community, Belleville East, Rock Island, Moline, Bloom, Andrew and New Trier.

Plainfield East, in only its third season after starting 9-16 and 15-13, has emerged as a state power with a 25-1 record. Coach Brandon Adkins has a deep and talented squad led by 6-foot-9 Brian Bennett, guard Dee Brown, 6-foot-3 Austin Robinson and 6-foot-3 Myles Walters.

Downers Grove South was 25-4 and lost to Glenbard East in the sectional last year. The Mustangs have lost to Proviso East twice and to Plainfield East but coach Jay Baum believes 6-foot-3 Jerron Wilbut and 6-foot-2 Jamall Millison form one of the most potent duos in the state. He also relies on the leadership of point guard Danny Spinnuza.

West Aurora coach Gordon Kerkman, who has won over 725 games in 36 years, has put together another contending team after finishing 14-12 and 13-16 in the last two years. This year's team is led by 6-foot-3 senior Juwan Starks, who is averaging 22 points per game.

Warren coach Chuck Ramsey is retiring after this season and his last team hopes to give him a state tournament experience that he will always remember, even more than his second-place finish in 1999 and last year's second-place finish. Returnees from last year's 31-4 squad are 6-foot-8 Darius Paul, 6-foot-4 JoVaughn Gaines and 6-foot-9 Nathan Boothe.

St. Viator has played under the radar all season but first-year coach Mike Howland thinks his club could surprise with 6-foot-3 Kevin Walsh, point guard D.J. Morris, 6-foot-3 sophomore Ore Arogundade and 6-foot-5 Chris Myjak. Their pressure man-to-man defense and up-tempo offense have been effective for most of the season.

Rockford Auburn was 26-5 last year and lost to Glenbard East in the supersectional. This year, coach Bryan Ott's team is 26-2 and has won 17 in a row since losing to Proviso East in the semifinals of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament. Auburn is led by one of the state's premier players, Wichita State-bound point guard Fred Van Vleet, who averages 21 points, seven assists and six rebounds per game.

Huntley (24-3), the No. 2 seed in the Dundee-Crown sectional behind Rockford Auburn, was 25-5 last year and lost to Rockford Auburn in the sectional final. Coach Marty Manning thinks this team could be better with point guard Troy Miller, 6-foot-3 Justin Frederick and 6-foot-6 sophomore Amanze Egekeze, one of best young prospects in the state.

Elgin (23-3) relies on 6-foot-4 Kory Brown, who averages nearly 20 points and 10 rebounds per game. He is his team's tallest player and also initiates the offense from the point guard position. Last year, the Maroons lost to Huntley in the sectional.

Collinsville (23-5), which had suffered through five losing seasons in seven years before coach Darin Lee's arrival from Nashville, has undergone a resurgence and old-timers are recalling the glory days of former coach Vergil Fletcher. Lee counts on guards Daryn Foster and Jaris Wellmaker and 6-foot-5 JVaughn Williams.

Edwardsville has lost to Collinsville twice but coach Mike Waldo, in his 24th year, relies on one of the best players in school history, 6-foot-5 junior Tre Harris, who averages 18 points and 10 rebounds per game. Another standout is 6-foot-5 junior Garrett Covington (18 ppg).

Normal Community was 27-8 and finished fourth in the state last year. Coach Dave Witzig admits this year's club isn't as good. He lost 6-foot-8 and 6-foot-6 post players. This year, he relies on three guards--Illinois State-bound Anthony Beane (17 ppg), Chase Robbins (12 ppg) and Callen Boddie (9 ppg). To be effective in the state tournament, 6-foot-7 junior Trevor Seibing has to be a presence.

Belleville East has lost eight times to rated teams, including Collinsville by one point. But coach Ray Hoffman's team has beaten O'Fallon twice and East St. Louis. The Lancers are led by Illinois-bound Malcolm Hill, a 6-foot-6 guard who is averaging 23 points per game. He scored 43 in last Friday's 78-67 victory over Granite City. "He is the best player I have seen this year," Hoffman said.

Don't overlook fast-finishing Belleville West, which is only 15-11 but stunned Collinsville 54-51 last Friday. Kendall Smith sparked the Maroons, scoring 13 of his 20 points in the second half to overcome a nine-point halftime deficit. Nick Van Osdale scored 12, Michael Schmidt 11.

Moline (22-8) is seeded No. 1 in the regional ahead of Rock Island but coach Ryan Webber's team lost to Rock Island and Lincoln two weeks ago. Webber, 31, was Sigel's assistant in 2003 and was hired at Moline when only 27. He has overcome adversity. No. 2 scorer Jamaree Atwater returned last Friday after missing 24 games. His best player, 6-foot-2 senior Anthony Lindauer (23.5 ppg), has returned from a five-game suspension. Another contributor is 6-foot-1 senior Kenny Wages (15 ppg).

Rock Island is only 15-11 but has won five of its last six games. Coach Thom Sigel lost eight of nine players from last year's 30-3 state championship team but has built another contender. The Rocks are led by 6-foot-8 senior Denzel McCauley and 6-foot-4 senior Marquel Beasley.

Bloom (23-3) is reliving its glory days of the 1970s under coach Jasper Williams, whose team is top-seeded at the Lockport sectional ahead of Andrew, Homewood-Flossmoor, Crete-Monee and Thornwood. He relies on point guard Donald Moore, guard L.J. Johnson, 6-foot-5 junior Johnny Griffin and 6-foot-2 senior Henry Hicks.

Andrew, which lost a last-second two-point decision to Thornwood last Tuesday, spoiling its bid for a first-ever conference title, hopes to bounce back behind 6-foot-6 junior Jubril Adekoya and his brother, 6-foot-3 senior Jawad Adekoya.

New Trier, the favorite in the Glenbrook South sectional, relies on 6-foot-7 Dartmouth-bound Connor Boehm, point guard David Bragiel and 6-foot-4 Austin Angel. The Trevians are seeking their first trip to Peoria since finishing fourth in 2002. Boehm had 32 points and 14 rebounds as New Trier outlasted Niles North 93-84 in overtime last Wednesday.

White Sox still reeling after Royals rally for comeback victory

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White Sox still reeling after Royals rally for comeback victory

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — The White Sox can’t seem to stop the bleeding.

The Kansas City Royals inflicted another painful wound on Friday night as they rallied from four runs down to send the White Sox to a 7-5 loss in front of 28,508 at Kauffman Stadium. Eric Hosmer homered and drove in four runs, including a go-ahead, two-run single in the seventh inning to send the White Sox to their 12th loss in 16 games.

Melky Cabrera had a grand slam, and Todd Frazier also homered during a five-run rally that had the White Sox well positioned to win. But the bullpen faltered again as Dan Jennings, Matt Albers and Zach Duke combined to allow three runs in a four-run, seventh-inning Kansas City rally.

“It’s one of those games, not really much to say,” Frazier said. “They just kept clawing back. They came after us (in the seventh) and kept chipping away, and that’s what they do. We gotta find a way to put the fire out, and we couldn’t do it.”

The White Sox had to be in high spirits after the top of the sixth inning.

Not only did they finally crack Royals starter Danny Duffy, who retired the first 16 batters he faced, they broke the game wide open.

Those warm and fuzzy feelings didn’t last very long.

White Sox starting pitcher Miguel Gonzalez, who celebrated his 32nd birthday Friday, gave up an opposite-field solo homer to Hosmer in the bottom of the sixth to make it a 5-2 game. Gonzalez, who retired 16 of 19 after he allowed a pair of singles to start the game, exited after Brett Eibner’s one-out double in the seventh.

Then all hell broke loose as the White Sox used five pitchers to navigate the inning.

Jennings walked Jarrod Dyson, and Albers entered and allowed an infield single to Alcides Escobar to load the bases. Rookie Whit Merrifield followed with a two-run single to make it 5-4. After an umpire review, Escobar — who originally was ruled out — and Merrifield advanced into scoring position when Albers uncorked a wild pitch.

Albers struck out Cain and gave way to Duke, as the White Sox opted to face Hosmer with first base open. Duke jumped ahead 0-1 in the count, but Hosmer, who also had an RBI groundout in the first, dumped a slider off the outside corner into left for a 6-5 lead.

Nate Jones entered and recorded the final out of the seventh. He allowed an insurance run in the eighth.

White Sox manager Robin Ventura said he preferred to face Hosmer with Duke versus loading the bases for Salvador Perez and calling upon Jones.

“You consider it,” Ventura said. “I mean you load it up, you don’t give Jonesy much to work with there. Dukie has had some good numbers against Hosmer.”

The White Sox had a chance with two on in the eighth against Kelvin Herrera, but he struck out Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton. Wade Davis pitched a scoreless ninth to close it out.

Duffy looked content to extend a recent miserable run by the White Sox offense.

Working on a pitch count of 75 to 80, Duffy’s start looked special for 16 outs.

He overpowered White Sox hitters early, striking out four of the first six batters he faced. Rarely did he go deep into any counts, save for at-bats by Austin Jackson and Abreu, both of which resulted in fly ball outs. And none of the contact Duffy induced was hard, either.

Then they woke up.

Trailing 1-0, Avisail Garcia singled to right with one out, and Dioner Navarro dumped a single into shallow right. Jackson also singled to right to load the bases for Cabrera, who jumped on the first pitch he saw for a grand slam — his first since July 29, 2011, when he played for Kansas City. Frazier gave his team a four-run lead with a 413-foot homer to left, his 15th.

But all it added up to was another deep cut inflicted by the Royals.

“It’s tough,” Albers said. “We’re battling. We’re not giving in. There’s nobody hanging their heads. You’ve got to battle. It’s tough. Long season. It’s never fun going through these stretches, but you can’t let it get you down, can’t let it change the fun part of the game, going after hitters, for me especially. Just get ready for tomorrow and try to get some more outs.”

Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

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Injury Report: Kevan Smith back on DL, Jason Heyward dodges a bullet

Each week, CSNChicago.com takes a look at the injury report from both the Cubs and White Sox, presented by Service King.

WHITE SOX

Kevan Smith has had a roller coaster of a month, and it's back on the downfall. On Tuesday, Smith returned to Triple-A Charlotte after missing about a month due to a back injury. But after the game, Smith went back on the DL with an undisclosed injury. He went 0-for-3 with a walk and a run.

Smith was promoted to the main roster on April 24 to replace catcher Alex Avila, who went on the 15-day DL with a sore hamstring. The following day, Smith suffered a sacroiliac joint dysfunction injury during warm-ups without making his MLB debut.

Nate Jones returned to action last week after missing a few games due to a bruised foot caused by a line drive. Jones made three consecutive appearances from May 21-23. In those games, he pitched a combined 1.2 innings and only allowed one hit while striking out three.

Jake Petricka (right hip impingement) and Daniel Webb (right elbow flexor inflammation) are still on the 15-day disabled list. There's no timetable for their returns. On Saturday, manager Robin Ventura said Petricka was still battling soreness in his hip. 

CUBS

The Cubs dodged a serious injury bullet a week ago when Jason Heyward crashed into the wall in San Francisco. The Cubs outfielder wound up missing just three-plus games and returned to the lineup Tuesday against his old team in St. Louis.

Heyward went just 1-for-10 with a walk and two strikeouts in the final two games against the Cardinals, but his re-insertion into the lineup has helped create a butterfly effect with the Cubs lineup. Heyward did make his one hit count — a two-run double in the Cubs' 9-8 victory Wednesday.

The Cubs got more positive outfield news when Matt Szczur was activated from the disabled list Saturday and has looked completely over his hamstring issue.

Szczur has appeared in every game since his return, going 3-for-6 with a triple, two RBI and two runs scored. He his now hitting .389 with a 1.089 OPS on the season.

'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

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'Yay me!': Cubs celebrate David Ross' 100th career homer

"Yay me!"

That's how David Ross announced his presence to the Chicago media Friday afternoon, almost four hours after hitting his 100th career homer.

Ross' three-run blast in the fourth inning (before a pair of rain delays lasting 93 minutes) helped lead the Cubs and Jon Lester to a 6-2 victory Friday.

"It was just my personal thing," Ross said. "It was nice to have a nice, round number. One hundred in The Show is pretty cool for me. But it affected the game and impacted the game, so it's even better. It wasn't just a blowout or a meaningless homer when you're down a bunch."

The Cubs have been counting down to 100 since last season and finally got to celebrate with "Grandpa Rossy," who sported a Papa Bear T-shirt after the game.

Joe Maddon gave Ross a bottle of wine and Lester gifted his personal catcher a bottle of champagne in a box signed by everybody on the roster.

"The boys were excited. I was excited," Ross said. "I think my favorite part while all this has been going on is rounding second base and looking in the dugout. Makes me smile every time seeing everybody so happy for me and counting down for me.

"They're as happy as I am, so that makes me feel good."

As soon as Ross made contact, he knew it was gone, slowly walking a few steps and uncharacteristically admiring it a bit before beginning his trot.

He got a curtain call, too, and he acknowledged hitting his 100th blast was extra special coming in front of the Cubs fanbase.

"I run down in the outfield before the game and ever since I hit 99, that's all I hear: 'Hit a homer, Grandpa,' I mean, nobody even knows my first name anymore," Ross joked.

"It was cool. There was even a David Ross sign a little girl had today. I mean, who doesn't like seeing that? Stuff like that is just really cool."

It was Ross' fourth homer of the season and he now has 17 RBI and an .828 OPS. Compare that to the 39-year-old's one homer, nine RBI and .519 OPS last season.

"It's awesome," Lester said. "Obviously, going into last year, we all knew where he was. I did. He'll admit: He didn't swing the bat like he wanted to last year.

"It's just nice to see him feel comfortable and be the old Rossy. I'm glad he did it. It's kinda nice he did it the day I was pitching to add a little bit to it."

Ross' 100th homer ball wound up glancing off the Nuveen sign in left field and wound up on Waveland. The fan that ended up with it only asked for a photo with Ross in return.

"Who wants a picture of me?!" Ross laughed. "I'm surprised he didn't ask for [Kris Bryant] or [Anthony Rizzo] or something like that. Again, yay me!"