Glenbrook North loses McAuliffe for 4-6 weeks

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Glenbrook North loses McAuliffe for 4-6 weeks

One day, Glenbrook North coach Dave Weber was lamenting about issues he has with a lack of depth on his 2011-12 basketball team. The next day, his star player, 6-foot-8 junior Andrew McAuliffe, suffered a knee injury. On Monday, Weber learned that McAuliffe will be sidelined from four to six weeks.

"He has a fractured patella. He won't be back until mid to late January. He'll miss 10-12 games, a big chunk of the season," Weber said. "We have to get through this stretch of games without him and it will be tough because we have to go to the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

"We have to totally change our whole offense, all that we have done up to this point. And everybody will have to step up. We have to get game experience and get guys off the bench to play."

Ironically, McAuliffe was injured during what Weber described as his best game of the year and his team's best game of the year. Despite suffering a knee injury, he scored 29 points and grabbed six rebounds in last Tuesday's 67-39 rout of Niles North.

"Then we played our worst game of the year," Weber said, referring to last Friday's 48-42 overtime loss to Deerfield. It was the first of several games that McAuliffe will miss.

Among the players who will be counted on to step up are 6-foot-5 senior Mark Johnson and 6-foot junior point guard Kurt Karis. Johnson scored 28 points against Niles North, then had 19 points and 10 rebounds against Deerfield. But Karis was befuddled and frustrated by Deerfield's box-and-one defense and never got untracked. It was a lesson he won't forget.

"We have to scrap more. We don't have the 6-8 presence that we had," Karis said. "We didn't make shots on Friday. And we were 5-for-13 from the free throw line. The defense packed in with a box-and-one on me. I scored only four points. It was very frustrating."

Afterward, aware that McAuliffe would miss some time, Karis texted all of his teammates. "We didn't play a good game. We have to work harder in practice. We have to work even harder and scrap harder. And I need to step up and be the player I can be, shoot more, be more confident," he said.

"One loss doesn't make a season. We need more balance. That loss shows how much harder we need to work. It is good that this happens to us early rather than later so it shows what we need to do."

Even before McAuliffe was injured, Weber complained about lack of depth. Three players already had left the program. Point guard Joe Prince moved back to California. Backup point guard Ethan Schmidt quit the team before the season began. And Cory Dolins transferred to Niles West.

Weber planned to build around McAuliffe, who was averaging 15 points and five rebounds and is being evaluated by Northwestern and other Division I schools, and Karis, who is averaging 13 points and four assists and was MVP of the Niles West Thanksgiving Tournament.

Without McAuliffe, he will count on Karis, Johnson, 6-foot-2 senior Mitchell Lev, 6-foot-1 senior Adam Chick and 6-foot-1 senior Trevor Ponticelli to fill the void. Johnson obviously got the message. He was averaging 10 points per game but scored 47 in his last two games.

They'll take a 6-1 record and debut their new lineup and revamped offense on Tuesday against Conant, then play Highland Park on Friday before meeting St. Patrick in the opening round of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

"This team will be very competitive throughout the season," Weber said before McAuliffe's injury. "We won't blowout a lot of people. We have to win a lot of close games. We won't score a lot of points. We don't hit a lot of three-point shots. We play slower than we're used to playing."

Like many kids growing up in Northbrook, Karis was inspired by the spectacular play of former Glenbrook North star Jon Scheyer. His brother was on Scheyer's state championship team.

"So I went to every game. My dad played basketball and pushed me to play. Watching the state championship team made me want to play for Glenbrook North," Karis said. "Scheyer was amazing to watch. It was incredible to see what he could do. His supporting cast knew their roles. It inspired me to play my heart out to be able to play on the varsity.

"I was in Peoria when they won the state title. My brother didn't play a minute in the final game but he was the happiest he ever was. He played the last minute of the semifinal and got fouled and made two free throws at the end. It was his great moment of glory."

Now Kurt faces a big challenge if his team is to advance on the state tournament trail. "I'm the quarterback out there. My major role is to distribute the ball. We have desire. All the seniors want to win. It's a hard thing to win a state title but we haven't had a big challenge yet to see if we are the real deal. Now we do. But we think we can do it," he said.

Meanwhile, Weber has his own challenges to deal with. In his 17th season, he has won 325 games and one state championship. But he has noticed how the game has evolved and he isn't sure it is for the better.

"The high school season isn't as important to these kids as before," he said. "They play so much outside the school. The main focus used to be high school. Now it is AAU. They are tired and worn out. They play so much AAU and go to personal trainers and weight training coaches. By 3:00 in the afternoon, when they come to our practice, they are exhausted.

"And parents are into it more than ever before. The parents now are more hands on. The kids go home and tell their parents everything that happened in the day. The Internet has changed parental involvement. They want to see success. It isn't as much fun as it used to, nowhere near as much fun as when a kid came to practice and was excited to wear a Glenbrook North jersey.

"The pride and passion of playing for your high school isn't there anymore. When we used to scout five to 10 years ago, we would be exhausted. Now you scout and it's pretty much all the same...drive to the rim, not a lot of set plays. High school basketball isn't as structured as it used to be. It's all about athleticism, stopping dribble penetration, who is more athletic and who can drive and penetrate and kick. You used to have to figure out plays but not anymore."

Coaching without McAuliffe in the lineup could be his biggest challenge of all.

A decade later, Ron Tomczak's legacy lives on at Lincoln-Way East intrasquad game

A decade later, Ron Tomczak's legacy lives on at Lincoln-Way East intrasquad game

When Ron Tomczak passed away suddenly in 2007, Lincoln-Way East head coach Rob Zvonar lost much more than a valuable assistant.

The 69-year-old Tomczak, who spent two-thirds of his life coaching football, had been a mentor and a friend to Zvonar, who leaned on the Hall of Famer for guidance as the young Griffins program took shape in the early 2000s. Zvonar relished having an experienced voice in coaches meetings and the locker room. More than that, he appreciated that same voice calling him "out of the blue" on any given night with words of advice and support.

It's the reason Zvonar made what he called a "no-brainer" decision that fall to honor Tomczak's legacy as a father, coach, mentor and friend a mere six months after the legendary coach's death. So when the Griffins took the field for their annual intrasquad game a week before their regular season began, they did so during the Ron Tomczak Black and Blue scrimmage.

Ten years later the tradition has carried on, and then some.

Thousands from the Frankfort community gathered in the team's stadium last Friday night to watch the 2016 Griffins take the field for the first time, and also to honor the legacy of a man instrumental toward helping build the program into one of the premier teams in Illinois. 

Tomczak coached at T.F. North for 16 seasons, earning 89 victories in his tenure. He coached the Meteors to a pair of playoff berths, including a 10-2 season and berth in the state semifinals with his son, Mike, under center. Mike went on to Ohio State, leading the Buckeyes to two Big Ten championships before a 15-year NFL career with stops in Chicago, Green Bay, Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

Ron continued his coaching career at Lincoln-Way East in 2001, serving as an assistant under Zvonar one year after the program’s inaugural season. Ron's son, Steve, was also an assistant at East during that time, and when Zvonar approached him and the Tomczak family about honoring their father at the annual scrimmage, they were thrilled.

"Coach Z was gracious enough when my father passed to say, 'This is what we're going to do, and we're going to do it every year really big and make it a big celebration,'" said Steve, who runs Body Tech Total Fitness in Frankfort, where Ron also worked in his later years. "That's the type of person (Zvonar) is, the type of man he is. He said as long as I'm here we're going to do this."

Added Ron Jr.: "Coach Z, I think my dad taught (Zvonar) a lot when he initially started, and he looked to my dad as a mentor."

Ron was a perfectionist, a trait that's easy to see has rubbed off in the way Zvonar leads a Griffins group with state-title aspirations in 2016.

Ron Jr. recalled his father putting together practice plans for the fall as soon as the Fourth of July rolled around. Months before the official start of the IHSA season he had the equipment room organized to a fault and his practice plan for two-a-days completed. Ron spent just as much time with the scout kickoff team as he did with the first-team offense, and he always made time to coach up anyone who asked for it.

"If anybody wanted to work he was there," Ron Jr. said, "if there was one kid or there were 40 kids out there."

When he returned to Lincoln-Way East as an assistant - he also taught driver's ed at the school - his passion, drive and work ethic rubbed off on the rest of the coaching staff.

"Most men his age would be retired on the golf course," Zvonar said, "and he was still coming out here in his late 60s coaching football. He meant so much to me as a mentor."

It's why simply honoring Ron, who was inducted into the IHSA Football Coaches Hall of Fame in 1986, with a scrimmage in his name wasn't enough. Zvonar makes a point each season of instilling in his team the importance Tomczak had on both him and the program. Though the 118 players on this year's East team are too young to remember Tomczak, they understand what he meant to the program because of Zvonar.

The highlight of the night is a spaghetti dinner inside the stadium, with proceeds going directly to a scholarship in Ron's name. Candidates from the team submit letters, must be in good standing academically and have an eye toward playing football collegiately. The coaching staff then selects candidates to present to the family, which makes the final decision in May on one to two players to receive the scholarship.

"I don't want to just say, "Hey, it's the Ron Tomczak scrimmage,'" Zvonar said. "We've got to go back and talk about who he was and what he stood for. And if we can continue to pass his legacy down to other generations, we sure will."

Added wide receiver Nick Zelenika, whose brother John - now at Illinois Wesleyan - was awarded the scholarship in 2015: "Coach Z talks a lot about him. He got this program rolling. He set the example for this program. Coach Z looks up to him as a role model, and we have a ton of respect for him. He definitely set an example for our high school."

The Tomczak family has been an integral part of the Lincoln-Way East program, and the impact Ron had during his time will continue to help define its future successes. It will also come full-circle next season when his grandson, current sophomore starting defensive back Jake, joins the varsity team. Another one of his grandsons, Max, will start at Lincoln-Way East next fall. But even when the last Tomczak has played his final snap for the Griffins, Ron Tomczak's legacy will live on each year as a reminder of what it takes to build a winner, and how to do so the right way.

"He was near and dear to our hearts," Zvonar said. "And as long as I'm here we'll always remember him.”

Cubs pay their respects to Vin Scully at Dodger Stadium

Cubs pay their respects to Vin Scully at Dodger Stadium

LOS ANGELES – There will never be another Vin Scully, who joined the Dodgers in Brooklyn as a kid out of Fordham University, moved to Los Angeles and became a face of the franchise, doing the one-man show that still connects and entertains generations of baseball fans.

The Cubs paid their respects to the legendary broadcaster before Friday night’s game at Dodger Stadium, with manager Joe Maddon and catcher David Ross visiting the Vin Scully Press Box for another photo op before the lyrical voice retires at the end of this season, at the age of 88.

“You’re ascending into the clouds to meet Mr. Scully,” Maddon said. “That’s like the window to the world up there when you sit in his booth and he talks about the purple mountain majesties on a clear day beyond the outfield fences here.”

The Cubs presented Scully with a green “67” scoreboard panel – to mark the number of seasons he’s worked Dodger games – as well as a Dodger banner from Wrigley Field. Maddon also gave Scully, who rocks the conservative coat-and-tie look on TV, several T-shirts from his collection, including “Try Not to Suck.”

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Maddon said he told Scully: “Maybe at the end of the year, sitting by your pool with the sandals on, you can put a T-shirt on where no one can see you and just be Vin.”

As the tributes pour in from around baseball, CSN Chicago will carry Scully’s third-inning call live during Sunday’s broadcast from Chavez Ravine.

“He makes you feel like he’s known you for the last 50 years,” Maddon said. “Just really kind and gracious. And you have to be all of that to survive that many years. Besides being good, it’s his authenticity and how he interacts with people that really (keeps) you on that stage that long.”

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Chris Sale strikes out 14 but White Sox fall to Mariners

Felix Hernandez has proven for years that he doesn’t need much help.

But the White Sox provided him with three free outs on the bases anyway on Friday night.

Those mistakes allowed Hernandez to hold the White Sox in check as they wasted a 14-strikeout performance from Chris Sale in a 3-1 loss to the Seattle Mariners in front of 25,651 at U.S. Cellular Field. Sale retired 16 in a row to end it, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox dropped back to five games below .500.

“We didn’t run the bases very well tonight,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “That ends up costing you. You’re getting something going against them, and it just takes the wind out of your sails. Both guys pitched great.

“They just executed better than we did when they got the chance. Both guys were going strong. The way we ran the bases, we didn’t deserve to win that game.”

Sale (15-7) deserved much better than to lose for the fifth time in his last six decisions.

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Though he allowed a run in the second, third and fourth innings, Sale got on a roll late.

After Adam Lind’s two-out RBI double in the fourth, Sale found an extra gear and retired the last 16 Mariners to hit, including 10 strikeouts. He struck out the side in the sixth and seventh innings and afforded his teammates a chance to rally.

“Thank God we did it early because as everybody saw, when he gets on a roll it’s like lights out,” Seattle manager Scott Servais said. “He’s obviously one of the best pitchers in the league for a reason. We had no chance, really, after the fourth and fifth inning. He got into a groove and got all his pitches working.”

Two of Seattle’s three runs off Sale came on opposite-field drives as Lind doubled to left in the fourth and Franklin Gutierrez homered to right in the second inning. Sale walked none and only allowed five hits and three runs in nine innings. He threw strikes on 88 of 120 pitches.

It was the 13th complete game of Sale’s career and his fifth this season.

“I wanted to find a groove and I felt like after the fourth inning I got into a pretty good groove, that cruising speed I was talking about,” Sale said. “I just tried to lengthen it as much as I could, just fill up as many innings as I could. Just give us a chance to win, keep us in the game.”

While Sale kept his team in the game, they repeatedly took themselves out of it.

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The White Sox had plenty of chances against Hernandez, none better than the bottom of the eighth inning. Trailing by two runs, Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino singled on both sides of a J.B. Shuck fielder’s choice. Adam Eaton’s one-out walk knocked Hernandez out of the game after 104 pitches.

But closer Edwin Diaz got Tim Anderson to hit into a fielder’s choice as third baseman Shawn O’Malley made a perfect throw home on the slow roller for a force out. Jose Abreu then fouled out to leave the bases loaded. Diaz retired the side in order in the ninth for his 11th save.

Todd Frazier homered in the seventh inning of Hernandez for the team’s only run, but they should have had more. The White Sox had the leadoff man reach base in five of eight innings started by Hernandez, who allowed a run and eight hits in 7 1/3 innings. Hernandez erased two of those five as he picked off Frazier and Shuck in the second and third innings. He also got out of a first-and-third jam in the fifth inning when Shuck lined into a double play and Omar Narvaez was caught leaning.

“That’s the frustrating part,” Ventura said. “You know you’re not really going to have too many opportunities (against Hernandez). You might be able to hit and run or all of a sudden you’re first and third. But if you just take it out of your own hands, that’s where you scratch your head.”