High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011
Posted 11:33 p.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com
Comcast SportsNet is your number one source for high school sports in Chicagoland. The boys basketball playoffs are underway in class 1A & 2A. Well have highlights of three regional championship games in the area. Well also take you to Chicago Heights where the Southland conference will be decided. Will Crete-Monee win it outright or will Bloom take a share of the title? Plus, we sit down with Tracy Abrams, Nnanna Egwu and Mike Shawthree high school seniors looking to contribute to the Fighting Illini next season. And well bring you the story of the high flying Warriors of Wheaton Academya team that hasnt lost to an in-state opponent yet this year. Here is a snapshot of each game we will cover on Friday night, which include updates on the girls basketball playoff picture:
(17) Lyons @ Proviso West, 6:00pm

The Lions (22-2, 11-0) look to finish the regular season with a perfect record in the West Suburban Silver Friday night in Hillside. Spencer Mahoney, Eric Powers, Nick Zeisloft and company will look to keep the momentum going after a heart-stopping 55-53 win over Proviso East in the City-Suburban Showdown. Proviso West (16-8, 8-3) is currently a distant second in conference and will not factor in the title chase, but theyre having a solid season thanks to a well-balanced attack led by standout guard Nick Frazier.
(12) Crete-Monee @ Bloom, 6:30pm

The only thing standing in the way between Crete-Monee (20-3, 8-1) and a Southland conference title is a Bloom team that has already succumbed to the Warrior attack earlier this year (56-45 on January 21st). So why should 12th ranked Crete-Monee be concerned? Revenge factor aside, the Blazing Trojans (15-10, 7-2) are getting key contributions from forward Lajavius Johnson. He will have to bring his game Friday to help his team get a share of the title. Crete-Monee boasts a rugged lineup featuring DePaul-bound guard Jamee Crockett.
Crystal Lake Central @ Crystal Lake South, 7:00pm

Crystal Lake Central (21-4, 11-1) might not get a lot of the love that their fellow 20-game winners are getting, but the Gators have been thriving on the lack of limelight. They hope to sneak up on teams in the playoffs behind senior Joe Pijanowski and junior Chase Cane. The host Gators (15-10, 4-6) are paced by senior forward Kevin Rogers. Central has not lost a game since January 19th against Grayslake North.

St. Ignatius @ (23) Mt. Carmel, 7:30pm

This game might make you wonder if the Fighting Illini could have used St. Ignatius Nnanna Igwu and the Caravans Tracy Abrams this year. The two Illinois-bound prep stars square off Friday night in a game that could be a nice springboard for the state playoffs that lie ahead. The visiting Wolfpack have won six straight games, including Sundays 52-41 win over Leo. 23rd ranked has been on fire since the Pekin Holiday Tournament, losing only to Halesby four points.

Batavia @ (18) East Aurora, 7:30pm

The 18th ranked Tomcats (19-5, 10-2) hope to have guard Letrell Snoop Viser back for the game against Batavia. He left last during last Friday's game against Lake Park with a sprained ankle. UConn-bound star Ryan Boatright looks for one final regular season tuneup before the playoffs begin. The visiting Bulldogs (13-11, 8-4) have won three straight, including Tuesday's 45-37 win over Streamwood. Senior guard Jesse Coffey hopes to make it back into the lineup for Batavia after an illness kept him sidelined earlier this week.
Elgin @ Streamwood, 7:30pm

Like East Aurora, the Elgin Maroons (20-5, 9-2) can call themselves conference champs after a decade-long wait. Elgin previous Upstate Eight title was in 2000-01, East won it previously in 1998-99. But if the Maroons want to win it outright, they will have to defeat Streamwood (8-17, 3-8) on the road. Elgin's junior guard Kory Brown has been an absolute force this year. He is coming off a season-high 30 points Tuesday against Grayslake Central.

(11) Hales Franciscan vs. Chicago Christian, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Chicago Christian)

Will the 11th ranked Spartans play in Peoria? The magic eight ball consensus would say "yes." Hales Franciscan (22-4), an elite team featuring brothers Aaron and Aaric Armstead, cruised past Dyett Wednesday night 85-46 in the regional semifinal. However, they cannot afford to look ahead, especially after what happened in the other semifinal Wednesday. Chicago Christian (21-6) raised a few eyebrows with a 53-51 win over Leo. Dan VanGroningen talled 17 points and Jason VanderLaan scored 13 for the victorious Knights.

Latin vs. Parker, 7:30pm (2A Regional Championship @ Holy Trinity)

It would only seem fitting that Latin and Parker would meet for a regional championship, given the nice rivalry between the two schools that has developed over the years. Latin (16-8) advanced thanks to Chad Stevenson, who led all scorers with 26 points in Latin's semifinal win over Marine Wednesday night. The Romans will take on an F.W. Parker team that defeated Holy Trinity 70-33 in the semis. Langdon Neal is one of the leaders for the Colonels (19-7).
St. Benedict vs. Hope Academy, 7:30pm (1A Regional Championship @ St. Benedict)

St. Benedict,the third-seeded team in the regional, won a thrilling semifinal game Thursday night over Universal, 51-50 in overtime. Krys Gago and Habeeb Olowo had 16 points apiece to lead the Bengals (16-12). Chicagos Hope Academy (19-10), the top seed, is a member of the Chicagoland Prep conferenceas is St. Benedict. The Eagles defeated St. Benedict 75-57 on January 7.

THURSDAY: (24) Maine South 54, (23) Niles West 47 OT-- (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ Maine East)

The 24th ranked Hawks scored the first 13 points of the game and then held off a furious Niles West rally to win their first sectional title since the 2007-08 season. Michelle Maher and Jacqui Grant tallied 14 apiece for Maine South. Kaitlyn Mullarkey had two clutch buckets in overtime for the victors, who defeated the Wolves for the third time this season. Niles Wests Jewell Loyd scored 25 points in the losing effort.

THURSDAY: (9) Proviso East 55, (8) Trinity 47 (4A Girls Sectional Championship @ York)

The 8th ranked Blazers might have limited Illinois-bound Ivory Crawford to 12 points, but they had no answer for Ricquia Jones. The 5-4 guard finished with 18 points, five steals and four assists to lead the Pirates, who won their 18th straight game. They will go on to play Maine South in the Loyola supersectional Monday night. Megan Podkowa finished with 14 points for Trinity, who finished their season with a 28-5 record.

Check us out this Friday night at 10:30. We will also bring you up to speed on the 1A and 2A girls basketball state playoff semifinals from Redbird Arena in Normal. High School Lites streams live at CSNChicago.com.

Relentless Cubs offense knocks out Gerrit Cole in win over Pirates

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Relentless Cubs offense knocks out Gerrit Cole in win over Pirates

PITTSBURGH — Relentless is the word the Cubs keep using to describe a lineup that knocked out Gerrit Cole on Monday night with the bases loaded and two outs in the fifth inning and the Pittsburgh Pirates already trailing by two runs at PNC Park.

Relentless could also be a label for Theo Epstein’s front office, even after spending almost $290 million on free agents and even with an 18-6 record that’s the best in baseball following a 7-2 win over the Pirates.

Because the Cubs want nothing to do with the randomness of another one-game playoff and can’t take anything for granted with 85 percent of the schedule still remaining.

Not that Epstein needed a reminder, but the president of baseball operations flashed back to last year’s National League wild-card game when he flew into Pittsburgh, checked into the team’s downtown hotel across the Roberto Clemente Bridge and went running along the Allegheny River.

From his hotel room, Epstein could sort of see where Kyle Schwarber’s two-run homer off Cole flew out of PNC Park last October. Even with Schwarber recovering from season-ending knee surgery, the Cubs still roughed up Cole for six runs.

“We’ve played really well,” Epstein said, “but I don’t think we’ve completely locked in yet or clicked in all facets of the game. Our pitching staff’s really been carrying us. It’s been the most consistent part of our team yet. As it warms up here, I think the bats will get going and they’ll probably carry us for a while.

“But as far as needs that we might have, or ways that we can get better, we’re always assessing that. I think there’s lots of different ways we could potentially improve the club before the end of the season.”

The Cubs will watch Tim Lincecum’s upcoming showcase in Arizona because they always check in on potential impact players at that level. Lincecum — a two-time Cy Young Award winner who helped the San Francisco Giants win three World Series titles — is making a comeback after hip surgery.

While the Cubs should have big-picture concerns about their rotation and a farm system that hasn’t developed the arms yet, Jason Hammel is making his own comeback. Hammel (4-0, 1.24 ERA) gave up two runs across five innings before four relievers combined to shut down the Pirates (15-11) the rest of the night.

After beating up on the division’s have-nots and going 8-1 against the Cincinnati Reds and Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs should have a better idea of where they stand after Joe Maddon’s “Minimalist Zany” road trip to Pittsburgh and a four-game series against the Washington Nationals at Wrigley Field.

“There’s always the threat of somehow playing to the level of your competition in a negative way,” Maddon said. “I’m not denigrating any team that we’ve played to this point. That is not my point. But if you play teams with less-than (.500) records and maybe they’re not playing as well, you don’t turn that dimmer switch up to the full velocity. But when you’re playing really good teams, I think that naturally brings out the best in you.”

Jake Arrieta is the wild card in budding Cubs-Pirates rivalry

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Jake Arrieta is the wild card in budding Cubs-Pirates rivalry

PITTSBURGH — Jake Arrieta felt so locked in, so prepared for the biggest start of his life that he trolled the Pittsburgh Pirates on Twitter, telling their fans that the blackout atmosphere at PNC Park wouldn’t matter.

The Cubs will never forget that epic performance during last year’s National League wild-card game, how Arrieta walked the walk in a complete-game shutout. His young son, Cooper, even helped pour champagne into his mouth during that wild postgame celebration, creating another memorable snapshot.

If Arrieta is going to become a true villain in Pittsburgh — and the Cubs and Pirates are going to reach another boiling point and turn this into a great rivalry — then it probably won’t happen during the first week of May while the Penguins are still alive in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

But Arrieta’s starts have already become must-see TV, and the Pirates will get another up-close look on Tuesday night at this beautiful waterfront ballpark.

"Their fans are good," Arrieta said. "They’re passionate about their team and their guys, so it’s something that I enjoy. I don’t expect them to be my biggest fan — or a fan of me at all — but that’s the nature of fans and the fans that really support their team.

"That’s the whole point of social media — to interact. Sometimes it’s well received. Sometimes it’s not. But that was the intention there — to fire people up — and I think that’s exactly what I did."

Arrieta looked a little drained during the next two rounds of the playoffs, beating the St. Louis Cardinals (while seeming to lose his air of invincibility) before the New York Mets swept the Cubs out of the NLCS.

There hasn’t been any sort of hangover for Arrieta, the first NL Pitcher of the Month for three consecutive months after a dominant April that saw him go 5-0 with a no-hitter against the Cincinnati Reds and only two runs allowed across 36 innings.

As manager Joe Maddon likes to say, the reigning Cy Young Award winner is embracing the target.

"When you’re at the top of your game, when you’re one of the teams to beat, it’s just something that comes with the territory," Arrieta said.

Arrieta’s meticulous routine and laser focus mean he doesn’t experience a flood of special memories as soon as he sees the bridges, the black and gold and the Pittsburgh skyline. Or at least he won’t admit that now.

"Well, when you bring it up, yeah," Arrieta said. "That was a neat experience, something that was huge for us as a team and for the organization. But it was short-lived.

"We moved on and had to play the Cardinals and the Mets and our season was cut a little bit short. But we’re in a better spot now this early in the season. We like where we are."

That would be in first place in the Central, with the best record in the league and no interest in dealing with the coin-flip nature of the wild card.

"When you play 162, and then you have to fight it out in one game to move on or go home, it’s a situation that nobody really wants to be in," Arrieta said. "The goal is obviously to win the division. And getting off to a hot start is the way you go about doing that. We’re where we intended to be at this point in the season."

Antrel Rolle blames Bears practice field for knee injury

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Antrel Rolle blames Bears practice field for knee injury

Antrel Rolle has been around the NFL long enough to know this is sometimes how it goes.

The Bears released the 33-year-old Rolle one day after selecting three defensive backs in the 2016 NFL Draft. Rolle played just seven games in the first season of his three-year deal, while dealing with ankle and knee injuries.

He joined 670 The Score on Monday to discuss a number of topics surrounding his release. Among his comments, Rolle blamed the playing surface at Halas Hall, the Bears' practice facility, for the knee injury that ultimately ended his season.

Rolle, still dealing with an injured ankle that had limited him early in the season, injured the knee on the final play of practice on the Friday before the Bears' game against the Denver Broncos.

As he explains:

"I was pretty much shuffling...and I tried to change direction and I slipped on the surface, and because of my ankle and because of the tape the only thing that was able to give was my knee. So my knee had to take a lot of the force and the impact, and even the doctor said it was very unsual to find a tear that I had with a non-contact injury. But it was because of all the pressure and force on my knee because my ankle couldn't really give.

"I think the surface had a whole lot to do with it. It happens.

"The facilities are good in Chicago. The fields are just not as good. I don't know the reason behind it. I don't know how the maintenance and upkeep works in Chicago. But it's real hard to maintain and just be stable under those conditions. But I'm sure they'll try to work and fix it. I always knew Soldier Field (playing surface) was bad. I just never knew that the facitlities were just as bad."

Rolle plans on playing in his 12th NFL season, and believe he's capable of much more than he showed in his limited time with the Bears. Now a free agent, Rolle said he has a chip on his shoulder and is hoping whichever team he signs with plays the Bears in 2016.

"I know who I am as a player. I know who I still am as a player and what I can contribute. It's just unfortunate that it won't be (in Chicago).

"It's all good. I'll find a way and I'll make the best of it. And whatever team i play (for), I hope chicago's on the schedule."