Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class


Kerr, Sikma head Hall of Fame class

Johnny "Red" Kerr didn't earn All-State recognition while playing at Tilden. And Jack Sikma, from tiny St. Anne near Kankakee, was the first small-school player in Illinois to take advantage of the newly adopted two-class system and make a big reputation for himself.

They are two of the 25 male and female players who will be inducted into the Illinois High School Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum in Pinckneyville. As members of the second class of honorees, they will be recognized at the annual banquet on Nov. 3 in Champaign.

Kerr's first passion was soccer but an eight-inch growth spurt compelled him to turn his attention to basketball. At Tilden, he led coach Bill Postl's team to Chicago Public League championships in 1949 and 1950.

He starred on Tilden's 1949 team that finished 20-9 and lost to John Biever and West Aurora 34-33 in the state quarterfinals. But he was a mid-year graduate in 1950 and wasn't on the tournament roster for the 27-5 team that lost to Elgin 59-50 in the state quarterfinals.

Later, the 6-foot-9 center scored 1,299 points in three years at Illinois, helping the Illini to the Big 10 championship and the NCAA's Final Four in 1952. He was elected to Illinois' All-Century Team in 2004.

In 1954, Kerr was chosen by the Syracuse Nationals as the sixth overall pick in the NBA draft. As a rookie, he averaged 10.5 points and 6.6 rebounds as the Nationals won the NBA championship. He had over 12,000 points and over 10,000 rebounds in his career and held the NBA record for most consecutive games played (844) until 1983.

He retired from competition after the 1965-66 season to become the first head coach of the new Chicago Bulls franchise. Later, he became a popular color commentator on the Bulls'television broadcasts, overseeing the Bulls' six NBA titles in the 1990s. He died in 2009.

Sikma was the Chicago Daily News' Class A Player of the Year in 1973, leading St. Anne to a 30-3 record and fourth place in the Class A tournament. He was the second-leading scorer with 100 points and 73 rebounds in the final four games.

The 6-foot-11 center went on to become the leading scorer and rebounder ever to play at Illinois Wesleyan, then was chosen by the Seattle SuperSonics as the eighth overall pick in the 1977 NBA draft. He was named to the All-Rookie team, was a seven-time all-star and helped Seattle to win the NBA title in 1978-79. In his career, he scored over 17,000 points and grabbed nearly 11,000 rebounds.

One of the most accurate shooting big men in NBA history -- he led the league in free throw percentage (92.2) in 1987-88 and averaged 84.9 for his career -- Sikma had his No. 43 jersey retired by Seattle in 1992. He currently is an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves in the NBA.

Kerr is one of 10 inductees from the pre-1960s era. The others are Bumpy Nixon, Galesburg; Rich Falk, Galva; Lynch Conway, Peoria Central; Joe Ruklick, Princeton; Rod Fletcher, Champaign; Jake Fendlay, South Shore; Homer Thurman, Bloom; Bob Owens, Paris; and Tom Cole, Springfield.

Sikma is one of 10 inductees from the post-1960s era. The others are Lloyd Batts, Thornton; Joey Range, Galesburg; Darius Miles, East St. Louis; Michael Payne, Quincy; Steve Kuberski, Moline; Russell Cross, Manley; Quentin Richardson, Whitney Young; Sergio McClain, Peoria Manual; and Greg Starrick, Marion.

The five women are Cappie Pondexter and Marie Christian, Marshall; Diana Vines, South Shore; Natasha Pointer, Whitney Young; and Alicia Ratay, Lake Zurich.

Legendary Galesburg coach John Thiel once described Lawrence "Bumpy" Nixon as "the best player ever to grace the halls of Galesburg High School." As a junior, he led Quincy to the Sweet Sixteen. As a senior at Galesburg, he led his team to a 29-2 record and third place in the state tournament.

Falk was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A guard at Galva, he averaged 29.8 points per game as a senior. He scored over 2,000 points in his career. He ranks second in state history for scoring more than 50 points in five games with a high of 57. Later, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection at Northwestern and was head coach at his alma mater from 1978 to 1989. In 2009, he retired as associate commissioner of the Big 10.

Conway was the leader of the Peoria Central team that won the first state championship in 1908. He scored 22 points in the state final and his mark of 11 field goals stood for 42 years. He also was the first African-American to play on Bradley University's basketball team.

Ruklick, a 6-foot-9 center, led Princeton to fourth place in the 1955 state tournament and finished as the leading scorer with 104 points in four games. He later was a standout at Northwestern. But he is best remembered as the Philadelphia 76er who passed the ball to Wilt Chamberlain for his 100th point, most ever scored in an NBA game.

Fletcher started on Champaign's 38-1 state championship team in 1946 and its 38-4 state runner-up in 1947. As a senior in 1948, he was named to the All-State team while playing for a 13-15 team that reached the Sweet Sixteen. At Illinois, the 6-foot-4 guard was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior. He led Illinois to two Big 10 titles and two NCAA Final Four appearances.

Fendley was a two-time All-Stater at Chicago South Shore in 1946 and 1947. He played on South Shore's 1944 team that finished third in the state tournament. The 6-foot-1 guard was his team's leading scorer and an all-tournament selection on the 24-3 team that lost to state champion Paris in the 1947 quarterfinals.

In the 1950s, when Bloom Township of Chicago Heights was the dominant high school sports program in Illinois, Thurman emerged as one of the best all-around athletes in state history. He was an All-Stater in basketball in 1959. As a sophomore, he started on a 22-2 team that lost in the Sweet Sixteen. He also excelled in football and track and field.

Owens was a two-time All-Stater at Paris in 1946 and 1947. In the 1940s, when Paris was one of the most dominant programs in the state, Owens was the standard-bearer. The 6-foot-2 center was the leading scorer in the 1947 tournament while leading Paris to a 40-2 record and its second state title in the decade. He scored 22 in the state final as Paris crushed Champaign 58-37.

Cole was a two-time All-Stater at Springfield in 1958 and 1959. In 1958, he led the Senators to a 24-9 record and the state quarterfinals. In 1959, he led his 33-1 team to the state championship. The 6-foot-7 center was the second-leading scorer in the tournament with 90 points, including 26 in a 60-52 victory over West Aurora in the state final.

Batts emerged as the all-time leading scorer at one of the state's most storied programs. The 6-foot-5 guardforward was a two-time All-Stater who averaged 29 points as a junior and 35 as a senior on teams that won 46 of 57 games. When he graduated from Cincinnati, he ranked behind only Oscar Robertson among the school's all-time leading scorers.

Range and Nixon are generally regarded as the two best players in Galesburg history and two of the leading players in the history of the Western Big 6 Conference. In four years, Range scored 2,390 points and averaged 21 per game. He missed only one of 114 games in his career.

Miles, a 6-foot-9 forward, was Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 2000. He led East St. Louis to a 24-6 record and the state quarterfinals in 1999 and to a 21-11 record and third place in the Class AA tournament in 2000. Afterward, he opted to go directly into the NBA draft and was the third player chosen, highest for a high school graduate up to that point.

Payne, a 6-foot-11 center, joined with guard Bruce Douglas, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in the inaugural class, to form one of the greatest teams in state history. Payne averaged 16.7 points and 9.5 rebounds and intimidated opponents at the top of the ball-press defense as Quincy went 33-0 in 1980-81. A McDonald's All-American, he later played at Iowa.

Kuberski graduated as the highest scoring player in the history of Quad-Cities basketball. As a junior, he averaged 30 points per game. As a senior, he averaged 27.7 points for a 25-3 team that lost to Chicago Marshall 75-72 in the state quarterfinals. He scored 50 points in one game.

Cross was a high school version of Bill Russell. The 6-foot-10 center put Chicago's Manley High School on the map by leading the Wildcats to a 28-3 record and the state quarterfinals in 1979. He was the state's most dominant player in 1980, leading Manley to a 31-1 record and the state championship. At Purdue, he was a two-time All-Big 10 selection.

Richardson was the leader of Whitney Young's 1998 state championship team, one of the best teams in state history. The 6-foot-6 guard played only two years at DePaul but is the only player in school history to score over 1,000 points, grab over 500 rebounds and convert more than 100 three-point shots. He was the 18th pick in the 2000 NBA draft.

All you need to know about Sergio McClain is one statistic: 32-0. In four years, McClain led Peoria Manual to a 32-0 record and an unprecedented four championships in state tournament play. Recognized as a consummate floor leader and Illinois' Mr. Basketball in 1997, he was selected as one of the 100 legends of Illinois high school basketball in 2007.

Starrick was one of the most prolific scorers in state history. A 6-foot-2 guard at Marion, he averaged 30.3 points per game as a junior and 33.5 points as a senior. He set South Seven Conference records with 70 points in one game and 511 points or 36.5 points per game in conference play in 1966-67--all in an era before the three-point line.

Pondexter was Illinois' Player of the Year in 2001. As a sophomore in 1999, she led Marshall to the state championship. At Rutgers, she scored over 2,000 points, was Player of the Year and led her team to the NCAA tournament four times. She was voted one of the top 15 players in the 15-year history of the WNBA.

Christian was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1983. She led Marshall to the biggest upset in the history of the girls' state tournament, beating East St. Louis Lincoln with Tina Hutchinson and Toni Wallace 72-71 in overtime in the 1983 quarterfinals.

Vines was an All-Stater in 1985. She led South Shore to three straight Final Four appearances in the Public League playoff. She was the first city player to score more than 2,000 points. Later, she was a four-year starter at DePaul and until recently was the all-time leading scorer in the program.

Pointer was Illinois' Player of the Year in 1995. She led Whitney Young to a 25-4 record and the state quarterfinals in 1995. In one game, she scored 56 points. She ranks with Dominique Canty and E.C. Hill, who were inducted into the Hall of Fame last year, as the best players in school history.

Ratay ranks No. 13 on the state's all-time scoring list with 2,740 points in 1995-99. At Lake Zurich, she was recognized as the best three-point shooter in state history and also played on a National AAU championship team. She led Notre Dame to an NCAA title and was the nation's leading three-point shooter.

Holy cow: Cubs advance to World Series for first time since 1945

Holy cow: Cubs advance to World Series for first time since 1945

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

Yes, you read that right.

The Cubs are going to the World Series.

The Curse of the Billy Goat is broken. 

The 71-year drought is over. 

The truly once-in-a-lifetime moment has finally come to Chicago.

Holy cow.

The Cubs punched their ticket to the promised land with a 5-0 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Best Pitcher on the Planet in front of 42,386 fans in the most euphoric moment in Wrigley Field's history.

Theo Epstein's vision is one step closer to coming to fruition.

"History doesn't really weigh on this club," Epstein said before Saturday's Game 6. "Just trying to win tonight's game. 

"These guys - a lot of them are in their early 20s and they're not burdened by that stuff. The organization isn't. It's just about trying to win and keeping it simple."

[SHOP: Buy a "Try Not to Suck" shirt with proceeds benefiting Joe Maddon's Respect 90 Foundation & other Cubs Charities]

The Cubs drew first blood off Clayton Kershaw, keeping with the tradition of the team that scores first winning the game in this National League Championship Series.

After waiting until two outs in the fifth of Kershaw's Game 2 start to get their first baserunner, the Cubs jumped on him early as Dexter Fowler lined the third pitch down the right field line for a leadoff double.

Kris Bryant followed with an RBI single and then Andrew Toles dropped Anthony Rizzo's fly ball in left field and just like that, the Cubs were up 1-0 and had runners on second and third with nobody out.

Ben Zobrist drilled a sac fly to center field and the Cubs moved to the second with a critical two-run lead.

From there, they added on with a Fowler RBI single in the second, a Willson Contreras homer in the fourth and then a Rizzo solo blast in the fifth.

Kershaw allowed only two singles to the Cubs in seven shutout innings in Game 2, but lasted just five innings in the NLCS clincher, surrendering five runs (four earned) on seven hits.

The Cubs felt they let too many good pitches go by in the early count in the previous Kershaw start, so they vowed to be more aggressive this time around and it paid off.

Kyle Hendricks was brilliant on the mound, allowing only two hits in 7.1 shutout innings.

After getting shut out in back-to-back games and going down 2-1 in the series, the Cubs battled back and scored 23 runs over the final three games to punch a ticket to the World Series.

The Cubs will head to Cleveland to take on the Indians in Game 1 of the World Series Tuesday night.

Games 3, 4 and 5 (if needed) will be back at Wrigley next Friday, Saturday and Sunday for what would figure to be the craziest Halloween weekend the city has ever seen.

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

Blackhawks rally to beat Maple Leafs in shootout

As the clock ticked down to under three minutes remaining in regulation, the Blackhawks were looking at more negatives than positives.

Their power play wasn’t working. Their penalty kill was 1-for-2 and they were trailing 4-2 to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But just when it looked like the Blackhawks were headed for their second consecutive loss, they pulled out a comeback.

Richard Panik scored the game-tying goal against his former team and Artemi Panarin scored the shootout winner as the Blackhawks came back to beat the Leafs 5-4 on Saturday night.

Tyler Motte scored his second goal in as many nights and Artem Anisimov had two goals. Scott Darling stopped 30 of 34 shots through regulation and overtime. The victory didn’t erase some of the issues the Blackhawks still have, some of which showed in this one, too. But it brought some needed relief.

“It was a big win in a lot of different ways,” said Duncan Keith, who had two assists, including the primary one on Panik’s goal. “I know it’s still early but I think we were able to put some pressure on there. And anytime you get big goals like that late in the game when they’re needed, it’s a confidence boost and something we can build off.”

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

The end looked like it was going to be frustrating, especially after William Nylander’s second goal of the night gave the Leafs a 4-2 lead about five minutes into the third. But Anisimov scored his second goal of the evening with 2:28 remaining to pull the Blackhawks to within 4-3. Just one minute later, Panik scored his sixth of the season to tie it 4-4.

Panarin’s shot in round three of the shootout, coupled with Darling stopping Mitchell Marner’s wrist shot, sealed it.

“Obviously we were down 4-2 and came back against a great team. That helps our confidence,” Panik said. “Everybody’s pumped about a win so that’s a good sign.”

The Blackhawks will take it but they know they had their problems in this one. Their power play went 0-for-6. That included two 4-on-3 opportunities in overtime. They allowed another goal on their penalty kill, although they did snuff out another Toronto power-play opportunity in the third period.

“It’s one,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “We need several, several, several to get excited. But certainly that was, we’ll say, timely.”

The Blackhawks still have a long way to go this season. That penalty kill still needs work. They want more consistent play. But considering how this was looking with about three minutes remaining in regulation, they’ll take it.

“We’re certainly fortunate to come back in a game like that,” Quenneville said. “There have been a lot of comebacks in the league this year and we’ve given up some leads ourselves. That was a little different way of going about it. There are some positives but more so how we played in the third period. But we still lose a lot of momentum in the game. That’s what we’ve got to shore up.”