Rock Island wins 3A Title in double OT thriller

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Rock Island wins 3A Title in double OT thriller

Saturday, March 19, 2011
Posted: 11:16 p.m.

By Michael O'Brien
YourSeason.com

PEORIA Romal Davis never dreamed that hed be standing at center court wearing a Class 3A state championship medal around his neck. At least not while wearing a Rock Island jersey.

Davis, 6-foot-3 senior, grew up in Chicago and played basketball at Orr his freshman year. The Spartans, led by Illinois recruit Mycheal Henry, were considered to be one of the favorites to win the 3A state championship this season.

Davis moved to Rock Island with his mother after sophomore year and ended up playing with another Division I bound star, Chasson Randle.

I knew they had a good team here when I moved, Davis said. I dont know that I actually thought about winning a state title, though.

Rock Island did just that on Saturday, beating Centralia 50-40 in two overtimes to give the school its first state title. The Rocks finished second in the first title game back in 1908 and finished second again in 1910.

Randle, a Stanford recruit, fouled out of the game with 57 seconds to play in the first overtime.

Hes our leading scorer so that was a blow, Davis said. We just knew we had to find another way to win. Were more than just Chasson.

The Rocks did just that, in large part because of 6-8 junior Denzel McCauley. The big man blocked Desmond Rushs attempted game-winner at the end of the first overtime and dominated the boards in the second overtime.

It was Davis who put the Rocks ahead for good with a rebound and basket with 3:38 to play in the second overtime. Rock Island shot 8-of-10 from the free-throw line from then on out to seal the win.

My role is the sixth man, Davis said. I started some games but it became about me coming off the bench. That was where I was most valuable to the team.

Davis finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. Randle led the Rocks (30-3) with 13 points and seven rebounds. McCauley finished with nine points and 17 rebounds.

We were just so focused the last two days and we did it, Randle said. It didnt matter that I fouled out, everybody contributed.

Centralia also had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Bryan Betts missed a jumper at the buzzer.

R.J. Kwiatkowski led the Orphans (30-5) with 15 points and Betts added 13. Centralias tallest player is 6-3 and the Orphans were unable to handle even Rock Islands modestly-sized teams. The Rocks won the battle of the boards 38-24.

We had different guys step up throughout the day, said Rock Island coach Thom Sigel, who is the second coach in state history to win championships at two schools; he won the Class A title with Rock Falls in 1999. Weve got the seniors who put a lot into it; they showed a lot of character.

Ben Zobrist leads Cubs’ home run derby win over Nationals

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Ben Zobrist leads Cubs’ home run derby win over Nationals

Don’t touch Ben Zobrist right now. The guy is straight fire.

Zobrist continued his recent hot streak in a big way Friday, belting two home runs as part of the Cubs’ home run derby against Nationals ace Max Scherzer in an 8-6 win over the team with the second best record in baseball.

Zobrist, who entered the day hitting .325/.431/.600 with three home runs and 16 RBIs in his previous 11 games, went 2-for-2 with a pair of homers, a pair of RBIs, a pair of walks and a trio of runs scored Friday. In his last three games, Zobrist has four home runs and 11 RBIs.

After the Nationals tagged John Lackey for a pair of runs in the first two innings, the Cubs’ offense wasted little time in coming to the starting pitcher’s aid. Zobrist walked and was along for the ride when Tommy La Stella bashed a two-run, game-tying homer in the second inning. An inning later, Anthony Rizzo and Zobrist clubbed back-to-back jacks. Rizzo’s danced around the foul pole and was upheld on video review, while Zobrist’s made it three straight days with a home run for the second baseman.

In the bottom of the fifth, Zobrist broke the game wide open, following Jason Heyward’s double and Rizzo’s walk with a three-run blast that made it 7-2. Dexter Fowler picked up an RBI with a single in the sixth.

All in all, the Cubs’ 4-5-6 trio of Rizzo, Zobrist and La Stella combined to go 5-for-8 with four home runs, seven RBIs, six runs scored, a triple and four walks.

Lackey silenced the Nationals following those early runs, but the Cubs’ bullpen was roughed up in the eighth, Clayton Richard and Justin Grimm surrendering two runs apiece in that four-run frame.

The Cubs exacted revenge on Scherzer, who in his first start against them as a National League pitcher last season struck out 13 over seven shutout innings. Scherzer fanned seven hitters Friday but yielded seven runs on seven hits, four of which were home runs, in just five innings.

The offensive outburst — a regular occurrence on the North Side this season — was more than enough for Lackey. He struck out 11 hitters, matching a season high and recording his 2,000th career strikeout in the process.

The Cubs have taken the first two games of this headline-grabbing four-game set between two first-place National League clubs. It was consecutive win No. 5 for the Cubs, who beat up on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a three-game sweep earlier this week.

Well-traveled Khaly Thiam settling in with the Fire

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Well-traveled Khaly Thiam settling in with the Fire

Khaly Thiam's still young soccer career had already taken him to multiple countries and continents. When he joined the Chicago Fire earlier this week he added another country and continent to that list.

The Fire officially added the 22-year-old Senegalese midfielder on loan on Wednesday. His first training session with the team was on Thursday. The club hopes he will be available in the May 11 match in Vancouver, pending getting his visa to go through in time.

“I am getting on with everybody," Thiam said. "It is football and everything, but this team they are really great guys. I am friendly with the coaches, the players, everybody is helping me to integrate into the team.”

Thiam learned English through a private teacher in Senegal and speaks with a British accent, but said he wasn't able to practice the language until he moved to Europe. He first joined the Novara Primavera, the Italian Serie B club's youth and reserve team. He then moved to Hungary, where he had been since 2012.

“I first went to Italy for one tournament there," Thiam said. "One month in the Primavera with Novara when I played this tournament. Then I went to Hungary for a first division team. From there I got my first professional contract.”

The Fire acquired Thiam's MLS discovery rights from the Columbus Crew. If Thiam starts 12 matches or the Fire make the move permanent, the Fire will send general allocation money to the Crew. If neither of those happen, the Fire will give the Crew a second round pick in the 2017 draft.

Thiam has not yet been able to check out Chicago or explore and he won't have much of a chance for a while either. The Fire leave for a three-game road trip on Tuesday and will not return until after the May 18 match at the New York Red Bulls.

After growing up in Africa and beginning his professional career in Europe, coming to the U.S. is another new adventure for Thiam. Thiam took the chance to join the Fire after hearing good things about MLS.

“I came here for the soccer because now I see the soccer is building up and the level is coming up," he said. "I came here to see what was going on here.”

Thiam will be a welcome addition to a Fire midfield which has struggled to keep possession, the Fire are currently last in MLS in that category. He also comes at a time when the roster is dealing with a number of nagging injuries in the midfield and attack ahead of a crowded schedule featuring two midweek games in the next two weeks.

David Accam and Alex Morrell worked out separately from the rest of the team on Friday. Gilberto, who has a hamstring injury, did some running on the side. Matt Polster, who missed the 1-1 draw against D.C. United on April 30 with a calf injury, left practice early.

“Gilberto, Morrell, Polster they are in the final phase (of recovery)," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. "Accam also, but we also have to work on Accam’s fitness because he was out longer. We have to take care of his fitness. We don’t want any new issues with him. We have to be smart and manage the load, minutes and everything once he is ready."

John Goossens was not at practice and could still be out for a few weeks after suffering a sprained LCL just before the D.C. match.

Ex-Pitt running back Chris James announces transfer to Badgers

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Ex-Pitt running back Chris James announces transfer to Badgers

Wisconsin landed a Power 5 transfer running back Friday.

Like the Badgers need another running back.

Former Pittsburgh ball carrier Chris James, a Chicago native, announced on Twitter that he's coming to Madison, re-teaming with Paul Chryst and the coaching staff that recruited him to the Panthers a few years back.

James was a four-star recruit coming out of Notre Dame College Prep in 2014, ranked by Rivals as the No. 22 running back in that class. He was recruited to Pitt by Joe Rudolph, currently the offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, and picked the Panthers over the Badgers and offers from a host of other Big Ten teams including Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and Purdue.

James rushed for 437 yards on 87 carries, scoring four touchdowns as a freshman in 2014. Last season, he rushed for 253 yards on 56 carries.

Per NCAA rules, James will have to sit out the upcoming season, but he'll have two years of eligibility remaining starting in 2017.

That's good news for the Badgers, who will see two thirds of their three-headed running back monster — Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale are seniors, Taiwan Deal is a sophomore — depart after the 2016 campaign.