Simeon, Proviso East eye state final

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Simeon, Proviso East eye state final

Simeon vs. Proviso East.

It smacks of Peoria Manual vs. Thornton, North Carolina vs. Duke, Bulls vs. Heat, Lakers vs. Celtics, Larry Bird vs. Magic Johnson and LeBron James vs. Cleveland.

If Simeon and Proviso East reach the Class 4A championship game on Saturday night in Peoria, it will mark the first time since 1996 and only the third time in history that the two top-rated teams will meet for the state title.

Of course, they have to survive semifinal assignments on Friday night. Proviso East (31-0) has a date with Rockford Auburn (30-2) while Simeon (31-1) must get past Bloom (29-3). Proviso East defeated Rockford Auburn 75-56 in the semifinals of the Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

So how do Simeon and Proviso East match up?

Is Proviso East too quick?

Is Simeon too big?

Does four-time state champion Robert Smith of Simeon have an edge in coaching experience over rookie Donnie Boyce of Proviso East?

Can Proviso East's Keith Carter penetrate and exploit Simeon's defense?

Can Proviso East contain Simeon's Jabari Parker, arguably the No. 1 player in the nation?

Will the game be as dramatic and entertaining and exciting as CentraliaCarver (Anthony Smedley's steal and game-winning shot) in 1963 or West AuroraMorgan Park (Laird Smith's buzzer-beating shot) in 1976 or Peoria CentralEast St. Louis Lincoln (Vincent Jackson's last-second shot in triple overtime) in 1989?

Remember when No. 2 Peoria Manual with Sergio McClain and Marcus Griffin defeated No. 1 Thornton 57-51 for the Class AA championship in 1996?

In 1997, they met in a rematch. But it was in the semifinals. No. 1 Peoria Manual edged No. 2 Thornton 65-62 for its unprecedented fourth state title in a row.

Previously, the state's two top-rated teams met for the state championship in 1945 (No. 2 Decatur 62, No. 1 Champaign 54) and 1950 (No. 1 Mount Vernon 86, No. 2 Danville 61).

So who will prevail on this memorable occasion if Simeon, seeking its third state title in a row and fifth in the last seven, and Proviso East, bidding for the school's fifth state title, reach the final game?

"On paper, should we get a Simeon vs. Proviso East match-up, it has the makings of being the best state championship game in recent memory -- perhaps the best since battles between Peoria Manual and Thornton in the last 1990s. It is the contest that everyone wants to see," said Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye.

"With that having been said, we have to give the edge to Simeon. The biggest reason is because all of their players have been there before and therefore have more experience. That can prove to be a big psychological boost for Simeon as they know how to handle themselves on the big stage. Simeon does not fold under pressure."

The Schmidt brothers also lean toward Simeon because the Wolverines have played a tougher overall schedule, playing against some of the nation's top-rated teams, a deliberate plan by coach Robert Smith to prepare his team for the state tournament. They believe it has made the Simeon players that much better and that much hungrier.

"As for the match-up itself, the fact that Proviso East lacks size could prove to be a disadvantage against Simeon," the Schmidts said. "Everyone can best believe that coach Smith will utilize getting the ball to Jabari Parker and Steve Taylor in the post and we aren't sure if Proviso East has anyone capable of defending against them. Proviso East would have to be able to press and trap, hoping they could generate turnovers in the open court."

Marist coach Gene Nolan, whose team lost to Simeon in the sectional final at Argo, was impressed with how smart and how disciplined Simeon played. "They are the best team in the state for a reason," he said.

"They are talented and very well-coached. They are everything we saw on tape and scouted, so big and strong and long and athletic. They do a great job of disrupting what you want to do. They are a team with great players but they play so unselfishly together.

"What makes them so great is they have so many weapons...Jabari Parker, Steve Taylor, a great point guard in Jaleni Neely, Jaylon Tate coming off the bench and Kendrick Nunn's ability to shoot and stretch a defense. They have so many ways they can beat you."

To seriously challenge Simeon, Nolan knew his team had to shoot well. But Marist was 6-of-22 in the first half. "The defense contested those shots. They made it very difficult for us to win. We went into the game knowing how good they are and they validated it," Nolan said.

Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh also heaped praise on the Proviso East team that ousted his Saxons in the sectional final at Schaumburg.

"They're unbelievable, the fastest team I've ever seen," Walsh said. "They play hard all the time. The defensive pressure they bring is tremendous. They put so much pressure on you. Beating their pressure is a feat in itself. You have to attack it and get off a good shot. If you hold the ball, they will trap you. You can't get into a track meet with them."

Walsh pointed out that Proviso East has five players on the floor at all times (usually Keith Carter, Sterling Brown, Paris Burns, Paris Lee and TraShaun Carroll) who are unbelievably fast and talented and skilled.

"I see no weakness," Walsh said. "Maybe Simeon can throw over the top of Proviso East's pressure. But what makes them so difficult to play is they always have five players on the floor who can handle the ball, pass it and shoot it. Their guards (Carter, Burns, Lee) are such a high quality. It is impossible to stop their dribble penetration."

White Sox manager Rick Renteria won't be fazed by rebuild

White Sox manager Rick Renteria won't be fazed by rebuild

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- Rick Renteria knew a White Sox rebuild would be a possibility when he took over as manager and he’s not afraid of the challenges it presents.

Same as he told them in October, the new White Sox manager said on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings on Wednesday that he’s OK with whatever direction the team chooses to head. Given the events of the past two days, when the White Sox reigned in four elite prospects in pair of blockbuster deals for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton, Renteria has a pretty firm grasp of what’s to come.

Shortly after trading they traded Sale to the Boston Red Sox for four minor leaguers on Tuesday, the White Sox acquired three top pitching prospects from the Washington Nationals for Eaton on Wednesday. Despite what promises to be an inexperienced roster in 2017, Renteria plans to take the same open-minded approach into next season as he always has regardless of the makeup of the roster.

“We're obviously going to miss Chris,” Renteria said several hours before the Eaton deal was completed. “He was an integral part of our organization and our team. My only concern is obviously whatever players, what group of players I have, those are the ones I have to manage. So at this point, we have what we have right now and we'll see how it continues.”

When he hired him on Oct. 3, general manager Rick Hahn said he did so in part because the Renteria could handle a veteran roster equally as well as a youthful one. Hahn mentioned Tuesday that the entire major league coaching staff has been restructured with player development in mind, including the additions of third-base coach Nick Capra and bullpen coach Curt Hasler.

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Regardless of whether or not the team planned to compete next season, Renteria expected to at least work with some younger players. It’s the way of the world, promoting prospects to the majors with the idea it’s the final step in their development, Renteria said. Renteria didn’t sound as if he’s worried if he was inundated with prospects.

“There was talks of the possibility, but there was nothing set in stone at the time obviously,” Renteria said. “Younger players are filtering in a lot sooner than they used to in the past. You still have to continue to teach at the Major League level, and that's one thing that's evident throughout.”

Renteria said the key to players young or old is communication. Either way his approach would mostly be the same.

“Every human being is the sum total of all their experiences, so you've got to get to know people first, see what it is that motivates them, what kind of clicks with them to get them to act out on certain things that you might have them perform on a more consistent basis,” Renteria said. “I think that baseball has its own language. It's something that is indescribable at times. But working with the younger guys, I relish it. I look forward to it.

"But I also look forward to working with older veteran players, too. It's the same. My approach doesn't change a lot, other than you give people with experience their place.”

White Sox deal Adam Eaton to Nationals for Lucas Giolito, two others

White Sox deal Adam Eaton to Nationals for Lucas Giolito, two others

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. -- The White Sox completed another blockbuster deal at the Winter Meetings on Wednesday night, sending Adam Eaton to the Washington Nationals.

One day after they traded Chris Sale to Boston for four minor leaguers, including two elite prospects, the White Sox traded their outstanding leadoff man for three more top prospects, including pitchers Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. Washington’s 2016 first-rounder Dane Dunning is also in the deal.

The Nationals’ top minor leaguer and MLB.com’s third-rated prospect in the game, Giolito was one of the main players included in a reported package for Sale only two days earlier. A first-round draft pick in 2012, the 22-year-old right-hander features an outstanding fastball-curveball combination.

Lopez is the No. 38 overall prospect in baseball and Dunning was selected with the 29 th pick in the June draft.

Giolito is the second top-5 prospect the White Sox have added in two days along with infielder Yoan Moncada, the 2016 minor league player of the year, who came over from Boston in the Sale trade. The White Sox also acquired right-hander Michael Kopech, the 30th overall prospect, in the Sale deal.