Three-peat for Montini girls

690474.png

Three-peat for Montini girls

By Phil Brozynski
YourSeason.com
NORMAL, Ill. Teutopolis. Bolingbrook. And now, Montini.The girls basketball powerhouse from the western suburbs joined some elite company in the IHSA Class 3A championship game Saturday at Redbird Arena. By defeating Vernon Hills 56-38, Montini became just the third school in history to win three consecutive state titles.And like Teutopolis (1988-90) and Bolingbrook (Class 4A, 2009-11) before it, Montinis third straight title was never in doubt.The Broncos held Vernon Hills scoreless from the field in the first half, building a 22-3 lead three minutes into the second quarter. Kateri Stones jumper at the buzzer her third field goal of the first half gave the Broncos a 31-10 lead at the half.It was nice to make a couple of shots early, especially since I started 0 for 12 yesterday, said Stone, one of four Broncos in double figures with 13 points on 5-for-11 shooting from the field.Montini then withstood the Cougars 14-7 run to open the second half, and extended the lead to as many as 26 points early in the fourth quarter. Stones three-pointer with 1:40 left in the third quarter put the brakes on Vernon Hills run and gave Montini an insurmountable 41-24 advantage.Montini coach Jason Nichols was flabbergasted by his teams performance this weekend, and to a large extent, this season. Im kind of speechless about it, Nichols said. To sit here and actually think were a state champwow, and thats a credit to these girls. Last nights win was so big, and then coming back and just come out with that start and that energy, it was huge.This ones pretty special because nobody really thought wed be back here, and at times I was one of them. I would never tell them that, but as a coaching staff a couple times we said. Lets get down there, see what happens, get some experience and blah, blah, blah. Stone, on the other hand, was one of those who never doubted Montini would hoist its third straight championship trophy.We worked so hard as a team and weve grown over the whole season, she said. We did have some shaky moments this season, but I think we grew together from the losses and from the struggles. We grew together so by now we could help each other and come out with a big win.Sophomore Jasmine Lumpkin led Montini with 14 points Saturday. Senior Tianna Brown had 13 points and junior Nikia Edom added 10 points and four assists.This means a lot because a lot of people didnt think wed make it down here or win, Brown said. So to come down here and win, its big. Its a great feeling.Vernon Hills coach Paul Brettner was feeling better after his team came out in the second half and played like the team that defeated top-ranked Springfield in Fridays semifinal.I wasnt anticipating shooting 0-for-15 in the first half, he said. Their defense is good, but we missed some shots we typically hit, and if that was the case I would think wed be more confident and play a little better in the first half. Then our work in the second half might not have been for naught.Sophomore Sydney Smith led Vernon Hills with 17 points, including two long three-pointers to ignite the early second-half rally. Sophomore Lauren Webb added 13 points, all from the free-throw line on 14 attempts, and 6-2 junior Meri Bennett-Swanson added five points and three rebounds.With only three starters and four players overall from both sides graduating this spring, nobody would be surprised to see the same two teams in Normal in 2013.Some of our bigger scorers were young, Brettner said. It will be difficult to replace seniors Abby Springer and Julie Pecht. They brought a lot of intangibles and things on the court. But when this is all said and done, Ill start looking forward to next year.

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

cubs_101.jpg

Morning Update: Cubs pick up win No. 101, Sale leads White Sox past Rays

Preview: Arrieta, Cubs aim to stay hot vs. Pirates Wednesday on CSN

Preview: Blackhawks open preseason against Penguins Wednesday on CSN+

Fire continue road trip Wednesday at improved Seattle on CSN

Cubs keep cruising vs. Pirates as future playoff foes battle injuries

Chris Sale ties career-high 17 wins as White Sox power past Rays

Three starting points for the Bears to salvage their 2016 season

Fred Hoiberg, Jimmy Butler rave about Rajon Rondo's voice, basketball IQ

Stan Bowman likes Blackhawks prospects' potential to fill holes

Why Kris Bryant is such a money player for this Cubs team

If roster stays the same, Adam Eaton believes White Sox can compete in 2017

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

John Lackey sees Cubs lining up for World Series run: ‘It’s all here’

PITTSBURGH — The Cubs have so much going for them, all this blue-chip talent, a clubhouse mix of young players and grizzled veterans, arguably the best manager in the game, an impactful coaching staff and a front office that blends scouting and analytics as well as anyone.

So, no, John Lackey is not at all surprised by the way this clicked into place, 101 wins and counting for the machine built with October in mind.

“Not really,” Lackey said after Tuesday night’s 6-4 victory over the Pittsburgh Pirates. “I had some pretty good offers from other people, and I chose this one for a reason. It’s all here.”

But to win the World Series — and get the jewelry Lackey talks about — you still need some luck, good health and the guts to perform in those Big Boy Games. That reality of randomness and matchups made a pregame announcement some 250 miles away from PNC Park so telling.

Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos tore the ACL in his right knee, ending his MVP-caliber season. The National League East champions will lose a .307 hitter with 22-homer power from the middle of their lineup and a veteran presence for a playoff rotation that will likely be without injured ace Stephen Strasburg (right elbow) in the first round.

“That’s a tough one when you lose your catcher, a guy who’s that significant for the pitching staff,” Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “Think about the pitching staff — it’s so different when you know the guy back there is your guy and he knows what’s going on. The communication’s different. The trust factor, all that stuff is different.”

[SHOP CUBS: Get your NL Central champions gear right here]

Within that big-picture context, the Cubs survived as Lackey limited the checked-out Pirates (77-80) to one run across five innings in his fifth start since recovering from a strained right shoulder and coming off the disabled list. Maddon then used six different relievers — staying away from Pedro Strop, Hector Rondon and Aroldis Chapman — during a three-hour, 49-minute game that felt more like the Cactus League.

After defecting from the 100-win St. Louis Cardinals team the Cubs bounced out of last year’s playoffs, Lackey finished the regular season at 11-8 with a 3.35 ERA and 188 1/3 innings.

“I’m going to get to 200,” Lackey said.

Beyond wins and losses, Lackey called this season his career best in terms of “those numbers that they’ve made up in the last few years” like WHIP (1.04) and opponents’ OPS (.646) and whatever. And, no, he doesn’t know his WAR, either: “Not even close.”

Yes, the Cubs got the old-school attitude they wanted when they signed Lackey to a two-year, $32 million deal before the winter meetings. For all the talk about the pitching deficit and the New York Mets after their young guns swept the Cubs out of last year’s NL Championship Series, the Cubs are getting their money’s worth with a guy who will turn 38 in October.

The amazing Mets have lost three of those frontline starters — Matt Harvey (thoracic outlet syndrome), Jacob deGrom (nerve damage in his right elbow) and Steven Matz (bone spur in his left elbow) — and are still holding onto the first wild-card spot, which says something about this playoff field.

This doesn’t guarantee anything in October, but the Cubs are just about as close to full strength as they could reasonably hope now. Instead of the silence that would have come with losing an irreplaceable player like Ramos, the sound system in the postgame clubhouse blasted Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre and Notorious B.I.G. after their 101st win.

“Yeah, we lost Dexter (Fowler) for a bit,” Maddon said. “We lost (Kyle) Schwarber all year. Otherwise, when a couple pitchers got banged up, whether you’re talking about Rondon or Strop, I don’t think that our injuries have been as magnified because we’ve covered them pretty well.

“We still had our moments, like everybody else has. But when you get to right now, we’re getting well, and hopefully that trend continues. But to lose somebody of that magnitude for them, that’s got to be difficult.”