Brewer turns negative into a positive, rises to the occasion


Brewer turns negative into a positive, rises to the occasion

After registering a DNP-CD--that's basketball jargon for the acronym "Did Not Play-Coach's Decision," which typically goes on the final statistics next to names like of fan favorite and deep reserve Brian Scalabrine in now-blowout situations--in Game 3 of the Bulls-76ers first-round playoff series, Ronnie Brewer took the high road. That doesn't mean it didn't sting.

"As a player, you dont ever want to be on the bench watching. You want to be able to get on the court and contribute, so having an opportunity in Game 4 and having another opportunity tonight, you want to add on to that and have another strong showing," he said. "Hopefully I can just continue to play better and continue to help this team out."

In Game 4, Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau went back to the reserve swingman and got valuable minutes, especially on the defensive end, even though the Bulls would lose the game. In Tuesday's Game 5 win, Brewer stepped it up another notch and played his role--high energy, defensive pest, opportunistic scorer, transition threat--perfectly and was a major reason why the Bulls staved off elimination, something his teammates acknowledged afterwards.

"Ronnie was great tonight. Even last game in Philly, when we were watching the tape, Coach kept talking about how great Ronnie was defensively and tonight, he did it again. He just has a knack for stealing the ball and getting into players, really affecting their shots," said Luol Deng.

"Ronnie responded great to not playing in that game. A lot of players, it could affect them with their game, sitting out the whole game, but Ronnies a pro and he knows what he needs to do to help us. Sometimes you might not see it in the stats, but defensively, hes one of the best. I really believe it. Just doesnt get a lot of credit for it, but he really comes in with a lot of energy and when hes in the game, were able to get stops, and go out and run."

Echoed Taj Gibson: "Ronnie Brewer stepped up big even after not playing in Game 3 at all. He came in, did a great job. Solid professional."

Chimed in Carlos Boozer: "To me, Ronnie Brewer was the player of the game. Came in and changed the whole game with his activity."

Brewer's modest six points doesn't tell the tale of his impact, though his eight rebounds, three steals, three assists and a blocked shot in 29 minutes of action begins to illustrate what he meant to Tuesday's season-saving victory. More importantly, his blanketing defense on Philadelphia's cadre of talented perimeter players, from scoring-oriented guards Jrue Holiday and sixth man Lou Williams to Chicago native Evan Turner and All-Star Andre Iguodala, ensured there wouldn't be another fourth-quarter defensive collapse, as the Sixers simply couldn't go one-on-one to create scoring opportunities with Brewer on guard.

"Coach Thibs told me I need to bring the energy of both ends of the floor. In the first half, I tried to do that. I got some easy baskets, my teammates were finding me. The second half, I just try to show as much energy on the defensive end as I possibly can, slow down some of their guards. Theyve been killing us the whole series. We tried to contest their shots and get easy baskets in transition," Brewer explained.

"We all know that whenever Thibs puts us in there, you have to be ready. If he doesnt call your name, you have an obligation to be the eyes and ears for the guys who are on the floor, so when he doesnt call my name out there, I still have my part by telling Lu, Rip, Kyle what I see out there and how they can have an effect on the game, so when you put me out there, I knew I had to bring something that was lacking and that was energy on the defensive end, and trying to get stops because, in my opinion, that was something that was lacking and their guards really have been hurting us this whole entire series."

Added Thibodeau: "It was just the flow of the game. I thought the energy that he brought and again, they have three very quick guys off the dribble. Youre looking at Holiday and Williams, and whether its Turner or Iguodala, I think Ronnie matches up well with those guys. I thought getting to loose balls, his defense, offensively Ronnie running the floor. I thought he played very well and the team was functioning well when he was on the floor...Ronnie Brewer was terrific."

It's doubtful that Thibodeau will again neglect Brewer, even if he's mired in an offensive slump, for an entire contest, given how well he proved to match up with the Sixers in Game 5, but the defensive-minded wing, one of the nicest, most genuine players you'll find in the league, let alone the team--and that's saying something--will continue to take the same approach team-first approach, regardless of the circumstances.

"The same situation the whole entire season. Guys have been hurt, Ive had to step in different situations. Rips been having it going, Lus been having it going, Kyles been knocking down shots, so youve just got to be patient and wait your turn. Tonight, Coach called upon me and I just had to be ready to go out there, and play hard," he said. "At the end of the day, we have one common goal and thats to win. If that means Kyle, Rip, Lu playing as many minutes and were winning, Im all about it. Im a team player and Im all about winning, so I take it to heart, being a true professional. Whenever your name is called, you have to be ready and thats all I can do."

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Griffins hope to avoid 'sick feeling' going forward after blowout loss to Bradley

Not all losses are created equal.

When Lincoln-Way East suffered a 35-30 defeat in Week 3 to Homewood-Flossmoor, the Griffins took positives away from the loss. They had held a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, battled back from adversity in the second half and had a chance to win the game in the final minute. Even that loss in retrospect appeared acceptable – if there ever was an acceptable loss – as the Vikings are currently 8-0 and in their other seven wins have outscored their opponents by an average of 38 points.

By Week 3 the Griffins were still acclimating to the unique situation of playing at game speed with a host of Lincoln-Way North students who had transferred in the offseason. They had a defense made up almost entirely of first-year starters, and the offense was still rotating quarterbacks Jake Arthur and Max Shafer to figure out how to maximize their talent. By many standards the Griffins went toe-to-toe for 48 minutes with a team also considered to be a favorite for a state title.

The same couldn’t be said for the Griffins’ effort last Friday night in Bradley.

An esteemed program with a 2005 state title and 16 consecutive playoff appearances to their resume, it isn’t often the Griffins are embarrassed on Friday night. But those were the words head coach Rob Zvonar used in his postgame speech to the team following their 38-21 loss to the undefeated Boilermakers.

“We chose to play the game,” Zvonar began. “Which means you play it to the greatest of your ability and you honor each other, God, everybody by your play. And we didn’t do that tonight.”

There were plenty of reasons the Griffins suffered their second loss of the season. That is came in such blowout fashion was the bigger surprise. The Boilermakers found the end zone on their first two possessions, rallying behind a raucous home crowd hoping to see their team go 8-0 for the first time in school history.

The Griffins defense, which had allowed 27 points the previous three weeks combined, were on their heels as the Boilermakers used misdirection and a few trick plays to set up the short touchdown runs.

The Griffins offense moved down the field on their fourth possession, moving inside the Boilermakers red zone looking to get on the board. But Iowa commit Camron Harrell stepped in front of a Griffins screen pass on 4th down and returned it 89 yards for a score. On the final play of the first quarter, with the Griffins moving again, Damien Williams read a route and picked off Jake Arthur, returning it 53 yards for a score to give the Boilermakers a shocking 28-0 lead after 12 minutes.

After a spirited halftime speech from Zvonar, the Griffins came out firing in the second half, scoring on a touchdown run from Nigel Muhammad and a Jeremy Nelson 27-yard reception from Arthur. But the Boilermakers weathered the storm each time Lincoln-Way East attempted a comeback. The Griffins only got as close as 14 points late in the fourth quarter.

“I think we came into this game not ready,” said Muhammad, who finished with 164 yards on 24 carries. “But we’re all a team and we all accept this loss together.”

Added senior Jack Carroll, who finished with a team-high nine tackles: “We have this sick feeling in our stomach right now but the best thing is (next) Friday we can come back and get it out of our stomach. If we lose again in the playoffs then we’ll have that sick feeling in our stomach for the rest of our lives.”

That’s now the reality for the Griffins, and a silver lining if there ever could be one for such a blowout loss. With the playoffs a mere week away – the Griffins defeated Lockport on Friday to finish the regular season 7-2 – the feeling each of them felt getting on the bus back to Frankfort will linger with them and act as a reminder of how quickly things can slip away.

“We’re trying to put this behind us,” said Max Shafer. “We’re going to try to get hot and make a run in the playoffs.”

In a loaded 8A class, the Griffins’ two regular-season losses have already knocked them down in the seeding process. While any loss before Week 9 means little in the long run – the Griffins locked up a playoff berth weeks ago – it also means a more difficult road to Champaign. But that’s the reality for Zvonar’s group, and whether it’s a defense playing faster or an offense avoiding costly mistakes, the Griffins are running out of time to right the ship.

But Zvonar believes such a loss as the team suffered last Friday night can act as the catalyst to doing just that. The Griffins have established themselves as one of the state’s premier programs, and that means not riding the highs too high, and not breaking apart when the lows come. Last Friday night was as low as Zvonar had seen any of his 16 teams, but the silver lining occurred in that his squad now knows what it has to do to avoid it when it’s win or go home.

“What we also think is that the program is built on a solid foundation, so when you take a little hit like that you battle back and you go back to what you believe in and what you know can be successful. And that’s fundamentals and keeping things simple, and the kids have bounced back and they’re not acceptable to them what occurred to them, so very proud of their effort and the way they’re working.

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