Simeon looks back to prepare for the road ahead


Simeon looks back to prepare for the road ahead

In order to get where youre going, you sometimes have to know where youve been.

The Simeon Wolverines got taken to the woodshed in another nationally televised game against Montverde at the Cancer Research Classic in West Virginia over the weekend.

The 29-point loss was the worst ever since Robert Smith took over the program and the Wolverines didnt look like the best team in the State of Illinois. They didnt even look like the best team in the City of Chicago. They were beaten in every phase of the game and didnt play Simeon basketball at all.

This is the worst loss Ive had since Ive been here, said Robert Smith after Simeons practice on Tuesday. 29, thats a lot of points to lose by and when you look at it, the first quarter was our best quarter and it pretty much went downhill after that.

We werent playing together. We looked like a bad team that shouldnt be anywhere near one of the top 25 teams in the country, said senior forward Kendall Pollard on the loss. Montverde put pressure on our guards and didnt let us set up our offense at all. We couldnt get out in transition something that were known for we couldnt get any easy baskets which is what gets us going.

With the embarrassing blowout still on everyones mind, Smith held a team meeting before the team took to the practice floor on Tuesday. He didnt call the meeting to yell and scream at his players, instead, he wanted each of them to look themselves in the mirror and get refocused on their goal as a team.

And to motivate his squad even further, the coach also showed his players videos of the 2006 state championship squad that was led by his junior superstar and current Chicago Bulls guard, Derrick Rose.

I showed them films of that group because I wanted them to see how that team shared the basketball. How they played defense. How they understood that Derrick was the leader of the team, said Smith. Tim Flowers was the vocal and emotional leader, but Derrick was the guy that came out here and did his thing on the floor and I wanted them to see how his teammates respected him so much.

I showed it to them in groups of threes so that we could talk about it as we were going through it and I could show them certain things that the 2006 squad did that theyre not doing. And all of the guys said, Yeah, we dont do that. So were just trying to get them in the mode to pick up the behaviors that those guys had.

Once their meeting was done, the coach said he saw an immediate change in his squad during practice.

I could see how those films affected them, explained coach Smith. Guys were diving on the floor in practice. We might have dived on the floor more today than we have since practice started at the beginning of the year. It was just really good today and intense. We never go this hard the day before a game, but the guys wanted to get out here and go at each other and I think they competed well.

The Wolverines will face Perspectives-Calumet on Wednesday before embarking on a second trip to Memphis on Saturday to play Southwind High School (Tenn.) in the Penny Hardaway Hoopfest. And as for the loss to Montverde, Simeon seems to already have put it behind them.

We got it out of the way. Were lucky that we took that loss now because it helped to point out what we did wrong our bad habits, said Simeon star Jabari Parker. Coach Smith just told us in the meeting not to worry about it because were still putting everything together.

Parker also made sure that as the Wolverines leader, he kept his teammates spirits lifted after such a bad loss and instilled confidence in them that no matter what, theyre still the best.

The most important thing was I didnt want to belittle them after the Montverde game, explained Parker. I didnt want to put them down because I had a decent game. I just wanted to uplift my teammates and let them know that well be better the next time we come out on the floor. I have confidence in my guys. Were the best in the Midwest and we just have to come with it.

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.

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Jacob Keller

Wintrust Athlete of the Week: Jacob Keller

This week's Wintrust Athlete of the Week is Fenwick senior Jacob Keller. 

The quarterback has helped the Friars be a constant presence in the CSN Preps Power Rankings this season as Fenwick finished the regular season 8-1. 

Besides being a team leader in football, the 6-foot-4 Keller is also a Division I prospect on the hardwood as he was one of Fenwick's leaders last season. 

As one of the best two-sport athletes in the area this season, Keller will try to lead Fenwick on a deep playoff run before transitioning to basketball season.