Grayslake Central upsets Huntley

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Grayslake Central upsets Huntley

By Bryan Bonato
Yourseason.com

Grayslake Central had lost three games in the last 11 days, and Huntley hadnt lost three games all season.

But youd never have known it by how the teams played on Friday night in the inaugural season-ending battle between the champions of the Fox Valley Conferences Valley Division (big schools, Huntley) and Fox Division (small schools, Grayslake Central).

The host Rams led the entire second half and knocked off the highly regarded Red Raiders 52-47 to build momentum heading into Class 3A regional play next Tuesday at Antioch.

For my money, thats how you want to end the regular season, said Grayslake coach Brian Moe. You play a great team thats well-coached in a playoff atmosphere.

You want the bragging rights of being the team that wins the first one (battle of division champs). We host the sectional. If were lucky enough to get back here, we wanted to establish that this is our house and were not going to lose here.

For its part, Huntley hadnt lost here, there or hardly anywhere all season. It came into the game 24-2, with losses only to Palatine, Fremd and Elgin.

But Red Raiders coach Marty Manning literally only had one player step up on a night when the opposition was fired up.

Bryce Only, a 6-1 junior guard, had 16 points, five rebounds and five steals. He also had all eight of his teams points in the third quarter, which ended with the Raiders down 39-36.

He came to play, said Manning. The best trait Bryce has is that hes a competitor. When his back is against the wall, hes going to fight. We needed eight guys to play like that.

In the fourth quarter, Grayslake led 42-40 with 2:30 left before Savonte McWilliams converted a plus-one layup for a 45-40 lead.

Huntleys Amanze Egekeze, a 6-6 sophomore forward (the teams leading scorer on the season, but held to 12 on Friday), then hit two free throws to make it 45-42 with 2:15 to play.

After a series of misses at both ends, Grayslakes 6-7 Casey Boyle (10 points in his first game back from an ankle injury) hit two free throws to make it 47-42 with 49 seconds left.

Troy Miller of Huntley bombed home a three-pointer with 36 seconds left to make it 47-45, but Jordan Taylor hit two free throws with 29 seconds and Boyle hit two more freebies with 12 seconds left to seal the deal.

Grayslake Central (18-8) had lost to Zion-Benton, Crystal Lake Central and Grayslake North in its last three real tests, but the Rams got a spark from Boyles return.

I thought he did a great job, said Moe. Ankle-wise, we were pretty conservative with him, knowing some of these games at the end didnt mean a whole lot. We taped him up pretty good. I think he had a better chance of blowing out a knee (than hurting his ankle) with all the tape he had on.

On the Huntley side, Only was disappointed with the way the game unfolded.

It was an important game to us, he said. We wanted to come out, play hard and run our stuff right and show we were ready for the playoffs.

His coach, also, was frustrated with the performance of the RedBlack.

We had a lot of guys who were not there tonight, and that made us physically not there, Manning said. The proof was the offensive rebound we gave up, and some of our turnovers in the first half. Its disappointing that in a big game at the end of the year, some of our guys came out as flat as they did.

Huntley begins regional play at home against Rockford Jefferson or DeKalb on Tuesday.

White Sox come back to beat Yankees on walk-off single by Jose Abreu

White Sox come back to beat Yankees on walk-off single by Jose Abreu

The White Sox offense put it together in just enough time on Tuesday night.

Jose Abreu’s bases-loaded single with two outs helped the White Sox rally from down two runs late for a 4-3 win over the New York Yankees in front of 18,023 at Guaranteed Rate Field. Abreu’s two-out single off Dellin Betances helped the White Sox avoid missing out on two bases-loaded opportunities in the final two innings.

It all came a little too late for Jose Quintana, who earned a no decision in spite of 6 1/3 scoreless innings. But given they had the winning run on board in a one-run loss on Monday and only scored once despite loading the bases with no outs in the eighth, the White Sox will take it.

Abreu, who struck out in the eighth with no outs after three straight walks, got ahead of Betances 2-1 in the count before he singled through the left side to score the tying and go-ahead runs.

Quintana earned the 63rd no decision of his career when the Yankees broke through in the eighth inning against Tommy Kahnle, who had a rare poor performance. Kahnle gave up a game-tying, two-out single to Aaron Judge and a two-run double to Gary Sanchez as the White Sox went from up a run to trailing 3-1.

The White Sox loaded the bases with no outs in the bottom of the eighth on all walks, but only scored once. Abreu struck out, Avisail Garcia flew out and Matt Davidson also whiffed to leave the bases loaded. The White Sox lone run came on a two-out walk by Todd Frazier.

The same offensive woes kept them from breaking out with Quintana on the hill. While they provided lavish run support in his previous two starts, the White Sox were back to their old ways with Quintana on Tuesday. They did give him a 1-0 lead when Abreu cued a two-out RBI double off Luis Severino.

But Severino was otherwise a machine as he struck out 12 batters and walked none. Severino struck out the side in the second and seventh innings and retired the last nine batters he faced.

[VIVID SEATS: Get your White Sox tickets here]

Still, Quintana didn’t need anything other than the early run. He continues to look more like himself as the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline approaches, making his third straight good turn.

Quintana worked with a good curveball/fastball combo to keep the Yankees off-balance. The 2016 All-Star thrived in the few instances when he got into trouble.

He struck out Tyler Austin with two men in scoring position to end the fourth inning and erased a leadoff walk in the fifth with an Austin Romine double play. After Quintana surrendered a two-out double to Judge in the sixth inning, he got Sanchez to pop out to strand the tying run.

Quintana allowed two hits, walked four and struck out six in 6 1/3 scoreless innings. Since he was hit hard by the Boston Red Sox on May 30, Quintana has been excellent, lowering his ERA from 5.30 to 4.37. In that span, Quintana has allowed 21 hits and six earned runs with 12 walks and 30 strikeouts in 30 1/3 innings.

Zach LaVine's recovery and performance will either inspire confidence in Bulls rebuild or doom it

Zach LaVine's recovery and performance will either inspire confidence in Bulls rebuild or doom it

The smiles were around as the newcomers of the Bulls put on their best faces as the new era of Bulls basketball was officially presented to the public.

The men who brought them to Chicago, John Paxson and Gar Forman, began the painstaking task of introducing Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen to a skeptical public that believes the Bulls were robbed without a ski mask for Jimmy Butler.

Sitting next to them was coach Fred Hoiberg, who’s entering his third season with a third different roster and a chance to change a narrative that’s largely nondescript to this point.

“Thursday night we made a decision to move a great player (Butler),” Paxson said. “But over these last four or five days, we sat and talked and are really happy about the direction we’re about to head down.”

It’s a direction they’ve chosen where they know everything has to be done right for it to be fruitful. High draft choices are to be expected, and Paxson has said publicly and privately that they must hit on every single one, starting with Markkanen.

But for the sake of narrative and performance certainty and erasing errors of the past, LaVine has to be the one who leads the rebuild on the floor. It could be awhile before Markkanen develops, and in Dunn it’s uncertain if he had a bump in the road as a rookie or if the Bulls see something in him the Timberwolves failed to focus on.

Dunn could merely be a long unrequited love the Bulls have held onto without actually looking at the evidence he presented in an underwhelming rookie season.

But it’s LaVine who has the most pressure and is as close to a household name as anyone, winner of two straight dunk contests in 2014 and 2015 at All-Star Weekend.

A high flyer with a higher ceiling than anyone on the Bulls roster, LaVine must show he’s not damaged goods as he’s returning from a left ACL tear he suffered in February.

Bumping knees with Detroit’s Andre Drummond on an athletic drive to the basket, LaVine shook off the pain to play another six minutes in that third quarter in Detroit, completely unaware of the severity.

“I just thought it was a sprain,” LaVine told CSNChicago.com. “It wasn’t until I went to the locker room at the end of the quarter and more doctors were called in that I started thinking something was wrong.”

The bad news arrived and surgery wasn’t far behind, turning a promising campaign into one of uncertainty, the same kind that mirrors this franchise. Doctors have told LaVine, his family and representatives his knee doesn’t have the typical wear and tear of average athletes, probably buoyed by the fact his recovery is ahead of the nine-to-12-month usual schedule that accompanies these injuries.

Considering the last torn ACL in Chicago still haunts the franchise, considering LaVine plays the same position as the man he’s replacing and the fact he’s relishing being the man in charge in a similar way Butler did, LaVine’s recovery and development is the one most critical to this franchise’s credibility.

“We talked about it. Hey, look, you wanted to be an All-Star guy,” Paul LaVine, Zach’s father who was in attendance at the Advocate Center, said to CSNChicago.com. “You’re in a bigger market, go out here and get it done. I’m not concerned because my son, each situation, he’s surprised me.”

He averaged 18.9 points in 47 games as a third option behind Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns, but when he steps on the floor, yes he’ll have more opportunities but also more defensive attention and a spotlight he hasn’t had to deal with as a pro.

“High school, I didn’t know,” Paul LaVine said. “His first 15 games at UCLA, that’s what got him drafted, he exploded. When he got here, I knew if he got an opportunity on the NBA stage, it doesn’t surprise me.”

But the newest Bull knows he must fight the urge to come back in a superhuman manner, especially playing for the franchise Michael Jordan built. Jordan, through highlight videos and the movie “Space Jam,” became one of LaVine’s idols. More directly, Kobe Bryant became the player LaVine has modeled himself after, as LaVine chose the number eight and wore Bryant’s signature Nikes during his photo shoot after his introductory news conference.

“I'm only 22. I'm ready for it. I'm very humble,” LaVine said with a smile of confidence. “When it's time for me to get going, I'm going to come in here and work my butt off like I always do, going in with full confidence. I'm just extremely excited to get this ball rolling and see what we can do.”

LaVine is often pulled back when he passes through certain benchmarks of his rehab and has to continue to play the long game. Coming back too soon or being pressed to come back got others in trouble.

Headed into restricted free agency after next season, LaVine certainly wants to prove his worth so contract negotiations will be smooth in the offseason. But since the Bulls have clearly chosen their path of a rebuild, one wonders how the two ideals will compete against one another this season.

“Regardless, I’m going to be safe. That’s the main thing, always being safe,” LaVine said. “I always have to take care of myself and this franchise, as well. I’m going to be safe, I’m going to do everything I can physically to get back. Then when I’m at that point, I’m going to be ready. I’m the type of person that’s going to work my butt off to get there as fast as possible. I’m going to be ready when I am there.”

For the Bulls’ sake, LaVine has to be the face of this first step as it might be the closest thing the front office has to inspiring any level of confidence to a weary fan base.