Stagg stuns No. 8 Thornton in conference play


Stagg stuns No. 8 Thornton in conference play

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
10:50 p.m.

By Tim O'Brien

Hanging with No. 8 Thornton through three quarters, Staggs Dan Ahern knew if the Chargers could just stick around they would be able to make a play late.

With Ahern and teammate Darius Draper taking charge in the fourth, it was Stagg coming through in the end with a 58-53 upset of the Wildcats.

We always trust our defense, and when you make a big stop youve got to get down on the offensive end and score too, Ahern said. Thats what we did.

Draper finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for Stagg (17-5, 8-3) in the SouthWest Suburban Red win. Ahern added 16 points (3-for-6 three-point shooting).

The loss for Thornton (19-2, 10-1) was the first defeat since the school entered the SouthWest Suburban conference in 2009.

We got up on them, but we didnt play intelligently, Thornton coach Troy Jackson said. We rushed some shots and played undisciplined. They took it away from us.

Bernard Brames 16 points and 12 rebounds paced Thornton with Antonio Levy scoring 11.

Down 45-43 to start the fourth, Ahern opened the quarter with a high-arcing three-pointer from the corner to give Stagg its first lead since the second quarter.

Draper scored on a driving floater and added two free throws with Ryan Dahleen hitting one free throw to extend the lead.

Levy answered with a floater of his own to get Thornton within four at 51-47. But in a scrum for a loose ball on the following inbounds, Staggs Brett Kaiser came up with the ball, somehow finding an open Ahern on the arc.

The senior guards shot hit nothing but net as the Chargers went up 54-47 with three minutes to go.

(Thornton) played great defense the whole game so I didnt get many open looks, Ahern said. Ill take whatever I can get however I can get it.

Thornton drew within three points following a Jay Parker jumper with 53 seconds left, but Levy missed two three-point attempts late. With one last shot, Scott Lyons stole the Thornton inbounds pass and tipped it to Draper who hit an open Kaiser at the other end of the court for a wide-open, upset-clinching layup.

Weve been playing our best basketball of the season lately, Draper said. We knew we could play with them. This is as big a win as weve had in my three varsity years. This was by far our best team effort.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

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