Strong defense lifts St. Rita over Hales

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Strong defense lifts St. Rita over Hales

By Dan Ruane
Yourseason.com

St. Rita turned up the defense in the third quarter and blew past Catholic League South foe Hales Franciscan on the way to a 59-45 victory before a packed house Friday at Hales.

The biggest beneficiary of the defensive pressure was Tony Hicks. The senior guard scored 21 of his game-high 30 points in the second half.

St. Rita coach Gary DeCesare didnt chew us out at halftime," Hicks said. He just let us know what we were doing wrong. We werent playing defense like we can and we were taking too many jump shots.

The Mustangs (5-3, 3-0) trailed 24-22 at half and were shooting just 26 percent from the floor. On top of that, Rita produced just five turnovers in the first half. All of that changed from the very start of the third quarter. Freshman Charles Matthews got it started by forcing two turnovers and scoring layups off of them. That spurt was the start of a quarter that saw the Mustangs outscore Hales 18-3 and take a 40-27 lead.

Charles did it with his defense, DeCesare said. He got a couple of steals and some easy baskets off of that and that got us going.

Hicks scored 12 points in the third quarter with all but two of them coming on layups from fast breaks. Those opportunities came off of steals or Hales missed shots. The Spartans (3-5, 0-3) made only one basket in the third quarter.

They were focusing on stopping Tony in the first half, DeCesare said. I just told him to relax and the shots will fall.

One of the more unusual moments of the game came late in the game with Cullen Foulks at the line for Rita. He missed the front end of a one-and-one and nobody moved except for Hicks who slammed home the rebound for his final points of the game.

My guy was so busy talking trash to me that he forgot to box me out, Hicks said.

Jordan Watson came off the bench to lead Hales with 13 points and Shaquon Alexander chipped in 12.

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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