York's Cohn reaches another level

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York's Cohn reaches another level

It's a wonder what a 47-point game can do for your resume. Before York's David Cohn scored 47 points against Hinsdale Central on Jan. 27, the 6-foot-2 junior guard had received scholarship offers from Illinois State, Colorado State. Valparaiso, Illinois-Chicago, Wright State and Drake.

In a 75-64 victory over Hinsdale Central, Cohn established a school single-game scoring record by accounting for his team's first 26 points, converting seven of eight three-point attempts and making 13 of 17 shots from the field and 14 of 17 free throws.

"I have seen 50-point games but not on jump shots," said York coach Tom Kleinschmidt, a former two-time All-Stater at Gordon Tech who was an All-American at DePaul. "I have never seen a shooting display like that."

Cohn, who averages 20 points per game, never expected it.

"In the pre-game warm-ups, it was brutal. I don't think I made a shot. I air-balled one. I thought to myself: 'Oh, this will be one of those nights.' I didn't take my first shot until two or three minutes into the game. It went in, from the top of the key. OK, I said to myself, when you make the first shot it is kind of comforting.

"Then I made three more threes in the first quarter. From there on, I was in a zone. In the spring, I scored 63 points in a game. I had 13 or 14 threes. But I felt I was in more of a zone against Hinsdale Central. There was more defense being played. There was more tension on me. But I still got the shots to fall."

All of a sudden, major Division I programs are expressing interest...Stanford, Penn State, Oregon, Nebraska. Look for others to dial his number. With another year to improve and get exposure, Cohn figures to command the attention of more and more Division I coaches.

But Cohn is trying to keep a level head about all of this. "It's flattering. It's nice to know that schools pay attention. But it won't change anything about me. In the end, I'll find my place in college basketball. I don't necessarily want to play at the highest level. I want to play where I can get the best of both worlds, academics and basketball, where it feels right, a program I can make an impact in, where I can play as a freshman," he said.

However, he admits Stanford "would be a great place to play." And he admits that Notre Dame, which hasn't expressed any interest yet, is his "dream school." Several family members have attended Notre Dame and the Irish have been David's favorite college for football and basketball.

"If they offered, that would be an immediate decision for me," he said. "I watch every game on TV. I know every play they run.

"Opportunity has knocked. It's pretty crazy what one game can do. It's great that they think so much of me. But colleges look for consistency. If my shooting stroke stays consistent, hopefully I'll have other games like that and we'll keep winning. All this means is I have more options to weigh when I make a final decision."

York and Cohn are on a hot streak as they look ahead to the Class 4A sectional at Schaumburg. The Dukes are 18-7 but have won 13 games in a row after trouncing Glenbard West 68-41 last Friday. They'll meet Oak Park on Tuesday in a West Suburban Silver showdown. This weekend, they'll play Downers Grove North and St. Charles North.

Against Glenbard West, Cohn scored 29 points and had five assists. After starting 5-7, York has been overpowering in recent games, winning by margins of 18, 25, 15, 20, 13, 11, 21, 16, 9 and 27 points.

"We weren't going to give up from the start. We just had to come together as a team," Cohn said. "Early, no one was on the same page. There was a lack of communication. We wanted to do our own thing. We thought we were better than we were. But no one panicked when we were 5-7. No one even got negative. The light bulb came on for every single one of us. Each player began to make plays. Everyone filled their roles."

It finally dawned on Kleinschmidt what was wrong. The first-year coach was hired in June and didn't have time to implement his system. He was starting two sophomores, a junior and two seniors who played a total of 15 minutes all of last year. And they had to play nine games on the road during a 10-game stretch. His game plan was in desperate need of an overhaul.

"I knew I had some talent. I had some pieces but they were unproven pieces," Kleinschmidt said. "Cohn was Robin to Will Sullivan's Batman last year. He had to learn that he has a target on his back, that opponents will double and triple team him.

"I had to change my system in midstream. I found out we can press some teams. I found out we can't pressure. I had to see what I had, what worked and what didn't. We tried to run but we turned the ball over too much. We had to play different defenses. We had to change the tempo. I'm learning more about the kids and the staff and the school every day.

"I didn't panic. I stuck with the people I had. I knew they could play but they were inexperienced. And I learned something about myself, too. I learned about patience. My wife says I'm not the most patient person. As a player, you had control. You went out and did it. But you can't do it as a coach. I can put them in position but they have to execute."

Early on, the Dukes were doing lots of reps in practice but not getting positive results in games. Now, according to Kleinschmidt, they are at the stage that they are getting so many reps in practice and games that it is becoming a habit. Nobody complains after going through one of Kleinschmidt's three-hour workouts.

"It took them a while to get ready for basketball after getting their heads kicked in. We lost to Hinsdale Central by 33, Oak Park by 19 and West Aurora by 25. After that, a lot of kids would have quit. But these kids were ready to fight. They weren't ready to pack it in."

York isn't a one-man team, of course. Kleinschmidt has trouble spelling his point guard's last name but he acknowledges that 5-foot-10 senior Jake Rzeszutko (11 ppg, 4 assists) is a three-sport athlete "who is as tough as nails."

He also counts on 6-foot-7 sophomore Frankie Toohey (6 ppg, 6 rpg), 5-foot-11 senior Matt DiFrancesca (11 ppg, 4 rpg), 6-foot-4 sophomore Chris Klos (6 ppg, 6 rpg), 6-foot-5 senior Mike Despinich and 6-foot-7 junior Justin Kurash.

Against Glenbard West, Cohn got plenty of support. DiFrancesca had 12 points and five assists, Rzeszutko had 10 points and four assists and Despinich had 10 points and five rebounds.

"I wouldn't want anything more for my first team," Kleinschmidt said. "It will keep me coaching. I thoroughly enjoy it. If I had started 5-7 in high school, there would have been a lot of finger-pointing. Nobody likes to lose. But these kids are competitors. They don't quit."

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

Kris Bryant ignites World Series nostalgia with Cubs' epic eighth-inning comeback

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series.”

Kris Bryant wasn’t the only one with World Series nostalgia Saturday afternoon at the Friendly Confines. The tens of thousands of Cubs fans losing their minds over the North Siders’ eighth-inning comeback made that very clear.

Bryant, though, was the one who provided it, first driving in the game-tying run mere moments after the visiting St. Louis Cardinals smashed open a pitchers duel with back-to-back homers off Jon Lester in the top of the eighth. Bryant then got a head starts and came around all the way from first, scoring the game-winning run on a ball Anthony Rizzo dumped into the left-center field gap so perfectly he couldn’t have thrown it there any better.

Bryant slid in — feet first — beating the throw home from ex-teammate Dexter Fowler. Cue the hysteria at Clark and Addison.

“Me, honestly, I was just trying to go up the middle. I think that’s kind of where I’ve been struggling this year is with guys on base I want to do too much. Just seeing through the middle. Bat broke and flew, I don’t know where it went, but it flew somewhere. That was huge,” Bryant explained after the game.

“And then obviously with Rizz having a good at-bat off a tough lefty. I don't know if Dexter or Tommy Pham got a good read or if they were way back at the track, but right when he hit it I didn’t see them anywhere close to it so I thought there was a pretty good chance that I could score.”

Bryant’s very presence in the Cubs’ starting lineup was the headline before the game, the “freak of nature” returning from a jammed finger after missing only one game. So of course it was the reigning National League MVP who played the biggest role, flipping the script from his sick day by being right in the middle of the Cubs’ eighth-inning explosion. It was the eighth inning where the Cardinals staged their game-defining rally Friday.

[CUBS TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Manager Joe Maddon went as far as saying that perhaps only Bryant could have made the play he did, scoring from first base on what went down as a Rizzo double.

“KB being able to play was the difference in today’s game,” Maddon said. “A combination of the hit and his speed. I don’t think anybody else scores on that. Maybe Jason (Heyward), possibly. (Ian) Happ, possibly. But KB is such a good base runner. He had it in his head the moment the ball was hit, and all (third base coach Gary) Jones had to do was wave his arm. You can’t underestimate the importance of one person in the lineup.

“He’s a very bright base runner. He’s shown that from the beginning. … He demonstrated that early on, and for me when a young player demonstrates awareness on the bases, man, that’s a good baseball player.”

All that talent made Bryant last season’s Most Valuable Player and one of the most important figures in the curse-breaking World Series championship.

Bryant mentioned he thought Saturday’s game-winning trip from first to home conjured memories of a similar play in Game 7 of last fall’s World Series, when Bryant went first to home on Rizzo’s base hit off Andrew Miller in the fifth inning.

“Reminded me a lot of a play in the World Series off of Andrew Miller. It was a full count there, started early,” Bryant said. “Rizz hit it, you’ve got to give him a ton of credit, worked a great at-bat. But the head start really does help. It's something that I take pride in is my base running, surprising people. Hopefully I did that today.”

With Bryant back in the lineup Saturday, Kyle Hendricks’ return to the rotation coming Monday, a now 7-1 record since the All-Star break and a bunched-up NL Central that had four teams within three and a half games of each other entering Saturday’s action, it’s no wonder the World Series feeling is making its way back to the North Side.

All season long, fans and observers have been waiting for that switch to flip, and maybe it finally has.

The bats were thunderous on that six-game road trip out of the All-Star break, with 16 home runs helping the Cubs to back-to-back sweeps of the Baltimore Orioles and Atlanta Braves. Friday’s loss to the Cardinals provided plenty of evidence that the rest of the season might feature a knock-down, drag-out slugfest between the four NL Central contenders. All that was missing was a game that got Wrigleyville rocking.

“Probably one of our better wins of the year,” Bryant said.

That’s all without even mentioning the efforts of Lester, who was perfect until Adam Wainwright’s single in the top of the sixth. It was another stellar effort from a Cubs starting pitcher, and what was the team’s biggest problem during that sub-.500 first half — inconsistent starting pitching — certainly seems to be ironed out.

While the standings say it’s still going to be a brawl to the end with the Cardinals, Milwaukee Brewers and Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cubs could be in a first-place tie by the end of Saturday night.

In other words, the race is on. And Bryant and the Cubs are clicking at the right time.

“It’s already Jaugust,” Maddon joked, inventing a new month out of thin air. “There’s no waiting around right now. Everybody feels the same way. We took advantage of the break, I believe. We came back with renewed energy. You don’t want to give up anything right now.”

After losing uncle, emotional Jon Lester pays tribute with Notre Dame rallying cry

After losing uncle, emotional Jon Lester pays tribute with Notre Dame rallying cry

Jon Lester wore PLACT on his hat Saturday and he made good on the Notre Dame rallying cry — Play Like a Champion Today — against the Cardinals.

Lester didn't attend college and doesn't cheer for Notre Dame, but in his postgame session, he fought through tears to tell reporters why he decided to put the Notre Dame nod on his hat:

"My family — I lost my uncle yesterday," Lester said. "For the Notre Dame fans, he went to Notre Dame, so it's Play Like a Champion Today. Just to let him know that I was thinking of him."

Lester worked through the grief and carried a perfect game into the sixth inning, retiring the first 17 Cardinals hitters in the game.

Lester wound up surrendering two homers in the eighth inning, but the Cubs offense rallied behind him with three runs in the bottom of the inning, giving their ace his seventh win of the season.

But Lester's teammates didn't even know the struggle he was going through.

"I didn't even know that, man," said Kris Bryant, who scored the winning run. "That's tough. Jonny, he won't ever show you any emotion. Something like that, to hear that, obviously it's terrible, but he's probably one of the best teammates I've ever been able to play with in my short time.

"You know what you're going to get with him every day. You know he's gonna be the same guy, the same competitor and I love that about him."