Bears

The best IHSA playoff performances

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The best IHSA playoff performances

It is every Illinois high school basketball player's dream to register his greatest individual performance in the championship game of the state tournament, as Breese Central's Brandon Book did in last week's Class 2A finals.

Max Hooper started it all in 1950. The two-time All-Stater from Mount Vernon scored a then single-game record of 36 points as the top-rated Rams crushed second-ranked Danville 85-61 for their 46th victory and second state title in a row.

Hooper scored 104 points in the last four tournament games to lead all scorers. His 36-point standard stood for 22 years. One of the state's all-time best teams, Mount Vernon overpowered its opponents by margins of 17, 25, eight and 24 points.

In 1953, in the highly ballyhooed "Battle of the Decade" pitting top-ranked Kankakee and Harv Schmidt vs. third-rated La Grange and Ted Caiazza in the sectional semifinal at Joliet, Caiazza had 31 points and 14 rebounds as La Grange won 83-74. Schmidt finished with 37 points.

Both teams were unbeaten. La Grange went on to win the state title with a 29-0 record with no opponent coming within nine points. The Lions swept past their last four tournament opponents by margins of 17, 32, 13 and 12 points. Caiazza, a 6-foot-7, 235-pound junior, averaged 30 points per game and had over 200 scholarship offers.

After being upset by Morton of Cicero in the 1941 semifinals, Centralia came back in 1942 to beat favored Paris 35-33 as the legendary Dike Eddleman emerged as the tournament scoring leader and capped his high school career by scoring 16 points and sparking the Orphans' dramatic comeback victory in the final.

Jay Shidler became a rock star in 1976. The Lawrenceville senior scored a then record 157 points in four games to turn the Class A finals into a personal Woodstock. No one else on his team scored more than 28 points. On the final Saturday, he scored 48 in a semifinal loss to Oneida ROVA in the afternoon, then came back at night to score 45 in a consolation victory over Buda Western. In a 29-2 season, Shidler averaged 32.7 points.

Dave Robisch was just as sensational in 1967. The 6-foot-9 senior from Springfield averaged 32 points per game as the Senators finished 30-3 and third in the state tournament. In the last four games, he set records of 152 points and 77 rebounds. In a semifinal loss to eventual state champion Pekin, he scored 41 points. In beating West Rockford for third place, he scored 39. His scoring record stood until 1987. His rebounding record has never been surpassed.

Boyd Batts always played in the shadow of his older and more celebrated brother Lloyd Batts, a two-time All-Stater at Thornton, and his Thornridge teammate, Quinn Buckner. But in Thornridge's 104-69 rout of Quincy in the 1972 Class AA championship game, the 6-7 senior scored 37 points and grabbed 15 rebounds. He shot 14-of-18 and converted 9-of-10 free throws.

In 1970, 6-foot-8 junior Owen Brown put a cap on La Grange's 31-0 season by scoring 24 points and grabbing a record 24 rebounds in the Lions' 71-52 victory over East Moline in the state final.

In Class A, Pierre Pierce of Westmont set a tournament record with 159 points in 2001. He scored 28, 41, 42 and 48 points as Westmont finished fourth.

In Class AA, Marcus Liberty of King set a tournament record with 143 points in 1987. He scored 41, 23, 38 and 41 points as King finished second to East St. Louis Lincoln. His 41 in a 79-62 loss in the state final also is a tournament record.

Hinckley-Big Rock's Jim Edmondson continues to hold the tournament single-game scoring record with 55 against Winnebago in the 1984 supersectional.

Glenbrook North's Jon Scheyer holds the Class AA mark with 48 points against Waukegan in the 2005 supersectional.

Shawn Jepson of Spring Valley Hall scored 51 against Warsaw in the 1997 Class A championship game, most ever in a Class A state final.

But did you know that the most points ever scored in state tournament competition is 62?

Dennis Brown of Canton and Don Slusarek of La Salle-Peru each scored 62 in regional games, the most points ever scored by an Illinois high school player in a single game in the month of March.

Brown scored 62 against Illini Bluffs in 1970. He made 24-of-27 shots and 14-of-17 free throws. Slusarek scored 62 against Chillicothe IVC in 1976. He made 24-of-35 shots and 14-of-17 free throws.

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

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USA TODAY

Looking deeper to understand how John Fox still commands Bears trust through bad times

I’ve always placed great stock in the drama tenet, “Action is character.” What an actor/person does in significant part defines their character, or lack of same.

Conversely, in some situations, what someone doesn’t do can be equally defining or revealing. A couple of those involving the Bears are worth noting, because they suggest things about John Fox and and his staff, and perhaps a bit of what players think of them.

Nothing stunning, just a case of when you pull the camera back for a little wider angle, a broader picture forms out of seemingly separate or isolated incidents. Fox has never lost his teams through three generally miserable seasons, those teams consistently played hard through bad times. A handful of specific situations offer some insight into perhaps why:

The Cohen conundrum

Fox and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains came in for scalding criticism for their recent seeming under-utilization of running back Tarik Cohen. The closest either came to laying out the real reason was a reference to concerns about the rookie’s pass-protection capabilities, no small issue against Green Bay and coordinator Dom Capers’ blitz proclivities; coaches want to see Mitch Trubisky wearing a Bears uniform, not Clay Matthews.

Cohen may be the Bears’ leading receiver, but if a back can’t present the viable option of pass protection, the offense is limited even more than it already is anyway with a rookie quarterback.

Come forward a week: Overlooked in the aftermath of the loss to Detroit, in which Cohen was not part of the hurry-up offense driving for a winning or tying score, was the fact that Cohen simply didn’t know the plays well enough in that situation. Fox didn’t say so. Neither did Loggains.

Cohen did.

Asked afterwards what he wasn’t solid with, Cohen owned it: "Probably the hurry-up plays at those positions. I know certain plays at those positions, but to open up the whole playbook with me, I’ll have to learn all of those plays.”

Should he have been up to a faster speed in week 10? That’s another discussion. But like it or not, his coaches were not going to be the ones to out him.

The Howard hassle

Jordan Howard finished 2016 second to only Dallas’ Ezekiel Elliott in rushing yardage. He began the year inactive for game one and lightly used in games two and three. The reason Loggains gave from the podium was that coaches didn’t really know what they had in Howard.

Yes. They did. But Loggains didn’t cite Howard for not being in shape to carry the load the offense needed. Neither did Fox.

Howard did.

“I should’ve been in better shape,” Howard said at the outset of training camp last July. “I should’ve been playing earlier if I would’ve handled what I had to do.”

Some very effective coaches have used public embarrassment for motivation; Mike Ditka assessed that he wasn’t sure Donnell Woolford could cover anybody, and Buddy Ryan summarized that “No. 55 [Otis Wilson] killed us,” for instance.

Fox and his staff don’t do that and they’ve have taken the heat for their players, which does frustrate those tasked with accurately reporting sometimes hard information.

Medical restraint

Fox’s tenure has been awash in major injuries to pivotal players. He has made points in his locker room by shielding those players and their issues whether outsiders like it or not.

That started back with Kevin White and the infamous stress fracture that Fox was accused of knowing about and lying that he didn’t. The real situation was that medical opinions (and the Bears had gotten a bunch) were divided to the point where the Bears opted against surgery until it was conclusive that the shadow on an x-ray was indeed a fracture. Fox refused to call the injury a stress fracture with the doctors so divided, and he was pilloried for it. But not in his locker room.

The organization very much needed Pro Bowl lineman Kyle Long this season for an offense that certainly wasn’t going to live on the arm of Mike Glennon. Long was testy and combative during training camp, and “honestly I’ve been champing at the bit to get back,” he conceded, “but they’ve done a good job of pulling the reins a little bit and making sure that I understand that it’s a long season.”

Small things, not necessarily connected, but as Fox’s third season winds down, what his team shows will factor into decisions on his future. The Bears right now, after the Green Bay and Detroit losses effectively ended the “hope” part of their season, are entering that dreary phase of a year when effort will be critiqued as critically as performance.

The on-field results now will say something about character, Fox’s own and the collective one he has worked to instill since January 2015.

How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

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How to watch and/or stream the IHSA football state finals this weekend

It's Thanksgiving weekend, which among other things, means the IHSA football state finals are taking place.

NBC Sports Chicago has live coverage of the finals of all eight classes and is streaming every telecast, including surrounding pre/postgame coverage, to be made available to authenticated subscribers on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the NBC Sports app.

Check out the action taking place in Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, beginning at 10 a.m. on Friday with the Class 1A final and concluding Saturday night with the Class 8A final and a special recap edition of High School Lites following the final game. Highlights from each of the games will be available on our website throughout the weekend.

The live streaming service is currently available to customers of Comcast/Xfinity, DIRECTV, DISH Network, AT&T U-verse, Mediacom, RCN, WOW!, Time Warner Cable and Charter among numerous other carriers.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago is also available on numerous digital streaming services including DIRECTV NOW, Hulu, fuboTV, Sling TV, CenturyLink Stream, PlayStation Vue, and YouTube TV.  For a full list of carriers and more information about NBC Sports Chicago’s live streaming service, viewers are urged to visit nbcsportschicago.com/live-faq.

Here is the full schedule for the weekend's games and broadcast coverage:

Friday, November 24

LIVE NOW: Class 1A: LENA-WINSLOW (Lena) [13-0] vs. TUSCOLA [13-0]

1:00 PM – Class 2A: GIBSON CITY-MELVIN-SIBLEY (Gibson City) [13-0] vs. MAROA-FORSYTH (Maroa) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 3A: IC CATHOLIC (Elmhurst) [12-1] vs. PLEASANT PLAINS [10-3]

7:00 PM – Class 4A: MORRIS [11-2] vs. ROCHESTER [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

Saturday, November 25

10:00 AM – Class 5A: PHILLIPS (Chicago) [13-0] vs. DUNLAP [13-0]

1:00 PM – Class 6A: PRAIRIE RIDGE (Crystal Lake) [13-0] vs. NAZARETH ACADEMY (LaGrange Park) [12-1]

4:00 PM – Class 7A: BATAVIA [12-1] vs. LAKE ZURICH [13-0] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

7:00 PM – Class 8A: LINCOLN-WAY East (Frankfort) [13-0] vs. LOYOLA ACADEMY (Wilmette) [12-1] (NOTE: This game will air on NBC Sports Chicago+; please visit our CHANNEL FINDER for the exact channel location in your area)

Further information is available at this link. Edgy Tim previewed each of the eight games here and has players to watch for the weekend.