Cubs

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.

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

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USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Blackhawks deal Michal Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michal Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.