Crete-Monee, Cappel hoping to catch up


Crete-Monee, Cappel hoping to catch up

Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel can only speculate if last week's last-second, one-point loss to Rich South cost his team the No. 3 seed in the Class AA sectional tournament at Lockport.

But he is certain of one thing. In his first season at Crete-Monee, after winning 502 games in 23 years at Hillcrest, the 64-year-old Cappel is dealing with issues that he didn't anticipate when he was hired.

"It has been different," Cappel said. "It has taken longer for the kids to get into our system. I'm used to playing one way in September, then still trying to get stuff in when the season begins. I needed more time to convince them that this works.

"I had to change my system. We're playing more man-to-man defense. They were used to one system and they liked it and were more comfortable with it. It takes a while to show how things work. When you have a summer to do it, it is easier to convince them. I'll try to work my system next year."

Cappel's system produced two Elite Eight teams at Hillcrest. His current squad is 16-6 after beating Rich Central 75-68 last Friday. This Friday, the Warriors will meet Bloom, the top-seeded team in the Lockport sectional. They have lost to the Trojans twice, including the final of the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament.

"My system is to put pressure on other teams with defensive sets, a combination of zone and man-to-man and trap," Cappel said. "I like to run but we're not running as much because we don't line up right. Our offense is inconsistent. We haven't played four quarters yet.

"I hope it gets better. I would like to be running more. I would like to be more organized. But I'm happy with where we're at and I'm trying to convince them that if they do things better, we'll go farther in the state tournament. We haven't played anyone we can't beat."

Rated among the top 15 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason, Crete-Monee has struggled at times. The Warriors have beaten only one rated team, Seton. Losses to Bloom (twice), Andrew, Notre Dame and Hillcrest "tells us that we must play better against good teams," Cappel said.

"Our cohesiveness is good. Our kids are terrific. If they realize what they can do, we can go far. Some play to play. I don't know if they realize how good they can be. We go in spurts in every game, then for a quarter we are terrific. In the final quarter or in overtime, we play with a sense of purpose. We have won four games in overtime."

But Cappel doesn't want to wait to get the desired results. When all of his players are healthy, which hasn't been too often, he is confident that they are as competitive as any team in the sectional or beyond. He just hasn't had enough time to put his act together.

"This is a bigger adjustment than I thought," he said. "I knew it would be difficult because we didn't start until September with open gym. We have to do better on two fronts -- hit more free throws at crunch time and lower our turnovers. Sometimes we go too fast and we need to slow down our thinking process."

Crete-Monee is led by one of the state's premier point guards, 6-foot-2 Michael Orris (10 points, five assists per game), who is committed to Illinois. He was slowed by a sprained ankle early but "is getting back to where we thought he would be," according to Cappel. "He sees the floor very well, can deliver the ball and breaks pressure."

Two other standouts are 6-foot-3 junior LaQuon Treadwell (10 points, nine rebounds per game), who is better known as one of the state's top football prospects in the class of 2013, and 5-foot-9 junior guard Marvie Keith (13 points per game).

Against Rich Central, Treadwell had 24 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Orris had 15 points and six assists.

Treadwell plays basketball as he plays football. "He is a great athlete. He has a never-say-die attitude. He competes with everyone. He has no fear. He relishes the idea of competing against whomever he has to guard. He wants to dominate them," the coach said.

But Marius Hopkins is an unsung hero. The 6-foot-2 senior (9 points per game) is described by Cappel as a lockdown defender. "I call him my Eveready battery. He never stops. He is go-go-go. He has been a key factor this year. He listens, he's quick and he is willing to sacrifice his body for the ball," he said.

Hopkins didn't play much last year. In fact, as the eighth man, he usually got on the floor only during mop-up time. "But we were winning so I didn't want to pout over it. I was looking forward to this year," he said.

He worked hard during the summer, every day he was free from his part-time job working with his mother at a cleaners to earn spending money. He came to school and worked on his defense, shooting and rebounding, often with other team members.

"My role is to bring energy to the team, get stops and defend the other team's best offensive player. I try to keep him from attacking and keep the ball out of his hands," Hopkins said.

The trick is to get all of the players on the floor at the same time. Jordan Perry, a 6-foot-3 senior, is sidelined with scarlet fever. His sub, 6-foot-4 junior Mark Conner, was all-tournament at the Big Dipper. T.J. Morris, a 5-foot-8 senior, is back after suffering pneumonia before the holidays. And 6-foot-7 sophomore Rashod Lee is back after being ineligible prior to the holidays.

"If we play together, we can beat a lot of good teams," Hopkins said. "Sometimes someone tries to do too much. But we're getting better as the season goes along. That (to Hinsdale Central) was a frustrating loss. We played hard to the end but they got the game-changing free throws.

"We can't let that bring us down. We have to learn from it. It has to motivate us for the next game. We have to play hard from the first to the fourth quarter and never let up."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Bulls-76ers

The Bulls square off against the Sixers tonight on NBC Sports Chicago, with coverage beginning at 6:30 with Bulls Pregame Live. Here are three things to watch as the Bulls begin the stretch run of their regular season.

1. The new rotation: Most of the Bulls’ rotation looks the same, but the addition of David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne will have a different feel. The Bulls clearly want to get a look at these guys before the end of the regular season, meaning they’re not just going to get sporadic minutes. They’ll have to play through their mistakes, play out-matched at times and be put in uncomfortable situations. But the Bulls need to see what they have, especially in Payne, who has missed the entire season to this point with a broken foot.

2. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons: They’re quite the 1-2 punch and have the Sixers looking at their first playoff appearance since Derrick Rose hadn’t yet torn an ACL. Yeah, that’s a long time. Embiid just finished his first All-Star appearance (starting in his second year) and Simmons is the front runner for Rookie of the Year. The Bulls will have their hands full with these two. Luckily…

3. Kris Dunn is back: The Bulls wanted to get Dunn some run before heading to All-Star Weekend to play in the Rising Stars Challenge, and he looked healthy in that thumping against the Raptors last week. The good news is John Paxson says Dunn won’t be on a minutes limit, which means he’s healthy. That, of course, is more important than how he’s playing. It’ll be fun to see him, LaVine and Markkanen play together down the stretch. Their numbers together aren’t great, but the Bulls are 2-2 with all three in the lineup, and tanking or not…it’s more fun to watch when those three are rolling. 

Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'


Blackhawks edge out Senators in shootout: 'It was really nice to get a win'

It was a rare sight to see the Blackhawks in a shootout on Wednesday night.

It was just the second time this season — and first time at the United Center — that the Blackhawks made it past 3-on-3 overtime. 

The last came on Dec. 2, 2017, a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars in Dallas. On Wednesday night, the Blackhawks were on the other end, beating the Ottawa Senators 3-2 in a seven-round shootout. Nick Schmaltz netted the game-winner.

"We'll take it," coach Joel Quenneville said. "I thought we had a decent game tonight. Overtime not so good, I liked the shootout victory, Fors made some big saves for us particularly as the game got deeper. Our third was OK, I thought our first two were way better, and overtime we gave up some high quality, some bells were rings for a bit there. But it was nice to see the shootout win."

Patrick Kane had a goal and an assist, recording another multi-point game, his 16th of the season.

"I mean we need every point we can get at this point," Kane said. "There's still belief in this locker room. Obviously we need to go on quite a run and have a big record here down the stretch. But take it a game at a time and nice to get two points."

Anton Forsberg was a big reason the Blackhawks even recorded those two points. The 25-year-old netminder stopped 34 of 36 shots and made a handful of big saves down the stretch.

"It was really nice to get a win for sure," Forsberg said. "I would love to have a lot more wins, but right now just gotta look forward and get as many wins as possible."

Added Quenneville: "I think it was good for him to win a game the way he did. Lot of shots were on the line, as we progressed, got deeper, hitting the point first was big for him and for us and then finding a way to get the extra one was a good win."