Blackhawks

Elgin upsets national power for tournament title

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Elgin upsets national power for tournament title

By Erik Jacobsen
Yourseason.com

Facing the rare situation where they werent the most talented team on the court, the Maroons played to their strengths and pulled off a stunner by beating La Lumiere (Ind.) 40-34 in the championship game of the 37th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament.

Elgin (12-1) never trailed thanks to a blistering start from beyond the three-point arc, and its defense held firm despite facing a serious height disadvantage against the Lakers.

The Maroons accepted the tournaments championship trophy for the first time since 1999 and more importantly made a major statement by vanquishing the private school from La Porte, Ind., which is renowned on a national level for developing Division-I talent.

We came out in this tournament thinking lets shock the world, Kory Brown said. This is probably one the biggest statements weve made in a long time.

Brown finished with a game-high 18 points to go with six rebounds and three blocks. Arie Williams, who joined Brown on the all-tourney team, added 13 points as the Maroons won their eighth in a row.

La Lumiere (11-2) was without Indiana recruit Hanner Perea and Purdue recruit Rapheal Davis as both players were absent for personal reasons, but it still boasted a starting lineup with three players 6-foot-7 or taller. Elgin, which has no player taller than 6-4, was also missing a starter as Gerardo Mojica was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

A matchup of two one-loss teams proved quite a draw as a big crowd witnessed the Maroons drain their first three shots from beyond the three-point arc while storming to a 15-3 lead. Williams finished with three of his teams six treys.

Ive been in a shooting slump all tournament, and I wasnt scared but maybe a little bit nervous, Williams said. After that first three went in I was in my comfort zone and I felt like everything would go smoothly.

Elgin enjoyed a 30-22 lead after the third quarter, but the Lakers made things interesting down the stretch.

A pair of free throws from Antonio Drummond pulled La Lumiere within 32-29 with 3:51 left. The Maroons responded by pushing their lead to 36-29 thanks to four free throws from Williams, two of which were the result of a technical foul assessed to the Lakers bench.

La Lumiere clawed back again as Matej Buovacs bucket with 1:45 left trimmed Elgins lead to 36-34, but the Maroons ran more than a minute off the clock on their next possession before Brown drew a foul and sank a pair of free throws.

Jay Simpson finished with 14 points to lead La Lumiere, whose only other loss this season came against national power Oak Hill Academy. The Lakers made only 14-of-42 shots (33.3 percent) from the field.

Defensively Id say it was about mindset, Brown said. We didnt want to lose. For me and Dennis (Moore) and the rest of our seniors, this was our last (Elgin Tournament). We just came in with the mindset that this is our game from the start.

Added Elgin coach Mike Sitter: This gives us confidence for when we come to the postseason and play another team with all the publicity and recognition. It tells us we can play with anybody.

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Hawks mentally approach getting back into playoff race?

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Talk Podcast: How should Hawks mentally approach getting back into playoff race?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk podcast, Adam Burish joins Pat Boyle to discuss the three-game losing skid the Hawks are experiencing, the problems on the power play and how they should mentally approach getting back into the playoff race.

The guys also discuss Corey Crawford’s first public sighting, trade rumors and Burish shares his favorite Original 6 story.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here:

Unbelievable performance, unexplainable failures leads to Bulls' collapse in New Orleans

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USA TODAY

Unbelievable performance, unexplainable failures leads to Bulls' collapse in New Orleans

Weird things tend to happen in New Orleans. Things filed under “unbelievable” or “unexplainable.”

The Bulls’ double-overtime loss to the New Orleans Pelicans doesn’t exactly fall under either, but the circumstances leading to it certainly do.

Justin Holiday, the reliable 84 percent free throw shooter missing the last of three freebies that would have ended the game in regulation after being fouled with 0.3 seconds left?

Unexplainable.

“Could’ve won the game with a free throw,” Holiday said, dismissing the notion of nerves. “Thought it was cash, it just didn’t go in. Wasn’t meant to happen, I guess. I was hyped. You get that opportunity, I don’t miss free throws. When you get an opportunity like that, that’s what was on my mind.”

Holiday raced to the 3-point line after the Bulls fell behind 114-112 with three seconds left, drawing a whistle on Darius Miller as the buzzer sounded—giving them a chance to win a game they had no business losing in the first place.

“He made the hard ones, which the first one is the hardest,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He made a great play to be fouled in the first place to even get himself to the line.”

It seemed so unlikely the Bulls would find themselves in their wildest game of the year after seemingly driving the Pelicans to insanity and frustration, taking a 17-point lead with 5 minutes left.

Zach LaVine looked comfortable in his fourth quarter minutes, while Denzel Valentine and Nikola Mirotic hit big shots to extend the Bulls lead—ignoring the irritated atmosphere at the Smoothie King Center as the Pelicans fans felt their team had gotten an unfair whistle.

Then the Pelicans—and their maddeningly talented star DeMarcus Cousins—got mad and took all his frustration out on the Bulls in a historic performance. He needed every bit of the 44 points, 24 rebounds and 10 assists to put the Bulls away, as he bullied the game inside and finessed things from the outside (five 3-pointers) as his teammates finally caught up to his intensity in those frenetic five minutes.

His numbers put him in the company of Wilt Chamberlain—not surprising considering he did everything down the stretch including bringing the ball upcourt as if he were the world’s biggest point guard.

Unbelievable.

“It’s cool to be in company with a guy like Wilt (Chamberlain). He’s a guy that’s put up videogame numbers his entire career,” Cousins said. “Just to have a little game like his, that’s pretty cool.”

His alley-oop to Anthony Davis with 1:39 left in regulation gave him a triple-double and cut the Bulls lead to 110-107, and the Bulls seemed to be in full panic mode. Davis fouled out in the first overtime but not after inflicting 34 points, nine rebounds and five assists of damage in 43 minutes.

“The inability to get a rebound late cost us,” Hoiberg said. “Their pressure, getting into us, really lost all of our pace that we did a good job of for the most part all game. It really slowed us down. That’s what got their run started.”

Jerian Grant, who had performed solidly in Kris Dunn’s absence, then became a target for the Pelicans defense as they harassed Grant, taking the Bulls’ offense out of its rhythm.

Grant had six turnovers in 47 minutes and was visibly bothered by the pressure employed by the Pelicans’ defense, nearly negating his 22-point, 13-assist, five-rebound performance.

“I thought we had really good flow,” Hoiberg said. “I thought Jerian had a really good game. But the pressure really did bother us. Gotta do the things that got you the lead we had. A lot of pace, a lot of movement. A lot of good things.”

The good things certainly included Lauri Markkanen holding his own against Davis and making big defensive plays in the fourth quarter and overtime when the Pelicans foolishly tried to switch Markkanen onto their guards.

But Markkanen kept his composure, moved his feet and was never exploited. Although he shot just 5-for-12 and missed all four of his 3-point attempts, Markkanen took steps forward defensively as he finished with 14 points and a career-high 17 rebounds.

Robin Lopez went at Cousins on the other end, as both were exhausted at the end of the marathon. Lopez scored 22 points in 39 minutes, his only regret likely getting stripped by Cousins at midcourt during the Pelicans’ comeback, leading to free throws.

“We just decided to play defense,” Davis said. “It was tied up going into the fourth quarter. They went on a crazy run. There was like eight minutes left, we just said we going to play defense. Play defense one possession at a time and we are going to be able to come back here.”

Jrue Holiday, Justin’s younger brother, was the main irritant late, along with former Bull E’Twaun Moore, giving just enough support for Cousins and Davis. The Pelicans’ Holiday scored just 12 points with six assists, but had big baskets in the first overtime after Davis fouled out.

“They turned it up, physically,” Justin Holiday said. “My brother started guarding full court. They all starting pressuring us a little more. Sometimes, it’s tough. When they turn the pressure up like that and we have the lead, we don’t necessarily want to be in a rush to score. Then they’re scoring on the other end. We gotta get stops.”

It was hard to ignore how the pressure affected the Bulls. The composure and poise they’ve played with over the last several weeks gave them a level of confidence in hostile environments, but missing Dunn meant they were without a critical part of their offense.

“I don’t wanna say trouble but it bothered us for sure,” Holiday said. “We kinda got sped up. Forget about the offensive end but if we get stops and rebound, we win the game. Again, they have all-stars and things like that, supposed to do their job.”

Even then, though, everyone walking away from the Smoothie King Center knew they witnessed a historic, unbelievable performance as well as an unexplainable collapse.