Cubs

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.

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

When Kyle Schwarber met new Cubs hitting coach Chili Davis: 'I don't suck'

MESA, Ariz. — The first thing Kyle Schwarber told his new hitting coach?

"His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.'"

The Cubs hired Chili Davis as the team's new hitting coach for myriad reasons. He's got a great track record from years working with the Boston Red Sox and Oakland Athletics, and that .274/.360/.451 slash line during an illustrious 19-year big league career certainly helps.

But Davis' main immediate task in his new gig will be to help several of the Cubs' key hitters prove Schwarber's assessment correct.

Schwarber had a much-publicized tough go of things in 2017. After he set the world on fire with his rookie campaign in 2015 and returned from what was supposed to be a season-ending knee injury in time to be one of the Cubs' World Series heroes in 2016, he hit just .211 last season, getting sent down to Triple-A Iowa for a stint in the middle of the season. Schwarber still hit 30 home runs, but his 2017 campaign was seen as a failure by a lot of people.

Enter Davis, who now counts Schwarber as one of his most important pupils.

"He's a worker," Davis said in an interview with NBC Sports Chicago. "Schwarbs, he knows he's a good player. His first statement to me is, 'I don't suck.' He said last year was just a fluke year. He said, 'I've never failed in my life.' And he said, 'I'm going to get back to the player that I was.'

"I think he may have — and this is my thought, he didn't say this to me — I think it may have been, he had a big World Series, hit some homers, and I think he tried to focus on being more of a home run type guy as opposed to being a good hitter.

"His focus has changed. I had nothing to do with that, he came in here with that focus that he wants to be a good hitter first and let whatever happens happen. And he's worked on that. The main thing with Kyle is going to be is just maintaining focus."

The physically transformed Schwarber mentioned last week that he's established a good relationship with Davis, in no small part because Schwarber can relate to what Davis went through when he was a player. And to hear Davis tell it, it sounds like he's describing Schwarber's first three years as a big leaguer to a T.

"Telling him my story was important because it was similar," Davis said. "I was a catcher, got to big league camp, and I was thrown in the outfield. And I hated the outfield. ... But I took on the challenge. I made the adjustment, I had a nice first year, then my second year I started spiraling. I started spiraling down, and I remember one of my coaches saying, 'I'm going to have to throw you a parachute just so you can land softly.' I got sent down to Triple-A at the All-Star break for 15 days.

"When I got sent down, I was disappointed, but I was also really happy. I needed to get away from the big league pressure and kind of find myself again. I went home and refocused myself and thought to myself, 'I'm going to come back as Chili.' Because I tried to change, something changed about me the second year.

"And when I did that, I came back the next year and someone tried to change me and I said, 'Pump the breaks a little bit, let me fail my way, and then I'll come to you if I'm failing.' And they understood that, and I had a nice year, a big year and my career took off.

"I'm telling him, 'Hey, let last year go. It happened, it's in the past. Keep working hard, maintain your focus, and you'll be fine.'"

Getting Schwarber right isn't Davis' only task, of course. Despite the Cubs being one of the highest-scoring teams in baseball last season, they had plenty of guys go through subpar seasons. Jason Heyward still has yet to find his offensive game since coming to Chicago as a high-priced free agent. Ben Zobrist was bothered by a wrist injury last season and put up the worst numbers of his career. Addison Russell had trouble staying healthy, as well, and saw his numbers dip from what they were during the World Series season in 2016.

So Davis has plenty of charges to work with. But he likes what he's seen so far.

"They work," Davis said. "They come here to work. I had a group of guys in Boston that were the same last year, and it makes my job easier. They want to get better, they come out every day, they show up, they want to work. They're excited, and I'm excited to be around them.

And what have the Cubs found out about Davis? Just about everyone answers that question the same way: He likes to talk.

"I'm not going to stop talking," he said. "If I stop talking, something's wrong."

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

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USA TODAY

Podcast: Which Blackhawks could be on the move before trade deadline?

On the latest Blackhawks Talk Podcast, Adam Burish and Pat Boyle discuss which Blackhawks could be on the trading block and what players are building blocks for the Hawks future.

Burish also shares a couple memorable trade deadline days and his “near” return to the Blackhawks in 2012. Plus, he makes his bold trade deadline prediction for the Hawks.

Listen to the full Blackhawks Talk Podcast right here: