Bulls

Grant seeks first regional title since 1989

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Grant seeks first regional title since 1989

Grant is 19-7 after a 4-4 start. The Fox Lake school has won 10 of its last 11 games. So what did coach Wayne Bosworth's Bulldogs get for all of this recent success? The No. 12 seed in the 21-team Barrington sectional. Some consolation prize.

"Our kids felt like it was a slap in the face. We feel we deserved better. So now we're playing with a chip on our shoulder," Bosworth said. "Our goal is to keep improving every day. We can be a dangerous team as the No. 12 seed."

Jared Helmich, Grant's 6-foot-2 senior forward, said he and his teammates are happy with the No. 12 seed. "It puts us in an underdog situation. If we play together, we have a good shot at winning the regional," he said.

Helmich and his teammates are in a familiar position. In a mock preview of the sectional, Grant was seeded No. 16. "Teams don't give us much respect. But the last 17 games is who we really are. We've learned to mesh. We know each other's strengths. And we also have stepped up on the defensive end," he said.

"I was shocked when I saw us seeded No. 16 in that mock preview. Teams we had beaten were rated a lot higher than us. Other teams look at us and say we don't play in as tough a conference as they are in. They don't look at what we are actually doing."

Grant has lost twice to highly regarded North Chicago but has beaten Barrington, Stevenson and Rolling Meadows. In their last two outings, the Bulldogs beat Round Lake 52-41 last Friday and Libertyville 55-54 on Tuesday night. They will open regional play against Wheeling on Monday.

"We have a bunch of good players, no stars, four seniors who average in double figures," Bosworth said. "They have bought in to what we are preaching--defense first, man-to-man. Our goal always has been to win the regional for the first time since 1989."

Grant has known success in basketball. In 25 years, coach Tom Maple won 368 games. Bosworth, a 2000 graduate of Grant, played for Maple. He served as an assistant coach at North Chicago and Grant before becoming head coach four years ago. At 30, he is young and ambitious and optimistic.

His starting lineup includes Helmich (15 ppg, 8 rpg), 6-foot senior guards Allen Lewis (11 ppg, 5 assists) and Sean Wells (12 ppg), 6-foot-4 senior Ilya Kadushin (11 ppg, 8 rpg) and 6-foot-2 junior Brandon Lombardino (4 ppg, 4 rpg). Helmich was an All-Lake County selection last year.

"Someone will score for us. At one point this season, every one of the four seniors have scored 20 or more points in a game. I have been impressed with our seniors stepping up and having huge games," Bosworth said.

Kadushin had 17 points and 18 rebounds against Rolling Meadows. Helmich had 29 points and 16 rebounds against Lakes in the final of Grant's Christmas tournament. Wells had 29 points, eight rebounds and six assists against Barrington. Lewis had 26 points and eight assists against North Chicago. Helmich scored 20 and Wells added 17 against Libertyville.

"And our defense needs to be where it has to be, holding opponents to one-and-out, keeping them in the low 50s," Bosworth said.

The coach also praised Helmich. "The best thing about him is teams have been keying on him in the last month and his numbers have been down because they are doubling and tripling on him. But he has done a great job of getting others involved, spreading the wealth," he said.

"When we played Rolling Meadows, they double teammed me every time I touched the ball. And every time I got the ball against Lakes, there was a guy on every side of me," Helmich said. "Even when I don't get double-teammed, I try to look for someone who has a good shot before I take a shot. If someone is wide open, I will kick out before I do a jump hook from within five to eight feet of the basket."

While basketball is Helmich's favorite sport, he admits he is more proficient at baseball. He hopes baseball will pave the way to a college education. A first baseman and pitcher, he has scholarship offers from Southern Illinois-Edwardsville, Augustana, Upper Iowa, North Park and Edgewood.

"But I love playing basketball. You can get friends together and play whenever you want, at the Libertyville Sports Complex or our gym or our neighborhood park," Helmich said. "I used to dream about being 6-foot-7 or 6-foot-8 so I could play college basketball. I like the environment, the fans cheering you on, pumping you up. It's good to see when a teammate has a good night, good to see when all the teamwork pays off."

Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls dance with Warriors

Is there any better way to break in your new Black Friday television than Bulls-Warriors tonight? We think not. Coverage starts at 9 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live, and the game is also available to stream via the NBC Sports app

Here are three things to keep your eye on: 

1. Not the score. Let's be honest: the Bulls probably won't sneak out a win at the Oracle. In fact, ESPN's matchup predictor only gives Fred Hoiberg's young squad a 2.9 percent chance to come up victorious. UIC has three times better odds against juggernaut Kentucky at Rupp Arena on Sunday, in case you needed some context.  

With the talent gap in mind, though, it will be important for the Bulls to come out with high energy. The Warriors will likely take the contest lightly in the first half, so starting off strong reflects well on the coaching staff and starters. Stay within 10 points by the half, and that's considered a massive triumph. 

2. Lauri Markkanen vs. Draymond Green? Assuming the Dubs start out with Green on Markkanen, this will be rookie's biggest test of the season. Green is an elite defender, capable of wrecking gameplans from the tip. He's physical, quick and athletic. 

Markkanen is coming off two duds on the West Coast trip, but his aggressiveness hasn't wavered. It'll be important for him to continue to attack even with the reigning Defensive Player of the Year hounding him. 

3. Steph, KD and Klay doin' work. The Bulls offense hasn't exactly been a thing of beauty through the first 16 games. Their offensive rating is a brutal 94.4, ranked last in the NBA. Golden State, on the other hand, sits at the top with a rating of 113.1. 

Take some time to admire the skills of Steph Curry, Kevin Durant and Klay Thompson because when it comes to working cohesively on offense, they've set the gold standard. 

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

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USA TODAY

What Chicago sports fans should be thankful for

Families gather and people talk about things they are thankful for on Thanksgiving, but what are Chicago sports fans happy for now?

Raised expectations on the North Side

Got to be thankful that a “disappointing” season is winning the division and losing in the NLCS. The expectations have skyrocketed, and that’s thanks to a ridiculous nucleus of bats and a steady front office. Not many clubs can say that. Also, though, it’s important to be appreciative of the Wrigley bar stretch. They may charge $8 for a Miller Lite, but it’s always a damn good party.

Javy tags, too. Don't forget Javy tags.

Rebuild sparking hope in White Sox fans

Where to begin? Obviously, be thankful for the plethora of young talent that will soon take over the South Side. Be thankful for Avi Time (while you still can). Be thankful that taking your friends or family to a game won’t cause you to take out a second mortgage. Be thankful for the 2020 World Series and, of course, 2020 MVP Eloy Jimenez. But most importantly, be thankful that Rick Hahn’s phone stays buzzing.

Eddie O back in the booth for the Blackhawks

The Blackhawks are having a rough start to the season, but at least Eddie Olczyk is back in the booth. The longtime Blackhawks broadcaster returned to the booth on Oct. 18 after missing time while undergoing chemotherapy treatments for colon cancer.

With some of the key names from the Blackhawks’ title runs either leaving or being unable to play this season (in the case of Marian Hossa), Blackhawks fans are probably thankful to see a familiar face and hear a familiar voice during games.

Lauri Markkanen leading the Bulls rebuild

OK, there’s not much to be thankful for about the current Bulls team. At 3-13, the Bulls are tied for the fewest wins in the NBA (maybe in the long-term that’s something to be thankful for as well). However, Zach LaVine’s pending debut after his eventual return from injury should help create some excitement.

The thing Bulls fans really should be thankful for this year is the play of rookie Lauri Markkanen. The 20-year-old leads the team in scoring (14.6 points per game) and rebounds (8.3 per game) while shooting at a high percentage (34.2 percent on threes and 50.6 percent on twos). It’s only the beginning of the Bulls’ rebuild, but Markkanen is a good start.

Mitchapalooza

If a few things broke the Bears’ way, Chicagoans could have been grateful that the team was finally out of the cellar. Instead, we’ll settle for the fact that there seems to be some building blocks already in place. Mitchell Trubisky, Tarik Cohen, Leonard Floyd and Akiem Hicks seem to fit that category. Also, some may be thankful that this is likely John Fox’s last season at the helm.

Fire ending a playoff drought

After finishing dead last in MLS in 2015 and 2016, the Fire were one of the most improved teams in the league in 2017. After posting the third best record in the league, the Fire made a first playoff appearance since 2012.

The playoff run didn’t last long with the Fire losing a play-in game at home, but the arrival of Bastian Schweinsteiger and the league’s leading goal-scorer, Nemanja Nikolic, helped fill the stadium with six sellouts and gave Fire fans something to cheer for.