Bulls

Hales prevails: Spartans claim Class 2A title

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Hales prevails: Spartans claim Class 2A title

Sunday, March 13, 2011
12:20 a.m.

By Steve Tucker
Yourseason.com

PEORIA Call it two the hard way for Hales Franciscan.

To win its second state titles, Hales had to knock off two unbeaten teams in just over 24 hours and the Spartans did, capped by a 61-47 victory over Murphysboro in the Class 2A championship game Saturday night at Carver Arena.

It feels great, Hales coach Gary London said. These guys have been focused since the start of the season. This is what they wanted, and all I can say now is, mission accomplished.

For Hales (29-4), this state title served as redemption after the Spartans were upset in last years semifinals and finished third.

This is great, and its something Ive wanted for four years, Hales senior Aaron Armstead said. After last year to come back and get it done is the best feeling in the world.

We knew that (Murphysboro) would make its runs, but we weathered the storm and pulled through.

After Murphysboro (35-1) closed to within 32-31 early in the third quarter, the Spartans used an 8-0 tear to go up 40-31 before Orlando Jarrett made two free throws for the Red Devils with 1:32 to play in the quarter. In the Hales run, Aaric Armstead scored four and Cameron Johnson and Eddie Alcantara two each.

Hales started the fourth quarter with a run-out slam by Aaric Armstead, a free throw by Jerry Humphrey and a tip by Dominique Walls to go ahead 47-35 before two Muphysboro baskets by Pierre House.

Aaric Armstead led the Spartans with 18 points. Alcantara had 15 and nine rebounds, and Aaron Armstead added 12 points for Hales. Murphysboro got 16 points from Jarrett and 11 from House, who fouled out. Hales also forced 18 turnover while committing 11.

Winning this means everything to us, Alcantara said. Especially after all the running we had to do to get ready for this.

After Hales went up 8-5 on a three-pointer by Aaric Armstead, the Red Devils closed the first quarter and opened the second with a 10-2 run to go up 15-10. Four players scored for Muphysboro with Jerrod Stanton getting four points and Eben Brooks, Dylan Craig and House each adding a basket. Alcantara had Hales lone basket.

But down 19-16, an Alcantara three-pointer ignited a 10-0 burst for the Spartans, who went up 26-19. Aaron Armstead scored five in the run, including a three-point play, and Aaric Armstead, whose powerful slam early in the second quarter that appeared to inject fire in Hales, had a basket.

Murphysboro got within 26-23 before an Alcantara slam sent the Spartans to the break up 28-23.

The teams came to the state finals ranked 1-2 in the state in Class 2A. Murphysboro was No. 1 but Hales had seven votes for No. 1 to three for the Red Devils, who on Friday made their fourth state appearance since 1947 and won their first game. It was Hales fifth trip. The Spartans won Class A in 2003 finished second in 1993 and third last year.

Rockford Christian (32-1) got 29 points from Brayden Teuscher and 12 from Art Ford in a 44-38 victory over Pittsfield for third place. Brad Hamilton scored 14 for the Saukees (28-7).

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

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USA TODAY

Zach LaVine's conditioning at '70 percent' but still on schedule

Everybody saw the play, that awkward instance where Zach LaVine looked ready for his second dunk of the season but was fouled from behind by Atlanta’s Taurean Prince.

It looked as if LaVine was ready for liftoff but one of his jets misfired, sparking at least the thought of his recovery from his ACL injury being a bit off—but he laughed at the thought.

“I don’t know why everybody keeps talking about it,” LaVine said Sunday at New Orleans’ Smoothie King Center, where the Bulls held practice. “The dude stepped on the back of my foot, so I couldn’t get off the ground. Everybody’s wondering if I’m okay, yeah. I just missed a fouled layup.”

The adrenaline from his first two games have worn off a bit, and he missed his first four shots from the field Saturday before hitting a couple in the start of the third quarter in the Bulls’ 113-97 win over the Hawks.

He looked winded a few times during his stint and admitted his conditioning isn’t where it should be—as expected given he’s missed 11 months of real basketball. He said his conditioning is at about “70 percent”, and you can certainly see it in his jump shot not being as fluid as it was last season in Minnesota.

“It was feeling good in practice but in games it’s seventy,” LaVine said. “Playing defense, getting back, running the break, just getting used to it.”

Add to it, the Bulls cover the most halfcourt ground of any team in the NBA with their set offense and Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg has long said he’s not slowing down his offense while LaVine is in.

The shooting guard will have to catch up to the pace, and it’ll probably be better for him in the long run.

“I think it’s just ‘okay’ and rightfully so,” said Hoiberg about LaVine’s conditioning. “It’s impossible to simulate game action in practices when you’re doing individual workouts. Every time he plays that conditioning will ramp up. As he plays, it’ll get better and better. And he’s such a good and natural athlete, it’ll come back quickly.”

Hoiberg isn’t concerned about the variances in LaVine’s performances. He came out the gate with such force and adrenaline in his debut against Detroit and two days later against Miami, but it’s tailed off against Golden State and then Atlanta.

“I think Zach’s doing great,” Hoiberg said. “You look around the league where players have come back from significant injuries, he’s gonna be up and down. His first two games he’s been unbelievable. A couple games he hasn’t shot the ball great. He played unselfish basketball last night.”

LaVine’s minutes has been extended to 24 from 20, and he’ll still practice in the off-days as the Bulls want to keep his rehab on schedule as opposed to having him play heavy minutes initially.

He’ll be re-evaluated after Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia and could see his minutes rise before the Bulls host the Lakers Friday at the United Center.

“I should just get used to it,” LaVine said. “Just getting used to the swing of things. It takes a second for your body to get adjusted to it.”

Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

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Three Things to Watch: Bulls visit Pelicans

Here are Three Things to Watch when the Bulls take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight on NBC Sports Chicago and streaming live on the NBC Sports app. Coverage begins at 6:30 p.m. with Pregame Live.

1. Anthony Davis

The five-time All-Star just continues to improve. While he's not averaging career-highs in any major category, no one's going to scoff at his 26.7 points, 10.5 rebounds, 1.1 steals and 2.1 blocks in 36 minutes per game. He's shooting nearly 56 percent from the field and is on pace for a career-best in 3-pointers made, which is a pretty impressive statistic. Lauri Markkanen will have his hands full, and it may be in the Bulls' best interest to get Nikola Mirotic some early minutes to try and get physical with Davis. There's no real way to slow him down.

2. DeMarcus Cousins

And if the Bulls should so happen to get lucky and slow down Davis, there's another All-Star starter waiting alongside him. Boogie Cousins has been every bit as good as Davis this season, averaging 25.3 points, 12.7 rebounds and 5.1 assists in 36 minutes. He's certainly not as efficient as Davis (47 percent from the field, 5.0 turnovers) but is deadly inside. He's shooting a career-best 52.8 percent on 2-pointers this season, and his 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks make him a serviceable defender (although the Bulls could certainly stretch their offense to make him work more).

3. Rajon Rondo

Rondo hasn't been great in his first season with the Pellies, but perhaps he's turning things around. Beginning with his absurd 25-assist game just after Christmas, Rondo is averaging 7.4 points, 8.2 assists and 1.0 steal per game. He's allowed Jrue Holiday to play more off the ball, and while his defense is nothing to write home about he's logging solid minutes for a Pelicans team woefully short in the backcourt.