Bears

IHSA Championship Hoops Preview: 3A & 4A

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IHSA Championship Hoops Preview: 3A & 4A

Wednesday, March 16, 2011
Posted 11:13 p.m.
By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Comcast SportsNet is your number one source for high school athletics in Chicagoland. Its basketball championship weekend in Peoria and well have highlights of the 4A and 3A title and third place games.

Well also pay a visit to Hales Franciscan High School, where the Spartans celebrate their 2A title. Plus Chuck Garfien profiles a World War II veteran who will get the chance to go on a very special trip thanks to some free throw shooters at Elgins Westminster Christian High School.

And well tell you about an athlete at Lincoln-Way West who balances three sports and contributes at the highest level in the classroom. All this plus a special montage of the best highlights of the basketball season.

Here is a capsule of each team that will compete for a title in Peoria this weekend:

3A:

Brooks (28-3): Can the Chicago Public League champs also tame the field at state? The Eagles have already turned some heads in the playoffs, as they outlasted Morgan Park for the sectional title and then used a 20-0 surge to outlast Lindblom in the supersectional. Their offense revolves around their Wisconsin-bound senior guard, George Marshall. He led all scorers with 18 points in Tuesday nights victory. Mike Powell and brothers Keith and Kevin Gray are also key contributors.

Rock Island (28-3): The Rocks will take on the aforementioned Eagles in the semifinals Friday afternoon at 12:15. And if youre looking for star power on Rock Islands roster, look no further than future Stanford Cardinal Chasson Randle. Chicagoans got a look at Randle in the City-Suburban Showdown last month. Randle had a double-double (20 points, 12 rebounds) in Tuesdays supersectional victory over Aurora Central Catholic. The Rocks have a fine basketball tradition, as they have advanced to state three times since 1988.
Centralia (29-4): Legendary coach Arthur Trout guided the Centralia High School to three state titles in the first half of the 20th century. Current head coach Lee Bennett and his talented team hope to leave a similar legacy. The Orphans claimed the Springfield Supersectional title on Tuesday with a 48-44 victory over Morton. Guard Bryan Betts, R.J. Kwiatkowski and Tyler Obermeier make up part of a well-balanced attack. This will be Centralias first trip to state since 2002, when they took home a third place trophy.

North Chicago (17-13): Raise your hand if you had the Warhawks advancing to state this season. Anyone? Bueller? The Cinderellas of the north shore will enter the grand ballroom at 2pm on Friday, as they dance with Centralia. NC had a losing record when the playoffs began. And they arent just surprising their opponentstheyre dismantling them. North Chicago used a 26-2 run to overwhelm a tough Crane team Tuesday night in Hoffman Estates. Maurice Gordon, Jaylen Linson and Marzhon Bryant are among the ones to contain on the Warhawk roster.

4A:
Glenbard East (27-3): Its all coming together for Illinois State recruit Johnny Hill and the Glenbard East Rams. Hill was unstoppable in the NIU Supersectional game against Rockfords Auburn high school, scoring 32 points in a 63-51 victory. Point guard Zach Miller also got a good feel of the arena hell be playing in next season. The future Huskie tallied nine points, seven rebounds and six assists in the win. Head coach Scott Miller has completely turned the program around. His teams finished 5-20 in 02 and 03 and have been solid ever since.

Simeon (28-2): A state title in 2006. Another one in 2007. And an unexpected state championship last season. Whats left on the to-do list Wolverines head coach Robert Smith? Preserving the dynasty by winning a fourth championship in six years. Simeon endured two back-to-back losses last month but has been nothing short of dominant ever since. The team is unselfish and features one of the best talents in the nationsophomore Jabari Parker. Their quest for another state title begins Friday night at 6:30 against Glenbard East.

Normal Community (27-6): Dave Witzigs first year as head coach of the Ironmen didnt do much to appease the masses in central Illinois: 4-22. But the program has grown significantly since that 1998-99 season, and Witzig has the likes of Paul Musselman, Anthony Beane and Chase Robbins to thank for it. The three all chipped in nicely in Tuesdays 59-48 win over DePaul-bound Jamee Crockett and Crete-Monee. Normal will take on Warren in the late game on Friday night (8:15pm).

Warren (30-3): The key to the Blue Devil attack revolves around their talented front line, which features Darius Paul (Brandon Pauls brother), Jeremiah Jackson and Nathan Boothe. Coach Chuck Ramseys squad took down star Abdel Nader and Niles North in the Waukegan Supersectional Tuesday. Warren opened some eyes in the Pontiac Holiday Tournament as they pushed Simeon to the brink of defeat, coming up short 58-50. They cannot afford to look ahead to a possible rematch in Saturdays final, though.

Each game of the 3A and 4A championships can be found on WMAQ-DT 5.2. Check us out this Saturday night at 11:00. High School Lites streams live at csnchicago.com.

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

Collecting some final thoughts on if Tarik Cohen isn't getting enough snaps for the Bears

John Fox on Friday sought to clarify some comments he made earlier in the week about Tarik Cohen that seemed to follow some spurious logic. Here’s what Fox said on Wednesday when asked if he’d like to see Cohen be more involved in the offensive game plan:

“You’re looking at one game,” Fox said, referencing Cohen only playing 13 of 60 snaps against the Green Bay Packers. “Sometimes the defense dictates who gets the ball. I think from a running standpoint it was a game where we didn’t run the ball very effectively. I think we only ran it 17 times. I believe Jordan Howard, being the fifth leading rusher in the league, probably commanded most of that. I think he had 15 carries. 

“It’s a situation where we’d like to get him more touches, but it just didn’t materialize that well on that day. But I’d remind people that he’s pretty high up there in both punt returns, he’s our leading receiver with 29 catches, so it’s not like we don’t know who he is.”

There were some clear holes to poke in that line of reasoning, since the question wasn’t about Cohen’s touches, but his snap count. Cohen creates matchup problems when he’s on the field for opposing defenses, who can be caught having to double-team him (thus leaving a player uncovered, i.e. Kendall Wright) or matching up a linebacker against him (a positive for the Bears). The ball doesn’t have to be thrown Cohen’s way for his impact to be made, especially if he’s on the field at the same time as Howard. 

“They don’t know who’s getting the ball, really, and they don’t know how to defend it properly,” Howard said. “… It definitely can dictate matchups.”

There are certain scenarios in which the Bears don’t feel comfortable having Cohen on the field, like in third-and-long and two-minute drills, where Benny Cunningham’s veteran experience and pass protection skills are valued. It may be harder to create a mismatch or draw a double team with Cohen against a nickel package. It's easier to justify leaving a 5-foot-6 running back on the sidelines in those situations. 

But if the Bears need Cohen to be their best playmaker, as offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains said last month, they need to find a way for him to be on the field more than a shade over one in every five plays. As Fox explained it on Friday, though, it’s more about finding the right spots for Cohen, not allowing opposing defenses to dictate when he’s on the field. 

“We have Tarik Cohen out there, we're talking about touches, not play time, we're talking about touches so if they double or triple cover him odds are the ball is not going to him, in fact we'd probably prefer it didn’t,” Fox said. “So what I meant by dictating where the ball goes, that's more related to touches than it is play time. I just want to make sure I clarify that. So it's not so much that they dictate personnel to you. Now if it's in a nickel defense they have a certain package they run that may create a bad matchup for you, that might dictate what personnel group you have out there not just as it relates to Tarik Cohen but to your offense in general. You don't want to create a bad matchup for your own team. I hope that makes sense.”

There’s another wrinkle here, though, that should be addressed: Loggains said this week that defenses rarely stick to the tendencies they show on film when Cohen is on the field. That’s not only a problem for Cohen, but it’s a problem for Mitchell Trubisky, who hasn’t always had success against defensive looks he hasn’t seen on film before. And if the Bears are trying to minimize the curveballs Trubisky sees, not having Cohen on the field for a high volume of plays would be one way to solve that. 

This is also where the Bears’ lack of offensive weapons factors in. Darren Sproles, who Cohen will inexorably be linked to, didn’t play much as a rookie — but that was on a San Diego Chargers team that had LaDanian Tomlinson, Keenan McCardell and Antonio Gates putting up big numbers. There were other options on that team; the Bears have a productive Howard and a possibly-emerging Dontrelle Inman, but not much else. 

So as long as Cohen receives only a handful of snaps on a team with a paucity of playmakers, this will continue to be a topic of discussion. Though if you’re looking more at the future of the franchise instead of the short-term payoffs, that we’re having a discussion about a fourth-round pick not being used enough is a good thing. 

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

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USA TODAY

Are Blackhawks starting to find their early season form again?

The goals came in bunches for the Blackhawks in their Oct. 5 season opener against the Pittsburgh Penguins. For the Blackhawks, it was a nice memory, albeit one that seems far away given they went from scoring at will through their first two games to not being able to buy a goal for a sizeable stretch.

As for the Penguins, well, you figure their memoires of that game means they’ll be more than a little ticked off when the Blackhawks arrive on Saturday night.

“We’ve been on the wrong side of a few losses like that,” Patrick Sharp said. “You certainly remember them more than other losses.”

This is kind of/sort of about the Penguins, who in the first meeting were clearly tired not only from two Stanley Cup runs but also from their season opener/banner raising the prior night. But it’s more about the Blackhawks who, after a lengthy scoring drought, are starting to get their offense going again (15 goals in their last three games).

And while they’d like to shore up their defense – they blew a 4-1 lead vs. New Jersey and just about did it again vs. the New York Rangers – overall they’re trending in the right direction. And just as they face the team against whom they played their best game of the season.

“I’m sure [the Penguins] will be excited about playing us and making things better. They’re playing well, winning some games. For [us], we’re looking for more consistency in our game with the puck and we’re generating some offense,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “I still think it has some ways to improve. That was one night, whether it was the quality of the plays we made or [what], we seemed like we had the puck a lot and did some good things with it. We haven’t seen much of that lately so I think that maybe we can recapture a little bit of that with the puck as well.”

In the past three games the Blackhawks haven’t just reignited their offense, they’ve regained their confidence. Their lines are finding some chemistry. As frustrating as their scoring drought was, they’re hoping it’s behind them.

“At some point in the season I feel like every team goes through it, either in the beginning, the middle or toward the end. You just don’t want to have it right at the end of the season,” Ryan Hartman said. “You can look at it in in a positive way. Hopefully we got that part over with and now we’re just coming in confident and hopefully we put the puck in the net.”

The Blackhawks got off to a hot goal-scoring start against the Penguins by doing the right things: shooting, pouncing on rebounds, getting traffic in front of the net and capitalizing. As they head into their 20th game of the season, the Blackhawks are finally getting back to what worked so well in Game 1.

“Things dried up for a bit but I think we have a good rotation going here with the lines; the chemistry’s starting to fill in a little bit. Some guys are stepping up. [Artem] Anisimov had a big night and Brinsky’s [Alex DeBrincat] playing great. It’s good to see those guys step up. It makes you want to be that next guy who’s called up to step up in the next game,” Patrick Kane said. “It’s good to see some goals go into the net. More important, it’s good to see some wins. But we’re playing the right way and hopefully this will trend in the right direction for us.”