Preps Talk

Maine South eyes another title run

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Maine South eyes another title run

Personally, Maine South coach Dave Inserra admits that he has daily thoughts about last year's heartbreaking 24-22 loss to Stevenson in the second round of the Class 8A playoff.

"We have to overcome it. It shows how hard it is to win a state championship, for everything to fall in place," Inserra said. "We lacked enthusiasm last year. We weren't ready to play against Stevenson.

"We got down big (the Hawks trailed 24-7 in the third quarter). Then we started to roll. But you have to step on the field that way. You can't wait until the fourth quarter."

So as he prepares for the 2012 campaign--Maine South opens at Warren in Gurnee on Aug. 24, then plays at Wheaton Warrenville South on Aug. 31--Inserra is looking for a measure of enthusiasm that he insists was missing a year ago.

"Enthusiasm is playing with confidence, getting the ball rolling," Inserra said. "You could see it at Stevenson when we were making our comeback. Kids play with emotion. When they don't, when you have to pretend, it doesn't get you anywhere. It is such a rough, tough, hard game. You have to make it fun."

Maine South usually plays with emotion and enthusiasm. The Hawks usually make the game fun. In Inserra's 11 years, they have won 89 percent (126-15) of their games. The won state championships in 2008, 2009 and 2010 and finished second in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

This year? "The sky is the limit in terms of what we can do. Potentially, this team has the ability to be among the top three of all the teams I have coached," said Inserra, ranking them with the 2003 team quarterbacked by junior Sean Price and the 2008 powerhouse led by quarterback Charlie Goro and running back Matt Perez.

"We have a top-notch quarterback and team leader (Matt Alviti) and our offensive line is coming back. Our biggest issues are a tough schedule and a young defense. We have the right guys in place on defense and they can be very good. But they don't have a ton of experience."

Alviti, who is committed to Northwestern, is the key. He guided Maine South to the Class 8A championship as a sophomore. He passed for over 3,150 yards in 14 games as a sophomore and over 2,220 yards in 11 games as a junior. He has thrown for 54 touchdowns.

"He can make any throw. That sets him apart from other quarterbacks. He has such a strong arm, great mechanics," Inserra said. "My mouth opens and I stare at times: 'What a play.' But he has to do more with his legs this year. He has a better receiving corps than last year and he will run more behind a good offensive line. When he can run the ball, it makes defending the pass that much harder."

But Inserra is looking for more emotion and enthusiasm from Alviti, whom he ranks as the best quarterback he has produced, better than Price and Goro. "His skill sets are definitely above everybody else. He can go farther in college than any quarterback we have had," the coach said.

"But I continue to get on him and remind him that as a sophomore he played with youthful enthusiasm. As a senior, he is a leader but we need that enthusiasm, too. He has to show it so the team sees it...energy, excitement. When he throws a touchdown pass, don't let it be old. Celebrate, enjoy, have fun."

Alviti will have the luxury of running and throwing behind a strong offensive line headed by 6-foot-3, 275-pound tackle Pat Maloney, 6-foot-2, 285-pound guard Dan Poulos and 6-foot-2, 230-pound center Donnie Nordstrom and a talented receiving corps headed by 6-foot-4, 230-pound tight end John Solari and wide receivers Mike Bosco and Frankie Perrone.

Maloney, who is committed to Ball State, will play 60 percent at defensive tackle. Inserra ranks him as one of the three leading two-way linemen he has coached. Poulos, who scored 33 on his ACT, is attracting attention from Ivy League schools.

Maloney, Nordstrom and Bosco will be among five players who will start both ways, but not to worry. Inserra reminds he had six two-ways starters in 2008 and Perez and quarterback Tyler Benz started both ways in 2009.

"When you have good athletes, you use them," he said.

Anthony Mitchell, a 5-foot-10, 170-pound senior, will get the ball at running back. Clay Burdelik, a 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior, will start at safety for the second year in a row and back up Mitchell.

The defensive leader will be 5-foot-11, 195-pound senior linebacker Noah Meyer, a returning starter who also will see duty at wide receiver. Meyer must fill the void left by two outstanding graduates, Luke Lenti and Tyler Fahey.

"We must be toughest on ourselves," Inserra summed up. "We must meet our expectations. We must be our own toughest opponent."

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

IHSA Football Playoff Pairings Show Roundup

CLASS 1A

Revealing the Class 1A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 1A Bracket

CLASS 2A

Revealing the Class 2A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 2A Bracket

CLASS 3A

Revealing the Class 3A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 3A Bracket

CLASS 4A

Revealing the Class 4A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 4A Bracket

Predicting Class 1A-4A

CLASS 5A

Revealing the Class 5A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 5A Bracket

CLASS 6A

Revealing the Class 6A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 6A Bracket

CLASS 7A

Revealing the Class 7A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 7A Bracket

CLASS 8A

Revealing the Class 8A Bracket

Analyzing the Class 8A Bracket

Class 7A and Class 8A Predictions

 

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

In ugly home opener, Lauri Markkanen gives a glimmer of hope

Keeping the game simple is often a tough task for rookies entering the NBA, but it seems Lauri Markkanen has been a quick learner in that aspect.

Through two games he’s probably the lone bright spot, especially after the Bulls’ cringe-inducing 87-77 loss to the San Antonio Spurs in their home opener at the United Center.

Jumper not falling? Okay, go to the basket.

“It wasn’t falling so I tried to get to the rim a couple times,” Markkanen said. “At the end, I was like let’s do it and I connected on a 3-pointer, I felt more open just because I was at the rim. I think that helped.”

He was asked what the difference was in the second game of his career compared to the first.

“I mean the crowd was chanting for us (tonight),” Markkanen said, referring to Thursday in Toronto.

He wasn’t attempting to display any dry wit but applying common sense seems to work for him, even though he’s been thrust into a situation after an incident that doesn’t make any sense.

With Bobby Portis and Nikola Mirotic out for the foreseeable future, playing a game-high 37 minutes will be more common than anomaly.

“Whatever your minutes are, you gotta play them to the best of your ability,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “He’s being allowed to play through some mistakes right now. He’s gonna play heavy minutes every night.”

He only shot five of 14 but achieved his first double-double with 13 points and 12 rebounds after a 17-point, eight-rebound debut against the Raptors Thursday.

No, someone didn’t open a door for a draft to come into the United Center on that three-pointer that went wide left, but it didn’t stop him from being assertive and continuing to look for his shot.

There was plenty of muck, easy to see on the stat sheet. The 38 percent shooting overall, the lack of penetration, the 29 percent shooting from 3-point range and 20 turnovers.

It’s not hard to imagine what Markkanen will look like with competent and effective NBA players around him, along with a true facilitating point guard that will find him in this offense.

“Markkanen is a wonderful player,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said. “He’s aggressive, he’s smart and obviously, he can shoot the ball. He’s just going to get better and better as he figures things out.”

He received a crash course, facing the likes of Pau Gasol, LaMarcus Aldridge and Rudy Gay Saturday night. On one instance, Gay drove baseline and made Markkanen buckle with a 3-point play.

Aldridge had 24 shots in 32 minutes as a new focal point with Kawhi Leonard out with injury.

So he’s not getting treated with kid gloves, nor is he backing down from the assignments.

“He didn’t shoot the ball well but he battled,” Hoiberg said. “He had a tough assignment with Pau, who’s gonna be in the Hall of Fame one day. Good experience. He guarded Aldridge, Rudy Gay some. He battled, he fought them.”

Even with the airball, had the moment that gives the Bulls fans hope, when he drove on Gasol, spun and hooked a lefty layup while being fouled by the veteran in the first half—giving the United Center faithful something to have faith in for a moment.

“Sometimes you get labeled as a shooter. That’s the label Lauri had,” Hoiberg said. “But he really is a complete basketball player. He’s versatile, he can put in on the deck. He slides his feet very well for a guy that’s seven feet tall, someone his age. Yeah, he’s learning on the fly. He’s gonna have ups and downs, as young as he is. He’s gonna have some struggles at times. But he’s played pretty darn well for everything he’s been through, understanding two days ago he’s gonna be in the starting lineup.”

And for all the bad air around the Bulls right now, from the on-court product to the off-court drama that seems to follow them around like Pigpen, it would be even worse if Markkanen’s first two games had him looking like a corpse, or someone who would be a couple years away from reasonably contributing to an NBA team.

“He’s good, he’s very good,” Gasol said. “I like him. I like his game.”