Bears

Niles North rallies to shock Schaumburg

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Niles North rallies to shock Schaumburg

Sunday, March 13, 2011
12:39 a.m.

By Matt Harness
Yourseason.com

John King's contributions go mostly unnoticed, but Niles North's defensive stopper made himself known Friday at New Trier.

The senior guard forced a turnover late and Andre Shaw followed with a baseline three-pointer as the 20th-ranked Vikings rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat the Schaumburg 53-52 for the program's first-ever sectional championship.

"We're a second-half team," said King, whose team won for the ninth time in a row and is 16-1 since a Dec. 30 loss to Notre Dame. "We always know we have a chance. We always know we're never out of a game."

Kyle Bolger's basket in the opening minutes of the second half gave the 15th-seeded Saxons a 36-20 lead.

King's three-point play with 2:26 to go in the third cut the deficit down to 10 before Earl Washington scored three points in the final 21.9 seconds of the quarter to leave the score 40-34.

Fourth-seeded Niles North (24-6) continued its comeback in the fourth.

Washington started an 8-0 run that ended with Mychael Henley giving the Vikings their first lead of the at 45-44 with 4:31 remaining. Jimmy Lunquist's two free throws put the Saxons (18-12) ahead 47-45, but Abdel Nader tied the game nearly two minutes later.

King then got the turnover and Nader assisted Shaw's clutch three-pointer that started Niles North's final charge toward school history.

But the Vikings had to hold their breath as Mark Bielanski's wide-open three-point effort bounced off the rim.

Playing in its second sectional final in a row, Schaumburg built up its big lead in the first half by going 15-for-16 on free throws. Bielanski's three right before the break gave the Saxons a 34-20 advantage heading into the locker room.

"Coach just told us to give it all we got," King said of Glenn Olson, who's in the his second season with the Vikings.

Nader finished with a game-high 23 points and added three blocks. Javon McDonald scored 15 for the Saxons, who went 19-for-22 on free throws. Schaumburg's Lundquist contributed 12 points in the season-ending loss.

Niles North plays No. 6-ranked Warren on Tuesday at the Waukegan Supersectional.

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 Bears position grades: Inside Linebacker

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Low

Decisions to be made on: Christian Jones (free agent), John Timu (free agent), Jonathan Anderson (free agent); Jerrell Freeman has reportedly been cut

Possible free agent targets: Demario Davis, Preston Brown, Anthony Hitchens, Avery Williamson, Navorro Bowman, Derrick Johnson

How the Bears rate Nick Kwiatkoski will be the key to figuring out what this unit will look like in 2018. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio thought Kwiatkoski finished last season strong, but strong enough to rely on him in 2018 as the starter next to Danny Trevathan?

The thing with the Bears’ inside linebackers, though: Trevathan makes whoever is playing next to him better. The problem is Trevathan hasn’t been able to stay on the field — he missed time in 2017 with a calf injury and a one-game suspension, and missed half of 2016 after rupturing his Achilles’. Trevathan hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2013, so durability is an issue for the soon-to-be 28-year-old.

So that leads to this question: Do the Bears need to find someone in free agency, regardless of how they value Kwiatkoski, who’s also missed time due to injuries in his first two years in the league?

Free agency could provide a few options. Demario Davis had a career high 97 tackles for the New York Jets last year and has never missed a game as a pro. Preston Brown had some decent production in Buffalo and also hasn’t missed a game since being drafted in 2014. Avery Williamson may not be a world-beater but has only missed one game in his four years in the NFL.

The Bears could also opt for someone who fits more of a rotational mold, like Dallas’ Anthony Hitchens, or try to lure a veteran linebacker like Navorro Bowman (who played for Vic Fangio in San Francisco) or Derrick Johnson (who Matt Nagy knows from his Kansas City days) to play next to Trevathan and/or Kwiatkoski.

The Bears could opt to keep the status quo and re-sign Christian Jones and John Timu for depth, and enter 2018 with Kwiatkoski and Trevathan as the team’s starters (Jerrell Freeman, who suffered a season-ending injury and then was hit with his second PED suspension in as many years, was cut on Tuesday). Signing a starting-caliber free agent isn’t out of the question, either, but there is a third option for the Bears if they appear to stand pat in free agency: Draft an inside linebacker in April. If that’s the route they go, Georgia’s Roquan Smith could be the guy. But again, those more pressing needs at other positions could mean the Bears don’t burn a first-round pick on an inside linebacker.

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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NBC Sports Chicago

Three Things to Watch: Blackhawks collide with Senators

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

1. Trade chips.

The Blackhawks have reached the point in their season where they have no choice but to become sellers before the Feb. 26 deadline, and we saw that when they traded Michal Kempny to the Washington Capitals on Monday for a conditional third-round pick in 2018. Tommy Wingels could also be an attractive piece for a team looking to fill out their depth.

The Senators will definitely be sellers, and wow do they have some names potentially on the market that can fetch large returns: Derrick Brassard and Mike Hoffman are two players who log top-six minutes on a nightly basis and also have term left on their contract, which is great for teams looking to load up for this year and beyond.

The biggest name to watch, probably in the league altogether, is Erik Karlsson, who could be on the move if a team offers a big enough package for the Senators to pull the trigger now as opposed to in the offseason if they feel him re-signing is a long shot. He was the best defenseman last season, and if a team steps up to get him, they're getting two possible postseason runs out of him.

2. Artem Anisimov's experiment at left wing not working.

Joel Quenneville has tried rekindling the magic between Anisimov, Nick Schmaltz and Patrick Kane as of late, only this time Anisimov is playing the wing and it just hasn't been very effective. The trio was on the ice for each of the two 5-on-5 goals the Kings scored on Monday, and Anisimov completely lost his man on the first one.

It's important to establish a consistent left winger for Schmaltz and Kane, and maybe putting Alex DeBrincat up there is something you consider going forward as part of a long-term solution. Move Anisimov back down as the third-line center to play in more of a defensive role and continue using his big body on power plays for his offensive abilities might be the best bet.

3. Win the special teams battle.

In their last meeting against Ottawa on Jan. 9, the Blackhawks went 4-for-6 on the power play and 4-on-4 on the penalty kill in an 8-2 win. And those are two areas to look out for again.

The Senators own the 28th-ranked power play with a 16.1 percent success rate and 29th-ranked penalty kill with a 74.5 percent success rate. Get ready for another offensive outburst?