Cubs

Rock Island wins 3A Title in double OT thriller

415929.jpg

Rock Island wins 3A Title in double OT thriller

Saturday, March 19, 2011
Posted: 11:16 p.m.

By Michael O'Brien
YourSeason.com

PEORIA Romal Davis never dreamed that hed be standing at center court wearing a Class 3A state championship medal around his neck. At least not while wearing a Rock Island jersey.

Davis, 6-foot-3 senior, grew up in Chicago and played basketball at Orr his freshman year. The Spartans, led by Illinois recruit Mycheal Henry, were considered to be one of the favorites to win the 3A state championship this season.

Davis moved to Rock Island with his mother after sophomore year and ended up playing with another Division I bound star, Chasson Randle.

I knew they had a good team here when I moved, Davis said. I dont know that I actually thought about winning a state title, though.

Rock Island did just that on Saturday, beating Centralia 50-40 in two overtimes to give the school its first state title. The Rocks finished second in the first title game back in 1908 and finished second again in 1910.

Randle, a Stanford recruit, fouled out of the game with 57 seconds to play in the first overtime.

Hes our leading scorer so that was a blow, Davis said. We just knew we had to find another way to win. Were more than just Chasson.

The Rocks did just that, in large part because of 6-8 junior Denzel McCauley. The big man blocked Desmond Rushs attempted game-winner at the end of the first overtime and dominated the boards in the second overtime.

It was Davis who put the Rocks ahead for good with a rebound and basket with 3:38 to play in the second overtime. Rock Island shot 8-of-10 from the free-throw line from then on out to seal the win.

My role is the sixth man, Davis said. I started some games but it became about me coming off the bench. That was where I was most valuable to the team.

Davis finished with 10 points and nine rebounds. Randle led the Rocks (30-3) with 13 points and seven rebounds. McCauley finished with nine points and 17 rebounds.

We were just so focused the last two days and we did it, Randle said. It didnt matter that I fouled out, everybody contributed.

Centralia also had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but Bryan Betts missed a jumper at the buzzer.

R.J. Kwiatkowski led the Orphans (30-5) with 15 points and Betts added 13. Centralias tallest player is 6-3 and the Orphans were unable to handle even Rock Islands modestly-sized teams. The Rocks won the battle of the boards 38-24.

We had different guys step up throughout the day, said Rock Island coach Thom Sigel, who is the second coach in state history to win championships at two schools; he won the Class A title with Rock Falls in 1999. Weve got the seniors who put a lot into it; they showed a lot of character.

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Albert Almora's strong connection to Team USA baseball

Who was Theo Epstein’s first draft pick with the Cubs?

The answer to that trivia question will always and forever be Albert Almora Jr. picked sixth overall in the 2012 amateur draft.

In some ways, the young outfielder from Florida became the forgotten man in the stable of can’t-miss prospects that Epstein and top lieutenants Jed Hoyer and Jason MacLeod amassed since their arrival over six years ago. While players such as Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ zoomed through the minor leagues on their way to the majors, Almora took a different path – one that included seven different stops over parts of five developmental seasons before he broke into the big leagues during the 2016 season.

But Almora’s road to the majors began years before he was selected by the Cubs, when he began playing for Team USA as a 13-year-old. Over the next several years, Almora played for the Red, White & Blue seven times, his final appearance coming in 2015. The seven appearances are the most in the history of USA Baseball, and Almora recognizes the impact his time with the national squad had on his playing career.

“[It was] one of the best experiences of my life," he said. "Every year I had something special to play with, unbelievable guys, went to crazy places, and out of those six years, five of them came with a gold medal so that was pretty special as well. Also, that helped me in my baseball life, how to experience things and learn from those type of experiences.

“I’m a Cubbie and that’s what’s on my chest right now, but Team USA will always have a special place in my heart.”

While Almora carries those national team experiences with him every day, his main focus coming into the 2018 season is becoming a consistent difference-maker. Almora made only 65 starts during the 2017 campaign, and 63 percent of his at-bats last year came against left-handed pitching, against which he hit a robust .342. That led to a platoon role in a crowded outfield, with Jason Heyward, Kyle Schwarber, Jon Jay, Ian Happ and Ben Zobrist all taking turns on the merry-go-round. But with the departure of Jay, Almora believes his time is near.

“I have the most confidence in myself that I can play every day, but I try not to think about that kind of stuff because it’s out of my control," Almora said. "All I control is like last year what I did; whenever I was given an opportunity, I tried to do my best and help the team win.”

Almora’s ultimate role on the 2018 Cubs remains to be seen, but there’s no question that Theo’s first Cubs pick will earn whatever role he ends up with, and the foundation of Almora’s journey to Clark and Addison was laid many summers ago during his time with Team USA.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

hahn-pod.jpg
USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Rick Hahn gives an update on the state of the White Sox rebuild

In this episode of the SportsTalk Live Podcast, Danny Parkins (670 The Score), Chris Bleck (ESPN 1000) and Scott King (WGN Radio) join David Kaplan on the panel.

Ryan Pace’s offseason begins. Josh Sitton and Jerrell Freeman are gone, but what will he do with Kyle Fuller?

Plus, Rick Hahn joins Kap from Glendale, Ariz., to discuss the state of the White Sox rebuild, how tough it is to keep their best prospects in the minors and why Jose Abreu is so important for his young team?

Listen to the full episode at this link or in the embedded player below: