Stagg stuns No. 8 Thornton in conference play


Stagg stuns No. 8 Thornton in conference play

Friday, Feb. 11, 2011
10:50 p.m.

By Tim O'Brien

Hanging with No. 8 Thornton through three quarters, Staggs Dan Ahern knew if the Chargers could just stick around they would be able to make a play late.

With Ahern and teammate Darius Draper taking charge in the fourth, it was Stagg coming through in the end with a 58-53 upset of the Wildcats.

We always trust our defense, and when you make a big stop youve got to get down on the offensive end and score too, Ahern said. Thats what we did.

Draper finished with 21 points, 11 rebounds and three blocks for Stagg (17-5, 8-3) in the SouthWest Suburban Red win. Ahern added 16 points (3-for-6 three-point shooting).

The loss for Thornton (19-2, 10-1) was the first defeat since the school entered the SouthWest Suburban conference in 2009.

We got up on them, but we didnt play intelligently, Thornton coach Troy Jackson said. We rushed some shots and played undisciplined. They took it away from us.

Bernard Brames 16 points and 12 rebounds paced Thornton with Antonio Levy scoring 11.

Down 45-43 to start the fourth, Ahern opened the quarter with a high-arcing three-pointer from the corner to give Stagg its first lead since the second quarter.

Draper scored on a driving floater and added two free throws with Ryan Dahleen hitting one free throw to extend the lead.

Levy answered with a floater of his own to get Thornton within four at 51-47. But in a scrum for a loose ball on the following inbounds, Staggs Brett Kaiser came up with the ball, somehow finding an open Ahern on the arc.

The senior guards shot hit nothing but net as the Chargers went up 54-47 with three minutes to go.

(Thornton) played great defense the whole game so I didnt get many open looks, Ahern said. Ill take whatever I can get however I can get it.

Thornton drew within three points following a Jay Parker jumper with 53 seconds left, but Levy missed two three-point attempts late. With one last shot, Scott Lyons stole the Thornton inbounds pass and tipped it to Draper who hit an open Kaiser at the other end of the court for a wide-open, upset-clinching layup.

Weve been playing our best basketball of the season lately, Draper said. We knew we could play with them. This is as big a win as weve had in my three varsity years. This was by far our best team effort.

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?


Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant,'s Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.