Bulls

Boatright leads East Aurora over Batavia

397231.jpeg

Boatright leads East Aurora over Batavia

Friday, Feb. 25, 2011
11:10 PM

By Brian Miller
YourSeason.com

There was no way East Aurora guard Ryan Boatright was walking out of the Tomcats' gym Friday night with anything but a happy ending.

Boatright scored 23 of his 33 points in the second half and single-handedly willed East in a mesmerizing fourth quarter to lead the Tomcats to a 63-59 victory over Batavia in an Upstate Eight Conference crossover home finale on senior night.

"We wanted to be on a roll entering the playoffs," said Boatright, also had nine rebounds, five assists and three steals. "I knew I had to make something happen for us to win. They were doing a good job doubling me, trying to get the ball out of my hands right away, basically saying the rest of my team's gotta beat them."

Despite a pair of No. 24's for each team being out-- leading scorer Jesse Coffey (illness) for Batavia and sharpshooter Letrell "Snoop" Viser (ankle) for East-- the Bulldogs (13-12) handled their business by using their size advantage down low to pound the Tomcats (21-5) into submission.

Cole Gardner scored 25 points to go with 17 rebounds and Elliott Vaughn had 11 points and 15 rebounds, not only keeping pace with East, but grabbing a four-point lead with six minutes remaining in the fourth.

"We had some good shots early at the start of the game, they just weren't dropping," Bulldogs coach Jim Roberts said. "

Batavia finished the fourth quarter alone with 10 offensive rebounds.

"Batavia is well-coached and they came to play," Tomcats coach Wendell Jeffries said. "We got up on them early and then they came back, took a four-point lead. And then Ryan Boatright really stepped up and showed why he's going to play in the Big East."

After that lead, Boatright made a play on every East possession.

He knocked down two free throws, went coast-to-coast for hard-earned layups on two straights possessions, knocked down two more free throws, assisted to teammate Bryan Robinson, and hit a jumper.

Then he hit perhaps his biggest shot of the night, a deep three from the left wing that gave East a 55-51 lead with 1:35 left, simultaneously bringing the crowd to its feet in a roar.

"It was game time," Boatright said. "As soon as the fourth quarter came I knew it was in me, it was hammer time, time to go. That three just came off emotion and a lot of hard work. I shoot that shot a lot of times in practice and a lot of times after practice."

Boatright came right back after that shot and stole a ball, assisting to Dominique Johnson for a layup before hitting another free throw a moment later to give East a 58-51 lead.

"He did some things in the fourth quarter that were magical," Roberts said. "He took over, but we didn't do ourselves any favors by going 7-for-20 shooting in the fourth quarter."

East seniors Johnson and John Williams (17 points) sealed the win with clutch free throws in the waning seconds, while Tom Okapal had 15 rebounds.

The only way East will see its familiar court again will be by winning the Bolingbrook 4A Regional, in which they are seeded first, to reach the sectional it will host.

The Tomcats will have to get through an opening round match and a potential third-time matchup with Neuqua Valley, meaning their are no guarantees, making Boatright's last regular season performance all the more special to him and to the fans who watched him play for four years.

"I wanted to leave with a bang," Boatright said. "I want people to remember me for something good, remember my last game. If it was a move, a shot, the win period, I wanted them to remember me because I don't know if we'll make it back here."

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

Kris Dunn to miss 4 to 6 weeks with MCL sprain

The hits keep coming for the Bulls, and after the latest one it might be time to fire up the 2019 mock drafts.

Fred Hoiberg revealed Tuesday before practice that point guard Kris Dunn suffered a moderate sprain of his left MCL in Monday’s loss to the Mavericks and will miss the next 4 to 6 weeks.

“To have him out of the lineup for an extended period, it’s extremely difficult,” Hoiberg said. “When you have a guy who is out there and really made strides over the course of last season and the summer he had and the way he played during training camp, it’s difficult to miss him.”

It’s yet another freak injury for Dunn, who suffered the injury midway through the second quarter while landing after a layup over DeAndre Jordan. Last year Dunn suffered a dislocated finger in the preseason and then suffered a concussion that cost him 11 games. A toe injury then ended his season as the tanking Bulls shut him down for the final 14 games.

But Dunn was expected to play a significant role in Year 2 of the Bulls’ rebuild. As well as leading the team in assists and being the most sure-handed closer, Dunn’s defensive prowess was going to help a Bulls team that finished 29th in efficiency and lost David Nwaba, perhaps their second best defender, in the offseason.

Even prior to Dunn’s injury the Bulls had been addressing the position behind him, claiming Tyler Ulis off waivers on Oct. 14 and signing Shaq Harrison on Sunday. They opted to keep Ryan Arcidiacono on the final roster and will now rely on some combination of those three behind Cam Payne, who tied a career high with 17 points on Saturday against the Pistons.

That’s why Dunn’s injury could affect the team more than Lauri Markkanen’s or Denzel Valentine’s. The Bulls were able to cover up Markkanen’s absence with Bobby Portis and free agent acquisition Jabari Parker, while they invested a first-round pick in wing Chandler Hutchison and guaranteed Antonio Blakeney’s contract over the summer.

There’s quantity on the Bulls’ depth chart behind Dunn, but quality is another story.

“Cam had his best game of maybe his career a couple games ago against Detroit,” Hoiberg said. “He has some things he can build on. The biggest thing at that position is you have to get us organized at both ends of the floor. That’s where Kris had taken a big step in the right direction with that. Arcidiacono is one of the better communicators and hardest-playing guys on our team. We’ve got guys who have some starting experience. It’s big shoes to fill. But I’m confident our guys will give great effort.”

It could mean more ball-handling responsibilities for Zach LaVine, who has been a terror in pick-and-roll sets three games into the season. Though he’s only averaged 2.7 assists, the Bulls offense has been humming, with his 32.3 points per game leading the way. Using LaVine as a primary ball handler could allow Hoiberg to run a point guard-less offense and mix and match the other backcourt position.

They’ll have to do it on the fly. The group of point guards the Bulls will face in the next 11 days include Kemba Walker (Charlotte) twice, Trae Young (Atlanta), Steph Curry (Golden State), Jamal Murray (Denver), Darren Collison (Indiana) and James Harden (Houston). It could get a lot worse for the Bulls before it gets any better, and with Markkanen, Valentine and now Dunn on the mend. 

For those looking into such things three games into the season, the Bulls are currently tied with the Thunder, Cavaliers and Lakers for the worst record in the league. The NBA changed its Lottery rules for this upcoming season, with the three worst teams in the league all sharing the same odds at receiving the top pick in the draft.

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

No-brainer: The Cubs should absolutely bring back Jesse Chavez in 2019 bullpen

Should the Cubs bring Jesse Chavez back for the 2019 bullpen?

This question shouldn't have anywhere near the polarizing effect the Daniel Murphy query had earlier this week, and for good reason.

It's hard to find any real downside for the Cubs working Chavez back into the fold next season. 

Sure, he's 35 and he'll turn 36 in August, but Chavez just had far and away the best season of his 11-year career and all signs point to it being legit.

He won't have a 1.15 ERA forever, of course, but he clearly found something with his mechanics that helped lead to the remarkable consistency he showed in a Cubs uniform (4 saves, 4 holds, 1.15 ERA, 0.79 WHIP, 42 Ks in 39 IP). 

The Cubs will be looking to add some reinforcements to their bullpen this winter and Chavez fits the bill in many areas.

When asked about how to address the bullpen this winter, Theo Epstein said his front office will be "looking for guys who can throw strikes and execute a gameplan and take the ball and pitch in big spots."

The Cubs have publicly placed an emphasis on "strike-throwers" out of the bullpen over the last two winters now and that is right up Chavez's alley.

He threw 68.5 percent first-pitch strikes while with the Cubs, which would've ranked near the top of the league in 2018, right up there with aces like Miles Mikolas, Clayton Kershaw, Aaron Nola and Justin Verlander. Among all relievers, Chavez ranked 5th in baseball in first-pitch strike percentage in the second half.

Expanding further (since the first pitch isn't the only one that matters): Chavez threw the fourth-most strikes in baseball among all MLB relievers after the All-Star Break. Since the day Chavez put on a Cubs uniform, Philadelphia's Tommy Hunter (70.5 percent) was the only reliever in baseball (minimum 30 innings) to throw a higher percentage of pitches for strikes than Chavez (69.8 percent).

If you want strikes, there's no better reliever on the market right now than Chavez.

He also shouldn't be all that expensive at age 35, even despite the breakout and high level of importance placed upon relievers these days. A similar deal to the one Brian Duensing got last winter - $7 million over 2 years - seems appropriate and would be a steal if Chavez can continue to find even a modicum of the success he had since putting on a Cubs uniform.

Speaking of the Cubs uniform, Chavez reportedly doesn't want to wear another logo in 2019, saying this after the NL Wild-Card Game:

That was an emotional time, but Chavez repeatedly raved about the Cubs clubhouse and culture throughout his time in Chicago and really appreciated the way his teammates made him feel comfortable from Day 1.

When the Cubs first acquired Chavez in that under-the-radar trade, they touted his versatility which has become a valuable asset, especially in today's game where relievers are often asked to pitch multiple innings. If necessary, he could also represent depth for the starting rotation, having made 70 starts over his MLB career. 

Unless there's a surprising market that develops for Chavez, bringing him back to the North Side of Chicago on a 1- or 2-year deal is a no-brainer.