Cubs

Can Bogan beat Simeon in the Red-South?

600388.png

Can Bogan beat Simeon in the Red-South?

Circle this date on your calendar: Jan. 25.

Bogan at Simeon. Showdown in the Public League's Red-South. The nation's top-ranked team against...well, how good is Bogan?

"This is my best team," said Bogan coach Arthur Goodwin. "We're not big but we've played together for four years. We are well-disciplined, fast and play hard-nosed man-to-man defense. We have seven good players, including four Division I players."

Bogan was 20-7 in Goodwin's first year, 19-8 in his second, including a 69-60 loss to Simeon. After Wednesday's 66-42 victory over Du Sable, the Bengals are 5-0 and rated among the top 10 teams in the Chicago area. They'll meet Rockford Guilford on Saturday at the Peoria Shootout.

"The key to our success is doing fundamental things right, make the extra pass, play tough defense, box out," Goodwin said. "And we need Buckner to control the team and be the leader."

Buckner is Ronnell Buckner, a 5-foot-10 senior whom Goodwin claims is one of the top five point guards in the state. A three-year starter, he averages nine points and four steals per game. He also carries a 4.0 grade point average on a 4.0 scale. He wants to be an optometrist. At the daily team study hall, he tutors other players.

"He is flying under the radar now," said Goodwin, pointing out that Buckner has scholarship offers from Southeast Louisiana and Davenport University in Iowa, an NAIA school.

Buckner played football until fifth grade. Then a friend showed him a promotional card that informed him that Michigan State star Shannon Brown and Illinois star Dee Brown would be at Foster Park Fieldhouse for a tryout for 12-year-old small fry.

"They inspired me to play basketball," Buckner said. "Football was too physical for me. I stopped playing football and began to concentrate on basketball."

His role is to demonstrate his leadership, control the team, be a coach on the floor. "I prefer passing to shooting. I make the next play look good. And I also enjoy stealing the ball and playing defense," he said.

Buckner leaves the scoring to 6-foot-3 senior DeVaughn Johnson (12 ppg), 6-foot-1 senior Kendall Wesley (15 ppg), 6-foot-5 senior Donte Jackson (10 ppg) and 5-foot-10 freshman Luwane Pipkins (7 ppg). Curiously, the team's leading scorer, 6-foot-3 senior Devonte Smith (17 ppg), comes off the bench. Johnson had 30 points and eight rebounds in the victory over Du Sable.

Goodwin believes Buckner, Johnson, Pipkins and Smith are Division I players. He insists Pipkins is one of the best freshmen in the state. He describes Johnson as a sleeper who is coming on strong.

"Two years ago, we won the regional against Morgan Park and Wayne Blackshear. It was our first regional championship ever," Goodwin said. "This team can be better."

Goodwin started at Du Sable, then played for Don Pittman at South Shore and graduated in 1985. After playing basketball at Valparaiso, he returned to Chicago to coach at Perspectives for four years. He took a new charter school that won only one game in its first year, a bunch of kids who had no basketball skills, and produced a 13-game winner in his second season. Three years ago, he moved to Bogan.

"I knew Bogan didn't have a basketball reputation," he said. "I brought in some volunteer coaches with connections to the grammar schools. And I put my handprint on the program--work hard, discipline and play together.

"I didn't think about what they had done before. I knew Bogan was a football school in the 1980s and 1990s. There are a lot of football trophies in the school. Now we want to get some basketball trophies."

Goodwin doesn't waste any words in professing that he has what it takes to build a winning program at Bogan.

"I'm a point guard, a born leader. I've been a floor leader all my life," he said. "I have a natural eye for the game. I'm a good bench coach. I always liked to scout because I had a good eye for what players could do."

Players like Buckner, who has bought into Goodwin's philosophy.

"We are together. All of the players are in the same accord. It's all about defense. We want to go Downstate," he said. "Guard play is key for us We must handle pressure. In three years on the varsity, we have handled pressure before. We know how to handle situations. We know how to make the right decisions."

Bogan never has advanced beyond the sectional. Two years ago, the Bengals lost to Mount Carmel in the sectional. Last year, they lost to St. Rita in the regional. They know Simeon, Morgan Park and Harlan await them in the Red-South.

"We have to stay focused and make good decisions down the stretch," Buckner said. "I think we have more quickness than other teams.

"We have a lot support, too. For our first game, it was sold out. Kids were making posters. There were flags on cars, things we never saw before."

Remember the date, Jan. 25.

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

Yu Darvish and Cubs pull off dramatic comeback win over Dodgers

There were some added stakes to Saturday night’s Cubs-Dodgers matchup. Darvish made his first start at Dodger Stadium since his infamous Game 7 loss in the 2017 World Series, looking for a great effort in front of a fan base that had their up-and-downs in terms of their relationship with him. He (maybe) took a small jab at the Dodgers before the game had even started, telling the Los Angeles Times that he wasn't worried about being booed because “the Dodgers don't have many fans here in the first three innings, so maybe it will be on the quieter side.”

Well Dodgers faithful certainly got the message and made sure to let Darvish hear it.

However, Darvish got the last laugh on Saturday night. He pitched a stellar seven innings. Over those seven innings, Darvish gave up 1 ER on 2 hits and also notched 10 strikeouts.

Darvish has been hitting his stride as of late, maintaining a 2.96 ERA over his last four starts.

All of that being said, it would be remiss of me not to mention the contributions of Darvish’s teammates. His great outing helped keep the Cubs in the game, but the gutsy performances of Anthony Rizzo and Pedro Strop are what won the contest.

Dodgers All-Star relief pitcher Kenley Jansen had a 10-game scoreless streak coming into Saturday night, but one swing of Rizzo’s bat was all that was needed to restore balance to the everlasting battle of pitcher versus hitter. After Jansen hit Kris Bryant with a pitch to put him on base, Rizzo activated “clutch mode”, mashing a 400-foot bomb out to right field.

Though small, Saturday night’s homer gives Rizzo a three-game hitting streak, perhaps forecasting that things are trending  upwards for the first baseman as the Cubs look to close out the series against the Dodgers with a win on Sunday night. And not to be left out of the fun, Pedro Strop came in to face the Justin Turner, MVP hopeful Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy and Matt Beaty to nail down the save.

Never afraid of high-pressure moments, Stop came through big time.

Strop got a ground out from Turner, struck out Bellinger and Beaty in his 15-pitch save effort. This was a much-needed win for the Cubs, who have well-documented struggles on the road. As they look to split the four-game set with the Dodgers on Sunday night, the Cubs can be pleased with their fight this week.

Saturday’s win over the Dodgers was the Cubs first win of the season after trailing through six innings, as they were 0-23 in such situations prior to the victory. Amid a season that has been fraught with injury and general roster construction concerns, it was wonderful to see the Cubs pull out a tough win lead by the much-maligned Darvish and the never-quit attitude of his teammates.

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

For on-the-rise White Sox, learning to win also means learning to lose

The White Sox lost Saturday night.

That’s baseball, of course, they’re not all going to be winners. And this rebuilding franchise has seen plenty of losses. But the feelings have been so good of late — whether because of Eloy Jimenez’s 400-foot homers or Lucas Giolito’s Cy Young caliber season to this point or a variety of other positive signs that make the White Sox future so bright — that losing Saturday to the first-place New York Yankees seemed rather sour.

Obviously there will be plenty more losses for this White Sox team before the book closes on the 2019 campaign. Back under .500, these South Siders aren’t expected to reach elite status before all the pieces arrive, and it would be no shock if they’re removed from the playoff race in the American League by the time crunch time rolls around in September.

But don’t tell these White Sox that an 8-4 defeat is a return to reality or a reminder that this team is still a work in progress. Even if, for a lot of players, development is still occurring at the major league level, the “learning experiences” that have been such a large part of the conversation surrounding this team in recent seasons and their daily goal of winning baseball games aren’t mutually exclusive.

“The Yankees are sitting in first place and they lost two games in a row,” catcher James McCann said Saturday night, providing a reminder of how the first two games of this weekend series went. “Just because you're expected to win and expected to be World Series contenders doesn't mean you're not going to lose ballgames. It's how you bounce back.

“And it doesn't mean you're going to win tomorrow, either. It's just, how do you handle a defeat? How do you handle a bad at-bat? How do you handle a bad outing, whatever it may be? But it doesn't mean that we step back and say, ‘Oh, we're back under .500, we're supposed to lose.’

“We expect to win when we show up to the ballpark. You can take learning experiences whether you win or lose. Do I think a game like tonight reminds us we're supposed to be in a rebuilding mode? No. We still expect to win, and we're going to show up tomorrow with that mentality.”

Maybe that’s a description of the much-discussed “learning to win” young teams supposedly need to do on the road to contender status. Maybe that can’t happen until a team figures out how to bounce back from a defeat — until it learns how to lose and how to act in the wake of a loss.

For all McCann’s certainty about the team’s expectations on a daily basis, his explanation was peppered with questions. He said he’s seen the answer to “how do you bounce back?” from this club, and his three-run homer in the eighth inning Saturday night was fairly convincing evidence that the White Sox didn’t use up all their fight just getting back to .500.

So while the White Sox know they won’t win every game — that no team will — they need to know how they handle defeat. Losing, it turns out, might end up being more instructive about when this team is ready to win.

“I think we've done a pretty good job (bouncing back),” McCann said. “You look at the road trip in Houston and Minnesota where we took two out of four from a good Houston team and then played really not very good baseball for three days in Minnesota only to come home and have an extremely good homestand.

“It's the big picture. It's not the very next day. It's not, ‘We've got to bounce back and win.’ It's not a must-win situation in the middle of June. But it's how do you handle yourself? How does a game like tonight, do you show up flat tomorrow and let it snowball into a three-, four-game spiral? Or do you fight?

“And that's what this team's been really good at doing is fighting and not giving in.”

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.