Blackhawks

Crete-Monee, Cappel hoping to catch up

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Crete-Monee, Cappel hoping to catch up

Crete-Monee coach Tom Cappel can only speculate if last week's last-second, one-point loss to Rich South cost his team the No. 3 seed in the Class AA sectional tournament at Lockport.

But he is certain of one thing. In his first season at Crete-Monee, after winning 502 games in 23 years at Hillcrest, the 64-year-old Cappel is dealing with issues that he didn't anticipate when he was hired.

"It has been different," Cappel said. "It has taken longer for the kids to get into our system. I'm used to playing one way in September, then still trying to get stuff in when the season begins. I needed more time to convince them that this works.

"I had to change my system. We're playing more man-to-man defense. They were used to one system and they liked it and were more comfortable with it. It takes a while to show how things work. When you have a summer to do it, it is easier to convince them. I'll try to work my system next year."

Cappel's system produced two Elite Eight teams at Hillcrest. His current squad is 16-6 after beating Rich Central 75-68 last Friday. This Friday, the Warriors will meet Bloom, the top-seeded team in the Lockport sectional. They have lost to the Trojans twice, including the final of the Big Dipper Holiday Tournament.

"My system is to put pressure on other teams with defensive sets, a combination of zone and man-to-man and trap," Cappel said. "I like to run but we're not running as much because we don't line up right. Our offense is inconsistent. We haven't played four quarters yet.

"I hope it gets better. I would like to be running more. I would like to be more organized. But I'm happy with where we're at and I'm trying to convince them that if they do things better, we'll go farther in the state tournament. We haven't played anyone we can't beat."

Rated among the top 15 teams in the Chicago area in the preseason, Crete-Monee has struggled at times. The Warriors have beaten only one rated team, Seton. Losses to Bloom (twice), Andrew, Notre Dame and Hillcrest "tells us that we must play better against good teams," Cappel said.

"Our cohesiveness is good. Our kids are terrific. If they realize what they can do, we can go far. Some play to play. I don't know if they realize how good they can be. We go in spurts in every game, then for a quarter we are terrific. In the final quarter or in overtime, we play with a sense of purpose. We have won four games in overtime."

But Cappel doesn't want to wait to get the desired results. When all of his players are healthy, which hasn't been too often, he is confident that they are as competitive as any team in the sectional or beyond. He just hasn't had enough time to put his act together.

"This is a bigger adjustment than I thought," he said. "I knew it would be difficult because we didn't start until September with open gym. We have to do better on two fronts -- hit more free throws at crunch time and lower our turnovers. Sometimes we go too fast and we need to slow down our thinking process."

Crete-Monee is led by one of the state's premier point guards, 6-foot-2 Michael Orris (10 points, five assists per game), who is committed to Illinois. He was slowed by a sprained ankle early but "is getting back to where we thought he would be," according to Cappel. "He sees the floor very well, can deliver the ball and breaks pressure."

Two other standouts are 6-foot-3 junior LaQuon Treadwell (10 points, nine rebounds per game), who is better known as one of the state's top football prospects in the class of 2013, and 5-foot-9 junior guard Marvie Keith (13 points per game).

Against Rich Central, Treadwell had 24 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks. Orris had 15 points and six assists.

Treadwell plays basketball as he plays football. "He is a great athlete. He has a never-say-die attitude. He competes with everyone. He has no fear. He relishes the idea of competing against whomever he has to guard. He wants to dominate them," the coach said.

But Marius Hopkins is an unsung hero. The 6-foot-2 senior (9 points per game) is described by Cappel as a lockdown defender. "I call him my Eveready battery. He never stops. He is go-go-go. He has been a key factor this year. He listens, he's quick and he is willing to sacrifice his body for the ball," he said.

Hopkins didn't play much last year. In fact, as the eighth man, he usually got on the floor only during mop-up time. "But we were winning so I didn't want to pout over it. I was looking forward to this year," he said.

He worked hard during the summer, every day he was free from his part-time job working with his mother at a cleaners to earn spending money. He came to school and worked on his defense, shooting and rebounding, often with other team members.

"My role is to bring energy to the team, get stops and defend the other team's best offensive player. I try to keep him from attacking and keep the ball out of his hands," Hopkins said.

The trick is to get all of the players on the floor at the same time. Jordan Perry, a 6-foot-3 senior, is sidelined with scarlet fever. His sub, 6-foot-4 junior Mark Conner, was all-tournament at the Big Dipper. T.J. Morris, a 5-foot-8 senior, is back after suffering pneumonia before the holidays. And 6-foot-7 sophomore Rashod Lee is back after being ineligible prior to the holidays.

"If we play together, we can beat a lot of good teams," Hopkins said. "Sometimes someone tries to do too much. But we're getting better as the season goes along. That (to Hinsdale Central) was a frustrating loss. We played hard to the end but they got the game-changing free throws.

"We can't let that bring us down. We have to learn from it. It has to motivate us for the next game. We have to play hard from the first to the fourth quarter and never let up."

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

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USA TODAY

Four takeaways: Blackhawks suffer first regulation loss, but Corey Crawford looks sharp in season debut

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 loss to the Arizona Coyotes at the United Center on Thursday:

1. Return of the Crow

The Blackhawks got their man back between the pipes after a 10-month layoff due to a concussion. And he looked like same old "Crow."

Crawford stopped 27 of 30 shots for a save percentage of .900. He faced 12 shots and eight scoring chances in the first period, but nothing too out of the ordinary. The biggest save he made was on a Michael Grabner breakaway in the third period, bailing out a turnover in the neutral zone.

"I think I felt better in the second and third," Crawford said. "But they really didn’t get that many opportunities early. It was nice. I think they flipped one in for the first one, so that was kind of good just to get in it and feel one early. We were close in that one all game and we created a lot. I thought [Antti] Raanta played really well.

"It was a tough, tough break at the end. Still felt I should have stopped that one. We were right there, we were creating a lot and gotta try to come up with that one. Just gotta forget about it and worry about the next game."

2. Alex DeBrincat, Jonathan Toews extend point streaks

The hot start continues for the Blackhawks' two leading scorers, both of whom assisted on Erik Gustafsson's goal in the second period to stretch their point streaks to six games. DeBrincat and Toews each have 10 points this season.

3. Overtime streak ends

The Blackhawks made history by forcing five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team has ever done in the four major sports (NBA, NFL, NHL, MLB). But they didn't have the comeback magic in them this time.

Entering Thursday, the Blackhawks were 1-0-1 when trailing after two periods. They were 5-28-2 last season for a win percentage of .143.

4. Familiar faces, new places

Five former Blackhawks took the ice for the Coyotes: Vinnie Hinostroza, Niklas Hjalmarsson, Jordan Oesterle, Richard Panik and Antti Raanta.

It was Hjalmarsson's first trip back to Chicago since being traded in the 2017 offseason. He received a nice video tribute during the second TV timeout of the first period, which made him very emotional.

"I almost got emotional too seeing his reaction," Toews said. "He's one of those guys you'll never forget what he meant to this locker room. He was a quiet guy in the room but we all know how he played and put everyone else before himself. Pretty cool reaction from the fans too. I think we were all sad to see him leave this locker room, he did a lot of special things and was a massive part of our championship wins. Happy for him to get that reception. It's well-deserved and obviously we miss having him around."

As far as the game, Hjalmarsson logged a team-high 22:18 of ice time and blocked three shots. Oesterle registered a secondary assist on Arizona's first goal, which was its first 5-on-5 of the season.

Hinostroza, who was also part of the Marian Hossa trade over the summer, scored twice in his return to his hometown, beating Crawford with a wrist shot to make it 2-1 in the second period and an empty-netter in the third; his second goal turned out to be the game winner, the fourth of his career and first as a member of the Coyotes.

Panik recorded four shot attempts (three on goal). And Raanta improved to 16-0-3 in his career at the United Center, a remarkable record for any goaltender in any situation.

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

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USA TODAY

Wendell Carter Jr. gets early 'learning experience' against Embiid, Sixers

PHILADELPHIA – Picture yourself at 19 years old.

Maybe you were in college. Maybe you hit the job market early.

What you likely weren’t doing was guarding one the NBA’s best centers in your first professional game.

That was the task charged to Wendell Carter Jr. in the Bulls’ 127-108 loss to the 76ers in the season opener at the Wells Fargo Center Thursday.

Carter Jr. was the seventh overall pick in the NBA draft after just one season at Duke. He earned the start in his NBA debut after an impressive preseason, but nothing could’ve prepared him for going up against Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid.

“Oh yeah, for sure,” Carter Jr. said when asked if Embiid was as impressive as he thought he’d be. “He’s a phenomenal player. He’s one of, or the best, big man in the league. Very skilled, very poised. He knows his spots on the court.

“I didn’t go out there with my best effort. It’s just a learning experience for me.”

Carter Jr. had eight points, three rebounds, three assists and a block in 20 minutes. He also picked up four fouls, which the rookie attributed to the physicality and craftiness of Embiid.

But he did flash the impressive and varied skill set that made him a high pick and such a coveted prospect. He was also able to garner the praise of the Bulls’ veterans.

“Even though Wendell got in foul trouble he was still playing (Embiid) solid,” Zach LaVine, who scored a team-high 30 points, said. “That’s a tough first game right there. But he didn’t lack for confidence. Made him take some tough shots, but he’s going to make them. He’s that type of player.”

To his credit, Carter Jr. was candid about his performance. He admitted that his emotions ran the gamut from nervous to excited to happy.

In a season that will have its ups and downs as the young Bulls develop and learn, there will likely be more games like this against other elite NBA competition. It’ll be how Carter Jr. responds that will define his career.

“It’s the first game so I don’t want to put too much on myself,” Carter Jr. said. “It would be different if it was like the 50th game or 60th game. It’s the first game. We’re just going to move on from it. We’ve got our home opener on Saturday (vs. the Pistons). That’s where my mind is right now.”

See, he’s learning already.