Cubs

Elgin upsets national power for tournament title

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Elgin upsets national power for tournament title

By Erik Jacobsen
Yourseason.com

Facing the rare situation where they werent the most talented team on the court, the Maroons played to their strengths and pulled off a stunner by beating La Lumiere (Ind.) 40-34 in the championship game of the 37th annual Elgin Holiday Tournament.

Elgin (12-1) never trailed thanks to a blistering start from beyond the three-point arc, and its defense held firm despite facing a serious height disadvantage against the Lakers.

The Maroons accepted the tournaments championship trophy for the first time since 1999 and more importantly made a major statement by vanquishing the private school from La Porte, Ind., which is renowned on a national level for developing Division-I talent.

We came out in this tournament thinking lets shock the world, Kory Brown said. This is probably one the biggest statements weve made in a long time.

Brown finished with a game-high 18 points to go with six rebounds and three blocks. Arie Williams, who joined Brown on the all-tourney team, added 13 points as the Maroons won their eighth in a row.

La Lumiere (11-2) was without Indiana recruit Hanner Perea and Purdue recruit Rapheal Davis as both players were absent for personal reasons, but it still boasted a starting lineup with three players 6-foot-7 or taller. Elgin, which has no player taller than 6-4, was also missing a starter as Gerardo Mojica was sidelined with a sprained ankle.

A matchup of two one-loss teams proved quite a draw as a big crowd witnessed the Maroons drain their first three shots from beyond the three-point arc while storming to a 15-3 lead. Williams finished with three of his teams six treys.

Ive been in a shooting slump all tournament, and I wasnt scared but maybe a little bit nervous, Williams said. After that first three went in I was in my comfort zone and I felt like everything would go smoothly.

Elgin enjoyed a 30-22 lead after the third quarter, but the Lakers made things interesting down the stretch.

A pair of free throws from Antonio Drummond pulled La Lumiere within 32-29 with 3:51 left. The Maroons responded by pushing their lead to 36-29 thanks to four free throws from Williams, two of which were the result of a technical foul assessed to the Lakers bench.

La Lumiere clawed back again as Matej Buovacs bucket with 1:45 left trimmed Elgins lead to 36-34, but the Maroons ran more than a minute off the clock on their next possession before Brown drew a foul and sank a pair of free throws.

Jay Simpson finished with 14 points to lead La Lumiere, whose only other loss this season came against national power Oak Hill Academy. The Lakers made only 14-of-42 shots (33.3 percent) from the field.

Defensively Id say it was about mindset, Brown said. We didnt want to lose. For me and Dennis (Moore) and the rest of our seniors, this was our last (Elgin Tournament). We just came in with the mindset that this is our game from the start.

Added Elgin coach Mike Sitter: This gives us confidence for when we come to the postseason and play another team with all the publicity and recognition. It tells us we can play with anybody.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Kyle Schwarber puts on a show in Home Run Derby

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Kyle Schwarber puts on a show in Home Run Derby

Jon Greenberg, Rich Campbell and Kevin Fishbain join Luke on the panel.  Kyle Schwarber puts up the good fight in the Home Run Derby. Meanwhile, which Chicago All-Star will have a breakout performance on the national stage?

Plus Rich Campbell discusses why Roquan Smith’s deal may not get done before the Bears’ first practice in Bourbonnais.

Jose Abreu didn't come to White Sox looking for leadership role, but he's the face of the franchise on the All-Star stage

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USA TODAY

Jose Abreu didn't come to White Sox looking for leadership role, but he's the face of the franchise on the All-Star stage

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Jose Abreu didn’t come to the White Sox to be a leader. But that’s what he is as he took his spot among the best in baseball at Tuesday night’s All-Star Game.

Abreu is the face of the South Side baseball club and he’s had a stellar-enough first four and a half seasons in Major League Baseball to earn the distinction of a starter in the Midsummer Classic. But Abreu, unsurprisingly, doesn’t look at himself as one of the best in the game. He looks as himself as a hard-worker.

“I don’t believe that I’m the best,” Abreu said through a team translator on Monday. “I’m just a person who likes to work hard every day and try to do my best.”

That humility is nothing new to folks who follow the White Sox on a regular basis. And neither is talk of Abreu’s work ethic, the admiration of everyone involved with the team and a constant talking point from Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and all Abreu’s teammates.

Abreu has become as important for his off-the-field roles as he has for his on-the-field production for this rebuilding White Sox team. He’s been described as a role model for all the young players in the organization, whether they’re on the big league roster right now or coming up through the system.

“None of them have told me that yet,” Abreu joked. “But I know that. It’s definitely a compliment, and I take it as something that makes you feel good, something that makes you keep moving forward and to keep trying to help the guys to improve and get better as a team. You feel like that is a big honor, that people think that way of you.”

As good as he feels to be held in such esteem, Abreu didn’t set out to be one of this team’s leaders when he came to the United States. And to be honest, he might not be in his current position if it weren’t for the team’s rebuilding effort. Abreu is one of the few veterans on this team.

“That was something that happened. I didn’t look for it,” Abreu said. “I was always trying to help people and trying to give advice to help people to improve. But I never tried to be a leader. If people say that because of what I do, that’s good, but that’s not something that I’m trying to force or something that I say, ‘I want to be a leader.’ No, that’s not who I am. I am just the kind of person who likes to help people, who likes to give advice.”

Abreu is seemingly the definition of what the White Sox want their next winning roster to be full of. And whether it’s the special relationship he has with fellow Cuban Yoan Moncada or the role-model status he holds in the eyes of his other teammates, both current and future, he’s helping the White Sox develop those kinds of players.

Oh, and he’s generally — though this season has seen an extended slump and atypical numbers — one of the most consistently productive hitters in the game.

Who wouldn’t want all that as the face of the franchise?

“It’s all a blessing. I can’t ask for anything else,” Abreu said. “I’m a true believer that if you work hard, good things are going to happen. That’s why I work hard every day, I try to do my best, I try to improve every day and just to be a better person. Not just a better player, but a better person.”