White Sox

Glenbard West off to best start ever

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Glenbard West off to best start ever

Glenbard West is a football school, right? Like Maine South or Mount Carmel or Joliet Catholic or Montini or Loyola, right?

So what is coach Tim Hoder's basketball team doing with a 10-0 record and holding a pair of holiday tournament championship trophies going into the New Year?

Is this the same team that was picked to finish fourth in the West Suburban Silver in the preseason behind Oak Park, York and Proviso West?

Is this the same school that has qualified for the state finals only once in its history -- in 1938?

Is this the same program that has advanced to the Sweet Sixteen only twice in the last 74 years?

The same school that hasn't won a conference title in 40 years?

Maybe you've heard of John Shurna?

Yes, it's that Glenbard West.

The Hilltoppers are off to a 10-0 start, best in school history, better than the 9-0 start of the 1973 team that was led by Jim Molinari and Bob Hildebrand. They'll seek to extend their winning streak at Bolingbrook on Wednesday, then resume conference play at York on Friday.

"Depth is our biggest asset," Hoder said. "We play 10 kids regularly in the first quarter. We also have size. And we're now able to handle pressure. In the past, pressure was a problem. We got pressured and it bothered us. And we have camaraderie, a lot of togetherness as a group. We have some leaders you don't notice in the scorebook.

"But what our 10-0 start told me is we have to get to the meat of our conference schedule yet. We have a lot of getting better to do. We can compete in our league and get a good seed in the sectional. But even though we attack pressure well, we still turn the ball over too much. We need to cut down on turnovers. And, for our size, we have to be more dominant on the boards. We do well but we can do better."

One of the leaders who is noticed in the scorebook is 6-6 senior Michael Mache, who averages 23 points per game. He has been on the varsity for four years and he has noticed how the team has evolved, how it went from 11-17 a year ago to 10-0 this season.

"Our goal is to win the conference and go to the supersectional, to do some things that haven't been done before. The sky is the limit if we keep working hard and cut down on turnovers," Mache said.

"Our camaraderie is the best it has ever been. This is the tightest knit group of all. We push each other every day in practice to do our best. And we are deep at the guard position, which we haven't been in the past.

"We can get up and down the court. We thrive in the full-court and attack the basket and we're more aggressive than before. In past years, we used to slow it down and play in the half-court.

"We want to keep it rolling. We're 10-0 and we want to keep doing what we are doing. This is the first year we are keeping a fast pace going, moving at a new pace, getting clean stops, getting rebounds, getting the ball to the point guard (Jeff Levesque), getting up the floor, creating easy shots and keeping the defenders off balance."

Mache (pronounced Mackey) is surrounded by his twin brother Matthew, a 6-6 senior who averages 10 points per game, 6-8 senior Pat Mazza (8 ppg, 10 rpg), 6-1 junior point guard Jeff Levesque (8 ppg, 6 assists) and 5-10 senior Justin Taylor (6 ppg).

The second five also gets plenty of playing time--6-4 senior Mac Corbin, 6-6 senior Vernon Harris, 6-1 senior Egan Montgomery, 6-1 senior Kevin Loftus and 6-foot sophomore point guard Cory Davis.

How identical are the Mache twins? Matthew wears No. 42, Michael wears No. 41. Both weigh 205 pounds. Michael claims Matthew has a wider face and a more aggressive personality but he has a better three-point shot. Hoder said Michael is one of the team's leaders on and off the court.

"(In a recent game), to start the second half, I had a layup and the announcer said it was Matthew," Michael said.

Hoder, 43, a Lake Park graduate of 1986, knew what he was getting into when he arrived at the Glen Ellyn school 10 years ago. He had played basketball for his father, attended Augustana College, coached at Ridgewood for one year, then Maine East for eight years before being hired at Glenbard West. He is in his fifth season as head coach.

"I grew up going to a doctor in Glen Ellyn so I was familiar with the school and the tradition," he said. "I knew what I was getting into, a great football tradition. They had great success in football in the 1980s and in recent years. Any success we are having now is because we have a core group of seniors who have invested themselves in basketball."

Actually, the fact that Hoder landed at Glenbard West didn't have anything to do with football or basketball.

"After being at Maine East, it was a matter of wanting to find a place to settle down with my family and raise kids, the community we wanted to live in," he said. "That was the factor why I ended up at Glenbard West. The fact that our kids can go to a school like Glenbard West was important to us."

It has taken time to put a winning program together. When he arrived, Hoder realized there were many multi-sport athletes at the school. "It is hard to compete in basketball because kids in our league are playing basketball year-around," he said. But he also knew he had a group of 10 seniors who had stuck together through thick and thin because they wanted to succeed.

Last year's 11-17 team wasn't as bad as it seems. The Hilltoppers lost six games in overtime. And Levesque was sidelined until Christmas after undergoing thumb surgery.

"We went 10-10 with him. If we had him healthy, we wouldn't have started 1-7. He is a big part of our success," Hoder said.

There are other things in Hoder's favor. The feeder program, the Glen Ellyn Titans, hosted a 70-team tournament last weekend. Hoder's son Thomas, a fifth grader, is one of 40 players who participate in travel basketball.

"So many kids are growing up playing basketball now," the coach said.

"Coming into this year, we had high expectations," Michael Mache said. "We want to finish our four-year run. We knew this could be a great opportunity. With a lot of hard work, we feel we can do this. We want to do things that never have been done before. We want people to remember this team."

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

96 Days to Kickoff: Jacobs

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O'Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we'll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Jacobs

Head coach: Bill Mitz

Assistant coaches: Bubba Smith, Mike Warren, Brian Zimmerman, JM Foote, Ryan Arndt and Bob Mackey

How they fared in 2017: 6-4 (5-3 Fox Valley Conference). Jacobs made the Class 7A playoff field. The Golden Eagles lost to Lincoln-Way West in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 Hampshire 

Aug. 31 @ Huntley 

Sept. 7 Dundee-Crown 

Sept. 14 @ McHenry 

Sept. 21 Neuqua Valley 

Sept. 28 Prairie Ridge 

Oct. 5 @ Cary-Grove 

Oct. 12 Crystal Lake South 

Oct. 19 @ Crystal Lake Central

Biggest storyline: Can the Golden Eagles move up in the Fox Valley Conference pecking order in 2018?

Names to watch this season: OT Joacheim Price and OL Nick Zonta

Biggest holes to fill: The Golden Eagles will need to replace its entire starting linebacker group from a season ago.

EDGY's Early Take: Year in and year out, Jacobs is always a factor in the rugged Fox Valley Conference (seven playoff appearances in the last eight years). The Golden Eagles return some starters in several key spots. If the underclassmen group can step up this summer, look for Jacobs to challenge for the FVC conference title and a higher seed in 7A come IHSA playoff time.