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Hales prevails: Spartans claim Class 2A title

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Hales prevails: Spartans claim Class 2A title

Sunday, March 13, 2011
12:20 a.m.

By Steve Tucker
Yourseason.com

PEORIA Call it two the hard way for Hales Franciscan.

To win its second state titles, Hales had to knock off two unbeaten teams in just over 24 hours and the Spartans did, capped by a 61-47 victory over Murphysboro in the Class 2A championship game Saturday night at Carver Arena.

It feels great, Hales coach Gary London said. These guys have been focused since the start of the season. This is what they wanted, and all I can say now is, mission accomplished.

For Hales (29-4), this state title served as redemption after the Spartans were upset in last years semifinals and finished third.

This is great, and its something Ive wanted for four years, Hales senior Aaron Armstead said. After last year to come back and get it done is the best feeling in the world.

We knew that (Murphysboro) would make its runs, but we weathered the storm and pulled through.

After Murphysboro (35-1) closed to within 32-31 early in the third quarter, the Spartans used an 8-0 tear to go up 40-31 before Orlando Jarrett made two free throws for the Red Devils with 1:32 to play in the quarter. In the Hales run, Aaric Armstead scored four and Cameron Johnson and Eddie Alcantara two each.

Hales started the fourth quarter with a run-out slam by Aaric Armstead, a free throw by Jerry Humphrey and a tip by Dominique Walls to go ahead 47-35 before two Muphysboro baskets by Pierre House.

Aaric Armstead led the Spartans with 18 points. Alcantara had 15 and nine rebounds, and Aaron Armstead added 12 points for Hales. Murphysboro got 16 points from Jarrett and 11 from House, who fouled out. Hales also forced 18 turnover while committing 11.

Winning this means everything to us, Alcantara said. Especially after all the running we had to do to get ready for this.

After Hales went up 8-5 on a three-pointer by Aaric Armstead, the Red Devils closed the first quarter and opened the second with a 10-2 run to go up 15-10. Four players scored for Muphysboro with Jerrod Stanton getting four points and Eben Brooks, Dylan Craig and House each adding a basket. Alcantara had Hales lone basket.

But down 19-16, an Alcantara three-pointer ignited a 10-0 burst for the Spartans, who went up 26-19. Aaron Armstead scored five in the run, including a three-point play, and Aaric Armstead, whose powerful slam early in the second quarter that appeared to inject fire in Hales, had a basket.

Murphysboro got within 26-23 before an Alcantara slam sent the Spartans to the break up 28-23.

The teams came to the state finals ranked 1-2 in the state in Class 2A. Murphysboro was No. 1 but Hales had seven votes for No. 1 to three for the Red Devils, who on Friday made their fourth state appearance since 1947 and won their first game. It was Hales fifth trip. The Spartans won Class A in 2003 finished second in 1993 and third last year.

Rockford Christian (32-1) got 29 points from Brayden Teuscher and 12 from Art Ford in a 44-38 victory over Pittsfield for third place. Brad Hamilton scored 14 for the Saukees (28-7).

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

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USA TODAY

Do the Blackhawks have room to sign John Tavares?

The NHL Draft is over. Farm systems have been restocked and now the focus has shifted to free agency, where the fun is just beginning.

The biggest fish on the market is John Tavares, a franchise-changing center in the heart of his prime. For a little bit, it seemed like the loyal New York Islanders captain was ready to move on after they took another step back by missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

But then Lou Lamiorello became available and was snatched up by Long Island. His first order of business was relieving GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight of their duties, the first real sign that significant changes were coming. The next was securing Barry Trotz as head coach after he couldn't agree to terms on an extension with the Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals.

For the first time in a while, there appears to be structure in the front office and coaching staff.

Yet, Tavares has remained committed to visiting with reportedly five teams in Los Angeles during the free agent negotiating window that opened Sunday. And he's absolutely earned that right. San Jose and Toronto are believed to be two of the teams. The rest is unclear.

When asked by NBC Sports Chicago's Pat Boyle at the end of the draft on Saturday, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman wouldn't confirm nor deny that they were one of the teams scheduled to meet with Tavares.

"I wouldn't want to spoil the surprise, right?" Bowman said with a smile.

Whether or not they are, could the Blackhawks realistically even make it work?

They actually have the cap space to do it. Or at least they can make room without shuffling too many cards.

As of Sunday, the Blackhawks have $9.225 million in open cap space to fill out six roster spots. If you can find a trade partner for Marian Hossa's contract, that creates an extra $5.275 million, which brings the total up to $14.5 million. That's without subtracting any real bodies from the roster. 

Tavares is likely to command in the $10 million range for average annual value over the next seven years, and the latter part is key. While it would certainly be challenging to have three players eating up at least $10 million each in cap space — with Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews at $10.5 million — they could make it work in the short term.

But signing Tavares to a seven-year deal would probably get in the way of the Blackhawks' longer-term goals, which includes re-signing Alex DeBrincat and Nick Schmaltz when their entry-level deals expire and even Vinnie Hinostroza when his new two-year contract ends.

Are the Blackhawks willing to risk that?

For Tavares, maybe. But Toews is 30, Kane is 29 and Tavares will be 28 by the time this upcoming season starts. At some point, an infusion of youth would be required to remain competitive for the long term.

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

Summer of Sammy: Sosa's 31st homer in 1998

It's the 20th anniversary of the Summer of Sammy, when Sosa and Mark McGwire went toe-to-toe in one of the most exciting seasons in American sports history chasing after Roger Maris' home run record. All year, we're going to go homer-by-homer on Sosa's 66 longballs, with highlights and info about each. Enjoy.

Sosa's 18th homer of June and 31st of the season came off the Tigers in the Cubs' brief 2-game Interleague series in Detroit. 

Sosa connected in the first inning off Tigers starter Seth Greisinger, going back-to-back with Mickey Morandini. 

The Cubs wound up getting out to a 5-0 start in the game but still lost 7-6 on a Gabe Alvarez single in the bottom of the 11th.

The aforementioned Morandini homer was only the 3rd of the season for the Cubs second baseman. He finished with 8 homers on the year and 224 total bases on 172 hits in what was a very good offensive season. Yet it paled in comparison to Sosa, who had nearly 200 more total bases (416) and a slugging percentage nearly 200 points above Morandini's (.647 to .471), a testament to how truly incredible Sosa's season was.

Fun fact: Tony Clark was the Tigers' cleanup hitter that day. Clark is now the head of the MLB Players Union.

Fun fact No. 2: Paul Bako was the Detroit catcher in the game. He later became the Cubs backup catcher in 2003 and 2004, when he posted a .611 OPS in 119 games over the two years.