Cubs

High School Lites preview

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High School Lites preview

Chicagoland prep basketball is home on Comcast SportsNet Chicago. Conference play resumes and a few teams will be looking to capitalize off the momentum from holiday tournaments. Will St. Ignatius continue their surprising run? Will a school record be broken at North Chicago on Friday? Who will be the next hero in the legendary New Trier-Evanston rivalry? Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover on this Fridays edition of High School Lites. All rankings reflect the CSN Top 20, sponsored by The Marines:
Thursday's games

No. 8 Elgin (12-1) @ Batavia (4-7), 7:15 pm

The Maroons continue to build off last years 22-7 squad. The last time they made a supersectional was in 2008 and they have the talent to get there again. Senior Kory Brown is their leader and hes helped by junior guard Arie Williams. But Elgin first needs to take care of business in the Upstate Eight conference, and it starts with a Batavia team that reached the semifinals of the Elgin Holiday Tournament. Senior center Cole Gardner will get a lot of work in the paint for the Bulldogs.

Marmion (8-6) @ Aurora Christian (10-3), 7:30 pm

This Suburban Christian Blue showdown features an Aurora Christian team that some thought would have a down year in 11-12. That's not the case, as the Eagles have had an impressive campaign. They won three of four at the Plano Christmas Classic. C.J. Schutt is one of the go-to guys for A-C. Marmion has benefitted of late from the play of junior guard Alex Theisen. The teams will face each other again at Marmion Feb. 10.

Friday's games

No. 6 Andrew (9-0) @ Lincoln-Way North (5-11), 6:30 pm

The Thunderbolts might be in uncharted waters but they havent been fazed by the recent success. They rolled through the Kankakee tournament, with junior forward Jubril Adekoya picking up MVP honors. Andrew is in a brutal stretch: six of the next seven games are on the road. And pardon the pun, but the Lincoln-Way North Phoenix are on the rise. Daryle Morgan led his team to three wins in four games at Lincoln-Way Easts Medieval Classic over the holidays.

No. 7 Plainfield East (11-0) @ Plainfield North (3-11), 7:00 pm

The Bengals are turning into quite a story. The school has only been in existence for 3 years and they already have a top 10 program with a nice holiday trophy (Pekin Holiday Tournament) in the hallway case. Austin Robinson, Jawan Straughter and Brian Bennett will now look to guide East through Southwestern Prairie conference play. Plainfield North competed in the Pontiac tournament over holiday break. They battled in their last game, a 69-63 loss to Waukegan.

Joliet West (8-4) @ Joliet Central (6-6), 7:00 pm

The battle for Joliet is also a jostle for position in the competitive Southwest Suburban Blue conference. West picked up a win at the Pontiac Holiday Tournament and has also played well against the likes of Homewood-Flossmoor and West Aurora. Senior center Marlon Johnson figures is tough to contain on both sides of the floor. Central went 1-3 in the McDipper Tournament at Rich South. Junior guard Jalen Heath leads the Steelmen.

Evanston (11-3) @ No. 15 New Trier (12-2), 7:30 pm

One of the best rivalries in the state features a sneaky-tough Evanston team that quietly took the consolation crown at a very competitive McDipper Tournament. Leonard Garron, Josh Irving and Jordan Perrin lead the Wildkits. New Trier was equally impressive at the Proviso West tournament, taking home second place honors. David Bragiel, Austin Angel, Connor Boehm and Jordan Thomas figure to get a lot of looks on the Trevians offense. The girls teams will square off at 6 pm. New Trier features Northwestern-bound guard Maggie Lyon. Evanston has picked it up of late, winning three of their last five.

No. 9 St. Ignatius (11-1) @ St. Rita (6-5), 7:30 pm

It seems like every game in the Catholic North has Game of the Night potential and this clash is no different. St. Ignatius, CSNs Muscle Milk Team of the Week, is on a serious roll. They tamed the competition at the Jack Tosh Holiday tournament, earning victories over Downers Grove South and De La Salle in the process. St. Ritas record is deceiving. They have only lost one game to an Illinois foe. The guards (Ritas Tony Hicks and Ignatius Brian Howard) drive both offenses.

Wauconda (7-7) @ North Chicago (9-2), 7:30 pm

It could be a memorable night for Illinois State recruit Aaron Simpson and the North Chicago Warhawks. The talented guard needs 12 points to become the schools all-time leading scorer. Simpson, who contributes mightily to the Warhawks 78.8 points per game average, scored 133 points over four games at the State Farm Holiday Classic. He was named to the all-tournament team. The Bulldogs, winners of three of their last four, need to step up on defense to have a chance here. Matt Mead and Kyle Ryan are their threats on offense.

Mundelein (14-3) @ Libertyville (10-3), 7:30 pm

The Mustangs gaudy win total ranks currently ranks near the top of all Illinois teams. A marquee win on the road in the rugged North Suburban Lake could help them bust into the top 20. Their last win was a 110-79 triumph over Buhach Colony (Calif.). Robert Knar and Sean OBrien are two of the featured stars. Libertyville figures to be a good test. They took third place at the Wheeling Hardwood Classic. Ellis Matthews and Griffin Pils are leaders on the Wildcats roster.

Every Friday night at 10:30, High School Lites will bring you scores and highlights from the Chicagoland basketball courts. This week's episode will air just after Blackhawks hockey and SportsNet Central. We'll also have in-depth feature stories and take a look back down Memory Lane in our Flashback segment. This week, be sure to check out CSN's Muscle Milk Team of the Week, St. Ignatius. After a strong campaign last season, the Wolfpack were considered also-rans this season. How did this Chicago school get back on top? Also, we'll have the latest on the Simeon Wolverines in our Drive segment, sponsored by Greater Than.

High School Lites streams live every Friday on csnchicago.com.

We invite you to share your story ideas as well. Check us out at: csnchicagowebsite@comcastsportsnet.com

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

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USA TODAY

Glanville: Fall to Spring - A player’s offseason changes meaning with each changing season

A few weeks after the we (the Cubs) were eliminated from the 2003 playoffs, I got a phone call from my college professor. Since it was officially the off-season, I was in the early stages of a break from following a pocket schedule to tell me where to be every day for nearly eight months.

But this was a man I could not refuse. I chose my college major to go into his field of transportation engineering and he was calling because he needed a teaching assistant to accompany him on his trip to South Africa.

One minute I could barely move off of my couch in my Chicago apartment after losing Game 7 against the Marlins. The next minute, I would be standing within miles of the Southern most point in Africa at the Cape of Good Hope. Why not? I needed the distraction so I agreed to go.

The offseason is its own transition. Leaving the regimen of routine, of batting practice and bus times, to an open ended world that you have to re-learn again. When I finished my first full major league season in 1997, I lived in Streeterville at the Navy Pier Apartments.

That offseason, I decided to stay an extra month in Chicago only to wake up panicked for the first two weeks because I thought I was missing stretch time for a home day game. A major league schedule becomes etched in your DNA after a while.

It is also a time that you get to reflect. The regular season does not give you a moment to really get perspective on what was just accomplished, what it all means, what you would change. I always joked about the T-shirt I wanted to a sell that listed all of the things a major league player figures out during the off-season. From the perfect swing to the ex-girlfriend you need to un-break-up with next week.

It all becomes so clear when a 96 MPH fastball isn’t coming at you.

For years, I would arrange a training program to follow, but I quickly learned that I had to mix it up. There was only so much repetition I could stand in the off-season. So some years, I moved to the site of spring training and worked out early with the staff, other years I found a spot at home where I grew up or wherever I played during the season, to train.

I was single when I played, but now with a family, I have a better understanding of the challenges my teammates would express as they were re-engaging as a daily father again after this long absentee existence.

To keep it fresh and spicy, when I got older in the game, I enrolled in a dance studio and took a winter of dance lessons. Salsa, Foxtrot, Rumba, you name it. On Thursdays we had to dance for an hour straight, changing partners in the room every song change. Dancing with the Stars had nothing on me.

Of course, not every offseason is fun and games. There were years when I wasn’t sure I would have a job the next year, or I was in the throes of a trade rumor. In 1997, I was traded from the Cubs to the Phillies two days before Christmas. In 2002, my father passed away on the last game of the season, leading the offseason to be a time of mourning.

By my final season in 2005, I thought I was officially on my couch forever. I was going to fade away into oblivion like many players do. No fanfare, the phone just would stop ringing and I would just let the silence wash over me. The Yankees had called earlier in that off-season, acting like they were doing me a favor which I turned down, then they called back later with a more open tone, seeing me as a potential key piece in their outfield with Bernie Williams slowing down quite a bit at that point.

I did get off that couch for that call, only to get released the last week of camp, so I was back on the couch, with a fiancé and some extra salt in the wounds after that final meeting with Brian Cashman and Joe Torre, who boxed me into the coaches office to tell me I was released. Released? Come on. Never had that happen before.

The Cubs players will go through all of this if they have the good fortune of playing a long time. The wave of uncertainty, the meaning of age in this game spares no one. Each offseason is a time to reset, a period where you get away, seemingly adrift from the game, then as spring gets closer, the shoreline comes up in the horizon once again, magnetically drawing you to its shores for another season.

Amazingly, you don’t always know your age and what it has done to your body. 34 can’t be that old, right? I can still run, or throw 95. Then those 23-year-olds in camp are the wake up call, or maybe you are that 23-year-old and can’t believe your locker is next to Ryne Sandberg’s.

Then you blink, and you are advising Jimmy Rollins about etiquette and realize you have become that guy, the seasoned vet, preaching about locker room respect.

For the 2018 Cubs, they fell short of their goal to repeat their 2016 magic. Failed to meet their singular destination that meant success over all else. Yet, those who come back for 2019, will not be the same player, the same person, that left the locker room at the close this season. They will have grown, changed, aged, wizened up, rehabbed, hardened. All of which means that new perspective is the inevitable part of this time off, whether you like it or not.

Baseball is a game that has this unique dynamic. The highest intensity rhythm of any sport. Every day you are tested. You are pushed to the brink by sheer attrition. According to my teammate Ed Smith, who was playing third base at the time when Michael Jordan reached third, Jordan, after playing well over 100 games in a row, said to him “Man, I have never been this tired in my entire life.”

The grind.

Then it stops on a dime. Season over. Only on baseball’s terms.

But you may be granted another spring. Another crack at it. Until one day, the baseball winter never ends and its time for you to plant your own spring.

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

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AP

Four takeaways: Blackhawks on wrong side of history in loss to Lightning

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 6-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the United Center on Sunday:

1. Blackhawks on wrong side of history 

Earlier this year the Blackhawks made history by appearing in five straight overtime games to start the season, something no team in NBA, NFL, NHL or MLB history has ever done.

But Sunday they found themselves on the wrong side of it after allowing 33 shots on goal in the second period alone. It tied a franchise high for most given up in a single period — March 4, 1941 vs. Boston — and is the most an NHL team has allowed since 1997-98 when shots by period became an official stat.

"It's pretty rare to be seeing that much work in a period," said Cam Ward, who had a season-high 49 saves. "But oh man, I don't even know what to say to be honest. It's tough. We know that we need to be better especially in our home building, too. And play with some pride and passion. Unfortunately, it seemed like it was lacking at times tonight. The old cliche you lose as a team and overall as a team we weren't good enough tonight."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was a tough, tough period in all aspects. I don’t think we touched the puck at all and that was the part that was disturbing, against a good hockey team."

2. Alexandre Fortin is on the board

After thinking he scored his first career NHL goal in Columbus only to realize his shot went off Marcus Kruger's shin-pad, Fortin made up for it one night later and knows there wasn't any question about this one.

The 21-year-old undrafted forward, playing in his his fifth career game, sprung loose for a breakaway early in the first period and received a terrific stretch pass by Jan Rutta from his own goal line to Fortin, who slid it underneath Louis Domingue for his first in the big leagues. It's his second straight game appearing on the scoresheet after recording an assist against the Blue Jackets on Saturday.

"It's fun," Fortin said. "I think it would be a little bit more fun to get your first goal [while getting] two points for your team, but I think we ... just have to [turn the page to the] next chapter and just play and be ready for next game."

3. Brandon Saad's most noticeable game?

There weren't many positives to take away from this game, but Saad was certainly one of them. He had arguably his best game of the season, recording seven shot attempts (three on goal) with two of them hitting the post (one while the Blackhawks were shorthanded).

He was on the ice for 11 shot attempts for and five against at 5-on-5, which was by far the best on his team.

"He started OK and got way better," Quenneville said of Saad. "Had the puck way more, took it to the net a couple of times, shorthanded."

4. Special teams still a work in progress

The Blackhawks entered Sunday with the 29th-ranked power play and 25th-ranked penalty kill, and are still working to get out from the bottom of the league in both departments. In an effort to change up their fortunes with the man advantage, the Blackhawks split up their two units for more balance.

They had four power-play opportunities against Tampa Bay and cashed in on one of them, but it didn't matter as it was too little, too late in the third period — although they did become the first team to score a power-play goal against the Lightning this season (29 chances).

"Whether we're looking for balance or we're just looking for one to get hot, I think our power play has been ordinary so far," Quenneville said before the game. "We need it to be more of a threat."

Four more minor penalties were committed by the Blackhawks, giving them eight in the past two games. That's one way they can shore up the penalty kill, by cutting back on taking them.