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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

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High School Lites: Weekly Hoops Preview

Thursday, Feb. 17, 2011
Posted 10:30 p.m.

By Joe Collins
CSNChicago.com

Comcast SportsNet is your number one source for high school sports in Chicagoland. This Fridays edition of High School Lites will feature three epic matchups: Hales-De La Salle, Proviso East-Downers Grove South and the city championship between Brooks and Whitney Young. We will also preview Saturdays City-Suburban Showdown at the UIC Pavilion, which features 1 Simeon taking on 2 Benet. Also, David Kaplan tells us about one suburban girls basketball coach who hasnt let cancer get in the way of her achievements on the court. Here is a snapshot of each game that we will cover Friday night. All rankings courtesy of YourSeason.com:

Rich South @ Bloom, 6:30pm

High-flying Depaul recruit Macari Brooks is one of the reasons Rich South (14-7, 5-4) could go deeper in the playoffs than most teams. He contributed 22 points and eight rebounds in the Stars 48-43 win over Thornwood on Tuesday. Bloom (14-8, 7-1) will need to contain Brooks if they want to win Friday night. He did not play in the previous Bloom-Rich South battle on January 14th, which was won by Bloom (43-26). LeJavious Jackson and Donald Moore steer the ship for the Blazing Trojans.

(9) Whitney Young vs. (5) Brooks, 7:00pm (Chicago Public League Championship at Chicago State)

Quite frankly, it wasnt the championship game most people were expecting earlier in the week. But dont blame Whitney Young, who absolutely earned the right to be there by shocking top-ranked Simeon 64-50 in Wednesdays public league semifinal. The 9th ranked Dolphins (17-9) are led by Ohio State-bound Sam Thompson. Brooks (21-3) advanced by beating Curie in the other semifinal on Wednesday, 63-60. Mike Powell and Keith Gray figure to do the heavy lifting for the Eagles.

(16) Hillcrest @ Lemont, 7:00pm

Hillcrest (17-6, 10-0) is putting together another quality season under coach Don Houston. The Hawks, 3A state champs last season, feature guards Julius Brown and LeBarron Hull. They contributed to a nice 75-49 win over T.F. South Tuesday night. Lemont (8-15, 3-8) has had a rough go of it recently but played a solid game Tuesday against a tough Stagg team, leading early before fading late in the fourth quarter. Evan Bridewell will get a lot of looks for the Indians.

Glenbard North @ West Aurora, 7:30pm

If theres one thing going for the visiting Panthers (9-13, 4-7), its momentum. Their 57-34 victory over Hoffman Estates Tuesday could facilitate a late-season push towards the upper half of the DuPage Valley conference. Thats where West Aurora (13-9, 8-3) is right now. This could be another entertaining game between GBN and WA, if their last contest serves as a blueprint. West Aurora escaped with a 55-54 victory back on January 8th. The Blackhawks Juwan Starks was the go-to guy in the previous meeting. He scored 17 points in the win.
Wheaton Academy @ Aurora Christian, 7:30pm
Keep an eye on Wheaton Academy come playoff time. The Warriors (23-1, 9-0) are on cruise control and already racked up two wins earlier this week (Guerin and Montini). They feature 6-9 center Luke Johnson and also have two 6-6 forwards on the roster. Aurora Christian (11-15, 6-3) have quality junior guards in Nick Marema and Dean Danos, a transfer from Oak Lawns Richards High School. Wes Korals game-winning bucket sealed a 55-52 victory by Wheaton Academy the last time the two teams met.

(12) Proviso East @ (11) Downers Grove South, 7:30pm

Talk about a nasty 1-2 punch. Proviso East (19-3, 9-1) gets the 11th ranked Mustangs in enemy territory Friday night and then has to turn around and face 18th ranked Lyons in the City-Suburban Showdown the following night. Sterling Brown, Keith Carter and company will be looking for revenge on DGS after falling to them 60-48 on January 21st. The Mustangs (21-3, 9-1) have quality scorers in Jerron Wilbut, Jamall Millison and 6-8 center Ziggy Riauka.

(6) Hales Franciscan @ (3) De La Salle, 7:30pm

If youre Hales, even if you contain Illinois-bound forward Mike Shaw, you still have a plethora of DLS stars to deal withAlex Foster and Dre Henley just to name a few. The good news for Hales (21-3, 8-1) is that they have one of the best brotherly love combinations aroundin Aaron and Aaric Armstead. They are exceptional talents. Shaw scored 22 points the last time these two teams hooked up --at Hales-- helping De La Salle (18-2, 8-1) to a 68-65 win. Hales Dominique Walls and the De La Salles Jaylon Tate could prove to be the x-factor in this one.

Fremd @ Conant, 7:30pm

The Mid-Suburban West title chase is arguably the best (or at least, the most intriguing) conference battle in the state. Fremd, Conant, Barrington and Schaumburg are all tied at 6-3 with one conference game remaining. Each of them can advance to the conference championship game on Wednesday. Fremd (16-8, 6-3) gets there by beating Conant Friday night, plus losses by Barrington and Schaumburg. Conant (16-7, 6-3) is in with a win over Fremd and a Barrington loss. Note: Schaumburg hosts Palatine Friday, while Barrington Hosts Hoffman Estates.

Prospect @ Buffalo Grove, 7:30pm

Now heres where it gets fun. The Mid-Suburban East could ALSO end up in a four-way tie if Buffalo Grove beats Prospect Friday night, Rolling Meadows beats Wheeling and Hersey beats Elk Grove. Prospect (15-7, 7-2) does own the peace-of-mind advantage though, because they would hold all the tiebreakers when the dust settles. Prospect took a 67-59 decision over Buffalo Grove (16-8. 6-3) in Mount Prospect on January 15th. Terry Redding scored 24 points and added 15 rebounds for the Knights in the win.

(25) Riverside-Brookfield @ Illiana Christian, 7:30pm

The 25th-ranked Bulldogs are the newcomers to the Super 25 rankings this week (18-4, 10-0). They have won six straight and wrapped up their 10th consecutive conference title last weekend with a win over Glenbard South. R-B also beat Farragut earlier in the season. They have consistent shooters from the outside and have a dominant center, 6-9 senior Alex Dziagwa. Illiana Christian (11-11, 4-6)

Check us out this Friday night after the Chicago Blackhawks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets. High School Lites streams live at CSNChicago.com.

Should the Cubs bring Daniel Murphy back in 2019?

Should the Cubs bring Daniel Murphy back in 2019?

With MLB Hot Stove season about 10 days away, Cubs fans are on the edge of their seats waiting to see how Theo Epstein's front office will reshape an underperforming lineup this winter.

The first step in that will be determining if there is a future with Daniel Murphy in Chicago and if so, what that future might entail. 

Murphy's introduction to the North Side fanbase was rocky, but he drew rave reviews from his teammates and coaches for how he conducted himself in the month-and-a-half he wore a Cubs uniform. 

He also filled a serious hole in the Cubs lineup, hitting .297 with an .800 OPS in 35 games (138 at-bats) while spending most of his time in the leadoff spot, helping to set the tone. Extrapolating Murphy's Cubs tenure over 550 plate appearances, it would be good for 23 homers, 86 runs, 49 RBI and 23 doubles over a full season. That would be worth 3.4 WAR by FanGraphs' measure, which would've ranked third on the Cubs among position players in 2018 behind only Javy Baez (5.3 WAR) and Ben Zobrist (3.6). (By comparison, Baseball Reference rated Murphy a -0.2 WAR player with the Cubs due to a much worse rating on defense.) 

Murphy's performance defensively at second base left quite a bit to be desired, but it's also worth pointing out he had major surgery on his right knee last fall. The procedure wasn't just a cleanup — he had microfracture surgery and cartilage debridement and wasn't able to return to the field until the middle of June this summer despite an Oct. 20, 2017 surgery.

The Cubs will begin the 2019 season without a clear, everyday choice at second base and the lineup can use a guy like Murphy, who has a great approach each time up and leads baseball with a .362 batting average with runners in scoring position since the start of the 2016 season.

So could a reunion be in the cards?

"I wouldn't rule anything out," Epstein said the day after the Cubs' 2018 campaign ended prematurely. "It was a pleasure having Daniel here. He did a lot to right our offense right after he got here and contribute while being asked to play a bigger role than we envisioned when we got him because of some other injuries, because of our lack of performance offensively and then because of the schedule. He was asked to play a lot more than expected, than probably he was ready to based on the proximity to his knee surgery.

"So I think he's gonna have a real beneficial offseason, get even stronger and be ready to contribute next year. Which league that's in and for what team remains to be seen. But I certainly think he acquitted himself well here, was REALLY respected by his teammates. Our guys loved talking hitting with him. It was a daily occurrence. Long discussions about hitting with him, picking his brain. 

"We look a lot better with him than without him, so I wouldn't rule anything out."

There's a lot to unpack here. Epstein was refreshingly honest throughout his whole press conference and that continued with regards to Murphy.

For starters, notice how Epstein first said he wasn't sure "what league" Murphy will be playing in. The Cubs president of baseball operations is typically extremely measured when speaking with the public and he almost never says anything by accident.

Murphy will turn 34 April 1 and was never renowned as an elite fielder even before that major knee surgery. Meaning: The writing has been on the wall for over a year that the veteran may be best suited for a designated hitter role with his new contract and Epstein is clearly well aware of that perception/narrative.

The other aspect of Epstein's comments is how he began and ended his statement on Murphy — that he wouldn't rule anything out and the Cubs obviously thought it was a successful pairing.

It's hard to argue with that on the offensive side of things and his impact was also felt off the field, where he was praised often by his teammates and coaches for talking hitting with younger players like Ian Happ and David Bote. 

Imagine how the final 6 weeks of the season would've looked had the Cubs not acquired Murphy in the middle of August to agument the lineup. The Brewers would've probably nabbed the division lead well before a Game 163.

Still, Murphy's hitting prowess both on and off the field wasn't enough to help the Cubs lineup avoid a slide that led to a date with the couch before the NLDS even began. Epstein's statement about how the Cubs "look a lot better" with Murphy than without is probably more about how fresh the sting was from the inept offense that managed just 2 runs scored in 22 innings in the final two games of the season.

Given his consistency the last few years, his advanced approach at the plate and his (recent) unrivaled ability to come through in key spots, Murphy's bat would be a welcome addition to any Cubs lineup moving forward. 

But it would still be tough to fit Murphy on the Cubs' 2019 roster for a variety of reasons. 

For starters, if the Cubs truly have a desire to write out a more consistent lineup next year, it's tough to add another aging veteran to a mix that already includes Ben Zobrist (who will be 38 next year), especially when they both spend a majority of their time at the same position (second base) and shouldn't be considered everyday players at this stage in their respective careers.

Murphy's defense/range also doesn't figure to get much better as he ages — even with an offseason to get his knee back up to 100 percent health — and second base is a key spot for run prevention, especially in turning double plays with a pitching staff that induces a lot of contact and groundballs.

Offensively, Murphy isn't perfect, either. He's never walked much, but in 2018, he posted his lowest walk rate since 2013. He also struck out 15.7 percent of the time in a Cubs uniform and while that's a small sample size, it still represents his highest K% since his rookie 2008 season (18.5 percent). 

Then there's the splits — the left-handed Murphy hit just .238 with a .564 OPS vs. southpaws in 2018, a far cry from the .319 average and .864 OPS he posted against right-handed pitchers. That was a steep drop-off from the previous three seasons (2015-17), in which he put up a .296 average and .810 OPS against lefties.

Add it all up and Murphy's potential fit with the 2019 Cubs is questionable at best, especially if an American League team hands him more money and years to come DH for them and hit near the top of their order.

But like Epstein said, don't rule anything out.

Let's listen to the Bears-Patriots' wild finish in other languages, because it's way better that way

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@thecheckdown

Let's listen to the Bears-Patriots' wild finish in other languages, because it's way better that way

Remember Sunday's Bears-Patriots finish? The one where the Bears (and Kevin White -- shouts to Kevin White!) were one-yard away from tying the game on a hail mary? 

Here was the call that most viewers heard, which was Extremely Meh: 

Now here's the call that viewers in Germany and Portugal heard, which is SO MUCH BETTER: 

Turns out that being excited for an exciting play makes for good television, who woulda thought.