Bears

North Chicago falls short as Peoria Central wins 3A championship

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North Chicago falls short as Peoria Central wins 3A championship

By Michael O'Brien
YourSeason.com

PEORIA, ILNorth Chicago senior Aaron Simpson was a star as soon as he stepped on the high school court, helping the Warhawks advance deep into the state playoffs his entire career. He was generally at his best in March.

That Simpson magic helped spark a North Chicago fourth-quarter comeback Saturday, but it wasnt enough. Peoria Central beat the Warhawks 72-64 to win the Class 3A state championship.

Simpson scored 26 points, shooting 10-for-26 from the field. He scored 10 points in the fourth quarter, his layup with 4:28 to play brought North Chicago within four points, but that was as close as it would get.

Simpson finishes his career as North Chicagos all-time leading scorer, with third- and fourth-place trophies in the state tournament.

We are going to miss Aaron, North Chicago coach Gerald Coleman said. Its a sad day for me. I had been waiting on him since sixth grade. To coach him was awesome. We always had 25 points before tip-off.

The Warhawks led for most of the first quarter, but Peoria Central started to assert itself midway through the second quarter. The Lions had a definite size advantage.

They made us change a lot of shots, that was a factor, Simpson said.

Peoria Central led by 14 late in the third quarter. North Chicago staged a steady, valiant comeback at that point, using a 13-5 run to cut the deficit to four on Simpsons layup. But the effort took a toll.

Fatigue got to us, Simpson said. We were tired. We didnt have a lot of guys that were able to come in and play for us.

Simpson made a point to compliment Peoria Central senior Jerrell White.

White is a great player, Simpson said. He played a lot of defense on me.

Sophomore JaVairius Amos-Mays scored 17 and grabbed eight rebounds and sophomore Kurt Hall scored 11 and had eight rebounds for the Warhawks (25-7).

We have three very good sophomores, Coleman said. Im very excited about next years team.

The first half was a showcase for Peoria Central senior Aldonis Foote, who threw down two spectacular dunks and blocked a North Chicago three-point attempt five rows into the seats. He scored 17 points.

I didnt know he could do that, Simpson said. I was surprised too.

Peoria Centrals last state title was in 2004, the second consecutive championship for the team captained by Shaun Livingston, who was in the NBA just a few months later.

The Lions have won five state championships and their program is one of the most prestigious in the state.

Good for our school, our program, our city, Peoria Central coach Dan Ruffin said. Peoria High is the pride of Peoria right now. My kids were fantastic today.

Over the past two seasons, North Chicago has slowly begun to earn some respect. The Warhawks beat two highly-regarded programs: Marshall and Springfield Lanphier, to advance to the title game.

We made it a step better than last year, Coleman said. Im proud of our kids. I thought they left it out on the court.

"There are a whole lot of teams that would love to be in second place. Its good for our community.

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Matt Nagy calls Kevin White a 'great weapon' with a new future

Former first-round pick Kevin White hasn't caught a break -- or a touchdown -- through the first three years of his career. He has more season-ending injuries than 100-yard games and after an offseason focused on upgrades at wide receiver, White's future in Chicago beyond 2018 is very much in doubt.

Ryan Pace declined the fifth-year option in White's rookie contract, making this a prove-it year for the pass-catcher who once resembled a blend of Larry Fitzgerald and Dez Bryant during his time at West Virginia.

He's getting a fresh start by new coach Matt Nagy.

"He is healthy and he's really doing well," Nagy told Danny Kanell and Steve Torre Friday on SiriusXM's Dog Days Sports. "We're trying to keep him at one position right now so he can focus in on that."

White can't take all the blame for his 21 catches, 193 yards and zero scores through 48 possible games. He's only suited up for five. Whether it's bad luck or bad bone density, White hasn't had a legitimate chance to prove, on the field, that he belongs.

Nagy's looking forward, not backward, when it comes to 2015's seventh pick overall.

"That's gone, that's in the past," Nagy said of White's first three years. "This kid has a new future with us."

White won't be handed a job, however.

"He's gotta work for it, he's gotta put in the time and effort to do it," Nagy said. "But he will do that, he's been doing it. He's a great weapon, he's worked really hard. He has great size, good speed. We just want him to play football and not worry about anything else."

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

Nagy on Trubisky: 'He wants to be the best'

The Bears concluded their second round of OTAs on Thursday with the third and final set of voluntary sessions scheduled for May 29-June 1. Coach Matt Nagy is bringing a new and complicated system to Chicago, so the time spent on the practice field with the offense and quarterback Mitch Trubisky has been invaluable.

"We’ve thrown a lot at Mitch in the last 2 ½ months,” Nagy told Dog Days Sports’ Danny Kanell and Steve Torre on Friday. “He’s digested it really well.”

Nagy’s implementing the same system he operated with the Chiefs, an offense that brought the best out of Redskins quarterback Alex Smith. The former first-overall pick went from potential draft bust to MVP candidate under Andy Reid and Nagy’s watch.

Nagy admitted he and his staff may have been a little too aggressive with the amount of information thrust upon Trubisky so far.  It took five years to master the offense in Kansas City, he said, but the first-year head coach sees a lot of similarities between his current and past quarterbacks.

"These guys are just wired differently,” Nagy said when comparing Trubisky to Smith. “With Mitch, the one thing that you notice each and every day is this kid is so hungry. He wants to be the best. And he’s going to do whatever he needs to do. He’s so focused.”

Smith had the best year of his career in 2017 and much of the credit belongs to Nagy, who served as Smith’s position coach in each season of his tenure in Kansas City. He threw for eight touchdowns and only two interceptions during the five regular season games that Nagy took over play-calling duties last year.

Nagy said Trubisky has a similar attention to detail that Smith brought to the Chiefs’ quarterback room.

"Each and every detail that we give him means something. It’s not just something he writes down in a book. He wants to know the why,” Nagy said of Trubisky. “He’s a good person that is in this for the right reason. His teammates absolutely love him. It was the same thing with Alex [Smith] in Kansas City.”

A locker room that believes in its quarterback is a critically important variable for success, one that Nagy already sees exists in Chicago.

"When you have that as a coach and when you have that as being a quarterback, not everybody has that, and when you have that you’re in a good spot.”