Blackhawks

Pils enjoys his 'Scheyer Moment'

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Pils enjoys his 'Scheyer Moment'

Griffin Pils didn't think about it at the time. But upon reflecting back on his 35 points-in-one-half performance against Carmel on Jan. 20, Libertyville's 6-foot-3 senior guard recalled Jon Scheyer's spectacular 21 points-in-75 seconds effort in the 2005 Proviso West Holiday Tournament.

There was a difference, of course. Pils' team won in overtime. Scheyer's team lost.

But Pils' special moment was unique in its own way. He scored only five points in the first half and didn't register his first field goal until his last shot at the buzzer. He converted 19-of-19 free throws, including eight in the overtime period, and finished with a career-high 40 points.

In fact, Libertyville trailed by 10 points at halftime and six after three quarters and Pils had only 12 points. But in a 60-second span in the fourth period, he made three three-point shots in three possessions, then was fouled while making a lay-up and sank two free throws...11 points.

"That got me going," Pils said. "At halftime, the coach told me to be more aggressive and shoot more. That's what I did."

But Libertyville still trailed by 12 with two minutes to play. The Wildcats pressed. Pils made two steals and his best buddy, 6-foot-5 senior Ellis Matthews, also made two steals. With two seconds left, Pils was fouled while shooting a three and calmly converted three free throws to force overtime. He was only 8-for-20 from the field.

"I didn't realize I scored 40 points. The scoreboard said 37. I didn't think I scored that much. I didn't realize how many free throws I made," Pils said. "Afterward, I felt I could have scored more. I missed a lot of open shots. I'm a pass-first point guard. I try to get everybody involved in the first half. The coaches get mad at me because I don't shoot enough."

In his eighth season as Libertyville's head coach after spending two years at St. Ignatius and 12 years at Gordon Tech, Scott Bogumil said Pils "is a different type of guard than I have coached. He has a good floor game but he can turn it on and score when he needs to. He looks to set up others and if they don't respond, he starts scoring. That's uncanny for a high school kid today."

Pils is averaging 19 points per game for a 14-8 team that hopes to contend with North Suburban rival Warren in the Class 4A sectional at Barrington. Last week, Libertyville lost to Lake Zurich 68-62 in overtime, defeated Stevenson 62-60, then lost to Maine South 50-47 before the BullsBucks game in Milwaukee. The Wildcats play at Mundelein on Friday.

In the loss to Lake Zurich, Pils scored 22 points, including eight in the last 61 seconds to force overtime. Earlier, he scored 26 against Stevenson and Mundelein. Against Stevenson, he scored 17, including six free throws in the last 38 seconds to seal the victory. Against Maine South, he was limited to 11 points as Libertyville fell behind by 15 points in the first half, then rallied but failed to hold a 47-43 lead with 1:30 to play.

"I'm not sure why," Pils said, trying to explain why he has a knack for for scoring late in games. "I guess when my team is down, I just try to be more aggressive and get as many quick shots as I can."

Pils has come a long way. Once upon a time, he was a three-sport athlete. In fifth and sixth grade, he competed in national age-group tennis tournaments. He qualified for the state meet in singles as a sophomore. He also stood out in soccer, playing mid-field on Libertyville's state finalist as a junior. Finally, he realized he wanted to focus on one sport.

"After basketball last year, I decided not to play tennis or soccer anymore. I wanted to concentrate on basketball," he said. "Tennis was my main sport but I got sick of it. Soccer was fun in season but I didn't want to focus on it.

"I wanted to play basketball, to see how good I could be. It's an up-tempo game, fun to play, a team sport. Making a good pass is a better feeling than making a shot. That's when I really get happy."

Pils, who moved to Libertyville from Racine, Wisconsin, when he was in seventh grade, played with a couple of travel teams and began to sharpen his game. A year ago, he averaged 10 points. During the fall, he had several 40 and 50-point games. All of a sudden, colleges began to notice.

"He has been flying under the radar," Bogumil said. "He broke his foot at the end of last year and didn't play much during the summer. Nobody had a chance to see him. But he was scoring at will in the fall. He always had been a pass-first point guard. But I talked to him about being more selfish and scoring more."

Loyola has asked Pils to walk on. He also is considering three Division III schools--North Park, Hope and Wisconsin-Eau Claire. But Bogumil thinks Pils might be good enough to play at a higher level, maybe Division II or even low Division I.

Recruiting analysts Roy and Harv Schmidt of Illinois Prep Bulls-Eye said Pils has emerged as one of the biggest sleepers in the class of 2012. "A lot of colleges are missing the boat on him," they said.

"He can score in a variety of ways and do so in bunches. However, he is not only a shooter and scorer but also a playmaker, as evidenced by the fact that he has totaled eight or more assists twice this season."

"He will be a point guard in college," Bogumil said. "He is a good three-point shooter, a great passer and has great court vision. He also is an 89-percent free throw shooter. He is light years better on offense than he was last year. He has made great strides."

Speaking of strides, Pils also is into shoes...basketball shoes, lots of them. He and Matthews, who works at a shoe store, collect them. They wear every pair of Nike shoes they can find--and they wear different colors for each game.

At one point, Bogumil wanted them to wear only black-and-white shoes, the school colors, but he gave up after awhile. Now he lets them wear whatever color they want... Black and orange, black with green trim, orange, even Christmas-like green and red at the Wheeling Holiday Tournament.

"Ever since eighth grade, I have been collecting shoes and wearing them to games. I have 40 pairs of basketball shoes. I sell some on E-Bay and keep the ones I really like," Pils said. "Ellis wears the color of the team we are playing. Against Lake Forest, he wore blue shoes and blue socks. I wear whatever I feel like wearing."

Pils remains up-to-date and fashionable. When Nike debuted a new pair of Michael Jordan shoes on Dec. 23, he was standing in line. Called Air Jordan 11 Concord, they sold out in 10 minutes. He bought a pair for 175. Today, he said, they cost 350 to 400. He wore the Jordans for the first time against Stevenson on Friday.

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Four takeaways: Brandon Saad breaks out in strong bounce-back performance by Blackhawks

Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 3-1 win over the Anaheim Ducks at the United Center on Tuesday:

1. Brandon Saad's breakout game

After turning in one of his best efforts of the season on Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks rewarded Saad with a promotion to the top-six again. And he took advantage of that opportunity.

In the first period alone, Saad recorded four shots on goal, scored his first of the season on the power play, drew a penalty and had a takeaway in 7:42 of ice time, which led all forwards. He finished with nine shot attempts (a season-high seven on goal) and 18:56 of ice time.

On his power-play goal, Saad battled for position in front of the net, called for the puck and scored on his second effort. He did all the right things and got rewarded, including on the empty-netter that sealed the victory.

"I've had some chances, especially as of late," Saad said. "But it's definitely nice for them to get in and get a win on top of that."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "He was excellent tonight. ... I thought he had great speed all over the ice, had the puck way more. We’re happy for him. Big factor in the win."

2. Erik Gustafsson's slap-pass becoming a thing

For the second time this season, Gustafsson contributed to a game-winning goal that involved a fake shot and slap-pass from the point. Patrick Kane was the recipient of the cross-ice pass and buried home the one-timer from the right faceoff circle

"I can’t score by myself, so it’s better to pass it," Gustafsson joked. "No, I know Kaner is out there. He’s always getting open when someone else has the puck so it’s easy to find him and there was one guy in front of me so I wanted to pass it."

3. Blackhawks cut down on high-danger chances

On Sunday against Tampa Bay, the Blackhawks allowed 25 high-danger chances at even strength. It put them at the very bottom of the league for most on average per game, ironically falling below Anaheim.

Through two periods on Tuesday, the Blackhawks allowed zero and only five at 5-on-5 for the entire game. Certainly a 180 from two nights ago, and an area they will continue to build upon.

"We just took away those quality chances," said Corey Crawford, who made 24 saves and picked up his first win at home since Dec. 17, 2017. "I don't think they really had too many where they had time in front of the net to really think about where they wanted to shoot and our guys were on the right away in the middle of the ice and that'll give you a great chance to win a hockey game."

4. Special teams battle

There were a total of 20 penalty minutes (10 for Anaheim, 10 for Chicago), which meant lots of power play opportunities and not as much even-strength time.

The Blackhawks had four of them in the first period, and converted on the second try when Saad scored his first of the season. The penalty killed went 4-for-4, allowing a combined eight combined shots on goal but limiting the quality chances.

Chris Sale labors in World Series opener for Red Sox

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USA TODAY

Chris Sale labors in World Series opener for Red Sox

When Chris Sale was with the White Sox, fans dreamed of seeing him headline a postseason playoff rotation.

That never materialized in his time with the White Sox, but Sale is headlining a World Series rotation for the Red Sox. The 29-year-old pitched Game 1 for the Red Sox against the Dodgers on Tuesday.

Sale didn't last long, making it into the fifth and getting pulled before recording an out. In those 4+ innings, Sale gave up three runs while striking out seven.

One of the key plays of the game featured Manny Machado getting an RBI single against Sale in the third inning to tie the game at 2-2. Machado later had an RBI groundout to again tie the game in the fifth before Boston regained the lead in the bottom half of that inning.

Was that a meeting of the White Sox past (Sale) against the White Sox future (Machado)? Machado will be a highly sought after free agent this winter and the White Sox have been connected to the former Orioles infielder since last offseason.

Game 1 featured a stellar pitching matchup of Sale against Clayton Kershaw, but it didn't materialize as it looked on paper. Sale labored while Kershaw gave up five runs in 4+ innings.

This postseason hasn't been a standout one for Sale. The lefty has a 4.40 ERA in 16 1/3 innings over four appearances (three starts and a relief appearance).

The longer Chris Sale is with the Red Sox, the less this will feel relevant to the White Sox, but it is still something to see the longtime White Sox ace on the mound starting a World Series opener.