Preps Talk

St. Mel aims for rematch with Seton

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St. Mel aims for rematch with Seton

Khalil Small, Kevin King, Teadric Anderson and their Providence-St. Mel teammates were looking forward to this week's trip to the State Farm Classic in Bloomington as a "good test," a chance to measure themselves against the likes of state-rated Quincy Notre Dame, St. Joseph or Rockford Lutheran.

They opened in impressive fashion on Wednesday by storming to a 31-17 halftime lead and coasting to a 62-37 victory over Cissna Park. Small led a balanced attack by scoring 17 points.

But, to a man, they have circled Jan. 15 on their calendars. That is when Providence-St. Mel hosts Seton Academy in what is being described as a prelude to the Class 2A championship.

"That will be a signature game," St. Mel coach Tim Irvin said. "It will tell us how good we are."

A year ago, St. Mel finished 23-7, losing to Seton in the supersectional.

"We can't wait for the Seton game," King said. "Last year, I tried to prove as a sophomore that I can put a team on the map by being the best player I can be. But I was too young last year. I have another chance to prove it this year. I wasn't focused last year. My attitude was score, score, score. I wasn't focused on defense, the best part of my game."

Anderson said he still remembers the feeling in the locker room after the 61-51 loss to Seton. "We remember that supersectional every time we step on the floor. I remember the feeling of the seniors. I feel we owe it to pay them back. We felt we could have been a contender for the state title. But we didn't get it done because of small things," he said.

"It was a terrible feeling...loose balls, rebounds, mental breakdowns here and there. I'm the team leader. My job is easy. We're all on the same page. We all realize our goal is to win the state title. I just have to keep them motivated, to make sure we are having fun and have a love for the game."

St. Mel could be 11-0. The Knights, who handed highly rated North Chicago its only setback two weeks ago, lost to Hyde Park by two on a last-second tip and to Indiana power Indianapolis Brebeuf by four in overtime when King, who scored 19 points, was sidelined for the last six minutes with a knee injury.

"This is my best team in terms of how hard they play," said Ervin, noting that the top six players have returned. "They enjoy playing with each other. They have bought into the system in playing defense and being unselfish. We lack size so our two big kids have to play big for us. We must continue to be humble and hungry and not take anyone for granted."

The lineup features Small (20 ppg), a 6-foot-2 senior; King (18 ppg), a 6-foot-2 junior; Anderson (8 ppg, 5 assists), a 6-foot senior point guard; Anthony Mosley (9 ppg), a 6-foot-1 sophomore; and Donald Morgan (7 ppg), a 6-foot-2 senior.

There is plenty of punch off the bench with 6-foot-2 junior Bernard Lilly and the two bigs, 6-foot-4 sophomore Tyler Turner and 6-foot-4 junior Joshuan McNeal. Turner is a transfer from Fenwick. McNeal was academically ineligible last season.

"This year we are more hungry," Anderson said. "Our edge this year is defensive intensity. We preach defense this year. Everyone has stepped up on the defensive end. We're boxing out more and putting more pressure on the ball and talking more. It is a team effort."

Anderson said every player has improved in at least one facet of the game...King on offense, Anderson on defense, Mosley is more aggressive, McNeal and Morgan and Turner are boxing out more, Small is passing better.

Ervin, a 1991 graduate of St. Mel, has made quite a comeback at his alma mater. After playing for Gene Keady and graduating from Purdue in 1995, he worked at a financial company while serving as an assistant coach at St. Mel from 1995 to 2000.

He was named head coach in 2001 and took St. Mel to the Elite Eight in 2002. A year later, however, he went 0-26 and was fired. He was out of coaching for six years, then was rehired at St. Mel only 10 days before the 2009-10 season began.

"There was no bitterness over being fired," Ervin said. "I understood. It all worked out."

He has reminded his players of Tom Shields' 1985 state championship team that was led by Lowell Hamilton, Fernando Bunch and Joe Jackson. Small, King, Anderson and their teammates were born well after that glorious season but they have heard the stories of how it used to be and the way it was at the West Side school. And they want to write another chapter.

"Kids don't relate to the 1980s but they know about it," Ervin said. "They see the trophies in the trophy case. They want to restore that feeling in the school. Today, kids have a short shelf life. But they know the importance of tradition. They are excited about the progress we have made."

St. Mel's 1985 team might have been the best ever to compete at the small-school level in Illinois. Better than the unbeaten Lawrenceville teams of 1982 and 1983 with Marty Simmons? Better than the 1979 Providence team with Walter Downing? Maybe.

"We are aware of the state championship team of 1985," Anderson said.
"We want to bring back that winning tradition and the reputation we had. We have met the players. They were very good and played hard. They were dominant. We want to renew that."

King, who chose St. Mel over Whitney Young, Marshall and Crane "because it gave me a better opportunity to prove that I didn't have to go to a powerhouse school to make a name for myself and also academically prepare me of for life," learned about the 1985 team after he enrolled.

"We think about going back and doing what the 1985 team did," King said. "A lot of people hadn't thought about our basketball team for a while. Now there is a lot of support. When I was growing up on the West Side, I didn't know about St. Mel, only Marshall and Crane and Whitney Young. But now we know we can be something special.

"This team is more mature and more disciplined and more focused than last year. We have got in our minds that we really want to win state. Last year, we got caught up in the hype. We got too big-headed. But we got into the gym over the summer and worked together. We got to know each other better."

And they circled Jan. 15 on their calendars.

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

61 Days to Kickoff: Maine West

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

School: Maine West

Head coach: Jason Kradman

Assistant coaches: Steve Piha (Def. Coordinator), Mike O'Brill (DB/ST Coordinator), Tony Manicke (LB/Head JV Coach), Dan Wilson (OL) Russ Swenson (TE) Ryan Willett (QB) Matt Boswell (DL) Trent Greco (WR) Kyle Prater (WR) Mike Smith (Head Frosh Coach) Joe Duszynski (Frosh Asst.) and DJ Frey (Frosh Asst.).

How they fared in 2017: 7-3 (4-1 Central Suburban North Conference). Maine West made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Warriors lost to Benet Academy in opening round action.

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 vs Mundelein

Sept. 1 @ Fenton

Sept. 7 vs Elk Grove

Sept. 14 @ Hersey

Sept. 21 vs Glenbrook North

Sept. 28 @ Maine East

Oct. 5 vs Vernon Hills

Oct. 12 vs Highland Park

Oct. 19 @ Deerfield

[MORE: 65 Days to Kickoff - Elmwood Park]

Biggest storyline: Will history repeat itself? Can the Warriors post back-to-back IHSA state playoff appearances? If so, it'd be a first for the Des Plaines high school.

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Jake Bellizzi, FB/LB Krystian Garbicz and WR/DB Ely Grimmer

Biggest holes to fill: The Warriors will need to replace standout TE Matt Kentgen (now at Butler). He was a multi-year starter and team leader last fall.  

EDGY's Early Take: Maine West, coached by Jason Kradman, has been one of the area's better success stories. Kradman took over the Warriors program in 2014 and guided the Warriors to their first state playoff appearance since 2002. With 13 returning starters back from a season ago (seven offense, six defense) and a program-wide boost in overall numbers and excitement, look for the Warriors to have a good shot at playoff football once again this October.

62 Days to Kickoff: Lincoln Park

62 Days to Kickoff: Lincoln Park

NBCSportsChicago.com preps reporter "Edgy" Tim O’Halloran spotlights 100 high school football teams in 100 days. The first 75 team profiles will focus on teams making strides across Chicagoland and elsewhere in the state. Starting July 30, we’ll unveil the @NBCSPrepsTop 25 Power Rankings, leading up to kickoff on Friday, Aug. 24.

 

School: Lincoln Park

Head coach: Vince DeFrancesco

Assistant coaches: Steve Karoff, Grant Magnuson, Tyler Clark, Brandon Randolph, Alex Green and Tom Dellota

How they fared in 2017: 8-2 (7-0 Chicago Public League Chicago Big Shoulders Conference). Lincoln Park made the Class 7A state football playoff field. The Lions lost to Alton in opening round action. 

2018 Regular Season Schedule:

Aug. 24 @ IWT Speer

Sept. 1 vs. Kenwood

Sept. 7 vs. Hubbard

Sept. 14 @ Phillips

Sept. 21 vs. Lane Tech

Sept. 28 vs. Taft

Oct. 5 vs. Westinghouse

Oct. 12 vs. Raby

Oct. 19 vs. Morgan Park

Biggest storyline: The Lions' new conference. Can Lincoln Park keep its winning ways when they start playing in the CPL/Illini Land of Lincoln this fall?

Names to watch this season: RB/LB Dane Romberger and DB Jalen Jenkins

Biggest holes to fill: The Lions will need to reload on the offensive side of the football this summer with just three starters back this fall.

EDGY's Early Take: Coach Vince DeFrancesco's Lions have been on a nice roll, getting to the IHSA state playoffs in each of his past three seasons (four straight for the school overall). However, the price for the Lions' success is extremely high. The CPL Illini Land of Lincoln is loaded. The schedule includes the likes of Kenwood, Hubbard, Phillips, Raby and Morgan Park...just to name a few. If the Lions can develop their less experienced offense this summer, all the better for them.