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Remember Centralia 1941, Du Sable 1954?

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Remember Centralia 1941, Du Sable 1954?

Jim Brown always believed that his 1954 Du Sable team was one of the best ever produced in Illinois and surely was destined to win the state championship with a lineup featuring Paxton Lumpkin, Sweet Charlie Brown and Shellie McMillon. But the Panthers lost to Mount Vernon in one of the most controversial state finals in history.

Arthur Trout's celebrated Wonder Five was heavily favored to win the 1941 state title. But the Orphans, led by Dike Eddleman, Jack Klosterman, Bill Castleman, Harold Wesner and Bob Michael lost to Morton of Cicero and Chet Strumillo 30-29 in the state semifinals and settled for third place and a 44-2 record.

They were two of the outstanding teams that fell short of expectations. They received more recognition for losing than many other teams did for winning state championships. Who remembers Mount Vernon's 1954 team? Or Morton's 1941 team?

Du Sable 1954, Centralia 1941, Farragut 1955, Collinsville 1957 and Paris 1942 are five of the best teams ever produced in Illinois--and none of them won the state title. They will forever be remembered as great teams with great players that didn't bring home the biggest trophy of all.

Du Sable had qualified for the Sweet Sixteen in 1953 under coach Arthur Scher but lost to eventual state champion La Grange and Ted Caiazza 85-68 in the first round, finishing with a 27-3 record.

In 1954, new coach Jim Brown greeted three returning standouts--Paxton Lumpkin, Sweet Charlie Brown and Shellie McMillon. They joined Karl Dennis and McKinley Cowsen to form a devastating offense that averaged 95 shots and 82.8 points per game in winning their first 31 games and overwhelming Bowen, Quincy and Edwardsville in the first three games of the tournament. But the Panthers lost to Mount Vernon 76-70 in the final.

McMillon, who later played at Bradley, was whistled for three early fouls. Lumpkin twice was called for charging after making baskets. One of the officials, John Fraser of Alton, called traveling on Brown after he had converted three long jumpers. Lumpkin, Brown and Dennis fouled out in the closing minutes.

"He (Fraser) turned the game around," Jim Brown said. "In the last three minutes, he called key fouls and took the game over. The other official (Joe Przada of Belleville) was fair. Sure, we made mistakes. We didn't protect the key. Don Richards (25 points) surprised us. We probably should have called off the press earlier rather than foul. But I still believe the game was taken away from us."

"It's not how many fouls you call (Du Sable committed 19, Mount Vernon 12) but when you call them," Sweet Charlie Brown said. "I had been making the same move throughout the season and the tournament. I planted both feet when I caught the ball, then took a step as a launching pad for shooting. It was called traveling in that circumstance."

A few years later, as recounted in "Glory Days: Legends of Illinois High School Basketball," Fraser was convicted of fixing games and banned from officiating in the Missouri Valley Conference. It prompted Brown to do some research of his own, to confirm his suspicions that the championship game had been rigged.

"I wanted to get a copy of the film of the state final but I was told that the last three minutes were deleted," he said. "To this day, I can't get a copy of the film.

"We were 17 and 18-year-old kids playing a game and competing and trying to find out who was the best. We were out to prove our superiority, like soldiers taking a hill."

Centralia was the scourge of the Deep South in 1940-41 and Dike Eddleman, a junior, was building a reputation as one of the greatest athletes in state history. The Orphans swept past Paris and Carbondale but lost to Morton by one point in the semifinals. Morton went on to win the state title.

The following year, it was Paris' turn to suffer the same fate. Coach Ernie Eveland's team, led by Nate Middleton, won 39 games in a row before losing to Centralia and Eddleman 35-33 in the state final. Eddleman scored 16 points to lead a late comeback that stunned Paris.

Centralia rallied from a 13-point deficit in the last six minutes to stun Paris. Eddleman picked up a loose ball and scored the winning basket at the buzzer. Even after competing in the Rose Bowl, the Final Four, the Olympics and the NBA, he always considered the victory over Paris in 1942 to be his greatest thrill in sports.

As Centralia had done the previous year, Paris came back to win the 1943 state title. With Dick Foley, Dave Humerickhouse and Max Norman returning from the 1942 squad and joining Gordon Taylor, Paris capped a 36-2 season by beating Moline.

"That was devastating," Norman said about Paris' loss to Centralia in the 1942 state final. "We thought we would be the first unbeaten state champion. It broke us up. You don't forget things like that, even 50 years later. I recall 1942 for losing almost as much as I recall 1943 for winning. To this day, I think 1942 was a better team than 1943."

But Paris didn't blow the lead in 1943. The Tigers got past Salem and All-Stater Roy Gatewood and 6-foot-7, 230-pound Dean White by a 53-50 margin in the semifinals despite Gatewood's 22 points, then prevailed over Moline 46-37 in the final.

Vergil Fletcher won two state championships and 792 games at Collinsville but the one that got away was the 1957 final when his unbeaten and top-ranked team had its 34-game winning streak snapped by Herrin 45-42 in the state final. The Kahoks were led by Terry Bethel and Thom Jackson. Herrin was led by John Tidwell.

In the final, Bethel, who was named to Parade magazine's All-America team with Jerry Lucas, picked up three fouls in the first five minutes and was forced to sit down. The Kahoks shot only 17-of-47 and Fletcher said it was one of the most disappointing losses of his career.

"Nobody will let the 1957 team die," Bethel said. "To them, there never will be a team like 1957, not even 1961."

Fletcher's 1961 team, led by Bogie Redmon and Fred Riddle, went 32-0 and is generally regarded among the top five teams in state history. After edging Centralia 66-64 in the supersectional in a duel of the state's two top-rated teams, Collinsville went to crush its last three opponents by margins of 23, 37 and 34 points.

In 1995, William "Wolf" Nelson was convinced that his Farragut team, featuring future NBA star Kevin Garnett, Ronnie Fields and Michael Wright, was destined to add to the Chicago Public League's legacy of outstanding state champions. But the Admirals were upset by Thornton in the state quarterfinals. Garnett was distraught after the game and has always said it was one of the most disappointing losses of his career.

At the end of the regular season, Farragut was 23-1 and rated No. 1 in the state. Peoria Manual was 24-2 and rated No. 2. Thornton was 22-1 and rated No. 5. In the Public League final, Farragut ousted Carver and Nick Irvin 71-62 but lost to Thornton and Melvin Ely, Erik Herring, Chauncey Jones and James Johnson 46-43 in the state quarterfinals. Thornton went on to lose to Peoria Manual in the state final.

Things go from bad to worse for Cubs as Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game with injury

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Things go from bad to worse for Cubs as Kris Bryant leaves Sunday's game with injury

What else could go wrong for the Cubs in 2019?

As they faced the Cardinals on a rainy afternoon in what is likely the last game at Wrigley Field this season, Kris Bryant left with an injury after the third inning.

Bryant grounded into an inning-ending double play and as he stretched to try to beat the throw to first base, his foot slipped on the slick bag and he went down hard, appearing to roll his right ankle in the process:

Bryant has been hampered by a right knee injury over the last few months, so this was the last thing he — or the team — needed right now.

It's the latest in a string of brutal injuries for the Cubs over the last month. First, it was Javy Baez going down with a thumb injury on an awkward slide into second base on Sept. 1. 

Closer Craig Kimbrel hit the injured list with right elbow inflammation days later and Addison Russell followed after taking a 94 mph fastball to the face. Veteran reliever Brandon Kintzler has also missed time lately with a left oblique injury and then there was Anthony Rizzo's badly sprained ankle a week ago, though he made a miraculous, storybook recovery for the beginning of this Cardinals series.

Exactly a week after Rizzo needed help walking off Wrigley Field, he was out there with his arm around Bryant, leading his injured teammate to the dugout.

With the Cubs facing down a tough task to get into the playoffs (only a 9 percent chance as of Sunday morning) with just seven games to play, they can't afford any more injuries to their top players. Even if they don't make the postseason, the Cubs are still holding their breath, obviously hoping Bryant's injury is nothing long-term that would affect his status for 2020.

Bear PAWS: Hitting 30 key for Bears against Washington in Week 3

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Bear PAWS: Hitting 30 key for Bears against Washington in Week 3

Thirty is one of those milestone numbers in life where people feel a sense of pride and accomplishment. For most, reaching 30 years in age signals an advanced maturity towards accountability and a mastering of destinies.

Sports, being extremely reflective of society, mirrors the notion of 30 as a noteworthy number. For example, once a baseball player attains membership in the “30-30 club” – hitting 30 home runs and stealing 30 bases – his status elevates among other major leaguers.

Conversely, depending on the circumstances, 30 sometimes has negative implications attached to it. For instance, once NFL running backs hit the age of 30, conventional wisdom speculates that his skills will erode, making him less effective.

This week, as far as the Washington Redskins are concerned, the number 30 represents a level of futility and ineffectiveness that’s led to two losses and zero wins this season. Let’s use P.A.W.S. (Predictive Analysis With Stats) to sift through the ebb and flow of 30 and how it affects this week’s contest between Chicago and Washington.

Washington hired Jay Gruden to be its head coach in 2014, and have since amassed a 35–46-1 record, with one playoff loss. Overall, Gruden has coached in 83 games but, unfortunately for the Redskins, they’ve lost 30.1 percent of those games after allowing teams to score 30 or more points. Yes, typically, any NFL team giving up 30 points in a game all but insures the likelihood of a frustrating loss.

For the past 3 seasons, the league average for losing games after giving up 30 points is 20.4 percent, and only five teams are at 30 percent or higher. Only one of those five teams made a playoff appearance within those three years, the 2016 Miami Dolphins. Since 2016, every team in the NFC East from Dallas (11.8 percent), to Philadelphia (3.8 percent), and the New York Giants (18.4 percent) are below the league average in games lost by allowing 30 points or more.

Washington’s defense is so bad it’s offensive. Speaking of offenses, last season in games where the Redskins lost giving up 30 or more points, their opponents averaged 436 yards per game. The NFL average for yards allowed per contest last year was at 352.2, and this season it’s increased by a few to 356.2 yards a game. The Redskins are even worse so far in this campaign, giving up 455 yards per game, essentially 100 yards more than the league average.

Another strong contributor to Washington’s ineffectiveness is their turnover to takeaway numbers. Since Gruden’s arrival in 2014, the Redskins have turned the ball over 52 times, while only taking it away 22 times for a minus-30 margin.

Going by the Redskins’ pathetic defensive output, this should be an easy win for the Bears, right?

Not so fast - as inept as Washington’s defense has been, Chicago’s offense has been equally futile. Mitchell Trubisky is ranked 28th in the league in passing yards, and has only completed 58.3 percent of his attempts with no touchdown passes. Chicago is scoring less than 10 points per game and most of those scores are from their kicker, Eddy Pineiro.

Washington, on the other hand, has its QB Case Keenum completing 69.1 percent of his passes with five touchdowns thrown to zero interceptions. Plus, the Redskins under Gruden have never allowed 30 points scored against for 3 consecutive weeks. Through the first two weeks, Washington has given up 32 and 31 points, respectively.

The Bears’ offensive scoring issues are not a recent phenomenon, because looking back over the last three games played, they only tallied 34 points combined. That's under 12 points a game. The Bears, and specifically Trubisky, need to take advantage of a porous Redskin defense and “get right” sooner than later. The Bears’ defense is among the top-3 in several categories, and should stymie Keenum and the Redskins offense enough to give Trubisky plenty of opportunities to score.

The Bears will win if…

  • The offense can match or exceed the league average of 356.2 yards total offense per game. The Redskins are giving up 455 yards on average this season
  • The defense continues suffocating offenses, not allowing more than 12 points per contest
  • The defense can force any turnover to give a struggling offense a shorter field to traverse for an easy score

 

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