Cubs

Simeon's dynasty continues with third straight 4A title

706144.png

Simeon's dynasty continues with third straight 4A title

PEORIA, Ill. Simeon and Proviso East staged one of the all-time great state championship games Saturday at Carver Arena.

Pirates junior Sterling Brown drained a three with four seconds to play, but Proviso East was forced to watch the final seconds tick off the clock as the ball rolled under the basket. There were no timeouts left and time had run out. Simeon had a 50-48 victory and a third consecutive Class 4A state championship.

The win gave Simeon a sixth state championship, the most in state history. It also gave Simeon coach Robert Smith his fifth title, the most by one coach in state history, breaking the record held by East St. Louis coach Bennie Lewis since 1989.

For three quarters, all of that history-making seemed to be in severe doubt, as the Pirates matched Simeons every move. The game was tied at the half and Proviso East led by five after three quarters. There was a sense that Simeons dynasty was coming to end.

Then Steve Taylor found a way to drain an awkward hook shot from under the basket. It was a shot hes made several times this season, even if it looks lucky. It gave Simeon (33-1) a 43-41 lead and the Pirates immediately seemed to tighten up.

After that shot I think my team just fed off my emotions, Taylor said. We had the lead back and Proviso East got nervous.

Simeon junior Jabari Parkers dunk with 12 seconds to play seemed to put the exclamation point on the win, but the officials called a technical for hanging on the rim.

It didnt faze me, Parker said. They had to do something to keep the game alive. They didnt want to see us win again.

Brown hit both free throws after the technical and then drained the three, but then time ran out.

I told Sterling that we needed a three, Proviso East coach Donnie Boyce said. He had no problems with the shot. I told him we needed a delay too. I should have told him to throw the ball up in the stands afterwards.

Brown scored 25 points for the Pirates (32-1), shooting 10 for 18 from the field.

Sterling Brown was an amazing player, Parker said.

But it seems that may have been Smiths plan all along.

Sterling was outstanding, he really was, Smith said. Keith Carter didnt have a good game tonight, did he? We wanted to shut him down. He makes them go.

Carter scored eight points on 4-for-12 shooting. The Proviso East point guard had three turnovers and no assists.

Taylor scored 12 and grabbed 15 rebounds for Simeon. Parker finished with 15 points and five rebounds. Jaleni Neely added 10 points and Jaylon Tate scored eight off the bench.

In a curious incident after the win, all of Simeons players removed their shoes and placed them in a line next to the podium set up on center court. IHSA Executive Director Marty Hickman picked up the shoes and removed them.

They said they wanted to leave their mark on the court, Smith said.

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

Javier Báez joins Cubs All-Decade Team at second base, where El Mago was born

With the 2010s coming to a close, NBC Sports Chicago is unveiling its Cubs All-Decade Team, highlighting the players who made the biggest impacts on the organization from 2010-19.

There may not be a player in baseball more exciting to watch than Javier Báez.

Whether at the plate, in the field or on the bases, Báez is a human highlight real. He’s one of the most powerful hitters in baseball; he has a cannon for an arm, exemplary defensive range and is a tagging maestro. He’s a dynamic baserunner who uses his elite baseball instincts to go station-to-station while magically avoiding tags along the way.

Yeah, there’s a reason Báez is known as “El Mago.” It’s not a matter of if he’ll make an incredible play each game, but a matter of when. Things come easy for the 27-year-old full of flair who makes the most difficult plays seem routine.

Báez is a career .270/.310/.484 hitter who’s hit 110 home runs in parts of six big-league seasons. One of those long balls came in his big-league debut (Aug. 5, 2014), a go-ahead blast against the Rockies in the 12th inning. The legend of El Mago was born.

Báez is the Cubs starting shortstop, though that hasn’t always been the case. Starlin Castro was the starter in 2014; Addison Russell claimed the title from Castro in the second half of 2015, holding it down until late in the 2018 season. Russell hit the injured list that August as the Cubs simultaneously acquired Daniel Murphy in an attempt to jump-start the offense.

By the time Russell returned, Báez was a clear-cut NL MVP candidate. The latter still bounced around the infield from time-to-time, but with Murphy entrenched at second, shortstop became Báez’s primary position. He’s been the starter ever since.

Báez has played 2,646 2/3 career innings at shortstop compared to 1,856 at second base (and 629 1/3 at third). He’s exclusively a shortstop these days, but the El Mago second base days aren’t forgotten.

Báez was the co-recipient of the 2016 NLCS MVP award (along with Jon Lester) and has started back-to-back All-Star Games (2018 at second, 2019 at shortstop). He was the runner-up for the 2018 NL MVP award, posting career highs across the board: .290/.326/.554, 34 homers, 111 RBIs, 129 OPS+.

And yet, it feels like Báez is only getting started. Nevertheless, his career to date has more than earned him a spot on our Cubs All-Decade Team at second base. With that, we'll leave you with this:

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

boqvist.jpg
AP

Adam Boqvist's entry-level contract with Blackhawks officially kicks in

The youth movement is underway in Chicago and it's happening quicker than expected.

Adam Boqvist played in his 10th NHL game of the season on Sunday, officially triggering the first year of his entry-level contract. That means he will become a restricted free agent at end of the 2021-22 season. If he appeared in nine games or fewer, his contract wouldn't have kicked in until next season, which would've bought the Blackhawks an extra year of Boqvist playing at a cap hit of $894,167.

"Maybe that was a discussion very early on but as far as coach perspective, we like him," head coach Jeremy Colliton said on whether he and GM Stan Bowman had conversations about burning Boqvist's first year. "I think he's played well and it's an opportunity with some injuries to give him some ice time. He's handled it well so far."

Boqvist is the second rookie on the Blackhawks this season to burn their first year, joining No. 3 overall pick Kirby Dach. Whether the decisions were dictated by circumstances or not, the Blackhawks have seen enough of both of them to feel they can have an impact on the team in the short term without hindering their developments in the long term.

The number to watch now is 40. Like Dach, if Boqvist appears in 40 or more games this season, it will count as a full season and bring him one year closer to unrestricted free agency. Any player that's accrued seven full seasons or is at least 27 years old as of June 30 of that respective year can become an unrestricted free agent.

Boqvist appeared in six games for the Blackhawks during the month of November before getting reassigned to the Rockford IceHogs of the American Hockey League on Nov. 14 when Connor Murphy was ready to return from his groin injury.

But with Calvin de Haan (shoulder) expected to be out long term and Duncan Keith still out with a groin injury, the Blackhawks called up Boqvist for insurance and because they lacked defensemen with offensive upside. It appears he will remain with the big club for the time being and it serves as a chance for their No. 8 overall pick in 2018 to prove he can handle NHL minutes on a consistent basis during a desperate time for the Blackhawks.

Attention Dish and Sling customers! You have lost your Blackhawks games on NBC Sports Chicago. To switch providers, visit mysportschicago.com.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.