Bulls

TEAM Englewood's Johnny Roland makes right call

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TEAM Englewood's Johnny Roland makes right call

Lorenzo Donegan was at home and cutting the grass in his front lawn when he received a telephone call from Johnny Roland, whom he had coached at Crane and had transferred to Englewood.

"I had resigned (at Crane) and thought I was done with coaching," said Donegan, who has been a Chicago firefighter for 24 years.

But Roland was insistent. "Why not come to Englewood and help coach?" he asked Donegan.

"It was a challenge," Donegan said. "I heard about the shared gym (with Urban Prep) and only 90 minutes of practice time. But it is a new program. The kids want to win. It was a change for me to start my own program.

"The sophomores are good. There is great chemistry and they are unbeaten in the conference. And there are some good freshmen, too. I want to stay and see how they develop. We can go to the Red Division after this season and they can keep us in the Red. My blood is flowing again, my competitive juices. It's hard to walk out on the kids now. It's all about the kids."

TEAM Englewood is 16-4 after last Friday's 70-66 loss to Little Village. Earlier, the Eagles defeated their chief Blue Division rival, Jones, 67-62. They will meet Urban Prep on Monday night in their final tune-up for the Public League playoff and a February 16th match with North Lawndale.

"We are a leg up to move to the Red Division. Our vision has to go to the Red Division," Donegan said. "How good is this team? As good as it wants to be. The big thing is the commitment by the kids. We have set high schools. We challenge them all the time. And they have answered it."

Who is TEAM Englewood? The school has been open for five years. It occupies the old Englewood High School building, which includes a refurbished gymnasium. The school shares the building with Urban Prep. It has an enrollment of 520 students.

Donegan, 54, knows how to win. This is his first full year at the helm. A graduate of Westinghouse in 1976, he wasn't good enough to make a basketball team at a time when Eddie Johnson was the star and Mark Aguirre was walking in the door from Austin.

"(Westinghouse coaches) Frank Lollino and Roy Condotti were my gym teachers. They were great influences on me," he said. "I always wanted to be a basketball coach. That was my mission in life."

Donegan coached softball for 20 years in Washington Park's Sunday League. He also was the sophomore basketball coach at Crane and Hubbard. Two of the most talented players he helped to develop were Sherron Collins and Othyus Jeffers. He also coached Johnny Roland.

At Englewood, Donegan interviewed with Bo Delaney, the dean of students and former basketball coach at Manley--and Roland's stepfather.

"When I heard they were looking for another sophomore coach, I called and asked (Donegan) to help us out," Roland said. "I was a freshman at Crane and he coached me on the sophomore team. I loved him. He was a great coach. He pushed me hard every day in practice.

"Why is he a good coach? Because he pushes his players all the time in a positive way. He helps us on and off the court. And he keeps our heads in the books. There is a lot of trouble in Englewood. We have to deal with gangs all the time. He encourages us to stay in the gym and off the streets."

According to Donegan, Roland "makes us go. He is a complete point guard. I have seen a lot of point guards this year and he is among the top 10. Illinois State is talking to him. He has a lack of exposure because we are in the Blue Division but he is a diamond in the rough. More colleges should be looking at him."

Roland, a 5-foot-11 senior, averages 17 points and 8 assists per game. Shartone Moore, a 6-foot-3 sophomore, averages 14 points and 10 rebounds. Other starters are 6-foot-1 junior Jonathan Owens (12 ppg, 8 rpg), 6-foot-3 senior DeAngelo Rocquemore (15 ppg, 10 rpg) and 5-foot-10 sophomore Ashten Hilliard (12 ppg, 5 rpg).

Primary reserves are 6-foot-2 senior Malek Johnson (8 ppg, 4 rpg) and 5-foot-7 senior Montrell McLaurin (6 ppg, 3 assists).

Against Jones, Owens had 12 points, 11 rebounds and 5 assists and Moore contributed 14 points and 12 rebounds. "Moore has great potential, a great upside. His potential hasn't been reached," Donegan said.

Roland doesn't believe his potential has been reached, either. He has been playing basketball since he was 5 years old, with his three older brothers on the court across the alley from their home, two-on-two, HORSE. Oldest brother Luther, who played for Bo Delaney at Manley, usually won.

But playing on the playground and playing in the Public League are two different things. Roland prides himself on being a complete point guard. He utilizes his speed and his instincts and his senior leadership. He hopes the whole package is enough to earn a college scholarship.

He has offers from Texas-Pan American and Oklahoma State-Panhandle, a Division II school, and he also has interest from Alabama-Birmingham, Illinois State and Roosevelt. He would like to attend UAB, a big-time program in a big-time conference, Conference USA.

"One of my friends, (former Hubbard point guard) Aaron Johnson, went there. He just graduated and now he is playing overseas," Roland said. "He had a lot of nice things to say about the program. I hope to hear from them."

Meanwhile, he hopes to complete a 20-victory season and help to talk TEAM Englewood to the Red Division.

"We're very excited about going to the Red Division," the coach said. "But we have to mature. The kids have to know that every game is a war. They have to seal the deal. We don't want to go up to the Red for one year and come back down. We have a bulls-eye on us now. We have to be more focused and make a name for ourselves."

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

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USA TODAY

Bulls defense costs them late but showing 'competitive spirit' a step in right direction

The Bulls defense is nowhere near where it needs to be, and it cost them dearly on Saturday night. But in a season that’s still about seeing progression both individually and collectively, the Bulls took a step in the right direction with their effort and what Fred Hoiberg called “competitive spirit.”

That won’t change the standings when they wake up Sunday morning, now facing an 0-2 hole in the early season. And while better effort and tougher defense helped them stage a second-half comeback they weren’t able to manage on Thursday, it was a defensive miscue that cost them the game.

Ish Smith split a double screen at the top of the key and sliced his way past Jabari Parker for a wide open go-ahead layup with 5.4 seconds left. Zach LaVine, who 20 seconds earlier had tied the game with the last of his 33 points, was unable to get a shot off after a timeout. Better than Thursday for 47 minutes and 50 seconds. But still costing them when it mattered most.

“We can’t give up a layup for the last play,” said LaVine, who was guarding Smith. “We just got to get our defense right. That’s why it’s really upsetting because we played so well, we came back but we can’t give up a layup. We at least have to make him take a tough one. That was as easy a layup as you can get. It’s really upsetting.”

Fred Hoiberg defended his decision to leave Parker in the game instead of inserting rookie Wendell Carter Jr. He opted to ride the group that helped the Bulls erase a fourth-quarter deficit when it appeared the Bulls were spiraling toward another double-digit loss.

But the Pistons were ready to find the weak link in the Bulls defense and expose it, like they did much of the fourth quarter while attacking Parker with Blake Griffin. As the screen was set Parker jumped outside to cut off Smith, who then made a cut inward and made a dash to the rim. Parker was a couple steps late, allowing the 5-foot-9 Smith to score with ease to give the Pistons their lead and the eventual game-winner.

Bobby Portis, whose shot wasn’t falling but played admirable defense against a talent like Griffin, was on the other side of the double screen and didn’t have a great view of the play. But he said allowing a layup with the game on the line is inexcusable.

“It’s a tough play but at the same time you don’t want to give up a layup at the end of the game,” he said. “You want to make him take a tough shot. That’s something we’ve got to work on, is late game execution on defense.”

But again, it’s about baby steps. The Bulls will want that final possession back, and Hoiberg might also want it back after leaving Parker in the game over Carter. But from where the Bulls were on Thursday, this was better. Granted, allowing 118 points and 18 3-pointers to the Pistons isn’t a recipe for success, it’s improvement nonetheless. Detroit got a career-high five triples from Griffin, four from Reggie Jackson (a career 32 percent 3-point shooter) and a pair from Stnaley Johnson (a career 29 percent 3-point shooter). The Bulls will be able to live with some of those makes.

On Thursday the Bulls trailed by just six early in the third quarter before the Sixers ripped off a 19-3 run to put the game out of reach. On Saturday the Pistons got out to a six-point lead on two different occasions, and then a seven-point lead with just 2:01 to play. All three times the Bulls came roaring back, using timely spots and clutch baskets from LaVine, Park and even Cameron Payne, who tied a career-high with 17 points.

Ultimately it wasn’t enough, but it’s a positive sign that they were able to battle back and show some fight defensively. They’ll certainly need that when they travel to Dallas to take on a Mavericks team that scored 140 points on the Jimmy Butler-less Timberwolves on Saturday. They should get Dunn back, which will help,  and now have a close contest under their belt on which to build. It didn’t result in a win, and the late-game cross-up was the cause, but the Bulls finished Saturday in a much better place than they were in on Thursday.

“Yeah but obviously we want to get the win. I feel like we fought hard,” Portis said. “Even when adversity hit everybody stuck together. We did our thing tonight. You want to win the game but I felt like we did our job tonight. We just gave up a bad play at the end of the game.”

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

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AP

Four takeaways: 'Vintage' Corey Crawford steals two points for Blackhawks

COLUMBUS — Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 4-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena on Saturday:

1. Corey Crawford steals the show

The Blackhawks had no business winning this game. They were being outshot 28-15 through two periods, committed four penalties and gave up 18 high-danger chances in the game. 

But Crawford bailed out his team like he often has done in the past, and was zoned in from the moment the puck dropped. He finished with 37 saves on 38 shots for a save percentage of .974, picking up his first win since Dec. 17, 2017.

"Yeah, I felt good," Crawford said. "I think everyone was playing hard, rebounds, taking away sticks. That was a great effort by everyone."

"He was standing on his head for us," Patrick Kane said. "As Q would say, that’s a goalie win for us."

Said coach Joel Quenneville: "That was vintage Crow."

2. Tic-tac-toe leads to go-ahead goal

The Blue Jackets were clearly the better team through two periods. The Blackhawks were fortunate to go into second intermission with the game still tied at 1-1.

The next goal was crucial, and they got it thanks to a give-and-go play by Brent Seabrook and Kane, who buried home a wide open net to give the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead with 4:14 left in regulation.

Was Kane expecting Seabrook to pass it back?

"No. Not a chance," Kane said laughing. "That’s his wheelhouse, coming right down there. He scores a lot of goals from that area. Saw it was like a 2-on-2, he was coming late, he jumped in the play on the first goal, did a great job, jumped in the play on that goal. Made a great pass. When I saw it come back, I just tried to stay patient, settle it down and make sure I hit the net, because I knew I had the whole open net."

3. Busy night for PK

The Blackhawks penalty kill was very busy. It was also on it's A-game, partly because their best penalty killer was Crawford.

The Blackhawks spent 6:31 of the first 40 minutes killing penalties, allowing 11 shots total on it. But most importantly, they killed off all four penalties.

"We had some tough clears, but I thought we did some good things," Quenneville said. "We withstood some extended PK zone time there and found a way to keep us in the game. Obviously that next goal was huge and that second period was a big part of them having so much zone time, keeping us in our end. We'll say, hey good job, but Crow was the best penalty killer tonight."

4. Catching up with Kane on Artemi Panarin

Kane and Panarin spent only two seasons together, but they brought Blackhawks fans out of their seats on a nightly basis and it was amazing to watch the instant on-ice chemistry they shared. And most of it was non-verbal, which made it even more impressive. They were always on the same wavelength.

"Sometimes it takes time to build some chemistry but that was one of those things where it was like, I don't want to say instant chemistry, but after one or two preseason games we kind of new that maybe something special was going to happen," Kane told NBC Sports Chicago. "I think he scored in his first game in the NHL, we had a really good game, we had the puck a lot, we sensed that this could be a fun way to play hockey."

Off the ice, Kane said Panarin would use Google translate on his phone to communicate while Kane would try using a Russian accent while saying English words.

The two of them got a chance to hang out for a little bit on Friday and Kane still keeps tabs on his former linemate.

"I always really enjoy watching him," Kane said. "If we have an off night or something, he's a really fun player to watch."