Cubs

Thompson rises to the occasion, leads Young

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Thompson rises to the occasion, leads Young

Friday, March 5, 2011
11:05 p.m.

By Patrick McGavin
YourSeason.com

Sam Thompson has experienced just about any play or scenario in a given game.

The Ohio State-bound senior forward has played in consecutive Class 4A state championship games.

It stands to reason with the game in the balance, Young knows precisely where to look.

Thompson converted two free throws with 2.3 seconds remaining that clinched the host Dolphins 50-46 victory over No. 23 St. Ignatius in a Class 4A regional final Friday night.

The Dolphins advance to play No. 3 De La Salle Tuesday in the York Sectional.

Thompson scored a team-high 13 points to lead the No. 8 Dolphins (19-10).

We played hard, Thompson said. This was the kind of game where youre not going to hit every shot or make every play, but we played hard and we contested out there and thats what you need this time of year.

Young had enough to withstand multiple St. Ignatius comeback efforts. Wolfpack junior guard Brian Howard (eight points) drilled a three-pointer that capped an 8-0 run that narrowed Youngs 10-point lead to 36-34 with 6:17 remaining.

St. Ignatius (20-8) struggled from the floor, shooting just 17-53. Star center Nnanna Egwu scored a game-high 16 points and added 13 rebounds and six blocked shots. The array of Young big men harassed the Illinois-bound senior into 6-19 shooting from the floor, including 2-11 in the first half.

We were rushing a lot offensively and trying to score quickly and we got out of rhythm, Egwu said. Thats credit to Young, thats how they force you to play. Fortunately we locked them down defensively and thats what kept us in the game.

The Dolphins coveted depth told the story. Sophomore forward Thomas Hamilton Jr. scored six of his 10 points in the first quarter to stake the Dolphins to a 12-7 lead. My offensive play in that first quarter was unexpected, Hamilton said. I thought Id just go out, play defense and rebound.

Eight different Young players scored. Freshman center Jahlil Okafor recorded 11 rebounds, challenged Egwu on the low block and a made a key block in the fourth quarter. Junior point guard Derrick Randolph had six points and a key assist after breaking the press to Luke Hager for a dunk with 16 seconds remaining that put Young up 48-43.

Senior guard Kwai Pearson added nine points for the Dolphins.

St. Ignatius guard Jack Crepeau hit three free throws with 3.7 seconds to pull the Wolfpack within 48-46. Junior forward Marty McClure contributed nine points and senior forward Tyrone Staggers added eight points for the Wolfpack.

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

The Cubs could use a leadoff hitter and a center fielder. One player who can fill both of those holes is available is looking to sign soon.

Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama is in the U.S. with his agent, according to Sports Nippon, while the winter meetings take place in San Diego.

Akiyama is a center field option when center field options are limited this offseason. Brett Gardner is a free agent, but the 36-year-old wouldn’t be easy to pry away from his only professional organization.

Akiyama is 31 and saw a dropoff in his numbers in Japan last season, but still had a .392 on-base percentage with 20 home runs in 143 games.

Albert Almora’s struggles last season left the Cubs with uncertainty in center going forward. That saw Jason Heyward spending some time in center with Kyle Schwarber and Nicholas Castellanos on the corners. That’s not a pretty defensive outfield. Meanwhile, Akiyama has two Golden Glove awards in Japan.

He would also bring on-base skills and speed to a Cubs lineup that has resorted to having power hitter Anthony Rizzo play leadoff at times.

Akiyama would also likely not be an expensive option, which is key for a Cubs team reportedly looking to get under the luxury tax this offseason.

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Report: Cubs have discussed Kris Bryant with the Phillies

Report: Cubs have discussed Kris Bryant with the Phillies

While most teams with World Series aspirations are looking to bolster their roster in free agency, the Cubs are in a precarious situation.

Theo Epstein and team need to shed payroll before being able to make any moves, and have reportedly been telling representatives of free agents as much.

And the easiest path to shedding payroll is trading away high-priced players. Two names that have come up frequently are former NL MVP Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras.

While that's all been speculation, 670 The Score's Bruce Levine reported the Cubs talked to the Phillies about a Bryant deal.

The big hold up surrounding could be Bryant his unresolved service time grievance. What the arbiter will determine is how many years of team control are left, one or two years. That would impact Bryant's value on the market and a trade partner would be foolish to not wait to see how that plays out.

But as free agents come off the board, it could make teams more desperate and create a bidding war. That market could have already been shaped by Stephen Strasburg's extension in Washington.

It's worth nothing, Bryant's friend Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies last offseason for a mega contract and he could be intrigued by the option of playing with his pal. Not to mention, former Cubs teammate Jake Arrieta is on the Phils' pitching staff.

But with Harper's massive contract on the books for another 12 seasons, would a Bryant move land him a big, long-term contract to stay in the City of Brotherly Love? Perhaps not.

The Phillies entered free agency with about $150 million in committed payroll for the 2020 season, there is a lot of room under the expected $208 million luxury tax threshold to add a player like Bryant.

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