Jeff Vorva's Editor's Notebook: IHSA socks it to H-F girls hoops program and few will shed tears


jeff columnStagg had its girls basketball season end last Wednesday night when the Chargers dropped a 58-44 decision to Mother McAuley in the Oak Lawn Regional.
But it also picked up two victories that night without even playing a game.
Another District 230 squad, Sandburg, played the same night and walked away with a 53-49 victory over Crete-Monee in Orland Park.
The Eagles also picked up two more wins without having to play.
It was a unique and historic night in the world of high school sports. Fans, players and coaches from all over the state were buzzing that buzzsaw Homewood-Flossmoor not only was suspended from the postseason by Illinois High School Association officials hours before the Vikings were set to tip off against Thornton Fractional North but H-F had to forfeit all of its regular-season victories as well.
So Stagg, which lost 71-45 and 68-41 to the Vikings, and Sandburg, which lost 70-39 and 84-23 to them in Southwest Suburban Conference play, each picked up a couple of Ws that they weren’t expecting.
Coaches, players and parents from all over the state were laughing it up and enjoying the news of the H-F suspension.
The Vikings and coach Anthony Smith have been Page-1-color-1-col-and-page-3-2-colHomewood-Flossmoor girls basketball coach Anthony Smith (top photo) and his team was suspended from the postseason and had to forfeit all of its victories including this 71-45 win over Stagg in Palos Heights in December (bottom photo).accused of many things since he took over this season. An internal investigation after an unnamed H-F parent filed a lawsuit against the school because six players transferred to the school revealed some wrongdoing. Four transfers were on his team at his former school, Bolingbrook. One was from Plainfield East and another, Bria Stallworth, was from Marist. Red flags were raised last summer when rumors of these transfers surfaced.
Before I start piling on, I have to say that I dealt with Coach Smith quite a bit when he was with Bolingbrook and he was always great to me. And I’m not going to get on a high horse about the evils of transferring because our family had a high school transfer situation and I’ve seen its merits and demerits.
Smith had been accused of skullduggery and recruiting players at Bolingbrook by coaches with strong thoughts who never wanted to go on the record about it. Kids from other regions and even other states transferred to his school to play for him.
But he had his good points, too. The dude won four state titles and had two second place finishes. He helped get college exposure for the players. And he was always harping on the players about their schoolwork and was as demanding about their GPAs as he was about their PPGs.
It’s not uncommon for winning programs to bring in kids from all over because of a team’s consistent success. page-3-2-col-jvcolMt. Carmel’s football team draws them from all over, too. Because he helped build a program at the Brook that elite players wanted to go to, I never got too worked up over the situation.
When he was brought to H-F, it wasn’t out of the question to think that he would take a few more lumps than he would have liked the first couple of years , then he would develop the rich potential talent that is in his district and turn the Vikings into a state power.
But to have these star players from Bolingbrook and a stud player from Plainfield all pull up stakes and move to – or claim to move to -- the H-F district and turn the program into an instant monster had a bad smell to it. This is like a lot of the garbage going on in the Chicago Public League.
For a while, the IHSA washed its hands of it because it had approved these transfers and the schools the girls transferred from weren’t squawking about it.
But now investigations have revealed illegal practices and workouts were conducted and that Smith coached an AAU team in the fall with 11 of this year’s Vikings teams.
The AAU violation was the most puzzling. Publicly coaching a team at various locations in the Midwest isn’t exactly sneaking around. He was either being brazen and flaunting the rules or very stupid. Since he is not a stupid man…
It’s hard for anyone from the outside to feel sorry for the girls who were involved in all of this. While they and their parents are not innocent victims in all of this mess, it’s still a tough pill for them to swallow to work as hard as they did only to have the rug pulled out from under them hours before their first regional game.
But it was the right decision and the often-criticized IHSA deserves credit for making such a bold move.
Oh, and because of this, the state was looking at possible illegalities for the H-F boys program, too. But Tuesday afternoon, the IHSA announced no penalties would be levied.

Hot boys hoops coming
Some boys basketball history could be made next week in Palos Heights.
Four-time defending Class 4A champion Simeon is in the Shepard Regional and could play Richards or Stagg next Thursday.
Simeon hasn’t lost a postseason game since March 13, 2009 when the Wolverines were dumped 68-61 by Hyde Park at the Hinsdale Central Sectional.
Simeon is still strong but not an overwhelming powerhouse and it would be pretty cool to see one of our area teams break that stronghold.
If it can’t happen next week, it might happen at the Marist Sectional in two weeks. Curie, Whitney Young, Simeon and St. Rita are the four top seeds and if there are no upsets, Marist Athletic Director Bob Lim should be smiling from ear to ear as there should be three packed houses at the Mt. Greenwood school on March 11, 12 and 14.

The upper crust
The IHSA named its All-State Academic team and no one from the area made the first team, but the honorable mention list includes Brother Rice’s Jack Gorman, Mother McAuley’s Elizabeth Nye and Richards’ Sara Tobin.
Every IHSA member school was invited to nominate one female student and one male student and nominees needed to possess a minimum 3.50 grade point average on 4.0 scale after their seventh semester, needed to participate in at least two IHSA sponsored sports or activities during each of the last two years and demonstrated outstanding citizenship.


No street resurfacing funds irks OL trustee

  • Written by Bob Rakow

An Oak Lawn trustee says the village’s 2014 proposed street resurfacing plan is a slap to residents because it does not dedicate any money to her district.


“District 5 is getting zero dollars,” Trustee Carol Quinlan (5th) said at last week’s village board meeting. “I was stunned. That is unheard of.”


Quinlan was especially miffed that the 2014 resurfacing plan until recently included two alleys in the older parts of the village.


However, the alleys were put on hold at last Wednesday’s public works committee meeting. The move makes an additional $200,000 available for street resurfacing, said village engineer Jack Gallagher.


Village staff also recommended putting the resurfacing plan on hold until the weather breaks.


“After we have some thaw over the next couple weeks, public works staff will be reassessing the condition of the streets and revising the list,” Gallagher said. “One of the challenges of having a rough winter is that we don’t know how badly the streets were affected until things begin to thaw, which is usually the same time that we are working to get the design and bidding moving forward.”


But regardless of the village’s final plan, Quinlan said she expected at least some funds allocated to her district.


Initial plans call for the village to spend about $1.6 million on street resurfacing in 2014.


District 2 will receive the lion’s share of the money—about $1.3 million. District 1 is expected to get $108,000; District 3, $329,850, District 4, $188,000; and District 6, $305,000. Those numbers are subject to change as the village assesses the condition of streets, officials said.


The proposed allocations don’t make Quinlan happy.


“This is absolutely the worst,” she said. “This has never (happened) in six years. “In six years I have always been complaining about District 5 getting shortchanged. This is the first time I’ve had a big egg—zero.”


Quinlan, a vocal critic of Mayor Sandra Bury, refused to say whether the lack of funding was politically motivated.


“I’d like to think that that’s not the case,” she said.


Trustee Alex Olejniczak (2nd) reiterated that the proposed street resurfacing budget is not etched in stone. Instead, he said, the plan is a recommendation from village staff and engineers based on need.


“I’m not going to sit there and debate (Quinlan) on what staff recommends,” Olejniczak said. “These are recommendations the public works committee brought up.”


But Quinlan staff recommendations are not the sole driver for which streets are repaired. Instead, she said, residents who complain the loudest often get their streets repaired first.


Olejniczak, chairman of the public works committee, said Quinlan should have attended the public works committee meeting if she disagreed with the recommendations. Trustees Tim Desmond and Mike Carberry also are members of the committee.


But Quinlan countered that there was no point in attending the committee meeting.


“I did not waste my time going to the public works committee meeting because every time I disagree with the board majority they always vote me down,” she said. “That’s why I decided to mention this at the board table where the entire board will hear my concerns.


“This is what happens every year. That is why I complain. I’m all about fair and I get that some of these streets are older, but zero. It just doesn’t sit well with me.”


Olejniczak added that Quinlan is suggesting that the lack of funding for her district is political.


“She’s not saying it, but she’s implying it,” Olejniczak said.


Quinlan countered saying that Olejniczak confirmed politics plays a role when he raised the issue. “If Alex even suggested that then this must be political,” she said.


This is not the first time Quinlan has complained about her district not receiving an equitable amount of funds for street resurfacing. In fact, she said last year that the district has been shortchanged since 2008.


When Quinlan was a member of the public works committee and the village board majority, she recommended that resurfacing funds be divided evenly among the village’s six districts.


That approach would ignore “streets that were severely at risk not being attended to,” Bury said.


“I was fair when I had the opportunity,” Quinlan said. “I didn't try to have all the money go into my district.”


She added that the village also plans to help fund the installation of turning lanes at Southwest Highway and Central Avenue, a project spearheaded by Olejniczak.


“Just more money for the 2nd District,” Quinlan said.


They just couldn't say no

  • Written by Kelly White



By Kelly White



Girl Scout Troop 60089 stood before the Hickory Hills City Council with brightly colored poster boards and prepared presentations, asking for help.

They asked. And they received. The council couldn't say no.

With a motion from Alderman Thomas McAvoy, the city council donated $250 from the city’s $2,500 in discretionary funds to the troop last Thursday night. The girls can use the funds to buy some of the necessary supplies they requested they need in order to help with their remodeling project of their community scout room.

Morgan Sukalo, Morgan Purtill, Katrina Pavloski, Anna Danko, Rachael Stawinski, Madison Sukalo and Riley Groark were there to make their pleas to the council. 

“Their presentation was flawless,” Mayor Mike Howley said, “None of them even seemed nervous coming before the city council.”

The girls were not planning on receiving a donation from the city council at the meeting, and explained they were going to come back and ask for the deficient after collecting donations from local businesses, family and friends.  However, they were more than happy as they smiled and gave a board an enthusiastic, “Thank you!”

The seven scouts explained to the city council they would like to make improvements to their community room, located at 8047 W. 91st Place, to have it be a more warm, welcoming, comfortable, joyful and quiet environment. The girls added they are in need of several supplies, including: paint, paint brushes, paint rollers, rags, a chalkboard or whiteboard, a television, rugs, chairs, tables and storage shelves.

The scouts told the council they will be doing all of the remodeling themselves.

Painting the community room will allow for the scouts to earn their Bronze Award. The girls have chosen to paint the room yellow and green. They said the color yellow makes a person feel happy and cheerful, making them think of sunshine and summer; and green is a calming color that makes a person feel relaxed and welcome, reminding them of nature and peaceful feelings.

The girls also requested for Wi-Fi to be available in the downstairs meeting room of the center and Alderman Mike McHugh said the council has been working to get Wi-Fi to them as soon as possible.

The girls presented several poster boards displaying what they call “vision boards” of what their final project would look like once it is complete.

SUBHEAD -- Salt supply shrinking

Hickory Hills is struggling with its salt supply. The frequent snowfall events taking place throughout Illinois this winter have been hitting the city’s salt supply hard.  Hickory’s Public Work’s Director Larry Boettcher said snowfall throughout the city has totaled over 45 plus inches.

“The snow often isn’t coming in large snowstorms, it’s coming in these one to two inches of snow that accumulate during minor snowstorms that require salt are diminishing our city’s salt supply,” he said.

The first few weeks of February has seen Hickory use up last year’s salt surplus, along with 70 percent of the current allocations for this year.

“Our public works department will need to purchase additional salt at market prices after what we have in our bins is gone,” Boettcher said.

Illinois State salt purchase currently is at less than $50 a ton; however the city is unable to get a firm market price. Boettcher said he is keeping in contact with city suppliers for pricing, aware the city will need to purchase more salt before the winter season is over.


Who knew the Russians love us?

  • Written by Kevin Coyne


Reporter/Regional correspondent Kevin M. Coyne headed to the Olympics last week to watch his sister, Kendall, play a little hockey for the United States. The Palos Heights resident offers up some of his experiences in Sochi.

 SOCHI, Russia—I am at the world’s largest party.

Last week I arrived and in the first four hours of being in Russia I had a very attractive, elderly Russian rub the Team USA crest on my replica hockey jersey and said to me: “American.”  

She proceeded to speak Russian, gave me a hug and a kiss and asked for my American flag pin on my spectator pass—at least I’m assuming that’s what she wanted. After speaking more Russian she took a photo of a real life American.

That first experience really set the stage for what to expect from the Russians. Prior to the trip, I was told by numerous people to avoid wearing Team USA gear around Russia and if anyone asks where I’m from to say “Canada.”

 I’ve decided to disregard that advice and I’ve had not one issue with anti-American comments or being harassed. In fact, I’ve noticed the exact opposite. There are thousands of volunteers walking around Russia who are literally here to help spectators get to events.

One Team USA trainer told me about one Russian who served her breakfast and simply said “I love you, I am here to help. Do you want more pancakes?” She decided that she’s going to get pancakes every morning because this young Russian makes her morning complete.

So far I’ve met five time gold medalist U.S. speed skater Bonnie Blair, who was a guest of Stagg High School a few weeks ago.  I was able to get a quick photo with the beautiful, charming and talented Russian ice dancer Elena Llinykh, who won her first gold medal in Sochi.

Prior to the USA and Canada women’s hockey game, I spotted Detroit Red Wings head coach, Mike Babcock. As a Chicagoan and American I had to swallow my pride and get a photo with one of the winningest coaches in the NHL.

When I’m not meeting NHL coaches and gold medalists and taking photos with attractive Russian ladies, I’m taking photos of the beautiful scenery. It’s about 60 degrees here in Russia. It’s odd to see people sunbathing at the WINTER games.

SUBHEAD – Debunking some myths

Despite what you may hear about safety issues, Sochi is likely the safest place to be in the world. The thousands of very nice volunteers I mentioned early, yeah I was told they are all packing heat. You don’t see the stereotypical armed guards walking around with M4 weapons. In fact, I’ve yet to see a firearm in Russia.

The Russian police likely have a concealed firearm; however, the only weapon on their utility belt is an old school baton. The security is top-notch. Whenever a spectator bus leaves the station it’s inspected for bombs and when the bus is parked the driver wraps tape around the bus to prevent any tampering of the bus.

The next myth -- Russians are shooting stray dogs.

That’s false.

I will say, strays are all over the place—but most of them are sleeping. I was told the dogs are being tranquilized. Clearly, the Russians do not want thousands of dead dogs around the Olympic park.

The next topic people usually like to hear about is the food. Well, I can say that I’ve had hard-boiled eggs and French fries every morning for breakfast. I could however have hot dogs, cold cuts or what they call “chocolates balls,” aka Cocoa Puffs.

Other than the breakfast selection being strange to say the least, the food is delicious. The Russians have some really unique and tasty dishes.

Family says report shows Worth girl was drug free

  • Written by Bob Rakow

There were no drugs in Brittany Wawrzyniak’s system the night that she was killed, members of her family said Tuesday.


Family members said that on Monday, Worth police gave them a toxicology report on Wawrzyniak’s Nov. 8 death and that she was drug-free.


“Not one ounce. This is very big,” said Earl Lane, Wawrzyniak’s step-grandfather.


“It’s kind of nice to know it is black and white,” said Wawrzyniak’s mother, Rebecca Tully. “There’s a lot of people out there that don’t know. We’ve been saying all along that it [having drugs in her system] wasn’t the case.”


The family has not seen the rest of the autopsy report, Tully said. She does not know why it took more than three month for the information to become available.


News of the toxicology report was posted Tuesday afternoon on the RIP Brittany Wawrzyniak Facebook page.


Tully said the toxicology report substantiates her belief that her daughter did not take drugs.


“Finally the toxicology report has come back and there were no drugs in Brittany’s system, further securing the fact that she was there helping to arrange the meeting for the two girls,” the post said.


Wawrzyniak’s family believes the 18-year-old faked a drug buy at the Worth boat launch to arrange a fight between a friend and another girl.


Wawrzyniak died after she was ejected from the backseat of an alleged drug dealer’s car.


Cook County prosecutors allege that Wawrzyniak met Eric Steven Johnson at the boat launch near 115th Street and Beloit Avenue. She got into the backseat of his car and handed him $200 in exchange for 30 pills of Clonazepam.


Wawrzyniak began counting the pills while still in the backseat as Johnson drove away. She opened the door of the moving car, was ejected and struck the pavement, prosecutors said. She was pronounced dead at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn less than one hour later.


Wawrzyniak’s family wholeheartedly rejects the scenario, and believes there’s more to the story of Brittany’s death. Police have not commented further on the ongoing investigation.


Tully said the family’s next move is to meet with the Cook County State’s Attorney and learn more about the future of the case against Johnson.