Only 16 is sweet

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: Only 16 is sweet

SUBHEAD: Strong second half can’t prevent RedHawks loss


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


Sweet 16 is fine when it refers to a birthday.

When it describes the amount of time a basketball team excels in a game, that’s not so good. That, however, was how it went for Marist in its regular-season finale last Wednesday in Mount Greenwood.

Coming off a lopsided loss to Notre Dame in their previous outing, the RedHawks found themselves in a similar offensive torpor versus visiting St. Viator and trailed 34-20 at halftime. They had been down to the Dons by 20.

“In the first half, we did not bring it to the level Marist teams need to bring it,” RedHawks coach Gene Nolan said. “It was very similar to the previous Friday. At this time of year, it’s hard to shake that.”

Nolan worried about how his athletes would react to a second straight drubbing and the degree to which it could affect Marist’s entry into the Class 4A tournament. But that feeling passed by evening’s end.

No, the RedHawks didn’t manage to make up all the early lost ground, but their ability to put heat on the Lions almost until the final buzzer gave everyone a much-needed emotional boost. Although Marist suffered a 59-51 East Suburban Catholic Conference setback, Nolan said he was “as proud as I’ve ever been of a Marist team” during the second half.

“Our kids fought, rebounded well and executed [the game plan],” he said. “It was a good ending. We had talked [at halftime] about why they came to school here and who we really want to be as a team. It’s about how we respond to adversity.

“The biggest thing is that you do get better, and we played very hard and together. [Coming back strong] -- that was the win. We’re going to be confident going into the playoffs now.”

The RedHawks (20-9, 5-4) were still chasing 11 points heading into the fourth stanza, but Maurice Commander lit a fire beneath Marist. The freshman guard deposited four 3-pointers and Brian Barry hit a fifth to give the RedHawks some juice. The hosts were within six at the three-minute mark and had possession of the ball.

Along with the long balls, Marist benefited from improved defense. With Kevin Lerma and Justin Brown doing a good deal of the dirty work, the RedHawks limited St. Viator stars Patrick McNamara and Sal Cannella to a combined 11 points in the last 16 minutes after the duo had poured in 27 prior to intermission.

“Our issue in the first half was on the defensive end,” Nolan said. “We always talk about how we want to make unknowns beat us, but we weren’t doing that. It was two totally different [stretches of] 16 minutes.”

Nolan said Marist’s complete switch to a man-to-man scheme helped it control the Lions better, but even more important in the coach’s opinion was the RedHawks’ “overall energy and effort.” He also liked his team’s “best offensive half of the season” as Marist wound up shooting 47 percent from the floor, an exhibition that included an 8-of-18 performance from beyond the arc.

The locals also kept their turnovers to a respectable 10.

What impressed Nolan was the RedHawks recovered against a foe that had flexed some defensive muscle during the season. St. Viator held Loyola Academy to 21 points in a nonconference contest and surrendered only 34 St. Patrick in an ESCC clash.

“They’re a team that can really guard,” Nolan said of the Lions. “In a year of [greater] parity [in the ESCC] they probably would have been picked to finish first -- deservedly so. St. Viator’s good.”

Bradley Hill had 14 points and two steals to pace the RedHawks in both categories while Commander added 13 points and a team-best four assists. No one else tallied in double figures, but Lerma and Jeremiah Ferguson both had six points and the former tied Brown for the rebounding lead as each player grabbed six.

The RedHawks met fellow ESCC member Marian Catholic this past Tuesday in a Bloom Regional matchup. Marist beat the Spartans during the regular season but not without a bit of a struggle.

St. Viator        59

Marist             51

Marist Scoring: Hill 14, Commander 13, Ferguson 6, Lerma 6, Brown 4, Barry 3, Hawkins 3, Weaver 2. Rebounds: Brown 6, Lerma 6. Assists: Commander 4. Steals: Hill 2.


Eagles topped one step shy of team title

  • Written by Ken Karrson


KICKER: State wrestling

HEADLINE: Eagles stopped one step shy of team title


By Anthony Nasella

The word “dynasty” gets tossed around a lot in sports when it comes to programs that dominate over an extended period of time.

But when considering the past decade of wrestling achievements at Sandburg, calling it dynastic is apt. It’s difficult to argue with the Eagles’ year-in, year-out success, which was at the forefront again at Saturday’s team state final in Bloomington.

Sandburg reached the championship match at U.S. Cellular Coliseum against the nation’s No. 1 team, Oak Park-River Forest. And while the Eagles dropped a 39-16 verdict in the finale, their runner-up showing gave the program its eighth top-three finish in the past 11 years.

And with only two senior starters on this year’s 23-man roster, the Sandburg dynasty should continue into 2015-16 and beyond.

“I’m really proud of our kids and the way they performed.” Eagles coach Eric Siebert said. “They did exactly what we were hoping they would do -- go out there and lay it on the line. They really battled and it’s really gratifying.  It was a great weekend overall.

“I’m so proud to be associated with the program -- the coaches, the kids and the families. In 11 years there’s definitely a lot to proud of with this program. If you want to be successful, you have to have quality people -- we have four coaches on varsity and nine on staff [and] i’s really a team effort.

“Everybody is invested in this program. We have a common philosophy and the coaches, kids and parents all buy into it. It makes for one big movement going forward.”

Sandburg defeated Mt. Carmel 39-27 last Tuesday night at Shepard to advance to the quarterfinals. On Saturday it defeated Lincoln-Way Central 55-12 in the quarters and Glenbard North 34-24 in the semifinals.

The Eagles used major decisions from state placers Brian Krasowski (36-9 at 170 pounds) and Patrick Brucki (39-4 at 182) to jump out to an 8-0 lead over the Caravan. Mt. Carme pulled within 14-12, but Sandburg rolled off victories in six of its next seven matches to seal the victory.

Winners for the Eagles during that pivotal span included Louie Hayes (106), Robbie Precin (113), Kevin Stearns (120), state singles champion Rudy Yates (132), Christian Robertson (138) and Ben Schneider (145). Matt Frostman (220) triumphed later in the match.

Logging wins for Sandburg versus the Knights were Hayes, Precin, Stearns, Ben Kirby (126), Yates, Robertson, Schneider, John Prieto (152), Tom Slattery (160), Krasowski, Ameer Barbour (182) and Cole Bateman (195). Bateman, Brucki, Frostman, Hayes, Krasowski, Robertson, Slattery, Stearns and Yates led the way versus Glenbard.

Garnering the Eagles’ victories against Oak Park-River Forest were Yates, Hayes, Brucki and Slattery. Hayes was runner-up at his weight at the individual state meet, Brucki took third and Slattery was also a medalist.

Although the Huskies’ winning margin was rather wide, beating Sandburg wasn’t easy. Oak Park-River Forest’s Maxwell Metzger, Allen Stallings and Savonne Bennette all triumphed by one point. Metzger did so by a 3-2 count over Krasowski while Stallings and Bennette recorded 4-3 decisions over Bateman and Robertson, respectively.

Other close matches were Precin’s against Jason Renteria (3-0) and Frostman’s versus Adam Lemke-Bell (6-3).

“Oak Park is ranked No. 1 in the nation,” Siebert said. “You have to give them their due. There’s a good reason why they’re ranked where they’re ranked.

“They’re the most talented team that I’ve ever seen from top to bottom. They’re nationally ranked in seven weight classes -- that’s half their starters.

“We tried our best to manipulate our lineup the best we could to be competitive, but you feel like you’re going up against the 1985 Chicago Bears. I thought we really battled -- five of the losses were in matches that we could have potentially won.”

Only Slattery and Frostman have wrestled their last matches for Sandburg, which was ranked 19th entering the state finals. The Eagles will likely finish among the top 15 nationally.

“Finishing 15th is a great starting point for us,” Siebert said. “The fact that we are returning 12 starters next year [means] we’ll probably be in the top 10 to start next season. With a great group of kids that are talented and experienced, we have a lot of momentum going forward.”


Coyne eager to cash in

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: Coyne eager to cash in

SUBHEAD: Palos Heights hockey player preparing for Women’s World Championship


By Tim Cronin

The loss was a heartbreaker.

The American women’s hockey team led Canada 2-0 with four minutes remaining in the Olympic championship game last February in Sochi, Russia.

And the Americans lost. Canada scored twice late in the third period to tie the game, then in sudden-death overtime to collect a 3-2 victory and the gold medal.

To a lesser person the circumstances of such a defeat in the Olympics, one that mirrored an earlier loss, would have left scars. That wasn’t so with Kendall Coyne of Palos Heights. Yes, the loss hurt in the locker room, but the junior communications major knows there’s a world outside those confines.

“We were there for 25 days and there was a lot to it, but what you remember most is the finish, what you go there for, and the end result,” Coyne said from Northeastern University in Boston last week. “We didn’t come away with the color medal that we wanted. But coming back home and sharing the experience with everyone, we found they didn’t care if we won gold, silver, bronze or no medal.

“They were just so proud of our team and what we did. When we returned home, there was more a sense of reality of what we accomplished.”

For Coyne, the stunner in Sochi was déjà vu. She was also a key member of the U.S. squad that surrendered a two-goal lead and lost in overtime to Canada in the 2010 Women’s World Junior at Seven Bridges in Woodridge -- that coming after Coyne, who had tallied the gold medal-winning goal the previous two years, knocked in a score that was never counted even though everyone saw the puck enter and exit the net.

Coyne said she thought back to that “a little bit. When you’re in that much pain from losing a hockey game ... there’s obviously much worse things in life, but you sit back and remember when you were in that situation before.”

“Seven Bridges went through my mind,” she said, “but I was just really excited to return home because I knew I’d see the support everybody was giving my family and my team. It was bittersweet, but I think the best part was coming back home.

“There’s nothing like living out your dream. Looking back on things, I keep saying I can’t believe it’s been a year.”

Within a few days the focus was on the future. Already planning on a master’s degree, Coyne interned in the Blackhawks’ media department last spring while continuing to work out, and this winter the present and future have collided in playing for Northeastern. Twice this season Coyne’s been tabbed as the Hockey East Player of the Week, including the Feb. 16-22 stretch when she piled up six points in a pair of Huskies wins.

She might win that nod for last week as well. On Sunday Coyne’s hat trick -- the third goal being the game-winner -- led Northeastern to a 4-3 victory over New Hampshire in the deciding game of their first-round Hockey East playoff series. The Huskies play Boston University in Saturday’s second semifinal.

Coyne is the fourth-leading scorer in women’s college hockey with 31 goals and 54 points in 31 games. Those numbers and her tenacious two-way play -- she’s a plus-18 on a team that is 15-16-5 and has allowed three more goals than it has scored -- are why she’s one of 10 nominees for this season’s Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award, the sport’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy. She was also nominated two years ago.

“It’s a tremendous honor that wouldn’t be possible without great teammates, coaches and, most importantly, the support from my family along the way,” Coyne said of her most recent Kazmaier nomination.

That’s the present. The future is another run with the U.S. team, this time in the Women’s World Championship, which begins March 28 in Malmo, Sweden. Unless there’s a surprise once again it’ll be the U.S. and Canada going for the title.

“Right now I’m focusing on the Hockey East playoffs, but that’s always in the back of your mind,” Coyne said of the world championship. “Every day in practice you either run when you get off the ice or stay on the ice and do a little bit extra -- extra for your college team but also for the experience of what’s coming up in the next few weeks. [I] just focus on the little things day to day. That’s how I never lose sight of what’s at the other end of the tunnel.”

Training camp begins Match 19 on Long Island, but it’s not as if Coyne will see an all-new group in the locker room. There are plenty of holdovers from the 2014 squad, including goaltender Alex Rigsby and forwards Meghan Duggan and Alex Carpenter, who played key roles in Sochi.

Although it’s not the Olympics, Coyne said she is as enthused about this year in Malmo, even though there won’t be nearly as much attention paid to the quest.

“One-hundred percent [as enthused],” Coyne said. “But [if we had won] it would be a little bit sweeter. Now it’s just a little bit bitter.”

The taste may be sweeter than she could imagine come April 4 when the championship game is held.



Denied, but not downtrodden

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: Denied, but not downtrodden

SUBHEAD: After falling to Rams, Bulldogs bounce Spartans


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


            There was no perfect 10, or even an imperfect one, awaiting Richards this season.

            Extending their string of consecutive conference championships to 10 was going to require the Bulldogs to seek plenty of outside help. A series of early losses in South Suburban Conference crossover games saw to that, and they did themselves no favor by dropping a Red Division decision to Argo.

            So a clean sweep through the remainder of the league schedule was a must, as was the need for someone else to derail front-running Eisenhower, which held a two-game lead over Richards heading into last week’s action. Shepard didn’t do it on Tuesday, and when the Bulldogs ran afoul of Reavis that same night their championship quest was officially denied.

            “Obviously it was frustrating to us,” Richards coach Jevon Mamon said of his club’s 65-57 loss to the Rams. “We put together a solid [second] half. We kind of came alive, but it came too late [to save us].”

            What the Bulldogs’ later noisemaking did accomplish, however, was to put them in the proper frame of mind to face cross-town rival Oak Lawn Friday night. With sophomore Jaylen Catledge assuming one-man-gang status by producing a monster across-the-board stats line, Richards bounced back from the loss to Reavis to hand out a 63-50 setback to the Spartans.

            “My approach as a coach was to put Tuesday night’s game in the past,” Mamon said. “We watched film so we could use it as a learning tool, but our attention was on how to send out the seniors [in their last home game]. We wanted the seniors to go out on a high note. Obviously emotions are high [against Oak Lawn] and it was just a great night.”

            That was so for all the Bulldogs, but Catledge was transcendent. He finished with 36 points on 14-of-16 shooting, eight rebounds, three steals, two assists and a block.

            “He has an opportunity to be a special player,” Mamon said. “I was really, really impressed with Jaylen. He was dominant Friday night and he’s obviously been a huge boost to us.”

            Mamon wasn’t the only guy whose eyes were opened by Catledge’s handiwork.

            “He was the story of the game -- he put them on his back,” Spartans coach Jason Rhodes said. “I was blown away by how he played. It was just a monstrous game.

            “We were throwing two guys at him in the second half, but we had no answer. He was getting to the rack or [grabbing] offensive rebounds and he was finishing through contact.”

            Catledge’s explosive display, plus clutch work from Lucas White (nine points on 4-of-4 shooting) allowed Richards (13-12, 6-6) to deflate Oak Lawn’s plan to gum up the Bulldogs’ attack by trying to keep the ball away from Ameen Hussein as much as possible. Richards was ahead by 11 (36-25) at halftime and managed to maintain space between itself and Oak Lawn throughout the second half.

            “[Reavis] served as a wake-up call that [a win’s] not going to just be given to you,” said Mamon, whose team shot 57 percent, held Oak Lawn to 36 percent accuracy and forced 16 turnovers while committing only nine itself.

“You’ve got to earn it. I think it was huge [to come back strong].”

            By beating the Spartans, the Bulldogs regained some emotional juice, which certainly will be beneficial to have on Friday when they close out the regular season at Eisenhower. The two District 218 rivals will be playing at a Cure For Cancer event, but that’s not the only motivational source into which Mamon plans to tap.

            He’ll also remind his athletes of a lopsided defeat handed down by the Cardinals during Thanksgiving tournament play in November.

            “We haven’t forgotten what they did to us,” Mamon said. “Emotionally, I want our guys to play with that chip on their shoulder.”

            Oak Lawn (9-15, 3-9), which received double-digit scoring from Josh Prince (13 points, five rebounds), Odeh Alshaikh (12 points, five rebounds, two assists) and Jimmy Wiltzius (10 points) versus Richards, visits Evergreen Park in a regular-season finale on Friday. The Spartans hosted Lindblom this past Monday and Rhodes hoped to see an increase in intensity right away.

            “They came out with a lot of energy,” he said of the Bulldogs on Friday. “They were more engaged than we were, which was disappointing. We’re not good enough to play without an edge.

“I didn’t feel like many of our guys took on the challenge of defending who they were assigned and there were several times where it didn’t appear we knew what we were doing, which was inexcusable. I don’t know what exactly to attribute it to -- I thought we were past all that.”

                        Reavis 65

                        Richards 57

            Mamon thought the Bulldogs were missing some of those same ingredients for portions of last Tuesday’s SSC Red clash with the Rams. While Catledge (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Hussein (19 points) presented Richards with a solid 1-2 punch, Reavis countered with a duo that amassed 55 combined points, many of them coming on high-percentage shots that Mamon had hoped to limit the Rams from taking.

            “If you want to account for certain things and win games, you have to pay attention to details,” he said. “We didn’t stick to our game plan or communicate well and it came back to hurt us.

            “We felt they were a drive-first team [with] attack-the-rim type players, so we looked to zone them up. But they were still able to get a lot around the rim. Offensively, we took a lot of quick shots -- one-and-out [possessions] wasn’t what we wanted to do.”

            Reavis was ahead by only three after one period, but the lead grew dramatically by halftime and the Bulldogs had a lot of ground to make up over the last 16 minutes. While headway was made, the energy required to do so eventually took a toll on Richards.

            Richards         63

            Oak Lawn      50

            Richards Scoring: Catledge 36, White 9. Rebounds: Catledge 8.

            Oak Lawn Scoring: Prince 13, Alshaikh 12, Wiltzius 10, Cosenza 9, Nelson 4, Khater 2. Rebounds: Khater 7. Assists: Alsaikh 2, Khater 2.

            Reavis            65

            Richards         57

            Richards Scoring: Catledge 21, Hussein 19. Rebounds: Catledge 10.


District dynamos

  • Written by Ken Karrson


HEADLINE: District dynamos

SUBHEAD: Eagles knock off 230 mates Stagg, Andrew


By Ken Karrson

Sports Editor


What’s a little competition among friends?

Well, for Sandburg it was worthwhile because it brought about a lot of good feelings, something too often missing within the Eagles program of late. It’s not that Sandburg has played poorly; quite the contrary as it has seriously challenged every opponent that has crossed its path, including SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue heavyweights Bolingbrook and Homewood-Flossmoor.

But a batch of gut-wrenching losses -- four of them came by a total of just 10 points -- had understandably left the Eagles feeling a little shaken and in need of something positive to lift spirits. Enter District 230 sister schools Andrew and Stagg.

Naturally, neither game was one in which Sandburg ever got completely comfortable, but in both instances the Eagles had enough in their arsenal to finish the job. A face mask-wearing Tommy Demogerontas ignored a broken nose well enough to pace Sandburg in scoring twice and his team used that production as the springboard to a 63-57 verdict over the Thunderbolts last Tuesday and a 62-54 triumph over the Chargers on Friday.

Stagg had defeated the Eagles by 10 in an earlier confrontation, but Sandburg had one important thing going for it in the rematch.

“The difference in this game was we were able to hold Jeff Goral under 19 points in the first half,” Eagles coach Todd Allen said.

Goral spearheaded the Chargers’ previous performance by tallying a game-high 26 points. This time, with Sean McShane assigned to him on defense, Goral was held to 14 points, the same as sophomores John Contant and Josh Strama.

“He’s one of the best players in the conference and we made him work for his points,” Allen said of Goral.

Allen got no argument from coaching counterpart John Daniels.

“They locked Jeff and frustrated him early,” Daniels said. “They made it difficult [for him] to catch and face [the basket].”

McShane also helped out offensively with 11 points, nine of which came on three 3-point buckets. He was one of four Sandburg players in double figures along with Demogerontas (14 points), Niko Kogionis (12) and Peter Paxinos (10). Zak Razik contributed seven points.

Allen said a “21-point first quarter kind of set the tone” for the Eagles (10-14, 5-7), but even more telling was a second period in which four different players -- none of them named Kogionis -- sank a 3-pointer. Delivering on Sandburg’s behalf were McShane, Paxinos, Mo Abed and Kristijan Ristovski.

“The first game we were able to do some good things defensively,” Daniels said. “[Here] they got a couple bounces early and they hit some shots. Six different kids hit a 3 and seven kids scored -- I haven’t had seven kids score [in the same game] all season.

“I have a lot of respect for Todd and I’ve been saying all year they’re a solid team. I was disappointed in the way we played early, but it wasn’t our night.”

The Eagles were ahead by 12 at halftime and seven after three quarters. Stagg (11-15, 5-7) never faded away, but it remained a two-possession game pretty much until the end. Sandburg went 21-of-39 from the field, including 11-of-14 from inside the arc. The winners drilled a total of 10 3s.

“I always enjoy competing against Stagg because John always prepares his kids well,” Allen said. “[But] there are no surprises. It comes down to the kids executing.

“I’d like to say our kids deserved [the victory] because they never gave up and kept fighting [during the season’s low points]. The kids have done a nice job.”

Daniels said he was happy for Allen.

“I don’t know if people want me to hate [the Eagles] because they’re rivals, but it’s a healthy, fun rivalry,” Daniels said. “There’s no ill feelings. The kids are friends and I love their program and their players.

“It’s not a bitter thing and I’m glad it’s that way. It’s what high school basketball is supposed to be.”

The Chargers faced Joliet Central this past Tuesday and conclude their regular season versus Joliet West on Friday. Sandburg closes out with H-F and Bolingbrook, the latter due to visit Orland Park Friday.

            Sandburg 63

            Andrew 57

The T’bolts are in the midst of a less-than-spectacular campaign, which gave Allen all the more reason to be wary of them last Tuesday. Simply put, he knew success against the Eagles would be a definite highlight for Andrew.

And when the T’Bolts nailed 6-of-10 shots in the opening frame, they pushed Sandburg into an early hole.

“I know their record isn’t real strong, but they came out and shot the ball real well,” Allen said. “I thought Andrew played really well.”

The turning point, in Allen’s view, was a third-quarter sequence that began with Kogionis’ three-point play, which lifted the Eagles into a 34-33 lead. At the end of that play, the T’bolts’ bench drew a technical foul and Kogionis nailed two more charity tosses.

Demogerontas’ hoop followed on the ensuing Sandburg possession and then Paxinos drilled a 3-pointer after the Eagles’ defense made a stop. The rapid 10-point flurry put Sandburg in control.

Demogerontas netted eight points during the third stanza, part of a 24-point, five-rebound outing for him. Kogionis (16 points) and Razik (10 points, five assists) were other key individuals for the Eagles, who hit 24-of-45 shots, committed only seven turnovers and scored their 63 points on just 59 possessions.

The T’bolts wound up going 23-of-42 from the floor. Two players accounted for all but 19 of their points.

Sandburg       62

Stagg   54

Sandburg Scoring: T. Demogerontas 14, Kogionis 12, McShane 11, Paxinos 10, Razik 7, Abed 5, Ristovski 3.

Stagg Scoring: Contant 14, Goral 14, Strama 14.

Sandburg       63

Andrew          57

Sandburg Scoring: T. Demogerontas 24, Kogionis 16, Razik 10, Abed 5, McShane 5, Paxinos 3. Rebounds: T. Demogerontas 5. Assists: Razik 5.