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Show Time at Moraine

  • Written by Jeff Vorva and Tom Bunch

 

 

The gym was rocking and fans were hollering, which made the scene resemble ones found at many other high school basketball games.

What made it different was that cameras were rolling, too.

But these weren’t just Mom-and-Dad-are-videotaping-it recording devices, but the kind that can present an event to a nationwide audience. And they were set up at Moraine Valley College Friday night.

The Palos Hills school played host to a hoops contest between St. Rita and Simeon that was broadcast nationally by ESPN2. And as one Mustangs fan wrote on a poster: It was "Show Time at Moraine Valley."

The game was big enough to entice University of Kentucky coach John Calipari to attend. Calipari, in town with the No. 1-ranked Wildcats for last Saturday’s inaugural CBS Sports Classic at the United Center, was getting a firsthand look at St. Rita’s Charles Matthews, a Kentucky recruit.

And Matthews didn’t disappoint either his future coach or the Mustangs backers in the crowd as he helped his team defeat the Wolverines 51-46. Matthews finished with a double-double of 17 points and 13 rebounds.

While the game at Moraine’s new Health and Fitness Center began at 5:30 p.m., preparations for it started well before that.

“It’s been a six-week process,” Moraine Athletic Director Bill Finn said during a Friday interview. “We had to make sure we got the game [and] we had to prove to them that we can handle it with the staff. [There was] a crew of around 40 people [to] set up the cameras, the microphones, cabling and other intricate stuff.

“The main challenge for the school at this point is to make sure the facility is clean, staffed and that there is enough change for those who are buying tickets."

Pre-broadcast work got underway Thursday night and continued in earnest on Friday morning.

 “I’ve been working here since 10 a.m.,” Moraine Valley student worker Richard Gregg Jr. said on Friday afternoon. “It’s a big game. I’m an athlete myself so it’s exciting that ESPN is here.”

Moraine officials said the game was a boon to the school, which got a chance to show off its sleek athletic facility that opened in March.

 “Our [men’s basketball] games usually attract between 150 and 250 people, but this game should have at least 2,000 people watching as well as a national audience,” Finn said hours before tip-off.

Neither he nor anyone else at Moraine went away disappointed.

 

Life in the fast lane

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Speed kills as Bulldogs race past Spartans

  In automotive parlance it was like pitting a pickup truck against a Ferrari — and letting the Ferrari have a head-start.
  Friday night’s South Suburban Conference Red matchup between cross-town rivals Oak Lawn and Richards pretty much rated that comparison. Here’s how Spartans coach Sean Lucas described his team’s foe:
  “They’re not the big Richards teams of the past, but they are fast,” he said. “Our kids battled them and a few times we had kids in position to make a play, but their feet moved faster than ours.”
  Keeping up with the Bulldogs while competing on a level playing field would have been tough enough for Oak Lawn; making things worse was that it spotted Richards a lead.
  The Bulldogs scored on each of their first three possessions to shove the Spartans into a 19-0 hole. It was 33-7 at halftime and despite Oak Lawn’s best efforts to fight back in the final two quarters it couldn’t avoid a 46-21 setback.
  “I’m proud of our kids, but we knew we’d have to play near-perfect to beat them,” Lucas said. “I wish they had seen a better shot [from us], but I flat-out told our kids after the game this [Richards] team was better than us. There are greater tragedies in life than losing to someone who’s better than you.”
  Just as in their 2012 meeting with the Bulldogs, the Spartans (1-3, 0-2) refused to succumb quietly after falling behind. Two years ago while suffering an 18-7 loss they shut out Richards in the second half.

Doing it by the numbers

  • Written by Tim Cronin

Local grad Vander Laan is a statistics-generating machine at Ferris State

Perhaps it’s fitting that Jason Vander Laan is majoring in actuarial sciences at Ferris State.
He definitely has a way with numbers. And when he's not busy calculating them in the classroom he's piling them up on the football field.
“I really, really enjoy working with numbers,” Vander Laan, a Chicago Christian grad, said last week.
There's little question coaches, players and fans of Ferris State football are really enjoying the numbers he has amassed since becoming the Bulldogs' starting quarterback in 2012. The redshirt junior has thrown for 3,851 yards and 38 touchdowns while guiding Ferris State to 15 wins in its last 21 games.
But wait there's more. Just in case opposing defenses think that stopping the Bulldogs' aerial attack is the answer, Vander Laan will then attempt to run foes ragged. He definitely can, as evidenced by his 3,278 rushing yards and 39 scoring dashes.

Earning their stripes

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Tigers deal Eagles heavy blow

Like Siegfried and Roy, Dave Wierzal has had a knack for handling Tigers.
In the Sandburg coach’s case, the cats in question suit up for Joliet West. While the Tigers haven’t always been an easy capture — last year’s game pretty much went down to the wire — the Eagles have always found a way to prevail during Wierzal's tenure.
Until Friday night, that is.
Racking up 140 more yards than its hosts, Joliet West never trailed in the SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue contest. Sandburg was within four points of the Tigers at the start of the fourth quarter, but another Joliet West touchdown sealed the deal as it bagged a 21-10 win at Seliga Field that put the Eagles in a somewhat precarious position playoff-wise.
While the postseason is still over a month away, Sandburg (2-2, 1-1) now must beat at least one of the conference’s acknowledged power players — Bolingbrook, Lincoln-Way East and Homewood-Flossmoor — in the weeks ahead in order to have a chance at qualifying. Potentially dangerous, too, is fellow District 230 member Stagg.

It’s a Smalling world

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Sophomore wideout keeps Crusaders moving ahead

The sophomore jinxed Wheaton-St. Francis Friday night.
As a freshman in 2013 Ricky Smalling drew little attention as a football player. That’s not surprising, seeing as how lower-level teams tend to operate with more anonymity than their varsity counterparts.
But Brother Rice coaches knew what they had in the 6-foot-1, 185-pound wideout, and Crusaders boss Brian Badke didn’t hesitate to elevate Smalling to the varsity this season. Undoubtedly the Spartans wished he hadn’t.
Smalling was a big man in the Chicago Catholic League crossover as he caught 11 passes for 150 yards, one of the better performances by a Rice receiver in a while. Two of his grabs went for touchdowns, including a 70-yard play that put the visiting Crusaders ahead for keeps in the third quarter.
“Ricky Smalling really stepped up,” Badke said after Rice ruined St. Francis’ homecoming by pinning a 35-29 setback on the hosts. “We didn’t have a deep threat [last year] after Chris [Rozell] went down with an injury.