Jeff Vorva's Extra Point -- A look at area hoops teams during the holiday tournament season

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Life was good for Marist’s boys basketball team as well as Evergreen Park’s boys and girls as all three teams closed 2016 by winning holiday tournaments.

We featured them on a page 1 story, but there were plenty of other storylines going on as our other 17 teams battled around the area, state and nation playing game after game.

Here are a few thoughts and highlights:

Jack Tosh Tournament: Out of the four local teams that entered the 32-team tournament at York, I think St. Laurence benefitted the most. Even though they didn’t win a tournament such as Marist and Evergreen Park did, this showing gave the Vikes a huge shot in the arm.

The Vikings were 1-9 coming into this tournament and ended up in the final eight. They stunned Lyons Township, 48-46, in the first round as Brian Lyle hit a free throw in the closing seconds and Justin Wierzgac led with 20 points as coach Jim Maley beat his alma mater.

That win wasn’t a fluke as the Vikings knocked off Stagg in the second round, 53-49 in overtime Wierzgac added 25 points. Wierzgac made the all-tournament team.

They dropped a 75-45 decision to St. Patrick in the quarterfinals but recovered to nip Highland Park, 43-42 to finish 3-1 in the tourney and give them some steam for the 2017 portion of the schedule.

Brother Rice also made it to the final eight with wins over McHenry and Sandburg and fell to Conant, 72-63 in the quarterfinals before recovering to beat Providence Catholic, 66-38. Josh Niego made the all-tournament team.

Stagg finished 2-2 but ended things on a high note with a 52-36 win over De La Salle. Sandburg finished 1-3.

By the way, after all of the smoke cleared from the tournaments, the SouthWest Suburban Blue – which features Sandburg and Stagg -- came out with a 56-21 record for 2016. Joliet West and Joliet Central left the conference after last season and both team combined for a 25-2 mark heading into 2017. If the Joliet teams were still in that conference, it would be 81-23.

East Aurora Tournament: Chicago Christian came into the tournament averaging 97 points in its previous three games but there was none of that firepower to be found against the defenses in this tournament as the Knights averaged 59.7 points and finished 2-2 for a seventh-place finish in the eight-team tournament.

The Knights recovered to beat Timothy Christian, 68-42, Saturday at the United Center. Malik Parker scored 27 in the win.

Kankakee: Shepard finished fourth in the eight-team big-school division of the 16-team tournament. After beating Bradley-Bourbonnais and Kankakee, the Astros dropped decisions to Public League teams Lake View and Chicago Vocational. Sophomore Chris Harrison made the all-tournament team.

Hinsdale Central: Richards avoided being shut out when is nipped Urban Prep, 57-56 in the 15th-place game. Rico Griffin (11 points) scored with four seconds left to put the Bulldogs ahead by four points and Urban Prep’s Khaniah Perkins hit a 3-pointer with :01 left to close the gap to one.

Even though Urban Prep finished last in the tournament, it lost three games by a combined four points.

Effingham/Teutopolis:  Oak Lawn finished 2-3 and finished in sixth place in the eight-team tournament with wins over Altamont and Mattoon.



Oswego East: Queen of Peace’s girls basketball team suffered its first loss of the season Thursday and it was a whopper.

In the semifinals of the 16-team Oswego East Tournament, the Pride took on one of the top Class 4A teams in the state in Edwardsville and immediately got down 24-4 and went on to lose, 60-23.

I came away with that one with mixed emotions. While the Pride is a great area team and probably won’t face another team that good, I was hoping the score would be a little tighter. I would have been happy with a 15-point loss. Queen of Peace is in Class 3A and will still have to play some pretty good competition so maybe a loss like this is a good wakeup call.

What I liked is the Pride was able to come back on Friday and beat Sycamore, 45-37 and enter the 2017 portion of the schedule with a 16-1 mark.

Coach George Shimko was pumped up to finish third in a tournament “of all 4A schools with enrollments of 2,500 or more.’’

Senior Kara Shimko was named to the all-tournament team.

KSA Holiday Classic: Mother McAuley finished 2-1 in the eight-team Red Bracket in Orlando, Florida.

The lone loss came to Ocean City (New Jersey) 51-45 on Friday as Grace Hynes scored 14 points.

Earlier in the tournament, the Mighty Macs beat Marshall County (Kentucky) 55-39 as Tara O’Malley knocked in four 3-pointers en route to a 21-point performance and Sunlake (Florida) 66-22 as O'Mallley popped in 17.

Montini Holiday Tournament: Marist was gunning for a championship, but the consolation championship wasn’t quite what the RedHawks had in mind.

But after dropping a first-round game to Proviso East, 62-59, the consolation title was the best the RedHawks could get so they won the next three games including Friday’s 63-58 title win. Julia Ruzevich led the way with 22 points.


Riverside-Brookfield: Oak Lawn finished sixth in the 16-team tournament while Shepard took 14th

The Spartans opened with a 59-56 win over Hope Academy with Madelyn McGrath pouring in 21 and also had wins over Niles North and De La Salle but had a second-round loss to Glenbard West and a fifth-place game loss to York.

Shepard’s lone win in the tournament was a 43-42 victory over Hope.

Hillcrest : Coming fresh off of winning the Oak Lawn Tournament, Sandburg finished fifth in the 16-team tournament with a 50-39 win over Lockport on Dec. 28. Stagg beat the hosts 46-42 for fifth place in the consolation bracket.

Lisle Holiday Cage Classic: Chicago Christian finished fifth in the tournament after beating Addison Trial, 33-28 on Friday. The Knights nipped Rosary 34-33, lost to Antioch 52-24 beat Reed Custer 51-36

Agriculture School Tournament: Richards finished 3-2 in the six-team round-robin tourney as the Bulldogs lost to tourney champ Evergreen Park and the second-place hosts. 


SCC Red teams see Blue when seeing 'the other side'

  • Written by Phil Arvia


Page 1 Richards 23 12 11


File photo by Jeff Vorva

Richards’ Jaylan Catledge is shown tumbling in a game last year. For the most part, the South Suburban Red teams take tumbles when facing SSC Blue teams in crossover games. 


SSC teams’ records in crossover games this season:

SSC Blue

TF North           4-0

Hillcrest            4-0

TF South           4-0

Lemont 3-0

Oak Forest        3-1

Tinley Park        3-1

Bremen 3-1

Total     24-3


Richards           2-2

Evergreen Park 1-3

Reavis  0-3

Shepard            0-4

Oak Lawn          0-4

Eisenhower       0-4

Argo     0-4

Total     3-24


Before his team’s Friday night contest at T.F. South, Richards coach Chris Passafiume was asked if his players noticed the victory advantage in South Suburban Conference crossover games enjoyed by the Blue Division teams over their Red.

“They really don’t,” he said. “Our main focus is on whoever’s in front of us on that night.”

After the Rebels topped Richards 56-40 to run their league record to 4-0, all against Blue teams, Bulldogs senior Jeremiah Melton was posed the same question.

“We notice,” he said. “It’s always tougher to play the other side.”

Richards (5-3, 2-2) entered the weekend as the only SSC Red member with a win over a Blue squad. The rest of the Bulldogs’ division was a combined 0-17 in crossovers. After Friday’s action, Evergreen Park joined Richards in the win department over a Blue team with a 59-46 triumph over Tinley Park. Heading into this week, Blue had a 21-3 advantage.

This isn’t new.

From the 2012-13 season through 2015-16, the Blue owned a 134-62 edge in crossovers. 

“I know the coaches recognize that,” South coach John O’Rourke said. “It makes for some interesting discussions at the all-conference meeting.”

The SSC produces all-Blue and all-Red teams. Some years, that means a second-place Red squad that goes 6-7 might produce more all-conference players than a 9-4 Blue team that finishes tied for fourth. Last season, Richards won the Red at 9-4, which would have been good for fourth in the Blue.

Melton, a senior, is hopeful that another rough start fades into a Richards Red Division crown, as it has in nine of 10 SSC seasons since the league’s 2006 inception.

“With our (Hinsdale Central) Christmas tournament, this should get us ready to finish strong,” he said.

Friday, the Bulldogs did anything but as the Rebels (5-3 overall) eased away after leading just 30-24 with 4:22 to play in the third quarter.

Behind 6-foot-5 forward Bron Hill, who finished with 27 points and 16 rebounds, South started racking up easy buckets in transition and put together a 20-9 surge over the next eight minutes. J’Quan Black backed up Hill with eight points and 10 boards.

“In the middle of the third, they started getting run-outs,” Melton said. “We tried to pressure them a little bit, and it broke down.”

Melton led Richards with 11 points. Jaylan Catledge, back after missing two games with a foot injury, was well off his 23.4-points-per-game average, scoring six on one-of-nine shooting. But he added nine rebounds.

“He said it was a little sore at the end,” Passafiume said. “But I think it was more rust than anything. He was nervous. He wasn’t playing with the reckless abandon he usually does.

“It was different, seeing him like that. We know he’s one of the greatest players ever to suit up at Richards, and he’d play on one leg if we’d let him — but I think he was worried he might roll off somebody’s foot and hurt it again.”

South game-planned for a healthy Catledge.

“I know he was injured, but our focus was to take him away, to force him into difficult shots,” O’Rourke said. “And we wanted to force their shooters to put the ball on the floor as opposed to catching and shooting 3-pointers.” 

Catledge should be at full strength by the time Richards next plays against Rockford Auburn at Hinsdale on Dec. 27. As the tallest Richards player — he’s listed at 6-5 — he’ll have to be if the Bulldogs are going to defend their Red Division title.

“We don’t have 6-9, 6-10 guys ducking to get through the doorways walking the halls at Richards,” Passafiume said. “We can compete if we do the things we stress in practice. We have to create some more things defensively.

“We’ve got to pressure the ball, get out and run, use the athletes we have. We will. I like our group. We have mentally tough kids at Richards.” 


GIRLS BASKETBALL FOCUS: Road to state is bumpy for area teams

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Queen of Peace’s Kara Shimko, shooting against Reavis on Dec. 12, gave a verbal commitment to NAIA power Cardinal Stritch last week. 

The way Queen of Peace has been built, it is going to be an area power for a few years, as there are six juniors and two sophomores on the 10-girl roster.

But for seniors such as Kara Shimko and Jessica Potter, this is the last chance for them to go deep into the postseason. Shimko is the last link to the 2013-14 team that finished with two wins and helped rebuild it into a team that heading into this week was 13-0.

The Class 3A postseason was announced by the Illinois High School Association and the Pride is in the 22-team De La Salle Sectional. The seedings will be announced in February, but Peace is mixed in with 21 teams from Chicago including Bogan and Phillips.

Last year, Phillips knocked Queen of Peace out of the sectional with a 43-42 semifinal win and Bogan buried Phillips, 55-35 in the sectional championship.

The only other area Class 3A team, Evergreen Park, is in the 22-team Hillcrest Sectional and is in Sub Sectional A, which includes Morgan Park, which finished fourth in the state last year.

Some area Class 4A teams are not sure where their sectional sites will be but Marist, Mother McAuley, Richards, Sandburg, Shepard and Stagg are in a 21-team tournament that will also feature state power Homewood-Flossmoor.

Oak Lawn will play in the 21-team Argo Sectional, which features Montini and Whitney Young, which finished fourth in the state last year.

In Class 2A, Chicago Christian is in the 21-team Lisle Sectional with Beecher, Bowen, Carver Military, Catalyst/Maria, CICS/Ellison, Corliss, Noble/Barker, UCCS/Woodlawn, Illiana Christian and Peotone.

 Stritch for Shimko

Shimko, the Reporter-Regional’s Girls Basketball Player of the Year last season, gave a verbal commitment to NAIA power Cardinal Stritch. Stritch coach John Pfaffl calls Shimko “smart, skilled and well-coached. A great fit.’’

The Milwaukee school was ranked 16th in the nation among NAIA Division II schools and entered this week with a 10-3 mark.

Shimko received serious interest from several Midwest schools, including the University of St. Francis, which is ranked No. 1 in the nation in NAIA play.

 Eagles love Oak Lawn

Sandburg won the eight-team Oak Lawn Holiday Tournament Saturday with an 80-71 victory over Joliet West.

The Eagles went 4-0 in the tournament but are 1-9 when they haven’t played in an Oak Lawn gym.

The Eagles’ Kennedy Sabutis scored 17 points in the title game and earned the tournament’s MVP award. Morgan McAuliffe was named to the all-tournament team.

Oak Lawn finished fourth after dropping a 66-25 decision in the third-place game.

 Hall of Fame beckons for McAuley coach

Mother McAuley coach Ashley Luke-Clanton is not a Hall of Fame coach just yet, but she is a Hall of Fame player as she was named to the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame for 2017.

Clanton played at Waubonsie Valley High School and Penn State University.

On the high school level, she scored 2,885 points and had 437 career 3-pointers , which was an IHSA record for eight years. She was a three-time All-American from 1997-99.



Plenty of area athletes earn honors in football and volleyball

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice’s Ricky Smalling and Mother McAuley’s Charley Niego have been named the Reporter/Regional Players of the Year in football and volleyball respectively.

But the talent pool of local football and volleyball players goes much deeper than that.

Here is a look at area standouts who have been honored by their conferences for their outstanding play in the fall:


Chicago Catholic League Blue

Brother Rice’s Dino Borrelli, Xazavian Valladay, Smalling, Brandon Houston, Brian Gannon, Aarion Lacy and Brian Olson made the all-conference team.

Smalling was named the Most Outstanding Player on offense  in the league.

Chicago Catholic League White

St. Laurence’s Chris Negrete, Levy Hamer, Fayezon Smart, Alec Freeman, Doug Kosch, Brett Ladewig, Brett Bittner and David Lox made the all-conference team.

East Suburban Catholic Conference

Conference champion Marist had 11 players represented on the all-conference squad.

On defense, Micah Awordian, Matt Finn, Bobby Gorman, Mike Lawler, Gavin McCabe, Elijah Teague and Robert Topps made it for the RedHawks.

On offense, Delonte Herrell Bill Kudak and Tom O’Mara were named and on special teams, kicker Tom Gillen picked up the honor.

Awordian was named the league MVP, Teague was the most valuable defensive player, O’Mara was named most valuable offensive lineman, McCabe was named co-most valuable defensive lineman and Pat Dunne won the Dave Mattio Coach of the Year honor.

Metro Suburban Red

Chicago Christian’s Josh Hill, Jake Iwema, Henry Light and Matt McCarthy picked up all-conference honors.

Iwema was named the league’s Offensive Lineman of the Year.


South Suburban Red

Richards, which won the league title, placed several players on the team including Player of the Year Anthony Quinn.

Others on the team were Pat Doyle, Sebastian Castro, Joe Carpenter, Nathan Gimza, Jack Moran, Damon Olejniczak, Jack Moran, Danny Tobin, Noah Petrusevski, Torrey Nalls and Derek Flowers.

Shepard was represented by Joe Monahan, Dante Onsurez, Demetrius Harrison, Jamir Dunbar, Martice Thomas and Jack Carberry.

Oak Lawn’s Lewis Radosevich, Kyle McNamara and Jabari Clark made the team.

Evergreen Park’s Dan Kunes, Brendon Ford, CJ Brown and Joe Traversa were named to the team.

Oak Lawn’s Adane Lonaati and Derek Gonsch were named honorable mention along with Shepard’s Justin McClendon.

SouthWest Suburban Conference

Sandburg all-conference selections were Patrick Brucki, Colin Dominski, Jamie Marines, Michael Murphy,  Jamare Parker and Chris Toth.

Stagg’s Mike Jennings, Joe Mullan and Tyler Winkelmann also made the squad.



East Suburban Catholic Conference

Marist’s Meg Krasowski, Molly Murrihy and Savannah Thompson made the all-conference team.

Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Blue

Conference champion Queen of Peace’s Haley Doyle and Maddie Fogarty made the team and Fogarty was named Player of the Year.

Girls Catholic Athletic Conference Red

Conference champ Mother McAuley was well represented as Katie O’Connell, Niego, Emma Reilly, Abby O’Brien, Ashley Maher and Mary Kate Boland made the squad. O’Connell was named the conference’s Player of the Year.

Metro Suburban Conference

Chicago Christian’s Abby Joritz, Alyssa Van Kuiken and Julia Conrad made the all-conference team.

South Suburban Red

Oak Lawn’s Alli Yacko, Camryn Landingham, Amanda Bulow, Taylor Bylow and Alexa Lopez made the team along with Richards’ Lisa Costa, Abbi Fletcher, Sara Murczek and Amber Ryan

Shepard’s Sarah Kiwan, Grace Elliot and Nicole Connors joined Evergreen Park’s Claire Quigley on the first team.

Richards’ Lauren Birmingham was named to the special mention list.

Yacko was named Player of the Year.

SouthWest Suburban Conference Blue

Sandburg’s Maureen Imrie, Anna Jonynas and Rachel Krasowski made the team.

Stagg’s Maddie Duffner, Alyssa Migler were also honored.


Big Ten playing Friday night football: Area coaches say scouting and visits could be reduced

  • Written by Frank Gogola


Photo by Jeff Vorva

St. Laurence coach Harold Blackmon, who played Big Ten football at Northwestern, said when he was in college he loved playing Saturday morning games.  

Richards football coach Tony Sheehan heads home after coaching Friday night games with several hours to rest. He’ll flip on college football, normally a Pac-12 or Mountain West game, before a brief sleep and a return to school for Saturday morning film review.

College football on Friday nights isn’t a new phenomenon, but it’s been a topic of discussion around the Midwest since the Big Ten announced it’ll play Friday night games beginning next season. Area coaches see the decision by the Big Ten, which played its conference championship game on Saturday in Indianapolis, negatively impacting recruiting and having a neutral effect on attendance.

“As a player, I loved playing on Saturday mornings in college,” said St. Laurence football coach Harold Blackmon, who played at Northwestern. “I wouldn’t trade that for the world. This seems a little awkward to have to play on a Friday night as a college student.”

High school players will feel the biggest impact, Sheehan and Blackmon believe. The number of opportunities decreases for a Big Ten coach to scout a high school game or a player to make a visit to a Saturday college game. It’s one less potential contact for players looking to secure an offer.

Blackmon said has no issue with the Big Ten going after TV exposure and money. But, as a traditionalist, he’d like to see Fridays reserved for high school football. It’s a sentiment shared by Sheehan.

“I understand they’re trying to get more people to watch,” Sheehan said. “But at the same time, Friday night is supposed to be high school. You know, ‘Friday Night Lights’ … I just liked that Friday night is high school football and is revered for that.”

Big Ten teams will play six Friday night games per year over the next six seasons as part of a new television agreement. The games will be confined to September and October. The Big Ten previously only played Friday games on Labor Day weekend.

In Illinois, the Illini will host Nebraska on Sept. 29. Northwestern will travel to Maryland on Oct. 13 and will host Michigan State on Oct. 27.

There were 65 Friday night college games across the country during the 2016 season, according to a Big Ten news release. A schedule search showed all 10 conferences had teams playing on a Friday at least once.

“It’s just a trend,” Blackmon said. “And I think it’s this oversaturation of football on the collegiate and pro level.”

Sheehan and Blackmon don’t expect the Big Ten playing on Friday affecting attendance at their schools or others in the area. Northwestern is one hour away while Illinois is a two-hour drive. Neither team is a perennial contender.

“This won’t destroy high school football on Fridays,” Blackmon said. “Most of your fans are students who don’t play football. They’re not as interested in Big Ten football as you’d like to think.”

Added Sheehan: “With phones and tablets, they can watch part of the game or get updates (while at a high school game) if they’re that interested.”

Even if a handful of fans remain home, Steve Smithers, first-year Marist athletic director, doesn’t see football gate receipts being severely lessened.

That $5 ticket, $2 hot dog and $1 coffee add up to support football and non-revenue sports. But, Smithers said gate receipts haven’t so far been as big a budgetary issue at Marist (enrollment: 1,655) as compared to the smaller Rock Island Alleman Catholic (enrollment: 448), where he worked from 2005 to 2016.

“There are probably enough fans to go around,” Smithers said. “So, I’m sure after the dust settles we’ll all be OK.”