SXU sports summary

  • Written by Tim Cronin

  The 2013 football season has been over for a couple of months, but recognition for St. Xavier University players continues.

  This time, seven Cougars were feted for their academic exploits by getting named as Daktronics-NAIA Scholar-Athletes. To be eligible for consideration, student-athletes must be nominated by their head coach or school’s sports information director, have achieved junior academic standing and maintain a grade-point average of at least 3.5 on a 4.0 scale.
  Representing SXU were junior defensive lineman JD Barchard, senior linebacker Zach Dolph, junior defensive lineman Greg Hayward (Oak Lawn), senior kicker Spencer Nolen, senior offensive lineman Brian Studnicka (Stagg), and junior linebackers Alex Walters and Jacek Wesolowski.

Community sports news

Matt-Prunkle              Matt PrunkleOrland’s Prunkle named St. Laurence soccer coach 
Matt Prunkle, who played soccer at Brother Rice and currently resides in Orland Park, will coach that same sport at St. Laurence beginning next fall.

  Prunkle has spent the past six years as an assistant coach at the collegiate level, with stops at Moraine Valley College, Olivet Nazarene University and St. Xavier University, his alma mater. He has also worked as a coach with Inter FC for a decade, during which time the team has won one state cup and been runner-up another time.
  As a player, Prunkle won the Chicago Catholic League’s Tony Lawless Award as a senior, was named to the all-state soccer team and earned All-Midwest honors. The Crusaders placed fourth at the state tournament that year. At SXU, Prunkle was a two-year captain and all-conference performer in his senior season.

Princes of Palos

  • Written by Ken Karrson



COLOR SPORTS CCSHEP2Shepard’s Darren Cohen fires a pass from out of bounds during the Astros’ neighborhood matchup with Chicago Christian last Wednesday. The host Knights registered a 50-46 victory. Photos by Jeff Vorva.Knights nip Astros in neighborhood battle

Chicago Christian may not become king in its final season within the Suburban Christian Conference, but it still reigns as local royalty.

The Knights became the princes of Palos Heights, at least for the 2013-14 regular season, by inching their way past Shepard last Wednesday. The game, which was postponed from Tuesday because of the weather-induced closing of both schools, wasn’t decided until the very end, when the visiting Astros were unable to capitalize on Darren Cohen’s steal of Christian’s inbounds pass.

  Shepard coach Tony Chiuccariello felt Cohen had drawn contact on his layup, but no foul was whistled. As a result, the Knights maintained a two-point lead with less than 10 seconds left, and a pair of free throws sealed the verdict on a 50-46 victory.
  Chiuccariello admitted that he was SPORTS CC SHEP3Chicago Christian’s Bradford Fitzpatrick grabs some of Shepard player Nick Heidinger’s jersey last Wednesday in Palos Heights. Phots by Jeff Vorva.“pretty upset at the officiating” in more than one instance — he cited the referees’ failure to see him vigorously signaling for a fourth-quarter timeout as another frustrating moment — but he was also quick to credit his team’s conqueror.
  “There were some weird calls and non-calls, but I don’t want to take anything away from Christian,” Chiuccariello said. “Give them their due — I thought Christian did a real nice job.”
  Knights boss Kevin Pittman wasn’t as enamored of his club’s showing, saying it “played well enough to win. I don’t think we played poorly, but I don’t think we played great.” Nevertheless, he appreciated Chiuccariello’s praise.
  “Tony’s a great guy and I love going against him,” Pittman said. “Our announcer called it ‘the Battle of Palos Heights,’ and with this series it seems to go back and forth. I guess this was our turn [to succeed] and I’ll always take a win.”
  Blaine Wright helped finalize it for Christian by depositing 4-of-5 free throws in the closing stanza. He had 19 points, six rebounds and three assists to lead the Knights, who never relinquished their advantage over the last eight minutes despite entering the quarter with a slim 36-32 edge in hand.
  Three of Wright’s charity tosses extended the hosts’ lead to 42-35, but Jacob Littleton’s hoop followed for Shepard and kept it in the hunt. The Astros’ defense barely missed forcing Christian into a 10-second violation, but then Jay Spencer hit a basket for the Knights that gave them a bit more breathing room.
  Shepard misfired on a potential game-tying 3 with less than a minute-and-a-half to go after Littleton and Malcolm Lawson combined to create another Christian miscue. However, Cohen’s long ball answered a Knights layup and drew the visitors back within a deuce.
  Littleton (19 points) sank one last bucket for the Astros, but it wasn’t enough to save them.
  “I give them credit for coming up with shots out of their press break,” Chiuccariello said of Christian. “They did what they needed to do to win.”
  The Knights made the same number of field goals as Shepard, but bettered their guests by three at the foul line while connecting on 84 percent of their attempts. The Astros drilled just half of their 18 charity tosses and also wound up short on the boards, as they again played without Kyle Longfield, who fractured a bone in his foot during Christmas tournament play and is lost to Shepard indefinitely.
  Also scoring in double figures for Christian were Spencer (10 points) and Trevor Wolterink (10 points, six rebounds, three assists). Pittman thought the Knights’ victory represented a logical progression from their final holiday outing, which featured Christian playing Reavis tough before losing by single digits.
  “There was a lot more good than bad [versus the Rams],” Pittman said. “A couple key things for us right now are the two P’s: patience and poise, and we saw some of the improvement we were hoping to make [in that regard].”
Immaculate Conception 61
Chicago Christian 37
  Pittman lost his own patience on Friday, so much so that he was assessed a pair of technical fouls and won’t be able to coach Saturday’s game against Guerin Prep. Knights assistant coach Wally Ottenhoff also received a “T” in Christian’s rematch with IC.
  What set the two men off? Well, a 26-8 differential in foul calls certainly didn’t put either Pittman or Ottenhoff in a good frame of mind. IC found itself in the double bonus with three minutes left in the first half, while being guilty of just two fouls of its own over those first 13 minutes.
  “I’m not saying we didn’t commit any fouls,” Pittman said. “But in no way, shape or form were we the more aggressive team.”
  Despite the apparent uphill climb, Christian (6-9, 0-4) trailed by only four at halftime. Still, Pittman found that circumstance frustrating.
  “We outplayed them the whole first half,” he said of IC. “Playing as well as we did, I think [our athletes] were a little deflated going into the locker room. I think the kids were wondering what they had to do [to catch a break].”
  The score remained close into the fourth quarter, but IC’s seven-point edge soon grew significantly, thanks to a series of free throws. What finally made Pittman — who had only been assessed three technical fouls in 19 years of coaching prior to Friday night — blow his cool was when Wright was charged with an offensive foul while stationed right in front of the Knights’ bench.
  According to Pittman, Wright’s pushing away of an IC defender’s arm came only after the latter had made contact with Wright’s face while guarding the Christian player.
  “There was clear contact, and at that point I was beside myself,” Pittman said. “I had just had enough. If the coaches didn’t get a technical foul there, Blaine would have because he was livid. It was a time I felt I had to step up and protect our players.”
  While Pittman was understandably irate, he later regretted “it got down to that level” and apologized to his players because “that doesn’t excuse what I did.”
  With the charity tosses aiding it, IC ran away from the Knights in the fourth period by outscoring them 25-8. IC had beaten Christian by 17 points back on Dec. 13.
  Wright had 11 points, eight rebounds and three assists for the Knights, while Wolterink contributed eight points and seven boards.
Shepard 49
Bremen 31
  Playing what Chiuccariello deemed “our best defensive game of the season” on Friday night was enough for the Astros to roll over the Braves in a South Suburban Conference crossover game in Palos Heights.
  Knowing his squad enjoyed an overall size advantage against Bremen, Chiuccariello desired to exploit that asset as much as possible.
  “We wanted to make them play a half-court game,” he said. “They have a small team with quick guards, so we did not want a transition game.”
  A 9-7 first period favoring Shepard (6-8, 3-2) proved that the Astros were doing what their leader wanted. The hosts were up by eight (33-25) after three stanzas, then gradually increased their lead in the early stages of the final quarter by scoring a few times at the end of long possessions.
  Buckets by Malik Smith and Littleton were part of the clinching surge, as were a couple of free throws.
  “Everything was being passed around and going inside,” Chiuccariello said. “We got to be patient and were taking what the defense gave us. Offensively, we were sloppy at times [earlier], but we played really hard.”
  Littleton dropped in 26 points to pace the Astros, while Cohen chipped in 10 points and seven rebounds. Nick Heidinger and Zack Haxel collected 15 more boards for Shepard, which posted a 35-24 advantage on the glass.
  Chiuccariello would have preferred something better than a 32 percent success rate from his squad shooting-wise, but that wasn’t a problem here. The Astros held the Braves to a field-goal percentage of just 27 while forcing 15 turnovers.
  “If we can play defense like this all the time, we’re going to be successful,” said Chiuccariello, whose team was scheduled to face TF South and TF North this week. Shepard hosts the Meteors on Friday.


Shepard 13 10 9 14 - 46
Chgo. Christian 11 13 12 14 - 50

Shepard Scoring: Littleton 19, Cohen 9, Haxel 7, Gorski 6, Heidinger 3, Smith 2. Rebounds: Heidinger 5. Assists: Cohen 4. Steals: Cohen 3.

Chicago Christian Scoring: Wright 19, Spencer 10, Wolterink 10, Leo 6, Fitzpatrick 5. Rebounds: Fitzpatrick 7, Wolterink 6, Wright 6. Assists: Fitzpatrick 3, Wolterink 3, Wright 3.

Chgo. Christian 10 10 9 8 - 37
IC 9 15 12 25 - 61

Chicago Christian Scoring: Wright 11, Wolterink 8, Spencer 4, Washington 4, Parker 3, Fitzpatrick 2, Leo 2, Winchester 2, Decker 1. Rebounds: Wright 8, Wolterink 7. Assists: Parker 4.

Bremen 7 9 9 6 - 31
Shepard 9 13 11 16 - 49

Shepard Scoring: Littleton 26, Cohen 10, Gorski 4, Haxel 3, Heidinger 2, Smith 2, Witherspoon 2. Rebounds: Heidinger 9, Cohen 7, Haxel 6.



The mighty Quinn

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Niego sets record in Crusaders’ romp

  Call it a period piece.
  For one quarter, Quinn Niego was the whole story last Wednesday night. Brother Rice’s senior star had already made his identity well known to Crusaders foes long before that, but nothing could have adequately prepared visiting Bishop McNamara for what Niego unleashed on it during the opening stanza of the teams’ Chicago Catholic League matchup.
  Using five 3-point baskets as the main thrust, Niego torched the Fightin’ Irish with 19 points over the first eight minutes, an output that placed his name atop Rice annals for single-session scoring. His total was one more than the previous school standard, which was shared by Mike Kennedy (Class of 2008) and former two-time Player of the Year Jimmy Sexton (1994).
  Niego only tallied four points after that, but his initial explosion keyed a 27-point frame for the Crusaders and laid the groundwork for a 66-46 victory in Chicago.
  “I’ve been telling him since I got here that he’s a college-caliber player,” Rice coach Rick Harrigan said. “We push him a lot, but it’s easy to coach a player like that.
  “When players feel that good, you let the game flow as much as you can. You don’t call timeouts; you leave him alone and let him go.”
  With Niego serving as ringleader, the Crusaders (7-7, 2-3) constructed a hefty 15-point cushion for themselves, which definitely ran counter to the slow starts that Harrigan termed a “sore spot” for Rice on several other occasions this season. Bishop Mac battled its hosts on pretty even terms afterward, but the Irish needed more than that in order to make a legitimate run at the Crusaders.
  “We played pretty good,” Harrigan said. “It was our first Catholic League game in the new year and a home game, so it was important for us to get.”
  Rice split four contests at York’s holiday tournament right after Christmas, but Harrigan thought his club still lacked steadiness. Both of the defeats, he felt, had been winnable games for the Crusaders.
  “It sounds simple, but we’ve played good in our wins and not very good in our losses,” Harrigan said. “We want more consistency.”
  He certainly got it in this instance, as Niego’s scoring wasn’t the only noteworthy part of Rice’s exhibition. Also making life good for the home team were 52 percent shooting — including 44 percent (8-of-18) from 3-point land — a 29-17 rebounding edge and 14-3 assists-to-turnovers ratio.
  “We’ve been encouraging our guys to take better care of the ball,” Harrigan said. “We’ve got to make it a point to get a shot on every possession, and [we] don’t [want to] settle for a good shot. Get a great shot.”
  Besides his points, Niego aided the Crusaders with 11 rebounds and three assists. His primary cohort was fellow senior Ray Rubio, who provided Rice with 18 points, seven rebounds and two assists.
  Having that duo carry a big chunk of the load wasn’t anything unusual for the Crusaders. Making it mean more was measurable input from a third party, Dan Scanlon, who netted a dozen points.
  “Scanlon gets a lot of hustle plays,” Harrigan said of the senior, who was an all-area selection in football during the fall. “His energy is important to us.”
  Also key to Rice’s success here was credible defense, which forced the Irish into 11 turnovers and held them to a 42 percent accuracy rate from the field.
  The game was rescheduled from Tuesday, when school closures across the area forced postponement of all activities that day. The Crusaders also failed to hit the court for their other slated contest against Hales Franciscan on Friday because of weather-created problems.
  That game will be played Saturday at 5 p.m. at Hales. Rice hosted Nazareth Academy this past Tuesday, and Harrigan hopes that his athletes gained a big pick-me-up from their Wednesday conquest.
  “Teams are either getting better or worse at this point of the season,” he said. “We can’t just go through the motions.”


Bishop Mac 12 11 16 7 - 46
Brother Rice 27 13 15 11 - 66

Brother Rice Scoring: Niego 23, Rubio 18, Scanlon 12, Gallagher 7, Conlisk 6. Rebounds: Niego 11, Rubio 7. Assists: Niego 3.

Winning formula

  • Written by Ken Karrson

Time off beneficial as Bulldogs top Titans

  Well-rested athletes didn’t arrest Richards’ on-court development.
  In fact, Bulldogs coach John Chappetto was glad his guys received some unexpected time off last Tuesday, when sub-zero temperatures and snow combined to force the closure of many south suburban schools. That wiped out a scheduled nonconference contest with highly regarded Marian Catholic and meant Richards had gone a full two weeks without a game when it finally resumed on-court activities Friday night against Tinley Park.
  All did not go perfectly for the Bulldogs in the South Suburban Conference crossover encounter, as was evidenced when the visiting Titans fought back from a 15-point third-quarter deficit and forged a tie midway through the final stanza.
  “We had five guys on the floor who had no trust in each other,” Chappetto said. “It didn’t look good.”
  Things looked better after Chappetto called a timeout to get his players on the same page. Richards responded with a 17-9 run over the last 3:40 and kept its league ledger spotless with an 83-72 triumph at D-Wade Court.
  “We needed the timeout when I called it, for sure,” Chappetto said. “[Tinley Park is] OK — they have some talent, but I have a three-year starting point guard and a Division I center. It comes down to the team that has better talent, so we’d better win [in that situation].
  “Tinley Park played on Jan. 3 and won, [so] I think the Marian Catholic postponement was good for us. I don’t think we were ready to play them, and if that [outcome] went south, Friday’s game would have been tough to get.”
  The Bulldogs won just once in three tries at the Kankakee Tournament between Christmas and New Year’s, and the last of those games — against Carver — was played without junior guard Dedrick Shannon, who injured his ankle. So not only did Richards have to sit for a while on a sizable loss, but Shannon’s availability in early January was iffy.
  “His last game was Dec. 27, and he didn’t do anything except try to get healthy until Jan. 9,” Chappetto said.
  Shannon didn’t make his presence felt very keenly against Tinley until the fourth period, when he notched 10 of the Bulldogs’ last 25 points. His drive to the hoop initiated Richards’ closing run and then, following a Titans turnover, Deon Alexander’s three-point play off a putback got the Bulldogs (10-3, 5-0) rolling in earnest.
  “We didn’t do anything different,” Chappetto said. “Our turnovers, our missed free throws and our bad defense had gotten us in trouble, and it snowballed. But all of a sudden we realized we were in a tie game and we needed to be a little bit more together.
  “We just had to stop getting upset with each other and focus on the next play. [It helped that] Tinley quit scoring as well.”
  Shannon finished with 18 points for Richards, second only to Chicago State University-bound center Josh Meier’s team-high total of 20. Other Bulldogs reaching double digits were Spencer Tears (17 points) and Thaer Othman (11).
  Richards survived a nightmarish exhibition at the charity stripe, where it misfired on half of its 38 attempts. By doing so, it maintained a two-game edge in the loss column over SSC Red pursuers Reavis and Shepard.
  Conference matchups versus Lemont and Oak Forest were on this week’s docket, as are two games in the Rockford Jefferson Tournament on Saturday. That event continues on Monday with two more contests, as the Bulldogs tangle with a pair of foes from Rockford and a couple others from Belvidere.
  “We play six games in six days,” Chappetto said. “This is going to be a tough stretch for us.”
  No official makeup date for the Marian game has yet been settled on, but Chappetto anticipates it taking place sometime in February.


Tinley Park 10 19 22 21 - 72
Richards 15 24 19 25 - 83

Richards Scoring: Meier 20, Shannon 18, Tears 17, T. Othman 11, Alexander 9, Catledge 6, White 2.