Marist keeps streaking against Mother McAuley

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

Marist’s Ally Corcoran, left, collides with Mother McAuley’s Hannah Swiatek during Monday night’s neighborhood battle as the RedHawks beat the Mighty Macs, 56-39.  

The way Marist’s Julia Ruzevich sees it, the rivalry game against Mother McAuley has the entire South Side buzzing.

“This is the date I always look forward to,” she said. “There is always a full house and everyone from the South Side comes down to watch this game. It’s an exciting atmosphere.’’

The Quincy-bound senior scored 20 points in her final regular-season game against the Mighty Macs in a 56-39 victory Monday night in front of an estimated crowd of 1,200 in a non-conference neighborhood battle at McAuley.

The RedHawks (17-3 with a five-game winning streak) outscored the Macs 29-16 in the second and third quarters to keep a comfortable lead in the fourth. Claire Austin added 12 points for the winners. Junior Tara O’Malley had 12 for McAuley.

Marist opened the season with a 12 straight victories before suffering a couple of setbacks down south at the inaugural Queen of the Commonwealth Tournament at Bullitt East High School in Washington, Kentucky.

After dropping a 58-57 setback to Male High School (the firth-ranked team in the state) on a buzzer-beater on Dec. 21, the RedHawks lost another close shave to Campbell County the next day, 63-59.

They came back home hoping to make some noise in the powerful Montini Tournament but was bounced in the first round by Proviso East, 63-58. Marist had to make that noise in the consolation round and thwarted its current streak by winning three games en route to the consolation title and opened the 2017 portion of the schedule with a 65-42 triumph over New Trier in the Fremd Shootout before Monday night’s game with the Mighty Macs.

“After that Proviso game, we had a meeting,” Ruzivich said. “We said ‘this is it – no more losses.’ We came out and won the next game and we’ve been winning ever since.

The schedule doesn’t get much easier for Marist as it faces Stevenson at the Subway Shootout at Willowbrook High School on Saturday and looming on Jan. 20 is a road game at Benet Academy, which has won back-to-back Class 4A state titles the past two seasons.

Meanwhile, McAuley (12-6) is in an interesting phase of its development. The team is filled with underclassmen with a high ceiling for the next couple of years. There are just three seniors to go with six juniors and four sophomores on this year’s squad and some of the younger players went through the wars of a 17-14 season in 2015-16.

Last season, the team went to Marist and took a 64-41 beating at the hands of the RedHawks in a game that wasn’t even that close. Marist had a 31-point advantage at one point before both squads emptied their benches and McAuley was able to eat into that deficit a little bit.


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: I'll side-step predicting if NU does the two-step in March

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


They have teased us before, so I am not making any bold predictions.

But two years in a row we have seen something we thought we would never see in sports.

In 2015, Phillips became the first Chicago Public League football team to win an Illinois High School Association state championship.

In 2016…well…you know. But in case you in a coma all year, the Cubs won the World Series for the first time in 108 years.

Northwestern, you are up in 2017.

The Wildcats men’s basketball team has never qualified for the NCAA Tournament.


Northwestern, the Citadel, Army, St. Francis Brooklyn and William and Mary are the only five longtime teams who have come up dry the third month each year. There are some newer teams—such as Chicago State—who have also been miserable in March but haven’t sustained the longevity of being on the outside looking in as the Wildcats have.

After opening the season with an 11-2 non-conference record, it was easy to be impressed with the Wildcats but they have had gaudy non-conference records in the past and haven’t shown much in the Big Ten season.

Entering this week, they have conference wins over Penn State and Nebraska but losses to Michigan State and Minnesota.

The way the conference is shaping up, there are so many winnable games that I am almost ready to declare this as the year the Wildcats break the 0-for-forever streak.

But I’ll wait and see.

They’ve teased us before.

 The next wave on the North Side

The Cubs have so many young players poised to be on the major league roster who could be around for so long that it seems like it will be difficult for the next wave of top prospects to break the club.

But baseball is one of those sports that is not exactly predictable and you never know when or why a spot will open up on the 25-man roster.

Moving up to the No. 1 spot on the Cubs’ prospect list according to Baseball America is outfielder Eloy Jimenez, a Dominican star who probably won’t be up soon because he is 21 and the Cubs don’t need any more outfielders.

He hits .329 with 14 homers and 81 RBI for Low Class A South Bend and led the Midwest League with 40 doubles and slugging percentage (.532).

An unnamed club official called him “a physical animal.’’

No. 2 on the BA list is Ian Happ, a 22-year-old second baseman/outfielder (good luck with that) who was drafted by Cincinnati in the first round in 2015. BA says “Happ hasn’t mastered a position yet, mostly because he’s not truly average at one.’’

The magazine also said The Cubs gave him plenty of reps at second base, where scouts see stiff actions, rigid hands and below-average overall defense.’’

But his hitting is supposed to be good so maybe he will be eventually dealt to an American League team.

On the hill, the top prospect is right-hander Dylan Cease, who pitched in Wrigley Field in an Under Armour event and has already had Tommy John surgery. In short-season play at Eugene, he was 2-2 with a 2.22 ERA.

A Happy New Year for Marist, Evergreen Park

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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Photo by Jeff Vorva

DeAnna Stewart of Evergreen Park was named MVP of the Agricultural Science School Tournament for her scoring and rebounding but on this play on Friday, she wasn’t afraid to hit the ground for a loose ball against Bremen.


It’s been 25 years since Marist’s boys basketball team won the Centralia Holiday Tournament.

It possibly never happened that the boys and girls basketball teams at Evergreen Park won holiday tournaments during the same season.

In a dizzying and historic 24-hour period on Thursday and Friday, the area crowned three champions. Evergreen Park’s boys took care of business with an 89-74 victory over Perspectives-Calumet on Thursday night to win the 16-team Immaculate Conception Catholic/Westmont Christmas Classic. On Friday afternoon, EP’s girls beat Bremen 38-24 to finish 5-0 in the six-team Chicago Agriculture Science Christmas Tournament.  

Meanwhile, a few hundred miles south, Marist put the finishing touches on the wild end-of-the-week festivities with a 51-47 victory over Belleville West Friday night to win the 74th Centralia Tournament, but the game most Marist fans will be buzzing about was the Friday afternoon semifinal game in which the RedHawks (16-0) trailed by 12 heading into the fourth quarter but roared back for a 50-49 victory over Champaign Central.  Justin Brown’s block of a Central shot at the buzzer preserved the victory seconds after Maurice Commander bagged a pair of free throws.

Junior Morgan Taylor was the 16-team tournament’s MVP and became the first Marist player to claim that award since Gene Nolan in 1991. Nolan is the team’s coach and has now won a Centralia title as a player and a coach. Brown was named to the all-tournament second team.

Marist is one of the few unbeaten teams in the Chicago area and the 2017 portion of its schedule will be challenging with games with Benet, Brother Rice and St. Patrick looming. But after winning this tournament, the RedHawks should be confident they can play with the big boys.

Evergreen Park’s boys and girls didn’t play in high-profile tournaments, but they strung together an impressive stretch of victories that left the boys at 10-4 and the girls at 13-4 to help give them confidence for the beefy part of their South Suburban Conference. Both teams also have eyes on desirable seeds in the Class 3A postseason.

Girls coach Bruce Scaduto, who also coached the boys, couldn’t recall in his 19 years the Mustangs winning boys and girls holiday tournament the same year. Athletic Director Jim Soldan said he wasn’t aware if it happened before that.

The boys survived a 64-61 semifinal victory over IC Catholic with Michael Drynan scoring 20 before scoring 47 points in the first half of the title game. Drynan and Jonathan McDonald each had 19 in that game, tournament MVP Tyler Weathersby added 17 and Kyree Hannah 12.

“Tyler did a fantastic job and probably played his best game as a Mustang in the championship game,” Flannigan said. “It was nice to finally win this tournament. We’ve come close a couple of times.

“We’re hoping this will help with our confidence during a tough stretch of games against Lemont, Teutopolis, Oak Forest, Hillcrest and Leo. We keep telling them that we have enough talent in the room to make a run. Hopefully now they are starting to believe it.’’

Scaduto’s squad is miles ahead of last year’s 12-15 team and has a heavy load of juniors on the team. Senior DeAnna Stewart was named MVP and junior Kacey Gardner was named to the all-tournament team.

The Mustangs had to play two games on Dec. 28, two more on Thursday and one on Friday and gave up an average of 28 points per game.

“We played hard and well against Tinley Park (Dec. 16) and with a week and a half off, I wasn’t sure how we would respond,” Scaduto said. “We came out in this tournament and DeAnna came ready to play. She scored 20 points a game in this tournament and she’s a great post presence. With DeAnna and Kacey, we have a good combination going right now.’’

Stewart is receiving interest from small schools for track as she is a shot putter for the Mustangs. She is hoping to also pick up some interest in basketball as well and having this MVP honor won’t hurt her resume.

Meanwhile, she is hoping for a big finish for her team and said the team accomplished what it needed to at the Agriculture School Tournament.

“We wanted to come out here and go home undefeated,” she said. “We needed to stay focused and control the tempo.’’


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


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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.”