Category Archives: Boys

Simeon Outlasts Lemont to Win 3A Super Sectional

With 41 seconds remaining in the 3A Super Sectional matchup with Lemont, Simeon forward Miles Rubin strode to the free-throw line.

Lemont had cut a 12-point deficit heading into the fourth to just three points, and had fouled Rubin for the one-and-one. 

He knocked down the first, just net. He shot the second: Same result.

Rubin and the Wolverines held on to beat Lemont 52-47, winning the UIC Super Sectional and advancing to the state semifinals. 

Rubin finished with a game-high 22 points, adding seven rebounds and five blocks.

“I felt like if I got going early, I would be good at the end of games,” Rubin said. “That’s what I did.”

Simeon jumped out to a 17-5 lead after the first quarter on the backs of Rubin and twin brother Wesley Rubin, who counted for 10 points and eight rebounds at the end of the quarter. Lemont had no answer early for the 6-7 junior duo.

But Lemont hung around, forcing turnovers on Simeon’s experienced backcourt and getting timely threes from its role players. The team, minus sophomore sensation Nojus Indrusaitis, went 6-for-13 from three.

But Simeon’s defense on Indrusaitis was one of the keys to the game. He finished 3-for-14 overall and 0-for-6 from beyond the arc. Simeon junior guard Michael Ratliff keyed on Indrusaitis for much of the game, giving the Wolverines key bench minutes.

“He was huge,” Simeon coach Michael Smith said. “We got in some foul trouble early in the game. Michael Ratliff came in and gave us a big boost. That’s what he does. When these guys are tired … we bring Michael Ratliff in and he can play multiple positions. He’s a bigger kid, he’s stronger … he can crash the boards really well.

“It’s not about scoring for him,” Smith continued. “It’s about whatever we need in that moment.”

Ratliff finished second on the team in scoring with nine points, adding five rebounds.

Simeon guarantees its best season finish since 2016-17, when it was runner-up, losing to Whitney Young in 4A. It has won seven state titles overall, including four straight from 2010 to 2013.

“[Going to Champaign] is going to be a great opportunity for us,” Smith said. “We just want to be competitive and go down there and finish the job.

“I told the guys, ‘Enjoy this moment right now,'” he added. “I know some teams who were just satisfied with winning this game. And they didn’t do what they were supposed to do. We just want to stay locked in, and get prepared and get ready for the next game.”

For Lemont, junior guard Matas Castillo led the way with 16 points, including a perfect 6-for-6 from the stripe down the stretch. He’s among the 10 Lemont players who are juniors or younger.

“The thing I love about this team is they have the audacity to think they’re gonna win this game,” Lemont head coach Rick Runaas said. “These guys aren’t afraid of anybody. They want to play a tough schedule. They want to play good teams. They cherish the moment. I think we’ll learn from it, and I think these guys coming back will be hungry for more.”

Hinton’s Maturation Lands Him Spot with D-II Power Northwest Missouri State

This summer, early in his final AAU season with M14 hoops, Jonah Hinton was trying to do too much. He was frustrated that his game wasn’t improving as fast as he had hoped.

A new attitude helped. Having confidence and enjoying himself started to pay off on the floor.

“I think a lot of young players put a lot of stress on ourselves with this expectation of being this social media (star) and being five-star recruits and things like that,” Hinton said. “They look at these people like role models and trying to be like them and instead of being more like yourself. I think I figured that out the second half of AAU … after the month of May I figured that out and my performance, I started to play more like myself. I was more aggressive, I was trying new things and a lot of that worked out and helped me out.” 

Hinton, a 6-1, 165-pound guard, said the travel coaching staff, as well as basketball trainer Ryan Paradise, contributed to his changing mindset. 

“I was trying to do too much,” Hinton said. “I was thinking on the court too much and that was causing me to turn the ball over, not be able to handle the pressure as well. Some of the pointers they gave me was just, ‘Keep it simple.’ I think that’s the best advice I got.

“Don’t make things too complicated,” Hinton added. “Just read a defender and make a move, read the secondary defense. And that really helped me as a point guard.”

Former RedHawks star Chris Conway, now a contributor at Oakland University, had similar advice for Hinton.

“I did not play varsity my freshman and sophomore year, but he (Conway) was there watching my games, giving me pointers, just giving me different things to do on the court, and another thing he was saying was to just keep it simple,” Hinton said. 

Having long-held Division I dreams, Hinton elected to commit to Division II powerhouse Northwest Missouri State, which has won three of the last four national championships. The Bearcats’ current roster features Illinois natives Mitch Mascari, a redshirt freshman from Geneva, and freshman Luke Moustakas, a Brother Rice graduate.

“They had recruited me toward the end of my AAU season, but I had been looking at them and I went on a visit right before senior year started,” Hinton said. “The business school is really good and that’s what I think I want to major in. And their basketball program, they are the top Division II program. The system … the way they run their offense and things like that, success, winning, I really want to be a part of that type of culture.”

This season for Naperville Central, Hinton has become a vocal leader who has been willing to make plays late for a now 19-7 RedHawks squad. The RedHawks core has led them to 10 wins in their last 13 games. 

“Jonah and Mantas Zilys and James Jopes, the three of them are a trio, but those two can really score in different ways and Jopes is more of a three-point specialist,” Naperville Central coach Pete Kramer said.

Naperville Central fell to 6-3 in the DuPage Valley Conference after a loss to DeKalb Friday.

“Over the summer, I wasn’t really as vocal because I had other players around that me that they’re going to college to play basketball and that’s what their focus is, so we click better on that level,” Hinton said. “Naperville Central has definitely taught me to be more of a leader, be more vocal so I can get everyone on the same page as me.”

Hinton has already proven his mettle against the DVC, leading the RedHawks from 16 down in the fourth quarter in a 59-56 win over DeKalb and 10 down to a victory against rival Naperville North, 71-61. Sandwiched between that was a heavy 72-53 loss to Neuqua Valley.

So it goes in the parity-filled DVC. 

“He refuses to let his team or himself go down without a fight,” Kramer said of the comeback wins.

Kramer noted that he thinks that Hinton will grow yet, and needs to build muscle onto his frame to excel at the next level. But for now, he’s taking over games like he did against Naperville North and DeKalb. 

“It was unbelievable,” Kramer said. “That stuff doesn’t happen unless you have a great leader, and that’s what he is. He makes his teammates better, he contributes every way he can in all aspects of the game. He’s a special player and I’m extremely happy for him to go to a school of that caliber.”

After developing his game in near every facet — Kramer says he shoots well from deep and in the mid-range, and is finding teammates for looks more than ever — Hinton is looking well-prepared to play at the collegiate level.

“He’s improved a ton from last year,” Kramer said. “We liked where he was at last year, but he’s put in a lot of hard work and just developed all aspects of his game. I think a big part of his game is maturity. He doesn’t get rattled.

“When he was younger he would maybe let certain things affect him,” Kramer added. “[But now] his composure is outstanding and kind of lets the game come to him a little bit more.”

Undefeated Richland County (Olney) Tigers understand their roles; Kennard leading Mt. Carmel

There’s nothing particularly flashy about what the Richland County (Olney) Tigers do. No magic tricks were needed to defeat the Mt. Carmel Aces 52-40, as Chase Travis and the Tigers improved to 18-0 and grabbed full control of the Little Illini Conference race.

Sophomore guard Ian Winkler and senior guard Drew Blank each scored a game-high 15 points, including some early buckets when Mt. Carmel was having some offensive success in the first half. Blank hit timely shots and a number of Tigers stepped up at the free throw line. 

With the game still hanging in the balance with 1:10 to go, junior guard Dawson Brown drilled a three-pointer right in front of the Tiger bench to put the Tigers up 46-40.

Senior wing Chase Travis, despite being held relatively in-check — Travis is averaging 20.1 points per game after scoring 12 Friday — has seen his teammates make timely plays again and again as the Tigers (18-0, 5-0 LIC) have won eight games by single digits. He had the go-ahead assist that put the Tigers up 42-40 and helped Olney end the game on a 14-0 run.

Richland County continues to find ways to get the job done, and keep its undefeated stretch going. 

“In the season and times that we live in right now, there are so many things able to go wrong with quarantining and things that we have had some keys guys miss games,” Travis said. “And we are so deep that we still win when we don’t have everyone or [are] not at 100 percent.

“I think we have different guys for different situations, so one night might call for other guys that provide more strength and toughness, while the next night will require a little more outside shooting,” Travis continued. “And I think people understand these roles and step up when it is their time.”

Travis has become one of southern Illinois’ top producers, showing an all-around game that frequently has him finishing smoothly and efficiently at the rim.

“The most important thing for me is the off-season work I put in, working on my game both on the court and a bunch of work in the weight room,” Travis said. “But last year helped me a lot because we had no seniors so I got to step up last year and fill that role.”

Defeating Mt. Carmel Friday in a raucous environment, gave the battle-tested Tigers another boost of confidence. 

“We need(ed) to be ready for them to give us everything they have, and we have to play well because life on the road is tough,” Travis said.  “So staying mentally tough is one of the biggest things we try and keep at the forefront of everything we do. But with all that being said, we did beat them twice and we have a really good all-around team, so there is still a confidence with that that needs to be brought to the game.”


The Tigers’ best overall state finish in coach Rob Flanagan’s tenure, a stretch that dates back to 1998, was third in 2A in 2008. The Tigers’ last regional title, which was in 2A, came in the 2011-12 season.

This year, Richland County is one of the smaller 3A programs in the state at 735 students. The cut-off for 3A currently for basketball is (685.1) and over.

As for Travis, his goals going forward remain simple. 

“Just keep showing up each game to give ourselves a chance to win,” Travis said. “A goal of mine has always been to be a part of the first 3A regional championship team at Olney.”


Mt. Carmel got 10 points from Blayne Sisson and 9 each from Gage Kennard and Gavin Smith. Smith in particular came through with timely buckets in the second half that gave Mt. Carmel life and several early fourth-quarter leads.

Kennard has been the team’s primary scorer, filling up the hoop to the tune of 22 points per game. 

“He has started since he was a freshman and has always been a great shooter, but this year he has really added a lot to his game,” Aces coach Tyler Buss said. “He’s scoring in a variety of different ways for us.” 

Buss said the team is at its best when wearing opponents down with its defense and pressure. That has led to strong second halves of play for the Aces.

Of the Aces’ five losses, three have come to Olney. The two squads could play a fourth time, as the Little Illini Conference Tournament looms. 

“We need to get back to what got us off to a great start,” Buss said. “We have hit a rough patch and we are really going to rely on our upperclassmen to lead us through this. We need to be more consistent on the offensive end. Not just shooting the ball but paying attention to detail and just cleaning up a lot of our actions. I really feel that at its best, this team is good enough to win a regional and sectional. But we have also shown if we don’t bring it on both ends we could get beat by just about anyone.”

This story has been updated with quotes from Aces coach Tyler Buss.


Boys Basketball Top Performers: Week 4

We’re a month into the boys high school season. Though COVID-19 is doing its best to slow things down, we made it to the Christmas tournament season. There’s finally been enough games for the undefeated logo map to come back.

This is the introduction of a boys version of the column Kaleb Carter has run for the past few weeks on the girls basketball side: top performers.

There are 700-plus teams and literally hundreds of players have great performances each week. Here are 10 teams and 10 players that caught my eye this week, in no particular order.

This will run each week the rest of the season, so get in touch.

Notable Week 4 Team Performances

Rockford Auburn

Beat previously undefeated Boylan (8-1, 4-1) 47-43 on Friday to move to 9-2 overall and 6-0 in the NIC-10. The Knights trailed 15-4 and were down a point in the final seconds before scoring five quick, chaotic points (below).

Auburn also knocked off a now 7-3 Rockford East team 59-50 earlier in the week. The Knights square off with undefeated Oswego East (11-0) on Wednesday at Hinsdale Central.

Oswego East

Speaking of, the Wolves are off to an 11-0 start overall and 5-0 in conference after a 41-28 win over Plainfield North. They can play in up-tempo matchups too, holding off Yorkville Christian and Duke recruit Jaden Schutt 91-87 on Tuesday, Dec. 14. Patrick Robinson scored 34 in that win.

Unranked to start the season in the Sun-Times rankings, Oswego East is up to No. 13.


Sure, its three opponents last week have a combined record of 12-17. But Larkin’s average margin of victory was 50 – five-zero – points against Johnsburg, Glenbard East and Fenton. The Royals are 9-1 and 5-0 in the Upstate Eight. They average 73.5 points per game, which is hard to do no matter who you play.


Two really good wins on the week to move to 9-1: The Blue Devils handed Moline its second loss of the season 63-49 on Friday. They followed that up with a 59-37 win over Quincy Notre Dame (5-3) in a crosstown showdown.

Freshman guard Bradley Longcor led all scorers with 20 points against QND.


Despite the loss to Quincy, Moline finished the week 2-1 with wins over Rock Ridge and North Scott (Iowa). More importantly, coach Sean Taylor won his 600th game on Saturday as the team moved to 7-2.

Cerro Gordo-Bement

The Broncos are 9-1 after wins over Monmouth-Roseville (55-40) and DeLand Weldon (66-18). The 1A squad is beating teams by nearly 17 points per game, and its only loss came to 2A Warrensburg-Latham, which was undefeated before a loss on Monday, Dec. 20.

Senior small forward Connor Brown has been key for CGB, averaging 30 points and 10 rebounds per game.

Scales Mound

The Hornets are one of the top teams in 1A and have moved to 7-0 with wins over Eastland, Durand and Farmington, an 8-2 team in 2A.

Scales Mound is averaging the sixth most points per game (76.9) in the entire state, per Nesto Hoops.

Senior wing Benjamin Vandigo scored his 1,000th career point this week as well.

Peoria Christian

Went 3-0 on the week to move to 9-0 on the season. The big win for the 1A Chargers was 50-45 on Saturday over Teutopolis (8-2), a top-10 team in 2A.

Senior forward and Taylor commit Wes Hunt scored 57 points across the three wins and is averaging 20 points and 10 rebounds for the season.

West Aurora

Two close wins last week over 6-3 Minooka (69-66) and 7-2 Naperville Central (54-51) have moved the Blackhaws to 7-3 and given head coach Brian Johnson his 200th career win. Sophomore Josh Pickett scored 31 against Minooka, including 21 in the fourth quarter.

What a turnaround after a 1-15 campaign this spring.

Rockford Lutheran

Has won 25 straight Big North games after a win over Rockford Christian. The 2A Crusaders are 7-4 on the year but all losses have come to bigger schools (St. Charles North, Boylan, Neuqua and Waubonsie).

Though just outside of the week, Lutheran beat Buffalo Grove by 30 on Dec. 13 and Northridge by 25 on Dec. 20.

Notable Week 4 Team Performances

Ben VanderWal, Timothy Christian, Sr.

Two games for the Trojans last week. Two wins for the Trojans. Two 20-point double-doubles for Furman commit Ben Vanderwal:

  • 29 points, 15 rebounds in a 58-43 win over Westinghouse
  • 21 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks, 3 steals in a 49-43 win over IC Catholic

Throw in a couple head taps against ICCP and you’ve got a pretty great week:

Tate Kunzeman, Griggsville-Perry, Sr.

Had 33 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals in a 54-49 win over Mendon Unity. Scored 23 of his team’s 31 points in a loss to Pittsfield. Averaging 20.4 points per game for the season.

Trey Pettigrew

Kenwood went 3-1 in a busy week to move to 8-2. The Broncos were without point guard and top-100 2023 prospect Darrin Ames for two games in Sioux Falls, and Nevada commit Trey Pettigrew stepped up. His week:

  • 17 points, 8 assists in win over Brooks
  • 18 points, 7 assists in win over Phillips
  • 16 of Kenwood’s 32 points in loss to Sunrise Christian
  • 25 points and 7 rebounds in win over Sioux City East

Jalen Quinn, Tuscola, Sr.

Tuscola moved to 7-1 on the year behind monster games from Loyola Chicago commit Jalen Quinn:

  • 25 points, 9 rebounds in win over Tri-County
  • 32 points, 12 rebounds, 6 steals in win over Argenta-Oreana

He became the school’s all-time leading scorer the week prior:

Gavin Sarvis, Burlington Central, Sr.

The dual-sport star (football) was off to a nice start to his senior year, scoring 49 points in his first three games. Then he fractured his wrist.

He returned with a vengeance, scoring 36 points and adding four rebounds in his second game back from injury, including 16 in the fourth quarter to help beat Huntley.

Mason Kibelkis, Peotone, Sr.

The Blue Devils went 4-1 on the week, and Kibelkis had 83 points over the span of four games, including a 35-point game against Reed Custer.

Julian Triffo, Maine South, Sr.

Maine South played just one game last week, but small forward Julian Triffo made it count: 33 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 blocks.

He’s averaging a team-high 20 points and 7.8 rebounds for the 6-3 Hawks after scoring just 1 point per game as a junior.

Dillon Schmidt, Saint Viator, Jr.

Schmidt didn’t practice all week, sitting out with the flu. Then he scored 34 points and knocked down five triples in a 68-51 win over Marian Central. He out-dueled Marian sophomore Christian Bentancur, who finished with 27.

Paul Hart, St. Bede, Sr.

Put up a monster 40 points and 13 rebounds in a 69-56 win over Hall.

Jake Vaughn, Hardin County, Sr.

Vaughn had a triple double in a 74-52 win over Galatia: 31 points, 10 rebounds and 10 steals.

Other Notes

Take Note of Taft, Dempsey Can Make Eagles Go

Take Note of Taft, Dempsey Can Make Eagles Go

By Kaleb Carter


Only a few minutes into the Taft Eagles’ 63-32 win at Mather on Wednesday in CPL-White North action, 6-2 senior guard Mick Dempsey got cooking.

Offensively, Dempsey got to the rim repeatedly, drawing the Mather defense’s attention time and again, only to whip passes to the block or perimeter. On the other end he locked down the Rangers’ guards on the perimeter, putting on a clinic as Taft improved to 8-2 and 3-0 in the Chicago Public League White-North.

Eagles coach Andre Harris, in his first year as head coach after six years as Oak Park-River Forest boys sophomore coach, knows how critical Dempsey is to what the Eagles can do.

“He (Mick) gets us rolling,” Harris said. “If he’s attacking the rim, drawing defenders and able to kick, he opens up his shot, and his shot is pretty nice. We’re blessed to have him on our side. If he gets going, he gets the rest of those guys going.”

Dempsey, one of a number of talented St. Joseph players who scattered after the school shut down last spring, has taken to running the show for the Eagles.

“I’m just trying to be a leader, a ball-handler, distributor,” Dempsey said. “I can score if I have to, but I’m just trying to make sure we get the win.”

He had 15 points, 13 of which came in the first half. In one span in the second quarter, Dempsey accounted for eight points over three possessions, scoring at the rim, hitting a three-pointer and assisting on an Adrian Pelszynski trey.

Pelszynski scored 10 second-quarter points, including stepping out to knock down a pair of three-pointers. Pelszynski’s added all-around game, especially in the absence of big starting forward Joseph Rodriguez — Harris said Rodriguez would be back in action soon — was another thing that had the coach thinking the Eagles are clicking on all cylinders.

“We’re seeing everything we need now,” Harris said of Pelszynski. “He’s starting to crash the glass on both sides, he’s extending the defense with the long ball. He can finish at the rim, he can handle the ball … bring the ball up.”

Gideon Adewole, a 6-3 wing, used his long frame and lean muscle to create shots, including an effective mid-range jumper. Adewole scored 10 Wednesday.

“We believe Gideon can be our best player, but it has to come from him,” Harris said. “We need him to be a little more aggressive. Which is fine, he’s a little passive trying to get his teammates involved, but if he puts his foot on the gas pedal from the tip, this team can be scary.”

Senior guard Zouhir Dahmaz gave the Eagles good production and energy off the bench, and the Eagles have enough shooting skill and size from others further down the roster to be optimistic about going deeper into the bench as the season goes along.

Even down Rodriguez, the Eagles fared decently well down low and showed they can be adaptable, an important feature playing without Rodriguez, a consistent double-double type player.

“I feel really good, we’re 8-2,” Dempsey said. “We almost beat Naperville Central and we played Lane Tech close, so we’re just going to keep improving. I think we can be really good.”

The Rangers, now 3-8 and 2-1 in the White North, got 11 points from senior guard Joseph Perez, and 8 from athletic 6-4 senior forward Emmanuel Nwatu. Jonah Irving, a 6-4 senior forward, also contributed with six rebounds.

DeAndre Craig’s growth as player, leader key for Mount Carmel

DeAndre Craig’s growth as player, leader key for Mount Carmel

By Kyle Williams


Mount Carmel’s poise and shooting paced it to a 61-51 win against Westinghouse at the Team Rose Classic, which the Caravan hosted.

It was a sluggish start for Mount Carmel, which played its third game in as many days. At halftime, the game was deadlocked at 24.

“We’ve played three games in three days, so we had some really tired legs out there,” head coach Phil Sergroves said. “We just willed a win. Our guys are gutting things out and not wanting to give in.”

In particular, it was a slow start for Mount Carmel’s dynamic junior guard DeAndre Craig. The much-ballyhooed playmaker scored just six points in the first half.

“I found my rhythm in the second half,” Craig said. “In the first half, my shots weren’t falling, so I came out taking my time and playing my game.”

Craig’s teammate, junior guard Anthony Ciaravino, scored 12 points in the first half to keep Mount Carmel afloat.

With Craig garnering the attention of opposing defenses, he’s adapted his game to let the game come to him and have faith in his teammates.

“Teams are coming out face guarding off the rip,” Craig said. “I got to trust my teammates to do it if I can’t get it going.”

Craig took off in the second half, finishing with 20 points. The junior guard is explosive getting to the basket, in the half-court or transition, and his jumper started falling in the second-half. Sergroves spoke highly about Craig’s improvement as a shooter and his overall game.

“He’s really worked on his shot, Sergroves said. “He knocked down a ton of threes today. He also changes speed really well. Some guys are fast all the time or slow all the time. He can lull you to sleep and blow by you.”

Craig’s maturation as a leader was a focal point for the junior guard this past summer. Craig is soft-spoken, but he speaks up when he needs to.

“It starts in practice,” Craig said. “When I see guys goofing around or not giving 100 percent, I’ll get on them. I’m not trying to be mean, but the season is starting, and we gotta get going.”

Craig has played a significant role in Mount Carmel’s 10-0 start to the season, which includes victories over Marist and De La Salle.

“We expected a lot out of DeAndre since the moment he walked in the building as a freshman,” Sergroves said. “He was up on varsity towards the end of the year, so expectations are always high for him. He’s a great leader, he’s a quiet leader. He’s put in a lot of work in the off-season, a lot of work in the weight room.”

‘This is one of the more talented teams that I’ve had’: Brother Rice continues hot start to season

‘This is one of the more talented teams that I’ve had’: Brother Rice continues hot start to season

By Kyle Williams


Coming off of a tightly contested contest against Marian Catholic, Brother Rice leaned on its defense in a 55-44 win over Joliet West at the Team Rose Shootout.

The score was not indicative of how the Crusaders controlled the game from start to finish. Brother Rice isn’t the most physically imposing team, but its roster has length and was dialed in from the beginning of the contest. Joliet West only scored 15 points in the first half.

“I thought that defensively we were good for three quarters,” head coach Bobby Frasor said. “I thought we did a good job, especially in that second quarter, of extending the lead. A lot of them were on second-chance buckets.”

While the swarming defense carried Brother Rice in the first half, its size advantage paid dividends offensively at the start of the quarter.

“Once we realized we had a size difference and we’re not the most physically imposing team, good things happen,” Frasor said. “We had some specific calls to get Khalil [Ross] the ball low in the second half, and he got two and-ones in a row, and Ahmad [Henderson] fed him the ball in good spots.”

Junior Khalil Ross finished the game with 10 points and four rebounds. Junior Ahmad Henderson also had an impressive game. He’s a blur with the ball in his hands and can score from all three levels. Henderson’s primary matchup was against Joliet West point guard Jeremiah Fears. Fears is one of the best freshmen in the state.

“I was guarding Jeremiah Fears; he’s a good player and a tough guard, so I did the best I could on him,” Henderson said.

Henderson’s offensive game is tantalizing. He showcased his array of skills against the Joliet West Tigers.

“I had a lot of dribble pull-ups and worked off of ball screens,” Henderson said. “I love working off of ball screens. My mid-range and floaters, those are spots that I know I can get to.”

Henderson has played a key role for a young Crusaders team that has only two seniors on the roster and nine juniors.

“We’re 8-1,” Henderson said. “I’m the only returner from varsity last year, so a lot of these guys haven’t had varsity experience, so I’ve taken on more of a leadership role.”

Frasor has high hopes for the Crusaders, who already sport victories over Marist and Marian Catholic despite the inexperience.

“I’m excited, this is one of the more talented teams that I’ve had, and we’re all juniors too,” Frasor said. “Obviously, Ahmad is a really special talent with the ball in his hands. There’s a lot of good things that we can work with, and we have a lot more potential to reach. It’s going to be fun to see if we can achieve that.”

Former Stagg Coach John Daniels Brings Experience to Sandburg

Former Stagg Coach John Daniels Brings Experience to Sandburg

By Xavier Sanchez

On Friday, Dec. 10, the Sandburg boys basketball team was scheduled to play sibling school Stagg. It’s a rivalry that Sandburg head coach John Daniels has experienced many times.

But this was the first time he would experience it from the Sandburg sidelines.

Daniels was Stagg’s head coach from 2003 to 2017, leaving for family reasons at the conclusion of the 2016-17 season. After some time away from the sport, he returned to the sidelines at Addison Trail and Aurora University to grow his basketball knowledge.

At the conclusion of the spring 2021 season, Sandburg coach Todd Allen decided to step away after 25 seasons to spend more time with his family. Daniels saw this as a perfect opportunity to do what he does best: take a program with pieces, give it new direction and bring it to new heights.

“I’m one of those guys that likes to buy the old house that’s all broken down but has good bones and I’m going to fix it up,” Daniels said.

This is not new territory for someone who has 28 years of coaching experience. All three of his previous head coaching stops have been similar.

“I’m looking forward to everything: getting to know the team, coaching my first game, and hopefully make a difference.”

Daniels took his first head coaching job in 1996 with Elmwood Park. In his three seasons there, the program had its first winning season in nearly 20 years.

At his next stop, York, the team improved each year and won a regional title in 2001. At Stagg, Daniels won four games in his first season. The Chargers became regular competitors at the top of the Southwest Suburban conference. Stagg enjoyed several 20-win seasons and won its first regional title in nearly 20 years.

The challenge brings both excitement and new battles. While Daniels has spoken about his excitement for his new journey, he understands it will not be a cake walk. Stepping in and seeing immediate change is not realistic, and there is so much learning that takes place when a new head coach comes in – from all sides.

Daniels shared how the coaching community is open and coaches learn from each other, highlighting similarities across programs. Still, no two situations are the same. This results in a learning curve when a new head coach steps in. Daniels said with all of the change, coaches and players alike will spend a lot of energy adapting in year one.

“The first season is always the hardest,” he said.

Despite the work it will take, Daniels stressed how excited he was to grow the culture of the program and lead a team once again.

“I’m blessed,” he said. “I get the chance to do this all over again and I’m excited. I’m looking forward to everything: getting to know the team, coaching my first game, and hopefully make a difference.”

Daniels and the Eagles were hoping to bounce back from back-to-back losses and a 1-5 start to the season against Stagg. But his first matchup against his former program was postponed.

It will be a must-watch event when he does return to face his old team.

Stagnant Offense Undercuts Defensive Effort in St. Ignatius’ Loss to Chaminade

Stagnant Offense Undercuts Defensive Effort in St. Ignatius’ Loss to Chaminade

By Kyle Williams

The start of the season hasn’t gone as planned for the St. Ignatius boys basketball team, including a 46-33 loss to Chaminade (Mo). on Saturday, December 4. 

The Wolfpack — the No. 4 team in the Sun-Times preseason rankings — now stand at 3-4 with losses to Leo, Lake Forest, Chaminade and Loyola over their last five games overall.

The game was a tale of two halves for St. Ignatius at the Chicago Elite Classic.

The Wolfpack’s defensive prowess was on display in the first, as they held the St. Louis powerhouse to 17 points and 28 percent shooting from the field. Both teams were locked in defensively, closing out on shooters hard and making sound rotations.

“I was really proud of our defense overall,” St. Ignatius coach Matt Monroe said. “That’s the best we’ve played defensively, and that’s been an area of focus of ours.”

The St. Ignatius’ offense dried up in the second half; the team went 4-for-18 from the field in the third and fourth quarters. The Wolfpack couldn’t overcome 15 points from Chaminade junior guard Nillivan-Jothan Daniels.

“We got a lot better just during that game,” Monroe said. “And now we’re certainly not satisfied with moral victories or anything like that, but we saw a lot of improvement from our guys in a multitude of ways, especially on the defensive end.”

The best offense for the Wolfpack in the second half came courtesy of senior guard A.J. Redd, who finished with nine points, seven rebounds, and two assists. Redd is a creative driver when attacking the basket, capable of contorting his body mid-air to account for a contest at the rim. 

“My main strength is getting to the rim and attacking off the dribble,” Redd said.

“I missed a couple — it’s tough in the arena shooting. After that, I decided to cut, get to the rim. And then you saw I got to the free-throw line a couple of times to get me going.”

Redd uses his quickness to help set up his teammates for easy shots. Once his defender is on his hip, Redd surveys the court for his teammates after he draws in the defense. 

“When I see they’re pressing up on me, I might try to make a quick move and get past them, put them on my hip,” Redd said. “That’s when I’m looking for my teammates, and that’s when we get the defense moving.”

The Wolfpack are hoping to use the early season skid to prepare them for conference play and postseason. Their difficult schedule was by design. They know that the team they are now isn’t indicative of the team they can be in March. It’s just about stringing together complete games. 

“We just got to keep putting it together and being … more consistent offensively,” Monroe said. “We just got a little stagnant. We became a little drive-centric and didn’t move the ball as well as we did in the first half.”

Glenbrook South still looking to improve despite victory over Lake Forest

For the Glenbrook South varsity boys’ basketball team, expectations have been set. 

This is a Titans team that believes it has the makeup to compete for a state championship this season. So even though Glenbrook South (5-0) convincingly defeated Lake Forest, 71-54, inside the Titan Dome for its first home game of the season, the takeaway was how the team could still make improvements. 

And it starts with playing better team defense on back cuts and limiting ball watching. So, what needs to be done to address those areas?

“We are going to watch film, that’s where it starts,” Glenbrook South coach Phil Ralston said. “Were there moments where we played really good defense? Yes, absolutely. … But I think we just have to have our discipline a little bit better. I’m cringing because we gave up 54 points when we are giving up an average of about 40. That’s more than I like to see.”

Going into this matchup with Lake Forest (3-2), the focus was to try and limit one of the best juniors in the state: Asa Thomas. The Titans’ defense limited Thomas — who has several offers from major Division 1 programs, including Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin — to 18 points. Ralston still believed his team could’ve done a better job. 

But there were some aspects about the victory that Ralston did like. 

“The one thing we did really well in this game was our transition was fantastic,” Ralston said. “When they didn’t score, our ability to get down the floor and really attack the rim put them in trouble.”

What also gave the Scouts trouble was the senior duo of Nick Martinelli and Cooper Noard. Martinelli finished with a game-high 25 points and Noard ended with 22 points. At the end of the first quarter, Noard scored 16 points and went 4-of-5 on three-pointers. 

“My teammates were feeding me and I was open and I was knocking them down,” Noard said. “I was just feeling the energy. That was it, and I caught fire.”

Outside of Noard making triples and Martinelli getting to the rim and finishing with his left hand, there were several other Titans, like senior Spencer Brown and junior Gavin Marr, who made key contributions throughout the game. 

“I thought in moments Spencer Brown was fantastic,” Ralston said. “His court awareness, seeing the floor and making the extra pass, things that won’t be in someone else’s stat book, he did very well tonight. … I thought Gavin had a lot of really good transition baskets. When he switched off and he (Marr) was on Asa, he did a fantastic job of knocking passes away.”

Brown finished the game with seven points and Marr added 10 points. For Lake Forest, senior Alex Forowycz finished with a team-high 21 points.

Ralston mentioned that members of this team have stepped up throughout the first five games of the season, and that will have to continue for Friday’s Central Suburban League South matchup against Evanston. 

“We got to make sure everyone is one the same game plan for Friday,” Noard said. “That is the next step.”

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