High School Game of the Week - March 4 2014
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Fenwick eliminates Evanston to open Blackhawk Cup playoffs
By Rob Valentin
BOYS HOCKEY — Win or go home.
The was the scenario facing Fenwick and Evanston as they squared off in the first round of the Blackhawk Cup playoffs on Friday night at The Edge Ice Arena in Bensenville.
Both teams played it close to the vest early on and they practically had the same number of shots on goal with neither team scoring in the first period. But as the game went on, the Friars got stronger while the Wildkits faded and Fenwick picked up a 4-1 victory to advance to the second round.
“We started out slow in the first two periods and felt we just needed to pick it up,” said Friars’ junior Jimmy Blair, who scored two goals in the win. “I wasn’t out there to score goals or anything but it happened. It was a good night.”
Fenwick’s Ben Kohen scored the game’s first goal with 14:24 to play in the second period and the Friars upped their lead to 2-0 with 2:51 to play in the second on a goal by Jimmy Blair.
The Friars definitely looked like a different team in the second period. In the first Evanston had more shots on goal, 12-11. But in the second it was Fenwick who had 15 shots to the Wildkits six shots. Friars’ coach Tim Bossy made sure to get his guys refocused after the sluggish first period
“[Coach] said ‘This is our run to State’,” Blair said. “For all the juniors, sophomores and freshman he said ‘If you can’t do it for yourselves, do it for the seniors.’”
The third period was more of the same. Fenwick scored two short-handed goals in the period, one with 12:23 to play by Blair and one with 11:32 to play by Mike Doherty.
The goal by Doherty was pure hustle. He picked the pocket of a defenseman in Evanston’s zone and quickly slipped the puck past the goalie to all but seal the win.
Evanston was kept off the scoreboard until the final minutes when senior Ville Hertto blasted a shot past Pino Barker from the blue line for the Wildkits’ lone goal.
Barker was very strong in net allowing just one goal while accumulating 24 saves. Evanston goalie Andrew Kruper played well under constant pressure and had 34 saves while giving up four goals.
“Our team really wanted to come out hard today,” Barker said. “We knew getting that first goal, whether it was them or us was really important. I had to stay strong in net in order for us to get that lead and eventually beat them like we did.”
Fenwick (22-26-3) advances to face Naperville Central on Thursday at The Edge Ice Arena while Evanston finishes the season 13-17-3.
“I think we fell off towards the first period when we got frustrated that we couldn’t get shots on net,” said Evanston junior Brandon Hilliard. “We were getting outworked at times. I think we were pressing.”
High School Game of the Week - Feb 25 2014
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Ginsberg wins all-around crown while Lyons takes team title
By Rob Valentin
GIRLS GYMNASTICS — Geneva’s Claire Rose Ginsberg is just a freshman but she showed the poise of a senior at the IHSA Girls Gymnastics State finals held last weekend at Palatine High School.
Ginsberg was the most complete gymnast at the meet, winning the all-around title with a score of 37.875, beating out Lyons senior Katie Carling (37.7), Lyons junior Kelsy Kurfirst (37.6) and 29 other gymnasts who had advanced through regionals and sectionals.
“I knew that I had a chance (to win) because I’ve been consistent this season with my all-around scores, so I came in hoping to do my best and it was exciting to come in first,” Ginsberg said. “You have to focus on each event. Even if you do good on one, you have to be satisfied and go on to the next and focus again. It’s hard to stay consistent.”
Ginsberg scored a 9.575 on vault, a 9.35 on bars, a 9.425 on beam and a 9.525 on floor to earn the win on Friday. She expects to return to IHSA competition next season.
The individual event competition was held the next day and five different girls finished first in the four events.
Barrington sophomore Abby Hasanov and Lyons senior Michelle Cozza shared the title in uneven parallel bars after both gymnasts scored a 9.5.
“I knew I needed to hit today and be clean and I’m happy that put me in first place,” said Cozza, who also finished second in vault. “Working pressure routines during practice paid off and I couldn’t be happier.”
Prairie Ridge junior Rachel Underwood advanced to Saturday’s finals in just one event. She made her only routine of the day count, scoring a 9.8 on vault to bring home a state title.
“I feel like I kind of redeemed myself for (Friday) and it felt good coming out and winning vault,” Underwood said. “It was probably one of my best (vaults) this year so I felt really good just going out there and hitting it.”
Stevenson junior Alyssa Weisberg came into the meet hoping to defend her state title in balance beam. She did not disappoint the crowd, scoring a 9.65 to comfortably win the event, beating out Lyons Katie Carling by 1.25 points.
“It’s incredible, I don’t have word to describe in,” said Weisberg about going back-to-back. “I still haven’t wrapped my fingers around what actually happened. It was so fast. It’s been a whole year and then it’s over in 30 seconds.”
Lyons junior Kelsy Kurfirst won the final event of the night, scoring a 9.675 in floor exercise to beat out Carling by .5.
“Ending on floor is so much fun especially with (Carling and Cozza) doing it too,” Kurfirst said. “We all just went out there, had fun and showed it off a little bit.”
Kurfirst and her teammates were spectacular all meet long and that’s exactly why Lyons went home with the team title, scoring 151.275 to beat out Prairie Ridge (148.85) and Fremd (146.675).
“I’m so happy my team and I could perform under pressure,” Cozza said. “It means all of our hard work paid off and it’s a great feeling.
Lyons had the meet officially won on Friday with a score of 150.55. But they still went into Saturday with purpose.
“The goal was to try to get over 151 and we did it,” Cozza said. “I’m very happy.”
High School Game of the Week - Feb 18 2014
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By Rob Valentin
BOYS BASKETBALL — Oak Park-River Forest proved revenge can be a pretty big driving force in high school basketball.
The Huskies were looking for a little payback against Lyons Friday night in Oak Park. The Lions had beaten OPRF by a point on Jan. 10 and that was definitely on the mind of Huskies’ players.
After a back-and-forth first quarter, OPRF completely took over en route to a 61-45 West Suburban Silver home win.
“We wanted this win so badly,” said Huskies’ senior Simmie Cobbs. “We lost to them by one point, it was 47-48. You have to have some kind of revenge in your heart when you lose to a team like that by one point.”
The first quarter had plenty of excitement as the lead changed hands six times in the first eight minutes.
OPRF (17-6, 6-4) led 20-19 to start the second quarter but Lyons took a 21-20 advantage with 6:21 to play in the first half. That would be the high-water mark for the Lions (14-9, 5-5), as they never led again.
The Huskies rattled off 14 straight points — scored by four different players — to take a 34-21 advantage into halftime. Cobbs was a big part of OPRF’s offense in the first half as he scored 16 of his game-high 20 points before the break.
“I’ve been playing a little sluggish lately and I knew I need to have a big game tonight to get the win tonight,” Cobbs said. “My team produced the ball to me and I did what I could.”
Lyons continued to struggle offensively to start the second half. They didn’t score a field goal in the first 3:07 of the second half. They also failed to get a field goal in the final 10:40 of the first half.
“We had the advantage in the first quarter,” Cobbs said. “We knew we could score if we put our minds to it and run our sets we practiced all week long. We just knew we had to come into the second half and finish them off.”
Lyons hung around in the second half but never pulled within single digits. The Lions wound up shooting 14-for-46 from the floor while OPRF was 22-for-40.
Erick Locke was the second-leading scorer for the Huskies with 15 points.
“I think we came out with a lot more energy, especially since the first time we played them when we were lackadaisical, walking all over the place, and they just came and took the game by storm,” Locke said. “Right off the bat guys were energized, guys were focused.”
Leading the way for Lyons was Jaquan Phipps (16 points) and Harrison Niego (13 points).
“I think we played hard and battled,” Niego said. “I’m proud of these guys for that. We could have played a little harder on the defensive end. They outrebounded us. We just needed to be a little tougher on the glass.”
High School Game of the Week - Feb 10 2014
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By Rob Valentin
BOYS SWIMMING — Hinsdale Central’s Franco Reyes may be a freshman but he sure didn’t show any nerves at the West Suburban Silver conference meet hosted by Lyons on Saturday.
Reyes was the most dominant swimmer at the meet, picking up two individual titles and contributing to two relay titles for the Red Devils. Hinsdale Central went on to win the meet with 336 points, outdistancing Lyons (270), Oak Park-River Forest (217), Downers North (162), York (129) and Glenbard West (118).
Reyes’ individual wins came in the 200-yard medley relay where he clocked a time of 1:58.74, 4.56 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor. He also earned a first place finish in the 100 breaststroke with a time of 1:00.64, 2.07 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.
“Conference is a pretty big meet but I’ve been with all these teams and racing with all these kids so the nerves kind of go away,” Reyes said. “The IM was pretty fun for me. It was a hard race but it always is. I’m doing pretty good now for my times for being tired. So I think I'll do pretty well for sectionals and State.”
Saturday’s meet was a blockbuster day for Hinsdale Central. They picked up wins in nine of 12 events.
Bringing home titles for Hinsdale Central were Brian Portland in the 100 butterfly (53.04), Banistre Lienhart in the 100 free (48.95), Craig Smith in the 100 backstroke (54.83) and Sam Pielet in 1-meter diving (401.2)
The Red Devils also swept all three relays, the 200 medley relay (1:37.98) with Smith, Reyes, Portland and Aneil Srivastava, the 200 free relay (1:28.59) with Reyes, Brian Powell, Srivastava and Portland and the 400 relay (3:16.27) with Lienhart, Patrick Mis, Adam Pircon and Portland.
Hinsdale Central took second at the State Meet last year and they seemed primed to make another strong run. The Red Devils will compete in the Downers Grove Sectional on Saturday.
Lyons’ David Freund picked up a very nice win in the 200 free. He swam a 1:46.75, which was nearly two seconds faster than his seed time.
“The 200 was probably my best race of the whole season,” Freund said. “I felt like I was going fast but I was not expecting 1:46’s. I was expecting 1:48 mid, maybe.”
Oak Park-River Forest’s Mark Hallman may have had the most impressive performance of the meet. He showed his incredible versatility by winning both the 50 free (21.93) and the 500 free (4:51.06)
“This is the type of meet where we mix things up a little bit,” Hallman said. “We’re all tired so you have to do a couple different events. The 500 is really good because it helps keep you in shape.”
Hallman also swam the opening leg of the 200 medley relay — the backstroke — in a time of 25.5. That was .02 seconds faster than Hinsdale Central’s Craig Smith swam in his leg of the medley relay. Smith later won the 100 backstroke.
Hallman also clocked a 47.35 split in the 400 free relay. There was no other swimmer from any team that had a split in the 47’s.
High School Game of the Week - Feb 4 2014
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Downers Grove South's Emily Tom amazes with all-around victory at conference meet
By Rob Valentin
GIRLS GYMNASTICS — Downers Grove South sophomore Emily Tom didn’t know what to expect as she prepared for the West Suburban Gold conference meet on Friday night.
But by the end of the night she had earned the all-around title with a spectacular performance. Tom had a total score of 36.275, easily outdistancing Addison Trail’s Kennedy O’Neill (2nd, 34.875) and Willowbrook’s Cassidy McFarlane (3rd, 34.65).
“I just went out there and focused on the little things,” Tom said. “I made sure I wasn’t focusing on the whole thing because that’s just too much pressure. You have to focus on the small things and celebrate the small victories.”
One of those little victories wasn’t so little. Tom performed a nearly flawless routine on balance beam, scoring a 9.625.
“I’ve actually been struggling with it for a little while,” Tom said. “I just went out there and said ‘I am going to stick this’ and I did. It feels amazing. Now I just have to keep it up, which is going to be a little bit harder but I think I can do it.”
Tom’s win on beam was one of three event wins on the night. She also took first place in vault (8.825) and floor exercise (9.0).
The Mustangs also went home with the conference meet title, scoring 140.75 to best Addison Trail (134.05), Willowbrook (126.5), Hinsdale South (108.825), Morton (104.725) and Leyden (104.65).
“We’re so excited because went into this season thinking we’re going to win this,” Tom said. “Last week we got beaten by Addison Trail because we didn’t have the best night of our lives, but we went here… and we were going to focus on us and make sure we did our best.”
Other key all-around contributors for DGS were Paige Vondrasek (4th, 33.925) and Bella Marzari (6th, 33.4).
The battle for second place in all-around between O’Neill and Kennedy was close and came down to the final event, beam. O’Neill was behind but she scored a 9.0 while McFarlane had an 8.625.
“I expected to do well, but I didn’t expect to do this well,” O’Neill said. “I’m very excited and I’m excited for regionals, and then sectionals and, hopefully, State.
McFarlane was also pleased with her own performance.
“I thought I did really good,” McFarlane said. “I know I can improve. Bars [2nd, 8.925) was my best and I’m glad I hit that routine. Coming in, I expected to try my hardest and hit all four events and I think I did that.”
Other top finishers in all-around were Addison Trail’s Casey Boksha (5th, 33.725) and Terra Garcia (7th, 31.9) and Willowbrook’s Riley McFarlane (8th, 31.5), Gloria Johnson (9th, 30.45) and Stefania Enescu (10th, 29.9). Addison Trail’s Tamara Mendez was the other individual event winner. Her score of 8.975 gave her the title on uneven parallel bars.
Up next for all the teams are regionals, which are held on different days this week.
“I’m really excited,” McFarlane said. “I’m ready to get back in the gym on Monday. I’m trying to put in new stuff on floor and beam and improve my bars routine.”
High School Game of the Week - Jan 27 2014
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Riverside-Brookfield stays perfect in conference with win over Elmwood Park
By Rob Valentin
BOYS BASKETBALL — Riverside-Brookfield is flying under the radar this season.
The Bulldogs improved to 13-4 and 6-0 in the Metro Suburban with a dominating 91-58 victory over Elmwood Park Friday night in Brookfield.
“We’re really rolling,” said Sam Johnson, who led the way for R-B with 16 points. “At the beginning of the year we started out at 2-2 and we knew we could only get better. And we have been.”
The Bulldogs jumped all over Elmwood Park Friday and they led 25-9 after one quarter of play. R-B shot 10-for-17 from the floor in the first quarter while the Tigers were 3-for-11.
Elmwood Park played much better in the second quarter and they managed to pull within 10 points at 34-24 with 2:14 to play in the period. But that’s as close as the Tigers would get.
R-B closed the first half with a three-pointer by Jack VandeMerkt and a field goal by Daniko Jackson. Still, the poor second quarter by the Bulldogs gave R-B coach Tom McCloskey something to address with his team at halftime.
“We missed a couple rotations and gave them a couple easy buckets,” VandeMerkt said. “We took a lot of three’s in the second quarter as well.”
The Bulldogs kept the momentum in the third quarter as they scored the first five points of the period, a three-pointer by Johnson and another field goal by Jackson. R-B kept pouring it on in the third quarter as they outscored the Tigers 29-14 to take a commanding 68-38 lead into the fourth quarter.
“It was just a huge quarter,” Johnson said. “We came out and got better defensively and we just scored.”
Johnson finished the night shooting 5-for-7 from the floor. All but two of his points came in the third quarter.
“The coaches told me to get going and shoot if I’m open and I did,” Johnson said. “I was just feeling it and my teammates got me the ball.”
VandeMerkt was 6-for-9 from the floor and scored 15 points.
“I thought we played really unselfishly,” VandeMerkt said. “We were trying our pressure defenses a little bit. We had a good practice with them and I thought everyone shared the ball well and we played pretty good defense.”
R-B finished the game shooting 36-for-66 from the floor.
For Elmwood Park, it was another tough loss. The Tigers didn’t shoot poorly converting 21 of 40 shots from the floor. But too many turnovers and giving the Bulldogs second chance points proved costly.
“There’s not much I can say; it’s a loss and we just have to go to practice tomorrow and get better,” said Tigers’ guard Presley Garrett, who finished with a game-high 23 points. “With us, it’s always been turnovers. We’re working on it every day in practice.”