Kits stun Hawks, remain atop CSL South

 

blake peters
Photo courtesy of Kevin Tanaka/Pioneer Press

On Friday night in a packed Beardsley Gym,  Maine South seemed to have secured a two-point win. But ETHS freshman Blake Peters had another ending in mind.

In the pregame shootaround, both Maine South and Evanston honored the memory of Thomas Gardiner, the father of Hawks’ senior big man Tommy Gardiner and the uncle of Junior forward John Gardiner.

Each team took the floor with shirts that honored Thomas, who had been in a fatal car accident on Jan. 15.

Maine South’s shooting shirts were black and featured the words “Bigger Than Basketball” in white letters on the front. On the back was a red number 22, Tommy’s number, and the word “Family” where a player’s last name usually appears on a jersey, again in white lettering.

Evanston’s warmup shirt was green, because of the Gardiner family’s proud Irish heritage and read “Hawks Fly Together” in white type on the front. The shirts also had the initials “TG” written on the sleeve.

In a game that was featured as WCIU’s “Game of the Week,” 13 ranked Evanston and 24 ranked Maine South, according to Mike O’Brien’s latest  Chicago-area Super 25 basketball rankings, did not disappoint. The game was close throughout, with neither team leading by more than six at any point. As time ran off the clock in the final quarter, the Hawks grabbed a 43-42 lead with 11 seconds remaining.

After a miss at the free throw line by Maine South, the Kits got the rebound and the ball found its way into  Peters’ hands. He took a few dribbles to corral it and get across the half-court line on the right side of the floor. He then picked up his dribble and looked to pass. Two Hawks came in to double-team the freshman and he tried to make a desperate pass.

The ball was intercepted by the Hawks’ Michael George and he tried to evade Evanston defenders to end the game. But ETHS fouled him with 2.6 seconds on the clock.  

George stepped calmly to the line and nailed the first free throw. 44-42.

After a Maine South timeout, George stood at the line one more time. When he let the ball go, it looked as if it would find the bottom of the net and make the margin three. But the ball rimmed out.

Peters grabbed the rebound and dribbled once to gain momentum. Then, with just about 1 second left, he heaved the ball nearly 80 feet, letting go at the Hawks free-throw line. The ball almost touched the ceiling of the Gym as the buzzer sounded. The shot, which had been a little off to the left when Peters let it go, miraculously began slicing back to the right. The ball reached the basket and fell through the left side of the net. 45-44.

The play almost instantly became an internet sensation. Various videos of the play made appearances on popular social media accounts including @Houseofhighlights, @Greatesthighlights, @Sportsillustrated and @Sportscenter. And with the help of ESPN employee and ETHS alum Cassidy Hubbarth, the shot also reached number one on Sportscenter’s top 10 plays.

@ETHSports’s original video of the shot now has over 1 million views on Twitter

With the dramatic win, Evanston improved to 15-4 and 6-1 in the CSL South, to remain in first place in the conference.

Meanwhile, Maine South dropped to 14-6 and 3-3 in league play.

 

2017-18 NFL playoff predictions: conference championships

 

Jacksonville Jaguars at New England Patriots Sun. 2:05 pm CBS

New England Patriots 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 24

Blake Bortles looked like an average NFL quarterback on Sunday against the Steelers, and that’s all the Jaguars need him to be. With a great defense and Leonard Fournette in the backfield, they have enough to win. Against most teams. Tom Brady is arguably the best quarterback to ever play the game and he will find a way to get to his third Superbowl in six years and his second in a row.  Gronk will be Brady’s guy. Nobody in Jacksonville’s defensive backfield is tall enough to cover him, and none of their linebackers are fast enough to cover him. The Jaguars will come out fast with Fournette running wild on New England’s defense, but Brady will find a way to win.

Minnesota Vikings at Philadelphia Eagles Sun. 5:40 pm FOX

Minnesota Vikings 17 Philadelphia Eagles 10

This will be a low-scoring battle of the defenses. I know that Minnesota’s offense has performed well this season. But only scoring essentially 23 points, besides the last play, in front of a home crowd, against a  Saints team that is not known for their defense, is not typical of a great offense.  Philadelphia’s offense will struggle to score even more. They only scored 15 points against the Falcons, and the Vikings defense is a lot better than Atlanta’s. In the end, the defenses will both perform well and it will essentially come down to quarterback play. With a trip to Superbowl 52 on the line, Case Keenum will get the better of Nick Foles.

ETHS sweeps doubleheader at New Trier

On a cold, blustery night, it seemed that there were more people in historic Gates Gym to watch the Wildkits take on the Trevians than anywhere else.

In the first game of the girls-boys doubleheader, it was deja vu from the first meeting in Evanston. The Wildkits used their athletic ability to create a little separation early on, leading 13-6 after the first quarter and 25-18 at the half.

Then, like in the first meeting, the Trevians went on a run of their own to begin the second half, outscoring Evanston 17-11 in the third quarter. New Trier was only down by a single point heading into the final quarter and was riding momentum too. But that’s when sophomore point guard Kayla Henning decided to show everyone in the gym why she is a Division I prospect. She took the ball to the basket almost at will in the final period scoring eight of her 14 points when it mattered the most.

New Trier couldn’t figure out how to stop Henning, and her offensive success led to team success on defense. Evanston came away with a 52-45 victory, ending the game on a 16-6 run. Evanston improved to 13-7, (4-2) and New Trier fell to 14-5 (4-2).

Star Performers:

Evanston: Kayla Henning 14 pts6 reb. Ambrea Gentle 13 pts. 13 reb.

New Trier: Cate Murdock 14 pts.

The boys game, between two top 25 teams in Illinois lived up to the hype and then some. The Trevians started fast behind twin towers 6’9″ Ciaran Brayboy and 6’8″ Spencer Boehm, the Kits only having one player over 6’6″. New Trier got anything it wanted inside early on and was up 14-7 after one.

The same narrative continued in the second quarter with Brayboy scoring 11 of his 16 points in the first half. Evanston was down 31-22 at halftime only because of a half court buzzer-beater by Lance Jones.

In the second half, with 6’7″ Matt Hall in foul trouble, the Kits had to find some way to stop the big men inside. They turned to senior Reggie Henley. And he did his job. Henley, who is easily half a foot shorter than Brayboy, shut him down as Brayboy only added five points in the whole second half. As for Boehm, Jones continued to frustrate him with pesky defense. Boehm finished with 11 points.

Henley’s defense led to turnovers which led to easy baskets and the Kits crawled back into the game. Evanston used a big three-pointer late in the third by fan-favorite Harry Porter to grab their first lead of the contest 45-42 heading into the fourth.

If somebody said the fourth quarter was a defensive struggle that would be a huge understatement. The two teams combined for only nine points in the entire quarter, six for New Trier and three for Evanston. The Kits clamped down defensively and forced either a turnover or a very difficult shot each time New Trier had possession. Offensively, Evanston implemented a four-corners strategy to take time off the clock. But the decision was controversial since it allowed time to come off the clock but always ended in a turnover low percentage shot, that was missed.

Brayboy sank a pair of free throws with 26 seconds remaining to tie it up at 45. Evanston ran a quality play on offense, resulting in an open look for freshman sharp-shooter Blake Peters.

His shot was right on target but was way too long and the ball hit nothing until New Trier rebounded it. Peters finished with four points and went without hitting a three.

When the Trevians pulled down the board, there was still about four seconds remaining and Griffin Ryan was wide open for an outlet pass. The ball found Ryan’s hands and there were no defenders in his path. But, streaking down the court was Lance Jones. Jones flew to the other end and blocked Ryan’s game-winning layup from behind. The play quickly drew comparisons to LeBron James’ chase-down block of the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala in game seven of the 2016 NBA finals.

As the buzzer sounded, it was deadlocked 45-45.

Neither team could score very much in the overtime either. But the Kits found themselves clinging to a 50-49 lead with 3.5 seconds remaining. New Trier had the ball and had to inbound the ball on the right sideline about 20 feet from their basket.

Instead of going inside to either Boehm or Brayboy, the Trevians elected to inbound it to point guard Andrew Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick did fight up a shot, but it was a contested fall-away three, and it came up well short. 50-49 Kits win.

New Trier fell to 10-3 (4-1) and Evanston improved to 13-3 (4-1). The two teams find themselves currently in a three-way tie for first place in the CSL South with the Niles North Vikings.

Star Performers:

Evanston: Lance Jones 15 pts. 8 reb. 6 stl. Jaheim Holden 10 pts.

New Trier: Ciaran Brayboy 16 pts. Spencer Boehm 11 pts. Andrew Kirkpatrick 11 pts.

Bears new coaching staff nearing completion

With new head coach Matt Nagy being hired on Jan. 8, the Bears were only the second team to hire a new head coach. But really the first because we all knew Jon Gruden was going to Oakland. Nagy hasn’t wasted any time filling his coaching staff either, hiring almost all of his offensive staff already. As for the defensive staff, since defensive coordinator Vic Fangio was re-signed on Jan. 12, everything will pretty much stay the same.

The first hire Nagy made was to bring in offensive line coach Harry Hiestand just two days after being hired. Hiestand served that same position in Chicago from 2005 to 2009. The Bears went to a Superbowl during that time, in the 2006 season. He then went to South Bend, where he coached the O-line from 2012 to 2017, producing numerous draft picks in his time for the Fighting Irish. An offensive tackle, Ronnie Stanley was drafted number six in 2016 by the Baltimore Ravens.

Nagy then made four additions to his staff two days later on Jan. 12. He hired running backs coach Charles London, wide receivers coach Mike Furrey, special teams coordinator Chris Tabor, and most importantly, offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.

London, previously the Bears offensive quality coordinator from 2007 to 2009 and running backs coach for the Texans from 2014-2017, worked with the likes of Arian Foster and Alfred Blue during his time in Houston.

Furrey, who was a receiver for eight seasons in the NFL, was most recently the head coach at Division II school, Limestone College in South Carolina.

Chris Tabor who most recently was the Browns special teams coordinator from 2011 to 2016, was also with the Bears as their special teams coach from 2008 to 2010, back when Devin Hester was in Chicago.

Helfrich, who is getting his first crack at the NFL was the head coach for the Oregon Ducks from 2013 to 2016. He is credited with developing now Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota, in his college days. Helfrich also lead the Ducks to a national championship game in 2014, where they were defeated by the Ohio State Buckeyes 42-20.

Then a day later, Nagy made his most recent hire, tight ends coach Kevin Gilbride. Gilbride has been the tight ends coach for the Giants for the last four seasons. We’ll see if Gilbride is the right guy to help develop the Bears’ promising rookie Adam Shaheen.

Nagy has moved quickly in filling out his coaching staff. He has hired a total of six coaches in a span of only four days. Let’s hope he can bring wins as fast as he can hire coaches.

 

 

 

 

 

2017-18 NFL playoff predictions: divisional round

Matchup: Atlanta Falcons at Philadelphia Eagles Sat. 3:35 pm NBC

Prediction: Atlanta Falcons 23 Philadelphia Eagles 16

Nick Foles is not Carson Wentz. Although Foles has proven he can be a productive starter, Wentz is the one who got the Eagles the NFC’s number one seed. Foles will struggle to move the ball against an improved Falcons defense, and even when he does move the ball, most drives for the Eagles will stall. Philadelphia’s defense will hinder Matt Ryan and Atlanta’s offense but will get tired as the game moves along as their offense will not stay on the field for very long.

Tennessee Titans at New England Patriots Sat. 7:15 pm CBS

New England Patriots 31 Tennessee Titans 17

The Patriots will not lose to the six seed. Tom Brady will pick Tennessee’s secondary apart and Marcus Mariota will not throw another touchdown pass to himself. The Titans’ defense will start strong but will tire out as a result of their inept offense. Gronk will have a monstrous game.

Jacksonville Jaguars at Pittsburgh Steelers Sun. 12:05 pm CBS

Pittsburgh Steelers 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 13

Blake Bortles threw for 87 yards in the first half, oh no wait, the whole game against the Bills and he won’t throw for more than 125 yards against Pittsburgh. Jacksonville’s defense was tough against the Bills last week but will not be able to replicate that performance against the Steelers. Pittsburgh’s killer B’s, Ben, Bell, and Brown will wear the Jaguars down.

New Orleans Saints at Minnesota Vikings Sun. 3:40 pm FOX

Minnesota Vikings 27 New Orleans Saints 20

Minnesota’s defense has been great all year and they will step up on the big stage. Case Keenum will frustrate the Saints’ defense with shallow crossing routes that will then open up the big play. Latavius Murray will expose the Saints’ weaknesses up front, and those runs will lead to big plays on screen passes. The Viking’s offense will do just enough to come out on top.

 

 

Alabama and Georgia to compete in all- SEC National Championship game

In the two national semi-final games held last Monday, Georgia beat Baker Mayfield and Oklahoma in overtime and Alabama handled Clemson without much trouble. This sets up a National Championship game between the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs, SEC rivals and college football blue-bloods. The game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta Georgia. The game will start at 7pm central time and can be seen on ESPN.

Prediction:

Alabama 24 Georgia 21

Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts has grown from last year’s defeat in the championship game and he will not let it happen again. Jake Fromm, the Bulldogs’ quarterback is only a true freshman and his inexperience will show on the biggest stage. Although Alabama’s defense is tough, only having allowed six points to Clemson in the semi-final, Georgia’s high powered running attack will be able to put up some points on the Crimson Tide. In the end Hurts, a dual-threat quarterback will find a way to get it done. Also, watch for the possible Bears draft pick, Alabama wide receiver Calvin Ridley to have a big game in his final go around in college football.

 

 

Big Ten impresses in bowl season

 

The Big Ten went a combined 7-1 this bowl season, a big jump from last season when the conference went 3-7.

The only loss for the conference came in the last bowl game with a Big Ten team. South Carolina eked out a 26-19 victory over Michigan on New Year’s Day in the Outback Bowl. Both teams were outside of the top 25.

In the first Big Ten bowl, Iowa beat Boston College, 27-20. Iowa running back Akrum Wadley had a big day, rushing for 88 yards and a touchdown.

The next game for the big ten was the Foster Farms Bowl, where Purdue beat Arizona, 38-35. Boilermakers quarterback Elijah Sindelar, who was playing hurt, threw four touchdowns and accumulated almost 400 yards through the air.

In game number three, Michigan State crushed Washington State, winning by a score of 42-17. The Spartans used a great performance from QB Brian Lewerke, throwing for 213 yards and 3 touchdowns.

In the next Big Ten contest, Northwestern beat Kentucky 24-23 in a crazy game. Read the full article here.

Then came the Cotton Bowl, where Ohio State faced off against USC. In a game many expected the Trojans to win, the Buckeyes buckled down on defense, only allowing one score. On offense OSU QB J.T. Barrett ran for two touchdowns. The final score was 24-7.

The Fiesta Bowl was next, where Penn State took down Washington 35-28. The Nittany Lions used two touchdowns apiece from QB Trace McSorley and RB Saquon Barkley, as well as another score from backup RB Miles Sanders. RB Myles Gaskin had two touchdowns for Washington.

The last Big Ten victory came in The Orange Bowl where number six Wisconsin took down the eleventh ranked Miami Hurricanes, 34-24. Alex Hornibrook, the Wisconsin QB threw four touchdowns, three of them caught by receiver Danny Davis III.

In the Big Ten’s only defeat, a 26-19 loss by Michigan at the hands of South Carolina, the Gamecocks used 10 unanswered points in the final period to sneak by Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines. South Carolina QB Jake Bentley threw for 239 yards and 2 touchdowns.

When the final game ended in the Big Ten’s postseason, they had beaten three of the top 12 teams in the nation and four in the top 25.

Cats reopen Big 10 play with sloppy loss to Nebraska

Although Bryant McIntosh, Northwestern’s starting point guard will not miss much time after an injury on Saturday in a home win against Brown, he did not play on Tuesday night as the Wildcats faced off against big ten foe Nebraska. He was greatly missed.

Even with Northwestern up by five at the half, something didn’t feel right. It was clear that Northwestern was missing its leader.

McIntosh’s absence was no more noticeable than in the final stretch of the game beginning with eight minutes remaining.

At the eight-minute mark, the score was 43-42 in favor of the Cornhuskers. But without McIntosh on the floor to run the show, the lead quickly ballooned to double digits with just under six minutes left at 56-46. Nebraska never looked back, beating the Cats 70-55.

Nebraska didn’t shoot the ball all that well from the floor at 44 percent, but Northwestern’s shooting was horrendous at just 29 percent.

Dererk Pardon was one of the few Wildcats who played well, continuing his great performances against the Cornhuskers with 17 points and 15 rebounds.

The Cats will face off with Penn. St. on Friday, Jan. 5.

Star Performers:

NU: Dererk Pardon 17 pts. 15 reb. Scottie Lindsay 12 pts.

Nebraska: Glynn Watson Jr. 19 pts. 6 reb. 6 ast. James Palmer Jr. 18 pts. 5 reb.

John Fox fired after three miserable seasons

The Bears fired head coach John Fox earlier this morning after a combined 14 wins in his three years with the team.

The Bears will start their search for a new head man immediately. They should look for an offensive-minded head coach to guide Trubisky. Vic Fangio, the Bears defensive coordinator, is one of the best in the league. If GM Ryan Pace can get Fangio squared away with a new contract, they won’t have to worry about that side of the ball.

Some early front-runners for the job are, Jim Bob Cooter, the Lions offensive coordinator, John DeFilippo, the Eagles quarterbacks coach, and Pat Shurmur, the offensive coordinator for the Vikings.

2017-18 NFL playoff predictions: wildcard round

Matchup

Tennessee Titans at Kansas City Chiefs 3:35 pm Sat. ESPN

Prediction

Titans 14 Chiefs 24.

Marcus Mariota will struggle on the big stage but the Titans defense will force turnovers by Alex Smith and keep it close. Ultimately though, Kansas City’s skilled duo of RB Kareem Hunt and WR Tyreek Hill will prove too much for the Titans. The Chiefs have won four straight and that streak will continue.

Atlanta Falcons at Los Angeles Rams 7:15 pm Sat. NBC

Falcons 13 Rams 28

Although the Falcons defense has improved from a year ago, MVP candidate Todd Gurley will have a big game. Second-year quarterback Jared Goff won’t make the big mistake.  On the defensive side, the Rams big lineman Aaron Donald will put pressure on Matt Ryan all night and not allow him to get into a rhythm.

Buffalo Bills at Jacksonville Jaguars 12:05 pm Sun. CBS

Bills 10 Jaguars 17

With LeSean McCoy possibly out, the Bills will struggle to move the ball. Jacksonville’s offense did not play well against the Titans last week and the Bills defense will rachet up the intensity. Bortles will find a way at the end,

Carolina Panthers at New Orleans Saints 3:40 pm. Sun. FOX

Panthers 20 Saints 31

Cam Newton looked awful against the Falcons last Sunday and he won’t be much better against the Saints, but Christian McCaffrey will break a few big runs. Even though the Saints lost to the Buccaneers last week, Drew Brees will lead them to victory.