News and analysis of the prep and college basketball scenes by the sports staff at The Beacon-News

January 2010 Archives

Rivalry game, too: DeKalb squeaks past Sycamore at Convo

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Sycamore and DeKalb, who meet twice a year in Western Sun Conference play, move one of those games to the NIU Convocation Center each year. It was played Friday night.

And just like the East-West game two weeks ago, it was a big hit, even though DeKalb was a heavy favorite. The boys-girls doubleheader drew 5,155 according to a story published report in the local newspaper (Daily Chronicle) and written by former Beacon News colleague John Sahly.

Sycamore (9-10, 2-6) used a box-and-one to keep the Barbs' 6-10 center Jordan Threloff in check, but the DeKalb perimeter players stepped up to help the team pull out a 50-43 victory. The Barbs stay atop the league standings with a record of 8-1 to go with their overall 18-5 mark.

Threloff was held to just eight points, but guards Dylan Donnelly (18 points) and sophomore Brian Sisler (8 points) stepped up along with forward Jake Jouris (9 points)

Hot stuff: Oswego East was cookin'

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This was a night Oswego could have used a 5,000-seat arena.

A co-ed basketball twinbill with two talented girls teams battling to the final minute before deciding the opener followed by their respective boys teams, who had played through two overtimes in their first meeting, getting together with a share of first place in the conference race on the line.

Temperatures outside were in the teens, people packed to the rafters inside turned the Oswego gym into a sauna.

Oswego East committed eight turnovers in the third quarter and was clinging to a 39-37 advantage heading into the final eight minutes. The Wolves then put the Panthers away with a strong finishing kick, sparked by Jay Harris and Wesley Brooks.

Harris had 15 of his game-high 27 points in that final period. For the game, he went 10-for-11 from the floor and six-for-six from the free throw line. Brooks had 10 of his 22 points in the final quarter.

"Jay does not force anything, even at times when he needs to have the ball in his hands to take a shot," said Oswego East coach Buckley. "He takes good shots. And I can't say enough about the floor game he played. He was tough (defensively) on (Ryan) West and we even had him on (6-5 Joe) Kwiatkowski for a while."

Buckley was concerned about his team's matchup problem with the taller Panthers, a strong rebounding team. Oswego has a nice inside-outside combo with strong 3-point shooting that can give opponents' fits, too.

The Wolves held their own on the boards, getting out-rebounded 34-30. Oswego's Andrew Ziemnik had a game-high 13, but only four were on the offensive end. The Panthers grabbed 15 rebounds at the offensive end and scored nine of their 20 baskets on layups, putbacks or shots from close in. They made 3 of 7 from beyond the arc in the first quarter but were just 3 of 13 the rest of the way.

East, meanwhile, did a nice job of attacking the basket, led by Brooks, Harris and Sean Gant with a nice assist from marcus Jones off the bench. The Wolves had 26 field goals and only one was a 3-pointer. Twenty one of their baskets came from close in on layups or drives to the basket.

"I'm really proud of our kids' maturity level, too," said Buckley, whose team built a 10ppoint lead early in the fourth and then protected the ball, played for good shots and made their free throws down the stretch. "Earlier in the year we'd have tried to bury them and might have gotten ourselves in trouble."

East made 26 of 45 shots from the floor while the Panthers managed just 20 of 54.


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As the coach of 1A Newark high school, head basketball coach Rick Tollefson is always playing with a short deck. After all there are just 190 students that roam the hallways on a daily basis.

But this is like taking a slice out of that short deck.

The Norsemen's all-area junior Kyle Anderson has been hobbled for four weeks with a knee injury. Tollefson believes the 6-2 guard injured it in December, then aggravated it during a holiday tournament. It is doubtful he will play Friday night against Earlville.

"We're being more cautious from a long term perspective," said Tollefson. "We hope to have him back from the stretch run."

That would mean the Little Ten conference tournament, which begins Tuesday.

Anderson is Division 1 prospect, already receiving an offer from Akron University. He is being recruited by Minnesota and Marquette, along with a number of Missouri Valley Conference schools.

For now, recruiting can wait. What the Norsemen's best player needs is rest. And that's not easy this time of year.

"(Rest) is hard to come by right now," said Tolleson. "We've had to ask other players to step up."

And while Newark has won 4 of their last 5, if they have any chance of repeating as 1A state quarterfinalists, they will need the unique talents of Anderson.

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There is still much of the basketball season left to be played. There is another season--recruiting--which occurs simultaneously and never slows down.

Much in the news now about football, as the early signing date for seniors is next Wednesday. For senior basketball players, the late signing period begins in April.

One area player who plans on continuing his career in college is Aurora Central Catholic's Joey Guth. The skilled 6'2" guard played his guts out in the Chargers 54-47 loss to Marmion Saturday night, scoring 17 points.

Coach Nathan Drye told the BasketBlog Guth was considering Carroll College, Cornell College and Beloit. All are Division 3 level schools, with Carroll and Cornell in Iowa, Beloit in Wisconsin.

Some of the differences between the Division 3 and Division 1? First, it's the obvious level of competition. You won't see ESPN bring their GameDay crew to Aurora University anytime soon. Second, Division 3 schools do not offer athletic scholarships. They do provide financial assistance, but it comes in the form of a grant based on merit (hint--if the kid can play ball, that's merit enough).

There's a great website on Division 3 that provides rankings, standings and rules. Bottom line, there are a number of area student-athletes like Guth who can play in college. They'll do it in gyms that may not be any bigger than their high school. But they'll play.

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Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Oswego native and Wisconsin senior guard Teah Gant. Teah offers up her unique perspective on the Badgers' season and life off-the-court:

LION TAMED

Hey fans! I hope you guys have had a great week. I have been very busy this week even with the weekend off. I'll first give you an update on the basketball side of things. We had a game on Thursday against Penn State, and unfortunately we didn't get the win. In previous blogs, I've expressed how well we work together as a team in order to win games. The aspect of playing together was missing during this game. Although we did hold them to below their scoring average, we weren't able to combine the offensive and defensive aspects of the game to get the win. Penn State played a great game. They were able to hit some very tough shots down the stretch which prevented us from coming back in the end. Luckily, we have another chance to play them at their place. It'll be a lot more difficult to play them for the second time and win on their home court, but I know the whole team is up for the challenge.

THE HUNTED

We still have several games left in the season. In the past, we have always been a team that is at the bottom of the rankings and has to fight to get to the top. This year, we've started off at the top of the Big Ten and are fighting to remain there. Also, teams used to underestimate us and come into games not as focused as they would be for bigger games. Many people were surprised when we won some the games that we did. Now, we have become the hunted, and everyone comes with their best effort. This means that we also have to be on top of our game everyday. Even though we have a good record and are ranked towards the top of the conference, we still have to remember to focus on the little things because that's what got us to where we are now.

GOING HOME

After the Penn State game, we had a bye week. Instead of practicing for the entire week, our coaches decided to give us the weekend off. It was definitely a much needed break for all of us. I like my teammates a lot, but being around them 24/7 can make me go crazy sometimes. This weekend I was able to go home and visit my friend for her birthday. It was kind of ironic that everything worked out perfectly because I tend to miss a lot of special events due to my basketball schedule. It was really fun going home and celebrating with her. Happy Birthday Shelley!

GUEST COACH

Another weekend event included the wrestling meet on Friday. The head coach of the wrestling team was our guest coach for the game against Penn State. This meant he got to sit right behind the bench and come into the locker room to listen to our pre game speech. He was very excited about the game and gave us a good pep talk before. To return the favor, we all went to support his team on Friday. This was my first time at a wrestling meet, and it was very interesting to say the least. We all enjoyed ourselves, and the wrestlers were able to get a big win against Indiana.

BACK TO SCHOOL

Lastly, school started again this week. This is my last semester of my undergraduate career. I wish I could say it was going to be easy, but I think this is my hardest semester yet. All of my classes have some sort of group project, and this is always difficult to do with my basketball schedule. Now, I'll have to be able to fit in all my basketball activities with all the meeting I'll have to go to for the projects. It's definitely not going to be easy, but I'll find a way to manage it all...starting now!

Have a great week!

-Oswego native and Wisconsin Badger Teah Gant #13

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Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Batavia native and Northwestern guard Nick Fruendt. Nick offers up his unique perspective on the Wildcats season and life off-the-court:

BUCKEYE BASHING

Much like last week, we lost the mid-week game and came back with a big home win on Saturday.

On Tuesday, we played at Ohio State. They basically have a pro arena, so the atmosphere is a little different than Welsh-Ryan. I spent most of the trip in the hotel room studying and playing my handheld video games on the PSP while listening to Luka Mirkovic talk on the phone and on Skype in Serbian. I think on our next trip I will go hang out in another room so that he can have his privacy. Anyways, we laid an egg in the game against Ohio State. They pounced on us and we couldn't come back like we did at Michigan. I think a big reason is that they have, in my opinion, the best college basketball player in the country in Evan Turner. Yes, I played AAU basketball on the Illinois Wolves with Evan when I was 15 and we have been friends ever since. He even came and slept over in Batavia one time. Ever since exploding onto the national radar, one could expect a little bit of "big time" or cockiness, but I continue to be amazed at how he has stayed the same ever since early high school days. He texted me at 2:00 asking if I was nervous, and of course I said no but everyone gets some butterflies before the game. I hope that we meet up with them again in the Big Ten Tournament, because we did not play anywhere near what we are capable of.

DUNK, UNEXPECTED

Towards the end of the game I had a breakaway after Mike Capocci stole the ball, and I'm still a bit mad at myself for not dunking the ball. At the last second I decided to just go in off of one foot and lay it in, instead of going off of two and throwing it down. I am a much better two-foot jumper, but I was still high enough on my lay up to dunk it... next time. If I get another opportunity like that I will throw it down, just like I always did at Batavia. I was also honored to be playing against the founder of Club Trillion himself, Mark the Shark Titus. I think I jumped on a loose ball before he did, so clearly he was going for his club membership while I was trying to make a basketball play.
We had an off day on Wednesday, which consisted of 2 hours of class and then video games, movies, and a little studying. Off days are pretty important for refreshing the legs if you ask me. On Thursday, practice was intense. We scrimmaged for 30 minutes straight, and I didn't sub out once. After practice we went as a team to Buffalo Wild Wings because it was Kyle Rowley's birthday, so that was fun. Guys were ordering 15 and 20 wings apiece, but we kind of had to rush the meal because over at SPAC (Sports Pavilion Aquatics Center) there was a dunk contest going on that was a part of the Big Ten Network's "Hoops on Campus" series. It was a pretty fun time, but if we could have participated, it would have come down to me versus John Shurna, with me taking the title (ha-ha). We have some pretty sweet dunkers on our team. I rank them as 1. John 2. Mike (Capocci, not Thompson, ha-ha) and 3. Drew Crawford

WILD NIGHT IN EVANSTON

After losing in overtime at Illinois earlier this season and our collapse last year at our house, everyone was hyped for Saturday's game. The student section was the best that it has been since I've been at Northwestern. Some arrived an hour and a half before the game while we were on the court shooting, and the soccer guys in particular were already getting rowdy and chanting at the Illinois players. It was pretty hilarious. Having a great student section makes the game even more fun and is one of the best parts of college basketball. We finally got hyped in the tunnel before running out onto the court, which hasn't happened in my whole time at Northwestern but was one of my favorite parts of high school games. Juice (Drew Crawford) got in the middle of our group circle and started crazy dancing while we were chanting and going nuts.

The game got off to a great start, but then they went on a 20-2 run or something and Juice got into foul trouble. I came in and played the final seven minutes of the first half, which were very fun and intense at the same time. The whole year I have tried to keep the attitude of being ready whenever needed and trying to help the team in whatever way I can, so I was ready when I entered the game. I didn't play great but I didn't really make any mistakes, and I think when I went in we were down seven and ended the half down three, so I was happy to contribute. I also played with the Illini's Demetri McCamey when I was 15 on the Wolves, so when I went onto the court I looked up and he gave me a little smile and said, "What's up Nick?" Looking back that was pretty funny. In the second half, our backs were against the wall losing 49-41 and 51-44, but we didn't back down. John Shurna got a nice backdoor dunk off of a great call by Coach Carmody, and J-Nash (Jeremy Nash) took over the game. It was his time as a senior to finally beat Illinois, which we did, 73-68. Being a part of that game was a lot of fun, and it was a game that we really needed and definitely should have won.

Finally, my shout outs this week go to two of my best friends and two Illinois fans, Timmy Janeway and David Bryant. Timmy was 10 feet away from our bench in their student section when we played at Illinois, and once I took a brief glance during a timeout over in that general direction because I heard an up roar, and there I see him with his whole face right in front of the camera lens going nuts. I wish you could have been at Welsh Ryan for round two. And David, I know you play at Lewis now, but you've been an Illinois fan ever since I've known you, so there you go man. Sorry we had to take your team out. I hope everyone has a great week and I'll catch up again soon. Go Cats!

-Batavia native and Northwestern Wildcat Nick Fruendt #15

ANATOMY OF A COMEBACK

Lifeless for most of the game, the Marmion Academy Cadets were looking for a spark.

Down 43-30 against rival Aurora Central Catholic with 4:08 left, no one inside the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates believed what we were about to witness.

"They (Chargers fans) were starting the bus," said Cadets coach Rashon Burno. "They were pretty amped up."

But then as often happens in sports, the unlikely happened. Unscripted turns into unexpected.

The spark came from an unlikely source--an official. The whistle blew. Foul on Aurora Central Catholic point guard Steve Hollon, his 5th. He was now out of the game. Advantage Marmion.

"It's a 32 minute game and that's what we preach," said Burno.

With the Chargers floor general helplessly watching from the bench, Burno shifted his aggressive man-to-man to full court pressure. This forced four quick turnovers. When guard Eddy Grahovic hit two 3-pointers in successive possessions, the Cadets were now only down 46-44 at the 2:12 mark. Then more drama. After a Chargers free throw, Marmion's Mark Peters scored then stole the ball back, somehow calling timeout before the ball bounced out of bounds under the Cadets basket. On the ensuing Marmion possession, Tyler Hlavac was fouled. He calmly stepped to the line and drained both free throws. It was 48-47 Marmion. The comeback was complete.

All the Cadets needed were four minutes and some change to reverse a 13-point deficit and snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. When the buzzer sounded, and the score read 54-47 Marmion, no one in the building would have predicted the outcome just a few minutes before.

Soon after shaking hands with the stunned Chargers coaches and players, Burno ran over to the Marmion side of the arena and did an abbreviated victory lap, high-fiving fans back and forth. It was a revealing show of emotion from a coach who understands that any game can turn in the flash of a moment.

"That was the turning point (Hollon's 5th foul)," said Burno. "They got their point guard out and we turned it up a bit."

Here is Burno's victory semi-lap:

INSIDE THE BASELINE

Looking like a coach still in shock after a stunning loss, Aurora Central Catholic coach Nathan Drye was quick to respond when asked about what happened.

"I thought it was poor officiating," said Drye, just outside the Chargers locker room. "When he (Hollon) fouled out, the game changed."

In fairness to Drye, if there was one player the Chargers could not afford to lose at that moment, it was Hollon. The call was questionable, with Hollon going for the ball, making contact with a Marmion player. But it doesn't explain the completeness of the collapse as they had no answer for Marmion's full court pressure and missed crucial free throws down the stretch. Drye admitted that much after the game.

"We lost our minds a bit, we didn't execute," said Drye. "We stopped guarding. We did a nice job giving them open looks."

If the Chargers happen to play the Cadets again in regional postseason action, you can be sure Drye will not mention the officiating to his team. Instead, he'll talk about composure and resiliency. Two things the Chargers lacked Saturday night.

Watch my full interview with Drye:



RECRUITING UPDATE

This is prime time in the recruiting calendar for seniors. Although the late signing period is not until April, there is a lot of activity this time of year.

The evaluation period is this month, which means college coaches can watch games in person, but can't initiate any contact, nothing beyond a hello. Division 1 coaches can call--with limitations--but there are no limits on how many times a student-athlete can call a coach directly.

Talking to Burno before the game, I asked him about Marmion seniors Mark Peters and Greg Askwith, both of whom are being recruited by colleges.

"This is a unique situation," said Burno, who played at DePaul from 1998-2002. "Our school is not predominately known for getting Division 1 scholarships."

While Burno told me Askwith is hearing from Division 3 schools, the 6-6 Peters is on a few Division 1 lists.

I asked Peters about his recruiting after the game.

"Ball State just came in and looked at me last week for a little bit at practice," said Peters. "It's pretty exciting."

Here's my chat with Peters--from a very loud hallway under the Sears Centre stands--who also talked about the Cadets comeback against Aurora Central Catholic:



LET'S DO IT AGAIN

It was a terrific atmosphere Saturday night at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates. The 13th Annual Hoops Showdown featured plenty of good basketball--Marmion's comeback one for the ages--and more than enough of Lou Malnati's famous pizza. The event drew just over 4,000 fans, all of whom got more than their money's worth. Kudos to The Integrity Group's Bob Rylko and David Kaplan for hosting the event.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK

"I've never had to experience this before. It was rather unique, but maybe it's good for these guys, they could get away from me. I missed practice Monday and Tuesday and I come back Wednesday and I messed it up." - West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman talking about how he missed two days of practice last week for a family funeral. His Blackhawks beat Wheaton Warrenville South Friday night but lost in overtime to Neuqua Valley Saturday night.

I caught up with Blackhawks guard D.J Vaughn--who led the team with 19 points--after the Neuqua game:

Here is my interview with guard David Gray, who had a nice game against the mighty Wildcats:

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT OF THE WEEK

We take a break from our weekly dance videos for something entirely different. Pretty cool show put on Saturday by Flannigan Rifle Drill Team. Named after two Marmion graduate brothers--one of whom died in World War II--the current Cadets put on a performance that you have to see to believe. No music necessary:

Marmion's Mammoth Comeback

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These are the type of games that make us reporter's tear our hair out...whatever is left, that is.

Down 43-30 midway through the 4th period, the Cadets finished the game on a 24-4 run to stun Aurora Central Catholic 54-47. If you went to grab a slice of Lou Malnati's pie, you missed a heck of a show.

Chargers coach Nathan Drye was very critical of the officials after the game for calling a 5th foul on starting point guard Steve Hollon, which he says was a catalyst of the Chargers collapse.

"I thought (that) it was poor officiating," said a still-in-shock Drye after the game. "When he fouled out, the game changed. We lost our minds a bit. We didn't execute."

That may be the understatement of the year. A lot of that had to do with the Cadets. Eddy Grahovec hit two 3's that got it close, then Mark Peters and company did the rest. It's amazing how quickly momentum and adrenaline can turn a basketball game.

Great win for head coach Rashon Bruno and the Cadets. You think he was excited after the game?

This is the 3rd year in a row these two teams have battled to the wire.

What else would you expect from these two? We may get a rematch in regionals.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait.

Late night with the Tomcats

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I've got a feelin', tonight's gonna be a ... late, late night.

The inaugural Tomcat Hoopfest got off to a late start, apparently due to Saturday's heavy fog delaying the arrival of one of the teams by about a half hour.

On the down side? Not sure how I'm gonna make deadline, but we'll see.

The bright side?

With extra selling time, I'm guessing that will make my winning 50/50 raffle ticket worth that much more. Be positive.

Comeback special: Wolves lit it up in second half

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For wow factor, Oswego East's comeback from 23 points to beat Plainfield North 75-72 in overtime tops the list of games I've covered this season. So how did they do it?

Biggest reason might be that the Wolves just started hitting. Oswego East was just 9 of 32 from the floor in the first half. That's a cool 28 percent. And with the Tigers making 16 of 28 (57 percent), it's easy to see how they took such a big lead.

In the second half? Oswego East stepped it up, making 18 of 28 shots (64 percent).

Plainfield North didn't drop off that much, making 9 of 18. The Tigers just didn't take enough. They committed 14 turnovers in the second half after turning the ball over eight times in the first.

Oswego East turnovers totaled nine in the first half, seven in the second.

The win sets the stage for another key matchup this Friday when the Wolves travel across town to Oswego, where a share of first place in the Southwest Prairie Conference will be on the line.

Another BIG Saturday for prep hoops

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Area hoops junkies have plenty of options this Saturday with the inaugural Tomcat Hoopfest at East Aurora and four area teams playing in the 13th Annual High School Hoops Showdown at the Sears Centre in Hoffman Estates.

At East, Bartlett and Chicago's Hyde Park will meet at 6:30 p.m. in the main gym. That game will be followed at approximately 8 p.m. by North Lawndale vs. East Aurora. In between, members of the 1970 East Aurora team that made it downstate will be honored.
Action actually begins at 3 p.m. in the freshman center with a game between the sophomore teams from Bartlett and Hyde Park. At 5 p.m., the sophomore teams from North Lawndale and East High will play in the main gym.

Cost for the event is $5.

The Sears Centre action features a tripleheader beginning at 4:30 p.m. with DuPage Valley Conference leader Glenbard East of Lombard meeting Algonquin Jacobs. That game will be followed by the rivalry matchup between Aurora Central and Marmion Academy at about 6:30 p.m.. The third game of the night (8:30 p.m.) will feature Upstate Eight power Neuqua Valley and West Aurora in their first regular season matchup.

Cost for the tripleheader is $12 for adults, $10 for students and $5 for parking. The 10,000-seat arena is located just off the Northwest Tollway at Route 59.

NIU changes start time for Jan. 30 game

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Northern Illinois officials have moved up the start times by one hour for a basketball doubleheader Jan. 30th in DeKalb.

The NIU men's game with Buffalo, originally scheduled for a 1 p.m. tip-off, will start at noon and will be followed by the women's game with Kent State at about 2:30 (30 minutes after the men's game concludes).

The change is being made to accommodate a request from Buffalo officials, who informed Northern that their original flight home that Saturday night had been cancelled. It required the school to book an earlier flight for the team.

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Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Oswego native and Wisconsin senior guard Teah Gant. Teah offers up her unique perspective on the Badgers' season and life off-the-court:

SLOWING DOWN SPARTY

What's up fans? I hope everyone is doing well. A lot of good things have happened since my last blog including two more big wins for us. Our first victim was Michigan State for the second time this year. If you read my previous blog or have been keeping up with the team, you would know that we already beat them on our home court. This game was on the road at Michigan State. It's always hard playing on an opponent's home court with all of their fans cheering for them, but playing and beating them once before added another challenge. The game itself was very exciting. At one point we were down by 14 points, but we were able to fight back and get the win. Our defense is what won us that game. We held them to only one field goal in the last twelve minutes of the game. Now that's impressive. So, for all those who only think only scoring is important, I hope our team can give you a lesson on the significance of defense as well.

FRUITS OF VICTORY

The atmosphere in the locker room after the game was full of excitement. Beating Michigan State is always a good feeling because they're a very physical and emotional team, and winning on their floor shows how well we work together as a team to surpass people's expectations of us. All the coaches were beyond excited about the win as well. Coach Stone even surprised us with a trip to Cold Stone Creamery after the game. I think that was the most excited I've ever seen some of my teammates! Although Cold Stone Creamery was closed by the time we left the gym, we still stopped at some other ice cream shop before getting on the plane to head back to Madison. We don't get that kind of surprise after every win, but it's nice to be rewarded after a great game. I guess hard work really does pay off. Our other win was against Illinois. They beat us earlier in the season by one point at the buzzer. This time, the game was at our place, and we were definitely looking to get some revenge. We didn't play as well against them the first game, but this time around we stuck to the game plan our coaches laid out for us. We won 63-51. Now we're 15-4 for the season and 5-3 in conference play. Our next game is against Penn State. With a win against them, we will be ranked 2nd in the conference. This would be a lot different than the preseason pick of 10th.

HOME MOVIES

Now it's time for some insider information. As you know, we have several road games throughout the year. For these games, we either take a bus or take a charter flight to our destination. We usually leave the day before the game and stay the night in a hotel. After eating and going through the scouting report, we have some free time to just relax. Sometimes we all get together and watch movies or play card games. The most recent activity that some of my teammates started is making their own movies. Every year we get a gift for participating in the Big Ten/ACC Challenge. This year we received the Flip video camera. Many people gave them to their family or friends as a Christmas gift, but there were a few who decided to keep them for themselves. I don't think any of us will be movie stars in the future, but the so called movies that have been made are hilarious. I hear more screaming and laughing rather than actual words, but everyone seems to have a lot of fun with it.

That's it for this time around. A shout out to my mom and brothers back at home. I love you and thanks for always supporting me!

-Oswego native and Wisconsin Badger guard Teah Gant #13

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Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Batavia native and Northwestern guard Nick Fruendt. Nick offers up his unique perspective on the Wildcats season and life off-the-court:

EWING THEORY

What a week it's been. Originally we were going to have our off day on Monday because of the long bus ride home from Michigan, but Coach Carmody instead decided to have it on Thursday after the Wisconsin game. I wasn't very surprised, because coming off such a nice win at Michigan we wanted to get fully prepared for Wisconsin. Our two practices before the Wisconsin game were very good. We were focused and sharp, we had an overtime scrimmage session the day before the game. It was pretty fun. Hearing the news that Jon Leuer had broken his wrist and wouldn't be playing didn't affect us much, because we know as well as anyone that just because a good player is out doesn't mean that the team is going to have a drop-off. In fact, in case you didn't know, there is something called the Ewing Theory, which was created by a reader of Bill Simmons, one of my favorite ESPN writers. The Ewing Theory basically says that when a team's star player leaves due to injury or a trade and is written off by the media, the team will play better. It's based on the fact that the Knicks made the NBA Finals in 1998-99 after Patrick Ewing got injured. I'm not the biggest believer in the Ewing Theory, but it's incredible that there are many examples of this being true. In high school, when I went out with mono our team won the Elgin Holiday tournament. Now with Kevin and Jeff being out, it's like we haven't skipped a beat. Of course, we wish that those two could be healthy and be playing, but unfortunately injuries happen, and the Northwestern-Wisconsin game was without 3 very good players.

BADGER BUZZKILL

The game was tight all the way until the last couple of minutes against the Wisconsin Buzzcuts, er, I mean Badgers. This is a shout out to the best blogger in America, Mark Titus, a player on Ohio State. He coined the term Wisconsin Buzzcuts on his blog, www.clubtrillion.com, which is quite hilarious and I highly recommend. John and I started reading it last year and got hooked, but we haven't been reading it much lately. Anyways, Wisconsin isn't just a buzzcut team this year. One of their players was rocking the high-top fade, another had a Mohawk, and there were a couple of shaggy hairdos. Back to the game action, it was a disappointing loss because we were right there. We didn't make our free throws, which is uncharacteristic of our team, and we got beat on the boards. The 1-3-1 is harder to rebound out of, but we still just needed to want it more. This led us into our game on Saturday against Purdue.

BOILING POINT

The Purdue game was incredible. Our students really came out to support us and the atmosphere is what college basketball is all about. Before the game I had a little flashback to grade school and thought it was so crazy how far I've come in basketball. I went to a couple of Northwestern games when I was in grade school, but I never really realized that I could be a player one day. The only player I remember is Napoleon Harris because I liked his name, and he's a linebacker in the NFL now ( he was on the basketball team in college) The problems that we had in the Wisconsin game were fixed in the Purdue game. We got to loose balls, won the rebounding battle, and played with desire. It was so fun to be a part of it. I can't see how anyone wouldn't enjoy a game like that, besides Purdue fans, so if you want to see some great basketball, come out and see our games. That still could be difficult considering the game was a sellout, which was great for our home court advantage. I applaud our student section's performance, but one of the things I didn't like was the "overrated" chant with about a minute left in the game. I don't like this chant because it's basically telling the other team that they are better rated than us, and also the game was not over yet. Purdue has had a great season so far, and I think they deserved to be rated highly, but at home we knew that we were just as good as them and could beat them. My sophomore year of high school, I was personally chanted "overrated" to by the Geneva student section, and all that did was fire me up more, and we ended up winning that game by like 18 or something. So basically I am not a fan of the overrated chant. However, I am a HUGE fan of storming the court. Our students stormed the court at the buzzer, and I wanted to get in the middle and start dancing and celebrating, but I remembered "Sportsmanship: Don't leave home without it" and shook hands with Purdue. After the game, I went out to eat at one of my favorite places in Evanston, Davis Street Fish Market, and then enjoyed the college life a little later on. We have a big game at Ohio State coming up on Tuesday, and then a rematch with Illinois on Saturday, so it's a big week! I hope you enjoyed reading this, shout out to my sisters Sara and Liza, and also Aunt Julie, and I'll see you next week.
-Batavia native and Northwestern guard Nick Fruendt #15

INSIDE THE BASELINE

At practice earlier this past week, West Aurora coach Gordie Kerkman made a decision.

The showdown with East Aurora was Saturday, and he knew he was outmanned at the guard position. He knew there was no defense he could draw up to stop Ryan Boatright completely, but he might be able to slow down the Tomcats guard

"We worked on a number of different things in preparation," said Kerkman on the floor of the DeKalb Convocation Center, moments after his Blackhawks upset East Aurora 72-66. "Box-in-one, triangle and two. I made the decision early in the week we would (switch up)."

After Boatright fed teammate Snoop Viser on an alley oop pass to give the Tomcats a 15-8 lead late in the 1st quarter, Kerkman decided now was the time. The Blackhawks had to go to zone. But there was a problem.

"There was so much noise it was hard to communicate with the kids on the floor," said Kerkman. "I didn't want to call a time out to get into it. I decided I'll wait until end of quarter."

You can't argue with his timing. His Blackhawks got the message. After the switch to zone from man-to-man, they went on a 9-2 run to start the 2nd quarter, eventually leading 38-29 at one point. The switch forced the Tomcats to play at a pace they are not accustomed to--methodical, half court. It was exactly what Kerkman thought would happen.

"They weren't getting quite as good a looks," said Kerkman, with a grin on his face while sipping a celebratory cup of water. "It was taking them a little longer to operate on offense than what it was earlier."

While the Tomcats adjusted, they never controlled the pace the rest of the game. It shows how the simplest of moves in a basketball game can make a big difference. After 30-plus years of coaching, Gordie Kerkman has had a lot of big wins. This is one he'll remember for a long time.

Here's a little sneak peak of the jubilent Blackhawks locker room right after the game-

This interview started as a one-on-one with Juwan Starks just outside the locker room--who scored 17 points--but before long, word got out, and well, let's just say the Blackhawks were not camera shy-

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

West Aurora 5-10 junior guard Brandon Hayes

Talk about stepping up.

The cliché is tossed around more than a medicine ball at a Navy Seals workout. Saturday night, Hayes' performance truly personified the expression.

Playing in place of Derrick Johnson--who was thrown off the team the night before--Hayes responded with 12 points, eight in the 2nd quarter when the Blackhawks reversed a six-point deficit into a nine-point lead.

Hayes was also a unlikely star on defense, assigned to shadow the Tomcats' Ryan Boatright after Kerkman switched to a box-in-one defense in an attempt to contain the lightning-quick guard.

"Brandon has a ton of ability," said Kerkman. "What he needed was confidence. Maybe this will give it to him."

If a night like Saturday doesn't give Hayes an injection of confidence, I'm not sure what will.

Hayes, teammates and fans were in full celebration mode in the catacombs of the Convocation Center in DeKalb minutes after the game-

Not sure what they were chanting. Any thoughts? Tweet to @beaconhoop.

MANDATORY RYAN BOATRIGHT STORYLINE OF THE WEEK

I caught up with a despondent-looking Boatright outside the visitor's locker room after the Tomcats loss late Saturday night. The junior performed brilliantly--scoring 33 points and almost single-handedly bringing East Aurora back in the 4th quarter, although he missed six of 12 foul shots.

Our conversation turned to his recruiting--which for juniors such as Boatright is in ramp-up mode.

This month is an "evaluation period" for high school juniors. What this means is college coaches can scout junior recruits in person. Where they are limited is with in-person contact. Coaches cannot speak to recruits in person, and are allowed one phone call per month. Recruits can contact coaches on their own as often as they like.

I asked Boatright what schools are in contact with him.

"Kentucky, Tennessee, Miami and Wake Forest," he said.

While he didn't give me any indication of where he was leaning, he did reveal his timetable for making a decision.

"I want to be done by the end of the summer," said Boatright. "I want to be able to focus on my senior season."

This would mean Boatright is planning on signing with a school by the early period--which for basketball is November.

Here's my post game one-on-one with Boatright just after the game-

HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT OF THE WEEK

One thing I've noticed in the years covering high school sports is the evolution of halftime entertainment. Whatever happened to simple pom-pom routines? Now you've got serious dancing each and every week. This Saturday, these girls from East Aurora made the most of their three minutes:


RANDOM VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Every high school has a cheering section. But just how "rowdy" can they be? West Aurora's "Rowdies" are about as loud as any I've heard. I was right in front of them the entire game. Non-stop enthusiasm and energy. Here's an example of what happens when you get a bunch of teenagers together on a road trip. Chaos ensues-

Sights and Sounds from a memorable night in DeKalb

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What night from the Convocation Center in DeKalb. This is one time the hype was worthy of the actual game that was played.

West Aurora played their best game of the season in beating East Aurora 72-66, and they had to. Putting aside the pre-game distraction of the permanent suspension of starting forward Derrick Johnson, the Blackhawks took control of the game in the 2nd quarter and never let up.

Roaming the catacombs of the arena right after the game, I caught West Aurora's celebration in full swing:

I also snuck into the locker room briefly and caught a few seconds of winning coach Gordie Kerkman--who had a week he will never forget--enjoying the win with his players:

I was able to grab forward Juwan Starks--who scored 17 points and played a terrific all around game--who was mobbed by teammates after only a few questions:

The atmosphere in DeKalb was electric, worthy of the stakes on both sides. As someone who has covered high school basketball for 15 years, it was a night I will put in the time capsule.

West's Johnson dismissed from team

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One week after he scored a career-high 31 points in a DuPage Valley Conference win over Glenbard North, senior Derrick Johnson is no longer a member of the West Aurora basketball team.

The 6-foot-4 forward apparently was dismissed from the team following Friday's 66-52 loss at Glenbard East High School.

Prior to the start of action between the East and West High fros-soph game, West coach Gordie Kerkman said of Johnson, "He's no longer on the team."

He said he preferred not discussing the matter further.

In the second quarter of Friday's game at Glenbard East, Johnson and teammate Tyrone Carey appeared to argue and Johnson was pulled from the game. He did not return and was held scoreless by the Rams.

The dismissal figures to hurt the 6-8 Blackhawks' chances of pulling off an upset of the 10-4 Tomcats in tonight's East-West game. His performance last weekend and pulled Johnson into the team scoring lead with a 13.5-point average.

Johnson, had made the Blackhawk varsity as a sophomore and was a starter late in the season. He was suspended from school his junior year and did not play.

Welcome back, Shaun

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Shaun Pruitt, the 6-foot-9 center who led West High to a third-place finish in the 2004 Class AA State finals in Peoria before going on to star at the University of Illinois, was back in town this week and visited a Blackhawk practice.

He may be in attendance at Saturday's East-West game at the NIU Convocation Center.

Pruitt, who has played professionally in the Czech Republic, China and Greece, was in camp this past fall with the Golden State Warriors. He appeared in five preseason games before he was cut. He's hoping to return to play in China.

Honoring the champs

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Remember the champs? Members of the West Aurora 2000 state champion boys basketball team will be honored Saturday night at the Northern Illinois Convocation Center, where the 213th meeting of the East-West rivalry will be renewed.

The team will be introduced while the final few minutes of Neal Ormond's radio broadcast of the championship game plays in the background.

Starting lineup for coach Gordie Kerkman's 32-1 Blackhawks in their 60-57 title game win over Westinghouse was Jamaal Thompson and Derik Hollyfield at forwards, Austin Real at center and Mike Fowler and Louis Smith at guards.

Kerkman went eight deep in the game, calling on Jarod Tobler, Nathan Eimer and Kevin Jenkins. Other reserves were: Mike Wolf, Branndon Foster, Josh Huberty, Bryan Wredling, Kris Jenkins, Patrick Drews and Jordan Lozano.

The team reached the state finals in Peoria by winning the DeKalb Super-sectional that was played at Chick Evans Field House. The Convocation Center opened in 2002.

How West can beat East...

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Derrick Johnson.JPGBy Rick Armstrong
The numbers didn't add up, but there they were: West Aurora, 1-7.

One and seven?

It had to be a mistake. Someone just learning to type reversed them, right?

Wrong. They were true and couldn't be denied.

But a few words of caution here: Do not be consumed by those numbers when trying to handicap the 213th West vs. East crosstown (being played out of town) matchup this Saturday at NIU. And don't get bloated on Blackhawk Kool-Aid, either, just because they've bounced back to win five straight.

Somewhere in the middle is probably best, but a case can be made for West. And it goes beyond "throw out the records because it's a rivalry game cliché," even if true.

The fact is, 9-4 East is the favorite. That's largely due to Ryan Boatright, listed by Rivals.com as a top 75 player in the nation's junior class, being on the roster. Paired with Letrell "Snoop" Viser, again eligible after a holiday layoff, he gives the Tomcats a big edge in the backcourt.

On the frontline, though, the advantage lies with West and the experienced trio of Juwan Starks, red-hot (of late) Derrick Johnson and Kyle Pilmer. East usually answers with four-year starter Tramell Weathersby joined by two of the following four: Andrew Fischer, Keenan McGhee, Keanu McGhee, Tom Okapal.

All four, while still capable of blocking a shot or pulling down a rebound, are still pretty green. None, to this point, have stepped up to be much of a factor on offense. That should free up help for Mike Neil, West's best defender who will likely draw Boatright.

Neil, who may get spelled at times by Richard Preston, D.J. Vaughn and Brandon Hayes, won't shut him down, but needs to make Boatright work for his points and hope someone can step up and take a charge.

Blackhawks' biggest key will come on the offensive end, where they need to value the ball on each possession. It's easier said than done, especially against the East press, but it can be done. Ask Oswego East.

West has been prone to stretches where they're plagued by turnovers. They've also had stretches - first half against touted Waukegan - where they've done a nice job of protecting the ball and running a crisp attack. They need to do the latter for four quarters and can't afford either the former or anywhere in between.

West hasn't had a consistent, strong four-quarter effort yet. But I like the chances more for this game than any other on the schedule.

How East can beat West...

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EA Def2.JPGBy Jim Owczarski
It's time to bring the heat, East Siders.

If there was ever a time for the Tomcats to push the envelope and take it right to the West Aurora Blackhawks, Saturday night is it.

Usually, East likes to ease into games offensively and let point guard Ryan Boatright, shooting guard Snoop Viser and small forward Trammell Weathersby find a rhythm.

They can't do that Saturday.

Coach Wendell Jeffries needs to turn the 213th meeting between the two rivals into a literal track meet. That means throwing a non-stop full court, trapping press at the Blackhawks right from the opening tip.

Everyone knows the Blackhawks lack a strong ball handling presence, and the Tomcats need to exploit that from the very beginning. I've seen that press in action, and if they can force Morgan Park into over 20 turnovers, it could be scary what they'll do to West.

And they'll have to.

If the Tomcats let the Blackhawks get into the game, anything can happen. Juwan Starks is a matchup problem for East (remember what Wayne Blackshear did to them) and Derrick Johnson is coming into his own as an offensive force.

Combine that with the way West can play defense, it could be a tighter game than it should be.

It's about winning the game, and to do that East has to come out and challenge the West guards to make plays.

Frankly, I don't think they can.

The Tomcats also have an advantage with where they're playing. They have already played on a college court at Chicago State University, and although they had a terrible time shooting, the experience will make them more equipped to handle the bigger sightlines than the Blackhawks.

And don't discount the loss of West's true home court advantage. There is a better chance that the crowd will be evenly split among the schools, so if East can get that press working, they can get the crowd rocking.

From top to bottom, East is a more talented team. But that was the case last year, too, and the Blackhawks won the game.

In order to win, East has to bring the heat.

was passed on to me by a respected former coach who recently saw West Aurora play.

He said the best player on the court, the game he saw at least, was not super soph Juwan Starks, but senior lefty Derrick Johnson.

I can see how that can be true at times. Starks will be the better player down the line, but Johnson is a more complete player at this point. You'd expect that from a senior, but Johnson missed all of his junior year for disciplinary reasons.

He's got soft touch from the 3-point line and he can get points inside, but his ball handling is a little weak. But he is a matchup problem - he's active, can get offensive rebounds, and can make shots.

Nick Fruendt.jpg

Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Batavia native and Northwestern guard Nick Fruendt. Nick offers up his unique perspective on the Wildcats season and life off-the-court:

BACK TO SCHOOL

Hey, it's Nick again. School has resumed, so it's been a busy week. In the fall, we had practices and workouts in the morning and classes in the afternoon, so that was a bit of an adjustment. We had to wake up every morning between 6 and 7, so that was the most difficult part. Now we are back to the "normal" schedule, with classes in the morning and practice in the afternoon. Classes have started off well, but truthfully, having homework and studying again is not something I particularly look forward to. Still, it is a privilege to go to school here and I am going to take full advantage of this great opportunity.

With all of the snow this week, I turned into a walking man. I usually ride my bike to get to class and to the gym (luckily my apartment is located in between the two), but I couldn't ride it with all of the snow on the ground. So I walked to class in the morning and then to practice in the afternoon. After practice, I was expecting to get a ride back to the apartment from Davide, since he drives a nice white Subaru Forrester, but I was mistaken. See, Dav is quite the gamer, and not just sports games. He loves the action games, fantasy games, and arcade games... basically any type of video game. We have a couple of X-Box 360s in our apartment, but we're also lucky enough to have a PS3 in the locker. For Christmas, Dav received a game called God of War for PS3, not X-Box, and he had to resort to playing it in the locker room lounge (which is much nicer than our living room anyways). Well, his favorite time to play was right after practice ended, so if I wanted a ride home, I'd just have to wait for Dav to finish playing his game and shower up. This was the case literally every day this week. I knew that he could really get hooked even if he said he was going to play for 20 minutes, so I just decided to walk home, which is not bad (12-15 minutes) but it was quite cold this week.

LOCKER ROOM HIJINKS

Well, this situation set up a perfect locker room prank. One day before practice, one of our biggest pranksters, Ivan, decided that he was going to hide the game from Davide. Dav has a corner locker in our rectangular-shaped locker room, and I am right next to him. There is a structural beam right next to his locker, and it has a ledge on the inside of it, but it's still a pretty good hiding place. Well this is where Ivan put the game, and after practice, of course Davide went to go play the game. When he found it wasn't inside the PS3 in the lounge, he immediately came into the locker room and asked who took the game. Jeff, Reggie, and Jeremy were also involved in this escapade, but nobody would tell Mr. Video Game where his game was. He knew that one of us had taken it, so he wouldn't let up, and we finally told him that it was probably in his locker. He looked everywhere but couldn't find it. When he sits at his locker, the ledge is basically right in front of his face, maybe a little above eye level and to the left, but still, it's right there. Reggie suggested that Dav sit down a minute to think about it, which he did, and he kept looking around in the corner area. I swear he looked right at the game one time. It was absolutely hysterical. Dav was whining and very frustrated, and everyone was dying with laughter. He finally found his game, and we all gave him an ovation. It was quite a laugher.

BOUNCING BACK ON THE COURT

On the court, we struggled to beat Texas Pan-American, which was a bit disappointing because we didn't feel that we played very well. The assistant coaches have been working very hard to help us get extra work in, and we've had some very productive film sessions. Our team realizes that we have to play together and buy into the system in order to win. Coach Hardy reminded us that nobody on our team was hotly recruited by any other Big Ten teams, which I think will help us to keep playing with a chip on our shoulder. If we play together and play as hard as we can, I think that we will continue to have success. Our record currently stands at 11-3, and we're looking to build on what we have done so far.

The game against Michigan Sunday was basically divided in half. The first was terrible; we couldn't make shots, our defense was loose, and they were getting to the loose balls. Towards the end of the first half, we started to get it together, after our biggest deficit had grown to seventeen points. Mr. Drew Crawford started going all out, hitting threes, getting loose balls, and causing havoc on D. He made a statement for our team: We will not back down. I think we went into the half down nine, and the attitude in the locker room was a bit frustrated, a bit angry, but mostly intense, and in the second half it showed. Our guys were all over the place on defense, and the hustle plays are what really stood out, such as when we got a steal, Jeremy Nash went full speed and unfortunately missed a breakaway lay-up, but John Shurna was there to tip it off the backboard and then Drew was right behind to get the rebound and lay it in. We have guys that can make shots, and they began to fall, and we finished with 11 threes. Juice had his Lincoln Park swag going, and we had a tremendous inside effort from Luka Mirkovic. It was really a fun game to be a part of, except not really at the beginning (ha-ha).

After the game in the locker room, everyone was ecstatic. This was a big win for us, and now we have Wisconsin coming in on Wednesday. We'll enjoy this victory tonight, but tomorrow morning it will be all business in preparation for the Badgers. We watched a couple of movies, Old School and Heavyweights, on the bus ride home, and everyone was pretty much just in a good mood. This year was a much better trip to Ann Arbor than last year.

I just want to give a couple of quick shout outs to a couple of people who admitted they were readers of this terrific blog (lol). To Anthony Williams, one of my high school coaches who always played with us at Louise White and is a big part of my high school memories. What's up Will? Also, to JD, our operations director, I hope you liked this entry. OK I'm out, and I hope everyone has a great week! Until next time...

-Northwestern Guard Nick Fruendt #15

The Beacon Basketball Diaries, Vol. 3: Teah Gant

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Teah Gant.jpeg

Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Oswego native and Wisconsin senior guard Teah Gant. Teah offers up her unique perspective on the Badgers' season and life off-the-court:

TWO BIG WINS

Since last week we've had two games: Purdue and Michigan. The win against Purdue was a big one for us. We were on a two game losing streak so we definitely needed that one to get us back on track. The atmosphere throughout the whole game was very positive. We started the game off on a very good note and ended the same way. Everyone was very excited after the game not because we won (although winning always makes things that much better) but because our defense was at its best, and we played as a team the entire game. I try not to focus on records and that type of stuff, but that was the first time we beat them in like 100 years. Ok maybe not 100 years, but it had been a long time, long enough for all the commentators to mention it several times.

We also beat Michigan today. That brings our conference record to 3-3. The first half was slow, but we picked it up after that. Our bench did a great job of bringing energy to the court defensively and producing offensively. This was a great game for everyone to get involved because playing 30+ minutes a game is not easy on the body at all. I could definitely tell today that my body was angry at me and just wanted a break. We have a lot of games left in the season so it's important that everyone stays healthy and well rested throughout. As all my teammates know, I don't have a problem with resting up. Sleeping is my favorite thing to do. Tomorrow is our day off so I plan to sleep in late and relax all day. There aren't too many times when I get time to myself so I like to take full advantage of it whenever possible.

SECRET SANTA

In other news, we finally had our secret Santa party this week. Everyone was so busy with finals so we didn't have time to do it before break. The week leading up to the party was a lot of fun. We decided that during the week we would give each other small gifts, and at the party we would reveal our secret Santa and exchange a larger gift. The small gifts usually consisted of candy, chocolates, and other snacks that ended up being very useful during our long bus rides. I know all the sweets might not be good, but everyone deserves a treat sometime; although our strength coach wouldn't agree with that. It was interesting to see the different methods people used to drop off their small gifts during the week. Some just put the gifts by their lockers, but others decided to do a drop and run at their hotel room door when we were gone for a road game.

So the actual party was a success. At the last minute we decided to make it an ugly sweater party and have even more deserts. I wish you could have seen some of the outfits people showed up in. We didn't have a vote, but I would like to say that I was the winner. Everyone did a great job with their secret Santa gifts. It was probably the best since I've been here. That just shows how close we are as a team. If one person didn't know what gift to give, there was always someone there to give some ideas.

Well it's about that time for me to call it a night. It's been a long day, and games always tire me out. Until next time...Go Badgers!

--Wisconsin Badgers guard Teah Gant #13

INSIDE THE BASELINE

Oswego head coach Kevin Schnable had a theme for Saturday's game:

"It's a great day to be a Panther"

As the team bus pulled into the parking lot on West Madison Street in Chicago's West Side. The venue for that afternoon's game was anything but ordinary. It would have been easy for his players to shift mentally into field trip mode. But there was a basketball game to be played. In order for it to truly be a "great day", the first part of this trip had to be all business.

"I reminded the guys we had a job to do, and that's to win a game and that job takes work" said Schnable in the hallways of the United Center after Oswego's 69-58 victory.

The victory gave the Panthers their first win of 2010, leaving them 5-0 in the Suburban Prarie Conference. Oswego played with a methodical precision that underscored the famous venue where they were participating--all part of Schnable's plan.

"It doesn't matter where we play, UC (United Center), home court, away game it all counts the same in the standings," said Schnable. "That's part of our approach and philosophy. Every game is a big one."

With 13 games left before the postseason, every Panther win will be a great day for Schnable.

PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK

Oswego 6-4 F Andrew Ziemnik

The long-haired throwback scored 25 points and added 14 rebounds in the Panther win. The stat line does not fully illuminate his dominance. Consider this--18 of his 25 were 2nd chance points. If the Panthers do get back to Peoria this year, Ziemnik's play will be a significant reason why.

"He's the best player in the conference" Romeoville coach Jeff Bambule told the Beacon's Jason Ivanitz, whose team lost to the Panthers Saturday. "He's tough, he's smart and he has a lot of skill."

He also loves Italian food. He and his Panther teammates were planning on loading up on pasta at a West Side restaurant after the game before they returned to the UC for the Bulls game that night. You could say they "swept" the rare doubleheader--the Bulls won.

I interviewed Ziemnik after the game on the floor of the UC:



MANDATORY RYAN BOATRIGHT STORYLINE OF THE WEEK

Because the East Aurora junior could easily provide the performance of the week each week, we must create a separate headline devoted to the 5'10" guard. In a nice tune up for this weekend's rivalry game, Boatright dropped a career-high 45 on Streamwood, nailing five 3-pointers in the 3rd quarter alone in the Tomcats' 86-62 victory. Boatright also had eight steals. Wow. If the kid could only hit his free throws he might be a player--just 7 of 15 from the line.

Realizing they were on the floor with one of the most talented players in the state, Streamwood battled hard the 1st quarter, jumping out to the 19-16 lead, only to see the game flip in the Tomcats' favor by halftime. East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries has seen this movie before.

"Everyone comes out aggressive against (us) because we're a well known team and we have a high profile player," Jeffries told the Beacon's Brian Miller. "We always get everyone's best shot."

You can count on that happening Saturday.

NOT TOO EARLY TO BEGIN EAST VS WEST HYPE

There is no gym in Aurora big enough to hold this game.

For the first time in history, an East Aurora-West Aurora regular season game will be played at a neutral site. The game will be played Saturday night at Northern Illinois in DeKalb. The Beacon's Rick Armstrong was the first with this story and has details here on how it came together.

We will have coverage all week. Let the chatter begin.

QUOTES OF THE WEEK

"I had just missed a lay up the play before, so I pretty much had it in my mind that I was going to finish no matter what," Waubonsie Valley senior Tyler Perkins said after his lay up and free throw accounted for the winning points in the Warriors thrilling 47-45 win over Elgin Friday night. Perkins had missed a lay up just seconds before but got a second chance and delivered.

"I don't know what to tell you, I don't know that we could have played any better in the first half, or any worse in the second," said West Aurora coach Gordie Kirkman after his Blackhawks defeated Glenbard North 77-66 Saturday night. West Aurora cruised out to a 46-19 lead at the half, only to see the Panthers' James Fleming score 23 second half points. The Warriors held on for their 5th victory in a row.

GAMES TO WATCH NOT EAST VS WEST

Area basketball does not shutdown during East-West week, although it might seem that way. There will be other games being played this week. Here are a of couple of highlights-

Geneva at Kaneland, Tuesday, 7:00. Just a half game separates these two in the Western Sun conference. Geneva comes into the game riding a 6 game winning streak.

Plainfield East at Oswego East, Thursday, 7:00. The Wolves' struggled to beat Minooka Friday night. With Jay Harris in foul trouble, East got a huge lift from senior point guard Wesley Brooks and Sean Gant.

RANDOM VIDEO OF THE WEEK

Hanging out at the United Center Saturday, I broke out my Flip HD and took some home videos. Having gone to many events at the UC over the years--R.E.M. concert a few years back still a highlight for no other reason than the guys played older songs I had never heard live before--it can be a mixed bag in terms of in-game entertainment. Nice work done in by the pom-pom squads at both Oswego and Romeoville.

Watch the Panther ladies get jumpin'-

An inspiring performance by the Romeoville girls as well. Christina Aguliera would be proud-


Sounds from the United Center

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Great atmosphere Saturday at the United Center for Oswego's win over Romeoville. Playing on the same court where Michael Jordan once terrorized defenders is something participants from both schools will be talking about for a long.

I caught up with Oswego coach Kevin Schnable after the game outside the winning locker room:

And how about the performance of Panthers forward Andrew Ziemnik? 25 points, 14 rebounds, just a force inside. The BasketBlog caught with the senior on the United Center floor after the game:

Here's my wrap up of the game from the UC:

It's East-West week...

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the two teams play at NIU on Saturday, and be sure to check out The Beacon News both in print and online all week long for some good stuff.

Be sure to keep checking the print editions, online and here on the blogs for features, the nitty gritty game day stuff, see which player is taking this game very personally, columns on who will win, and much more!

I was out at West Aurora tonight to see the Blackhawks put a beat down on West Chicago by over 20.

Derrick Johnson scored 20 to lead the Blackhawks, which included three 3-pointers. Johnson, who missed all of last year for disciplinary reasons, started as a sophomore and his continued offensive development will be key for West.

Both he and super soph Juwan Starks are limited in their ball handling ability, but once they get the ball, both can create for themselves and others. That's the rub, though. West probably needs Johnson, Starks and Tyrone Carey to combine for 45-50 points to beat the better teams...but who can get them the ball?

The Blackhawks are still having trouble with full court presses, and for a 9-minute stretch tonight they scored four points and turned it over 10 times. This does not bode well for a team that plays an improved Glenbard North squad tomorrow night, followed by games against Glenbard East, East Aurora and Nequa Valley.

Keep an eye on East, Curie matchup

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When trying to figure the seeds for the Neuqua Valley 4A Sectional, keep an eye on East Aurora's Martin Luther King Day date (Jan. 18th) with Curie. It could be very important to the Tomcats' case for a high seed.

The game is part of the Marshall MLK Dream Classic and will be played at Whitney Young High School at 2:15 p.m.

At this writing, Glenbard East (10-2) figures to be a strong contender for one of the top seeds at one of the sectional's four regionals (most likely at Willowbrook). That's assuming, of course, they remain atop the DuPage Valley standings.

The two losses suffered by Scott Miller's Rams have both been by one point, to Downers Grove North (34-33) and Curie (65-64).

East Aurora is currently at 8-4 but coach Wendell Jeffries can make a good argument that his club has faced a tougher schedule than many of the teams in the sectional. When he enters the Feb. 11th seeding meeting the night before his team plays its Upstate Eight contest with Neuqa Valley, East will have already faced Marshall (loss), Morgan Park (loss), Curie (Jan. 18), St. Joseph (win), Hales Franciscan (OT loss), St. Louis Ritenour (win) and North Lawndale (Jan. 23).

Those dates with Curie and North Lawndale could have a huge impact on the Tomcats' case. Win 'em both and Jeffries can make a strong argument for a top four seed in the sectional. Lose 'em both, no matter how close, and they're likely to fall to the middle of the pack.

Hopefully, everyone will stay eligible the rest of the way and show up on time so East can put its best foot forward.

Does Waubonsie have diamond in the rough with Lynn?

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When opportunity knocks, open the door.

That's what junior Josh Lynn has been doing and Waubonsie Valley coach Steve Weemer has taken notice. Lynn gave the coach more food for thought with his performance in Wednesday night's close loss at East Aurora.

"He has not played organized basketball until this year," Weemer said of Lynn. "He's taken advantage of his chances after working real hard at it over the summer."

The Warriors can't match the Tomcats' quickness and it showed early in the game when they picked up a lot of fouls, much to the chagrin of some Waubonsie fans. Junior forward Mark Szott, a starter, was saddled with foul trouble all night. It opened up playing time for the muscular, 6-3 Lynn, who delivered.

Lynn did most of his damage in limited minutes in the second and fourth quarters. He finished wtih 11 points and eight rebounds, which were second only to the nine pulled down by 6-7 starting center Tyler Edmondson.

"(Lynn) showed some things," said Weemer. "He can do some things offensively and I like his effort."

Lynn held his own under the basket on several scrums with East's 6-5 towers, Andrew Fischer and both Keenan and Keeanu McGhee.

MJ United Center.jpg

Steve McInerney made a promise he intended to keep.

Two years ago the Oswego sophomore boy's basketball team had an undefeated season. McInerney, Oswego High School's athletic director, wanted to reward the Panthers.

The varsity had played Romeoville at the United Center on Chicago's West Side. He told the boys they would get their turn.

"You'll get your opportunity to play," recalls McInerney telling the team. "They didn't get to play as sophomores."

Saturday, their time has arrived.

Saturday, Oswego will play Romeoville for the 2nd time in two years at the House that Michael Jordan built. Tipoff is at 12:00. When that game ends, they'll be sticking around for an evening encore.

You see, the game is a partnership with the Chicago Bulls as part of their "Playing with the Pros" program. How it works is this--the Bulls let the schools use the arena as long as they buy tickets for an NBA game that night. The Panther athletic department bought 400 tickets for the Bulls 7:00 game against Minnesota at a discounted price, which they in turn sell to fans, parents or other interested parties. Some of the tickets bought by the school are given away to students as a gift.

"We want to take care of our participants because it's very rewarding," said McInerney. "It's great for the kids."

It's also an opportunity for both basketball teams to play in an arena with a capacity of over 20,000. While Saturday's crowd will be considerably less than that for a Bulls or Blackhawks game--less than 1,000 is expected between both schools--it won't be any less enthusiastic. And not just for basketball.

"After the game, the band is going to Navy Pier," said McInerney. "Some of us will be going to the Italian American Hall of Fame. It'll be a lifetime of memories for everyone."

This was one promise worth keeping.

So I checked some of the records of the 22 teams in the Neuqua Valley Sectional and its shaping up to be quite a doozy (as expected).

Glenbard East (11-1)

Neuqua (10-1)
Benet (10-3)
Naperville North (10-2)
Geneva (10-4)

Batavia (9-4)
Bolingbrook (9-4)
WW South (9-3)

Naperville Central (8-5)
Oswego East (8-4)

East Aurora (7-4)

Glenbard North, Downers Grove North & South, Plainfield North and Wheaton North are all about .500 and there are only a couple of dogs (Glenbard West, West Chicago),

How the IHSA decides to group these regionals will be very interesting...


Rosary's Rettig poised to become school scoring leader

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Rosary's Jordan Rettig is closing in on a milestone. She needs seven points to tie and eight to surpass the school's career scoring mark of 1,466 set by Elyse Van Bogaert in 2006.

It will likely come in Friday's Suburban Christian Conference game at St. Edward in Elgin.

It's been a big week for the Royals' senior forward/center. Earlier, she firmed up her college plans by making a verbal commitment to NCAA Division III power Washington University in St. Louis.

Rettig's commitment was confirmed when she received notice she had been accepted to the school, which is a national D-III power. The team was second in the nation last season and won four straight national crowns from 1998-2001 under coach Nancy Fahey, who has won 20 conference titles in her 24 seasons.

Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Oswego native and Wisconsin senior guard Teah Gant. Teah offers up her unique perspective on the Badgers' season and life off-the-court:


Hey hometown fans! I'm here to give you an update on our season so far. We ended the non-conference season on a very good note (10-2). There were a lot of good teams we beat during that time, which gave us motivation to continue our success to the conference season. Although we ended the non-conference season on a good winning streak, we still had to remain level headed. The Big 10 is a very competitive conference where anything can happen. Last year we started off the season with a very similar record but didn't perform very well in conference play. This year, we're looking to change that. The work we put in everyday is all for winning the Big 10 title and getting into the NCAA tournament.

GRIND OF THE SEASON

We've already played four conference games, including Ohio State earlier in the season. Our first opponent after our four-day break for Christmas was Michigan State. There are many reasons why that game was a test of our toughness:

1. Coming back the day after Christmas for practice is always hard. Four days at home just never seems like enough. I admit I do get jealous of those who get to spend the entire month at home, but I'm grateful for the time that I do get to spend with my family. Also, the day after Christmas practice is probably one of the most dreaded days because we have to run off all the food we stuffed ourselves with during the holiday. I'm definitely glad that was my last one.
2. They were ranked #16 at the time and had beaten several good teams.
3. We beat them the last two times so I know they were ready for revenge.

With that said, we came out for the game with a lot of fire and energy, and we were able to get the win. That was a big win for us, but Coach Stone always says, "Don't let your highs get too high, and your lows get too low." Moving forward, our team is looking to maintain our focus throughout the rest of the season. The college basketball season is very long and filled with many ups and downs. It's important that we stick to our principles and execute the game plan the coaches have set up for us.

NOT ALL BASKETBALL

That's my life on the basketball court, but off the court is much different. Madison can be a very fun place when school is in session and there are lots of different activities going on, but being stuck here with no one else around can get very boring. So now we are forced to find our own source of entertainment, which can get kind of interesting. We are a very close team so being around each other is not really a problem. Eight of us live in the same apartment building so it's kind of hard to get away. So far we've had more movie nights than I can count, which includes actually going to the movies or all of us going to one apartment and watching one on TV. We also got together to watch our football team in their bowl game. Somehow, this turned into a fingernail painting party. I'm not really a fan, but I gave in after a while.

Well that's it for now. Thanks for reading, and I hope you continue to follow me and my team throughout the rest of our season

-Wisconsin Badgers Teah Gant #13

Each and every week, the BasketBlog will be catching up with Batavia native and Northwestern guard Nick Fruendt. Nick offers up his unique perspective on the Wildcats season and life off-the-court:


Hey what's up everyone? This is Nick Fruendt checking in. We've had a busy week on the basketball court, and I wanted to share some of it with you.

We began the week by cracking the AP Top 25 for the first time since I have been at Northwestern. This was a pretty cool accomplishment, but based on this week's results, we aren't in it anymore. So pretty much all I can say is that it was kind of neat, but...our goals are not to just be in the top 25.

TRIP TO CHAMPAIGN

This week we played at Illinois and at home against Michigan State. On Monday, we had a good practice and then hopped on the bus to Champaign. It took about 2 hours and 45 minutes to get there. Some of my favorite things to do on these bus rides are listen to music, take a nap, or just chill with my teammates. When we got to Champaign, we relaxed for a while at the hotel then went to shoot at Assembly Hall. We had another shoot around the morning of the game, and then it was game time.
We eventually lost in OT, so it was tough to swallow, but the game itself was what college basketball is all about. All the players were going all out, and the crowd was really into it. Assembly Hall is probably one of the most colorful places you could find because all the Illini fans wear their orange. It would have been great to get a win there, but road wins in the Big 10 are hard to come by. So one of our outlooks after the game was that if we won or we lost, we were going to play Michigan State at home on Saturday.

ROOMMATES

We are assigned random roommates on the road for away games, and this year my roommate is our center, Luka Mirkovic. Last year I was roommates with Jeremy Nash, and he was fantastic as a roommate. Luka is from Serbia, so he is a bit different. He likes to go to bed at around 9:30 or 10:00, and every single light in the room has to be off. Davide Curletti, one of my apartment roommates, roomed with Luka in the dorm last year, our freshman year, and he has some pretty hilarious stories about it. One time, Davide was charging his laptop so there was a tiny little light coming from the computer, and Luka got up and asked Davide to cover up that light. So that is an example of how Luka likes to operate. When we played at NC State, I asked Luka if I could stay on my laptop (at 9:30 ET, mind you) and study a little bit because finals were coming up, and he agreed. After about 5 minutes, Luka told me that the light in the dark would ruin my eyes so I should turn my computer off. Instead of arguing, I went into the bathroom and studied for a couple of hours. That hotel was amazing though, and there was a TV in the mirror in the bathroom, so I watched some Monday Night Football as well.

GOING TO THE MOVIES

After we got back from Illinois, our team dedicated the next two practices to getting ready for Michigan State. It didn't turn out too well, and we lost by over twenty points at home. It's very disappointing, so we have to get to work this week and really compete at practice.
Winter Break went by really fast. It was cool to just play basketball and then relax and do whatever for the rest of the day, but there weren't many people from Northwestern around during this time. Friday night I went to see the movie Avatar in 3-D, and it was incredible. It's funny because so many people told me that it was great, and I agree after seeing it, but one person in particular said he didn't enjoy it too much. That person was Davide, the movie man himself. I live with Davide and John, so I spent the most time over break with them. Davide loves action, sci-fi, and the "alien" movies, but somehow he didn't like Avatar. We were all surprised by this and continue to pester him about it.

DOING THE DISHES

John, Davide, and I have a great system for doing the dishes and taking out the garbage: video games, in particular FIFA soccer. We flip cards to see which two will play a game, and then the loser of the soccer match on XBox will have to do the dishes and/or take out the garbage. It's been pretty even since we moved into our apartment in September, but I still think I am the best video game player in our apartment, ha-ha.

Well, that's it for now. This week we play Texas Pan-Am at home and then at Michigan, so it's important for us to respond and bounce back. Thanks and see you next time!

-Nick Fruendt Northwestern University Men's Basketball #15

Post Game from Michigan State-Northwestern

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Michigan State spanks Northwestern in Evanston Saturday night, 91-70. Spartans head coach Tom Izzo talks after the game-

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