So many sights and sounds from East Aurora's instant classic Friday night; this is where we will begin and end this week's ATR. Fortunately, I packed extra batteries for my Flip camera. It got a work out Friday night.
First off, everyone in the gym thought the Tomcats had won the game in regulation. Up 57-54, Neuqua Valley missed a game tying 3-point shot with seconds left. The Wildcats' Dwayne Evans got to the ball, but all that was left was the final horn to sound. Instead, the officials granted Neuqua a timeout and put 1.8 seconds on the clock. The only person in the gym who felt the Wildcats deserved the timeout was the coach who called it, Todd Sutton.
"I knew we had the time left," said Sutton after the game. "They fixed it to what it should be."
Then as often happens in sporting events, the improbable happened. Rahjan Muhammed drained a turnaround 25-footer at the buzzer to tie the game at 57 and send it into overtime. Watch the shot here:
Not even East Aurora coach Wendell Jeffries had to think the Tomcats were going to win in overtime.
But when you have #22 in your backcourt, anything is possible. Ryan Boatright had taken over the game late in 4th period and continued his domination into OT. Consider this: 35 of his 45 points were in both the 4th quarter and overtime and how's this for a stat: the junior guard made 22 of 27 free throws. The kid didn't need any ice water after the game. That's because it's already flowing through his bloodstream. Just a remarkable performance.
When the final gun sounded in the overtime and the Tomcats had completed their unlikely regional championship, the celebration was just as heated as the action on the floor:
I spoke with Boatright after he had hugged what seemed like 800 people on the Plainfield East floor. For the first time all season, he sounded like a kid, not burdened by expectations, but joyful about the game of basketball. Rightfully so after what he had just been a part of:
In the catagory of unsung heros, how about senior Tramell Weathersby? In the game of his life, the senior forward was a stud on defense, clogging the middle, getting a body on Wildcats big men Dwayne Evans and Kareem Amedu, making them uncomfortable in the paint. Weathersby did much of the dirty work inside along with Keenan McGhee, Andrew Fischer and Tom Okapal. I caught up with Weathersby in the midst of the celebration:
And finally, this is one of those special victories that should be shared by everyone: coaches, players, moms, dads, aunts, brothers. No one wanted to go home. The stars on the red carpet Sunday night in Hollywood had nothing on these Tomcats:
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:
Wow I can't believe that we are about to be in March. There is only one more home game left on our schedule. Where did all of the games go? With that being said, I think March will be an exciting month. There are the final regular season games, the Big Ten Tournament, and hopefully another postseason tournament. It looks like we are going to have to win the Big Ten tournament in order to make it to the NCAA tournament. We can do it; we already won the Chicago Invitational earlier this season, but we need to get hot at the right time in order to do it. Outside of basketball, there is warmer weather (I hope) to look forward to, the end of winter quarter (final exams), and spring break on the way. I hope that this year's version of spring break will be filled with practice and games, but if not I look forward to spending some quality time in Batavia. I'm looking forward to this month.
THE WEEK ON THE COURT
We won our first game this week against Iowa at home, but then we lost at Penn State on Sunday. To be honest, both games were "revenge" games for us, but what happened kind of shows the difference between home and road games for our team right now. We just have not been getting the job done on the road this season. Our game at Iowa a couple of weeks ago was very disappointing. We played so lethargically that it was very hard to watch. So coming into our game against them at Welsh-Ryan arena, our team was pretty amped up. We wanted to show that the last game was a fluke, and we successfully completed our mission. John practically had more points than the Hawkeyes in the first half, and we rolled on to a double digit victory. An interesting note is that we did not play the 1-3-1 defense at all in the game, and our adjustments in our regular match-up zone defense worked out very well. I got in for the last minute and avoided Club Trillion by grabbing a rebound. Overall, it was a very fun game and the feeling after a win is so much better than after a loss.
STANDING OUT IN A CROWD
The game against Penn State on Sunday was a different story. On Saturday, our chartered flight took off at 10 AM, and we actually practiced at their practice facility on Saturday late afternoon, but not their main arena floor because there was a concert that night. When we landed in Happy Valley, we had a couple of hours to kill before we could check into the hotel, so we went to a local sports bar. It's funny to see some of the looks we get when we go to restaurants as a team. People aren't used to seeing such tall people, especially in a large group, so they are usually staring. The funny thing is that I am 6'5" and I am on the shorter end of our team! I am pretty used to being around tall guys because I am around my teammates more than anyone, but when we go to public places with our travel sweat suits on is when I realize that we are much taller than an average group of people.
HIGHS AND LOWS
It was actually nicer to practice in a different setting than our home gym. Practice went pretty well, but it didn't translate into the game. We allowed them to score pretty much at will in the first half, and it was a frustrating loss to say the least. When I got in the game in the second half, I was just trying to play as hard as I could for as long as I could. It stinks when I play and we lose, but it's even worse when we lose and I don't even get into the game, like a week prior at Wisconsin. Pretty much all I care about is if we win. So if we lose and I don't play at all, I question if I prepared my teammates enough for the game and wish that I could have proved myself more during practice. After a win and a loss in the same week, I came back to the same mental state that I think is crucial during the season: don't get too high or too low.
Wednesday was a one-day-of-the-year type of day for me. After practice, I went into the locker room and was preparing to take a shower, but then I was called out into the lounge by our trainer. He told me that I was randomly chosen for a drug test! And I had just gone to the bathroom! I laughed when he told me because I had literally just urinated two minutes ago. This was around 4:45, so immediately I started chugging water so that I could go to the bathroom by 6. If I couldn't go by then, I would have to come in early the next morning and give my urine sample. I thought to myself, "Please, getting up for 9:00 class is difficult enough; I have to do this today." I drank five twenty ounce bottles of water (100 oz!), showered, and then went up to eat dinner at training table. Right at six, I reported to the training room and said that I was able to urinate, but really in my mind I was very unsure if I was going to be able to. Fortunately, I was able to produce an adequate urine sample, and I completed my first drug test of the year. Hopefully I won't get chosen again this year, but it's definitely a possibility.
I hope everyone gets off to a great start in March. March Madness is near! Shout out to my high school teammates that I haven't seen in a while. I miss all of you. Until next time...
As you make your way down the cranky stairs into the basement underneath the West Aurora gym, there is an atmosphere of authenticity.
Chipped paint lines the guard rails and walls, the metal doors make you feel you are about to enter an Army barracks. And if you are claustrophobic, you'd better stay clear of the locker room.
Sitting on a chair in the coaches room is Gordie Kerkman. He's striking a pose he's done hundreds of times over his 34 years as head coach of the Blackhawks--staring at a stat sheet after a game. But this night he's in a position he hasn't come accustomed to over the years.
Explaining how his team got blown out at home.
"We weren't aggressive tonight, we were getting killed on the boards," said Kerkman about his team's 76-49 loss to Glenbard East Saturday night. "I expect improvement in those areas unless they've given up. I won't know for sure until (this week)."
After watching the Blackhawks performance from a courtside seat, it's easy to understand Kerkman's exasperation.
The crowd was filled with school pride at tip off after five new members were inducted into the West Aurora Hall of Fame before the game. And when DJ Vaughn hit two quick 3's to give West a 6-2 advantage in the opening two minutes, the place was jumping like the old days.
But the Rams didn't care about respecting Blackhawks history; they have their own to make this season. They hit West like a tropical tsunami in September--putting on an exhibition of passing, shooting, defense and rebounding worthy of their undefeated conference record. The 27-point margin of victory did not paint a complete picture of their domination. The efficiency of their performance had Kerkman grasping for answers as to why his team was a willing accomplice.
"They (Glenbard East) play hard and they play smart," said Kerkman. "What did they have to prove tonight? They came out and took it to us. We couldn't run the floor with them. They play at a higher level than we do."
With just one regular season game left before the postseason, a reporter asked if it would be best to burn the game tapes. Is it possible any lesson can be learned after such a resounding defeat?
"When you play a team like that you should learn how good teams play, what they do to make things happen," said Kerkman. "Kids are fragile but they can also be very resilient. They can come back and play pretty good basketball again."
After 34 years, you know Kerkman believes what he says. But does his team?
Senior center Kyle Pilmer:
INSIDE THE BASELINE
Packing up his briefcase after the game, Neal Ormond has watched more West Aurora basketball games than anyone.
Asked about what he just witnessed broadcasting the game, his mood mirrored that of Kerkman's.
"In 34 years, I bet I can count on one hand the number teams I've felt about the way I do after (Saturday's) game. Totally frustrated," said Ormond who has been the voice of the Blackhawks for 46 years. "I keep having to remind myself that this is an outstanding Glenbard East team, they make you look bad. I think you have to put it aside and say this is not our real team.
Ormond called all 60 of the Blackhawks consecutive wins at home between 2001-2007. He remembers how during the streak, West Aurora had a decided advantage before every game.
"The kids felt invincible," said Ormond. "I think the fans have lost some of that intensity (today)."
When watching Glenbard East, you see a level of basketball from an opponent you would not have seen 12 years ago, when West Aurora joined the DuPage Valley Conference. Ormond credits Kerkman and the Blackhawks for setting a standard of excellence in the conference.
"(West Aurora) was the class of the conference when they joined," said Ormond. "Teams use the West model now with their off season schedule and their pressure defense. They elevated the level of play."
It's hard to muster up much energy when your team is getting throttled. A few of these Rowdies were doing their best Saturday night:
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
Jay Harris, G, Oswego East
One of the cool things about covering high school sports is you can see greatness emerge right in front of your eyes. If you haven't been following Harris and the Wolves this season, you might want to start paying attention. Friday night against Plainfield East, the senior guard scored 44 points in Oswego East's 77-64 victory over the Bengals. Still uncommitted on a college, Harris could be a guy we see playing in the NCAA tournament in a few years.
QUOTES OF THE WEEK
"Wow. Wow, that was an unbelievable performance," said Wolves head coach Jason Buckley told the Beacon's Tom Strong after watching Harris dominate the Bengals.
"I'm not sure what happened. It was a total breakdown to be honest," said Aurora Central Catholic head coach Nathan Drye after the Chargers got blown out by Wheaton Academy Saturday night 68-34, ending the Chargers hopes of winning a share of the Suburban Christian Gold Conference championship.
A LOOK AHEAD--GAMES OF THE WEEK
West Aurora at Wheaton Warrenville South, Wednesday. The burning question in this game: can the Blackhawks forget about Glenbard East? How they respond will go a long way in determining how far they advance in the postseason.
East Aurora at Proviso West, Wednesday. The Tomcats go out of conference for this midweek game. After Lake Park Friday, it's on to the postseason.
Marmion at Fenton, Thursday. With the Suburban Christian Blue Conference title out of reach, the Cadets get one more tune up before they open their regional against Aurora Central Catholic March 3rd.
PREGAME/HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT OF THE WEEK
Hands down the best band I've seen this year is West Aurora's. They sound better than some professional bands I've listened to recently in watering holes around Chicago. Very spirited performance Saturday night; wish we could say the same for the basketball team they were playing for:
The Blackhawks dance squad always rocks the house:
It's been a season of challenges for East Aurora head coach Wendell Jeffries.
Injuries and academic issues at various points of the season to Ryan Boatright, Snoop Viser and Terrell Weathersby have forced the Tomcats to enter several games with his deck shorthanded of aces.
So, playing Friday night against powerhouse Neuqua Valley, Jeffries broke out one card he had yet to reveal: a red suit.
"I hadn't worn it all year and decided it was time to bring it out," said Jeffries.
While he looked sharp for the Comcast cameras--televising the game live--the fashion statement proved to be nothing more than cosmetic. It didn't help East Aurora slow down the Wildcats formidable threesome of Dwayne Evans, Rahjan Muhammad and Kareem Amedu, who combined for 48 points and 24 rebounds in the Wildcats 74-64 win Friday night.
My post game interview with Jeffries is here:
INSIDE THE BASELINE
If you walked into the Neuqua Valley gym Friday night, you would have noticed a few more lights that normal.
Those extra lights were from the crew at Comcast Sports Net, who was broadcasting the game. Former Bulls play-by-play man Tom Dore was calling the game, with Sarah Kustok handling sideline reporter duties.
I caught up with Kustok before the game and asked her if we can expect to see more prep game coverage on media giants such as Comcast.
"I think there is a huge market for high school sports," said Kustok, an Orland Park native who played basketball at DePaul. "We've found that people want to hear about high school sports. A lot of people in this area care about high school sports."
Although Neuqua Valley-East Aurora may not have the same audience on a Friday night that a Blackhawks-Red Wings game may bring, Kustok said her and the Comcast crew prepare for Boatright and Evans as they would for Kane and Toews.
"Whether it's high school, college or pro, my approach is the same," said Kustok. "We'll look up articles online, talk to the coaches. We want to tell the story of the schools."
This video gives you an idea of the type of production Comcast brought to the game:
PERFORMANCE OF THE WEEK
Ryan Boatright, G, East Aurora
I know he gets more coverage than even he wants, but there is reason we can't get enough of Ryan Boatright. Friday night was another example. Not having played or practiced much in a week, the 5'8" guard showed his competitive grit by dropping 27 points on the Wildcats, showing no signs his sprained right ankle was bothering him. When I spoke to him after the game, he told me he just wanted to go home and get some rest. Judging by his four-point performance Saturday night vs. Waubonsee Valley, he could have used some more to rest his tender ankle. Back-to-back games are commonplace in February. Fortunately for the Tomcats and Boatright, they have no more on the regular season schedule.
My postgame interview with Boatright:
HALFTIME ENTERTAINMENT OF THE WEEK
Two sweet performances at the Neuqua-East Aurora game. I was reminded of Claire Daines in "Bring It On" when watching the Wildcats halftime cheer:
The Neuqua dance team brought a little spice to their performance:
RANDOM VIDEO OF THE WEEK
This is why I love my Flip Ultra...you never know what you might capture when the red light is on.
While hanging out with the East side crazies (who were less in numbers for the road game, but still loud enough to be heard) we almost had a TMZ moment. Terrell Owens in the house? Watch and find out:
This clip is more evidence of how people will do anything to get on TV. Not sure if these Neuqua dudes wanted to get face time on Comcast or get noticed by Sarah Kustok. You decide:
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:
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:
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-
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-