Never take your eye off the bouncing ball ...
December 11, 2013 12:40PM
In what can only be described as a terrible draw for Waukegan, the Buldogs will play mighty Simeon from Chicago in the first round of the Pontiac holiday tourney. The Wolverines are shown here after four-peating at the Class 4A state tourney last March. |
Updated: January 13, 2014 7:26AM
Random thoughts from a sports fan who watched almost the entire Big 10 Conference championship football game between Ohio State and Michigan State, and counted something like 21 times that a TV announcer said MSU will go to the Rose Bowl if it wins the game, and ZERO times an announcer said that if MSU loses the game it will go to the ... Rose Bowl.
Kinda like the words you read in this spot in your favorite daily newespaper or on your favorite local website, from the MSU point of view, the game was much ado about nothing.
■ Gotta give serious props to the girls playing basketball for Vernon Hills High School this winter.
With the area’s best player, senior guard Lauren Webb, on the DL with a foot injury, the Cougars have still played extremely well, and had a 31-game North Suburban Conference Prairie Division winning streak until it lost 52-50 in overtime at North Chicago on Tuesday night.
Vernon Hills has finished second in the state tournament in Class 3A (smaller schools) in each of the last two years and is trying to become the first Lake County team in girls hoops history to qualify for the state’s Final Four in three consecutive seasons.
Senior Sydney Smith is the team’s best player on the court, but the amazing thing is how heretofore unheard-ofs such as Mia Polisky and Kasey Firnbach and Haley Lieberman have gone from spectator-types to important contributors before our very eyes.
Here’s what Vernon Hills coach Paul Brettner said after a win over Antioch about Webb, who will play next year at Bowling Green in the Mid-American Conference (NIU, Ball State, etc.).
“I’m glad we pulled it out without Lauren. Anything positive we do without Lauren just bolsters all the other kids.
“The bone itself (in Webb’s foot) is healed, but now it’s the pain from under her foot, plantar fasciatis. She’s working her way back into practice. She’s been cleared, but she hasn’t done full contact yet. She’s been at practice doing minimal contact activities. We’re hoping to have her back in a couple of weeks.”
That will give Webb half a season to work with longtime partner Smith and her new teammates as they prepare for a run a Lake County girls basketball history.
■ Defending champion North Chicago was named the top seed for the 16-team boys basketball tournament in the Bloomingon/Normal area that will be held the last week of this month.
The Warhawks will open the tourney against the Springfield Senators (1-4) and then will play either Champaign Centennial or North Lawndale from the Chicago Public League in the quarterfinals.
Grayslake Central’s the other area team in that tourney and the Rams will open with Rock Island (4-1).
When the tourney concludes on Dec. 30, don’t be shocked if currently unbeaten Normal U-High winds up beating Hononegah (near Rockford) in the championship game.
■ Sitting on a 1-5 record with four near-miss losses, Waukegan High’s boys basketball team just got the bad news that its first game in the holiday tournament at Pontiac will be against Simeon from Chicago.
Yes, that Simeon ... four-time defending state champion Simeon.
This is a 16-team tournament and of the eight teams in Waukegan’s half of the bracket, exactly ONE currently has a losing record.
Bloom, by the way, which is where former Waukegan coach Ron Ashlaw is now at the wheel, is 3-2 and in the same half of the draw as our Bulldogs. The chances of Bloom and Waukegan playing in Pontiac however, based on the draw, are not that great.
Warren (3-3) is the other area team at Pontiac, and the Devils will open against unbeaten Plainfield North.
■ Faraway Marengo will be hosting a 12-team boys basketball tournament starting on Dec. 21, and the area teams competing are Grant, Wauconda, Antioch and Round Lake.
What the Marengo event is best for is building confidence. Last year, Wauconda had a great tournament run (4-1 record) and that carried over to improved play the second half of the regular season.
This year, tourney newcomer Grant should be the team to beat and build momentum for January and February.
As an aside, we are guessing that new grant athletic director Dick Knar is not beaming with having his Grant Bulldogs playing at Marengo.
The longtime basketball coach at Mundelein always wanted to play the best competition possible, and for Grant, that is not at Marengo, which is a tourney for smaller schools.
If you’re looking at the sizes of the schools at Marengo, you have Round Lake at 1,994 students and Grant at 1,841.
The next biggest are Antioch and Wauconda at 1,304 and 1,301. The other schools range from Westminster Christian from Elgin (333 students) to Sycamore (1,198). In other words, besides Grant and Round Lake, every other school in the tourney is a Class 3A or Class 2A school.
Grant won’t be in this event next year — reportedly heading to the quality Jacobs event — and we’re guessing they grabbed at Marengo because of having to scramble when their own holiday tournament ended.
■ This has nothing to do with basketball, but as of today, there has never been a better chance for the Grayslakes (North and Central) to get into the prestigious North Suburban Conference and out of the imploding Fox Valley Conference.
That’s another story for another day. But if I were the athletic director at a Grayslake school, there would be holiday-greeting cards heading out my door and toward the ADs at the other 14 schools in the league tomorrow.
Or maybe today.
Or maybe both days.