IHSA Boys Playoff Weekend Recap

We are a week separated from the IHSA 3A and 4A Boys Playoffs now and I am now getting around to the recap. I spent last Friday and Saturday in Peoria photographing as many games as I could.

I found out one cannot photograph and process all the games in real time. Two games per day is about all I can do and get galleries and stories up on a timely fashion.

As for the games themselves, they did not disappoint. Well, except for the first game, where m y DePaul Prep lost to Bogan. The Rams had good shots early but they would not fall. Credit to Bogan. They put on a stellar defense effort basically shutting down everyone on DePaul except Perry Cowen. After that East St. Louis impressed against a tough and scrappy Peoria Manual team in a very entertaining battle.

4A was especially fun. I have seen Evanston five times this year and a couple times last year. Very good and entertaining team. Extremely well coached. Sr. guard Jaheim Holden has to be one of the most exciting players I have seen in the past few years. The Wildkits handles Rochford East who I had not seen. Evanston posses so many matchup problems. Rockford constantly lost track of sophomore Blake Peters and he made them pay. Peters was 7 for 8 from beyond the arc—just deadly.

Then the biggest game of the season so far, Curie v. Beilleville West. E.J. Liddell is better than advertised. Gonna be star at the next level. He has it all. Curie lost composure at the end. The Condors just ran out magic and one by one their best players fouled out.

DePaul Prep refocused and came out wanting to end the season with a win in the 3A Third Place game on Saturday morning. They did just that, soundly defeating a Peoria Manuel team that did not want to be there.

Frankly, I was busy working on photos of the DePaul v. Manuel game and I didn’t see much of the 4A Third Place game. As I recall, Curie won but what I remember is that they didn’t want to be there eight.

Then the premier Evanston v. Belleville West 4A Championship on Saturday night. What a game! It was tough for the Maroons to matchup against Evanston early. The Wildkits came out running and opened a seven point half time lead. As good as the Wildkits looked, Belleville West was playing Evanston’s game and stayed right with the Kits. One just got the feeling at the half that the Maroons would overcome.

That they did. No three pointers for Blake Peters. E.J. Liddell got the ball inside and either scored or dished it off for an easy backdoor bucket. The Maroons overcame and pulled away. It was quite a show.

And then, all the sudden, it was over. Time to go back to Chicago. It just left me wanting more.

Thanks to all for another wonderful high school basketball season. The R-B summer tournament will be here soon. Then the Thanksgiving tournaments. See you then.

As for the photos, these are a few good ones I got over both days. I hope you like them.

DePaul Wins IHSA Third Place 64-44 over Manuel

The DePaul Prep Rams did what so few get to do—win their last game of the season. Okay, it wasn’t exactly the best way to do it but the Rams got to get a little of the bad taste our of their mouths that they would carry around until November. The DePaul Prep Rams, 26-10, wanted to win and played like it. The same cannot be said about their opponent, Peoria Manuel.

In yesterday’s semi-final Manuel gave eventual 3A champion East St. Louis all they could handle losing a fast-paced physical game, 57-48. Manuel seemed in no mood to play and it showed.

DePaul sophomore guard Tyler Johnson lead all scorers with 15 including two three-pointers. Senior guard Perry Cowen finished with 13 points in his final high school game before going on to play at Brown University next fall. Senior guard Raheem Anthony had 10 points.

The DePaul Prep Rams finished the school’s most successful season in 19 years, The Rams won the Catholic League Blue Division and finished third in the state in 3A.

The future is bright for the Rams. Ty Johnson, Lance Mosley and a host of Catholic League champion sophomores return.

Evanston Out Guns Rockford East 94-82

It didn’t seem that close. The Evanston Township High School Wildkits (31-4) came out firing on all cylinders against the Rockford East E-RABs. The Kits opened up a 25-15 first quarter lead and never looked back. Well, except they actually did in the third quarter when the E-RABS out scored them 29-20.

The game never seemed in doubt despite a valiant charge by Rockford East. Evanston’s Sr. forward Blake Peters went seven for eight shooting threes. That’s just spectacular. He lead all scorers with 27 points.

Be careful what you wish for. The Wildkits will face Belleville West who destroyed a 34-1 Curie team, 70-48, The Condors just came off an impressive comeback victory of Simeon and looked to be unstoppable. Belleville West’s two big men, E.J. Liddell and Keith Randolph dominated the paint and got Curie into foul trouble.

It should be a fascinating championship game of teams with contrasting styles. Evanston is quick, athletic and great shooters. Belleville West is big, athletic and good shooters. My money is on Evanston, but I thought Curie would win so what do I know,

Stay tuned.

DePaul Prep Defeats St. Viator 62-53 and Advances Directly to State Finals

The DePaul Prep Rams defeated the St. Viator Lions 62-53 Friday (March 8, 2019) winning Grayslake 3A Sectional and advance directly to State Finals in Peoria next weekend because of the disqualification of both North Lawndale and Farragut after a fight at the end of their game.

DePaul Prep v. St. Viator Preview

So here we are.

Today is the day of the sectional final between the St. Viator Lions and the DePaul Prep Rams. Many have been waiting for this day since before the IHSA announced the sectional assignments months ago. It was not a secret that the Lions and the Rams are the two best teams in the Grayslake Central Sectional and probably the two best 3A teams north of Madison Street.

Both teams started out gangbusters and hit a rough patch near the end of the season. St. Viator’s Treyvon Calvin broke a bone in his hand and missed several weeks. The Rams suffered a couple losses in their killer schedule and fell out of the rankings for a bit. Each team rallied, the Rams won the Chicago Catholic League Blue and took care of business in the playoffs and here we are.

Some may know that I have connections to both schools. I graduated from St. Viator in 1981. My brother Dan is a Viatorian priest and taught there for many years. My sister is on the Finance Committee. I have several cousins that are students there now.

And my children attended to Gordon Tech, which then became DePaul Prep. I probably have a dozen close friends and relatives that attended Gordon Tech. It’s a neighborhood school. Since my children started at Gordon, I have gotten to know the coaches, teachers and administrators at the school. I have been photographing Gordon Tech and DePaul Prep athletics for several years now.

I like to think of myself as a photographer, a photojournalist. On occasion, my photos are published so I try to work by journalistic standards. Frankly, my photos are much better when I am concentrating on taking pictures and not watching the game. But I am not really a photojournalist—at least not for today’s game. So I guess I could be rooting for a team.

Joe Henricksen in the Sun-Times makes predictions about which teams are going to win sectional finals. I am much too superstitious for that. My Irish heritage won’t allow such a thing. But I will however offer some thoughts.

The Rams and the Lions match up well against each other. Jeremiah Hernandez and Perry Cowen are similar players. Trey Calvin and Raheem Anthony are similar as well. Conor Kochera and Pavle Pantovic can both play and contribute mightily inside. The size of the players over all is pretty close. Both teams can play excellent defense, can run the floor and play a half court game.

The Lions have been ranked higher than the Rams most of the season. I generally agree with Michael O’Brien and Mike Clark’s rankings but at this point in sectional finals rankings don’t mean much. I guess they will just have to play the game. I am lucky that one of my teams will probably make it to Peoria. That will be tough for me to shoot the state finals and have one of my teams playing. There I will be a photojournalist and can’t have a rooting interest. I will have to find a way to deal with it.

And in the immortal words of Paul Chabura . . .

DePaul Prep Comes Back to Defeat Carmel 57-46 in Sectional Semi-final

The DePaul Prep Rams defeated the Carmel Corsairs 57-46 Tuesday evening (March 5, 2019) to advance in the Grayslake 3A Sectional. (More on that in the following post.)

The Rams started slow. I mean really slow. As slow as I have ever seen them start. They took a lot of shots in the first quarter. good makable shots. The shots would not fall. The Rams were behind 17-7 at the end of the first quarter.

But they rallied going on a 11-0 to start the second quarter. I felt a lot better. I confess at the end of the first, I was a little concerned that we might be a quarter of the way into another evening like the one in North Chicago last March.

It all worked out. Tom Kleinschmidt and his Rams dialed up the pressure and made shots. They gathered a sizable lead late into the fourth quarter. It got a little too close in the closing minutes but Raheem Anthony sealed the victory after a tough first three quarters for him with 6 for sure, but maybe 8, free throws to close out the game. That was clutch. (I am a little sketchy on the details at times because I am taking photos, not notes, during the game.)

My photos aren’t very good because I was watching the game too much. And the light in the gym sucked. Consequently, I had the ISO up too high. The photos are really grainy. Hope you like them.

2018-2019 IHSA 3A & 4A Girls Championship

Went to Bloomington for the 2018-2019 IHSA 3A and 4A girls championships. The IHSA and Rebird Arena run a nice event. They made it easy to go some good work. The light in that room is as good as I have seen. No issues at all.

I took a lot of pictures and I decided to put them all together. They were originally published in the IL Preps Insider. I hope you like them.

DePaul Prep Defeats Ridgewood 56-32 to win 3A Regional

The DePaul Prep Rams took care of business against the host Ridgewood Rebels 56-32 on Friday (March 1, 2019) to win their fifth IHSA Regional Playoff Championship in a row.

This is the last phase of the season—the IHSA 3A Playoffs. Been through Thanksgiving, Christmas, Shootouts, CCL games, now the playoffs. Another Regional championship in the books now its only good teams in front of the DePaul Prep Rams. Carmel, St. Viator, Farragut, Morgan Park and Springfield Southeast. That’s all. No problem.

The Rams have played the schedule for it. They played everyone tough. Took Morgan Park to the end. They can play. They know what to expect. Dribble, shoot, play defense, make layups and most importantly—make free throws. Do those things, get a little luck and who knows.  

Go Rams!

DePaul Prep Senior Night v. Mather, Rams 70, Panthers 25

The DePaul Prep Rams capped off a historic season Chicago Catholic League Championship regular season last night (Feb. 21, 2019) with an oversized 70-25 win over Mather. The Rams finish the regular season 20-9 overall and 12-3 in the Catholic League.

Seniors Perry Cowen, Raheem Anthony, Pavle Pantovic and Jack O’Brien played their last game in the Tom Winiecki Gym and it was a fun one. Thank you gentlemen for your Ram pride and dedication to your team and your school.

See you in Peoria!

Benet Defeats St. Viator 62-57

The St. Viator Lions traveled to Benet Academy Wednesday evening (Feb. 20, 2019) for an East Suburban Catholic Conference game with the conference title on the line. If the Lions won, they would be conference champs.

The game started slow with a lot of missed shots. But late first quarter threes from St. Viator’s Trey Calvin gave the Lions a 12-11 lead at the end of the first quarter.

However, despite Benet’s senior forward Kendrick Tchoua sitting out most of the second quarter with two fouls, the Lions had no answer for Benet’s junior center Colin Crothers. Crothers got the ball in the paint and scored to give Benet a 27-21 half time lead.

Benet held its lead throughout the second half increasing it to as much as 12 late in the fourth quarter. With several minutes left, St. Viator starting sending the Redwings to the line. Surprisingly, Benet kept missing free through and the Lions cut the deficit to five inside a minute. Two free throws by Tchoua extended the lead to seven with several seconds to go and Benet held on to the victory.

The Benet victory means that despite losing to St. Viator last Friday night, Marian Catholic is the East Suburban Catholic Conference champions.

The St. Viator Lions finished the season at 23-6 overall and 7-2 in the ESCC. The Lions host a 3A Regional starting Monday, with their first game Tuesday evening against the winner of Noble/ITW Speer and Marine Leadership Academy. The Lions come in as the #1 seed in the Grayslake Central Sectional.

Benet Academy finished the season at 22-7 over all and 7-2 in the ESCC. The Redwings enter the Bartlett 4A Sectional as the #2 seed behind #1 seed Geneva and play the winner of Addison Trail and Glenbard East on Tuesday.

Welcome to playoff time and the beginning of the end of another high school basketball season.

DePaul Prep Defeats De La Salle 63-44 to Win Catholic League Blue Outright

Below are my photos from the DePaul Prep v. De La Salle game last night (Feb. 19, 2019) at DePaul Prep. By virtue of the 63-44 victory over the Meteors, the Rams’ stand alone atop the Chicago Catholic League’s Blue Division. For the first time since 2000, the Catholic League basketball championship resides at Addison and California.

It was an emotional night for the Rams and their supporters, including this one, after a disappointing loss at St. Rita on Sunday. The Rams improve their overall record to 19-9 and 12-3 in the Chicago Catholic League. One more regular season game remains for the Rams. On Thursday night (Feb. 21, 2019), Mather High School comes to the Tom Winiecki Gym for a 6:00 p.m., senior night finale.

I would like to offer a special word of thanks to Tom Kleinschmidt and Ken Gryzwa for their offer to let me cut down a piece of the net and for giving me a piece after I had to refuse. It has been my honor and privilege to photograph the Gordon Tech/DePaul Prep games for several years now. I have gradually gotten better as a photographer as a result. I could never have done it without so many gracious subjects. I am overjoyed to see the Rams enjoying so much success. I am equally pleased to see that DePaul Prep remains a great school with a rich tradition of and vibrant future for Catholic education in Chicago.

Congratulations and continued success to my friends at DePaul Prep. In the immortal words of Paul Chabura, “And as always, Go Rams!”

DePaul Prep Defeats St. Ignatius 51-38

DePaul Prep Rams clinch a Chicago Catholic League Blue title with victory over Wolfpack.

Brother Rice Defeats DePaul Prep 67-54

On occasion I write, mostly in jest, that the light in the gym is the most important part of high school basketball. Well tonight I was down in the 19th Ward at Brother Rice. Please understand that I write this only from a place of Christian charity and as a loyal Chicago Catholic Leaguer, the light in the Brother Rice gym is . . . well . . . horrible.

There, I wrote it. Brother Rice has the nicest high school football stadium outside of Texas but very disappointing light in the gym. Such light as there is in the gym, which is not much, is yellow. All you Crusader fans and especially members of the Congregation of Christian Brothers, please do not hate me. It’s not personal; it’s photography.

I write this only to try and explain what I had to do to get some usable photos. I am still struggling to be a passable photographer. Much of what I have done this year is experimentation on the use of ISO. My current theory is not to go above 3200 ISO and try to bring back the exposure in Lightroom. This goes against my instinct to get the exposure right in the camera. When I shoot ISO above 3200, I find that my photos were noticeably grainy. (For example, look at my photos from the Orr v. Lane game, especially the photo that ended up in the Sun-Times.)

Today’s photos are competent enough but not good. The autofocus was dancing around on me. None of the photos are sharp. I have either reached the limit of my cameras’ capabilities or I don’t know how to make the most of the cameras—probably a little of both. I have got to get better at this.

As for the game, I think I will dial back that sort of commentary for a while. I talked to a friend this week who is a actual sportswriter. He said he enjoyed the blog but I found myself apologizing and explaining that I don’t pretend to be a sportswriter. That being said, the game was marred by fouls. I thought the referees did a terrible job on calls against both teams. Marquise Kennedy is very impressive. His foul shooting won the game. He can carry his team and did this afternoon.

Hope you like the photos.

CPS Quarterfinals: Simeon 66, Lane 59

End of the Regular Season

Early in this basketball season I wrote about the high school basketball season coming in phases: Thankgiving tournament, CCL crossover games, Christmas tournament, assorted shootouts. Now we are upon the second to last phase, the Chicago Catholic League Blue final games and await the IHSA playoffs.

I have told anyone foolhardy enough to listen that winning the Catholic League was what I wanted to see the DePaul Prep Rams do. Getting to Peoria would be nice but winning the 100 plus year old Chicago Catholic League is an accomplishment that means something, at least to me.

Well here we are. 8-1 in the Catholic League Blue with a one game lead on St. Laurence. Win out, and the DePaul Prep Rams and their coach, Tom Kleinschmidt will have won the Chicago Catholic League—the Catholic League Blue. But that is a subject for another day. Winning out means beating De La Salle, Fenwick (at Fenwick), Brother Rice (at Brother Rice), Loyola , St. Ignatius and then a chance to cap it off with a win against CCL White leader St. Rita.

There it is. Six CCL games in twelve days. All against historic rivals and good teams. If you do that, you’ve done something.

Even with this formidable task ahead and despite my frequent refrain against looking ahead, last night’s sixth Superbowl victory by Tom Brady and Bill Belicheck has me thinking. I could not stop myself from looking at the 3A IHSA playoffs and playing out the Sectional matchups.

Unlike most years, DePaul is not hosting either a regional or sectional. The IHSA 3A sectional assignments are out and DePaul has landed in the Grayslake Sectional. There are nineteen teams assigned to that sectional, including the formerly highly ranked and still extremely talented St. Viator Lions.

There are four regionals hosted by St. Patrick, Ridgewood, St. Viator and Carmel. It’s my understanding that teams are supposed to be assigned to geographically close regionals and not purely by seeded by the best teams. In practice, I am not sure how that all works. So I improvised. Basically, I just guessed. Looking at geography and over all records, this is what I came up with:

St. Patrick Regional: St. Patrick , Steinmetz, DePaul Prep, Noble/ITW Speer, Marine Leadership Academy.

Ridgewood Regional: Ridgewood, Sullivan, Noble/Pritzker, CICS/Northtown, Alcott.

St. Viator Regional: St. Viator, Northside, Elmwood Park, Amundsen and Intrinsic Charter.

Carmel Regional: Carmel, Antioch, North Grand and Grayslake Central

It’s not going to be exactly this but I would think not too far off. So we are probably looking at the regional champions being, DePaul Prep, Ridgewood (maybe Sullivan), St. Viator and Carmel with St. Viator squaring off against DePaul Prep in the Sectional final. Even with a Trey Calvin being out with a broken hand, St. Viator with Jeremiah Hernandez is very, very good. This is probably the best St. Viator basketball team in the school’s fifty-eight year history. I have been around that school since I started there are a freshman in 1977. This year’s team is the best I can remember and I am old, really old.

DePaul Prep and St. Viator in a sectional final shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. The Rams and Lions have been the only two ranked teams in the Grayslake Sectional. Each team has scheduled top competition and dominated their conferences.

As for the Super-sectional, the IHSA website hasn’t released which Super-sectionals will play each others. But if last year is a guide, the two northern most Super-sectionals played each other, Sears Center and NIU. If that holds true this year, the DePaul Prep Rams would not face the leading 3A powerhouses, Morgan Park and Bogan until Peoria.

So, there you have it. Win six Catholic Blue games and beat St. Viator. All for the chance to face Morgan Park, Bogan and or Springfield Southeast. This makes that stretch of games in the shootouts look like a walk in the park. Let’s get to work.

DePaul Prep’s Raheem Anthony with an over the head pass to Perry Cowen for the easy layup against Morgan Park.

DePaul Prep’s Raheem Anthony with an over the head pass to Perry Cowen for the easy layup against Morgan Park.

DePaul Prep Girls Senior Night, Lady Rams 60, Catalyst-Maria 53

Senior night photos are always fun. DePaul Prep varsity girls did not disappoint.

The Lady Rams defeated the Catalyst Maria Lady Wolves in a very entertaining game. The Lady Wolves came into the Tom Winiecki Gym with something to prove. They played hard, and a lot. They only had seven players. They were great three point shooters which kept them in the game. This observer came away impressed with the effort and the skills.

The DePaul Prep Lady Rams took care of business on Senior Night with parents, friends and classmates in attendance. The IHSA playoffs start on Monday with a 2A Regional at DePaul Prep. The Lady Rams have the No. 3 seed in the Timothy Christian Sectional and open the playoffs on Tuesday at home against the winner of Disney v. ASPIRA.

Lady Rams 60, Lady Wolves 53.