Half Over and Plenty Left to Do for DePaul Prep Rams

The season is half over. 29 regular season games with 14 in books. The DePaul Prep Rams record stands at 11 wins, 3 losses and 5-0 in the Chicago Catholic League. The Rams are ranked #12 in the Sun-Times Super 25 and #15 in the Chicago Tribune top 20.

The Rams have wins over #23 Providence St. Mel and #13 Leo. The three loses have been to Benet Academy, (12-3, 4A, currently ranked #16), Marian Catholic (14-1, 4A, #4) and Oswego East, (11-2, 4A, #17) by a total of nine points. So basically, the Rams have a couple good wins and three “good” losses.

It has been a long time since a DePaul Prep or Gordon Tech team has been this good. The Rams last won the Catholic League in 2000. The 11-3 mark is the best in the tenure of Coach Tom Kleinschmidt.

The first part of the year made believers out of those that thought the Rams might not be very good given the loss to North Chicago in last year’s sectional final. The Rams made a believer out of me early when the just appeared to play angry. Serious as a heart attack. Ask Notre Dame and Lane Tech. Those games impressed me. The Rams put those good teams away. Providence St. Mel came into the Tom Winiecki Gym hot and with a lot of hype. The Knights left soundly defeated.

The Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic, while disappointing for the Rams, was not a failure. They lost a close game to a very, very good Marian Catholic team. I have seen a lot of good teams this year: Evanston, St. Viator, Bloomington, Morgan Park, Curie, Uplift and Bloom. Marian Catholic looked just as good as any of those teams. As for losing to Oswego East in a double overtime 3rd place game, that means nothing. Who cares about a third-place game? Not me.

Still, the season is half over. It’s too early to be a good season. There is a great deal of work left to do and many very good teams to overcome.

The best teams left on the regular season schedule are #5 Morgan Park, #21 St. Laurence, #22 New Trier, and then CCL rivals Brother Rice, Fenwick, Loyola and St. Rita. The best is yet to come, a preview game against Morgan Park, a trip to Quincy, a fun one in a big shootout against New Trier and then the Catholic League games. Win the Catholic League. That’s what I want to see. Win the Catholic League.

After that, we’ll just have to see what happens.

Day One Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic

I saw three games of the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic. I planned to stay there all day. But I can’t seem to ever stay for a whole day of games.

I arrived in time for the second game, Marian Catholic Spartans v. Glenbrook North Spartans. The Glenbrook North Spartans played a spirited first quarter staying with the Marian Catholic on the strength of outside shooting. But it did not take long for the other Spartans to pull away. Marian Catholic excelled in all phases; they shot well, scored off the fast break and played outstanding defense. Final: Marian Catholic 67, Glenbrook North 47.

I didn’t photograph the third game, St. Charles East v. Stevenson. I caught up on preparing for the DePaul (9-1) Prep v. Urban Prep Englewood (0-9) game next.

The DePaul Prep Rams came out a little flat but Perry Cowen added seven in the second quarter and the Rams never looked back. Granted this was not the most serious test for the Rams but this team of seniors just seems to take care of business.

St. Charles East should prove a tougher test for the Rams on Thursday. Assuming they survive this Kane County test, the Rams are likely to face one of their toughest games so far. Marian Catholic is as good as the Rams have faced with the possible exception of Leo.

And then after Marian Catholic, either Lincoln Park, H-F or Oswego East. The Hinsdale Central tournament is tough.

DePaul Prep Edges Leo in OT

The #11 ranked DePaul Prep Rams edged the #4 Leo Lions on Friday (December 21, 2018) 61-58 in DePaul’s Tom Winiecki Gym. This matchup of the top teams in the Chicago Catholic League did not disappoint. One could tell that it was going to be close in the end even as the Rams opened a six-point early lead.

There were a great many Leo fans in the crowd. I haven’t seen so many opposing fans since the last time Loyola came in. The game got a little chippy. I didn’t really see what was going on. I have a very narrow field of view looking through a 70-200 mm lens all evening. I miss a lot. But of what I saw, it did not look too bad.

Leo’s DaChaun Anderson played inside against DePaul as well as anyone has this year. He is a beast and can finish. Myles Thomas was solid as usual. And of course, Fred Cleveland. He seems so small out there but I have never seen a small guard like that so able to drive and score.

With 4.1 on the clock in the fourth quarter, after DePaul’s Raheem Anthony missed the second of his 1 and 1 with the scored tied, Leo senior guard Fred Cleveland took an outlet pass and launched a shot from three quarters court which banked in off the glass for an apparent Leo victory. But with the ball in air, a ref blow his whistle repeatedly waiving off the shot because of a travel by Fred Cleveland. I didn’t see it in real time but seeing it on video, it looked like a travel to me and the referee started the call before the shot when it. Nevertheless, the Leo faithful were not happy.

In OT, the Rams finished as usual. They seem so determined this year. I wish I could pick a standout performance by one of the Rams. But they all played well. They all contributed. Pavle scored inside. Ty Johnson hit a big 3 late. Perry scored inside and outside including another monster dunk. Lance played great defense, rebounded and hit his shots. Brian Mathews come off the bench in the first half and hit two big free throws. Solid and determined all the way round. The Rams rallied back from losing the lead late in the game.

The Rams improved there record to 9-1 overall and 5-0 in the Catholic League. The games against Blue division CCL teams begin after the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic which starts the day after Christmas. The Lions record drops to 9-2 overall and 4-1 in the Catholic League. Leo’s #4 ranking is in some jeopardy but if they fall, they won’t fall far. They played well but were edged in the end by the talented and determined #11 ranked Rams.

As for the photography, I took 2130 photos. That’s a lot more than I usually take. I am not sure why—just a lot of action. I tinkered around with the settings again, going with a fixed ISO at 6400, rather than automatic. The auto setting was pushing up to 12,800 which gave me images that were too grainy. These images came out okay but I had to boost the exposure on all of them.

So onto the Christmas tournaments. I am not sure where I will be yet. I will be out at Hinsdale Central for some games but I will be looking for the best matchups of teams I haven’t see yet. I had planned to go to Pontiac but I don’t know if I will this year. We’ll see.

DePaul Prep's Season . . . So Far

With DePaul Prep’s regular season in the home stretch, indulge us in a brief recap and look ahead. With five games to go, the Rams have a 18-4 overall record with quality wins over Notre Dame, Leo, Benet, St. Rita, St. Joseph and Evanston. The four loses have all come at the hands of ranked, or previously ranked, teams, Niles North, St. Rita, Lincoln Park and Loyola.

The Rams dominated opponents in the first part of the season except for the game against highly regarded Niles North. Lance Mosley’s last second three pointer sealed the road victory over Benet Academy. Another very nice road win in the Chicago Catholic League Blue division against the ranked Leo Lions impressed fans and critics alike.

Next came the Hinsdale Central Holiday Classic where the Rams scored wins over Crete-Monee and Stevenson. In what had to be the Rams worst game of the year, DePaul did not look good at all against St. Rita—a painful loss to eventual tournament champion. Next was a close loss to a hot Lincoln Park team in the consolation game (which pretty much does not count because it was a tournament consolation game).

The third phase of the season was the Martin Luther King Day tournament with some non-conference games sprinkled in. The Rams won the MLK Tournament with wins over St. Francis (Wheaton), Lindbloom, Riverside-Brookfield and Loyola.

The Rams scored a big CCL rematch win at St. Rita and took care of a very good St. Ignatius team next. The head scratch game of the year was Loyola. Just could not get a shot to drop against a red-hot Loyola team. Another head-scratcher at St. Joseph with only 10 points in the second half saved by a long gaming three-pointer from Raheem Anthony and brought home a key CCL Blue game.

An invitation to Joe Henrickson’s “When Sides Collide” Shootout brought a match-up with Evanston. The Rams scored another season defining 59-52 win over the Wildkits. Perry Cowen putting two 20 plus point totals up in two games.

Looking ahead a little, the Rams have games left against Fenwick, Brother Rice and DeLaSalle in the CCL Blue plus a CCL White crossover game against Montini. Fenwick can take the CCL Blue with two road wins against DePaul and Loyola. Fenwick travels to DePaul this coming Friday and Loyola on February 26th. If Fenwick falls to one of those teams, we may be looking a three way tie between Fenwick, DePaul and Loyola in the Blue.

Don’t hold your breath, Fenwick is ranked 7th and has looked good against the area’s top teams despite suffering some losses. The DePaul/Fenwick is Friday at DePaul. It will be a special night at DePaul’s Tom Winiecki Gym because DePaul is retiring current head coach, former Gordon Tech star and former DePaul University All American Tom Kleinschmidt’s #34. Coach Kleinschmidt enters the game with a 108-59 win/loss record at Gordon Tech/DePaul over the last six seasons.

I know it is bad luck but let’s look ahead to the IHSA playoffs. DePaul Prep elected to move up to 3A where they have been assigned to North Chicago Sectional in the Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional. The Rams avoided the Joliet Central Super-Sectional with the other ranked teams in 3A. There are no Sun-Times Super 25 ranked teams in Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional. Other than DePaul, the best team is probably Carmel, a lesser light in the East Suburban Catholic Conference. DePaul also has the advantage of hosting a regional again this year.

There are some good teams in 3A has ranked teams. Morgan Park, North Lawndale, Hillcrest, Marian Catholic are all ranked. Previously, ranked teams include St. Laurence, St. Rita.

In terms of downstate 3A teams, MaxPreps has Champaign Central, Springfield Southeast and Centralia all ranked ahead of DePaul Prep. But none of those teams are in the Hoffman Estates Super-sectional. In fact, the highest MaxPreps ranked team in the Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional is Carmel ranked #18 in 3A and #78 in the state.

So, here is what’s left to do: take care of Fenwick, win the Catholic League Blue, win the home regional, win the North Chicago Sectional, win the Hoffman Estates Super-Sectional at the Sears Centre, go to Peoria, beat Marian Catholic, Morgan Park and/or Champaign Central and collect state championship trophy. See how easy that is?