Category Archives: Sports

Preview: Dan Poneman’s ‘SwagAir’ Showcase & Q+A

Daniel Poneman knows basketball. He should, the game has been a part of his life since he was a kid. However, Poneman’s relationship with the game is markedly different than that of your average AAU player or high school starter. While the path a celebrated basketball player takes is well-documented, often ending up somewhere in this month’s March Madness tournament, Poneman’s journey from the end of the bench on his traveling team to being one of the pre-eminent college scouts by his teenage years is far from typical. In high school, while lining up next to some of the top talent Chicago and the country at large had to offer, Poneman was smart enough to recognize the resources around him and began blogging about local talent on social media and eventually, a site that later caught the attention of college coaches across the country and led to headlines from outlets like ESPN and the New York Times. A catalyst for NBA players like Anthony Davis, Jabari Parker and Jahlil Okafor, Poneman is continuing to invigorate the local hoops community, this time in the form of his SwagAir Showcase. Continue reading Preview: Dan Poneman’s ‘SwagAir’ Showcase & Q+A

St. Charles East edges Schaumburg

By Jake Krzeczowski 
11/21/2012, 10:59pm CST
Originally Appeared for Chicago Sun-Times

Dom Adduci’s basket with seven seconds remaining gave St. Charles East a 48-46 win over Schaumburg on Wednesday.

Dom Adduci made a runner in the lane with seven seconds left to give host St. Charles East a 48-46 victory over Schaumburg at the Ron Johnson Thanksgiving tournament on Wednesday.

Kendall Stephens netted 22 points as the Saints handed Schaumburg it’s second consecutive loss.

Dom Adduci

It was back and forth early with neither team able to get much of a rhythm in a tight defensive battle that resulted in Schaumburg leading 8-6 at the end of the first quarter.

Stephens was active early, scoring four of five of the teams baskets to start the game before Jordan Wilson’s three-pointer gave the Saints another contributor.

Even Stephens’ misses seemed to fall favorably, more often than not finding the hands of juniors AJ Washington (nine points, six rebounds, two steals) and David Mason, who cleaned the glass all game, scoring a majority of their points off put backs.

But Schaumburg put together a full team effort behind seniors Kyle Bolger (14 points) and Bobby Green (11 points), who willed their team to a 22-19 deficit at halftime.

Kendall Stephens

“We have great senior leadership on this team and I expect that to improve as the season goes on,” Schaumburg coach Matt Walsh said. “We’re going to get better at that and a lot of other things here as the season progresses.”

The Saxons kept it close after the break, playing smart defense in holding Stephens to five points in the third quarter. Careful shot selection and a few favorable calls allowed Schaumburg to break through the Saints zone defense, pulling within one heading into the fourth.

“The game was very physical,” Stephens said. “Schaumburg’s a great team, you have to give them credit they made it hard for us to get into our offense.”

Stephens’ thunderous dunk set the tone for the fourth quarter as the Saints cut down on the fouls and tightened up the defense to pull away.

Adduci, sophomore guard Jake Asquini (seven points) and Washington, sparked the Saints at the right time, combining for a slew of tipped passes, blocks and rebounds that threatened to blow the game wide open.

But Bolger just wouldn’t go away, slicing to the basket and drawing fouls or setting up senior forward Jimmy Lundquist, whose six points were well-timed to keep the game close late.

In the end, though, it was Adduci who stole the show, hitting a runner in the paint to earn the win.

“We were looking for Kendall and he wasn’t there so I just went to the hoop,” Aducci said. “It felt great coming out of my hand and it was the best feeling ever once it went through.”

Next up for St. Charles East is a showdown against St. Joseph on Friday.

“I feel great moving forward, St. Joe’s is going to be a big test for us,” Stephens said. “We’re just going to take advantage of the day off, rest and get back to it.”

Goetz, Payne pace St. Charles North victory

By Jake Krzeczowski – 11/21/12
Originally Appeared for Chicago Sun-Times

Alec Goetz scored 16 of his 18 points in the first half, and Quinten Payne added 16 points as St. Charles North defeated North Lawndale 55-50 on Wednesday.

St. Charles North took a commanding first-half lead before holding on down the stretch to defeat North Lawndale 55-50 in the St. Charles East Ron Johnson Thanksgiving Tournament.
The victory gives coach Tom Poulin his 100th win.”This is definitely a game you learn from,” Poulin said of a sloppy second half. “We will take this and learn from it and come back after the holiday ready to go.”

North Lawndale got into foul trouble early, and the North Stars capitalized, shooting 9-for-12 from the free-throw stripe in the first quarter.
Early calls also kept sophomore guard Damontre Enos on the bench for much of the early going and gave St. Charles North an opportunity to push the ball inside.

The North Stars connected on 4 of 6 three-pointers in the first half en route to a 36-18 halftime lead.

St. Charles North senior forward Quinten Payne scored 16 points as North Lawndale shadowed him on defense.

“We knew who he was, we just wanted to make sure to keep the ball out of his hands and contest everything he put up,” North Lawndale head coach Lewis Thorpe said.

Junior point guard Alec Goetz kept the North Stars going with 16 of his 18 points in the first half, helping his team keep its uptempo pace despite North Lawndale’s press.

The Phoenix came out for the second half fired up, closing the gap to five points with under a minute remaining in the game on the back of a Mack, who scored 17 of his 19 points after the break.

Thorpe made sure his team was ready to go after a lackluster first half.

“We just needed to play with more pride,” Thorpe said. “We’re a team from the city so we should be used to a physical game like this.”

Jackson leads Glenbard North past Fremd

10/27/2012, 10:15pm CDT

 By Jake Krzeczowski

Originally Appeared at Chicago Sun-Times

Justin Jackson ran for 221 yards and three touchdowns as Glenbard North knocked off Fremd 31-24 in the opening round of the Class 8A state playoffs.

Visiting Glenbard North overcame unusual circumstances and a furious fourth quarter rally by Fremd to get a 31-24 win in the first round of the Class 8A state playoffs.

It was a battle on the ground as each offense boasted a stellar running game and made sure to prove it.

The Panthers junior running back Justin Jackson drove his team to the win, scoring three times while racking up 221 yards rushing. Junior running back Jeff McGlade added 93 yards and one touchdown for the Vikings.

Fremd, who found itself down 17-3 at halftime, came out of the break focused.

The Vikings put together an 11 play drive that lasted nearly half of the third quarter, culminating in a two yard touchdown run by McGlade to cut the lead to 17-10.

Jackson made his presence felt on the next two possessions, scoring on plays of nine and 61 yards.

“On offense we stepped up and had a good game,” Jackson said. “It’s been like this since I was in second grade: run, run, run and when I got to Glenbard it was no different. I love it.”

Fremd, who shifted its offensive strategy from the spread to the single-wing after losing starting quarterback senior Sam Beutler to a separated shoulder in week seven, decided to return to throwing the ball late in the game.

“We knew we needed to do something, they were doing a good job shutting us down up front,” said Fremd head coach Lou Sponsel. “We felt we had to put our athletes out there and get the ball in their hands.

One of those athletes was junior wide receiver Matt Konopka, whose big catches from junior quarterback Trever Cutler late in the fourth quarter kept the Vikings in striking distance to the end.

Alas, it was Jackson to the rescue all the way to the finish. Facing a third and long with a chance to run out the clock he broke several tackles to pick up the final first down.

“The last play where Justin broke through there was great, he’s just a great player,” said Glenbard North head coach Ryan Wilkens

Although Glenbard North had home advantage with their 8-1 record, the game was moved to Fremd because of an incident in which fans rushed the field in a 2007 matchup of the two schools.

Although it could have been a distraction,  Wilkens dismissed it as a problem.

“We don’t buy into all the hoopla, I told my kids to just worry about what we need to do and that’s what high school football is all about.”

Glenbard North will now shift its sights to Stevenson as it moves into the second round of playoff contention.

“We’re just ready to move on, get healthy and watch some film and get ready for next week against Stevenson.”

Garcia grabs chance to take Gold

 By Jake Krzeczowski | Contributor | @Pioneer_Press October 19, 2012 9:16PM


Names in the Game:

Darien, IL – Friday, September 21, 2012: Leyden’s wide receiver Andrew Garcia (23) tries to pick up some extra yards vs Hinsdale South’s Jake Czajkowski (9). | Steve Johnston~for Sun-Times Media
Noteworthy efforts: The senior wide receiver caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the football team’s 18-7 win over Proviso East Friday. The Eagles clinched their first outright conference championship since 1979.


NORTHLAKE — Halfway through Friday’s contest against Proviso East, Leyden found itself in unfamiliar territory — tied going into halftime.

With a much-anticipated matchup against Lyons coming up, the Eagles were in danger of an unsightly upset. The Pirates’ big defensive line stuffed the gaps, giving Leyden a hard time getting anything going on offense.

Senior quarterback Mike Smith was looking for a saving grace and he found it in senior wide receiver Andrew Garcia, who stepped up to help deliver the Eagles their first outright West Suburban championship since 1979.

“He’s got my back and I have his,” Smith said. “We’ve been playing together since freshman year. He’s definitely my go-to receiver.”

That familiarity came in handy in the second quarter when Smith found Garcia facing man coverage and hit him down the middle of the field for a 20-yard touchdown.

“We saw the safeties were playing man on the slot receiver so I just ran a good slant, caught it and got into the end zone,” Garcia said.

After Proviso East capitalized on a Smith interception, scoring on a 1-yard run by Lawrence Griffith, the score was knotted to end the second quarter.

“Early on we just couldn’t stick it in the end zone,” said coach Tom Cerasani. “Sometimes it’s tough to keep focus this time of the year, especially having already secured the conference championship.”

With a half of football standing between the Eagles and an outright championship, the team’s large senior class made sure everyone knew what was on the line.

“I pointed to our crowd and told the guys we wanted it more. We expected to win and we did,” senior running back Mickey Gulo said.

Leyden proved it wanted it more in the second half and Garcia was there the whole way.

As an occasional defensive back, the wide receiver takes notes on how receivers and defenders react to one another coming off the line and running routes.

“I understand how it feels to be a defensive back so I try to mix it up a lot on my routes,” said Garcia, who posted career highs of eight catches and 107 yards against the Pirates. “(Smith and I) play baseball together and are always around each other so the chemistry has developed.”

That craftiness paid off in the second half as Garcia came through with two tough catches after the half to help his team overcome some sticky third-down situations and seal the game for good.

“(Garcia) made some big plays that kept us in the game at times,” Cerasani said. “We were struggling a little bit there and he made some big plays.”


Names in the Game


Noteworthy efforts: The senior wide receiver caught eight passes for 107 yards and a touchdown in the football team’s 18-7 win over Proviso East Friday. The Eagles clinched their first outright conference championship since 1979.


Noteworthy efforts: The junior middle hitter came up big to help the Leyden volleyball team beat Elmwood Park 25-20, 25-17 on Oct. 10.

Quick Hits

Big Numbers

1999 | The last time the Leyden football team won eight regular-season games. The Eagles (7-1) can reach that total with a win Friday at Lyons.

Mooseheart squeaks past North Shore

10/20/2012, 12:00am CDT

By Jake Krzeczowski

Sahr Mahoney was huge in Mooseheart’s 28-27 win over visiting North Shore Country Day Friday night.

Mooseheart outlasted visiting North Shore Country Day in a near repeat of last year’s matchup between the two, squeaking by 28-27 Friday night.

North Shore’s four turnovers were the difference in the game, as they set up the Mooseheart offense on several occasions.

The Red Ramblers’ Sahr Mahoney was seemingly everywhere at once. Mahoney intercepted two passes on defense, racked up six catches for 107 yards and a touchdown and added another score on the ground.

“It’s crazy to be out there all the time, sometimes I wonder how I keep going,” said Mahoney, whose interception with 1.8 seconds left sealed the game. “I’ve been training for this game all season though and am excited to get the win.”

After a back-and-forth battle through the first half, which saw each team score twice unanswered to make the score 14-13 Mooseheart things heated up in the fourth as the teams traded leads four times in the final 12 minutes.

North Shore kept the ball on the ground behind a solid rushing attack. Senior running back Kendrick Hales (16 attempts, 240 yards, two touchdowns) led the way. His 65-yard scamper down the sideline gave the Raiders a six-point lead with under six minutes to go.

North Shore had a chance to take control of the game following a touchdown from Mooseheart senior quarterback Jonathan Hart to Mahoney that put the Raiders down one with 3:20 to go in the game.

Staying true to form, the Raiders, who threw the ball only twice in the second half, continued to pound away on the ground with little success.

“They were giving us the run and our running game was working,” said North Shore coach Fred Miller. “We just have to manage the clock and hold on to the football and we won’t end up in a situation like that we don’t want to be in.”

With each team losing to Ottawa Marquette, Mooseheart was able to secure second place in the Northeastern Athletic Conference heading into Saturday’s playoff selection with an 8-1 record.

“This win means a lot, momentum is the key,” said Mooseheart coach Gary Urwiler. “Right now, mentally, we feel pretty darn good. We’ll get ready and see who we have to play.

Leyden defense finishes off Proviso East

BY JAKE KRZECZOWSKI | Contributor | Pioneer Press October 12, 2012 11:40PM

Updated: October 13, 2012 1:08AM

NORTHLAKE — Leyden stormed back after a lackluster first half to easily dispatch Proviso East 18-7, earning the Eagles full control of the West Suburban Gold for the first time since 1979 and moving to 7-1 on the season on senior night.

The celebration may have started as soon as the clock hit zero, but it wasn’t all fun and games as Proviso East turned an early interception into seven points on junior quarterback L

Story Image

awrence Griffin’s 1-yard run to tie the game going into halftime.

The Eagles came out firing from the start, demonstrating their ability through the air and on the ground en route to first downs on three of the first four plays, but fizzled out quickly as a big Pirates defensive line held its ground.

Tough running from senior Mickey Gulo (14 carries, 57 yards) paced the Leyden attack while senior wide receiver Andrew Garcia (8 catches 107 yards, TD) helped stretch the field throughout.

“(Garcia) has been my receiver since freshman year; I love throwing the ball to him,” said senior quarterback Mike Smith (13-18, 209 yards, TD, INT). “I can’t wait for next week.”

Garcia, who puts in time on defense as well, acted as Smith’s personal safety valve, bailing the Eagles out of several third-and-long situations.

“He’s always looking out for me and I’m always looking out for him,” said Garcia. “I understand how it feels to be a defensive back so I try to mix it up a lot on my routes.”

The game swung permanently in Leyden’s favor in the third quarter.

The defense stepped up after halftime with an interception on the first possession.

“We knew we were going to come out stronger in the second half,” said Gulo. “I told the guys, ‘We want it.’ We expected to win and we did.”

In a span of three minutes, Gulo scored on a 5-yard run and Proviso East snapped the ball over the punter’s head and into the end zone for a safety to give the Eagles nine unanswered points.

On the next Proviso East possession it was junior defensive lineman Cristian Murillo who caught the Pirates’ Griffin in the end zone for a second consecutive safety.

“It was a lot closer than we would have liked but we got it done,” Leyden head coach Tom Cerasani said. “Early we just couldn’t stick it into the end zone but in the end a win’s a win.”

With the victory, Leyden turns its sights on Lyons in a contest to could determine whether the Eagles have a first-round playoff game at home.

“Winning conference for the first time since 1979 feels great,” said Cerasini. “I’m proud of these guys, they deserve this.”

Pick up your local Pioneer Press newspaper on Thursday to read more about the Leyden football team.

Montini steamrolls Immaculate Conception

09/29/2012, 5:00pm CDT
Originally Appeared at Chicago Sun-Times
By Jake Krzeczowski
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Junior quarterback Alex Wills passed for 152 yards and four touchdowns to lead No. 9 Montini to a 49-0 romp over Immaculate Conception Saturday in Elmhurst.

 Montini took care of business Saturday in Elmhurst as it scored on its first six possessions, defeating host Immaculate Conception 49-0 in a Suburban Christian crossover.

 The No. 9 Broncos didn’t waste any time, sacking senior quarterback Demetrius Carr on the first play of the game.

After a three-and-out, junior quarterback Alex Wills connected with senior wide receiver Joseph Borsellino on a three-yard touchdown pass to give Montini (5-1, 4-0) the lead for good.

Wills found the end zone again in the first quarter with a short pass to senior Michael Dusek who took it 38 yards for the score to put the Broncos up 14-0.

“We were looking to the weak side of the field all game and it was there,” Wills said. “We executed that the way we wanted and were able to come out on top.”

The play of the game came in the second quarter when Montini junior linebacker Michael Maduko picked up a fumble and outraced everyone 47 yards to the end zone.

“The ball bounced out right at my feet. I just picked it up and took off,” Maduko said.

Immaculate Conception (4-2, 2-2) couldn’t get the ball moving, and punted on its first three possessions before Montini senior defensive back Ryan Starbeck picked off a Carr pass just before half.

The Knights didn’t threaten in the first half and were thwarted on fourth-and-goal from the two-yard line late in the third quarter.

“They smacked us in our face,” Carr said. “We came out ready to play but we didn’t really bring it. We’re just going to try to put this game behind us and move on.”

For Montini the game was a statement after a close call last week at Marmion raised some questions about the defending state champions.

Wills finished with 152 yards passing and four touchdowns while senior kicker Andrew Harte extended his streak of made extra points to 81 with seven on the day. Senior running back Dimitri Taylor added 88 yards and a touchdown on the ground for the Broncos.

Immaculate Conception heads to Aurora to take on Aurora Christian next week while the Broncos travel to Woodstock for a big matchup against Marian Central.

“This was our best game of the season,” Montini head coach Chris Andriano said. “We executed at an extremely high level. I think we’re getting that edge, we know what time of the year it is.”

Chicago Football Classic bands march to a different beat

By Jake Krzeczowski September 29, 2012 5:02PM

Originally appeared for Chicago Sun-Times


It’s more than the game.

When Albany State and Kentucky State take to the gridiron Saturday for the annual Chicago Football Classic at Soldier Field, the real contest will be in the stands after the final whistle.

That’s when the Battle of the Bands, with the two nationally known marching bands, begins.

The Sun-Times caught up with Albany State’s drum major, senior music education major James Worthy of Albany, Ga.:

Q. What are you looking forward to this weekend?

A. I’m actually looking forward to coming to Chicago because I’ve never been that far north before. I’m also looking forward to how Chicago responds to our type of music.

Q. How would you describe that type of music?

A. What we try to do is make a concert band. We try to have a really nice, symphonic band and try to put that type of sound on the field so we sound like a marching symphonic band.

Q. What can fans expect?

A. They can expect a band that tries to hype the football team as well as one that tries entertain the crowd.

Q. What separates Albany State from other band?

A. A lot of bands say that being louder is better. But being louder is not always better. We’d always rather have better quality over our opponent. We try to do a lot more musicianship and have a lot more musicality in what we do. Jake Krzeczowski is a local free-lance writer.

Palatine earns comeback win against Fremd

09/29/2012, 12:15am CDT

 By Jake Krzeczowski

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The Fremd Vikings came out strong with hope of ruining Palatine’s homecoming but fell short as a fourth quarter rally fizzled out and the Palatine earned a 24-17 victory.

Fremd opened up a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter thanks to a 25-yard field goal from junior Andrew Stark and a 5-yard touchdown run from junior quarterback Sam Beutler.

After falling behind, the Pirates defense locked up the Vikings, shutting down the run game and intercepting Beutler once before and after halftime to set up their high-scoring offense.

“That defense flies,” said Beutler. “They’re a great team. If that’s the best team in the state our squad’s right there with them.”

Ethan Olles (13-24, 163 yards, 3 TDs) took advantage of the Fremd turnovers by tossing touchdowns to senior Alex Nawrot (5 catches, 34 yards) and junior Eric Theis (3 catches, 61 yards) to give his team a 17-10 halftime lead.

“Coming in we wanted to pass more than we ran,” said Olles. “I’ve been throwing to [Nawrot] since freshman year and Theis has become a solid starter for us which good.”

A Olles pass to junior running back Chaka Kelly went for 18 yards and a touchdown to give Palatine a two score lead with under five minutes to go in the third quarter. Kelly finished the game with 102 yard on 14 attempts on the ground.

“I knew it was going to be an emotional game,” said head coach Tyler Donnelly. “Coming in we knew they didn’t give up a lot of points so when we pushed it to two scores I felt like we would have a chance to extend that in the fourth.”

Fremd wasn’t ready to give up though, scoring on a 2-yard run from junior Jeff McGlade (55 yards, 16 attempts).

After an onside kick was recovered by the Pirates, a three and out gave the Vikings a first and ten from their own 42 with under two minutes left.

A 27-yard pass from Beutler to junior Matt Konopka gave Fremd hope. Junior defensive back Bradley Bauer extinguished that flame when he intercepted the ball with under a minute left and took it back 60 yards to the Viking 20.