Four @ 4: Jan. 13 Update

1. Divers Still Searching for Woman Who Fell in Chicago River
The Chicago Police Marine Unit is still searching for the body of a 21-year-old woman who fell into the Chicago River just after midnight, according to the Chicago Tribune. She was trying to help a 26-year-old man she was with who had fallen into the water while lunging for his phone after it dropped on the riverwalk. That man died at Northwestern Memorial Hospital at roughly 3:14 a.m., and a 23-year-old man who was also with them remains hospitalized in stable condition.

Instagram: A rescue diver slides across the ice looking for survivors. (Video by Peter Nickeas/Chicago Tribune)

2. Firearm Seizures Down in 2013
According to RedEye, the Chicago Police Department said it seized 6,813 illegally possessed or used firearms in 2013, down from the roughly 7,400 firearms it seized in 2012. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has called for a mandatory three-year minimum sentence on gun violations in Illinois. Check out the Red Line Project’s coverage of Chicago’s gun violence problem.

3. Chicago Woman Falls to Death in San Diego
An unidentified Chicago-area woman fell to her death in San Diego Sunday evening. According to Fox 5 San Diego, the 25-year-old was posing for a picture at Sunset Cliffs when she slipped and fell. A San Diego police officer told the Tribune that although there are fences, cement blocks and warning signs to prevent such accidents, “people still want to get that photo.”

4. Derrick Rose Back on His Feet
After undergoing surgery in November to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee, Chicago Bulls point guard Derrick Rose is off crutches and is expected to resume travelling with the team in the coming weeks, reports ESPN Chicago. The news comes a day after general manager Gar Forman said the team is “retooling,” not rebuilding, on CSN Chicago’s Bulls Pregame Live.

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New Trier overcomes early deficit to beat Glenbrook South

New Trier 43, Glenbrook South 37


The New Trier girls basketball team had a scare in the first half against Glenbrook South, but the Trevians settled down at halftime and improved to a perfect 17-0 (5-0 CSL South) on the year.


Glenbrook South held a 12-4 lead at the end of the first quarter, but New Trier went on a 15-1 run over the next 10 minutes of game time to take a six-point lead. Glenbrook South never trailed by more than 10, but the Titans did not take a lead the rest of the game.


For New Trier, sophomore Jeannie Boehm finished with 12 points, six rebounds and four blocks and junior Jackie Welch added 12 points — all in the second half. For Glenbrook South, freshman point guard Carie Weinman had nine points and six rebounds.


The two teams combined for 46 turnovers with 26 coming in the first half. New Trier had 26 total, while Glenbrook South had 20 in the game.


“In the first half they flustered us. We had to calm down and slow down. We came out really quick, and it took us a while to settle down.” — Welch


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Four @ 4: Jan. 6 Update

1. Snow, Temps Leave Illinois in a State of Disaster
After winter storm “Hercules” dumped over a foot of snow on Illinois and wind-chill temperatures reached as low as 50-below zero Monday, Gov. Pat Quinn has declared Illinois to be in a state of disaster and has activated the Illinois National Guard. Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel—tanned from a family vacation to Indonesia—was asked where he had been during the storm just two questions into his press conference.

2. One of the Coldest Days in Chicago’s History?
CBS Chicago reported that the temperature of 16-below zero recorded at O’Hare is a record low for Jan. 6 in Chicago, but that today is not among the 15 coldest days in the city’s history. Chicago’s most frigid day came Jan. 20, 1985, when the temperature dropped to 27-below zero.

3. CTA Struggles
According to the Chicago Sun-Times, four people were injured this morning in a CTA bus crash in Beverly, and 14 Metra riders were hurt as a commuter train hit a “bumping post,” according to Crain’s. Several media outlets reported that every El line except the Pink Line experienced delays this morning, and the CTA Twitter feed was still reporting delays on multiple lines throughout the afternoon.

4. #ChiBeria
As the temperature dropped, some Chicagoans took it upon themselves to test the elements. On Jan. 5, a substitute teacher sent a picture to CNN of a T-shirt he washed that froze stiff in just five minutes in the elements. Mick Swasko with RedEye spent the day doing a series of alcohol-related experiments. It wasn’t a surprise that the glass bottle of Bud Light exploded, but how about ice forming in the shot of vodka?

Originally posted 01/06/13

By Jakub Rudnik

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Ridgewood holds off Schaumburg in wild fourth quarter

After missing five of the last six games due to injury, Ridgewood Anthony Mroz made sure to have an impact on Saturday’s game against Schaumburg.

The senior finished with 24 points, including six fourth-quarter free throws, as the Rebels (7-9 overall) held on to a 60-53 victory.

“I was lucky enough to get some fast breaks and some open looks from the three-point line,” said Mroz. “And the free throws [in the fourth quarter], I was able to knock them down.”

It was a game of runs for both teams through three quarters before each had a scoring outburst in the fourth.

After falling behind 14-4 at the end of the first, Schaumburg (6-9 overall) had two 9-0 runs in the second period, the final one capped by a buzzer-beating three by junior guard Charlie Quilico to tie the game at 23 heading into halftime.

Continue reading “Ridgewood holds off Schaumburg in wild fourth quarter”

Niles West girls basketball team united by loss to Niles North

After losing to rival Niles North in the final seconds and dropping a third consecutive contest, the Niles West girls basketball team came to a crucial point in its season.

“There were a lot of emotions after the North game,” junior point guard Katherine De Lara said. “It was a really personal game for us.”

The Wolves, after winning just four games a year ago, could have let the season turn south right then. Instead, the players took the 65-64 loss on Dec. 7 as a chance to learn.

“We all kind of came together after the [Niles North] game,” senior guard Kacie Simkins said. “We had a team talk after practice; we really boost each other up now.”

Niles West lost its next game to Glenbrook South, but followed that up with wins over Waukegan and Glenbrook North to improve to 3-4 on the season.

“We all love the game,” De Lara said. “Giving up isn’t our thing.”

A big part of why the girls were able to show such resilience is they’re a tight-knit group.

“Of my four years on varsity,” senior guard Alexandra Galanopoulos said, “this team may be the closest.”

“We’re definitely a lot closer than last year,” junior forward Julia Easter said. “[Last year] there wasn’t a lot of bonding off the court.”

This season, the Niles West girls have made a point to spend time away from basketball together, Easter said.

“Little things like going out to lunch and talking together as a team,” she said.

The players also have organized bigger activities, like a preseason bowling outing with the boys basketball team and an upcoming team sleepover. And for the holiday season the team raised money to buy presents for the children of a local family.

“We all pitched in and got the satisfying feeling of helping a family in need in our own community,” Galanopoulos said. A

ll of these experiences have served to bring the girls together on the court, where the only thing that matters to the players is the team’s success.

“We want to push each other to do well and do better,” De Lara said. “I like seeing a different person scoring the most each game. That really helps the chemistry.”

The Wolves are hoping to keep building on the recent success as conference play continues, and the girls know they can handle adversity if things don’t go their way.

“Our positivity helped us get through it [the losing streak],” Simkins said. “Now we’re hoping to keep this ball rolling, keep up our positive energy.

“As long as we go out trying hard, nobody can be upset with each other,” Simkins added. “It’s easy to play hard for people you like. It’s great playing with friends on the court.”


Originally posted on 12/26/13

By Jakub Rudnik

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Finding affordable housing in Chicago Lawn: one renter’s story

Even as the economy begins to recover from the recession that began in 2007, the housing crisis that helped cause it continues to play out in many areas of Chicago. The Chicago Lawn community area — bounded by 59th Street and 75th Street on Chicago’s southwest side — was hit particularly hard with a high rate of foreclosures throughout the crisis, forcing many residents to transition from homeownership to renting.

According to a report on rental housing affordability released by DePaul University’s Institute for Housing Studies (IHS) earlier this year, not only did the number of renter households in Chicago increase by more than 10 percent between 2007 and 2011, this increase was accompanied by a decline in household incomes for Chicago residents while rents stayed the same or rose. The same report found that the number of rent-burdened households, or households spending more than a third of their income on housing, had increased nearly 14 percent between 2007 and 2011 in Cook County across all income groups.

One Chicago Lawn resident, Maria Salinas, has experienced these changes firsthand. The single-family home her family had been renting went into foreclosure early in 2013.

“The house that we’re in now … it was in foreclosure, and now they’re trying to sell it,” Salinas said. “[The owner] owed way more than it was worth.”

Continue reading “Finding affordable housing in Chicago Lawn: one renter’s story”

Glenbrook North adjusting to running the motion offense

After being led by two players now on Division I basketball teams, the Glenbrook North boys squad had to make changes offensively to fit the returning roster.

In 2012-13, the Spartans’ offense ran through point guard Kurt Karis (Chicago State) and center Andrew McAuliffe (Davidson).

The two all-conference players ran a highly effective inside-outside two-man game, averaging a combined 31 points per game, or roughly 59 percent of Glenbrook North’s total offense.

With no returning player who averaged more than six points a game in 2012-13, the Spartans offense could no longer rely on star players making plays. So coach David Weber installed an offense to fit the more balanced roster.

“We run more of a motion offense this season,” said senior Ethan Lutz, who starts at shooting guard. “We’re trying to get the ball moving side-to-side.”

The offense involves quick passes and plenty of player movement to get opposing defenses out of position while the Spartans look for open looks, regardless of who shoots the ball.

“We share the ball more and our offense is a lot more spread out,” senior center Cameron Liss said. “There is a lot more movement without Andrew and Kurt.”

Another reason for the change to the motion offense is that, while Glenbrook North lacks a dominant point guard to run its offense, the team has a number of players with the versatility to play multiple positions.

Take Lutz, who spends time at both wing positions but also will bring the ball up the court against full-court pressure to, as he put it, “help us get into our offense, to give our point guards a break.”

“[Lutz] does a great job playing multiple positions,” Liss said. “He’s a great shooter, but he also handles the ball very well.”

Then there’s Jan Siegien who moved from power forward last season as a sophomore to small forward this year. He still has the skill to score inside, but his improved perimeter play fits in with the new offense.

“[Siegien’s] dribbling has been better moving from the four to the three,” Liss said. “He’s more agile, and he’s better at shooting from distance.”

And while Glenbrook North lacks a true back-to-the-basket scorer, Liss has moved into the starting lineup this season as an excellent fit in an offense where players are asked to have a variety of skills.

He played on the wing growing up before growing to 6-foot-4, and still played on the perimeter during AAU ball in the offseason

“Until a few years ago he was a guard,” Lutz said. “He’s definitely strong down low, but he’s also got a very good mid-range shot.”

The change to the new offense has not been without growing pains, as Glenbrook North has five early season losses by 10 points or less. But a 60-27 victory over Maine East on Dec. 12 has given the players confidence that things are really starting to click.

“[Despite the losses] we still have a lot of confidence,” Liss said. “We will continue to get better throughout the season.”

Originally posted on 12/20/13

By Jakub Rudnik

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Alex Mann boosts North Central with athletic and academic prowess

Just days after the North Central Cardinals football team advanced to the NCAA Division III national semifinals for the first time, one player in particular was recognized for his performance on and off the field.

Senior offensive lineman Alex Mann from Glenview was named to the 2013 Capital One Academic All-America Second Team, the third football player in school history to be honored by the program.

Mann, who started every game in 2012 at left guard as well as the first five games of this season before suffering an injury, is a double major in finance and accounting and has a 3.9 GPA.

An Illinois Academic All-State player in 2009 as a senior at Glenbrook South, Mann’s commitment to school made him a natural fit with the philosophy of North Central’s football program.

“[Coach John] Thorne says to us, ‘Faith first, then academics, then family, then football,’ ” Mann said. “ ‘If you’re not succeeding in academics, then you’re not succeeding in football.’ ”

Mann’s professors can vouch for his commitment to the classroom.

“Not only is he a great student, he’s one that is conscientious of the students around him,” said Gerald Thalmann, associate professor of accounting and Mann’s academic adviser. “Not only is he smart, he has a great personality to go along with it. People around him appreciate who he is and his work ethic.”

Mann has worked with his peers as a tutor for the accounting department over the past two years. He also participated in the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance program, helping low-income families and the elderly in the community.

Even with these activities, football and a full course load, Mann has avoided stretching himself too thin, his adviser said.

“He has a very good understanding of what he can do; he doesn’t try to overextend himself,” Thalmann said. “What he does, he does very well.”

Mann’s academic success earned him an internship this past summer with Ernst and Young in assurance service. He took the internship for credit through North Central, which led him to present research to the Illinois Accounting Teachers Conference in September.

“He answered questions … from roughly 100 faculty from surrounding colleges,” said Allison Hayes, an assistant professor of accounting who worked with Mann on the project. “It’s the type of project that only a handful of students do.”

The internship led to a full-time job offer for Mann with Ernst and Young in downtown Chicago upon graduation, which he has accepted.

North Central’s season came to an end Saturday when it suffered a 41-40 loss to Mount Union in the national semifinals. The Cardinals finished with a 13-1 record.


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Deerfield strives to strike an offensive balance

DEERFIELD — For the Deerfield girls basketball team, the ability to score both in the paint and from the perimeter is the key to striking an offensive balance.

The Warriors are led by a pair of sophomore guards — Margot Sylvan and Haley Greer — on the outside. Both are skilled players capable of knocking down shots and beating defenders off the dribble.

That playmaking ability was on full display in the first half of a 70-56 loss to rival Highland Park Dec. 10. In the opening quarter, the Warriors jumped out to a 20-18 lead with Sylvan scoring 12 points and Greer adding seven. Each knocked down a 3-pointer.

“We came out and had two steals by Emelia [Karkazis] and Haley and it got us going,” Sylvan said. “And they set up good looks for me, and I hit my shots.”

Sylvan added another eight points and two more 3-pointers before halftime, and Greer had a pair of assists.

“We were getting a lot of open shots,” said Karkazis. “A lot of in-and-outs for … Margot and Haley.”

But at halftime, the Giants began pressuring the ball harder on the perimeter, opening up space for Karkazis, a senior forward, to operate down low.

Through the first half she had been held scoreless with just two rebounds. But in the second half, she had nine points and eight boards, nearly finishing with a double-double.

“A lot of my points were from putbacks. I just really wanted the ball,” Karkazis said. “I wanted to help our team, and by doing that I just got down in the paint.”

Her teammates on the perimeter said that when their shots aren’t falling, they can rely on Karkazis to provide an offensive boost from the interior.

“She had that mindset that she just needed to score, to set up plays for us, which she did,” said Sylvan. “We looked for her when she was hot, and she made her layups and made her free throws.”

Going forward, Deerfield will be looking to get both parts of the offense clicking at the same time. Karkazis’ nine points in the half were more than the rest of the team combined to score (eight) as Highland Park pulled away. The Deerfield girls have plenty of CSL season left to find that balance, and more than a month before the Jan. 24 rematch with Highland Park.

“I just really wanted to win,” said Karkazis. “Highland Park is [our] biggest rival.”


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Highland Park’s best offense comes from defense

HIGHLAND PARK — Much of the Highland Park girls basketball team’s offensive success actually begins when it gets stops on the defensive end.

The Giants are often smaller than their opponents — nobody on the team is 6-foot tall — but many of the girls are quite athletic. So whenever possible, they look to get out into the open floor.

“We realize that we have some speed on our team,” said senior guard Lucy Hoffman. “If we can get transition baskets, then we’ll go for it.”

Pushing the ball in transition isn’t about just playing as fast as possible for Highland Park. It’s about trying to beat an opponent up the court after a defensive stop, particularly after turnovers.

“We like to think everything starts defensively,” Hoffman said.

The Giants showed how effective their transition offense can be in a 76-50 win over rival Deerfield Dec. 10. After giving up 20 points in the first quarter, Highland Park allowed just 30 in the final three periods and finished with a season-high 76 points. Highland Park forced 16 turnovers in the game.

“We played a lot better defensively in the second half,” said Giants coach Jolie Bechtel. “We got a lot of transition baskets which we talk a lot about … because we’re quicker than we have been the last couple of years.

“[At halftime] we talked about playing better defensively … no more basket-for-basket,” added Bechtel. “We did a better job of getting stops after we scored in the second half.”

Highland Park has been better scoring near the basket than on the perimeter this season, something that can be difficult in the half-court offense because of the team’s lack of size.

“When we are in the paint, our shooting percentage is significantly higher than we are on the perimeter,” said senior guard Sarah Glazer, who tied a career high with 19 points against Deerfield.“We want to get into transition because we’re a quick team.”

Since Highland Park is aware of its strengths (and weaknesses) as a unit, much of its success in CSL play will hinge on playing the right way on a game-to-game basis.

“It’s key that we be consistent,” Bechtel said. “That we don’t have a let down. That we continue to play to our ability.”

“You can have off nights shooting the ball. You can’t control that,” Glazer said. “Our defense is what we focus on.”

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