Sports News

The Free Press WV

►  Sports study: High school athletes not being fully protected

A high school sports study conducted by the Korey Stringer Institute shows that many individual states are not fully implementing key safety guidelines to protect athletes from potentially life-threatening conditions, including heat stroke.

More than 7.8 million high school students participate in sanctioned sports annually. KSI announced the results Tuesday at a news conference at NFL headquarters. The league partially sponsors the institute.

The state-by-state survey of all sports played in high school showed North Carolina with the most comprehensive health and safety policies at 79 percent, followed by Kentucky at 71 percent. At the bottom were Colorado (23 percent) and California (26 percent). Those scores were based on a state meeting best practice guidelines addressing the four major causes of sudden death for that age group: cardiac arrest, traumatic head injuries, exertional heat stroke and exertional sickling occurring in athletes with sickle cell trait.

“The bottom line is that many simple policy changes can have a massive impact when a life is saved,” says Dr. Douglas Casa of KSI. “That is the goal of KSI in releasing these rankings, to prevent needless deaths in high school sports. We have had countless conversations with loved ones who have lost a child/sibling/grandchild/athlete. If these rankings can get more kids home for dinner instead of to a hospital or morgue, then we have succeeded.”

The institute is a sports safety research and advocacy organization located at the University of Connecticut and named after the former Vikings star who died from exertional heat stroke in 2001.

Sudden cardiac arrest is the leading cause of death for the age range.

Casa notes that progress is slow because most states only make a change after a tragedy. But he stresses that the policies KSI promotes are not difficult to adopt.

“At least one state has adopted each individual item, and for many items, more than half of the states have the policy in place,” he explains. “So this tells us it is feasible (to maximize protection). Now we need to collectively get states to learn from their colleagues and adapt these (programs) in their own state. Our top state is at about 80 percent, showing that, with effort, these policies can be implemented.”

Bob Gfeller lost his son, Matthew, at age 15 in 2008, after a traumatic brain injury while playing in his first high school football game. Gfeller is an executive vice president at Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center and the executive director of the Childress Institute for Pediatric Trauma. He found the wide range of results by state “enlightening.”

Asked what can be done to get states to adopt more of the guidelines to protect high school athletes, Gfeller says: “Sharing of best practices amongst the state high school professionals. For each state to study where they are gapping and what other states who are scoring high are doing, so then to be able to determine how to close their gap.”

In his field of expertise, exertional heat stroke, Casa notes that states that have adapted significant changes to heat acclimatization policies have not had such a death when the policies have been followed.

“Keep in mind these policies are for the phasing in of initial practices in August,” Casa says. “Some of these states have still had exertional heat stroke deaths during summer conditioning in June/July or other times of the year, because they lack policies that govern these other circumstances.”

To prevent death from EHS, it comes down to three things:

— Prevention — heat acclimatization, modifying work/rest ratios based on environmental conditions, hydration, body cooling, etc.;

— Recognition — being aware, acting quickly, rectal temperature;

— Treatment — cold water immersion, cool first/transport second.

Casa adds that the monetary cost of reaching the desired preventive measures is not high.

“To be honest, you could get to 90 percent implementation with very little cost and effort,” he says. “Spending probably less than $5,000 per school could get you close to 90 points. You also would probably need a two-day meeting with the key state association officials to refine the details of the changes.

“It is matter of convincing people that these issues are important and that they need attention.”

►  This week in auto racing for Thursday, August 10, 2017



Site: Brooklyn, Michigan

Schedule: Friday, practice, 8:30 a.m. (NBCSN), qualifying, 2:05 p.m. (NBCSN); Saturday, practice, 5:30 a.m. (CNBC), 8:30 a.m.; Sunday, race, noon, NBCSN.

Track: Michigan International Speedway (oval, 2 miles)

Race distance: 400 miles, 200 laps.

Last year: Kyle Larson won after starting 12th.

Last race: Martin Truex Jr. won his fourth race of the year at Watkins Glen.

Fast facts: William Byron, 19, will take over the No. 5 car for Hendrick Motorsports next season. Hendrick had previously announced the Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 5 since 2012, would not be retained. . . . Truex has a 116-point lead over Kyle Busch in the standings. But Busch has won six poles this season – twice as many as any other driver. Larson and Kevin Harvick have started first three times.

Next race: Bass Pro Shops NRA Night Race, Aug. 19, Bristol Motor Speedway, Bristol, Tennessee.




Site: Lexington, Ohio

Schedule: Friday, practice, 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.; Saturday, qualifying, 9 a.m. (CNBC), race, 12:30 p.m., NBCSN.

Track: Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course (circuit, 2.258 miles)

Race distance: 169.35 miles, 75 laps.

Last year: Justin Marks won his only series race.

Last race: Kyle Busch took first in New York.

Fast facts: Byron has won three series races already this season. He’s still 52 points behind Elliott Sadler in the standings. . . . Last week’s win was the 90th career Xfinity victory for Busch. But it was his first at Watkins Glen’s road course.

Next race: Food City 300, Aug. 18, Bristol Motor Speedway.





Site: Brooklyn, Michigan

Schedule: Friday, practice, 10 a.m. and noon (FS1); Saturday, qualifying, 6:30 a.m. (FS1), race, 10 a.m., FS1.

Track: Michigan International Speedway.

Race distance: 200 miles, 100 laps

Last year: Brett Moffitt took first for the first time in his career.

Last race: Christopher Bell won for the second time in three races.

Fast facts: Darrell Wallace Jr. will return to the truck series this weekend. Wallace has five career wins in the series. . . . Bell has won four of his 12 starts and has finished outside the top 10 just once all season. But his edge over Johnny Sauter is just 18 points heading to Michigan.

Next race: UNOH 300, Aug. 16, Bristol Motor Speedway.



Last race: Josef Newgarden won his second straight race and third of 2017.

Next race: ABC Supply 500, Aug. 20, Pocono Raceway, Long Pond, Pennsylvania.



Last race: Sebastian Vettel took first in Hungary.

Next race: Belgian Grand Prix, Aug. 27, Circuit De Spa-Francorchamps, Francorchamps, Belgium.



Last race: Antron Brown won the Top Fuel event outside of Seattle last weekend.

Next race: Lucas Oil Nationals, Aug. 18-20, Brainerd International Raceway, Brainerd, Minnesota.



WORLD OF OUTLAWS: Wednesday-Saturday, Knoxville Nationals, Knoxville Raceway, Knoxville, Iowa.


Sports News   150123

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Andrew Luck goes first in Pro Bowl draft, feels ‘deflated’ by loss to Patriots

Andrew Luck was the first pick in Wednesday’s Pro Bowl draft, not that anybody cares because of #DeflateGate. (Also, nobody really cares about the Pro Bowl to begin with.) But the Colts quarterback found a brilliant way to tie it all together, telling reporters after the draft that the AFC championship game loss to the Patriots left him feeling “deflated.”

That’s right, Luck, never one to say much of anything, let alone something noteworthy, used the word “deflated.” Here’s video evidence:

You can see, right at the end, that Luck realized he made a far more interesting comment than he intended. Here is ESPN’s account of the moment:

Speaking with the media after he was drafted first overall, Luck was asked how he’s felt in the days since losing the AFC championship to New England on Sunday, in what’s being referred to as “Deflategate” because off accusations that the Patriots had 11 of their 12 footballs under-inflated by two pounds per square inch.

“It’s sort of, the energy is sort of sucked out of you,” Luck said. “You do feel deflated.”

It took Luck a moment to realize what he said and a look of regret washed over his face. He closed his eyes and struggled to find words to recover. He was then asked about the Patriots using under-inflated balls but said he didn’t notice anything about New England’s footballs because Indianapolis used its own.

All I can say is, thank you. Thank you, Andrew Luck, that was tremendous.

Getting back to the Pro Bowl, Luck went first, then Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo went second in a draft format first employed last year. The NFL is attempting to pump some drama — and interest — into its annually anticlimactic all-star game, and in fairness, the telecast on the NFL Network provided its share of lighthearted moments.

The two sides were overseen by Hall of Fame wide receivers Michael Irvin and Cris Carter, and not surprisingly, Irvin picked Romo en route to stocking his roster with Cowboys. Of the seven Dallas players in the game, six were selected for Team Irvin, which will also be coached by Jason Garrett and his staff.

Carter started his team off with a trio of AFC offensive kingpins, opting for Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green and Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles after taking Luck. Of course, every draft needs a Mr. Irrelevant, and that honor fell to Colts safety Mike Adams.

Here are the complete Pro Bowl rosters:


Coach: Jason Garrett, Dallas.


Quarterbacks: Tony Romo, Dallas; Matt Ryan, Atlanta; Matthew Stafford, Detroit.

Running backs: C.J. Anderson, Denver; Mark Ingram, New Orleans, DeMarco Murray, Dallas (captain).

Wide receivers: Odell Beckham Jr., New York Giants; Golden Tate, Detroit; Emmanuel Sanders, Denver; Randall Cobb, Green Bay.

Tight ends: Jimmy Graham, New Orleans; Jason Witten, Dallas.

Fullback: Marcel Reece, Oakland.

Tackles: Joe Thomas, Cleveland; Tyron Smith, Dallas; Trent Wiliams, Washington.

Guards: Kyle Long, Chicago; Zach Martin, Dallas; Marshall Yanda, Baltimore.

Centers: Travis Frederick, Dallas; Nick Mangold, New York Jets.


Defensive ends: Robert Quinn, St. Louis; Cameron Wake, Miami; DeMarcus Ware, Denver.

Defensive tackles: Geno Atkins, Cincinnati; Aaron Donald, St. Louis; Sheldon Richardson, New York Jets.

Outside linebackers: Elvis Dumervil, Baltimore; Clay Matthews, Green Bay; Von Miller, Denver.

Inside linebackers: Luke Kuechly, Carolina; D’Qwell Jackson, Indianapolis.

Cornerbacks: Vontae Davis, Indianapolis; Brent Grimes, Miami; Joe Haden, Cleveland; Chris Harris Jr., Denver.

Safeties: Eric Weddle, San Diego, Mike Adams, Indianapolis; T.J. Ward, Denver.

Special teams

Punter: Kevin Huber, Cincinnati.

Placekicker: Adam Vinatieri, Indianapolis.

Return specialist: Darren Sproles, Philadelphia.

Special-teamer: Darrell Stuckey, San Diego.

Long-snapper: L.P. Ladouceur, Dallas or Jon Dorenbos, Philadelphia.


Coach: John Harbaugh, Baltimore.


Quarterbacks: Andrew Luck, Indianapolis; Drew Brees, New Orleans; Andy Dalton, Cincinnati.

Running backs: Jamaal Charles, Kansas City; Justin Forsett, Baltimore; Alfred Morris, Washington.

Wide receivers: A.J. Green, Cincinnati; T.Y. Hilton, Indianapolis; Jordy Nelson, Green Bay; Antonio Brown, Pittsburgh (captain).

Tight ends: Martellus Bennett, Chicago; Greg Olsen, Carolina.

Fullback: John Kuhn, Green Bay.

Tackles: Joe Staley, San Francisco; Duane Brown, Houston; Ryan Clady, Denver.

Guards: Evan Mathis, Philadelphia; Mike Pouncey, Miami; Josh Sitton, Green Bay.

Centers: Jason Kelce, Philadelphia; Maurkice Pouncey, Pittsburgh.


Defensive ends: J.J. Watt, Houston (captain); Mario Williams, Buffalo; Calais Campbell, Arizona.

Interior defensive linemen: Marcell Dareus, Buffalo; Dontari Poe, Kansas City; Kyle Williams, Buffalo.

Outside linebackers: Justin Houston, Kansas City; Connor Barwin, Philadelphia; Tamba Hali, Kansas City.

Inside linebackers: C.J. Mosley, Baltimore; Lawrence Timmons, Pittsburgh.

Cornerbacks: Patrick Peterson, Arizona; Aqib Talib, Denver; Antonio Cromartie, Arizona; Sam Shields, Green Bay.

Safeties: Antoine Bethea, San Francisco; Glover Quin, Detroit; Donte Whitner, Cleveland.

Special teams

Punter: Pat McAfee, Indianapolis.

Placekicker: Cody Parkey, Philadelphia.

Return specialist: Devin Hester, Atlanta.

Special-teamer: Justin Bethel, Arizona.

Long-snapper: L.P. Ladouceur, Dallas or Jon Dorenbos, Philadelphia.

►  NFL fines Marshawn Lynch $20,000 for second crotch-grabbing incident

High-fives. Fist pumps. Jazz hands. Those are just three alternative hand gestures Seattle Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch might want to look into next time he finds himself celebrating a touchdown. Because his preferred celebration now — a good old-fashioned crotch grab, a gesture that’s considered “unsportsmanlike” under NFL rules, is really starting to cost him.

After previously paying the league $11,050 for displaying the gesture after scoring on a 79-yard monster run against the Arizona Cardinals on December 21, Lynch tested the NFL again by repeating the gesture last Sunday while celebrating his go-ahead fourth-quarter touchdown against the Green Bay Packers. This, let’s say, Crotchgrab 2.0, led the NFL to levy a fine of $20,000 on Thursday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

So, to review: one handful = $11,050; two handfuls = $20,000. Will we find out how much a trio of trips to the junkyard costs? It’s a possibility. Lynch will join his team on February 1 to battle the New England Patriots (who are having, um, ball problems of their own) in Super Bowl XLIX in Glendale, Arizona.

►  John Madden: Tom Brady to blame, not Bill Belichick, for Patriots’ Deflategate

Who, exactly, is to blame for the New England Patriots’ DeflateGate controversy? John Madden points the finger straight at Tom Brady, not Bill Belichick.

“That would have to be driven by the quarterback,” Madden told The Sports Xchange (via Pro Football Talk).

“That’s something that wouldn’t be driven by a coach or just the equipment guy. Nobody, not even the head coach, would do anything to a football unilaterally, such as adjust the amount of pressure in a ball, without the quarterback not knowing. It would have to be the quarterback’s idea.”

Although the matter of how the Patriots’ footballs were deflated in the AFC championship game remains under investigation, quarterbacks — especially top-tier quarterbacks — are finicky about their footballs. Brady laughed off the allegation that the balls were underinflated Monday, calling it “ridiculous.” But the matter is serious now.

“He is the affected,” Madden said. “He is the only guy. I heard some of the pundits saying the ball is easier to catch, but that would never, ever, ever be done for that unless the quarterback wanted it. You wouldn’t do something for a receiver to catch the ball if the quarterback couldn’t throw it. So it’s going to be done for the quarterback.”

►  Richard Sherman rips Tom Brady, deflates ‘clean-cut’ reputation

When it comes to New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, image isn’t the whole story.

So says Richard Sherman, the Seattle Seahawks cornerback who will face him in Super Bowl XLIX.

“I think people sometimes get a skewed view of Tom Brady,” Sherman said Wednesday at a press conference in Seattle. “That he’s just a clean-cut [guy], does everything right, never says a bad word to anyone and we know him to be otherwise.”

The two have a bit of history, dating back to the Seahawks’ 24-23 upset of the Patriots in 2012. Sherman’s side of the story is that Brady kept telling him to “see him after the game when they win.”  So after the Seahawks won, Sherman did just that and, with cameras rolling, famously inquired, “You mad bro?”

Brady had no response then, but the moment was captured on camera and went viral.

“He was just pretty much saying we were nobodies and that we should come up to him after they got the win,” Sherman, who intercepted Brady twice, said. “So we should take that pretty well? We should just [say], ‘Ah, cool, can I get your autograph, too?’ ”

On Monday, Brady professed to have no memory of the incident in a WEEI interview. “Truthfully at that time, I thought he was just coming up to say, ‘Good game,’ ” Brady said. “That’s all I thought it was.”

Sherman called him out for his memory lapse. “Unfortunately, he apparently didn’t remember what he said,” Sherman said. “I’m sure also in those moments when he’s yelling at the ref, he’s just saying, ‘Good job. You’re doing a fantastic job. Keep it up.’”

And as for the DeflateGate that has presumably has occupied much of Brady’s attention this week? I’m not sure anything will come of it, honestly,” Sherman said. “If it’s against the rules, it’s against the rules. But it’s not going to have any effect on this game. Nobody’s going to get suspended. Nothing’s going to happen. They’re going to play this game.

“Whatever they did, the risk-reward was greater.”

►  Carl’s Jr. to air what might be the raciest Super Bowl ad ever, but on the West Coast only

►  NFL Play offs Game Results

Until now, Carl’s Jr. ads have all had two things in common — bikini-clad women and hamburgers. But the ad the fast-food burger chain has slated to air on the West Coast during the Super Bowl veers slightly away from that stale formula: The woman and burger are still there; it’s the bikini that seemingly isn’t.

Oh, you sneaky Carl’s Jr., the bikini is there after all! The taste-level, on the other hand, mostly isn’t. But hey, this is the same greasy business that once hired Paris Hilton as a spokesperson, so compared to that, this ad’s about as classy as sharing tea with the Dowager Countess of Grantham at Downton Abbey.

The Gilmer Free Press

Only West Coast viewers will get an eyeful of 21-year-old model Charlotte McKinney stripped down for the regional chain on Super Bowl Sunday, however. Viewers in other regions of the United States hoping to see scantily clad women will have to settle for the underpaid cheerleaders, as more companies have come to realize sex doesn’t actually sell during the game, which features an audience composed of 46% women.

GoDaddy, which made itself famous through its provocative ads, will reportedly still feature NASCAR driver Danica Patrick in its spot, but also puppies. Even Victoria’s Secret has stripped the sex out of its planned Super Bowl ad this year. Instead of bras and panties, the company’s models, known as “Angels,” will suit up in full football pads. Viewers will have to rely on their imaginations to guess what’s under them — or more on target for the company, their wallets, as the company’s betting the spot will persuade viewers to purchase the undergarments to see for themselves.

►  All three London 2015 games to start early stateside

Each of the three NFL games to be played in London next season will have morning start times in the United States.

The New York Jets and Miami Dolphins will play on October 04 at Wembley Stadium, then the league will play consecutive weeks in London for the first time when Buffalo and Jacksonville meet on October 25 and Detroit takes on Kansas City on November 01.

All three start times will be 9:30 AM ET in the United States.

Since the London series began in 2007, most of the start times were 1 PM ET in the U.S., although the Lions and Falcons played at 9:30 AM ET in one of this past season’s three games.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top 10 running backs for 2015

Last week, I broke down the top 10 quarterbacks heading into the 2015 season, so to continue with that trend, this week I will be discussing the tailback position.

Running backs are so intriguing with the NFL becoming more and more of a passing league, along with the fact many teams like to use a dual-threat in their backfield. As a result, there are not many halfbacks who dominate the amount of carries as they did even five years ago.

With that being said, there are still dynamic fantasy running backs available each and every season, yet it is very difficult to predict who will have the most production each year.

Over the past three seasons, three different running backs (Adrian Peterson, Jamaal Charles, DeMarco Murray) led fantasy football in points accumulated (according to Yahoo) for the position. So, heading into 2015, will we see a new champion atop the halfback rankings?

Here are the top 10 running backs entering 2015.

10. DeMarco Murray, Dallas

Out of all the players on this list, Dallas Cowboys’ tailback DeMarco Murray is the only guy who could end up on a different team next season. He is a free agent, and the Cowboys have already said it will be difficult to bring both him and wideout Dez Bryant back.

Murray easily had the best season of his career (1,845 rushing yards, 13 TD, 57 catches, 416 receiving yards), which led to him scoring the most fantasy points (294.1) among running backs.

However, this was the first season where he was able to suit up for all 16 games.

There is no denying Murray has had issues staying healthy throughout his career, and with him looking likely to suit up for another team next season, there are too many question marks for him to be a top-three tailback yet again.

9. C.J. Anderson, Denver

Denver Broncos’ running back C.J. Anderson could be the biggest wild card here. There is no guarantee he will even be the team’s starting halfback in 2015, but after the season he just had, he will likely enter training camp atop the depth chart.

Anderson finished 11th among tailbacks, with 177.3 fantasy points, but even more impressively, he did not start receiving a big workload until Week 10.

With new coach Gary Kubiak in town, whichever running back gets the majority of reps in Denver’s backfield should thrive. Kubiak is known for his stellar run offense. Just look at what Justin Forsett did this past year for the Baltimore Ravens.

8. Eddie Lacy, Green Bay

It is easy to go slightly unnoticed when the quarterback of your team is Aaron Rodgers, however, Green Bay Packers’ halfback Eddie Lacy is too good to ignore, even with Rodgers at the helm.

Lacy has now rushed for over 1,100 yards in each of his first two seasons (1,139 in 2014), and also produced 42 receptions for 427 yards, along with 13 total scores this season. After scoring nine touchdowns in his rookie campaign, Lacy is simply getting better.

He was the sixth-ranked running back in 2014 (230.6 points), and at only 24- years-old, there is no reason to think Lacy will not be as productive in 2015.

7. Marshawn Lynch, Seattle

The only reason Seattle Seahawks’ tailback Marshawn Lynch is not higher on this list is because of his uncertain future. There is speculation that he could retire if Seattle decides to move on from him.

Well, the Seahawks need to take a long look at who runs their offense.

While quarterback Russell Wilson is a phenomenal talent, it is Lynch who they ride and die by. He has been the most consistent fantasy halfback over the past three seasons, as he has finished in the top five in each campaign.

Lynch scored the third-most fantasy points among running backs this season (265.3), and really showed no signs of slowing down. If Seattle keeps their heads on straight and brings back Lynch, it has to be assumed he will be a borderline top-five tailback once again.

6. Matt Forte, Chicago

Chicago Bears’ running back Matt Forte is extremely steady, as he has finished as the third-ranked and fourth-ranked halfback during each of the past two seasons, respectively.

While he rushed for just over 1,000 yards in 2014 (1,038), Forte was still able to make his mark in the passing game (102 catches, 808 yards), and scored a total of 10 touchdowns.

Forte is one of the few tailbacks who can play on all three downs, and with him also getting the goal-line work, he should be in line for another big season.

5. Arian Foster, Houston

It is pretty scary that Houston Texans’ running back Arian Foster finished fifth among players at his position, with 235.5 fantasy points, because he played just 13 games due to a sore groin.

Foster was a steal this season, after he played in just eight games in 2013, rushing for 542 yards and scoring just two touchdowns.

He was back to his old tricks in 2014, producing 1,573 total yards and 13 scores. There is no denying fantasy owners need to worry about his injury history, especially with him being 29 years old to start next season.

Yet, there are really no signs of decline, and if Foster can stay on the field, he should be able to put forth another 1,200-yard season with double- digit touchdowns.

4. LeSean McCoy, Philadelphia

It is pretty comical when a player rushes for the second-most yards in his career, and that is still considered a down season.

However, from a fantasy perspective, Philadelphia Eagles’ halfback LeSean McCoy did disappoint owners in 2014. He was projected as the top running back heading into the season but finished outside the top 10.

The biggest reason for his lack of production was because he scored just five touchdowns after accumulating 11 in 2013.

McCoy is still just 26-years-old and easily has the potential to be a top- three back. Look for him to bounce back big time next season.

3. Le’Veon Bell, Pittsburgh

Talk about jumping onto the scene. Pittsburgh Steelers’ running Le’Veon Bell was arguably the biggest steal this past season.

Even if owners drafted him in the third round, Bell still gave first-round value.

He finished the season as the second-ranked halfback (287.5 points), and really became a complete player (1,361 rushing yards, 83 catches, 854 receiving yards, 11 total TD).

Like Forte, Bell is an every-down back, and with him entering just his third season in 2015, his numbers could easily continue to rise.

2. Adrian Peterson, Minnesota

Another major wild card on this list.

Assuming Minnesota Vikings’ halfback Adrian Peterson is reinstated by the league, he should be a fantasy asset in 2015, no matter what team he is playing for.

There is no guarantee Peterson will be back with the Vikings next season, but what is guaranteed is the fact he will be hungry to succeed.

He will be 30 years old at the start of next season, which is usually never a good sign for players at his position. But after sitting out the entire 2014 season, with the exception of one game, Peterson should have fresh legs, and is definitely a guy worth taking a risk on.

1. Jamaal Charles, Kansas City

Kansas City Chiefs’ running back Jamaal Charles actually had a down year, for his standards, in 2014 (1,033 rushing yards, 40 catches, 291 receiving yards), but still scored 14 total touchdowns.

While he suited up for 15 games, Charles dealt with an ankle injury for parts of the season, which definitely limited him, even in games in which he was active.

After producing over 1,700 total yards during each of the previous two seasons, I expect Charles to be around those numbers in 2015. As a result, assuming he can keep his pace up of double-figure touchdowns, Charles will have a great chance to be next season’s top running back.  ~~  Max Zelenko ~~

►  The downfall of Mike Wallace

Fans around the NFL are obsessed over the supposed cheating that took place in the AFC Championship Game.

There might be one thing worse in sports than cheating: quitting.

The Miami Herald reports receiver Mike Wallace quit on the Dolphins at least twice in the 2014 season.

Wallace told coach Joe Philbin and his wide receivers coach in the final game of the season that he didn’t need to play if the ball wasn’t going to be thrown to him. According to the Miami Herald, Wallace also pulled this stunt two weeks earlier versus the Patriots.

This isn’t the first time the receiver came across as very selfish. In the summer of 2012, Wallace decided to hold out of Pittsburgh training camp and demanded a new contract. The Steelers didn’t take the bluff and rewarded fellow wide receiver Antonio Brown with a new contract instead of Wallace.

And Wallace hasn’t been the same since.

In his first three seasons, Wallace was developing the reputation as one of the fastest players in the league. He led the NFL with a 19.4 yards per reception average his rookie year.

During his second season, Wallace caught 60 passes for 1,257 yards which is an incredible 21.0 yards per reception average. He also found the end zone 10 times.

Although the yards per reception average fell to 16.6 the following year, Wallace caught more passes, 72, and scored eight touchdowns on his way to his first Pro Bowl in 2011.

Then he held out of training camp, and hasn’t been the same.

In the last three years, one with Pittsburgh and the last two with Miami, Wallace has failed to eclipse the 1,000-yard mark in each season. Meanwhile, his yards per reception average has dropped below 13.0.

Several different variables could have contributed to this downfall. At 28 years old, perhaps Wallace has lost a step or two of speed. Additionally, Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill is not yet a seasoned veteran like Ben Roethlisberger.

Most importantly, however, the Dolphins offensive line issues have not allowed Tannehill time to find Wallace open downfield. Defenses have sacked Tannehill an unbelievable 104 times the last two seasons.

As fast as Wallace is, it takes time for a fly pattern to develop.

The Dolphins quarterback took a league-high 58 sacks during the bullying scandal season last year. That helped lead to just five Wallace touchdowns; a huge disappointment based on his ADP in 2013.

He bounced back this year, tying a career-high with 10 touchdowns along with 67 catches for 862 yards.

But after quitting on his team, Miami is left with a tough choice: take a $5.2 million cap hit and cut their top receiver, leaving Jarvis Landry as the only viable Dolphins receiver on the roster or continue to put up with Wallace’s shenanigans.

Luckily, fantasy owners don’t have to make that choice.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 22)

#4 Gilmer County 55     Webster County 39

Calhoun County 55     Braxton County 43

Lewis County 58     Elkins 48

Roane County 66     Clay County 55

Wirt County 45     Parkersburg Catholic 42

#8 Preston 66     Philip Barbour 51

#2 Bridgeport 85     East Fairmont 47

#5 Lincoln 69     North Marion 50

#6 Notre Dame 64     Moorefield 43

#8 Robert C. Byrd 75     Liberty 23

Tygarts Valley 52     South Harrison 40

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 22)

River (OH) 66     Tyler Consolidated 43

OVC, Ohio 43     Parkersburg Christian 33

Parkersburg South 76     Wheeling Park 49

Ravenswood 86     Williamstown 46

The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 22)

Wheeling Jesuit 102, No. 5 West Liberty 80 | Final Stats

Wheeling Jesuit handed fifth-ranked West Liberty its second-straight loss, 102-80, on Thursday night at the ASRC.

The Cardinals (8-7, 4-6) shot 60 percent from the field in the game and made 11-of-20 from behind the arc. WJU led the entire game. West Liberty (14-2, 9-2) shot 44 percent from the field and made just 6-of-22 from three-point range. The ‘Toppers also struggled from the free throw line making just 14-of-30. 

Justin Fritts led WJU with 24 points, five assists and four rebounds. Eric Siefert had 18 points, seven assists and four rebounds. Pat Moseh had 15 points, Haywood Highsmith tallied 13 and Tim Goff registered 11.

C.J. Hester led West Liberty with 19 points and 10 rebounds. Devin Hoehn had 14, and Seger Bonifant was limited to 10 points.

Notre Dame 85, Urbana 82 | Final Stats

Najeeb Johnson’s three-pointer with 14 seconds left proved to be the difference in an 85-82 win over Urbana on Thursday night at the Grimes Center.

The Blue Knights led by as many as 16 points in the second half, and Notre Dame’s first and only lead came after Johnson’s three. The Falcons outscored Urbana 15-2 in the final 3:05.

Lawrence DeArmond led NDC (10-7, 6-5) with 22 points and 14 rebounds. Kyauta Taylor scored 20 and Tyree Gaiter and Will Vorhees each added 13. Johnson finished with 14 points for the Falcons.

Urbana (4-13, 1-10) was led by 20 points from Mike Newton. Matt Csuhran had 18 and John Summers turned in 11 points.

Concord 92, UVa-Wise 55 | Final Stats

Concord handled UVa-Wise, 92-55, on Thursday night at the Carter Center.

The Mountain Lions (11-5, 7-4) shot 53 percent form the field and out-rebounded UVa-Wise by a 49-24 margin. CU was led by 13 points from Rob Reed, and got 11 points apiece from B.J. Hamlet and Taylor Smith.

Brian Sydnor had 16 points and 18 rebounds for UVa-Wise (1-15, 0-11). Matt Day scored 14 and Tyler Maggard finished with 11 points.

Fairmont State 89, Shepherd 77 | Final Stats

Fairmont State overcame a seven-point halftime deficit and defeated Shepherd, 89-77, on Thursday night at Joe Retton Arena. 

FSU (11-6, 8-3) shot 63 percent and made 6-of-9 from three-pointers in the second half to aid its comeback. The Falcons committed just 10 turnovers and had a 30-26 edge over the Rams on the glass.

Fairmont State’s Nick Harney led all scorers with 27 points on 12-of-17 shooting to go with eight rebounds. Chase Morgan drained four three-pointers on his way to 17 points, and Jamel Morris had 15 points. Thomas Wimbush had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds and Brandon Vega handed out seven assists.

Shepherd (10-7, 5-6) was led by 18 points from Austin Cunningham. Naim Muhammad had 16 and A.J. Carr contributed 12. 

Glenville State 71, West Virginia Wesleyan 66 | Final Stats

Glenville State managed a 71-66 win over West Virginia Wesleyan on Thursday night at the Rockefeller Center.

The Pioneers (13-4, 9-2) never trailed in the second half, but WVWC (7-10, 5-6) was able to get to within a bucket at 68-66 after a three from Chris Dewberry. The Bobcats had the ball and a chance to tie, but Dewberry’s jumper wouldn’t fall this time, and the Pioneers got the rebound and Donte Morales sank two free throws to essentially ice the game.

GSC shot 51 percent from the field and were led by 21 points from Brett Morris, including 15 points from behind the three-point line. Reggie Williams added 17 for the Pioneers.

Taylor Price had 18 points on 7-of-9 shooting for the Bobcats. Dewberry scored 16 and Tanner McGrew had 15 points to go with 14 rebounds.

Charleston 82, West Virginia State 70 | Final Stats

Charleston outscored West Virginia State 14-4 in the final 6:03 to secure an 82-70 win over the Yellow Jackets.

UC improves to 13-4 overall and 8-3 in the league, while WVSU drops to 3-15 overall and 3-7 in the MEC.

Chris Evans led the Golden Eagles with 19 points, and Vincent Dillard came off the bench to add 18. Jevonte Hughes was 6-of-8 from the field on his way to 15 points, and Octavius Green finished with 13.

WVSU shot 52 percent from the field and got a huge performance from Markee Mazyck with 34 points. Dominic Phillips had 15 points and five assists. 

►  MEC Women’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 22)

Notre Dame 73, Urbana 53 | Final Stats

URBANA, Ohio—Martha Nagbe scored 19 points and Lauren Langenderfer added 18 to lead Notre Dame to a 73-53 win over Urbana.

Notre Dame improved to 11-6 overall and 7-4 in the MEC. Urbana fell to 1-16 overall and 1-10 in conference play.

NDC shot 48 percent from the field and got 22 points off its bench in the victory, including 10 from Jessica Garcia.

Urbana was paced by 15 points from Kate Francisco. Jeni Jordan had 13 points to go with nine rebounds and Tori Purk had 14 points and seven rebounds.

Wheeling Jesuit 82, West Liberty 76 | Final Stats

Wheeling Jesuit used a 10-0 run late in the second half to get past West Liberty, 82-76, at the ASRC.

Wheeling Jesuit improved to 9-6 overall and 6-4 in league play. West Liberty dropped to 11-6 overall and 8-3 in the MEC.

WJU trailed 64-60 with just over five minutes to play before the 10-0 spurt. The Cardinals outscored the Hilltoppers 22-12 in the final five minutes. WJU was18 of those 22 points at the free throw line. The Cardinals finished 31-of-43 from the free throw line in the game, compared to 7-of-17 for WLU.

Jaila Bryant led WJU with 22 points and seven rebounds. Breanna Butler scored 21, Mariah Callen had 15 and Jaana Motton scored 10. 

Kailee Howe had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead West Liberty. Liz Flowers had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Jenn Mohney had four three-pointers on her way to 14 points.

Concord 57, UVa-Wise 40 | Final Stats

Concord held UVa-Wise to just 25 percent shooting from the field on its way to a 57-40 win over the Cavaliers at the Carter Center.

CU (5-10, 5-6) was led by 15 points and nine rebounds from Kylie Molisee. Rachl Artrip had a double-double with 12 points and a game-high 14 rebounds, and Melea Smith added 10 points for the Mountain Lions.

Taylor Sandidge had 13 points and Kayla Carey scored 10 and pulled down nine rebounds for UVa-Wise (5-12, 4-7).

Fairmont State 80, Shepherd 59 | Final Stats

Hallie Gunnoe poured in 28 and Hailey Garrett added 22 as Fairmont State handled Shepherd, 80-59 at Joe Retton Arena.

Gunnoe scored 28 on 12-of-15 shooting from the field, including 3-of-3 from three-point range. Garrett had nine rebounds to go with her 22 points. Emily Lohr contributed 15 points for the Falcons (14-3, 8-3).

Cara Mason and Rachel Johnson each scored 14 to lead Shepherd (12-5, 9-2). Johnson also had 10 rebounds for the Rams. SU was limited to just 31 percent shooting from the field in the game while Fairmont State connected on 48 percent of its shots. 

Glenville State 83, West Virginia Wesleyan 77 | Final Stats

Glenville State started the second half on a 14-4 run that broke a halftime tie on its way to an 83-77 win over West Virginia Wesleyan at the Rockefeller Center.

Five players reached double figures in scoring for Glenville State (7-8, 5-6) as Kayla Tibbs, Katrina Salins and Julie Bishop each netted 13. Kristin Desrocher scored 12 and Keyanna Tate added 10. The Pioneers hit 16 three-pointers on the game and held WVWC to just five.

Three players had double-doubles for the Bobcats (1-13, 1-10) in the losing effort. Adrian Cunningham had 17 points and 12 rebounds, Allyson Freiermuth has 12 points and 11 rebounds and Kiki DeVane had 11 points and 11 boards. Mari Stewart led all players with 20 points.

Charleston 65, West Virginia State 56 | Final Stats

Charleston broke a 47-47 tie with 6:50 left in the game by scoring 10 of the game’s next 12 points to help secure a 65-56 win over West Virginia State. 

Monet Saunders led UC (13-4, 8-3) with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Deja Gibson added 13 points and Nichole Perry scored 12. Charleston went 30-of-41 from the free throw line in the game, while WVSU was 23-of-28.

Alexus Hobbs had 14 points for West Virginia State (5-10, 3-7). Aurreshae Hines added 12. 

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 22)

Final Score: (2) Virginia 57, Georgia Tech 28

Ralph Sampson was in attendance for Thursday night’s ACC showdown between No. 2 Virginia and Georgia Tech, but might’ve had mixed feelings. His alma mater is still undefeated following another splendid defensive effort. His son Robert, meanwhile, felt some of the brunt of that stingy Cavaliers Pack Line defense. Malcolm Brogdon had 13 points and four assists as Virginia shut down the Yellow Jackets 57-28 to remain one of two unbeaten teams in the country. Virginia (18-0, 6-0 ACC) held Georgia Tech to just 24.5 percent (12-of-49) shooting from the floor and didn’t allow a 3-point basket (0-of-12). The Cavs are off to their best start since 1980-81, when Ralph Sampson helped them win their first 23 games. Marcus Georges-Hunt led the Yellow Jackets (9-9, 0-6) with just seven points. Robert Sampson was 1-of-6 from the field and finished with two points and seven rebounds for Georgia Tech, which is off to its worst start in ACC play since beginning 0-6 during the 2008-09 campaign.

Final Score: (3) Gonzaga 68, Saint Mary’s 47

Kevin Pangos had 14 points, Przemek Karnowski scored 12 and No. 3 Gonzaga pulled away down the stretch to blow out Saint Mary’s 68-47 on Thursday night. Both teams entered the game unbeaten in the West Coast Conference and Gonzaga led just 27-21 at halftime. Pangos scored four points during a 22-2 run in the second half that pushed Gonzaga’s lead to 23 points with under four minutes remaining. Kyle Wiltjer added 11 points and Domantas Sabonis scored seven with a game-high 13 rebounds for the Bulldogs (19-1, 8-0 WCC), who have won 12 in a row since a 66-63 loss to current No. 7 Arizona in overtime on Dec. 6. Gonzaga, the best shooting team in the country, shot 52.9 percent in the game while the Gaels (15-4, 7-1) shot 36 percent, bringing an end to their nine-game winning streak. Brad Waldow had 14 points to lead St. Mary’s.

Final Score: (7) Arizona 89, Stanford 82

Stanley Johnson had 19 points, Brandon Ashley scored 17 and No. 7 Arizona pulled away in the second half for an 89-82 win over Stanford on Thursday night. Gabe York added 13 points and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 12 for the Wildcats (17-2, 5-1 Pac-12), who have won three in a row to share first place in the conference with No. 12 Utah. Arizona was coming off a 69-51 win over Utah on Saturday. Chasson Randle scored 26 points to lead Stanford (13-5, 4-2), which had a three-game winning streak snapped. Anthony Brown added 18 points and nine rebounds and Stefan Nastic scored 10 in the loss.

Final Score: (8) Notre Dame 85, Virginia Tech 60

Pat Connaughton made five of Notre Dame’s 12 3-pointers and the eighth-ranked Fighting Irish cruised to an 85-60 road victory over Virginia Tech on Thursday. Connaughton finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds in the wire-to-wire win for the Irish (18-2, 6-1 ACC), whose only loss in the last 15 games came against No. 2 Virginia. Jerian Grant totaled 18 points, seven rebounds and six assists, Zach Auguste added 16 points and eight boards, and Demetrius Jackson scored 12 in the rout. The Hokies (8-10, 0-5) have been trending the opposite way and dropped their sixth straight overall, though the last three came against ranked opponents. Ahmed Hill’s 13 points paced Virginia Tech in the absence of leading scorer Justin Bibbs, who sat out a second straight game due to a concussion.

Final Score: (23) Indiana 89, (13) Maryland 70

Yogi Ferrell went 7-of-8 from beyond the arc en route to 24 points as the 23rd-ranked Indiana Hoosiers took down the No. 13 Maryland Terrapins, 89-70, on Thursday. James Blackmon Jr. added 22 points for the Hoosiers (15-4, 5-1 Big Ten), who shot 60 percent from the field and went 15-of-22 from 3-point range. Troy Williams and Collin Hartman tallied 16 and 15 points, respectively, with Williams also pulling down seven rebounds. Jake Layman ended with 13 points for the Terrapins (17-3, 5-2), who had a three-game winning streak snapped. Jared Nickens and Melo Trimble contributed 12 and 10 points, respectively.

Final Score: DePaul 64, (24) Seton Hall 60

Myke Henry collected 14 points and Billy Garrett posted 13 points and DePaul dispatched No. 24 Seton Hall by a 64-60 count on Thursday. Darrick Wood added 11 points while Rashaun Stimage had 10 points with seven rebounds for the Blue Demons (11-9, 5-2 Big East), who have won two in a row and four of their last six. Angel Delgado poured in 19 points and 19 boards for the Pirates (13-5, 3-3), who have dropped three of four since beating Villanova on Jan. 3. Khadeen Carrington picked up 12 points in a losing cause.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Thursday, January 22)

Final Score: Chicago 104, San Antonio 81

The Chicago Bulls sure looked like they were on the same page in Thursday’s 104-81 demolition of the reigning champion San Antonio Spurs. Derrick Rose expressed frustration following Monday’s loss to the Cavaliers—Chicago’s sixth over an eight-game span—and hinted at underlying issues going forward for the Central Division leaders. The immediate response showed otherwise. Rose poured in 22 points and handed out five assists, All-Star starter Pau Gasol totaled 12 points and 17 rebounds, and Jimmy Butler scored 17 points in the rout.

Final Score: Utah 101, Milwaukee 99

Gordon Hayward scored 13 of his 24 points in the fourth quarter to lift the Utah Jazz over the Milwaukee Bucks, 101-99, on Thursday. Enes Kanter added 23 points, 16 rebounds and two steals for the Jazz, who held on after blowing a 16-point lead. Dante Exum and Rudy Gobert tallied 15 and 14 points, respectively, with Gobert also pulling down 10 rebounds. Brandon Knight and Jared Dudley each scored 16 points for the Bucks, who have lost two straight. Zaza Pachulia contributed 10 points and 10 boards.

Final Score: Boston 90, Portland 89

Evan Turner nailed a go-ahead 3-pointer with a second remaining and the Boston Celtics defeated the LaMarcus Aldridge-less Portland Trail Blazers 90-89 on Thursday night. Jared Sullinger missed a potential go-ahead triple before tracking down the rebound following a scramble and calling a timeout with 8.5 seconds to play. Sullinger then got the ball at the right elbow, but Wesley Matthews poked it away. Sullinger retrieved the ball in the paint and from a sitting position, found a wide open Turner in the right corner and he knocked down the trey to put the Celtics in front. Portland was unable to get off another shot at the other end.

Final Score: LA Clippers 123, Brooklyn 84

Blake Griffin had 24 points with six rebounds to lead the Los Angeles Clippers in a 123-84 beating of the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night. DeAndre Jordan finished with 14 points and 12 rebounds, while Chris Paul deposited a season-high 17 assists in the Clippers third straight win. Mason Plumlee led the Nets with 16 points and Darius Morris added 11 points off the bench for Brooklyn, which has dropped nine of its last 11 games.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Will the real Brandon Jennings please stand up?

On Wednesday, Dave Holcomb wrote an extremely insightful piece about how it is time to sell high on Memphis Grizzlies’ forward Zach Randolph.

Thursday, I am following in his footsteps and breaking down the most recent play of Detroit Pistons’ point guard Brandon Jennings.

In case you missed it, Jennings had arguably the game of his life Wednesday night against the Orlando Magic, as he recorded a career-high 21 assists, along with scoring 24 points and just two turnovers. The assist total was also an NBA season-high.

Yet, when a reporter asked him if Wednesday’s performance was his best game as a pro, Jennings responded, “55 and three (assists) as a rookie?“

While that feat coming in just his seventh-career game with the Milwaukee Bucks is impressive, the way he responded to the reporter’s question really rubbed me the wrong way.

It should for fantasy owners as well.

I would give my left arm to play in the NBA, because I would still need my right one to shoot, and scoring 55 points is obviously quite the accomplishment. However, with Jennings so quick to talk about how many points he can score, as opposed to helping his teammates get better, it simply makes it seem as if he cares more about his point totals.

Jennings has decent career-averages through five and a half seasons, 16.6 ppg, 6.2 apg, 3.2 rpg, 1.1 spg, but the fact he is just a 39% shooter from the field really hurts his fantasy value.

During his first season in Detroit (2013-14), Jennings finished the campaign as the 93rd-ranked fantasy player after coming into the season as the 77th- ranked guy.

Now in his second season with the Pistons, Jennings has definitely improved, and is currently the 53rd-ranked player, but should owners feel good about his production?

That answer is: yes.

Fantasy owners should definitely appreciate the output from Jennings, who is averaging 15.4 ppg, 6.7 apg and shooting 40% from the field through 40 games this season. He has been even better over the last two weeks, the ninth- ranked player over that span, averaging 20.6 ppg, 6.4 apg, and shooting 39%.

Yet, there is still a cause for conern.

There is no doubt, at 25 years old, Jennings has improved and should continue to improve, but what owners need to take out of the numbers I just posted, is that even with improved averages in scoring and assists, Jennings still continues to struggle from the field.

With Detroit’s starting point guard apparently a player who cares more about scoring than potentially making the right basketball play, he is easily a guy I recommend selling high on.

He has never shot 42% from the field in a single season, yet still prefers to put up a high volume of shots, and for a point guard, Jennings’ assist averages should be better.

As a result, there really may be no better time than now to shop him around, and if you get a bite, do not be afraid to pull the trigger.    ~~  Max Zelenko ~~

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Cap selections announced for Smoltz, Martinez and Biggio

As expected, John Smoltz, Pedro Martinez and Craig Biggio will enter the Hall of Fame in July with caps most associated with their respective teams.

Smoltz will have an Atlanta Braves cap, Martinez will go in with a Boston Red Sox logo and Biggio will feature an Astros emblem.

It was previously announced that fellow 2015 class member Randy Johnson would have an Arizona Diamondbacks cap on his plaque. Johnson, in addition to his time with Arizona, also pitched for the Expos, Mariners, Astros, Yankees and Giants in his 22-year career.

Martinez also pitched for multiple teams during his 18 seasons. He began with the Dodgers and also played for the Expos, Mets and Phillies, but had his greatest success in Boston, winning two of his three Cy Young awards and helping the Red Sox win their first World Series in 86 years in 2004.

“I cannot be any prouder to take Red Sox Nation to the Hall of Fame with the logo on my plaque,“ said Martinez. “I am extremely proud to represent Boston and all of New England with my Hall of Fame career. I’m grateful to all of the teams for which I played, and especially fans, for making this amazing honor come true.“

Smoltz spent all but one season of his 21-year career in Atlanta. He split 2009 with Boston and St. Louis.

Biggio, meanwhile, played his entire 20-year career with Houston.

►  Rounding Third: No excuses for pitching-rich Nats

The easy part for the Washington Nationals was signing former American League Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer to a contract.

All they had to do for that to happen was shell out $210 million over seven years.

The hard part, of course, will now be living up to some lofty expectations since most gambling web sites have pegged the Nationals as the odds-on favorite to win the World Series in the wake of Scherzer signing.

With or without Scherzer, though, the Nats were going to have an extra eye or two on them. That’s what happens when you win an NL-best 96 games and bow out in the first round of the playoffs. In fact, the Nats have won two of the last three NL East titles and still have yet to win a playoff series since 1981 when the franchise was located north of the border in Montreal.

In fact, no team has done less with more than the Nationals over the past three years. But with a $200 million-plus pitcher like Scherzer at the top of that rotation now, there is no more wiggle room.

Speaking of that rotation. Scherzer, Jordan Zimmermann, Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, Doug Fister. Tanner Roarke. Five spots for six guys. Someone figures to be the odd man out, especially when realize the rotation alone makes $61 million-plus this season.

By the way, this is a problem 29 other managers wouldn’t mind having.

“What our plan is right now is to make sure everybody is training to be a starter. All of our guys are training who were scheduled to be starters are training as starters because you just don’t know,“ Washington manager Matt Williams said.

“We’ll go into spring training in that mode. Again, during spring training you need multiple starters anyways, you need multiple starters for sure. It will work itself out. Right now everybody is getting ready for spring. We’ve got less than a month before we get down there. Everybody is working hard and getting prepared. All of those guys are getting their arms in shape to be starters for us.“

You can never have enough pitching anyway, right?

Of course, this is a formula that doesn’t always work. Ask the 2011 Philadelphia Phillies, who boasted Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee, Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt. Yes, they may have won 102 games, but they didn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs.

The smart money would be on Roark being the odd man out, but his 15 wins a season ago were one behind Fister for the team lead. But, Roark is the least distinguished of the group and he has pitched out of the bullpen in the past.

Zimmermann and Fister are free agents at season’s end. There was some speculation that Zimmermann was going to be dealt earlier this offseason. And that could still be the case, but I’d doubt it.

Why deal him? Go for it this year, let Zimmermann walk at the end of the season and settle for the first-round pick that would come the Nats’ way.

Some have even said they could deal Strasburg. Again, I just don’t see it. He hasn’t been as good as advertised, but at times he is electric. Plus, he’s only 25 and still under contract for at least two more seasons.

And in case you are keeping score, Strasburg is a Scott Boras guy, the same agent who just got the Nats to break the bank for Scherzer. Boras also represents Washington sluggers Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth.

By the way, there is no truth to the rumor the Nationals are changing their nickname to the Fighting Boras’.

Scherzer, though, is a horse. If I was running a team, Jon Lester would have been my target, but I’d hate to live on the difference between the two. Both are awesome.

The 30-year-old Scherzer won the 2013 AL Cy Young Award, going 21-3 with a 2.90 ERA. He wasn’t as sharp last season, but was still one of the best pitchers in baseball, posting a 18-5 ledger with a 3.15 ERA.

“I think this team is capable of winning and winning a lot,“ Scherzer said. “When you look at near term and long term, this is an organization you want to be a part of. I want to win and that’s why I’m here.“

Scherzer doesn’t give the Nationals the best rotation in baseball. They already were without him. It may give them a better shot in October.

And at the end of the day, that’s all that matters.  ~~  Chris Ruddick ~~

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Wednesday, January 21)

Final Score: Ottawa 4, Toronto 3

Erik Karlsson scored twice to give the Ottawa Senators a 4-3 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday. Mike Hoffman posted a goal and an assist and Mika Zibanejad also lit the lamp for the Senators, who had lost three of four coming into the game. Craig Anderson made 37 saves in the win. James van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and David Clarkson scored for the Maple Leafs, who have fallen in each of their last six outings. James Reimer gave up all four goals on 26 shots in the loss.

Final Score: Chicago 3, Pittsburgh 2 (SO)

Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane both scored during the shootout to lift the Chicago Blackhawks to a 3-2 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Wednesday. After David Perron’s backhander rang off the post, Toews froze Marc-Andre Fleury and shot the puck under his pads for the first goal in the skills competition. Corey Crawford made pad stop in tight on Sidney Crosby and Kane stickhandled his way up the middle and ended the game with a shot stick side. Marian Hossa tallied a goal and an assist, David Runblad also scored and Crawford made 33 saves for the Blackhawks, who halted a two-game skid heading into the All-Star break. Zach Sill scored his first NHL goal, Steve Downie lit the lamp and Fleury stopped 24 shots for the Penguins, who have lost four straight.

Final Score: Winnipeg 4, Columbus 0

Michael Hutchinson posted his second career shutout as the Winnipeg Jets defeated the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-0 on Wednesday to enter the All-Star break with a five-game winning streak. Hutchinson made 29 saves and four Jets players backed up their rookie netminder as Blake Wheeler, Evander Kane, Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn all scored in the win. Curtis McElhinney stopped 17-of-18 shots after coming on for an injured Sergei Bobrovsky during the second period. Bobrovsky, who was selected to play in Sunday’s All-Star game in Columbus, suffered the injury after stretching out to make a save during the second period and had to be helped off the ice. He allowed three goals on 12 shots before exiting. Columbus forward Jeremy Morin also left the game with an injury.

Final Score: Colorado 3, Boston 2 (SO)

Nathan MacKinnon scored the winning goal in the shootout as the Colorado Avalanche rallied for a 3-2 win over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. MacKinnon skated in on the first attempt and buried a wrister past Tuukka Rask. Semyon Varlamov then stopped Reilly Smith before David Pastrnak missed the net. Patrice Bergeron had the last chance for Boston, but Varlamov made the stop on the wrister to give Colorado the two points. Jarome Iginla and Ryan O’Reilly had the goals while Varlamov turned away 22 shots for the Avalanche, who snapped a two-game slide. Torey Krug and Brad Marchand scored for the Bruins, who have lost two of three. Rask finished the game with 34 saves.

Final Score: Anaheim 6, Calgary 3

Ben Lovejoy tallied a goal and an assist as the Anaheim Ducks cruised into the All-Star break with a 6-3 victory against the Calgary Flames. Tim Jackman, Pat Maroon, Kyle Palmieri, Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf all lit the lamp and Frederik Andersen made 30 saves for the Ducks, who have won five straight games. Sean Monahan scored for the fourth game in a row, while Joe Colborne and Mikael Backlund also lit the lamp for the Flames, who had their four-game winning streak come to an end. Jonas Hiller stopped 13-of-14 shots in relief of Joni Ortio, who allowed four goals on 11 shots. Anaheim extended its home winning streak to 20 games against Calgary. The Flames were last victorious at Honda Center on Jan. 19, 2004.

Final Score: San Jose 4, Los Angeles 2

Logan Couture had two goals and an assist to lead the San Jose Sharks to a 3-1 win over the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday. Patrick Marleau had a goal and an assist while Joe Pavelski also scored for the Sharks, who had lost their previous two coming in. Antti Niemi allowed two goals on 28 shots. Dustin Brown scored the only goal of the game for the Kings, who have lost four straight and seven of eight. Jonathan Quick gave up three goals on 24 shots.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Djokovic, Wawrinka reach 3rd round in Oz

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and defending champion Stan Wawrinka both breezed into the third round at the Australian Open on Thursday.

The four-time Aussie titlist Djokovic won the first nine games and needed just 84 minutes to dispose of Russian Andrey Kuznetsov 6-0, 6-1, 6-4 at Rod Laver Arena.

“Overall I executed the game plan,“ said Djokovic. “Everything I intended to do, almost 100%, from every second in my game, serve, baseline play, aggressive shots and aggressive returns.“

“He [Kuznetsov] dropped his first-serve percentage a lot in the second set and obviously allowed me to have a lot of looks at the second serves. That, as well, gave me an opportunity to step in and just swing through the ball.“

The reigning Wimbledon champion Djokovic captured three straight Aussie crowns from 2011-13.

His next step toward becoming the second man to win five Aussie Open titles will come Saturday against 31st-seeded Spaniard Fernando Verdasco, who handled Japan’s Go Soeda 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3) at Melbourne Park.

The fourth-seeded Wawrinka extended his winning streak at this major to nine with a 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win over Romanian qualifier Marius Copil. The tight affair saw the champ win just four more points than the game Copil, playing in his first Grand Slam main draw.

“It was quite a tough match,“ said Wawrinka. “Happy to get through, especially in three sets. Condition wasn’t easy today. Quite hot, really fast on the court, and he was playing great. He was serving big, putting lots of pressure. Wasn’t playing my best tennis, but I’m happy the way I fight today.“

Wawrinka has reached the third round in Melbourne seven years running. His next opponent will be Finnish left-hander Jarkko Nieminen.

Fifth-seeded Kei Nishikori fell behind early against Croat Ivan Dodig, but wound up pulling out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (7-0) victory, while eighth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic topped American Donald Young 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 and ninth-seeded former French Open runner-up David Ferrer overcame Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2.

Feliciano Lopez, seeded 12th, trailed by two sets to Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, staved off a match point in the third and advanced when Mannarino retired due to heat exhaustion in the fourth. Lopez was leading 4-0 in the fourth prior to Mannarino calling it quits, as Lopez moved on in 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 4-0 fashion.

American John Isner reached the round of 32 with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-4 decision over Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer. The 19th-seeded Isner avoided a date with No. 13 Roberto Bautista Agut, who was ousted by Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-5, 6-1 on Day 4.

In other second-round action involving seeds, 6-foot-8 Pole Jerzy Janowicz upended No. 17 Frenchman Gael Monfils 6-4, 1-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-3, No. 18 Frenchman Gilles Simon bested Spaniard Marcel Granollers 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-4, and American Steve Johnson pulled off a mild upset with a 6-3, 6-4, 6-2 pasting of No. 30 Colombian Santiago Giraldo. Johnson will next square off against Nishikori, last year’s U.S. Open runner-up.

Also on Thursday, Nieminen doused German Matthias Bachinger 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, 7-5; Canada’s Vasek Pospisil overcame Italian Paolo Lorenzi 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-4; Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez bested Colombian Alejandro Gonzalez 6-1, 6-3, 6-3; and German Benjamin Becker came all the way back to dismiss long-time Aussie favorite Lleyton Hewitt 2-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2. The 33-year-old former world No. 1 Hewitt is a two-time Grand Slam champion and former Aussie Open runner-up. Becker should have his hands full with the big- serving Raonic on Saturday.

The third round will get underway Friday, as second-seeded former world No. 1 Roger Federer will face Italian Andreas Seppi, third-seeded former top-ranked star Rafael Nadal will battle Israeli Dudi Sela and sixth-seeded three-time Aussie Open runner-up Andy Murray will tangle with Portuguese Joao Sousa.

Federer owns 17 a men’s-record major titles, including four at the Aussie Open. The 14-time Grand Slam winner and reigning French Open king Nadal beat Federer in the 2009 final and is a two-time runner-up here, including last year when he was stunned by Wawrinka in the finale.

Also on Day 5, seventh-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych will take on Serb Viktor Troicki and 10th-seeded Bulgarian Grigor Dimitrov will be opposed by former Melbourne runner-up Marcos Baghdatis.

►  Australian Open Men’s Tennis Update - January 22

Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Total Prize Money: $14,000,000


Novak Djokovic (1) def. Andrey Kuznetsov, 6-0, 6-1, 6-4
Stan Wawrinka (4) def. Marius Copil, 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3
Kei Nishikori (5) def. Ivan Dodig, 4-6, 7-5, 6-2, 7-6 (7-0)
Milos Raonic (8) def. Donald Young, 6-4, 7-6 (7-3), 6-3
David Ferrer (9) def. Sergiy Stakhovsky, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
Feliciano Lopez (12) def. Adrian Mannarino, 4-6, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3), 4-0, retired
Gilles Muller def. Roberto Bautista Agut (13), 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-5, 6-1
Jerzy Janowicz def. Gael Monfils (17), 6-4, 1-6, 6-7 (3-7), 6-3, 6-3
Gilles Simon (18) def. Marcel Granollers, 7-6 (7-5), 6-2, 6-4
John Isner (19) def. Andreas Haider-Maurer, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), 4-6, 6-4
Steve Johnson def. Santiago Giraldo (30), 6-3, 6-4, 6-2
Fernando Verdasco (31) def. Go Soeda, 6-3, 6-2, 7-6 (7-3)
Jarkko Nieminen def. Matthias Bachinger, 7-6 (7-4), 7-5, 7-5
Vasek Pospisil def. Paolo Lorenzi, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-4), 6-3, 6-4
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez def. Alejandro Gonzalez, 6-1, 6-3, 6-3
Benjamin Becker def. Lleyton Hewitt, 2-6, 1-6, 6-3, 6-4, 6-2


Roger Federer (2) vs. Andreas Seppi
Rafael Nadal (3) vs. Dudi Sela
Andy Murray (6) vs. Joao Sousa
Tomas Berdych (7) vs. Viktor Troicki
Grigor Dimitrov (10) vs. Marcos Baghdatis
Kevin Anderson (14) vs. Richard Gasquet (24)
Bernard Tomic vs. Sam Groth
Malek Jaziri vs. Nick Kyrgios

►  Australian Open Men’s Doubles Tennis Update - January 22

Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Total Prize Money: $2,600,000


J.Benneteau/E.Roger-Vasselin (2) def. H.Lee/Z.Zhang, 6-1, 6-4
A.Peya/B.Soares (5) def. V.Troicki/M.Youzhny, 6-1, 6-4
J.Rojer/H.Tecau (6) def. R.Berankis/A.Haider-Maurer, 6-4, 6-2
R.Bopanna/D.Nestor (7) def. M.Baghdatis/M.Matosevic, 7-6 (7-2), 7-5
R.Lindstedt/M.Matkowski (9) def. M.Jaziri/A.Shamasdin, 6-4, 6-4
J.Cabal/R.Farah (11) def. M.Pavic/A.Sa, 3-6, 6-3, 6-2
E.Butorac/S.Groth (12) def. P.Lorenzi/A.Seppi, 6-3, 7-6 (7-5)
P.Andujar/D.Brown def. I.Karlovic/J.Nieminen, 6-4, 3-6, 7-6 (7-5)
C.Berlocq/L.Mayer def. J.Brunstrom/N.Monroe, 6-4, 6-4
D.Schwartzman/H.Zeballos def. M.Bhupathi/J.Melzer, 6-4, 6-3
J.Chardy/L.Kubot def. D.Bracciali/J.Huta Galung, 6-3, 6-4
S.Bolelli/F.Fognini def. S.Johnson/S.Querrey, 5-7, 6-4, 6-3
O.Marach/M.Venus def. P.Gojowczyk/L.Rosol, 6-3, 7-6 (7-4)
S.Giraldo/J.Sousa def. M.Fyrstenberg/S.Gonzalez, 6-4, 6-4
A.Golubev/D.Istomin def. T.Kokkinakis/N.Kyrgios, 6-3, 2-6, 6-2
P.Herbert/N.Mahut def. M.Klizan/P.Oswald, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (7-2)
F.Lopez/M.Mirnyi def. J.Duckworth/L.Saville, 7-6 (7-1), 6-7 (5-7), 6-2


J.Rojer/H.Tecau (6) vs. C.Guccione/L.Hewitt
R.Bopanna/D.Nestor (7) vs. F.Lopez/M.Mirnyi
A.Qureshi/N.Zimonjic (8) vs. P.Carreno Busta/G.Garcia-Lopez
R.Klaasen/L.Paes (10) vs. S.Bolelli/F.Fognini
J.Knowle/V.Pospisil (13) vs. B.Becker/A.Sitak
D.Inglot/F.Mergea (14) vs. D.Schwartzman/H.Zeballos
J.Murray/J.Peers (16) vs. O.Jasika/J.Smith
A.Krajicek/D.Young vs. P.Cuevas/D.Marrero

►  Serena, Kvitova win; Azarenka ousts Wozniacki at Aussie

World No. 1 great and 18-time Grand Slam champion Serena Williams had to shake off a slow start before dispatching Vera Zvonareva in Thursday’s second-round action at the Australian Open.

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova also reached the round of 32, while a battle of former world No. 1s saw Victoria Azarenka upset Caroline Wozniacki.

The five-time Aussie Open and reigning U.S. Open chap Williams trailed late in the first set before ultimately taking a 7-5, 6-0 win over the unseeded Zvonareva of Russia. It marked a rematch of the 2010 Wimbledon final between the two, a match also captured by the American.

Williams said Zvonareva, a two-time Grand Slam finalist who played only five tournaments in 2014, started out aggressive “and I was a little too passive.“

So she told herself: “‘You know Serena, you’ve done so well here, you have nothing to lose.‘“

Zvonareva won only eight points in the lopsided second set.

Up next for Williams will be Ukrainian Elina Svitolina.

The fourth-seeded Kvitova, fresh off her title in Sydney last week, took care of German Mona Barthel 6-2, 6-4, while sixth-seeded former Wimbledon finalist Agnieszka Radwanska dispatched Swede Johanna Larsson 6-0, 6-1 on another hot day at Melbourne Park.

Up next for the two-time Wimbledon champ Kvitova will be rising American Madison Keys, while Radwanska will take on American Varvara Lepchenko. Keys pulled off a minor upset of 29th-seeded Aussie Casey Dellacqua, 2-6, 6-1, 6-1.

In the marquee match of the day, the unseeded two-time Aussie Open champ Azarenka vanquished the eighth-seeded U.S. Open runner-up Wozniacki 6-4, 6-2.

Wozniacki said she’s feels “cursed” at the Aussie Open. She also said while losing “sucks” she felt her good friend Azarenka was back to her best already after missing plenty of action last year due to injuries.

“Her level, it’s high,“ Wozniacki said. “I think she’s at the level that she left when she stopped playing.“

Azarenka and Wozniacki have now split eight career meetings. Wozniacki got the better of Azarenka in the third round at the 2008 U.S. Open in their lone previous Grand Slam matchup.

Azarenka titled in Melbourne back-to-back in 2012 and 2013 before being slowed by a foot injury last year.

“I knew that I’m unseeded so I can play anybody. I just accept whoever is on the opposite side (and) I’m happy with the way I stayed consistent throughout the whole match,“ she said.

“I think there’s always things you can improve, but it’s a great progress from one match to another.“

Azarenka’s third-round opponent will be Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova.

Serena’s 18th-seeded sister, Venus, who was the 2003 Aussie runner-up to her sibling, defeated fellow American Lauren Davis 6-2, 6-3. Venus has yet to lose this year, going 7-0, including a title in Auckland, where she upset Wozniacki in the final.

Venus will face Italian Camila Giorgi this weekend.

Eleventh-seeded Slovak and last year’s Aussie runner-up Dominika Cibulkova moved on by downing Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 6-2, 6-0, while American Coco Vandeweghe upended 20th-seeded former U.S. Open champion Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-4. Stosur has never reached a quarterfinal at her home major, where she’s competed every year since 2005, with the exception of 2008.

Cibulkova was last year’s Aussie runner-up to the since-retired Li Na.

Meanwhile, 19th-seeded Alize Cornet defeated Denisa Allertova 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2; 24th-seeded Garbine Muguruza dropped Daniela Hantuchova 6-1, 1-6, 6-0; a 25th-seeded Zahlavova Strycova moved past Kai-Chen Chang 6-1, 7-5; the No. 26 seed Svitolina worked past Nicole Gibbs 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6); and a 30th-seeded Lepchenko defeated Ajla Tomljanovic 6-1, 7-6 (7-1). Lepchenko will face Radwanska on Saturday.

Additional second-round results saw Giorgi ease past Tereza Smitkova 6-1, 6-4, Swiss Timea Bacsinszky beat Anna Tatishvili 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-2, and American Madison Brengle cruise past compatriot Irina Falconi 6-1, 6-3. Brengle reached her first-ever WTA final in Hobart last week and will meet another fellow American, Vandeweghe, in the round of 32.

In some third-round action on Friday, second-seeded Maria Sharapova will face 31st-seeded Kazakhstani Zarina Diyas; third-seeded French Open runner-up Simona Halep will meet American Bethanie Mattek-Sands; seventh-seeded Wimbledon runner-up Eugenie Bouchard will be opposed by France’s Caroline Garcia; and 10th-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova will battle 22nd-seeded rising Czech Karolina Pliskova, last week’s Sydney runner-up to Kvitova.

The former No. 1 and reigning French Open champion Sharapova was the Aussie champ in 2008 and runner-up in 2007 and 2012.

►  Australian Open Women’s Tennis Update - January 22

Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Total Prize Money: $14,000,000


Serena Williams (1) def. Vera Zvonareva, 7-5, 6-0
Petra Kvitova (4) def. Mona Barthel, 6-2, 6-4
Agnieszka Radwanska (6) def. Johanna Larsson, 6-0, 6-1
Victoria Azarenka def. Caroline Wozniacki (8), 6-4, 6-2
Dominika Cibulkova (11) def. Tsvetana Pironkova, 6-2, 6-0
Venus Williams (18) def. Lauren Davis, 6-2, 6-3
Alize Cornet (19) def. Denisa Allertova, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-2
Coco Vandeweghe def. Samantha Stosur (20), 6-4, 6-4
Garbine Muguruza (24) def. Daniela Hantuchova, 6-1, 1-6, 6-0
Barbora Zahlavova Strycova (25) def. Kai-Chen Chang, 6-1, 7-5
Elina Svitolina (26) def. Nicole Gibbs, 7-6 (7-3), 7-6 (8-6)
Madison Keys def. Casey Dellacqua (29), 2-6, 6-1, 6-1
Varvara Lepchenko (30) def. Ajla Tomljanovic, 6-1, 7-6 (7-1)
Madison Brengle def. Irina Falconi, 6-1, 6-3
Camila Giorgi def. Tereza Smitkova, 6-1, 6-4
Timea Bacsinszky def. Anna Tatishvili, 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-2


Maria Sharapova (2) vs. Zarina Diyas (31)
Simona Halep (3) vs. Bethanie Mattek-Sands
Eugenie Bouchard (7) vs. Caroline Garcia
Ekaterina Makarova (10) vs. Karolina Pliskova (22)
Sara Errani (14) vs. Yanina Wickmayer
Peng Shuai (21) vs. Yaroslava Shvedova
Lucie Hradecka vs. Julia Goerges
Carina Witthoeft vs. Irina-Camelia Begu

►  Australian Open Women’s Doubles Tennis Update - January 22

Melbourne Park, Melbourne, Australia

Total Prize Money: $2,600,000


S.Errani/R.Vinci (1) def. K.Pliskova/A.Schmiedlova, 6-2, 6-0
R.Kops-Jones/A.Spears (5) def. K.Birrell/P.Hon, 6-3, 7-5
C.Garcia/K.Srebotnik (7) def. A.Petkovic/M.Rybarikova, 6-4, 5-7, 6-2
A.Hlavackova/L.Hradecka (9) def. L.Kichenok/O.Savchuk, 6-0, 7-6 (7-4)
T.Babos/K.Mladenovic (10) def. B.Jovanovski/K.Piter, 6-1, 6-3
Y.Chan/Z.Jie (14) def. K.Koukalova/S.Voegele, 6-3, 6-0
J.Goerges/A.Groenefeld (16) def. M.Inglis/A.Nancarrow, 6-4, 6-1
S.Stephens/T.Townsend def. M.Lucic-Baroni/L.Raymond, 7-6 (9-7), 6-3
S.Soler-Espinosa/M.Torro-Flor def. T.Bacsinszky/Y.Beygelzimer, 4-6, 6-2, 6-1
Z.Diyas/C.Scheepers def. D.Jurak/M.Moulton-Levy, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5)
L.Arruabarrena/I.Begu def. Z.Yang/Q.Ye, 5-7, 6-4, 6-4
D.Hantuchova/K.Knapp def. C.Chuang/Z.Shuai, 6-3, 6-3
B.Mattek-Sands/L.Safarova def. T.Maria/R.Olaru, 6-3, 6-2
A.Panova/H.Watson def. A.Beck/S.Peer, 2-6, 7-5, 3-1, retired
J.Gajdosova/A.Tomljanovic def. J.Moore/A.Myers, 6-0, 6-0


C.Vandeweghe/Y.Wickmayer vs. D.Cibulkova/K.Flipkens


S.Errani/R.Vinci (1) vs. M.Barthel/M.Minella
S.Hsieh/S.Mirza (2) vs. G.Dabrowski/A.Rosolska
M.Hingis/F.Pennetta (4) vs. D.Hantuchova/K.Knapp
R.Kops-Jones/A.Spears (5) vs. V.Diatchenko/M.Niculescu
G.Muguruza/C.Suarez Navarro (6) vs. K.Jans-Ignacik/A.Klepac
A.Kudryavtseva/A.Pavlyuchenkova (12) vs. A.Panova/H.Watson
M.Krajicek/B.Zahlavova Strycova (13) vs. J.Gajdosova/A.Tomljanovic
A.Rodionova/A.Rodionova vs. S.Kuznetsova/S.Stosur
S.Soler-Espinosa/M.Torro-Flor vs. P.Shuai/X.Yi-Fan

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Next start for Far Right undecided

Far Right, winner of Monday’s Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Park, will make his next start at the historic track, but which stakes has yet to be determined.

“I’ll let the horse tell me when he wants to run,“ trainer Ron Moquett said. “I want to get to the big race, but I want to get there with a fresh, healthy, happy horse.“

Moquett said the 3-year-old, owned by Robert LaPenta and Harry Rosenblum, will start next in either the $300,000 Southwest Stakes on February 16 or the $750,000 Rebel Stakes on March 14. Both stakes are 1 1/16 miles and are followed by the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11, three weeks before the Kentucky Derby.

Far Right had Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle for the Smarty Jones. The pair broke from the inside post and scooted along the rail the entire race. The colt was able to rally from off the pace coming into the stretch. Mr. Z, the 11-10 favorite, had taken command coming off the final turn but drifted out badly with a furlong to run.

“There was some room down on the rail. I really won with something left. I definitely think he’ll go on an extra sixteenth to an eighth of a mile, maybe even a mile and a quarter,“ Smith said.

Smith will be aboard Far Right which ever race comes next.

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning that Mr. Z, third in the Smarty Jones, will make his next start in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes.

Mr. Z, owned by Zayat Stables, was ridden in the Smarty Jones by Jon Court.

“If Jon would have not hit him, I think, and just hand rode him, he might have won by five or six (lengths),“ Lukas said. “He knifed him left-handed. He won’t take that.“

Owner Ahmed Zayat and Lukas will come to a decision on the colt’s jockey.

►  Barbados ready for Hutcheson Stakes

Eight 3-year-olds have been entered for Saturday’s $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park, but only seven are expected to leave the starting gate.

Bluegrass Singer, winner of Gulfstream’s Mucho Macho Man Stakes on January 3, is probable for the featured Holy Bull on the card. Also entered in both stakes is Dom the Bomb.

Getting a lot of attention for the seven-furlong Hutcheson is Barbados, winner of the track’s Spectacular Bid Stakes on January 3. The colt, trained by Mike Tomlinson, will start from post 7 with Luis Saez again riding.

“The plan was the Hutcheson if he passed the first test,“ Tomlinson said. “He’s doing excellent. He’s a very intelligent colt. He’s the kind of colt that may run a little farther than his pedigree says just because he’s such a smart horse.“

Barbados, owned by Paul and Suzanne Hanifl’s Suzanne Stables, began his career on the turf at Kentucky Downs with a second and a fifth. He won over Keeneland’s newly installed dirt main track, listed as sloppy, last October and came back to start his 2015 campaign by winning the Spectacular Bid by three lengths.

“He showed a lot of talent in his race at Keeneland,“ Tomlinson said, “and the ability to sit off the pace. He’s not necessarily one-dimensional. He’s got good conformation and he’s absolutely sound. He’s got as much talent as anything I’ve ever had, and he definitely is as smart as any colt I’ve ever had.

“At this time of year, it’s hard not to think about it, but we’ve got to let the colt take us where he’s going to take us, and let him lead us as far as he can go. We’ll see what that is. We’re going to take it a step at a time and see how far he takes us. If two turns is in the picture, then we’ll take advantage of it.“

The 3-year-old has earned $113,650.

From the rail out here is the Hutcheson field: Stanford, John Velazquez; Bridget’s Big Luvy, Jose Ortiz; Dom the Bomb, Javier Castellano; Richard the Great, Joel Rosario; Big Family, Edgar Prado; X Y Jet, Edgard Zayas, Barbados, Luis Saez and Bluegrass Singer, Rafael Hernandez.

The Hutcheson has an approximate post time of 3:30 PM ET.

►  Bluegrass Singer most likely for Holy Bull Stakes

Local stakes winner Bluegrass Singer is most likely to start in Saturday’s $400,000 Holy Bull Stakes over the day’s $150,000 Hutcheson Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Holy Bull offers points as part of the Kentucky Derby qualifying system unlike the seven-furlong Hutcheson, both important prep races, however, for 3-year-olds leading to the Florida Derby on March 28.

“I’m leaning toward the Holy Bull,“ Bluegrass Singer’s trainer Marcus Vitali said. “I’m trying to get some points together, and that’s kind of my decision. (jockey Javier Castellano) Javier’s got the assignment, and those two got along really good last time. I just think we’ve got to take our chances, hope for the best and shoot for the sky.“

Bluegrass Singer, owned by Cross Sabres Farm, has drawn post 4 for the 10- horse Holy Bull and the far outside post for the eight-horse Hutcheson. Jockey Rafael Hernandez is listed for the Hutcheson.

Bluegrass Singer, with Castellano riding, led most of the way in winning the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream on January 3.

“I brought him back into the race easy off the last race, being just three weeks between races. I figured he’s run so many times and he’s the kind of horse that keeps himself fit anyway,“ Vitali said. “It can be kind of a tricky situation when you’re pointing for two races. You’ve got to train them a little different for either race. I just did my best and the horse responded to everything perfect. He’s coming into the race excellent.“

Bluegrass Singer has won three of seven starts for $119,835.

The 2-1 morning line favorite for the Holy Bull is Upstart, owned by Ralph M. Evans and trained by Richard Violette. The colt will be ridden by Jose Ortiz from post 8 in his 2015 debut.

“He’s filled out. He was a little big leggy as a 2-year-old. I don’t think he’s gotten any taller, but there’s a little more muscle to him; he’s a little bit squarer. He looks more like an older horse than a baby now,“ Violette said. “He’s pretty sharp and confident, without being mean. He has a really nice eye. He’s pretty correct. He’s a pretty clever horse.“

Upstart was first or second in his first three starts before getting third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Ortiz has been in the saddle all four times as the colt has banked $463,800.

“He ran a really good second and was kind of up against it in the Champagne. He confirmed his quality and he just got nailed for second in the Breeders’ Cup despite not having a whole lot in his favor. He’s underlining that he’s a significantly good horse,“ Violette said. “Certainly, he belongs in the elite of the 3-year-olds this year, as long as he proves it. He’s more than just a nice New York-bred; he’s a nice horse.“

Also making his 3-year-old debut Saturday will be 5-2 second pick Frosted, trained by Kiaran McLaughlin for Godolphin Racing. The gray colt will again be ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. from the inside post.

“He’s been training great. He’s doing great,“ said McLaughlin.

Frosted was second his first two starts before winning at Aqueduct on October 30. On November 29 he was second, beaten a half-length, to Leave the Light On in the Remsen at Aqueduct.

“He ran huge. He had the 13 hole, the track was a conveyor belt, and he was unlucky to lose. He’s a very nice horse,“ said McLaughlin. Frosted has earned $150,600.

Here is the field for the Holy Bull in post position order: Frosted, Irad Ortiz Jr.; Keen Ice, Edgard Zayas; High Noon Rider, Joel Rosario; Bluegrass Singer, Javier Castellano; Juan and Bina, Jose Lezcano; First Down, Rajiv Maragh; Frammento, Luis Saez; Upstart, Jose Ortiz; Dom the Bomb, Rafael Hernandez and Decision Day, John Velazquez.

The Holy Bull has an approximate post time of 4:34 PM ET.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NASCAR CEO Brian France calls Jeff Gordon’s retirement announcement ‘bittersweet’

Four-time Cup Series champion Jeff Gordon announced the 2015 season will be his last as a full-time NASCAR driver. Gordon told his colleagues at Hendrick Motorsports on Thursday morning, just prior to making the announcement public via Twitter.

Gordon has racked up 92 career Cup wins, which puts him in the Top 3 most-decorated NASCAR drivers of all-time, but at 43, the question of when his final final lap would be has been looming for a while. A younger Gordon once said he wouldn’t race past age 40. Gordon also has two young kids who he misses — a lot — when he’s on the road so much. This was made evident in a 2014 profile of Gordon by The Washington Post’s Rick Maese, who accompanied Gordon on a business trip to Delaware:

                        That morning, before dropping 6-year-old Ella off at school, she told him, “Papa, when I see [the school dean] today, I’m going to ask him if he could change the date of the father-daughter dance because you’re never able to go.” As the plane prepared to land, Gordon became teary just thinking about it.

                        “It was the sweetest thing,” he said, “but it broke my heart at the same time.”

                        While he might appreciate the victories more than when he was younger, the celebration doesn’t last very long. Winning never became humdrum, but life changed.

                        “When you go back to your kids, they’re happy and excited for five minutes,” he said, “but then it’s, ‘Okay, time to play,’ or ‘Let’s go hit the ball.’ With my daughter, it’s play dolls, play make-believe.”

Gordon didn’t bring up his family directly while addressing his colleagues at Hendrick Motorsports on Thursday. Instead, he noted he’s basing his deicion on “instincts.”

“As a race car driver, much of what I’ve done throughout my life has been based on following my instincts and trying to make good decisions. I thought long and hard about my future this past year and during the offseason, and I’ve decided 2015 will be the last time I compete for a championship,” Gordon said, refusing to use what he calls the “R-word,” or retirement.

He added also that just because he has no plans to compete for the championship behind the driver’s wheel past 2015, it doesn’t mean he’ll drop from the circuit altogether.

“I don’t foresee a day when I’ll ever step away from racing. I’m a fan of all forms of motor sports, but particularly NASCAR. We have a tremendous product, and I’m passionate about the business and its future success,” Gordon said. “As an equity owner in Hendrick Motorsports, I’m a partner with Rick (Hendrick) and will remain heavily involved with the company for many years to come. It means so much to have the chance to continue working with the owner who took a chance on me and the incredible team that’s stood behind me every step of the way.”

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France released a statement just hours after Gordon’s announcement, calling the news “bittersweet.”

“Today’s announcement is a bittersweet one. I’ll miss his competitive fire on a weekly basis, but I am also happy for Jeff and his family as they start a new chapter,” France said in statement sent to The Washington Post. He was quick also remember that Gordon’s notice is not effective immediately. Remember, he still has one year left!

“Jeff Gordon transcends NASCAR and will be celebrated as one of the greatest drivers to ever race. We have all enjoyed watching his legend grow for more than two decades, and will continue to do so during his final full-time season,” France said, adding, “His prolonged excellence and unmatched class continue to earn him the admiration of fans across the globe.”

Gordon also was a favorite among his peers. Reaction to the news from fellow NASCAR drivers came swiftly, most in disbelief as the No. 24 Chevrolet driver for Hendrick has been such a stalwart on the scene.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Basketball Association
Toronto at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - TSN2, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Orlando at New York, 7:30 PM - FS-Florida, MSG, DSS
Oklahoma City at Atlanta, 7:30 PM - FS-Oklahoma, SportSouth, DSS
Charlotte at Cleveland, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Ohio, DSS
Indiana at Miami, 7:30 PM - FS-Indiana, SunSports, DSS
Chicago at Dallas, 8:00 PM - WPWR, FS-Southwest, ESPN
New Orleans at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, North, DSS
LA Lakers at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - Time Warner, FS-SOuthwest, DSS
Boston at Denver, 9:00 PM - CSN-New England, Altitude, DSS
Houston at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Sacramento at Golden State, 10:30 PM - CSN-California, Bay, DSS
National Hockey League
All-Star Fantasy Draft, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
College Basketball
VCU at Saint Louis, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Manhattan at Quinnipiac, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Marist at Siena, 7:00 PM -
Niagara at Monmouth, 7:00 PM -
Detroit at Cleveland State, 8:00 PM -
Valparaiso at Green Bay, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Oregon at Arizona State, 1:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Seton Hall at Villanova, 7:00 PM - FS1
Wake Forest at Virginia Tech, 7:00 PM - RSN,
Southern Ill at Missouri State, 8:00 PM -
Creighton at DePaul, 9:00 PM - FS1
Stanford at UCLA, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Colorado at Washington, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Oregon State at Arizona, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
College Hockey
Ohio State at Michigan State, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, SportsTime Ohio
Providence at Massachusetts-Lowell, 7:15 PM - NESN
Colorado College at North Dakota, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
Minnesota State at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-North+
Michigan at Wisconsin, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network
NBA Developmental League
Westchester at Erie, 7:00 PM - MSG+
International Soccer
Ghana vs. Algeria, 10:55 AM - beIN Sport
OGC Nice vs. Olympique de Marseille, 2:25 PM - beIN Sport
Cambridge vs. Manchester United, 3:00 PM - FS1
EUROPEAN - Qatar Masters, 4:30 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Humana Challenge, 3:00 PM - Golf Channel
CHAMPIONS - Mitsubishi Electric Championship, 7:30 PM - Golf Channel
Australian Open, 3:00 AM - ESPN 2
Australian Open, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2

Sports News   150116

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Herd center Chris Jasperse will represent Marshall at the annual all-star game

Thundering Herd center Chris Jasperse will continue a run of three consecutive years with Marshall sending a representative to the Senior Bowl. Jasperse has been selected to play in the Reese’s Senior Bowl on January 24 at Ladd-Peebles stadium.

Jasperse performed well in Saturday’s Medal of Honor Bowl, earning him a roster spot for the premiere college football all-star game and a chance to play in front of representatives from nearly every NFL organization.

Marshall players have increased their professional stock in recent years with their performance during Senior Bowl practice and in the game itself. Aaron Dobson impressed scouts with his athelticism and was drafted by the New England Patriots in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft. Tight end Gator Hoskins played in the game last year and defensive end Vinny Curry participated in 2012 before being drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

Jasperse played over 4,000 snaps at Marshall and was a 1st Team All-Conference selection this past season. He started every game of his Marshall career after being redshirted as a walk-on in 2010.

Meanwhile, James Rouse has been selected to play in the College Gridiorn Showcase in Arlington, Texas. Rouse was a two-time All-CUSA 1st Team selection and was the 2013 team MVP.

Quarterback Rakeem Cato is playing the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl this Saturday in Carson, CA. That game will be televised on ESPN2. Kickoff is set for 4 PM.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Ray Rice reportedly settles with Ravens over back pay. His wife calls him ‘the best husband in the world.’

The Baltimore Ravens cut Ray Rice on September 08 — terminating a $35 million contract — after video surfaced of him punching out his wife in an Atlantic City hotel elevator (he was later suspended indefinitely by the NFL, a decision that has since been overturned by a former federal judge). Rice subsequently filed a grievance against the Ravens seeking back pay worth about $3.5 million, “the amount he lost in nonguaranteed base salary when he was cut,” the Baltimore Sun reports.

The two sides were supposed to present their arguments at a hearing in Maryland on Thursday, but according to Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk, Rice and the Ravens worked out a settlement “several days ago.”

Says Florio:

              The term “settled” implies money changed hands.  Chances are that the amount will not be disclosed publicly, which is common when money changes hands to put to rest a legal claim.

              So that ends the relationship between Rice and the Ravens.  The real question is whether anyone else will give Rice a job.

According to the Sun, Rice’s representatives were prepared to argue that his termination by the Ravens violated Article 46 of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, “which prohibits an NFL player from receiving more than one punishment for a single violation.” At the time he was cut, Rice was serving a two-game NFL suspension.

The Ravens could have argued that they cut Rice because his skills had diminished, or that they foresaw that other running backs on the team — such as Justin Forsett, who rushed for 1,266 yards this season — would supplant him as the team’s starter. As the Sun and Florio note, it would have been risky for the Ravens to argue that they cut Rice because of the embarrassment caused by the video’s public airing, especially because the team supported him until the video’s release and, according to the recently released Mueller report, the team knew exactly what happened in that elevator soon after the incident took place.

Janay Rice celebrated her 27th birthday on Wednesday with her husband, who apparently went all out for the celebration.

“Ok first off I literally have the best husband in the world, he went above and beyond to make my birthday special. He ended the day with a surprise dinner party with my family & friends,” Janay Rice wrote as a caption to the Instagram photo.

►  Colts place McNary on exempt list

The Indianapolis Colts have placed linebacker Josh McNary on the commissioner’s exempt list, a day after he was charged with rape and other offenses.

The Colts are set to play New England this Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

According to court documents posted online by Wednesday, prosecutors in Marion County (Indiana) charged McNary with rape and criminal confinement, both felonies, and battery resulting in bodily injury, a misdemeanor.

The commissioner’s exempt list is the same status Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson was given in September while dealing with his legal issues stemming from charges of child abuse.

McNary joined the Colts as a free agent in April 2013. He has recorded 54 tackles in 20 NFL games, starting four this season.

The Colts promoted wide receiver Griff Whalen from the practice squad to the active roster. Whalen has appeared in 19 regular-season games, including three starts, for the Colts. He has 26 receptions for 282 yards with two touchdowns and has also averaged 8.6 yards on 34 punt returns with 25.1 yards on 16 kickoff returns.

Indianapolis also signed defensive end Gannon Conway to the practice squad.

►  Raiders make it official with Del Rio

The Oakland Raiders made it official Thursday and named Jack Del Rio as their new head coach.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but on Wednesday said it would be a four-year contract for the former Jacksonville Jaguars head coach.

“After a thorough interview and evaluation process, we are excited to announce Jack Del Rio as the head coach of the Oakland Raiders,“ said owner Mark Davis. “I have no doubt that he will make a significant impact and help reach the goal of everyone in this building, which is to win championships.“

Del Rio will join the Raiders after three seasons as defensive coordinator for AFC West rival Denver. The Broncos had the NFL’s third-ranked defense during the 2014 regular season.

The 51-year-old was Jacksonville’s head coach from 2003 until he was fired in 2011 near the end of his ninth season. The Jaguars were 68-71 under Del Rio, making the playoffs twice.

The Raiders haven’t been to the playoffs since losing to Tampa Bay in the Super Bowl after the 2002 season, and haven’t had a winning record in the 12 years since that run.

“Jack Del Rio brings a strong leadership presence to this organization,“ said Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie. “He has developed an excellent reputation as a coach in this league and we are happy that he is a Raider.“

Oakland was 3-13 in 2014 under Dennis Allen and Tony Sparano. Allen, who also joined the Raiders after serving as defensive coordinator with the Broncos, was fired after an 0-4 start. Sparano, who was interviewed for the full-time post, was 3-9 over the final 12 games.

Del Rio, raised in nearby Hayward, California, was a linebacker for 11 years in the NFL from 1985-95, then began his coaching career with the Saints as assistant strength coach in 1997.

After two years with New Orleans, the second as linebackers coach, Del Rio moved on to Baltimore and was the linebackers coach with the Ravens for three years. After a one-year stint as defensive coordinator with Carolina in 2002, he took over as head coach in Jacksonville.

►  Ryan hires Thurman as Bills defensive coordinator

Rex Ryan and the Buffalo Bills wasted little time in filling out their coaching staff.

Ryan, who was named head coach on Monday, announced the hire of close friend Dennis Thurman as defensive coordinator Thursday, along with seven more coaches who come along to the Bills from his New York Jets staff.

Thurman served in the same role under Ryan with the Jets from 2013-14 after coaching the defensive backs from 2009-12.

The two have worked together since being members of the Baltimore Ravens’ defensive staff in 2002.

Over the last two seasons, the Jets’ defense has held opposing rushers to the second fewest rushing yards per game, allowing only 90.7 yards per game. They led the NFL by only allowing 3.56 yards per rush over the past two seasons.

In 2014, Buffalo’s defense finished fourth in the NFL in yards allowed and led the league with 54 sacks. Thurman replaces Jim Schwartz, whose contract was terminated, allowing him to pursue other jobs.

Before joining the Jets, Thurman was part of the Ravens’ coaching staff for six years from 2002-07. He spent his first two seasons as a defensive assistant and his last four seasons coaching the secondary.

Bobby April III (linebackers), Karl Dunbar (defensive line), Tim McDonald (defensive backs), Jason Oszvart (strength and conditioning assistant), Eric Smith (special teams assistant), Tony Sparano Jr. (tight ends) and Jeff Weeks (assistant defensive line) were also hired by the Bills on Thursday.

►  Cardinals give Lynn three-year deal

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Lance Lynn has agreed to a three-year contract, avoiding arbitration.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but reported the deal to be worth $22 million. It will cover the remainder of Lynn’s arbitration-eligible years.

“We are pleased to have reached this agreement with Lance,“ said Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak in a statement Thursday. “His performance has led to much success for both he and the Cardinals organization, and we look forward to his continued growth as both a pitcher and team leader.“

Lynn has compiled a record of 49-28 with a 3.46 ERA in 119 games, 97 of which have been starts, since making his debut in 2011. He has been a member of four straight postseason clubs, helping the Cardinals to the 2011 World Series with 10 games out of the bullpen.

The 27-year-old right-hander was selected by the Cardinals with the 39th overall pick of the 2008 draft. His 48 wins since 2012 are the third-most in the National League, bettered only by teammate Adam Wainwright’s 53 victories and Clayton Kershaw’s 51 wins.

Lynn was an All-Star in his first full season of 2012 when he posted a record of 18-7 with a 3.78 ERA. He has won 15 games each of the last two seasons, finishing 2014 with a mark of 15-10 and a career-best 2.74 ERA in 33 starts.

►  For the Seahawks to advance, Russell Wilson must find his receivers quickly

Russell Wilson is everything you would expect in a dual-threat quarterback. The 26-year-old completed more than 63% of his passes this season for 3,475 yards and 20 touchdowns. Plus, he rushed for 849 yards, had six more touchdowns on the ground and became the first player in NFL history to throw for more than 300 yards AND rush for 100 yards or more in a single game.

But his decision making has also improved this season. His accuracy%age, which takes into account dropped passes, throw aways, spiked balls, batted passes and passes where the quarterback was hit while they threw the ball, was fifth best in the league at 76.0%, an improvement over last year’s 71.9%. Wilson is also getting better at reading the field.

Last year only Eagles’ quarterback Nick Foles took longer to make an attempted pass (2.9 seconds) than Wilson (2.8), but this season Wilson led the league (2.9). However, it was a lightning-fast 2.2 seconds during the second-round game against the Carolina Panthers.

And that is going to be the key for Wilson: get the ball out quickly so as to not overtax the offensive line in pass protection.

“It’s important because you don’t get rushed,” Seahawks Coach Pete Carroll said. “You have a chance to get the ball out before they can get to you. That makes the urgency of the rush have to pick up. When you play Russell, the ball can come out really quick. And you better get your hands up, you better do what you can to get in his way as you’re going to have to deal with him when he takes off and makes it about as hard as we can make it.”

It should be no surprise that Wilson’s best passer rating of the season was against the Panthers (149.2) after setting a season best in terms of getting the ball into the hands of his receivers.

►  Cowboys announce 5-year deal for Garrett

The Dallas Cowboys made it official on Thursday, signing Jason Garrett to a new five-year contract agreement to remain the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach.

The pact will pay the Princeton product $30 million for the duration.

Garrett led the Cowboys to the playoffs this season for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys captured the NFC East title with a 12-4 record—their best since going 13-3 in 2007—and then beat the Detroit Lions in the wild- card round before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round last Sunday.

The 48-year-old Garrett became the Cowboys’ interim head coach in the middle of the 2010 season, replacing Wade Phillips, who was fired following the team’s 1-7 start.

Dallas finished the season 5-3 under Garrett, earning him the job on a full- time basis.

The Cowboys went 8-8 in each of the next three seasons, losing Week 17 games to division opponents to miss the playoffs each time.

Dallas also announced new contracts for defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli and new offensive coordinator Scott Linehan. Linehan takes over for Bill Callahan, who has moved on to become offensive line coach with the rival Redskins.

In addition, Garrett said he was “in a process of finalizing” the remainder of his coaching staff.

►  Spagnuolo reassumes role of Giants defensive coordinator

The New York Giants announced that Steve Spagnuolo has been hired as their defensive coordinator, the same position he held with the team from 2007-08.

In both of his seasons leading the New York D, the unit finished top-10 in the league in yards allowed, and the Giants won Super Bowl XLII when they knocked off the then-undefeated New England Patriots.

“The energy, enthusiasm and strong personality that we saw before in Steve Spagnuolo, all of that was very evident again,“ said Giants coach Tom Coughlin. “His desire to be a Giant again was very, very obvious.“

Spagnuolo is replacing Perry Fewell, who was fired by the Giants earlier this month after they finished 2014 with a 6-10 record and the 29th-ranked defense. Fewell also won a Super Bowl with New York,

After his first two seasons with the Giants, Spagnuolo was hired as the head coach of the St. Louis Rams. In three seasons, St. Louis won just 10 games, including a 1-15 finish his first season on the job.

The following season, Spagnuolo was hired as the New Orleans Saints’ defensive coordinator. Head coach Sean Payton would be suspended that season because of the team’s bounty scandal, and the defense proceeded to allow the most yards in a season in NFL history.

He was fired after one season.

Spagnuolo has spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach for the Baltimore Ravens under John Harbaugh, who he had previously coached with on the Philadelphia Eagles staff. Spagnuolo coached with the Eagles for eight seasons before being hired by the Giants in 2007.

The Giants also announced that Tim Walton was hired to coach the secondary.

►  Greg Jones retires as a Jaguar

Fullback Greg Jones signed a one-day contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars on Thursday and retired with the team that drafted him in 2004.

Jones spent the 2013 season with the Houston Texans after nine seasons with the Jaguars. He went to training camp with the New Orleans Saints last year before getting cut.

A second-round draft pick in 2004, Jones played in 115 games with 67 starts during his tenure in Jacksonville. He blocked for Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew, star running backs that made a combined four Pro Bowls.

Jones rushed for 913 yards and 10 touchdowns in his career. The Florida State product also caught 73 passes for 471 yards and three scores.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL playoff picks: Seahawks will beat Packers in NFC, Patriots will top Colts in AFC

It’s championship weekend, as four teams vie for two berths in Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona. The Seattle Seahawks, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers each won 12 games this year, while the Indianapolis Colts were not far behind with 11 victories. However, both conference championship games could end up being blowouts.

Green Bay Packers (+7.5) at Seattle Seahawks

The Seahawks were a different team in the second half of the season, going 8-2 against the spread since Week 8 and limiting teams to 245 or fewer total yards in each of the last six regular season games (league average was 347.5 yards per team per game).

Green Bay boasts the league’s most valuable player in quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but he is slowed by a left calf injury that is keeping him from practice.

“It’s not better. It’s worse than when I started the game but it’s doing okay,” Rodgers said on his weekly radio show. “I’m tired of talking about it. It is what it is. It’s a significant injury. I was able to get through it.”

Rodgers completed 68.6% of his passes for 316 yards and three touchdowns to move the Packers past the Dallas Cowboys in Sunday’s divisional playoff game, but it was clear he struggled to get the ball downfield.

Then there is home-field advantage to consider. The Seahawks have lost just two times at home in the last three years, while all four of the Packers’ losses on the road this season have been by at least eight points and none covered the spread.

Pick: Seattle Seahawks -7.5

Win Probability: Seattle Seahawks 81.9%

Indianapolis Colts (+6.5) at New England Patriots

Most of the hype surrounding this game is around the quarterbacks, Tom Brady and Andrew Luck, but this game is more lopsided than it might look. According to the Simple Rating System,  a rating that takes into account average point differential and strength of schedule, the Colts are a one-trick pony. Here is how those metrics break down into their offensive and defensive components.

That’s why the battle in the trenches, not the quarterbacks, will be what decides who moves on to the Super Bowl.

The Colts offensive line is not good at preventing pressure. They have allowed Luck to be sacked, hit or hurried 26 times on 91 passing plays so far in the postseason, and that has caused him to make poor decisions.

Keep an eye on the Patriots left defensive end, Rob Ninkovich.

Ninkovich pressured the quarterback 51 times plus made 19 stops on the run. He will be tasked with blocking the fullback when Luck decides to scramble to his left and making sure no one is open in the backfield behind him. When Ninkovich dropped back into coverage, opposing quarterbacks had a 99.8 passer rating against him.

Pick: New England Patriots – 6.5

Win Probability: New England Patriots 80.5%

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lady Titans’ Game tonight at 7:00 PM

The tip-off for the Varsity Girls Basketball vs. Doddridge County game for Friday, January 16, 2015 has been moved from 7:30 PM to 7:00 PM.

This is a varsity only game.

Admission is $3.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 15)

#4 Gilmer County 73     Calhoun County 39

Braxton County 68     South Harrison 50

#9 Lincoln 91     Liberty 34

Webster County 80     Clay County 45

#2 Bridgeport 74     Lewis County 48

East Fairmont 54     Buckhannon-Upshur 49

Parkersburg Christian 85     South Charleston 49

#6 Robert C. Byrd 69     North Marion 38

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 15)

St. Marys 71     Wirt County 53

#3 Parkersburg South 79     University 40

Tyler Consolidated 46     Valley Wetzel 42

South Charleston 56     Parkersburg 48

Poca 44     Nicholas County 39

Wood County Christian 60     Paden City 39

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Women’s Basketball Notebook

(Thursday, January 15)

* The Mountain East Conference is the fifth-highest scoring league (69.56 points per game).

* Shepherd, under the direction of first-year head coach Jenna Eckleberry, are off to an 11-4 start and sit atop the MEC standings with an 8-1 mark.

* Six different players have led SU in scoring in games this season.

* The Rams have been out-rebounded in all but one game this season, but have had a better shooting percentage than their opponent in all but five games.

* Shepherd takes on Wheeling Jesuit on Saturday before playing the league’s second-place team Fairmont State next Thursday, January 22. Eckleberry was a player for the Falcons and was an assistant coach at FSU for seven seasons before taking over in Shepherdstown.

* Fairmont State currently has the league’s best winning streak having won seven-straight games.

* Emily Lohr, who is fourth in the league in scoring, is second in the country in three-point field goal percentage making 62% of her shots from behind the arc. Lohr has scored 20 points or more in five of the last seven games and has hit 26 threes during that stretch.

* FSU is ranked sixth in the most recent D2SIDA Atlantic Region Media Poll.

* West Liberty leads the country in scoring at 85.1 points per game.

* WLU is the only team to knock off Shepherd so far this season.

* The Hilltoppers have been beset with injuries this year having Hillary Southworth missing eight games, Bri Kamarec missing eight games and Emily Bucon missing six games.

* Kailee Howe leads the NCAA with 9.0 assists per game. She has had six games of 10 assists or more this season.

* Liz Flowers leads the league in scoring with 22.3 points per game. That average ranks eighth in the country. Flowers leads the nation in made three-pointers per game with 3.71.

* WLU is ranked eighth in the most recent D2SIDA Atlantic Region Media Poll.

* Charleston has won four of its last five games. The Golden Eagles are 6-1 at home this year.

* UC has the best field goal percentage defense in the league allowing teams to shoot 36.1%.

* Wheeling Jesuit leads the MEC and is ninth in the country in field goal percentage making 47% of its shots this year. The Cardinals have won five of their last six games.

* Eight different players have made starts for WJU this year.

* Notre Dame is currently in the midst of a three-game winning streak. The Falcons are paced by the league’s third-leading scorer in Martha Nagbe at 18.2 points per game.

* NDC has made at least three three-pointers in every game this year.

* Notre Dame is 8-1 when leading at the half.

* Glenville State owns wins over two of the top three teams in the league (Fairmont State, West Liberty).

* GSC’s Keyanna Tate is second in the MEC in scoring at 19.5 points per game.

* The Pioneers lead the country in offensive rebounds per game (22.0).

* UVa-Wise’s Blair Harding has scored in double figures in all but one game she’s played this year.

* Kayla Carey’s 20 rebounds against Glenville State were just the third 20-rebound game in league history.

* West Virginia State is 2-0 when Deyahnna Styles leads the team in scoring and is 2-1 when Shealyn Shafer leads the team in scoring.

* Concord’s Jacqueline Kestner leads the MEC with seven double-doubles this year.

* Urbana’s Jeni Johnson leads the MEC with 34 steals. Tori Purk is also at the top of the MEC making 90.4% of her free throw attempts (47-of-52).

* West Virginia Wesleyan’s Adrian Cunningham and Mari Stewart of each scored in double figures in all but one game this year.

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 15)

Final Score: (3) Gonzaga 78, Pepperdine 76

Kyle Wiltjer scored 24 points, Domantas Sabonis posted a double-double and No. 3 Gonzaga held on for a 78-76 victory over Pepperdine on Thursday night. Wiltjer added eight rebounds and four assists, while Sabonis finished with 18 points and a personal-best 12 rebounds off the bench. Kevin Pangos had nine points and five assists for Gonzaga (17-1, 6-0 WCC), which has won 10 straight since its only loss at Arizona on Dec. 6. Jett Raines scored a career-high 22 points and Stacy Davis had 21 for the Waves (11-6, 4-2), who came close to snapping a 26-game losing streak to the Bulldogs.

Final Score: (7) Wisconsin 70, Nebraska 55

Frank Kaminsky returned to the lineup from a concussion and helped No. 7 Wisconsin shake off Sunday’s loss to Rutgers with a 70-55 win over the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Kaminsky led the Badgers (16-2, 4-1 Big Ten) with 22 points and moved over 1,000 career points in the process. Wisconsin got 13 points and seven rebounds from Nigel Hayes, and Sam Dekker and Bronson Koenig each chipped in 11. Koenig was in the starting lineup after Traevon Jackson broke his foot in Sunday’s setback. Nebraska (10-7, 2-3) was led by Terran Petteway with 27 points but only seven of those came in the second half. Shavon Shields, averaging 17.1 points per game, only scored eight.

Final Score: (8) Utah 76, Arizona State 59

Delon Wright made all 12 of his free throws and finished with 21 points and six assists as No. 8 Utah dismantled Arizona State 76-59 on Thursday. Jordan Loveridge tallied 14 points and eight rebounds and Brandon Taylor scored 13 for Utah (14-2, 4-0 Pac-12), which didn’t look past its matchup with the Sun Devils before Saturday’s showdown with 10th- ranked Arizona. Utah will enter that contest as the lone unbeaten team in conference play, though the Wildcats are 15-2 overall and will be in the friendly confines of McKale Center, where they’ve won 31 straight games. Gerry Blakes paced ASU (8-9, 0-4) with 10 points.

Final Score: (10) Arizona 68, Colorado 54

Stanley Johnson dropped a personal-best 22 points and No. 10 Arizona took care of business at McKale Center, beating Colorado 68-54 on Thursday. Johnson, who was named to the Wooden Award Midseason Top 25 list on Wednesday, also contributed eight rebounds while shooting 8-for-9 from the foul line. Kaleb Tarczewski added 14 points and Elliott Pitts made four of his six 3- point attempts for 12 off the bench. Brandon Ashley had a game-high 11 rebounds and T.J. McConnell gave eight points, seven rebounds and six assists for Arizona (15-2, 3-1 Pac-12), which has won 31 straight home games. Askia Booker was tremendous in defeat, pouring in a career-high 30 points for Colorado (9-7, 2-2), which was without its second and third leading scorers. Center Josh Scott (back spasms) and forward Xavier Johnson (sprained ankle) were both inactive. No other Buffaloes scored in double figures.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Thursday, January 15)

Final Score: Milwaukee 95, New York 79

O.J. Mayo scored 22 points and the Milwaukee Bucks handed the New York Knicks their franchise-worst 16th straight loss with a 95-79 victory Thursday at O2 Arena in London. Brandon Knight added 20 points, six assists and six steals for the Bucks, who improved to 3-0 against New York this season. Giannis Antetokounmpo and Khris Middleton tallied 16 and 14 points, respectively, while Zaza Pachulia contributed 11 points and 14 rebounds. Knicks star Carmelo Anthony had 25 points and three steals following a six-game absence due to a knee injury. Travis Wear added 13 points off the bench. New York, which turned the ball over 21 times, has not tasted victory since Dec. 12 at Boston.

Final Score: Houston 112, Oklahoma City 101

James Harden nearly recorded a triple-double and the Houston Rockets used a fast start to take down the Oklahoma City Thunder, 112-101, on Thursday night. Harden led six Rockets in double figures with 31 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds. Trevor Ariza totaled 17 points and Donatas Motiejunas had 14 for Houston, which has won five of its last six. Dwight Howard, Patrick Beverley and Josh Smith each contributed 13 points to the victory. Kevin Durant paced the Thunder with 24 points and 10 rebounds, while Russell Westbrook, Dion Waiters and Reggie Jackson scored 16 points apiece.

Final Score: Cleveland 109, LA Lakers 102

In a battle of future Hall of Famers, LeBron James and Kobe Bryant did not disappoint on Thursday at Staples Center. It was James and company, however, who got the best of the seasoned veteran Bryant. James totaled 36 points with five rebounds and five assists in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 109-102 win over the Los Angeles Lakers. Kyrie Irving supplied 22 points and Kevin Love added 17 points despite dealing with back spasms as the Cavs snapped their season-high six-game losing streak. Coming off one of the worst shooting performances of his career, Bryant had a phenomenal game getting his teammates involved. He scored 19 points and deposited a career-high 17 assists, but his efforts could not keep the Lakers from dropping their third straight game.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  LeBron James and the Cavs won’t win an NBA title and they may miss the playoffs

LeBron James decided to take his talents back to Cleveland and make his own Big Three with the Cavaliers, but so far, it hasn’t been what everyone expected.

The Cavs are 19-20 and losers of six straight, putting their title hopes all but out of reach.

It gets worse: if history is any guide, the Cavaliers are in jeopardy of missing the playoffs entirely. According to Sports Club Stats, Cleveland has a 91% chance of seeing postseason play, however, that starts to drop precipitously the closer they get to a 36-win season.

And that 36-win mark is the average win total of teams since 2004-05 who have won fewer than half their games at the 40-game mark.

So where does Cleveland end up from here? We can make an educated guess by using their “true talent” ability to win games, which is easily figured out:

                      [W]hen you want to regress an NBA team’s W-L record to the mean, at any point during the season, take twelve games of .500 ball (6 wins, 6 losses), and add them to the actual record. This will give you the best estimate of the team’s “true” winning%age talent going forward.

That would indicate the Cavaliers can be reasonably expected to win 49% of their games going forward, or end the season with a 40-42 record. That would all but secure a playoff berth (99.8%), however, based on previous NBA seasons, even that could be optimistic.

Since 2004-05, there have been 15 teams with a 19-21 record after the season’s first 40 games, but just seven have hit 40 wins for the season:

  2004-05 Philadelphia 76ers, 43 wins
  2005-06 Washington Wizards ,42 wins
  2006-07 Golden State Warriors, 42 wins
  2006-07 Los angeles Clippers, 40 wins
  2010-11 Phoenix Suns, 40 wins
  2010-11 Memphis Grizzlies, 46 wins

Just two of those, the 2004-05 76ers (42.9%) and 2005-06 Wizards (43.7%), shot worse than Cleveland has from the field (44.8%) during the first 40 games.

Are the odds in the Cavs’ favor to make the playoffs? Sure, especially playing in the Eastern Conference. Should it surprise anyone if they falter down the stretch? Not even a little bit.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Spectacular climb of Yosemite’s El Capitan was done the old-fashioned way, with a modern twist

To those cheering them on from the ground over their 19-day ordeal, they looked like nimble ants, but late Wednesday afternoon, two bedraggled, bearded men became the first to free climb the 3,000 feet of the Dawn Wall of Yosemite’s El Capitan in a single expedition, a feat that had been considered all but impossible.

Tommy Caldwell, originally was from Estes Park, Colorado, and Kevin Jorgesen of Santa Rosa, Calif., were greeted at the summit by friends bearing unusual trophies — a bowling trophy and a preaching trophy — as well as bottles of sparkling wine. Because of the terrain of El Capitan, there was no Hollywood moment as they reached the top. Rather, according to the New York Times’ John Branch, they scrambled the final few feet, into the arms of family and friends. About 40 people greeted them at 3:25 PM PST and some, including photographers, hung off ropes to watch the final climb.

It was a triumphant if low-key celebration of an astonishing accomplishment, one made with only the use of men’s hands and feet. Caldwell hugged his wife and Jorgesen hugged his girlfriend. A few moments later, Jorgesen shook a bottle of sparkling wine and sprayed it. “That’s the first shower you’ve had in a while,” Caldwell’s wife, Rebecca, said.

“I’ve been picturing what it was going to be like that last 10 feet to the summit for a very long time,” Jorgeson told NBC’s “Today” on Thursday morning. “I remember grabbing the very top and just pausing for a minute, making sure it was real. And then the tears erupted and it was.”

Although the climb was accomplished the old-fashioned way, with hands and feet, Caldwell and Jorgesen added a modern spin, posting to social media during an ascent on which they took hundreds of thousands of readers along.

This may have been a modern climb, but the toll on their bodies was old-school. The hands of both men were bruised and battered because free climbing involves no chisels; ropes are used only as a safety device because climbers fall many times. Caldwell was nearly too hoarse to speak in a “Good Morning America” interview Thursday, but Jorgesen described the feeling as surreal. “It’s pretty hard to wake up and have the climb complete,” he said. “It’s pretty hard to describe.”

Jorgesen, age 30, struggled with one particular pitch on the climb and had to make 11 attempts over seven days before he could master it and join Caldwell, 36. His hands and fingertips, he admitted, were “a little beat” and raw from battling the granite crevices. He spoke Wednesday of what he hopes will be the takeaway from the climb.

“I hope it inspires people to find their own Dawn Wall, if you will,” Jorgesen told the Times. “We’ve been working on this thing a long time, slowly and surely. I think everyone has their own secret Dawn Wall to complete one day, and maybe they can put this project in their own context.”

Both men did that brilliantly, posting to Facebook and Twitter over the 19 days.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Padres to host 2016 All-Star Game

The San Diego Padres will host the 2016 All-Star Game.

Major League Baseball made the announcement Thursday at the conclusion of its quarterly meetings in Arizona.

“I am very pleased to award the 2016 All-Star Game to the San Diego Padres, who made a detailed and comprehensive bid in conjunction with city officials,“ said outgoing commissioner Bud Selig in a statement Thursday. “San Diego is one of America’s most beautiful cities, and showcasing Petco Park in its thriving downtown will be a remarkable opportunity for the Padres franchise and all of Major League Baseball.“

San Diego will host the All-Star Game for the third time, but it will be the first for Petco Park, which opened in 2004. Jack Murphy Stadium hosted the Mid-Summer Classic in 1978 and 1992.

“The San Diego Padres are honored to host Major League Baseball’s 2016 All- Star Game at Petco Park,“ said Padres chairman Ron Fowler. “Padres fans have been awaiting the return of the Mid-Summer Classic for more than two decades, and we are thrilled with today’s news. We thank Commissioner Selig, Commissioner-Elect Rob Manfred and all of Major League Baseball for selecting ‘America’s Finest City.‘“

Cincinnati’s Great American Ball Park will host this year’s All-Star Game.

San Diego’s selection for next year will mark the second time in recent years that the contest will be played in National League parks consecutively, as Pittsburgh hosted in 2006 and San Francisco followed in 2007.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Thursday, January 15)

Final Score: Boston 3, NY Rangers 0

Tuukka Rask made 30 saves for his second shutout of the season as the Boston Bruins defeated the New York Rangers 3-0 on Thursday. Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci and Loui Eriksson all scored and Torey Krug supplied two assists for the Bruins, who have won five straight games. Cam Talbot allowed all three goals on 32 shots for the Rangers, who have dropped their last two games on the heels of a five-game winning streak. Boston is now 6-0-2 in their last eight meetings with New York.

Final Score: Minnesota 7, Buffalo 0

Devan Dubnyk turned aside all 18 shots he faced in his Minnesota debut and the Wild got goals from seven different players in a 7-0 rout of the Buffalo Sabres on Thursday. Dubnyk, who was acquired in a trade from Arizona on Wednesday, was stellar in his first game between the pipes with his new club. He became the first goalie in franchise history to post a shutout in his first appearance with the team. Zach Parise, Kyle Brodziak, Thomas Vanek and Erik Haula all posted a goal and an assist, while Jason Pominville had three assists for Minnesota. The Wild had lost six straight games. Jhonas Enroth was responsible for all seven goals on 37 shots, as Buffalo fell for the ninth straight time.

Final Score: Vancouver 4, Philadelphia 0

Ryan Miller stopped all 30 shots he faced to post his fourth shutout of the season, and the Vancouver Canucks rode an early burst of offense to subdue the Philadelphia Flyers by a 4-0 count on Thursday. Nick Bonino, Henrik Sedin, Radim Vrbata and Jannik Hansen lit the lamp for the Canucks, who put the brakes on a three-game skid and picked up their first win on a five-game road trip. Starter Ray Emery was pulled early in the second after giving up three goals on 12 shots. Rob Zepp finished the contest by permitting one shot by on 10 chances for the Flyers, who were blanked in back-to-back games for the first time since April.

Final Score: Ottawa 4, Montreal 1

The Ottawa Senators got goals from Mika Zibanejad, Jean-Gabriel Pageau, Erik Karlsson and Erik Condra in a 4-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday. Craig Anderson made 25 saves for the Senators, who snapped a four-game losing streak against Montreal. Max Pacioretty extended his goal streak to six games for the Canadiens, who have lost three of four. Dustin Tokarski stopped 31-of-34 shots in his first start since Dec. 30. Pacioretty became the first Habs player with a six-game goal streak since Denis Savard accomplished the feat between Feb. 7 and March 1, 1991.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 3, Edmonton 2

Ben Bishop made 30 saves and the Tampa Bay Lightning did just enough to top the Edmonton Oilers, 3-2, on Thursday. Tampa Bay was outshot 32-19, but Ondrej Palat’s two goals in the third period put the Lightning in front. Steven Stamkos also lit the lamp for Tampa Bay to help end a two-game losing streak. The Oilers got a pair of goals from Benoit Pouliot, but could not tie the game late. Ben Scrivens made 16 saves on 19 shots as Edmonton fell for the 14th straight time on the road.

Final Score: Colorado 4, Florida 2

Nick Holden scored the go-ahead goal at 11:03 of the third period, and the Colorado Avalanche went on to post a 4-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Holden fired a point shot that deflected in off the stick of Panthers forward Scottie Upshall with one second left on a power play. Jarome Iginla added an empty-netter with 27 seconds remaining. The goal was the 573rd of Iginla’s career, moving him into a tie with Mike Bossy for 20th all-time in NHL history. Semyon Varlamov made 30 saves for the Avalanche, who picked up their first win on a five- game road trip that began with one-goal losses to Washington and Carolina. Roberto Luongo stopped 25-of-28 shots for Florida, which opened a five-game homestand following a 4-2-0 road trip.

Final Score: Detroit 3, St. Louis 2 (OT)

Pavel Datsyuk’s marker with 2.2 seconds left in overtime sent the Detroit Red Wings over the St. Louis Blues by a 3-2 count at Scottrade Center. Datsyuk fired away from the inner arc of the left circle and his rising shot caught the crook between Brian Elliott’s arm and body, then squeezed through and rippled the net inside the near post. Joakim Andersson and Tomas Tatar also scored for the Red Wings, who have won four out of their last five. Petr Mrazek came up with a 25-save effort. David Backes and Alex Steen tallied for the Blues, whose five-game win streak came to a crashing halt despite earning a point. Elliott ended up making 21 stops.

Final Score: Winnipeg 2, Dallas 1

Ondrej Pavelec was spectacular in net as he stopped 46 shots and the Winnipeg Jets held off a late surge from the Dallas Stars for a 2-1 win on Thursday. Evander Kane scored a short-handed goal and Michael Frolik also lit the lamp for the Jets, who were coming off a dominant 8-2 win over Florida on Tuesday. Trevor Daley’s marker made it a one-goal game with 1:16 remaining and Anders Lindback allowed both goals on 22 shots for the Stars, who have lost five of their last six games.

Final Score: Calgary 4, Arizona 1

Mikael Backlund scored in a fourth straight game and Joni Ortio made 27 saves as the Calgary Flames beat the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Thursday night. Sean Monahan assisted on a third-period goal and added an empty-netter with 1:25 left for the Flames, who have opened a five-game road swing with consecutive wins. Mikkel Boedker extended his goal-scoring streak to a career-high four games, but the Coyotes suffered their third straight loss and finished their homestand at 2-4-0. Mike Smith made 21 stops in defeat.

Final Score: San Jose 3, Toronto 1

Antti Niemi made 24 saves and three different players scored for the San Jose Sharks in a 3-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday. Tyler Kennedy, Patrick Marleau and Tommy Wingels all scored and Justin Braun tallied two assists for the Sharks, who have won two straight. Roman Polak provided Toronto’s lone goal and James Reimer stopped 39-of-41 shots in his team’s third straight loss. San Jose has won its last four games against the Maple Leafs.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Kaymer fires 64 to grab lead in Abu Dhabi

Martin Kaymer overcame a pair of bogeys in his opening round Thursday as he fired an 8-under 64 to grab a one-shot lead at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship.

Kaymer, a three-time winner of this event, birdied three of his last four holes to earn the first-round lead. He owns both the 36- and 72-hole scoring record at this event.

Thomas Pieters opened with a 7-under 65 on the National Course at Abu Dhabi Golf Club and is alone in second place. Branden Grace carded a 6-under 66 and was joined in third place by Gregory Bourdy, Tyrell Hatton, Alexander Levy and Mikko Ilonen.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy was tied for eighth place after he shot 67. Among those tied with McIlroy was Rickie Fowler, who finished inside the top five at all four majors last year.

“It was good. To shoot 67 the first round of the year is nice. How I got to that 67 wasn’t quite as glamorous at times,“ admitted McIlroy. “There’s a couple of things I need to work on if I want to have a chance to win this tournament. I need to drive the ball better for sure and I missed a few opportunities on the greens as well.“

Kaymer, the 2008, 2010 and 2011 winner, opened with a birdie at the first. After three pars in a row, he moved to 2-under as he birdied No. 5. He followed a birdie at the seventh with an up-and-down birdie at the par-5 eighth.

The German gave that stroke right back as he bogeyed the ninth, then erased that mistake with a 5-foot birdie effort at 10. After a long birdie putt on the 11th, he stumbled to another bogey at the 12th to dip back to minus-4.

Kaymer birdied the 13th and 15th, both from about 10 feet, to inch within one of Pieters, the early leader. Kaymer grabbed a piece of the lead with a 20-foot birdie putt on the 17th.

At the par-5 closing hole, Kaymer reached the green in two. His eagle effort missed short and right of the hole, but he tapped in for a closing birdie and the slim lead.

“I putted well. I made 10 birdies. I’m not sure if I have ever done (that before). I hit a lot of fairways, my irons were quite sharp and I putted well. It’s very difficult to shoot a bad score when you play like this,“ said Kaymer. “Now, the goal is not to compare myself tomorrow to the round what happened today. Tomorrow will be a new start, but it’s a brilliant start to a great tournament.“

Pieters got on the board with birdies at the third and fifth. After a pair of pars, he kicked off a hot stretch with a birdie on the par-5 eighth.

The 2014 Open de Espana runner-up also birdied the ninth to make the turn at minus-4.

Pieters followed with birdies at 10 and 11 to make it four in a row. He climbed to minus-7 with a birdie on No. 13. However, Pieters stumbled to a bogey on the par-3 15th. He atoned for that mistake with a birdie at the last.

“It was nice to start out the season with a 7-under round, so I’m happy,“ Pieters stated. “I like the greens here.“

NOTES: Along with winning this title three times in four years, Kaymer shared second place in 2009 ... Miguel Angel Jimenez had a hole-in-one on No. 15, while Tom Lewis aced the par-3 seventh ... Jimenez’s ace was his eighth on the European Tour, which moved him within one of Colin Montgomerie’s tour record ... Henrik Stenson, a two-time runner-up at this event, struggled to a 4-over 76, while former U.S. Open champion Justin Rose tripped to a 1-over 73 ... Defending champion Pablo Larrazabal managed a 1-under 71, which left him tied for 59th ... Alexander Noren, also tied at 5-under, is playing in just his third event in the last 14 months after battling tendinitis in both wrists.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bid process begins for 2024 Olympics

The International Olympic Committee officially opened the bid process for the 2024 Games on Thursday.

A new step was set in motion for the 2024 Olympics, as an “Invitation Phase” will start the process.

The IOC adopted the new initiative a few weeks ago as part of reforms from the Olympic Agenda 2020, which will try to make it easier for interested cities to gauge costs and supply ideas without formal applications.

Bid commitments aren’t due until September 15.

Rome and Boston are cities that have already announced intentions to make official bids.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Anderson advances in Auckland

Kevin Anderson won his quarterfinal matchup Thursday at the Heineken Open, a final tune-up for the Australian Open.

The fourth-seeded South African defeated No. 8 Steve Johnson 6-4, 7-6 (10-8) on the hardcourts at ASB Tennis Centre.

Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely, who knocked out second-seeded Ernests Gulbis on Wednesday, downed American Donald Young 6-2, 6-3.

Adrian Mannarino topped Alejandro Falla 6-3, 6-1 and lucky loser Lucas Pouille beat Albert Ramos-Vinolas 6-3, 6-2.

This year’s champion will earn $84,500.

►  How will the ladies fare in Oz?

The Grand Slam season will get underway Monday at the Australian Open in Melbourne, where a new champion will be crowned this year.

Li Na was the runner-up in 2011 and ‘13 before she nailed down her first Australian Open title last season by beating pesky Slovak Dominika Cibulkova in the final. But the Chinese star retired toward the end of last season, opening the way for a new Aussie champ in 2015.

Who are the favorites to fill the void, you say? Well, let’s take a look.

You don’t have to look much further than five-time Aussie titlist Serena Williams, who’s never lost in a final in Oz while holding the Open Era record for titles there.

The 18-time Grand Slam winner will be the favorite at the latest Aussie fortnight ... and for good reason.

Surprisingly, however, the world No. 1 superstar and reigning U.S. Open champ is seeking her first Aussie title in five years. From 2003 to 2010, the mighty Serena nailed down the five Aussie championships, beating five former No. 1 stars in all of those finals (Venus Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Maria Sharapova, Dinara Safina and Justine Henin, respectively).

But she hasn’t gotten past the quarters in Melbourne since the ‘10 championship, including a fourth-round loss a year ago.

Sharapova will take a crack at Serena, even though she hasn’t beaten her American rival since 2004, or 15 straight meetings. Fifteen straight!

The reigning French Open queen captured her lone Aussie title in 2008 and is a two-time runner-up at Melbourne Park, where, like Serena, she exited early in the round of 16 last year.

The five-time major titlist from Russia opened her 2015 season last week with a title in Brisbane, where she beat fellow former No. 1 Ana Ivanovic in a sexy final.

Simona Halep will be the No. 3 seed in Melbourne, where she reached the quarterfinals a year ago. The quiet Romanian star was last year’s French Open runner-up to Sharapova and opened her ‘15 season with a title in China last week.

Halep’s a Grand Slam title waiting to happen after reaching at least the quarters at three of the four majors in 2014, including a semifinal appearance at Wimbledon.

The best left-handed woman on the planet is Petra Kvitova. The world No. 4 star is a two-time Wimbledon champ and currently holds that coveted title.

The Czech slugger reached the Aussie semis in 2012, but she has struggled Down Under since, failing to get past the second round, including an opening-round exit there a year ago. As a matter of fact, PK failed to get past the third round at three of the four Slams in ‘14 (but did manage to sneak out a second Wimby title in four years).

The aforementioned Ivanovic is coming off one of her best seasons in several years and opened her latest campaign by reaching the final in Brisbane last week.

The former world No. 1 from Serbia is no stranger to success in Melbourne, where she reached the final in 2008 and the quarterfinals a year ago. Having said that, in between the ‘08 runner-up finish and the trek into the round of eight last year, AI could do no better than the fourth round in the ‘Bourne from 2009-13, or a five-year stretch.


But I thinks it’s safe to say she’s recovered since then.

Still the capable Ivanovic, the French Open champion in 2008 and runner-up in 2007, failed to get past the third round at the final three Slams of 2014, including a second-round flameout at the U.S. Open.

The rest of the Top 10 is rounded out by former Wimbledon runner-up Agnieszka Radwanska; last year’s Wimbledon runner-up Genie Bouchard; former world No. 1 and two-time U.S. Open finalist Caroline Wozniacki; left-handed German Angelique Kerber; and rising Russian Ekaterina Makarova, who is yet another tough lefty.

Radwanska just doesn’t have enough power to run the table at a major.

Bouchard, like Halep, will probably be a Grand Slam champion sooner rather than later. The young Canadian was the only woman to reach at least the semifinals at three of the four majors last year in only her first full Grand Slam season.

The former world No. 1 Wozniacki, like the aforementioned Ivanovic, also has enjoyed a resurgence on tour. The popular Dane reached her second U.S. Open final in six years last year and opened her 2015 season by reaching a final in Auckland just last week.

Wozniacki’s best Aussie showing was a trip into the semis in 2011.

Kerber has no shot in Melbourne, while Makarova could make some noise Down Under. Makarova has quietly reached at least the quarters at six of the last 12 majors, including a trip into a U.S. Open semi in September. She was a back-to-back Aussie quarterfinalist in 2012 and 2013 and can make any player uncomfortable on the other side of the net.

Venus Williams may not be a threat to win it all at the Aussie anymore, but she did open her 2015 season with a title in Auckland last week, beating Wozniacki in an attractive all-former-world-No. 1 finale.

Venus is a seven-time major champ, but hasn’t nailed down a big one since the 2008 Wimbledon Championships. She was the 2003 Aussie runner-up to her little sister, but hasn’t been much of a factor since in Melbourne, reaching only a pair of quarterfinals over the last 11 years.

I’d say that ship has sailed.

Keep your eye on one of my favorite young players on the tour ... Karolina Pliskova. This big-serving Czech was second on tour to only Serena in aces last year and is a dangerous player for sure. She also had her best-ever showing at the last major event, a third-round berth in New York in September.

And how about an unseeded Victoria Azarenka?

The former world No. 1 star missed months of action last year while battling left foot and right knee injuries. But when healthy, Vika has been nothing short of a force at the Slams, especially in Oz, where she captured back-to- back titles in 2012 and 2013 and has appeared in at least the quarters there four of the last five years.

Azarenka is also a two-time U.S. Open runner-up who has been making deep runs at the majors since 2009.

In addition to Serena (and in some way, Venus), another American to keep an eye on could be 30th-ranked Madison Keys. The 19-year-old Illinois native could be one of the breakthrough players we’re looking for this year, and wouldn’t that be nice.

Well, who’s gonna win it all this year? It would be real easy to pick Serena here, but I’m leaning in the Simona Halep direction, if things can break right for the steady Romanian.

►  Americans Riske, Brengle reach Hobart semis

American women Alison Riske and Madison Brengle each won two matches on Thursday to reach the semifinals at the Hobart International tennis event, a final Australian Open tune-up.

The eighth-seeded Riske started her day with a 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 victory over Serb Bojana Jovanovski, while Brengle beat Ukrainian fellow qualifier Kateryna Kozlova 6-1, 7-6 (10-8) in the second round.

In quarterfinal action, the Pittsburgh native Riske then upset second-seeded Kazakhstani Zarina Diyas 6-3, 6-0 and the Delaware native Brengle overcame Italian Karin Knapp 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-4.

Two other quarterfinal results saw Japan’s Kurumi Nara upend third-seeded Italian Camila Giorgi 6-1, 3-6, 6-2 and Brit Heather Watson humble ninth- seeded Italian Roberta Vinci 7-6 (7-0), 6-2.

Three other second-round bouts saw Knapp oust top-seeded Aussie Casey Dellacqua 7-5, 2-6, 6-3, Diyas down Slovakian wild card Daniela Hantuchova 7-5, 6-1 and Giorgi receive a walkover past Estonian Kaia Kanepi.

Five second-round matches were postponed because of rain here on Wednesday.

Friday’s semifinals will pit Riske against Watson and Brengle versus Nara.

This year’s Hobart titlist will earn $43,000.

►  Kvitova, Pliskova to meet in all-Czech Sydney final

Czech stars Petra Kvitova and Karolina Pliskova will be the combatants in Friday’s final at the Sydney International tennis event, a final hardcourt Australian Open tune-up.

Thursday’s semifinals saw the second-seeded Wimbledon champion Kvitova defeat qualifier and defending Sydney titlist Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 7-5, 6-1 and Pliskova oust fifth-seeded 2014 Sydney runner-up Angelique Kerber of Germany 6-3, 6-2. Pironkova upset Kerber in last year’s final.

The 24-year-old Kvitova is 14-5 in her career finals, including Wimbledon titles last year and in 2011. She was 3-1 in her 2014 title tilts.

The rising Pliskova is 3-3 in her WTA finals, including 2-3 last year.

Kvitova is 1-0 lifetime against Pliskova, with the win coming on a hardcourt in Wuhan, China, last season.

Friday’s winner will take home $124,000.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Basketball Association
Detroit at Indiana, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, Indiana, DSS
New Orleans at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Memphis at Orlando, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Florida, DSS
Brooklyn at Washington, 7:00 PM - YES, CSN-DC, DSS
Atlanta at Toronto, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, TSN2, DSS
Chicago at Boston, 7:30 PM - CSN-Chicago, New England, DSS
Golden State at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - CSN-Bay, FS-Oklahoma, ESPN
Portland at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - CSN-Northwest, FS-Southwest, DSS
Denver at Dallas, 8:30 PM - Altitude, FS-Southwest, DSS
Minnesota at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - FS-North, Arizona, DSS
LA Lakers at Utah, 9:00 PM - Time Warner, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Miami at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - SunSports, CSN-California, DSS
Cleveland at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - FS-Ohio, Prime Ticket, ESPN
National Hockey League
Pittsburgh at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, MSG+, DSS
NY Rangers at Columbus, 7:00 PM - MSG, FS-Ohio, DSS
Vancouver at Carolina, 7:00 PM - SNET, FS-Carolina, DSS
Washington at Nashville, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC+, FS-Tennessee, NHL Network, DSS
Winnipeg at Chicago, 8:30 PM - TSN3, CSN-Chicago, DSS
New Jersey at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - MSG+, FS-West, DSS
College Basketball
Marist at Fairfield, 7:00 PM - MASN, SNY,
Iona at Niagara, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Manhattan at Saint Peter’s, 7:00 PM -
Western Ill at North Dakota State, 8:00 PM - MeTV
St. Francis (NY) at Robert Morris, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Drake at Northern Iowa, 8:00 PM -
Creighton at Providence, 8:00 PM - FS1
Washington State at Oregon State, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Arizona State at California, 9:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Arizona at Stanford, 11:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Washington at Oregon, 11:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
College Hockey
Michigan at Ohio State, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit+, SportsTime Ohio
Cornell at Union, 7:00 PM - Time Warner
Boston College at Boston University, 7:00 PM - NESN
Connecticut at Notre Dame, 7:30 PM - NBCSN
Wisconsin at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network
St. Cloud State at Denver, 9:30 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
International Soccer
FC Girondins de Bordeaux vs. OGC Nice, 2:25 PM - beIN Sport
Canada vs. Iceland (Friendly), 4:25 PM - beIN Sport
EUROPEAN - Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, 5:00 AM - Golf Channel
LATIN AMERICA - Amateur Championship, 1:00 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - Sony Open, 7:00 PM - Golf Channel

Sports News   150114

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Herd finishes 23rd in final AP Poll

For the third time since moving to the FCS, Marshall has finished the season ranked in the Associated Press poll. The Thundering Herd was No. 23 in the final AP poll released after Monday night’s national championship game.

The Thundering Herd went 13-1 in 2014, capturing its first Conference USA championship and rolling over Mid-American Conference champion Northern Illinois in the inaugural Boca Raton Bowl.

It’s the first time in 12 seasons that Marshall has appeared in the final AP Poll.

Marshall was in the top 25 for seven weeks during the regular season in both the AP and USA Today Coaches Poll. It climbed up to No. 18 before falling from both polls after a 67-66 overtime loss to Western Kentucky in the final week of the regular season.

The Thundering Herd is the second-highest ranked Group of 5 team in the poll, behind Fiesta Bowl champion Boise State at No. 16. The Broncos (12-2) won the WAC and defeated Arizona in the Fiesta Bowl.

This is the fifth time a Conference USA team has finished in the final AP poll since Marshall joined the league in 2005.

In 1999, Marshall reached its highest ever ranking, finishing a perfect 13-0 and ranked 10th in the country. The Herd was ranked 24th in the final AP Poll in 2002.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  National Championship delivers 18.5 overnight rating

Ohio State’s 42-20 victory over Oregon in the College Football Playoff national championship game delivered an 18.5 overnight rating.

This marked a 21% increase over the 2014 BCS National Championship game between Florida State and Auburn (15.3 rating). It also surpassed the 2011 BCS National Championship, which was the highest-rated game in cable history with a 16.1 rating.

In the primary home markets of the two schools, the telecast delivered a 51.2 in Columbus, meaning over 50% of households were tuned into the game, making it the No. 1 overall market. In Portland, Oregon, 37.6% of households were tuned into the game, which was the fourth best market in the overnight ratings.

►  Stretching the Field: Has the NCAA seen the light?

Isaac Newton declared for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

That wasn’t more evident when the NCAA took Penn State University to the woodshed with heavy sanctions in July 2012, stemming from the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal.

The general consensus from those who bleed blue and white was outrage, and that the penalties handed down from NCAA president Mark Emmert were superfluous. Why did the football team have to suffer for the abominable actions of a convicted child molester?

As a Penn State graduate and enthusiast, that’s a question I asked myself while strolling the beach in Ocean City, Maryland, on a typical gorgeous July morning behind the high-rise hotels. A text message from one of my two older sisters sent my relaxed, high-spirited demeanor into a tailspin.

Emmert slammed his gavel to the tune of a four-year postseason ban, which was lifted this season, reduced scholarships, a hefty $60 million fine and players having permission to transfer elsewhere without penalty for one year. Illinois set up camp in Happy Valley and tried to recruit players as if they were enlisting in one of the armed services. Only nine players left.

It seems the university accepted the sanctions without hesitation and opted to fire legendary coach Joe Paterno via a telephone call. Makes sense. The man dedicated his life and some of his earnings to the school, so let’s show some class by moving him along with a phone call. Why not send an e-mail, a text message or use skywriting?

This past November, the NCAA released internal e-mails written in 2012 that show it was questioning its right to sanction PSU. With jurisdiction or not, the NCAA overstepped its boundaries and now looks foolish.

Paterno was deemed as an enabler to Sandusky for allowing the monster on campus and taking advantage of innocent lives through his underprivileged youth organization known as The Second Mile. We all know the story. Sandusky took miles to horrify children and deserves to rot in his cell, but the discipline levied by the NCAA was too harsh.

Yes, I am obviously a staunch supporter of Penn State, but I can separate my feelings for the school with reality. Did Paterno do enough to stop his former defensive coordinator from his lewd acts? No, he didn’t because mentioning it to his superiors doesn’t suffice in this day and age. Paterno, who was criticized for missing or ignoring signs of Sandusky’s behavior, ran University Park and pretty much still does. He would have been more of a hero had he cut ties with Sandusky.

I’m not trying to open old wounds that may have slightly healed. I feel the NCAA is trying to backtrack with a recent report it will eliminate the sanctions entirely and restore Paterno’s 111 vacated wins. Taking away wins was utterly embarrassing for the NCAA. How are you going to tell Michael Robinson and the rest of the Nittany Lions they didn’t beat Bobby Bowden and the Florida State Seminoles in the Orange Bowl?

How can the NCAA tell the Paterno family, which is still pushing for a lawsuit, the 409 wins are no more? Paterno, who passed away after a bout with lung cancer shortly after his dismissal, compiled more wins than any other Division I football coach.

What Sandusky did was awful. Terrible. Disgusting. But it didn’t give Penn State an advantage athletically. There are other schools in the country with student-athletes who cheat in class, trade items for other goods, do drugs or run into the wrong arm of the law, and receive lesser sanctions.

Well, apparently the NCAA feels it was too harsh on Penn State and it was reported by the Philadelphia Inquirer it may wipe out the sanctions. Former FBI director Louis Freeh led the investigation, saying top Penn State officials conspired to keep the abuse allegations under lock and key.

The NCAA seems to have opened its proverbial, and seemingly blind, eyes with the latest news of replenishment. I couldn’t be more happy for the university, the players, the students and alumni.

Bill O’Brien couldn’t have done a better job in his short tenure as Paterno’s successor and knew what he was walking into. He was Penn State’s Moses to the Israelites before taking an NFL gig with the Houston Texans. You can’t blame him for that. A statue in O’Brien’s likeness is deserved.

Paterno had a statue once. True story. It was located alongside Beaver Stadium, which should be called Paterno Field when all is said and done. Perhaps one day the bronze version of Paterno will reappear alongside a stadium that holds more than 100,000 fans.

Penn State coach James Franklin runs the show now in Happy Valley and maybe one day he will be immortalized by the creative hands of a sculptor. I may be going overboard here with the icons.

Franklin, though, has the Nittany Lions headed in the right direction and is living up to the recruiting moniker “Dominate The State.“ Franklin guided the Nittany Lions to a Pin Stripe Bowl win over Boston College a few weeks ago.

It’s been awhile since Penn State dominated college football, but it feels even longer with what happened there a few years ago.

If this recent report of the NCAA realizing its mistake is true, Penn State can breathe more life into the program and restore its pristine reputation.  ~~  Shawn Clarke ~~

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Check out the Atlanta Falcons’ new, ridiculously cool stadium

A series of conceptual drawings were brought to life on Tuesday when the Atlanta Falcons released a video showing the 3-D computer model of their planned new football stadium and, holy cow, is it awesome. The dramatic music that seems ripped straight from the soundtrack of an action movie certainly doesn’t hurt.

To review, you saw:

• A retractable stadium roof inspired by the oculus in ancient Rome’s Pantheon Floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Atlanta’s city skyline

• A 100-yard long bar, which will be open to all

• A “technology lounge” set aside so fan can check in on their fantasy teams

• Several luxury zones for club-level ticket holders

• A “360-Degree HD Video Halo Board,” which is probably making Jerry Jones lose his mind.

About that last point, the halo board is the first of its kind, “a true game changer,” according to the stadium’s Web site. For one, it’s 58 feet tall, or nearly five-stories, with a 1,100-foot diameter, making it the largest video board in the world. Unlike the Jumbotrons of yore, this means ever person in the stadium will be able to easily view instant replays.

Alas, as exciting as it all sounds, the $1.4 billion stadium won’t be in use until the 2017 season, the Atlanta Journal Constitution reports. The Falcons will also have to share the space with Atlanta’s MLS team, NCAA Final Four basketball and various concerts and live events.

►  Steelers name Keith Butler defensive coordinator

The Pittsburgh Steelers promoted Keith Butler to defensive coordinator on Tuesday.

Butler served as the team’s linebackers coach the past 12 years and replaces legendary defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, who resigned on January 10.

“It’s the dream of a lifetime,“ said Butler on Tuesday. “There are only 32 of these jobs on this Earth. I am excited about the opportunity and I look forward to getting this process started immediately.“

Prior to joining the Steelers, Butler was linebackers coach for the Cleveland Browns for four years. He has also served as defensive coordinator for Arkansas State University and linebackers/defensive ends coach at the University of Memphis, where he and current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin were on the same coaching staff in 1996.

“We are excited to announce Keith Butler as our defensive coordinator,“ said Tomlin in a statement Tuesday. “Keith has been an integral part of our defensive game planning and schemes for several years and we look forward to him moving into the role of calling the defense. His passion and energy will be important to us taking the next steps to being one of the top defenses in the NFL.“

Butler was a three-year starting linebacker at Memphis, leading the team in tackles his junior and senior year. He was a second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks in 1978 and played 10 seasons with Seattle, where he still ranks second all-time in franchise history with 813 tackles.

LeBeau, 77, helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls following the 2005 and ‘08 seasons. He had been with the Steelers’ organization for 16 seasons.

►  Garrett, Cowboys nearing 5-year deal

Jason Garrett is close to a new five-year contract agreement to remain the Dallas Cowboys’ head coach, according to multiple media reports.

Garrett led the Cowboys to the playoffs this season for the first time since 2009. The Cowboys captured the NFC East title with a 12-4 record and then beat the Detroit Lions in the wild-card round before losing to the Green Bay Packers in the divisional round Sunday.

The 48-year-old Garrett became the Cowboys’ interim head coach in the middle of the 2010 season, replacing Wade Phillips, who was fired following the team’s 1-7 start.

Dallas finished the season 5-3 under Garrett, earning him the job on a full- time basis.

The Cowboys went 8-8 in each of the next three seasons, losing Week 17 games to division opponents to miss the playoffs each time.

►  Schwartz no longer with Bills

After just one season at the position, Jim Schwartz is out as Bills defensive coordinator.

Schwartz, formerly the head coach of the Detroit Lions, was tabbed to lead Buffalo’s defense after his successor, Mike Pettine, who ran the defense for the 2013 season, left to become Cleveland’s head coach.

“I have the utmost respect for Jim and what he has been able to accomplish throughout his career and I know he feels the same about me. Jim’s defenses are always tough and ranked near the top of the league standings,“ said new Bills head coach Rex Ryan in announcing the move on Tuesday.

“I wanted to give Jim the opportunity to pursue other opportunities and so we have terminated his contract. He did a terrific job with the Bills defense this past year and our plan is for our defense to continue to play well and be a dominating force.“

Under Schwartz, Buffalo ranked fourth in fewest points allowed (289), third in passing yards allowed per game (205.8) and 11th in rushing yards allowed per game (106.4).

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Free agent fantasy analysis

With the Super Bowl just a few weeks away, NFL free agents are thinking about their future. Fantasy owners in dynasty leagues have to do the same thing.

At some point over this long, cold winter, fantasy owners will have to decide which players on their roster to keep and which to abandon.

There won’t be much mystery at the quarterback position in 2015, as NFL teams have been particularly vigilant in signing their franchise-quality signal- callers.

But at both the running back and wide receiver positions, some of the very top players could be on the move which makes it a much tougher decision for fantasy owners.

Some might argue that a great player will be a great player no matter where he goes.

I have one name for you - Eric Decker.

If you had Mr. Decker on your fantasy team this season, I don’t have to remind you of what happened. For the rest, here is the story.

Decker had enjoyed two excellent seasons playing wideout in Denver after Peyton Manning arrived. The wideout’s combined numbers from 2012-13 were 258 receptions, 2,352 receiving yards and 24 touchdowns.

But Decker obviously wanted to “cash in” and signed a a multi-million dollar deal with the New York Jets before the 2014 season. Unfortunately, catching passes from Geno Smith and Michael Vick isn’t quite as easy as hauling them in from a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Decker caught just 74 balls for 962 yards and five touchdowns in 2014. And those totals only look respectable because he caught 10 balls for 221 yards and a touchdown in Week 17, which in most cases didn’t help owners because they came after the fantasy season had concluded already.

Owners who decided to keep Decker on their roster for the 2014 season are, in all likelihood, regretting that decision.

Below are 10 free agents for this season. At this moment, we don’t know where they will end up in 2015, but we can evaluate whether it’s likely to be better for their fantasy value or worse.

Running Backs

DeMarco Murray, Dallas - Running behind one of the strongest offensive lines in the league, Murray became a top-three fantasy option, rushing for 1,845 yards and 13 touchdowns. Even if he returns to Dallas, it would be hard to repeat those numbers because it’s unlikely the team would give him 497 touches for a second straight season. Or that even if the team wanted to, he could stand up to that type of workload. Playing in another city, with a weaker offensive line, Murray’s value could take a significant hit.

C.J. Spiller, Buffalo - Spiller spent another season frustrating fantasy owners. So much talent and so little production. If he stays in Buffalo, he’s still going to share the workload with Fred Jackson. That’s likely to be the same situation no matter where he goes.

Ryan Mathews, San Diego - Coming off a career-best 1,255 rushing yards in 2013, a lot was expected of Mathews and he failed miserably in 2014. Once again his body couldn’t take the pounding and he played just eight games this season. In a few situations, he could become a primary ball carrier, but it’s more likely he’ll end up in a RBBC (running-back-by-committee) either in San Diego or somewhere else.

Mark Ingram, New Orleans - Ingram was a major force through the middle of the season, rushing for over 100 yards four times in a six-week period from Week 8-13. But it appears the Saints will let him go this offseason. If he ends up with a team that isn’t so pass-happy, which is a virtual certainty since New Orleans threw the ball 659 times in 2014, his fantasy value could increase.

Justin Forsett, Baltimore - Forsett couldn’t have picked a better time to be a free agent. He posted career-best numbers in rushing yards (1,266), touchdowns (eight) and receptions (44). I think he’d be crazy to leave the situation in Baltimore, but he’s earned a starting spot wherever he lands for 2015. His fantasy value should stay at his current level.

Wide Receivers

Dez Bryant, Dallas - I can’t imagine circumstances in which Jerry Jones wouldn’t bring his star receiver back to Dallas either with a long-term contract or using the franchise tag. But if Bryant (88-1,320-16) leaves, he would be a fantasy star in any offense with a competent quarterback.

Demaryius Thomas, Denver - Like Bryant, Thomas (111-1,619-11) would be a star with any competent quarterback throwing him the ball, but having seen the Decker situation firsthand, I expect Thomas will want to continue catching passes from Manning. He’s already said he would offer a “hometown discount,“ so expect him in orange and navy blue next season and a top-three receiver with elite fantasy value.

Randall Cobb, Green Bay - The Packers’ No. 1 priority this offseason is signing Cobb and he’s more than likely going to continue catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. That will keep his fantasy value near the top of the charts, though we liked him a lot more back in 2012 when he also was returning punts and kickoffs.

Jeremy Maclin, Philadelphia - Maclin signed a one-year deal last season in hopes that he would prove himself healthy and he did just that in catching a career-best 85 passes for 1,318 yards and 10 touchdowns. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, he said he wanted to stay in Philly. On the other hand, he grew up in Missouri, went to college there and the coach who drafted him just happens to be in Kansas City and in desperate need of a talented wideout or two. In Philadelphia, he should be able to repeat his 2014 season, but in Kansas City or elsewhere, his fantasy numbers could take a hit.

Torrey Smith, Baltimore - Smith, who grew up in nearby Virginia and went to school at Maryland, has said he’d like to get a deal done with Baltimore. Given his improved play over the second part of the season, I think it’s possible the two sides will figure out a way to keep him with the Ravens. On the other hand, if he stays in Baltimore, he won’t be an elite fantasy wide receivers because wideout Steve Smith Sr. is his equal.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, January 13)

Saint Marys 58     Ritchie County 37

Calhoun County 53     Clay County 47

Lewis County 54     Grafton 50

#4 Fairmont Senior 74     Buckhannon-Upshur 42

#6 Robert C. Byrd 74     Elkins 37

#9 Lincoln 71     Philip Barbour 52

Fayetteville 65     Nicholas County 63

Wirt County 64     Tyler Consolidated 52

#2 Bridgeport 76     North Marion 58

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, January 13)

#4 Williamstown 71     Doddridge County 38

Parkersburg 62     University 39

Parkersburg Catholic 58     Tyler Consolidated 35

Wood County Christian 68     Teays Valley Christian 50

The Gilmer Free Press

►  West Virginia crushes Oklahoma

Jevon Carter scored 18 points with a full line off the bench on Tuesday, leading No. 16 West Virginia to a convincing 86-65 win over 18th-ranked Oklahoma.

Devin Williams had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Juwan Staten, WVU’s leading scorer, shot just 1-of-9 but made up for it by dishing out a game-high eight assists. Carter made 4-of-6 from 3-point range and added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals.

“I thought he was really good in the second half,“ WVU coach Bob Huggins said about Staten. “He had a lot of assists and controlled the game.“

Nathan Adrian chipped in 11 points for West Virginia (15-2, 3-1 Big 12), which turned 22 OU turnovers into 27 points.

Buddy Hield scored 21 points and Isaiah Cousins had 14 on seven shots for Oklahoma (11-5, 2-2), but bench play was an issue once again in the Sooners’ second straight loss. Their four key reserves combined for just eight points, led by Khadeem Lattin’s four.

“We didn’t handle the ball very well,“ Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “We turned it over and they got easy points off of those turnovers.“

West Virginia was the better team for 40 minutes, never trailing on its way to a wire-to-wire victory.

Williams scored the game’s first four points, and a pair of 6-0 runs near the midpoint of the first period made it 29-17.

Later, Ryan Spangler’s dunk at 3:24 had the Sooners within three, but four Mountaineers scored during a 10-0 spurt to end the period and send the hosts into halftime with a 45-32 lead.

Oklahoma was within 12 at 14:17 of the second half following a pair of Hield free throws, but turnovers on the next two possessions by the OU star contributed to West Virginia’s 8-0 run. Carter opened the flurry with a 3 and Elijah Macon scored the next five points.

Game Notes

Staten, who finished with four points, had scored in double figures every game this season ... Oklahoma guard Jordan Woodard is shooting 6-for-30 over his last five games ... OU is 3-2 in the series since West Virginia joined the Big 12.

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, January 13)

Final Score: (1) Kentucky 86, Missouri 37

Aaron Harrison scored 16 points and No. 1 Kentucky, which lost some support in the polls following its first rocky week of the season, answered its critics by spanking Missouri 86-37 on Tuesday. Harrison made five of his seven shots from the perimeter and Karl-Anthony Towns did a bit of everything, finishing with 12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. Kentucky, which established itself as the nation’s top team during a dominant non-conference slate, was due for a big win following a pair of nailbiters last week. The Wildcats (16-0, 3-0 SEC) needed overtime to beat Ole Miss on Jan. 6, then survived a double-OT thriller against Texas A&M four days later. They returned to the friendly confines of Rupp Arena after those two road tests and returned to form, hitting 48.2 percent of their shots while limiting Missouri to just 27.1 percent shooting. Missouri’s leading scorer Johnathan Williams III only managed three points on 1-of-13 shooting. Wes Clark and Keanau Post both had 10 points to lead the Tigers (7-9, 1-2).

Final Score: (2) Virginia 65, Clemson 42

Malcolm Brogdon scored 16 points to lead No. 2 Virginia in a 65-42 win over Clemson on Tuesday. Justin Anderson scored 15 points as the only other player in double figures for the Cavs (16-0, 4-0 ACC), who won the opening four ACC games on their slate for the first time since 1994-95. Jaron Blossomgame posted nine points and 10 rebounds for the Tigers (9-7, 1-3).

Final Score: Miami-Florida 90, (4) Duke 74

When Duke heads to Louisville for Saturday’s marquee matchup with Louisville, it’ll do so having dropped back-to-back ACC games for the first time in six years. Manu Lecomte scored 18 of his 23 points in the second half, leading a torrid shooting display from Miami-Florida after the break that propelled the Hurricanes to a stunning 90-74 upset of the fourth-ranked Blue Devils. Miami (12-4, 2-1 ACC) halted the nation’s longest home win streak in emphatic fashion, putting up 56 second-half points on an 18-of-27 effort from the field that included six makes in nine attempts from 3-point range. Lecomte and Angel Rodriguez were the catalysts of the onslaught, with the latter tallying 15 of his 24 points over the final 20 minutes. The duo combined to go 7-of-10 on 3-pointers for the game. Duke (14-2, 2-2) had prevailed in 41 straight tests at Cameron Indoor Stadium since an 88-70 loss to North Carolina on March 3, 2012. However, the shooting woes that plagued the Blue Devils in Sunday’s 87-75 defeat at NC State came back to haunt them again on Tuesday, resulting in the program’s first losing skid in conference play since Feb. 11-15, 2009. After shooting a season-low 36.9 percent from the floor against the Wolfpack, Duke made just 6-of-21 tries from beyond the arc to go along with a woeful 10- of-20 performance from the foul line. It’ll now take those struggles into a road showdown against one of the top defensive teams in the country in No. 6 Louisville. Quinn Cook did finish with 18 points in the loss, with Jahlil Okafor compiling 15 with 15 rebounds for the Blue Devils and Amile Jefferson posting 14 points and 12 boards.

Final Score: (6) Louisville 78, Virginia Tech 63

Terry Rozier’s 16 points led a balanced Louisville attack as the sixth-ranked Cardinals cruised to a 78-63 victory over Virginia Tech in an ACC clash. Rozier went 4-of-6 from 3-point range, while Wayne Blackshear hit three shots from beyond the arc in a 15-point effort in the Cardinals’ final tuneup before Saturday’s home showdown with No. 4 Duke. Montrezl Harrell and Mangok Mathiang each finished with 11 points and eight rebounds for Louisville (15-2, 3-1 ACC). Harrell added three blocks to anchor a Cardinal defense that held the Hokies to a 34.1 shooting percentage inside the arc. Adam Smith ended 5-of-7 on 3-point attempts and scored 19 points for Virginia Tech (8-8, 0-3). Justin Bibbs and Ahmed Hill had 15 and 14, respectively, in the Hokies’ fourth consecutive defeat.

Final Score: (9) Kansas 67, (24) Oklahoma State 57

Frank Mason III scored 16 points and grabbed a game-high nine rebounds to help No. 9 Kansas beat 24th-ranked Oklahoma State 67-57 on Tuesday. Mason III was 9-of-11 from the free throw line, where Kansas (14-2, 3-0 Big 12) spent much of the night. The Jayhawks made 32 of their 46 attempts at the charity stripe and only attempted 43 shots from the field. Kansas also got 14 points and six rebounds from Kelly Oubre Jr. The Cowboys (12-4, 2-2) got 21 points from Le’Bryan Nash and 18 from Phil Forte, the Big 12’s two leading scorers. The pair totaled 20 of those points on free throws as Oklahoma State went 22-of-25 from the line. Beyond Nash and Forte, Oklahoma State got little production. The 10 other Cowboys that took the floor combined to shoot 7-of-29.

Final Score: (16) West Virginia 86, (18) Oklahoma 65

Jevon Carter scored 18 points with a full line off the bench on Tuesday, leading No. 16 West Virginia to a convincing 86-65 win over 18th-ranked Oklahoma. Devin Williams had 14 points and 11 rebounds and Juwan Staten, WVU’s leading scorer, shot just 1-of-9 but made up for it by dishing out a game-high eight assists. Carter made 4-of-6 from 3- point range and added seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Nathan Adrian chipped in 11 points for West Virginia (15-2, 3-1 Big 12), which turned 22 OU turnovers into 27 points. Buddy Hield scored 21 points and Isaiah Cousins had 14 on seven shots for Oklahoma (11-5, 2-2), but bench play was an issue once again in the Sooners’ second straight loss. Their four key reserves combined for just eight points, led by Khadeem Lattin’s four.

Final Score: (17) VCU 65, Rhode Island 60

Treveon Graham scored 16 of his 26 points in the second half and No. 17 VCU rallied from nine points down to beat Rhode Island 65-60 on Tuesday night. VCU took its first lead since the first half on Graham’s 3-pointer with 2 1/2 minutes left, part of a 12-2 run to end the game sparked by Melvin Johnson’s 3 on the previous possession. Mo Alie-Cox scored the last of his 10 points on a dunk during the surge and Johnson added nine points for VCU (14-3, 4-0 Atlantic 10), which has won nine in a row since falling to current No. 2 Virginia on Dec. 6. E.C. Matthews scored 22 points to lead Rhode Island (11-4, 3-1), which had a six-game winning streak stopped and lost for the first time in eight home games this season. Hassan Martin added 10 points and 10 rebounds in the loss and Jarelle Reischel also scored 10. Rhode Island only scored two more points after Matthews’ leaning 3 from the right corner and Jared Terrell’s dunk gave it a 58-53 lead with under 3 1/2 minutes remaining.

Final Score: Tennessee 74, (19) Arkansas 69

Josh Richardson scored 20 points and Tennessee knocked off No. 19 Arkansas 74-69 on Tuesday night after surviving a late rally by the Razorbacks. Arkansas found a hot hand, trimming a 16-point deficit in the second half to one with 13.9 seconds left on Anton Beard’s 3- pointer, which came after Devon Baulkman missed two foul shots at the other end. Kevin Punter made his free throws for a three-point Volunteers lead, then inexplicably fouled Beard on a long 3-point try with 5.1 seconds remaining. But Beard missed the first two foul shots, then the third one on purpose and Tennessee grabbed the rebound to hold on. Robert Hubbs III added 16 points and Armani Moore scored 14 for the Volunteers (10-5, 2-1 SEC), who have multiple wins over ranked teams for the ninth time in 10 seasons. The Vols beat then- No. 15 Butler in Knoxville on Dec. 14. SEC scoring leader Bobby Portis paced Arkansas with 17 points and 11 rebounds. Michael Qualls added 15 points and Beard scored 12 for the Razorbacks (13-3, 2-1), who had a seven-game winning streak snapped.

Final Score: Butler 79, (21) Seton Hall 75 (OT)

Roosevelt Jones made consecutive baskets late in overtime to help Butler beat No. 21 Seton Hall 79-75 on Tuesday night. Jones drove the baseline and made a reverse layup to put the Bulldogs up 75-72 with 56 seconds remaining. After Khadeen Carrington missed a jumper for Seton Hall, Jones powered down the lane for another layup. Carrington nailed a 3- pointer to pull the Pirates within three, but Jackson Aldridge sunk a free throw with four seconds left to seal the win. Jones finished with 23 points and eight rebounds for Butler (13-5, 3-2 Big East), which got nine points and 15 rebounds from Kameron Woods. Kellen Dunham had 21 points for the Bulldogs, but missed a potential game-winning jumper at the end of regulation. Sterling Gibbs made six 3-pointers and scored 30 points for the Pirates (13-4, 3-2). Carrington totaled 20 points in defeat.

Final Score: (23) Northern Iowa 63, Bradley 52

Seth Tuttle finished with 15 points and seven rebounds as No. 23 Northern Iowa held off Bradley for a 63-52 victory on Tuesday. Natt Buss supplied 11 points and seven rebounds off the bench and Paul Jesperson was 3-of-4 from 3-point range and finished with nine points for the Panthers (14-2, 3-1 MVC), who have won four straight games. Auston Barnes netted 14 points, Warren Jones scored 10 and Josh Cunningham had nine points and 11 boards for the Braves (6-11, 1-3), who were coming off a 66-56 loss to Evansville on Saturday.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Kevin Garnett suspended one game for head-butting Dwight Howard

The NBA announced early Tuesday Brooklyn Nets’ forward Kevin Garnett will be suspended for a game without pay after an ugly incident in which he head-butted Houston Rockets’ center Dwight Howard in Monday’s game at Barclays Center.

With 7 minutes 53 seconds remaining in the first quarter, Garnett and Howard got tangled under the basket while Howard was battling for position on the block. After the whistle blew, Garnett gave the Houston all-star a shove in the back, and Howard retaliated by appearing to tap Garnett in the stomach.

It escalated quickly after that as Garnett threw the ball into Howard’s lower back and advanced right in the face of him as he turned around for an exchange of words. Garnett, not really breaking stride, head-butted Howard and was subsequently restrained by Houston’s Trevor Ariza before Brooklyn assistant coaches got to him.

Garnett was ejected from the contest. For his role in the skirmish, Howard has been fined $15,000.

These two players have a history of on-court incidents as the two got physical with one another on the court in the Eastern Conference finals back in 2010. Howard was a member of the Orlando Magic while Garnett suited up for the Boston Celtics.

►  Nothin’ but Net: Midseason hardware

The Orlando Magic are the only team in the NBA who have reached the halfway point in the season.

So, if it’s good enough for one team out of 30, then we shall declare it the midpoint of the 2014-15 NBA season. In doing so, let’s examine where the awards would go if the campaign was drastically shortened, which, no one would cry a single tear about.


Almost every other pundit has tabbed Steph Curry from the Golden State Warriors for this honor and I get it. Curry is the best player from the best team in the league, and, in the absence of a runaway contender, that formula is a solid means to an answer.

However, I believe Harden has been a more valuable player for the Rockets.

The statistics bare out pretty equal seasons. Harden is ahead in scoring, but Curry is up in assists. Pretty standard stuff since one is a shooting guard and the other is a point guard. (Although, I love that Harden is averaging a career-high 6.6 assists per game, which is second to LeBron James among non- point guards, and a near 90% clip from the foul line while leading the league in attempts.)

Here are the three things that give Harden an edge for me:

First, the Warriors are a much better, more complete team. Sounds like a plus for Curry, but Harden has done most of the heavy lifting in keeping the Rockets within four of the Warriors for the best record in the league. Curry is magnificent, but his team is loaded with two-way athletes in a manner that the Rockets are not. The overall talent is stronger in Golden State than in Houston, thus, making Harden’s achievements this season more impressive.

Second, when you are literally the butt of social media jokes about how horrendous a defender you are, it shows something to improve. Harden is not quite Gary Payton, but his defense has improved tremendously. He’s 12th in defensive rating and second in defensive win shares. Granted, those numbers changed with the arrival of Trevor Ariza and the continued solid defense from Dwight Howard, but Harden went from punch line to serviceable. The Rockets are third in opponents’ scoring and fourth in opponents’ field goal percentage. Last season, they were 23rd and seventh in those same categories. Harden isn’t at the heart of the turnaround, but he’s no longer weighing them down defensively like an anvil chained to the leg of a mob informant.

Finally, during an 11-game stretch when Howard was down with a knee injury from mid-November to mid-December, Harden kept the Rockets afloat, going 8-3 in the process. During that stretch, Harden averaged 29 points and 6.1 assists per game.

Curry hasn’t had to deal with anything like that. Adversity shouldn’t translate into automatic MVP victory. It’s not the Oscars, where an actress will win if she plays an alcoholic, single-mother stripper, whose daughter is a piano prodigy and mom must find a way to work a third job to pay for a good teacher as well as trips abroad so the daughter can perform in recitals.

Harden has kept the Rockets near the top of the league without a supporting cast like Curry’s. While Ariza has been a revelation, Howard is averaging nine- season lows in scoring, rebounding and blocked shots. Harden has taken a team, I’ll admit, I had missing the playoffs, and got them the fourth-best record in the NBA.

With less around him, I go Harden over Curry.


This is possibly the closest competition for an award I can remember. How could you not like Mike Budenholzer of the Atlanta Hawks? With a stunningly similar roster that finished under .500 last season, Bud has the Hawks atop the Eastern Conference by four games (Al Horford is really important, too).

However, Kerr gets my nod for the simple fact that he made extraordinary coaching decisions that paid massive dividends. He started Harrison Barnes and Draymond Green over Andre Iguodala and David Lee. Kerr put two infants in there at the expense of 21 combined seasons, three All-Star appearances and $27 million in 2014-15 salary. And it’s worked unbelievably.

His lineup changed meant the Warriors’ starters can switch almost any time without massive consequence.

Kerr had the hard job of replacing Mark Jackson, who is not quite Phil Jackson, but had the eternal respect of his players. Kerr erased any doubts, and quickly.

I will fault no one who votes Budenholzer, but I think Kerr has done just a little more.


Since Jabari Parker’s injury, Wiggins was destined to pull away some. He has, but he would have even if Parker’s ACL didn’t tear.

Over the last 10 games, Wiggins is averaging 21 ppg. Granted, they are all Timberwolves’ losses, but Wiggins’ game is rounding out nicely. Remember, he started slowly at Kansas, then emerged.

As the T-wolves continue to be terrible, Wiggins is getting a chance to develop greatly. Shabazz Mohammed’s insertion into the starting lineup, thus moving Wiggins to the shooting guard, paid off handsomely for the No. 1 pick as well.


Know who leads the league in Defensive Rating and Defensive Win Shares? Draymond Green.

Know how to calculate either of those? (Not rhetorical, please help me.)

The Warriors rank first in opponents’ field goal percentage. Green is one integral piece of that team-oriented puzzle.

Andrew Bogut is a top-five defensive big man.

Kyle Thompson and Andre Iguodala are both upper echelon wing defenders.

Steph Curry is underrated and leads the league in steals.

But here’s why I like Green so much for this award - he’s a wonderful combination of all of those things and that versatility is what makes the Warriors a stout defense.

Golden State can constantly switch anything because players like Green can cover all five positions. To have that kind of flexibility is huge. Green is the best demonstration of that.


Jamal Crawford of the Los Angeles Clippers, Ryan Anderson of the New Orleans Pelicans, Williams, Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder and Isaiah Thomas of the Phoenix Suns are all close in scoring.

I feel like Williams and Thomas have done more for their teams in terms of helping them win games. I feel like Williams did more when DeMar DeRozan was gone to help Toronto keep pace. Thomas missed a few too many games.


I’ll say it - I hate this award.

It’s too hard to figure out the meaning of a three-word award.

Too many people vote for someone who gets more playing time than the season before. Is that technically improvement or did that player just receive a mountain’s worth of more run? Or did the player improve so much during camp, that he forced his way into this new-found time?

I’ve always favored the player who improves, not the one who receives more playing time, although, I’ve softened on that. There is a reasonable argument to be made that a player like an Alex Len of the Suns improved enough to crack the rotation.

But, I’m going with a player who didn’t receive a bump in minutes. That would’ve been next to impossible considering Jimmy Butler shared the league lead in minutes per game last season. He’s first again this season.

In literally ONE MORE MINUTE of playing time per game this campaign than last, here is the tale of Jimmy Butler:

2013-14 2014-15

Points per game: 13.1 20.9

Assists per game: 2.6 3.4

Rebounds per game: 4.9 6.2

3-point percentage: 28.3 34.2

field goal percentage: 39.7 46.4

free throw percentage: 76.9 83.0

That’s with ONE MORE MINUTE a game. There’s not a better example of improvement in the league.    ~~  Jim Brighters ~~

►  NBA Game Results

(Tuesday, January 13)

Final Score: Minnesota 110, Indiana 101

Mo Williams poured in 37 of his career- high 52 points in the second half to fuel the Minnesota Timberwolves in a 110-101 win over the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday. Williams, who scored 16 points in the third quarter and 21 in the fourth, broke the franchise record for points previously held by Corey Brewer and Kevin Love. He also set the opponent scoring record at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. Williams’ effort helped the Wolves snap a 15-game losing streak overall and 10-game skid on the road. Minnesota hadn’t won since Dec. 10 at home against the Portland Trail Blazers, and hadn’t tasted victory on the road since Nov. 28 against the Lakers. Andrew Wiggins added 20 points, Thaddeus Young had 11 and Gorgui Dieng chipped in with 10 points and 10 rebounds in the win. C.J. Miles paced Indiana with 22 points and C.J. Watson deposited 17 points for the Pacers, who have dropped two straight and three of their last four.

Final Score: Atlanta 105, Philadelphia 87

Al Horford had his first career triple-double with 21 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists as the Atlanta Hawks routed the Philadelphia 76ers 105-87 on Tuesday night. Kent Bazemore netted 17 points off the bench, while Kyle Korver hit four 3-pointers and finished with 15 points for Atlanta, which is an NBA-best 23-2 over its last 25 games. Michael Carter-Williams posted 20 points, nine boards and four helpers to lead the 76ers, who had won three of their last four coming in, their best four-game stretch since winning four straight from Dec. 29-Jan. 4 a year ago.

Final Score: Washington 101, San Antonio 93

John Wall had 25 points and eight assists as the Washington Wizards ended a historic losing streak to San Antonio, holding off the Spurs for a 101-93 win. Kevin Seraphin scored 11 of his season-high 17 points in the fourth quarter for the Wizards, who beat San Antonio for the first time since Feb. 9, 2005. Bradley Beal and Paul Pierce added 13 points apiece, and Marcin Gortat pulled down 11 rebounds. The Spurs had won the previous 17 meetings. San Antonio got between five and 14 points from 10 players in a balanced scoring effort. Tony Parker led the bunch with 14 points, and Tim Duncan had 11 points and 12 boards for his first double-double since December.

Final Score: Phoenix 107, Cleveland 100

Markieff Morris scored a career-high 35 points and the Phoenix Suns held on to beat LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 107-100 on Tuesday night. James had 33 points in under 37 minutes after missing the previous two weeks because of back and knee injuries. He had 12 points in the fourth quarter to help the Cavs come back from 19 down in the third and take the lead four times in the last 7 1/2 minutes. P.J. Tucker had 10 points for the Suns and made two hustle plays that led to four consecutive free throws down the stretch to help them hang on.

Final Score: Golden State 116, Utah 105

Stephen Curry had 15 of his 27 points in the third quarter as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Utah Jazz 116- 105 on Tuesday night. Curry also had 11 assists, Draymond Green posted 15 points and Klay Thompson added 12 for the Warriors, who have won seven straight games. Derrick Favors tallied 22 points and 11 rebounds, Rudy Gobert supplied 16 points and 11 boards and Enes Kanter provided 13 points and 10 rebounds for Utah, which has dropped three consecutive contests and four of its last five.

Final Score: Dallas 108, Sacramento 104 (OT)

Monta Ellis had 28 points, 10 assists and four steals and the Dallas Mavericks defeated the Sacramento Kings 108-104 in overtime on Tuesday night. Tyson Chandler posted 16 points and 17 rebounds, while Rajon Rondo added 21 points, seven helpers and four swipes for Dallas, which snapped a brief two-game losing streak on the heels of a six-game winning stretch. DeMarcus Cousins was an assist shy of a triple-double, tallying 32 points, 16 boards and nine helpers before fouling out late in the fourth quarter. Darren Collison provided 18 points and seven boards for the Kings, who have alternated wins and losses over their last seven contests.

Final Score: Miami 78, LA Lakers 75

Mario Chalmers scored 19 points with eight assists to help the Miami Heat in a 78-75 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Tuesday night. Hassan Whiteside continued his strong play with 15 points, nine rebounds and five blocks for Miami, while Chris Andersen supplied 12 points, eight rebounds and three blocks in the win. Dwyane Wade scored four points with five rebounds and five assists in the first half for the Heat before exiting in the second quarter with a strained left hamstring. He did not return. Kobe Bryant, Jordan Hill and Ed Davis each deposited 12 points for the Lakers, with Bryant going 3-of-19 from the floor.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Royals give Yost extension

After helping the Royals to the postseason for the first time in 29 years, Kansas City rewarded manager Ned Yost with a one-year contract extension on Tuesday.

The new deal will take Yost through the 2016 season.

Kansas City won 89 games in 2014 to clinch one of two wild card spots in the American League. Yost then became the first manager in major league history to win his first eight postseason games, capping it with the American League title.

The Royals took San Francisco to a seventh game in the 2014 World Series, before losing the deciding game.

Overall, Yost is 830-904 in 11 seasons as manager, going 373-402 in his time with the Royals. He trails only Whitey Herzog (410) and Dick Howser (404) for wins in franchise history.

►  Nationals sign Carp, Lerud to minor league deals

The Nationals signed infielder/outfielder Mike Carp and catcher Steven Lerud to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training on Tuesday.

Carp was with Texas and Boston last season, hitting a combined .175 in 59 games. He is a career .254 hitter with 27 homers and 127 RBI in 318 games over six seasons with Seattle, Boston and Texas.

Lerud spent last year in the Braves’ organization, hitting .250 with four homers and 19 RBI in Triple-A Gwinnett.

►  Yankees pick up RHP Martin from Rockies

The New York Yankees have acquired pitcher Chris Martin from the Colorado Rockies in exchange for cash considerations.

Martin made his big league debut last season and appeared in 16 games for the Rockies. He had no record with a 6.89 ERA in 15 2/3 innings.

The 28-year-old right-hander struck out 14 and walked only four. He has a 3.25 ERA with 230 strikeouts in 249 minor league innings.

New York also designated pitcher Gonzalez Germen for assignment. The Yankees had acquired Germen from the Mets for cash in December.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Tuesday, January 13)

Final Score: Boston 4, Tampa Bay 3

David Pastrnak recorded his second straight two-goal game and the Boston Bruins upended the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-3, at TD Garden. Brad Marchand and Milan Lucic also tallied for the Bruins, winners of four straight after losing three in a row. David Krejci and Torey Krug each posted a pair of assists while Tuukka Rask contributed 16 saves to the victory. Steven Stamkos tallied twice and Ryan Callahan once for the Lightning, who have lost back-to-back games for the first time since Dec. 19-20. Ben Bishop surrendered four goals on 34 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Detroit 3, Buffalo 1

Petr Mrazek stopped 25 shots and the Detroit Red Wings walked away with a 3-1 victory over the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday. Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tatar and Darren Helm all scored for the Red Wings, who have won three of their last four. Kyle Quincey posted two assists. Mike Weber scored the only goal of the game for the Sabres, who have lost their last eight games. Michal Neuvirth gave up all three goals on 30 shots. In a pregame ceremony, the Sabres retired the number 39 of former goaltender Dominik Hasek.

Final Score: NY Islanders 3, NY Rangers 0

Jaroslav Halak’s 27 saves and a dominant second period kept the Islanders the toast of New York, as the current Metropolitan Division leaders dealt the crosstown rival Rangers a 3-0 defeat at Madison Square Garden. Anders Lee, Nikolay Kulemin and Frans Nielsen all lit the lamp during the middle session to help the Islanders close out a season-high seven-game road trip with five wins and remain ahead of Pittsburgh for the division lead. The Rangers entered Tuesday’s anticipated showdown with victories in 13 of their previous 14 games, but couldn’t maintain the momentum as Halak outplayed Henrik Lundqvist and the Isles finished with a 44-27 advantage in shots. Lundqvist was replaced by Cam Talbot at the start of the third period after stopping 29-of-32 chances.

Final Score: Pittsburgh 7, Minnesota 2

David Perron posted two goals and an assist as the Pittsburgh Penguins powered past the slumping Minnesota Wild 7-2 on Tuesday. Paul Martin, Chris Kunitz and Kris Letang each finished with a goal and an assist, Marcel Goc and Brandon Sutter also lit the lamp and Sidney Crosby tallied three assists for the Penguins, who improved to 8-2 this season against Western Conference opponents. Marc-Andre Fleury made 30 saves in the win. Jonas Brodin and Justin Fontaine each scored for the Wild, who dropped their sixth straight game. Niklas Backstrom allowed six goals on 35 shots and John Curry gave up a goal on two shots in relief.

Final Score: Carolina 3, Colorado 2 (SO)

Victor Rask and Elias Lindholm scored on Carolina’s first two chances in the shootout, and the Hurricanes overcame blowing a third-period lead to top the Colorado Avalanche 3-2 on Tuesday night. The Avalanche rallied with goals from Matt Duchene and John Mitchell, but were shut out by Anton Khudobin in the tiebreaker. Rask opened the shootout with a deke to the backhand. Lindholm also used the backhand to lift the puck over Calvin Pickard’s right pad. Jordan Staal and Patrick Dwyer scored in regulation for the Hurricanes, who improved to 4-1-1 in January. Khudobin made 28 saves. Pickard stopped 44 shots for Colorado, which has opened a five-game road trip with consecutive one-goal losses.

Final Score: St. Louis 4, Edmonton 2

David Backes and Vladimir Tarasenko each posted a goal and an assist to give the St. Louis Blues a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Jaden Schwartz and Alexander Steen each scored a goal for the Blues, who have won five straight. Jake Allen allowed two goals on 15 shots. Benoit Pouliot scored twice for the Oilers, who have lost their past two. Ben Scrivens allowed four goals on 29 shots in the loss.

Final Score: Nashville 5, Vancouver 1

Colin Wilson registered a season high of four points thanks to two goals and two assists as the Nashville Predators downed the Vancouver Canucks, 5-1, at Bridgestone Arena. Craig Smith, Filip Forsberg and Mike Fisher also tallied for the Predators, the Central Division leaders who have won four in a row and six of their last seven. Pekka Rinne stopped 20-of-21 shots before exiting early in the third period. The Finnish netminder was knocked backwards into the end boards in a collision between Vancouver’s Chris Higgins and defenseman Anton Volchenkov. He was listed as day-to-day with a lower-body injury. Carter Hutton finished the final 17-plus minutes with 10 stops. Alex Edler supplied the lone offense and Eddie Lack stopped just 25-of-30 shots for the Canucks, who have lost three in a row.

Final Score: Winnipeg 8, Florida 2

Mathieu Perreault scored four goals to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a convincing 8-2 win over the Florida Panthers on Tuesday. Perreault’s first two goals gave the Jets a 2-0 lead in the first period, and his next two were scored barely a minute apart late in the second period. Winnipeg got a pair of goals and an assist from Dustin Byfuglien. Jay Harrison and Evander Kane also lit the lamp for the Jets. Michael Hutchinson made 25 saves to help the Jets win for the second time in three games. Roberto Luongo allowed four goals on 20 shots for the Panthers before being yanked from the game. Al Montoya did not fare any better, allowing four more on 15 shots as Florida had its three-game winning streak snapped. Dave Bolland and Brad Boyes scored for the Panthers.

Final Score: Dallas 5, Ottawa 4

John Klingberg scored twice as the Dallas Stars ended a four-game skid with a 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday. Erik Cole and Ales Hemsky each tallied a goal and an assist and Trevor Daley also lit the lamp for the Stars, who have earned points in 11 of their last 12 games against the Senators. Anders Lindback stopped 34-of-36 shots after Kari Lehtonen gave up two goals on five shots early in the game. Mike Hoffman, Jared Cowen. Clarke MacArthur and Milan Michalek all scored for the Senators, who have lost four of their last five. Robin Lehner allowed all five goals on 29 shots in defeat.

Final Score: San Jose 3, Arizona 2

Brenden Dillon’s first goal of the season came in the third period and gave the San Jose Sharks a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes. Joe Pavelski and Tomas Hertl each had a goal for the Sharks, who had lost their previous two. Antti Niemi stopped 27 shots in the win. Shane Doan and Mikkel Boedker each scored for the Coyotes, who have dropped three of four. Devan Dubnyk gave up all three goals on 25 shots.

The Gilmer Free Press

► Tour announces 2015 schedule

The Tour announced its 2015 schedule on Tuesday and the new campaign will begin in just over two weeks and will feature 25 events.

The season will commence with the Panama Claro Championship on January 29 and will run through February 01. The following week the tour will head to Colombia for the Pacific Rubiales Colombia Championship, which kicked off the 2014 season.

After three weeks off, the Tour will be back in Colombia for a new event, the Karibana Championship, which will be played from March 05-08. The next two events will be held in South America. The Brasil Champions is to be played March 12-15, followed by the Chile Classic from March 19-22.

The first event inside the U.S. will once again be the Chitimacha Louisiana Open from March 26-29 before heading to Mexico three weeks later for the El Bosque Mexico Championship.

The tour then returns to the U.S. for six straight events, which are the WNB Golf Classic, United Leasing Championship, BMW Charity Pro-Am, Rex Hospital Open, Rust-Oleum Championship and Air Capital Classic.

The Rust-Oleum Championship was formerly the Cleveland Open, which joined the tour last season.

Following the Nova Scotia Open in Canada, the tour’s regular season wraps up with seven straight events in the United States, finishing up at the WinCo Foods Portland Open.

Also during that stretch will be the Boise Open, Stonebrae Classic, Utah Championship, Midwest Classic, Price Cutter Charity Championship and News Sentinal Open.

Twenty-five PGA Tour cards will be up for grabs once again during the Tour Finals for those who did not secure one of the 25 awarded during the regular season.

Like the past two seasons, the Finals will feature four events beginning with the Hotel Fitness Championship followed by the Chiquita Classic and Nationwide Children’s Hospital Championship. The season once again comes to a close at the Tour Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida.

“The success of the Tour is due in large part to an incredible tournament and sponsor base, which allows us to enjoy a strong tournament schedule year in and year out,“ said Tour president Bill Calfee. “We are most appreciative of their efforts as we collectively work to keep building the foundation of this tour and have a greater impact in the communities where we play.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Halep pulls out; Kvitova wins, Radwanska falls in Sydney

Top seed Simona Halep pulled out of the tournament, while Petra Kvitova advanced and Agnieszka Radwanska lost Tuesday at the Sydney International tennis event, a final hardcourt Australian Open tune-up.

The French Open runner-up Halep, fresh off her title in Shenzhen, China, last week, cited gastroenteritis as the reason for her withdrawal. She believes she contracted the illness while in China and hopes to fully recover in time for the Australian Open, which begins Monday in Melbourne.

“During the tournament in China I got this problem in my stomach,“ explained Halep. “I was waiting until today to see if I was ready to play again, but I feel like I cannot play. It’s tough to play a tournament like this, so unfortunately I decided to withdraw.“

Fourth-seeded U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki withdrew from this tournament Monday with a wrist injury.

American Nicole Gibbs replaced Halep in the draw and was promptly double- bageled in 38 minutes by rising Czech Karolina Pliskova 6-0, 6-0 on a rainy day in Sydney.

Meanwhile, the second-seeded Wimbledon champion Kvitova defeated Chinese Peng Shuai 6-1, 7-5, while rising Spaniard Garbine Muguruza ousted the third-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Radwanska 3-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-2.

In other second-round play involving seeds, No. 5 Angelique Kerber, a runner- up here a year ago, outlasted Russian wild card Daria Gavrilova 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-2), 6-3, Spain’s Carla Suarez Navarro upended No. 6 Russian Ekaterina Makarova 4-6, 6-1, 6-4 and wild card and Aussie favorite Jarmila Gajdosova knocked out seventh-seeded Aussie Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova 1-6, 6-3, 6-4. Cibulkova was a finalist in Sydney two years ago.

Also on Day 3, American Madison Keys beat qualifier and defending Sydney champion Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria 6-4, 1-4, retired and Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova dismissed Aussie favorite, former U.S. Open champ and 2005 Sydney runner-up Samantha Stosur 7-6 (7-1), 6-2. Pironkova upset Kerber in last year’s final here.

Wednesday’s quarterfinals will pit Kvitova against Gajdosova; Kerber versus Muguruza; Keys against Zahlavova Strycova; and Pliskova versus Suarez Navarro.

This week’s winner will take home $124,000.

►  Del Potro returns a winner in Sydney

Playing his first tennis since last February, wild card Juan Martin del Potro returned a winner Tuesday at the Sydney International tennis event, a final Australian Open tune-up.

The reigning champion from Argentina handled Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) in opening-round play on the hardcourts at NSW Tennis Centre.

The oft-injured 2009 U.S. Open champion del Potro had been sidelined for 11 months with a wrist injury.

“It was a great moment for me,“ del Potro said. “I think I played well in my first match after 10 months. I served well. My forehand is still working out. So that’s a good signal for the future. I need to work very hard to my backhands and my movements, but I think now is time to think about my comeback and enjoy this moment a lot.

“I’ve been at home for a long time; [it’s been] really sad. To be honest, I didn’t expect this moment to be early in the season. I’m so happy, so glad. I would like to share with a lot of people who were behind me last year, but all of them are in Argentina. So I will meet them once again very soon.“

The tall slugger, unseeded this week, beat Aussie and 2013 Sydney titlist Bernard Tomic in last year’s final here.

Tomic whipped Dutch qualifier Igor Sijsling 6-1, 6-2 on Day 2.

In action involving seeds, No. 7 Frenchman Jeremy Chardy handled American Sam Querrey 6-4, 6-4 and Serbian qualifier and 2011 runner-up Viktor Troicki knocked out No. 8 Slovak Martin Klizan 6-2, 6-3.

Meanwhile, Spaniard Pablo Andujar doused Finnish qualifier, 2012 champion and 2009 runner-up Jarkko Nieminen 6-2, 6-2; Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller overcame Aussie wild card Sam Groth 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (8-6); Kazakhstani qualifier Mikhail Kukushkin topped Uzbekistan’s Denis Istomin 6-3, 7-6 (7-1); Canadian Vasek Pospisil bested Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3, 7-6 (7-4); and Poland’s Jerzy Janowicz outlasted promising Aussie Nick Kyrgios 6-1, 6-7 (6-8), 7-6 (7-5).

In some second-round action on Wednesday, top-seeded Italian Fabio Fognini will face del Potro and second-seeded Belgian David Goffin will meet Italian Simone Bolelli.

This week’s winner will claim $80,000.

►  Giraldo, Garcia-Lopez exit Auckland

Seeded players Santiago Giraldo and Guillermo Garcia-Lopez were a pair of losers Tuesday at the Heineken Open, a final tune-up for the Australian Open.

French qualifier Kenny De Schepper upended the sixth-seeded Colombian Giraldo 6-2, 6-3, while Argentine Diego Schwartzman doused the seventh-seeded Spaniard Garcia-Lopez 6-2, 4-6, 6-1 on the hardcourts at ASB Tennis Centre.

Ninth-seeded 2014 runner-up Yen-Hsun Lu moved on by holding off Argentine Juan Monaco 6-4, 2-6, 6-1.

Two-time winner John Isner is not defending his title this year after beating Taiwan’s Lu in last year’s final.

Meanwhile, American Donald Young overcame Japanese qualifier Go Soeda 6-7 (2-7), 6-1, 6-3.

Additional wins came for Colombian lucky loser Alejandro Falla, wild card Michael Venus of New Zealand, Spaniards Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Pablo Carreno Busta, and Czech qualifier Jiri Vesely.

This year’s champion will earn $84,500.

►  Watson beats Stephens in Hobart

Great Britain’s Heather Watson continued her dominance of Sloane Stephens on Tuesday with a straight-set victory in the second round of the Hobart International.

Watson rolled to a 6-3, 6-1 triumph for her fourth win in as many tries against the fifth-seeded American. The other three matches went three sets, but it was no contest on Tuesday as Watson made it a rout by winning nine of 10 games after the match was even at 3-3.

Next up for Watson will be ninth-seeded Italian Roberta Vinci, who rallied Tuesday with a 3-6, 6-3, 6-3 win over Germany’s Annika Beck. Vinci was down a set and a break before battling back.

Japan’s Kurumi Nara also advanced with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 triumph over Swedish qualifier Johanna Larsson.

Tuesday’s evening match between third-seeded Camila Giorgi of Italy and Estonia’s Kaia Kanepi was postponed. It was rescheduled for Wednesday with the remainder of the second-round matches.

The top two seeds will also be in action Wednesday, as top-seeded Casey Dellacqua of Australia will meet Italy’s Karin Knapp and second-seeded Zarina Diyas of Kazakhstan will square off against Slovakian wild card Daniela Hantuchova.

This year’s Hobart titlist will earn $43,000.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Basketball Association
San Antonio at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest, SportSouth, DSS
Houston at Orlando, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Southwest, FS-Florida, DSS
Philadelphia at Toronto, 7:30 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, TSN, DSS
New Orleans at Detroit, 7:30 PM - FS-New Orleans, Detroit, DSS
Memphis at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, YES, DSS
Washington at Chicago, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC, Chicago, ESPN
Atlanta at Boston, 8:00 PM - CSN-New England, DSS
Dallas at Denver, 9:00 PM - FS-Southwest, Altitude, DSS
Miami at Golden State, 10:30 PM - SunSports, CSN-Bay, DSS
LA Clippers at Portland, 10:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, KGW, ESPN
National Hockey League
Montreal at Columbus, 7:00 PM - SNET, FS-Ohio, DSS
Philadelphia at Washington, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Toronto at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - SNET-Ontario, KCOP, DSS
New Jersey at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - MSG+, FS-West, DSS
College Basketball
Harvard at Boston College, 7:00 PM -
Binghamton at Albany, 7:00 PM -
Navy at Bucknell, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Northern Ill at Buffalo, 7:00 PM -
Miami-Ohio at Central Michigan, 7:00 PM -
Boston University at Colgate, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
La Salle at Dayton, 7:00 PM - WHIO
Houston at East Carolina, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Notre Dame at Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM - RSN,
Loyola-MD at Lafayette, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Rutgers at Maryland, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
North Carolina at NC State, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Florida Gulf Coast at North Florida, 7:00 PM -
Hofstra at Northeastern, 7:00 PM - NBCSN
Kennesaw State at Northern Kentucky, 7:00 PM -
LSU at Ole Miss, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
St. John’s at Providence, 7:00 PM - FS1
George Mason vs. St Bonaventure, 7:00 PM - MASN
SMU at Temple, 7:00 PM - CBSSN
Tulane at UCF, 7:00 PM -
Winthrop at UNC Asheville, 7:00 PM - Big South Network
Ball State at Western Michigan, 7:00 PM -
Cleveland State at Wright State, 7:00 PM - Time Warner,
Lehigh at American University, 7:30 PM - Patriot League Network
Army at Holy Cross, 8:00 PM - MASN2, Patriot League Network
Detroit at Ill-Chicago, 8:00 PM -
Texas Tech at Kansas State, 8:00 PM - ESPNews
Drake at Loyola-Chicago, 8:00 PM -
Nebraska Omaha at Oral Roberts, 8:00 PM -
Duquesne at Saint Louis, 8:00 PM - FS-Midwest
North Dakota State at South Dakota, 8:00 PM - Midco Sports Net,
Southern Ill at Wichita State, 8:00 PM - COX,
Evansville at Missouri State, 8:05 PM - Mediacom
Youngstown State at Milwaukee, 8:30 PM - Time Warner,
Iowa State at Baylor, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Nevada at Colorado State, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Creighton at Marquette, 9:00 PM - CBSSN
Air Force at New Mexico, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Illinois at Northwestern, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Florida State at Pittsburgh, 9:00 PM - RSN, ROOT-Pittsburgh,
UCLA at USC, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Georgia at Vanderbilt, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
Xavier at Villanova, 9:00 PM - FS1
Fresno State at San Jose State, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Stanford at California, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
San Diego State at Wyoming, 11:00 PM - ESPN 2
Women’s College Basketball
Wright State at Milwaukee, 6:00 PM -
North Florida at Florida Gulf Coast, 7:00 PM -
Northern Kentucky at Kennesaw State, 7:00 PM -
Lipscomb at USC Upstate, 7:00 PM -
Jacksonville at Stetson, 7:00 PM -
Temple at Connecticut, 7:00 PM - SNY,
SMU at South Florida, 7:00 PM -
NC State at Louisville, 7:00 PM -
Akron at Toledo, 7:00 PM -
Texas Tech at West Virginia, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh
Texas at Oklahoma, 8:00 PM - Sooner Sports
Northwestern at Iowa, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network+
TCU at Kansas, 8:00 PM - Jayhawk TV,
Cincinnati at Memphis, 8:00 PM -
East Carolina at Tulsa, 8:00 PM - American Athletic Network
International Soccer
Parma FC vs. Cagliari Calcio, 11:55 AM - beIN Sport
Torino FC vs. S.S. Lazio, 2:55 PM - beIN Sport

Sports News   150113

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Ohio State upsets Oregon in CFP title game

A chant of “Zeke” reverberated around AT&T Stadium before Ezekiel Elliott powered into the end zone for his fourth and final touchdown.

The Ohio State Buckeyes are back on top.

They can thank the inaugural College Football Playoff for that.

Elliott ran for 246 yards, totaling over 200 for a third straight game, and Ohio State won its first national championship since 2002 with a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the CFP National Championship Game on Monday night.

“I’m not shy about the love I have about this great state,“ Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said. “To bring a national title to the great state of Ohio, it’s almost surreal.“

The Buckeyes snuck into the final four of the CFP committee’s final rankings on Dec. 7 after not being included in any of their previous unveilings.

Their vaulting into the No. 4 spot came a day after Elliott gained 220 yards and two scores in Ohio State’s 59-0 shutout win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.

The Buckeyes then went out and silenced their critics in the Sugar Bowl when Elliott ran for 230 yards and two more touchdowns in their 42-35 win over top- seeded Alabama.

“He’s one of the best post-contact yard guys I’ve ever been around,“ Meyer said of Elliott.

Elliott put the final stamp on the stunning title run Monday night.

After the Ducks pulled within a point in the third quarter, Elliott ran for a trio of scores to lift Ohio State to its sixth national championship.

“We knew that our o-line was bigger and more physical than their d-line,“ Elliott said. “They paved the way for me.“

The emergence of the sophomore Elliott took the pressure off Cardale Jones, who was making his third career start. Jones, of course, took over at quarterback following the injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.

Jones was 16-of-23 for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception and added 38 yards rushing and a score for Ohio State, which won despite turning the ball over four times.

Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota was 24-of-37 for 333 yards and two touchdowns to go with a pick for the No. 2 Ducks, who routed Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl to reach the title game.

“It’s tough to go out with a loss,“ Mariota said. “They just out- executed us for a couple more quarters.“

Mariota also carried the ball 10 times for 39 yards, Byron Marshall caught eight passes for 169 yards and a score and Thomas Tyner ran for 62 yards on 12 totes in defeat.

“I love this guy and will forever,“ Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said of Mariota. “The impact that he’s had on the field is significant, but off the field even bigger.“

After failing to capitalize on a pair of Ohio State miscues in the first half, the Ducks were able to post 10 points on the Buckeyes’ first two turnovers of the third quarter.

The Buckeyes committed their third turnover on the opening series of the second half. The ball popped off the hands of Jalin Marshall after Ohio State moved the ball into Oregon territory, and an alert Danny Mattingly was there to pick it off.

Mariota fired a 70-yard TD pass to a wide-open Byron Marshall on the very next play to trim the gap to 21-17.

Elliott darted up the middle for two yards to move the chains on a 4th-and-1, but Jones lost the ball on the next snap when the ball slipped out of his hand as he rolled right. Aidan Schneider hit a 23-yard field goal to whittle the deficit to 21-20 midway through the third quarter.

Ohio State, though, responded by pounding the ball with Elliott.

He carried it six times for 44 yards on its ensuing touch, finishing off the 12-play sequence with a bruising 9-yard TD run off the left edge to up the Buckeyes’ margin to 28-20 on the final play of the third.

The Buckeyes’ defense then forced a three-and-out and Elliott was back at it again.

Jones zipped a 19-yard completion to Jalin Marshall over the middle and Elliott barreled in from two yards out to make it 35-20 at the 9:44 mark of the fourth.

Joey Bosa drove Mariota’s shoulder to the turf on a first down play and the signal caller had to exit for a snap. Jake Fisher was flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and Tyrell Crosby was whistled for a false start to make matters worse.

It was 3rd-and-26 when Mariota re-entered the game and he hit Dwayne Stanford for a pickup of 19 yards, and Helfrich elected to punt.

Mariota’s 4th-and-11 pass fell incomplete on the Ducks’ next touch and Elliott powered in from a yard out with 28 ticks on the clock to cap the scoring.

Earlier, the Buckeyes put up 21 straight points after Oregon scored a touchdown on its opening drive. Ohio State found the end zone on consecutive possessions late in the first quarter after punting on its initial series.

Jones fired a 26-yard strike on a 3rd-and-8 to Corey Smith, then rolled left and tossed another 26-yard completion to Jalin Marshall. Jalin Marshall prolonged the drive when he fought for the first-down marker after going in motion and receiving a pop pass from Jones on a 4th-and-2. Elliott then zoomed through the secondary off the left side of the line for a 33-yard touchdown that tied the game at 7-7.

Marshall returned a punt 17 yards to the Oregon 46 and Elliott later barreled to the 1 following a 17-yard run. Jones flipped a 1-yard TD pass to Nick Vannett in the left flat with 1:08 left in the first quarter.

After a rolling Jones lofted a 43-yard completion to Devin Smith on a 3rd- and-12 in the second quarter, he snuck in from a yard out three plays later for a 21-7 Buckeyes advantage with 4:49 to go in the half.

Schneider nailed a 28-yard field goal in the final minute to get the Ducks within 21-10.

The Ducks, who turned the ball over just 10 times during the regular season, had a pair of close calls on their opening drive.

Tyner lost the football after dashing through a huge hole off right guard, but it bounced right back to him and he gained 12 yards. Mariota later fumbled when he picked his way for seven yards on a scramble, but a replay showed that his knee was down.

Mariota then capped the initial 11-play, 75-yard march when he eluded pressure, stepped up in the pocket and hit Keanon Lowe for a 7-yard score.

Oregon’s first half was defined by miscues. Mariota’s first two incompletions were third-down drops and the Ducks were not able to capitalize on a pair of Ohio State fumbles.

The aggressive Ducks elected to go for it on a 4th-and-goal from the OSU 3 following a fumbled exchange between Jones and Elliott, but the Buckeyes stuffed Tyner at the 1. Oregon then went three-and-out after recovering a Corey Smith fumble following a 47-yard reception.

Game Notes

Meyer won his third national title and first with the Buckeyes. He became the second head coach to win national championships at two different schools, joining Nick Saban ... Elliott carried the ball 36 times, averaging 6.8 yards per carry ... The Ducks fell to 0-2 in national championship games. They fell in the 2010 title game to Auburn ... Oregon was without freshman receiver Darren Carrington, who failed an NCAA administered drug test prior to the game ... Ohio State outgained Oregon 538-465 ... The Buckeyes were 8-of-15 on third down, while the Ducks finished 2-of-12.

►  College Football Championship Game Result

(Monday, January 12)

Final Score: Ohio State 42, Oregon 20

A chant of “Zeke” reverberated around AT&T Stadium before Ezekiel Elliott powered into the end zone for his fourth and final touchdown. The Ohio State Buckeyes are back on top. They can thank the inaugural College Football Playoff for that. Elliott ran for 246 yards, totaling over 200 for a third straight game, and Ohio State won its first national championship since 2002 with a 42-20 victory over Oregon in the CFP National Championship Game on Monday night. The Buckeyes snuck into the final four of the CFP committee’s final rankings on Dec. 7 after not being included in any of their previous unveilings. Their vaulting into the No. 4 spot came a day after Elliott gained 220 yards and two scores in Ohio State’s 59-0 shutout win over Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game. The Buckeyes then went out and silenced their critics in the Sugar Bowl when Elliott ran for 230 yards and two more touchdowns in their 42-35 win over top-seeded Alabama. Elliott put the final stamp on the stunning title run Monday night. After the Ducks pulled within a point in the third quarter, Elliott ran for a trio of scores to lift Ohio State to its sixth national championship. The emergence of the sophomore Elliott took the pressure off Cardale Jones, who was making his third career start. Jones, of course, took over at quarterback following the injuries to Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett. Jones was 16-of-23 for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception and added 38 yards rushing and a score for Ohio State, which won despite turning the ball over four times. Heisman trophy winner Marcus Mariota was 24-of-37 for 333 yards and two touchdowns to go with a pick for the No. 2 Ducks, who routed Florida State 59-20 in the Rose Bowl to reach the title game. Mariota also carried the ball 10 times for 39 yards, Byron Marshall caught eight passes for 169 yards and a score and Thomas Tyner ran for 62 yards on 12 totes in defeat.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Redskins GM Scot McCloughan won’t rule out taking a quarterback in the first round

Robert Griffin III’s name was mentioned only rarely during Scot McCloughlan’s introductory press conference last week, but the quarterback was discussed quite a bit during McCloughlan’s subsequent media appearances.

“The one thing he did do was he took the team to the playoffs as a rookie and that’s hard to do for any quarterback,” McCloughan said during a meeting with beat writers. “Don’t give up too quick on him because you know there’s ability there.”

Quarterbacks are “so hard to find, and he’s still young,” McCloughan said on ESPN 980. “Give him the benefit of the doubt, he’s been banged up. You can say, ‘Yeah, the grass is greener,’ but who can we go get? If all of a sudden he goes somewhere and starts lighting it up, you know? And Jay’s system, that’s a tough system the first year for to learn, you know? So, I’m very curious to see how his second year [with Gruden] goes. Very curious.”

“The key thing with me, the same thing we did with Alex Smith when we drafted him in San Fran was, build around him,” McCloughan said on 106.7 The Fan. “Don’t make the quarterback have to win and lose the game for you. Let’s get him some stud offensive linemen, let’s get a damn good running game, let’s get a tight end that can stretch the field, a couple of receivers to make plays. Then all of a sudden that one guy becomes much better.”

All that sounds very positive about RGIII’s future in Washington. And yet in an interview with Fox 5′s Scott Smith, McCloughan would not rule out drafting a quarterback in the first round of the draft.

“Is there any position that is off-limits at the No. 5 pick in this year’s draft?” Smith asked.

“No,” McCloughan answered.

“And that includes quarterback?” Smith asked.

“Correct,” McCloughan said.

That’s certainly the most practical answer, but it’s still interesting. Smith also asked how McCloughan would go about evaluating Griffin.

“I’m going to want to probably start with his rookie year, when he was healthy, for sure,” the GM said. “And see that, and then see how it progressed. I know year two was tough, and then see year three, and just see have his mechanics changed? Is there something different about him because of the knee injury?

“But I’ll hold off judgment until I see that,” McCloughan went on. “And it’ll be important to see him in person, [to see him] move around, do things like that. It’s a tough position. Everybody’s trying to find ‘em, and about 5 teams have ‘em, so you’ve got to be careful giving up on a young guy too early.”

McCloughan was also asked if it’s his place as the general manager to question whether or not his the team’s quarterbacks are being utilized correctly.

“It’s a coach’s responsibility,” he responded. “I’m here to be the general manager and oversee the personnel department; Jay’s here to hire his own staff, and he does the Xs and Os on the field and coaches [the team]. Now, there might be certain times he might come to me and say can I see your report, because it seems like we thought he might be a better left tackle, or a right tackle, or a better 3 technique than 1 technique. But I’ll never be one that meddles with coaches whatsoever, unless they need a sounding board. That’s it.”

►  Peyton Manning played the last month with a torn quadriceps, report says

There may be a physical reason why Peyton Manning looked so unlike himself in the Denver Broncos’ loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday and it has nothing to do with his neck surgeries, his arm strength or his advancing age.

For the last month, the quarterback has been playing with a torn right quadriceps, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. He tore the muscle in the game against the San Diego Chargers on December 14 and for weeks the injury was reported as a thigh bruise. However, an MRI at the time reported the tear, a source not connected to Manning or the Broncos told Schefter.

Manning completed 26 of 46 passses for an un-Manninglike 211 yards and one touchdown, in the Broncos’ 24-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts in an AFC divisional-round game Sunday, prompting all manner of speculation about whether he would ever be seen in a football uniform again. Manning himself seemed uncertain about his future and was critical of his play. “I’m not smart enough to be able to answer every single question about reasons for things,” Manning said. “But I think … I’ve always taken a pretty accurate look and fair evaluation of myself. I think I’m as honest with myself as anybody else and probably as critical of myself as anybody else is. Didn’t play well enough [against the Colts] and didn’t play well consistently enough in the second half of the season, especially in the games we lost.”

A December 14 injury means that Manning played three games with the injury and the Broncos were 1-2 over that span and, the week after the injury, he threw four interceptions in a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals. A quad injury would help to explain why Manning chose to attempt a pass rather than run when he had wide-open lanes against the Colts on Sunday. However, it probably won’t do much to quell the debate over whether he should retire now.

►  Is Aaron Rodgers healthy enough to get to Super Bowl XLIX?

A hobbled Aaron Rodgers, hopping and skipping and extremely immobile because of a calf injury, was a painful sight Sunday.

And it’s one that isn’t likely to improve by the time the NFC Championship game begins Sunday in Seattle. Rodgers wasn’t spelling out R-E-L-A-X after the Green Bay Packers’ victory over the Dallas Cowboys in an NFC divisional game; instead, he was measuring out the amount of football he needs to be able to play to win a championship.

“I think I’ve got 120 minutes left in me,” Rodgers said Sunday. “So I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I can play all those minutes.”

Don’t be surprised at reports that Rodgers isn’t practicing this week. He spent all but part of one practice last week seeking treatment that included acupuncture. Still, it was a bit of a surprise that the injury, suffered in the regular-season finale, hadn’t healed more with a bye week.

“I’ve got to give a lot of credit to our training staff,” Rodgers said. “They spent a lot of hours with me this week. They did a great job of getting me ready. My acupuncturist as well. She really helps. I’d like to say thanks to all of the fans and medical people out there who sent in ideas over the hotline. There was some really interesting ones. Kind of wish at some point we could release some of the emails and messages we got, but I know they’re all in good faith there, so I appreciate the ideas. But, ultimately, it came down to our training staff, and they helped me get through this one.”

Rodgers, vying to become the modern Willis Reed, threw for three touchdowns and 317 yards against the Cowboys.

“The rhythm isn’t affected by the left calf, just the mobility,” he said.

Next up: the Seahawks’ Legion of Boom.

►  NFL says replay review of pass interference calls will be discussed after Cowboys-Lions flub

This postseason hasn’t been the best of times for NFL officiating crews. On Sunday, the Calvin Johnson rule was correctly applied to a catch by Dez Bryant of the Dallas Cowboys, but it’s a rule and is held in almost universal distaste. And the week before, the issue of whether pass interference calls should be subject to replay was raised by a play between Andrew Hitchens and Brandon Pettigrew in wild-card game between the Cowboys and Detroit Lions.

On Monday, the NFL’s vice president for officiating stood by the decision on Bryant’s catch, which was ruled a non-catch after Green Bay Coach Mike McCarthy challenged the call.

“Is Bryant going to the ground to make the catch?” Dean Blandino said on “PFT Live.” “It’s clear. He’s stumbling. . . . Then we have to look to see, does the ball touch the ground? Which it clearly did, and it came loose after it touched the ground. . . . The last part which was discussed is did he make a football move? . . . Looking at it, he didn’t.”

Bryant lunged toward the goal line as he hauled in the ball, but Blandino didn’t deem that to be a “football move.”

“There’s judgment involved in all of these plays,” Blandino said. “We felt it was indisputable that’s not what Bryant did. He was just trying to gain control of it.”

The play in the Cowboys-Lions game, the NFL admitted last week, merited at least a defensive holding call and there has been far more conversation about subjecting PI to replay than there has been over the Calvin Johnson rule and Blandino, “The Dan Patrick Show,” said extending replay would be discussed by members of the competition committee in the offseason.

►  Fox out as Broncos coach

Less than 24 hours after the Denver Broncos were surprisingly ousted from the postseason, the club and head coach John Fox have agreed to part ways.

Fox guided the Broncos to AFC West titles in every season during his four- year tenure and led them to a conference championship last season before losing to the Seattle Seahawks in the Super Bowl.

Denver went 12-4 this season and was a heavy favorite against the Indianapolis Colts in Sunday’s Divisional Round, but ultimately lost 24-13.

“John Fox and I met for more than an hour on Monday afternoon to discuss the 2014 season and our goals for the future,“ Broncos president of football operations John Elway said in a statement. “During our open and candid conversation, it became clear that it was best for both the Denver Broncos and Coach Fox to move on and make this change.

“While we have made significant progress under Coach Fox, there is still work to be done. I believe this change at the head coaching position will be in the best interest of our long-term goal, which from day one has been to win World Championships.“

Despite the absence of a Super Bowl title, Fox had a wildly successful run in Denver, which went 46-18 in his four years—the last three with Peyton Manning under center.

“It was an honor to coach the Denver Broncos, a first-class franchise with great fans and a winning tradition,“ said Fox in a statement. “I am thankful to John, (owner) Mr. (Pat) Bowlen and (team CEO) Joe Ellis for allowing me and my family to be part of this team and community.“

Manning, 38, was ambiguous in postgame interviews about his playing future, but the future Hall-of-Famer has two years remaining on his contract.

Fox, 59, previously spent nine seasons as the head coach of the Carolina Panthers, leading them to an NFC title in 2003 and a 73-71 record. His contract was not renewed following the 2010 season, and he was quickly hired by the Broncos.

He was under contract for two more years in Denver at approximately $5 million to $6 million per year.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  The end of an era?

Since he was drafted first overall during the 1998 NFL Draft, Denver Broncos’ quarterback Peyton Manning has been in the discussion as to who the best signal-caller is in the league.

There is no denying Manning’s greatness, but there is also no denying his decline in play over the past five weeks.

He has now completed three seasons with the Broncos, and any fantasy owner who has had the privilege to have Manning on their roster during that span has not been disappointed.

During the 2012 season, Manning finished with the sixth-most fantasy points (322) in the league (according to Yahoo).

He was even better the following season.

Not only did he lead all of fantasy football in 2013, with 420 points, he also had the best season of his career from a statistical standpoint (5,477 yards, 55 TD, 10 INT). The passing yards and touchdowns he accumulated last season were both NFL records.

Manning got off to a great start this season, and ultimately finished with extremely solid numbers. He was second in the league with 39 touchdown passes, while throwing for 4,727 yards and 15 interceptions. On top that, Manning managed to score the fourth-most fantasy points in 2014 (327.7).

So, when looking over his three seasons in Denver as a whole, it can be argued Manning is not on the decline. During the 2014 season he simply performed in an ungodly way, and went on to follow a “career year” with the second-best passing yard total of his career, along with his third-highest total of touchdown passes.

However, although Manning was able to put together a solid statistical campaign through 16 regular season games, it cannot go unnoticed as to what occurred over the past five weeks.

Reports have surfaced that Denver’s superstar had played with a torn right quad, since a victory against the San Diego Chargers on December 14.

Fantasy owners need to decide whether Manning’s injury was the main cause to his lack of numbers over the last four weeks of the regular season, combined with the Divisional Round of the postseason.

Even if he got hurt in the first half of Week 16 versus San Diego, Manning’s troubles began the week before.

In the 12 games before Week 14, Manning had thrown at least three touchdown passes and had at least a 100 passer rating in eight contests. Since Week 14 against the Buffalo Bills, his highest touchdown total was two, which was accomplished only once, and Manning was able to garner over a 100 passer rating just one time as well.

Despite playing at home, along with earning a first-round bye and some extra rest, Manning was unable to rebound from his poor late-season play this past Sunday.

He had his lowest completion percentage of the season (26-of-46, 56.5%) and threw for just 211 yards, one touchdown, and had a 75.5 passer rating in the loss to the Indianapolis Colts.

It is tough to say whether the quad injury was a major factor over the past five games. Manning practiced in full almost every day leading up to Denver’s playoff contest, and there were no signs that he was laboring on the field.

While it is a possibility Manning hangs them up, and does not come back for a 17th season, it seems more than likely we will see at least one more year.

Assuming he does come back, fantasy owners will have to think long and hard if these last five games were a fluke, or simply a sign of things to come for a quarterback who will turn 39-years-old in March.

One thing that those owners should keep in mind however, is that when it comes to fantasy football and Peyton Manning; never doubt one of the greatest of all-time.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Cristiano Ronaldo wins Ballon d’Or for second straight year and third time overall

Real Madrid and Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo was announced as the winner of the Ballon d’Or, winning the FIFA player of the year award for the second straight year and third time overall.

Ronaldo edged Barcelona/Argentina forward Lionel Messi (a four-time winner) and Bayern Munich/Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who was looking to become the first goalkeeper to win the award since 1963. Players, coaches and reporters vote on the award.

The Gilmer Free Press

Germany midfielder Nadine Kessler was named world women’s player of the year, beating out Abby Wambach of the United States and Marta of Brazil.

NBC Sports has more on Ronaldo’s reaction:

                    “I see my son, my family, my mother,” he began in Portuguese. “I would like to thank all those who voted for me, my coach, my fellow players, the president of Real Madrid. It’s been an unforgettable year. To win this trophy, a trophy of this kind, is something unique and all I can say is I want to continue working as I have, so far, trying to go onto more titles for my mother, for my father who is up there looking down at me, for my son.

                    “I want to try to improve, to become better as each day goes by. I never thought that I would bring this trophy back home on three occasions. I want to become one of the greatest players of all time.”

                    He then howled at the end, which was nice, before his son snuck onto the stage to stand near his dad. Ronaldo handed the trophy to his son, who was a bit of a show stealer.

Ronaldo scored 61 goals in 60 games for Real Madrid and Portugal in 2014, including a record 17 as Real Madrid won its 10th Champions League title.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  West Virginia Boys Basketball AP Poll

(January 12)

The Associated Press high school boys basketball poll with first-place votes in parentheses and total points:

Class A
Team   Record   Pts   Prv
  1. Magnolia (4)  6-1   89   2
  2. Wheeling Central (4)  8-2   82   1
  3. Greater Beckley Christian (1)  6-1   79   3
  4. Gilmer County   6-0   65   4
  5. Notre Dame   7-3   46   9
  6. Charleston Catholic   6-2   39   6
  7. Bishop Donahue   7-1   38   10
  8. Tucker County   6-2   26   5
  9. Valley Fayette   5-1   23   8
  10. Williamstown   7-1   22   NR  
Others receiving votes: Tug Valley (1) 19, Saint Joseph Central 16, St. Marys 3, Cameron 3.

Class AA
Team   Record   Pts   Prv
  1. Poca (9)  8-0   99   1
  2. Bridgeport (1)  6-0   86   2
  3. Westside   7-1   73   4
  4. Fairmont Senior   10-0   72   3
  5. Mingo Central   8-2   52   7
  6. Robert C. Byrd   2-3   35   6
  7. Scott   5-3   33   5
  (tie)Ravenswood   7-1   33   8
  9. Lincoln   6-0   29   9
  10. PikeView   7-4   12   NR  
Others receiving votes: Grafton 9, East Fairmont 8, Sissonville 5, Wyoming East 3, Bluefield 1.

Class AAA
Team   Record   Pts   Prv
  1. South Charleston (8)  7-0   98   1
  2. Woodrow Wilson (2)  6-0   91   2
  3. Parkersburg South   7-0   74   4
  4. Huntington   7-1   68   3
  5. Morgantown   6-1   55   5
  6. Greenbrier East   7-1   36   8
  7. Capital   5-2   27   T10
  8. Preston   7-2   25   NR
  9. Jefferson   6-2   24   9
  10. Logan   5-1   13   NR  
Others receiving votes: Wheeling Park 12, Hedgesville 8, Parkersburg 6, Martinsburg 4, Hurricane 4, Musselman 3, George Washington 2.

►  West Virginia Girls Basketball AP Poll

(January 12)

The Associated Press high school girls basketball poll with first-place votes in parentheses and total points:

Class A
Team   Record   Pts   Prv
  1. Saint Joseph Central (8)  7-2   89   1
  2. Wheeling Central (1)  7-1   80   2
  3. Tucker County   7-1   64   3
  4. Williamstown   9-2   57   4
  5. Pocahontas County   9-2   55   5
  6. Clay-Battelle   7-2   46   6
  7. Gilmer County   5-4   28   8
  8. Notre Dame   8-3   23   9(tie)
  9. Charleston Catholic   2-7   15   7
  10. Meadow Bridge   8-2   11   NR
  (tie) St. Marys   5-6   11   NR  
Others receiving votes: Trinity 4, Parkersburg Catholic 4, Madonna 3, Midland Trail 2, Fayetteville 2, Union Grant 1.

Class AA
Team   Record   Pts   Prv
  1. North Marion (6)  8-0   86   2
  2. Fairmont Senior (3)  9-2   81   1
  3. Wyoming East   9-0   62   3
  4. Summers County   7-1   57   4
  5. Keyser   11-0   51   6
  6. Sissonville   8-1   50   5
  7. PikeView   7-1   29   7
  8. Clay County   8-2   24   9
  9. Bluefield   5-2   17   10
  10. Herbert Hoover   8-2   7   NR  
Others receiving votes: Westside 6, Robert C. Byrd 6, Lincoln 5, Bridgeport 5, Oak Glen 4, Nicholas County 2, Ravenswood 2, Mount View 1.

Class AAA
Team   Record   Pts   Prv
  1. Morgantown (9)  7-0   90   1
  2. South Charleston   9-0   76   2
  3. Parkersburg South   9-2   73   3
  4. Huntington   8-0   66   4
  5. Logan   9-2   48   6
  6. Spring Valley   6-2   41   7
  7. Greenbrier East   9-1   38   5
  8. St. Albans   5-3   17   9
  9. Hurricane   6-1   16   8
  10. Jefferson   6-1   15   10  
Others receiving votes: Parkersburg 6, Martinsburg 3, Buckhannon-Upshur 3, George Washington 3.

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Monday, January 12)

#9 Charleston Catholic 66     Braxton County 47

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Monday, January 12)

Bridgeport 56     Preston 34

Ravenswood 66     Wirt County 39

The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Player of the Week

West Liberty’s Seger Bonifant has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after leading the top-ranked Hilltoppers to a pair of conference wins.

Bonifant, who leads the nation in scoring with 27.1 points per game, averaged 28.5 in two games last week for WLU. He scored 34 points in a win over Shepherd that included 10-of-15 shooting from behind the three-point line. He followed that up with 23 points to go with five rebounds, three assists and a pair of blocks in a win over West Virginia Wesleyan. The junior from Berlin, Ohio, went over the 1,000-point mark for his career against the Bobcats.

Other Top Performances

Jevonte Hughes (Charleston) averaged 15.5 points and had a double-double as the Golden Eagles picked up a pair of wins ...

Jamel Morris (Fairmont State) averaged 31.0 points in two games ...

Kyauta Taylor (Notre Dame) went for a career-high 35 points and averaged 29 points in two games ...

Mike Boyd (Concord) averaged 16.5 points and six assists in a 1-1 week for the Mountain Lions ...

Morgan McDonald (Shepherd) contributed an average of 15.5 points and eight rebounds as the Rams went 1-1 …

Tanner McGrew (West Virginia Wesleyan) averaged a double-double (18 points and 13.0 rebounds) in a pair of games.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Seger Bonifant (WLU)
November 24 Donte Morales (GSC)
December 01 Mike Boyd (CU)
December 08 C.J. Hester (WLU)
December 15 Devin Hoehn (WLU)
December 22 Morgan McDonald (SU)
January 06 Sedric Nady (GSC)
January 12 Seger Bonifant (WLU)

►  MEC Women’s Basketball Player of the Week

West Liberty’s Kailee Howe has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after helping the Hilltoppers surge to the top of the MEC standings last week.

Howe, a junior from Zanesville, Ohio, shot over 60% from the field and averaged a double-double (19 points and 11 assists) as WLU picked up wins against league-leading Shepherd and West Virginia Wesleyan. She had 30 points and seven assists as the Hilltoppers handed the Rams their first conference defeat of the season, 90-87. Howe was limited to eight points, but had 15 assists (one shy of her own conference record) for West Liberty in the win over the Bobcats.

Other Top Performances

Emily Lohr (Fairmont State) had 22 points in both of FSU’s win last week ...

Lohr is second in the country in three-point field goal percentage at 61.8 ...

Nichole Perry (UC) averaged 16 points and went over the 1,000-point mark for her career as the Golden Eagles went 2-0 ...

Mariah Callen (WJU) had 14 points and six assists in a 21-point win over Glenville State ...

Morgan Arden (Shepherd) averaged 18 points, four rebounds and three assists as the Rams remained tied with West Liberty for first in the MEC ...

Rachel Artrip (CU) averaged 14.5 points and 5.5 rebounds in two games ...

Adrian Cunningham (WVWC) contributed 12.2 points and 4.5 rebounds in a pair of contests. 

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Hallie Gunnoe (FSU)
November 24 Hailey Garrett (FSU)
December 01 Nichole Perry (UC)
December 08 Jacqueline Kestner (CU)
December 15 Cara Mason (SU)
December 22 Martha Nagbe (NDC)
January 06 Emily Lohr (FSU)
January 12 Kailee Howe (WLU)

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Monday, January 12)

Charleston 82, Notre Dame 66 |  Final Stats

The University of Charleston led wire-to-wire in an 82-66 win over Notre Dame at Murphy Gymnasium.

The Golden Eagles (11-4, 6-3) led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but saw their advantage trimmed to four points after back-to-back three-pointers by the Falcons. UC responded with an 11-2 run and kept its lead in double digits the rest of the way in the win. 

Chris Evans led UC with 18 points, and Jevonte Hughes turned in a double-double with 15 points and 15 rebounds. Aleksander Kesic and Tino DiTrapano each scored 12, and Cameron Dozier finished with 11. Charleston dominated the glass in the game, 45-30.

Lawrence DeArmond led all scorers with 22 points for NDC (8-7, 4-5). Jay Banyasz added 12 points for the Falcons.

#1 West Liberty 117, Glenville State 109   |  Final Stats

A 16-2 run late in the second half helped West Liberty claim a 117-109 win over Glenville State and take sole possession of first place in the Mountain East Conference.

Seger Bonifant tied a conference record with 44 points to lead the top-ranked Hilltoppers (14-0, 9-0). Devin Hoehn also had a big game with 34 points, including 9-of-14 from the three-point line, to go with eight rebounds. Indiana Faithfull scored 12 points and registered 12 assists, and C.J. Hester finished with 11 points. 

Donte Morales led Glenville State (12-3, 8-1) with 30 points, and was 8-of-10 from the three-point line. Reggie Williams came up with 26 points, six rebounds and four assists.

Both teams shot over 60 percent from the field, with WLU holding the slight edge at 62.9 percent (39-of-52) to 60.3 percent (38-of-63) for Glenville State. The game saw 39 three-pointers go down with WLU nailing 21 and GSC hitting 18. The teams combined for just 18 turnovers in the 40 minutes.

West Virginia Wesleyan 69, Wheeling Jesuit 47 | Final Stats

West Virginia Wesleyan stifled Wheeling Jesuit, 69-47, on Monday night at the Rockefeller Center.

The Bobcats (6-9, 4-5) were just 16-of-47 from the field (34 percent), but sank 31-of-33 attempts at the free throw line in the victory. WVWC also out-rebounded Wheeling Jesuit 45-26 in the game.

Tanner McGrew scored 14 points and pulled down a MEC record 25 rebounds in the victory. Taylor Price and Chris Dewberry each scored 13, and Garrett Grantham added 11. 

Eric Siefert led WJU (6-7, 2-6) with 11 points. Haywood Highsmith scored 10 points for the Cardinals.

Fairmont State vs. UVa-Wise | Final Stats

Fairmont State erased a two-point halftime deficit and pulled away for a 75-62 win over UVa-Wise at the Prior Center.

Jamel Morris continued his hot scoring with 27 points to lead Fairmont State (9-6, 6-3). Shammgod Wells was the only other Falcon to reach double figures with 11 points. FSU held a 44-34 advantage on the glass over the Cavs in the game.

Brian Sydnor had 17 points and a game-high 15 rebounds for UVa-Wise (1-13, 0-9). Philip Owens 13 points, Jordan Smith netted 12 and Brian Day finished with 11.

Concord 80, Shepherd 74 | Final Stats

Aaron Miller’s 35 points helped Concord to an 80-74 win over Shepherd on Monday at the Butcher Center.

With the win, CU improves to 9-5 overall and 5-4 in conference play. Shepherd slipped to 10-5 on the year and 5-4 in the MEC.

In addition to Miller’s 35, Jametrius Wade contributed a double-double with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Mike Boyd scored 13 points and handed out seven assists.

Ryan McTavish led Shepherd with 17 points. Austin Cunningham had 15 points to go with nine assists, and Morgan McDonald had 15 points and seven rebounds.

►  MEC Women’s Basketball Game Results

(Monday, January 12)

Glenville State 70, West Liberty 67 | Final Stats

Paige Tuttle’s three-pointer with 1.2 seconds left lifted Glenville State to a 70-67 win over West Liberty.

Glenville State (5-7, 4-5) trailed by 12 with over seven minutes left in the first half, but closed on a 17-2 run to take a 34-31 lead at the break. The game remained close in the second half and saw three ties in the final 1:40, with the final tie being broken on Tuttle’s three.

Keyanna Tate led the Pioneers with 30 points and nine rebounds. Tuttle finished with 10.

West Liberty (10-5, 7-2) was paced by 26 points from Liz Flowers. Kailee Howe had 16 points and 10 assists and Jasmin Kiley added 10 points.

GSC shot just 32 percent from the field in the game, compared to 39 percent for WLU. The Pioneers controlled the glass, though, holding a 54-42 edge in that category. Glenville State went to the line 24 times making 17, while WLU was 8-of-14.

Notre Dame 57, Charleston 56 | Final Stats

An 8-2 run by Notre Dame with 2:07 left broke a 49-49 tie and propelled the Falcons to a 57-56 win over Charleston.

A three by Celine Mangan started the run and another three from Lauren Langenderfer capped it as NDC improved to 9-6 overall and 5-4 in the league. The loss snapped UC’s four-game winning streak and dropped the Golden Eagles to 11-4 overall and 6-3 in the MEC.

Martha Nagbe led Notre Dame with 17 points and eight rebounds. Kelsey Miller scored 15 and registered nine rebounds, and Langenderfer finished with 14.

LeAnne Ross was the only UC player to reach double figures with 13 points. Monet Saunders had 10 rebounds to go with seven points.

Wheeling Jesuit 77, West Virginia Wesleyan 50 | Final Stats

Wheeling Jesuit built a 20-point first half lead and cruised to a 77-50 win over West Virginia Wesleyan.

Kiley Frizell came off the bench and led all players with 21 points for the Cardinals (8-4, 5-3). Jaana Motton had 12 points and nine rebounds and Breanna Butler chipped in 11 points. Mariah Callen directed the offense with seven assists.

West Virginia Wesleyan (0-12, 0-9) got 16 points from Mari Stewart and 15 points from Adrian Cunningham in the loss. 

Fairmont State 69, UVa-Wise 56 | Final Stats

Fairmont State shot 50 percent from the field and moved into a tie for second place in the MEC with a 69-56 win over UVa-Wise at the Prior Center.

The Falcons (13-2, 7-2) held a 23-8 advantage in points off of turnovers as they picked up their seventh-straight win. Emily Lohr led the way with 21 points, while Hailey Garrett scored 16 and Emily Puskarich finished with 14.

UVa-Wise (5-10, 4-5) was led by Taylor Sandidge who had 17 points, seven assists and five rebounds. Kayla Carey scored 12 and Kehana Grayer added 11. 

Shepherd 64, Concord 59 | Final Stats

Shepherd scored the final seven points of the game as it defeated Concord, 64-59, at the Butcher Center.

The Rams (11-4, 8-1) forced 26 turnovers and committed just 12 of their own, and held a 26-8 advantage in points off of turnovers over Concord (3-9, 3-6). SU moved into sole possession of first place with the victory.

Cara Mason converted a three-point play to give the Rams a 60-59 lead with 1:07 left. She added two more free throws and Briana Vaden made two more to close out the Mountain Lions. CU missed its final four shots of the game.

Morgan Arden led a balanced SU attack with 14 points. Gabby Flinchum scored 13 and Liz Myers and Vaden each had 10.

Alley Odell led Concord with 16 points. Jacqueline Kestner had 16 points to go with a game-high 17 rebounds.

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Men’s Basketball Polls

(January 12)

Associated Press Top 25
1. Kentucky
2. Virginia
3. Gonzaga
4. Duke
5. Villanova
6. Louisville
7. Wisconsin
8. Utah
9. Kansas
10. Arizona
11. Iowa State
12. Notre Dame
13. Wichita State
14. Maryland
15. North Carolina
16. West Virginia
17. VCU
18. Oklahoma
19. Arkansas
20. Texas
21. Seton Hall
22. Baylor
23. Northern Iowa
24. Oklahoma State
25. Wyoming

Coaches Poll
1. Kentucky
2. Virginia
3. Gonzaga
4. Duke
5. Villanova
6. Wisconsin
7. Louisville
8. Utah
9. Arizona
10. Kansas
11. Maryland
12. Notre Dame
13. Iowa State
14. Wichita State
15. West Virginia
16. North Carolina
17. VCU
18. Oklahoma
19. Arkansas
20. Texas
21. Seton Hall
22. Northern Iowa
23. Baylor
24. Oklahoma State
25. Ohio State

Top 25 (and one)
1 Kentucky
2 Virginia
3 Gonzaga
4 Villanova
5 Duke
6 Louisville
7 Utah
8 Wisconsin
9 Kansas
10 Iowa State
11 Notre Dame
12 Maryland
13 Arizona
14 North Carolina
15 Wichita State
16 Baylor
17 VCU
18 Seton Hall
19 Arkansas
20 West Virginia
21 Oklahoma
22 Oklahoma State
23 Texas
24 Northern Iowa
25 Michigan State
26 Dayton

The Gilmer Free Press

►  A’s agree to terms with Chavez

The Oakland Athletics have agreed to terms with pitcher Jesse Chavez on a one-year contract for the 2015 season, avoiding arbitration.

Chavez went 8-8 with a 3.45 ERA in 32 games (21 starts) with the A’s last season. The right-hander was moved to the bullpen following Oakland’s acquisition of Jon Lester at the trade deadline.

The 31-year-old Chavez is 17-23 with a 4.70 ERA in 223 career games (23 starts) with Pittsburgh (2008-09), Atlanta (2010), Kansas City (2010-11), Toronto (2012) and Oakland (2012-14).

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Monday, January 12)

Final Score: Philadelphia 7, Tampa Bay 3

Jakub Voracek, Mark Streit and Brayden Schenn had power-play goals and the Philadelphia Flyers scored five times in the second period to snap a nearly two-year losing streak against the Tampa Bay Lightning with a 7-3 win on Monday night. Chris VandeVelde, R.J. Umberger and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored for the Flyers, who nabbed their first win over Tampa Bay since Feb. 5, 2013, snapping a six-game losing streak. With Steve Mason out for two weeks with a lower-body injury he suffered in Saturday’s loss to Boston, the Flyers turned to Rob Zepp, the 33- year-old who became the oldest NHL goaltender in 88 years to win his first career start last month. Zepp made 21 saves as the Flyers won for the third time in four games after a five-game losing streak. Steven Stamkos and Ryan Callahan had power-play goals and Brian Boyle also scored for the Eastern Conference-leading Lightning, who had a three-game winning streak snapped.

Final Score: Washington 2, Colorado 1

Braden Holtby stopped 31 shots to lead the Washington Capitals in a 2-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Monday. Jay Beagle and Alex Ovechkin scored for the Capitals, who have won five of their last six. Alex Tanguay scored the only goal of the game for the Avalanche, who had a three-game winning streak stopped. Semyon Varlamov stopped 36 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Los Angeles 2, Toronto 0

Martin Jones stopped 19 shots for his third shutout of the season as the Los Angeles Kings nabbed a 2-0 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday. Anze Kopitar had a goal and an assist while Marian Gaborik also scored for the Kings, who snapped a three-game slide. Jeff Carter assisted on both goals. Jonathan Bernier allowed just one goal on 19 shots in the defeat for the Maple Leafs, who have lost four of their last five.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  JR Motorsports enters Truck Series with driver Cole Custer

JR Motorsports announced on Monday that it will expand into the Camping World Truck Series, with driver Cole Custer competing in 10 races during the 2015 season.

JRM, which is co-owned by Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Miller, and Sprint Cup team owner Rick Hendrick, has two full-time teams competing in the Xfinity Series, with drivers Chase Elliott, the reigning series champion, and Regan Smith.

Custer, who is the son of Stewart-Haas Racing executive vice president Joe Custer, will drive the No. 00 Chevrolet Silverado truck. His team will receive primary sponsorship from Haas Automation Inc. Joe Shear Jr. will serve as Custer’s crew chief. Shear guided his efforts in the series last year.

“This is a new and exciting venture for us,“ Earnhardt Miller said in a team statement. “We have come a long way since racing street stocks in 2002, and we are constantly evolving. Expanding into the Truck Series on a part-time basis is furthering our growth. Bringing in a talent like Cole and a great partner like Haas Automation is a great way to do that. I’m proud of the direction we’re heading.“

Custer, a Ladera Ranch, California native, became the youngest driver ever to win a NASCAR national touring series race by taking the checkered flag for a Truck Series event last September at New Hampshire. He made his first nine starts in the series this past season. Custer will turn 17 years old later this month.

“I’m so excited to get this season started,“ Custer said. “With all that JR Motorsports has accomplished over the past few years, we know we have everything needed to go win races and compete. I couldn’t ask for a better opportunity with a better organization. I really want to thank Haas Automation, along with Kelley and Dale Jr., for putting this deal together.“

Custer’s Truck Series schedule with JRM will include races at Martinsville (March 28 and October 31), Dover (May 29), Gateway (June 13), Iowa (June 19), Eldora (July 22), Bristol (August 19), Canada (August 30), New Hampshire (September 26) and Phoenix (November 13).

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Radwanska rolls; Wozniacki exits Sydney with wrist injury

Third-seeded former champion Agnieszka Radwanska moved on, while former world No. 1 Caroline Wozniacki retired from her first-round match Monday at the Sydney International tennis event because of a wrist injury.

The fourth-seeded Wozniacki dropped the opening set to Czech Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-4, then called it quits with the second set even at 1-1. The U.S. Open runner-up Wozniacki was coming off a loss to Venus Williams in Saturday’s ASB Classic final in Auckland.

Meanwhile, Radwanska rolled past France’s Alize Cornet 6-3, 6-2 and fifth- seeded German and last year’s Sydney runner-up, Angelique Kerber, overcame Ukrainian qualifier Lesia Tsurenko 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 on Day 2.

Sixth-seeded Russian Ekaterina Makarova posted a 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 win over Ukraine’s Elina Svitolina and seventh-seeded Slovakian, 2103 Sydney runner-up and last year’s Aussie Open runner-up Dominika Cibulkova defeated French qualifier Kristina Mladenovic 6-2, 6-2.

Another qualifier, last year’s Sydney champion Tsvetana Pironkova of Bulgaria, knocked out eighth-seeded Italian Flavia Pennetta 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).

Aussie Samantha Stosur, the 2005 runner-up at this hardcourt event, outlasted Czech Lucie Safarova 7-6 (7-3), 5-7, 6-3 in a match that exceeded three hours.

Also on Monday, Aussie wild card Jarmila Gajdosova beat German Andrea Petkovic 6-1, 7-6 (7-5); Chinese Peng Shuai came back to best Russian Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova 1-6, 7-6 (7-1), 6-4; rising Spaniard Garbine Muguruza erased former French Open runner-up Sara Errani 6-0, 7-5; Czech slugger Karolina Pliskova dismissed Slovenian qualifier Polona Hercog 6-4, 6-4; and Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro outlasted former Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki 6-3, 3-6, 7-6 (7-4).

The second round will be staged Tuesday, including matches for top-seeded Simona Halep, No. 2 seed Petra Kvitova, Radwanska and Kerber. The French Open runner-up Halep, fresh off her season-opening title in China last week, will take on Pliskova, while the Wimbledon champion Kvitova will encounter Peng and Radwanska will face Muguruza.

This week’s winner will take home $124,000.

►  Johnson wins Auckland opener

Two-time NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson posted an opening-round win Monday at the Heineken Open tennis event, a final Australian Open tune-up.

The eighth-seeded American took care of Portuguese Joao Sousa 7-5, 6-4 on the hardcourts at ASB Tennis Centre.

Also on Day 1, German Jan-Lennard Struff overcame Austrian Dominic Thiem 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 6-3 and France’s Adrian Mannarino drilled Argentine Federico Delbonis 6-1, 6-1.

This week’s top seeds are Spaniard Tommy Robredo and Latvian Ernests Gulbis. Two-time winner John Isner, who is not defending his title this week, beat Taiwan’s Yen-Hsun Lu in last year’s Auckland finale.

The 2015 Auckland champ will pocket $84,500.

►  Mayer, Cuevas advance in Sydney

Seeded men Leonardo Mayer and Pablo Cuevas were among Monday’s opening-round winners at the Sydney International tennis event, a final Australian Open tune-up.

The fifth-seeded Argentine Mayer grounded German Benjamin Becker 7-6 (7-3), 6-2, while the sixth-seeded Cuevas, of Uruguay, handled Spaniard Nicolas Almagro 7-6 (7-5), 6-4 on the hardcourts at NSW Tennis Centre.

Another result saw Italian Simone Bolelli subdue Aussie wild card Marinko Matosevic 6-3, 6-2.

This week’s top seeds are Italian Fabio Fognini and Belgian David Goffin, who will meet Bolelli in the second round.

Juan Martin del Potro, unseeded this week, beat Aussie and 2013 titlist Bernard Tomic in last year’s final.

This week’s winner will claim $80,000.

►  Top-three seeds move on in Hobart

Top seeds Casey Dellacqua, Zarina Diyas and Camila Giorgi were among Monday’s opening-round victors at the Hobart International tennis tournament, a final Australian Open tune-up.

The top-seeded Aussie Dellacqua snuck past American Lauren Davis 6-4, 1-6, 6-4, while Kazakhstan’s Diyas doused Spanish lucky loser Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-3, 6-4 and the Italian Giorgi grounded Aussie wild card Storm Sanders 5-7, 6-1, 7-6 (8-6) on the hardcourts at the Hobart International Tennis Centre.

In other action involving seeds, American qualifier Madison Brengle upset No. 7 German, 2012 champion and 2013 Hobart runner-up Mona Barthel 6-7 (6-8), 7-5, 7-6 (7-2), No. 8 American Alison Riske bested compatriot Christina McHale 6-4, retired, and No. 9 Italian Roberta Vinci edged out Aussie wild card Olivia Rogowska 6-1, 4-6, 6-3.

Several other women reached the second round, including German Annika Beck, Brit Heather Watson, Serb Bojana Jovanovski, and Slovakian wild card Daniela Hantuchova.

The 2015 Hobart titlist will earn $43,000.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Basketball Association
Minnesota at Indiana, 7:00 PM - FS-North, Indiana, DSS
Atlanta at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
San Antonio at Washington, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-DC, DSS
Cleveland at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Arizona, DSS
Golden State at Utah, 9:00 PM - CSN-Bay, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Dallas at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-California, DSS
Miami at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - SunSports, Time Warner, DSS
National Hockey League
Minnesota at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, NBCSN
NY Islanders at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - MSG+, MSG, DSS
Detroit at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Tampa Bay at Boston, 7:00 PM - SunSports, NESN, DSS
Colorado at Carolina, 7:00 PM - Altitude, SportSouth, DSS
Edmonton at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - SNET-West, FS-Midwest, DSS
Vancouver at Nashville, 8:00 PM - SNET-Pacific, DSS
Florida at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, TSN3, DSS
Ottawa at Dallas, 8:30 PM - TSN5, FS-Southwest+, DSS
San Jose at Arizona, 9:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-Arizona+, DSS
College Basketball
Michigan at Ohio State, 7:00 PM - ESPN
Oklahoma State at Kansas, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Arkansas at Tennessee, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Butler at Seton Hall, 7:00 PM - FS1
Penn State at Indiana, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Virginia Tech at Louisville, 7:00 PM - RSN,
Oklahoma at West Virginia, 7:00 PM - ESPNews
USC Upstate at Lipscomb, 7:30 PM -
VCU at Rhode Island, 7:30 PM - CBSSN
Wake Forest at Syracuse, 8:00 PM - ACC Network,
Clemson at Virginia, 8:00 PM - ACC Network,
Missouri at Kentucky, 9:00 PM - ESPN
Miami-Florida at Duke, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Alabama at South Carolina, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Georgetown at DePaul, 9:00 PM - FS1
Iowa at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Miss State at Texas A&M, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
Connecticut at Tulsa, 9:30 PM - CBSSN
UNLV at Boise State, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Longwood at Liberty, 7:00 PM -
Western Michigan at Buffalo, 7:00 PM -
Iowa State at Baylor, 7:30 PM - FS-Southwest
College Hockey
Providence at New Hampshire, 7:00 PM - FCS

Sports News   150112

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Gibson says 2015 defense can be ‘as good as anybody in the country’

With nine starters from the 2014 defense returning next season, West Virginia defensive coordinator Tony Gibson isn’t downplaying the expectations.

Add in Jared Barber, who missed this season while recovering from ACL surgery, and the Mountaineers return 10 defenders with significant starting experience. During a Thursday night studio visit with the MetroNews “Sportsline” crew, Gibson pumped up his projections for 2015. In fact, he pumped them way up:

“A lot of coaches kind of hide from what they’re really thinking, what the expectations are, and everybody puts out the same old line: ‘We’re going to be OK and we’re going to work,‘” Gibson said. “Well, if we’re not great on defense, I’m going to be very disappointed and it’s going to be a disappointing year for our fans and our team.

“I think we can be really good—as good as anybody in the country.”

With only the national championship remaining before statistical rankings are finalized, West Virginia sits ninth in the FBS in third-down defense (31.4%), 28th in pass-efficiency defense, 66th in total defense (399.4 yards per game) and 72nd in scoring defense (27.8 points per game).

While you can listen to Gibson’s hour-long “Sportsline” appearance above, below are a few excerpts:

Tall’s addition: Regarding Tuesday’s hiring of Bruce Tall as defensive line coach, Gibson said he was excited to reunite after their eight seasons together at West Virginia and Michigan.

“I just think he’s a great football coach, a great man, great father, great husband, and he’ll do great things with our kids,” Gibson said.

Bringing back Tall gives WVU yet another defensive assistant with experience in the 3-3-5.

“He understands the odd front, what we want and what we need,” Gibson said. “He’s been a coordinator in a 3-4 and a 3-3 front.”

Still intimately familiar with his home state of Ohio, Tall will be recruiting that area again. During his first stint at West Virginia from 2003-2007, Tall mined Ohio for standouts such as Julian Miller, Najee Goode and Ryan Stanchek.

“He recruited some really good guys when we were here before. So he’s going to go back into Ohio—Cincinnati, Dayton, Columbus—kind of hit that area,” Gibson said. “And he’s from Cleveland, and Coach (Ron) Crook has that, so I’m sure Bruce will tag-team some guys in that area with him.”

On Joseph’s return: When junior safety Karl Joseph didn’t receive a first- or second-round draft grade from NFL evaluators, Gibson said the team’s top tackler made the wise decision to return for his senior season.

“He said, ‘I don’t like how it ended. I think we can be really good next year and I want to be a part of it.’ … It was a pretty easy conversation with is family,” Gibson said.

Joseph, having been thoroughly instructed by WVU’s compliance staff, also avoided any eligibility snarls.

“He did it all the right way —did not mess with agents, didn’t talk with anybody,” Gibson said.

Tonkery’s smarts: Pressed to name the smartest player he coached, Gibson cited Wes Tonkery, the fifth-year senior who recently completed his engineering degree.

After starting 12 games this season at outside linebacker, Tonkery began drawing some NFL attention. Yet when Gibson mentioned the possibility of pursuing a contract in an NFL camp, he said Tonkery told him:

“I’m taking a job. I’ve already accepted it. I’m starting right after the bowl game. I’m getting married, and I’m going to be in Bridgeport.”

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Ducks WR Carrington suspended for title game tonight

Oregon freshman wide receiver Darren Carrington has been suspended for Monday night’s College Football Playoff Championship Game against Ohio State due to a failed NCAA administered drug test, according to multiple reports.

Carrington, who tested positive for marijuana, did not make the trip to Dallas.

He caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in Oregon’s 59-20 rout of Florida State in the Rose Bowl on January 01 and posted 37 receptions for 704 yards and four scores on the season.

The Ducks are already thin at receiver. Freshman wide receiver Devon Allen injured his knee on the opening kickoff of the Rose Bowl and tight end Pharaoh Brown has been sidelined for several games due to a leg injury. Allen tallied 41 catches for 684 yards and seven scores, while Brown recorded 25 receptions for 420 yards and found the end zone six times.

►  Helfrich: Carrington issue won’t be a distraction

Oregon coach Mark Helfrich said Saturday the suspension of wide receiver Darren Carrington won’t be a distraction for the Ducks as they prepare for Monday’s College Football Playoff championship game.

Helfrich, speaking at media day on Saturday morning, wouldn’t divulge details of Carrington’s suspension, reportedly a penalty for failing an NCAA administered drug test. The freshman did not make the trip to Texas for the upcoming battle with Ohio State.

“It will not be a distraction,“ said Helfrich, who politely asked reporters to move on when pressed about the situation. “I’ll confirm it’s an NCAA policy that is in play here ... that’s all we’re going to talk about.“

Various media outlets on Friday night reported that Carrington tested positive for marijuana.

“Distractions are distractions if you let them be,“ Helfrich stated. “How you manage those things is what matters most and our guys have managed them very well.“

Carrington caught seven passes for 165 yards and two touchdowns in Oregon’s 59-20 rout of Florida State in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day and posted 37 receptions for 704 yards and four scores on the season.

“It’s tough for sure, he’s a great playmaker for us,“ said Oregon quarterback Marcus Mariota. “But we rotate so many guys. So for us it’s the next man up and we’ll be ready to go.“

The Ducks are already thin at receiver. Freshman wide receiver Devon Allen injured his knee on the opening kickoff of the Rose Bowl and tight end Pharaoh Brown has been sidelined for several games due to a leg injury.

“It’s just like any other position,“ said Helfrich about dealing with the loss of key players. “We’ve been tested in that realm, for whatever reason, and our guys have stepped up.“

Allen tallied 41 catches for 684 yards and seven scores, while Brown recorded 25 receptions for 420 yards and found the end zone six times.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bills to hire Ryan as head coach

The Buffalo Bills are reportedly set to name Rex Ryan their new head coach.

According to several reports on Sunday, the Bills will soon name Ryan their new head coach as he will remain in the state of New York after being let go by the New York Jets in late December.

Buffalo had interviewed 12 candidates for the position that was made vacant after Doug Marrone opted out of his contract on December 31, and decided to go with Ryan, who was fired after guiding the Jets for six seasons.

Ryan parted ways with New York after the team posted a 4-12 mark, which included an eight-game losing streak, to finish last in the AFC East.

It was the worst record the team posted during Ryan’s tenure with the club, which missed the playoffs for a fourth straight year. He finished his tenure with a 46-50 mark.

Led by a strong defense, the Bills notched a 9-7 record in 2014, their first winning season since 2004. However, the team finished third in the AFC East and missed the playoffs for a 15th straight year.

The 50-year-old Marrone reportedly asked for a contract extension from the new ownership and when they declined, he chose to leave thanks to a three-day opt- out clause. He will still get paid the $4 million he was due from the Bills in 2015.

Marrone went 15-17 in his two seasons with Buffalo.

►  Extra Points: Belichick bashing is sour grapes

There is a reason that Bill Belichick is the best coach in professional football and everyone else is fighting for second place.

Baltimore’s John Harbaugh is among the scrum who can be considered for the runner-up spot but the chasm between those two positions only grew after the Ravens coach objected to what he called a “substitution trick” by New England in the third quarter of the Patriots’ eventual 35-31 divisional-playoff win.

The wrinkle was unveiled on the Pats’ second drive of the third quarter after rookie center Bryan Stork was forced to leave with a knee injury. New England kicked Ryan Wendell inside to the pivot and lined up just four natural offensive linemen, declaring a normally eligible receiver like blocking tight end Michael Hoomanawanui or running back Shane Vereen as ineligible, all in an effort to keep Baltimore off balance.

“There was a lot to the plays,“ Hoomanawanui said. “I have to report as ineligible. I can’t go down the field. I can only block. So as hard as it is for them to figure out, there’s a lot that goes into it on our side, too.

“You could see how frustrated they were on who to cover and this and that, so it turned out to be great plays for us.“

The strategy worked as Ravens defenders were often confused when trying to substitute and match up, causing Harbaugh to blow his stack and draw an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“(The officials) didn’t understand what was going on,“ Harbaugh claimed. “We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were. What (the Patriots) were doing was they announce the ineligible player and then Tom (Brady) would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. That was the deception part of it. It was clearly deception.“

Predictably Brady disagreed with Harbaugh’s description.

“Maybe those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out,“ he said. “We obviously knew what we were doing and we made some pretty important plays. It was a real good weapon for us.“

Belichick also explained the tactic, which he used on three different occasions.

“It’s a play that we thought would work,“ the veteran coach said. “We ran it three times, a couple different looks. We had six eligible receivers on the field, but only five were eligible. The one who was ineligible reported that he was ineligible. No different than on the punt team or a situation like that.“

On the surface Harbaugh’s objections seem like sour grapes. After all, a big part of football in general is about deceiving your opposition whether it’s disguising a blitz or coming up with a trick play like Julian Edelman’s touchdown pass to Danny Amendola is this very game.

So if most of you missed the memo where deception in football was disallowed, you’re not alone and Harbaugh’s true complaint reveled itself later when he blurted out “(it’s a tactic) nobody has ever seen before.“

“The league will look at that type of thing, and I’m sure that they’ll make some adjustments and things like that,“ he continued.

Harbaugh has had plenty of success over the years, especially in the postseason. The arrogance to that, however, is the assumption that thinking what you did yesterday will be sufficient for everything that is thrown at you tomorrow.

Belichick was a power pitcher who pulled the string on Harbaugh on Saturday in Foxborough and the Ravens mentor froze in the batter’s box, unable to react.

You can blame the officials and even trot out Don Shula to call Belichick Beli-cheat again but all the Pats’ coach did was take advantage of an on-the- books rule that others have failed to utilize in the past.

So label the strategy as anything you want—deception, a loophole—but understand its real title is innovation.

And Harbaugh was under the learning tree on Saturday. Hopefully he figures that out.

►  Rodgers leads Packers into NFC title game

Aaron Rodgers was nearly perfect on two late scoring drives, leading the Green Bay Packers back to the NFC title game.

Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys are headed home after a replay review near the end of the game stripped Dez Bryant of a catch near the end zone.

Rodgers was 11-of-14 for 173 yards on touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarter as the Packers scored 13 unanswered points for a 26-21 win over the Cowboys in an NFC divisional playoff game Sunday at Lambeau Field.

The Packers took their first lead since 7-0 on Rodgers’ frozen-rope pass that zipped through two defenders and into the arms of tight end Richard Rodgers for a 13-yard touchdown with 9:10 remaining.

Bryant went up for Romo’s deep pass at the other end of the field on 4th-and-2 and was ruled to have made a 31-yard catch down to the Green Bay 1 after snatching it out of the air above cornerback Sam Shields.

But officials ruled that Bryant, who was holding the ball in his left hand as it hit the field and popped up, didn’t complete the catch. The ruling came one week after a non-call helped the Cowboys beat Detroit in the divisional round.

The Packers (13-4) made it back to the NFC Championship Game for the first time since beating Chicago after the 2010 season on the way to their fourth Super Bowl title

They will play the reigning Super Bowl-champion Seahawks next Sunday in Seattle.

►  Colts stifle Manning, Broncos to reach AFC title game

Andrew Luck has dealt with the pressure of succeeding Peyton Manning for three years.

Now he knows what it feels like to beat the future Hall-of-Famer, as the Indianapolis Colts went into Denver on Sunday and shut down the Broncos’ vaunted offense in a 24-13 upset to reach the AFC title game.

“All three phases fed off each other and did a heck of a job,“ Luck said. “To come on the road and get a win like this is huge.“

Luck threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and guided a game-sealing drive that took 8:14 off the clock in the fourth quarter to secure the franchise’s first trip to the conference championship round since 2009.

The Colts’ defense limited the Broncos to 288 yards—115 less than their season average—and added another blemish to Manning’s uneven postseason resume.

Manning fell to 11-13 in the playoffs with nine one-and-done exits and looked uncomfortable despite throwing a touchdown pass on Denver’s opening possession. He barely completed half of his attempts (26-of-46) and threw for just 211 yards.

After the game, the 38-year-old Manning did not make any guarantees on his future and took responsibility for his poor play.

“I didn’t play well enough. I give them a lot of credit, their defense played well,“ Manning said. “I thought I could have played better. I’m disappointed right now.“

The Broncos won all eight of their home games in the regular season by an average of nearly 15 points per game, but they will be spectators next Sunday watching Luck and the Colts take on the Patriots in Foxborough.

New England crushed the Colts 42-20 in Week 11 in Indianapolis and ousted them in last year’s divisional round by a similar 43-22 score. Luck is 0-3 in his career against the Patriots.

The reigning AFC champs trailed 14-10 at the break and went three-and-out on its first two possessions of the second half.

Luck sandwiched the fruitless drives with an 11-play, 72-yard scoring drive, twice completing passes on third down to move the chains, including a rainbow to tight end Coby Fleener between three defenders for a 32-yard gain on 3rd- and-16. Luck later moved up in the pocket and rifled a 15-yard strike to a well-covered Hakeem Nicks in the end zone for a 21-10 Colts lead.

It appeared Denver caught a break when Josh Cribbs was originally ruled to have muffed a punt, but replay reversed the call and determined he was down by contact before coughing it up.

The Colts wound up turning it over anyway, as Rahim Moore came down with an interception at the Denver 24-yard line. Cribbs’ near fumble would have set the Broncos up at the Indianapolis 30.

C.J. Anderson gave Denver a much-needed first down when he broke two tackles behind the scrimmage on a tough 4th-and-1 run on the final play of the third quarter. The Broncos, though, settled for a 41-yard Connor Barth field goal.

Three consecutive incompletions by Luck gave the ball right back to Denver with 13:21 remaining, but Vontae Davis broke up a third-down pass intended for Emmanuel Sanders to force a punt.

That’s when the Colts took to the ground, with Daniel Herron and Zurlon Tipton doing most of the work on a 13-play, 54-yard trek. Luck completed all three of his passes, and Adam Vinatieri connected from 30 yards out to make it a two- possession game with 4:06 on the clock.

Anderson was stopped inches short of the first down to force a turnover on downs with under three minutes to play, and the AFC South champs held on from there.

“It was a step that we needed to take,“ said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, whose team has advanced one round further each of the past three postseasons. “We still have a tomorrow.“

Manning threw a pair of perfectly thrown balls on Denver’s opening drive, first hitting Julius Thomas on an out-and-up for 32 yards, then finding Demaryius Thomas on a fade in the left corner of the end zone.

The rest of his first half, however, was filled with overthrows, several dropped passes and a costly turnover the Colts turned into seven points.

Manning was stripped-sacked near midfield by rookie Jonathan Newsome early in the second quarter, and Luck found Dwayne Allen in the end zone to put the Colts in front 14-7. The eight-play drive was kept alive when Broncos defensive back Aqib Talib was flagged for holding T.Y. Hilton in the end zone on a third-down incompletion.

Hilton’s 23-yard catch set up Herron’s 6-yard TD run earlier in the second.

The usually-reliable Vinatieri pushed a 44-yard field goal try wide right, and Denver got three points on the board via Barth’s 45-yard kick just before halftime. Davis nearly intercepted Manning in the end zone prior to Barth’s kick but only got one foot inbounds.

Game Notes

Nine of Manning’s postseason wins, including Super Bowl XLI, came with the Colts ... Herron totaled 95 yards from scrimmage ...Anderson gained 80 yards on 18 carries ... The Colts are 3-0 against Denver in the postseason, the first two wins coming with Manning under center.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Play offs Game Results

(Sunday, January 11)

Final Score: Green Bay 26, Dallas 21

Aaron Rodgers led the Green Bay Packers into the NFC title game with two near-flawless drives. As for Tony Romo and the Dallas Cowboys? Their season is over after a replay reversal near the end of the game took away a Dez Bryant catch at the goal line. Rodgers completed 11 of 14 passes for 173 yards on two touchdown drives in the third and fourth quarter as Green Bay scored 13 unanswered points for a 26-21 win over the Cowboys in a divisional playoff game Sunday at Lambeau Field. Green Bay took its first lead since 7-0 when Rodgers zipped a pass through two defenders and hit tight end Richard Rodgers for a 13-yard touchdown with 9:10 remaining. On 4th-and-2, Bryant went up for Romo’s deep pass down the left sideline at the other end of the field and was ruled to have made a 31-yard catch at the Green Bay 1 after snatching the ball out of the air above cornerback Sam Shields. The Packers challenged the call and officials eventually said Bryant, who was cupping the ball against his left forearm as it hit the field and popped up, didn’t complete the catch. The Packers will play in the NFC championship game for the first time since beating Chicago after the 2010 season on the way to their fourth Super Bowl title. They will travel to Seattle to play the reigning Super Bowl-champion Seahawks next Sunday in a meeting of the top two seeds in the conference. Playing on an injured left calf, Rodgers passed for 316 yards and three scores and Eddie Lacy rushed 19 times for 101 yards for the NFC North champs. Romo threw for 191 yards and two touchdowns for the NFC East-champion Cowboys and NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray had 25 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown.

Final Score: Indianapolis 24, Denver 13

Andrew Luck has dealt with the pressure of succeeding Peyton Manning for three years. Now he knows what it feels like to beat the future Hall-of-Famer, as the Indianapolis Colts went into Denver on Sunday and shut down the Broncos’ vaunted offense in a 24-13 upset to reach the AFC title game. Luck threw for 265 yards and two touchdowns and guided a game-sealing drive that took 8:14 off the clock in the fourth quarter to secure the franchise’s first trip to the conference championship round since 2009. The Colts’ defense limited the Broncos to 288 yards—115 less than their season average—and added another blemish to Manning’s uneven postseason resume. Manning fell to 11-13 in the playoffs with nine one-and- done exits and looked uncomfortable despite throwing a touchdown pass on Denver’s opening possession. He barely completed half of his attempts (26- of-46) and threw for just 211 yards.

(Saturday, January 10)

Final Score: New England 35, Baltimore 31

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh called Joe Flacco the NFL’s best quarterback last week. Tom Brady had something to say about that this week. Brady’s 367 yards and three touchdowns, the last a go-ahead 23-yard strike to Brandon LaFell with 5;13 remaining, rallied the New England Patriots to a 35-31 AFC Divisional Playoff victory over Harbaugh’s Ravens at Gillette Stadium. The fourth postseason meeting between the teams in six years was another classic, with the Patriots twice battling back from 14 points down—including a 28-14 deficit midway through the third quarter—and not taking their first lead until Brady’s final TD delivery of the day. New England also overcome a career postseason-best four touchdown throws from Flacco, though his second interception of the game virtually ended Baltimore’s own comeback hopes with 1:39 left to play. The top-seeded Patriots advanced to their fourth straight AFC Championship Game, where they’ll await the winner of Sunday’s Indianapolis-Denver clash.

Final Score: Seattle 31, Carolina 17

Kam Chancellor bobbed his head in celebration as he crossed the goal line on his game-clinching 90-yard interception return. The Seattle Seahawks’ resurgent defense has them thinking repeat. Another dominating second half performance has them one step closer. Russell Wilson tossed three touchdown passes and the Seahawks punched their ticket into the NFC Championship Game with a 31-17 NFC Divisional Playoff victory over the Carolina Panthers on Saturday night. Seattle will play the winner of Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game between the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys in next Sunday’s conference title game at CenturyLink Field. Chancellor’s pick-six came with the Panthers marching down the field looking to cut a 24-10 deficit to a one-possession game. Faced with a 2nd- and-4 at the Seattle 13 with a little over six minutes left, Cam Newton was looking to hit Ed Dickson on the right side of the field near the numbers. The ball-hawking Chancellor read Newton’s eyes and cut in front of Dickson before strolling down the left sideline for the easy score. Chancellor had 10 tackles to go with that interception and showcased his athleticism by hurdling over the Carolina offensive line twice on a pair of Graham Gano field goal attempts at the end of the first half. Wilson, who was 8-of-8 on third down for 199 yards, finished 15-of-22 for 268 yards and added 22 yards on the ground. Jermaine Kearse caught three passes for 129 yards and a touchdown and Luke Willson had four receptions for 68 yards and a score for the Seahawks, who have won eight straight postseason games in Seattle.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  The forgotten man

Although Danny Amendola picked an excellent time to play his best game as a Patriot, only the biggest NFL fans likely remembered he was on the Patriots roster.

New England signed Amendola in the summer of 2013 to replace Wes Welker, who left for the Mile High City. Welker caught 672 passes in six seasons as Tom Brady’s slot receiver, and Amendola had the skill set to fill that void very nicely.

The move paid huge dividends, at first, as Amendola had 10 catches for 104 yards in his Patriots debut, but he couldn’t stay healthy in 2013. The New England receiver had just two 100-yard receiving games and two touchdowns the rest of the year.

Ultimately, Amendola was a huge fantasy disappointment with 54 catches, 633 yards and two touchdowns in 2013.

Going into this season, Amendola did not have anywhere close to the hype he had heading into 2013, and yet he was still a fantasy dud. His numbers were by far the worst of his career with 42 catches, 200 yards and one touchdown. So, it would only make sense for fantasy owners to forget about drafting Amendola in daily leagues for Division Weekend.

In typical unpredictable Bill Belichick fashion, however, the Patriots heavily featured Amendola in their game plan versus the Ravens, and he set a season-high with 81 receiving yards. Amendola also tied his touchdown mark from a season ago with two scores against Baltimore.

Owners might want to chalk up the performance to a fluke, and the way Belichick changes his game plan on a weekly basis, it may be difficult for owners to trust Amendola for daily leagues in Championship Week.

Sure, besides Brady and Rob Gronkowski, it is always hard to predict which Patriots will have the biggest role week-to-week, but it is unfair to call Amendola’s performance a complete fluke.

Against the Jets in Week 16, Amendola caught eight of 11 targets for 63 yards. Furthermore, he had four receptions and 24 yards on seven targets in a meaningless Week 17 versus the Bills. Despite not sounding like much, the 18 targets in the final two weeks were more targets Amendola had in the previous 14 games combined.

This seems to support the idea that, if healthy, the Patriots are going to use Amendola. He looked pretty healthy on Saturday.

With six more targets against the Ravens, Amendola has more targets in the last three games than he had the rest of the season. Over that three-game stretch, the 29-year-old receiver has 17 catches, 168 yards and two touchdowns.

Therefore, it would be wise for fantasy owners not to forget about Amendola on Championship Sunday.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  WVU women can’t hang on against No. 5 Baylor

West Virginia’s women led for nearly eight minutes during the second half, but No. 5 Baylor rallied for a 66-62 win despite a subpar performance from the Big 12’s leading scorer, Nina Davis.

While Davis scored a season-low 10 points on Saturday, less than half her 22.6 average, Khadijiah Cave stepped up with 20 points to lift the Lady Bears (14-1, 3-0 Big 12).

Bria Holmes made just 6-of-25 shots while scoring 17 for West Virginia (10-5, 0-3), while Lanay Montgomery produced 12 points and 17 rebounds.

“We played hard, we played aggressive, and we only gave up 10 offensive rebounds today, which is pretty good,” said Mountaineers coach Mike Carey. “The problem was that we gave up one or two at the end of the game.”

The lead swapped hands six times in the second half, with West Virginia enjoying a four-point edge with under eight minutes. But once Baylor’s Imani Wright connected on a 3-pointer that tied the game with 5:24 left, the favorites were on their way.

“When we play games like this, win over lose, it’s teaching them how to compete,” Baylor coach Kim Mulkey said. “We were fortunate to make plays in the end to win.”

Though Davis wasn’t up to her usual output, including an 0-for-5 first half, she scored two key baskets during the final 7 minutes.

“I just knew my team needed me,” Davis said. “At halftime my teammates and coaches boosted me, and told me to figure it out. I just have to contribute.”

The Lady Bears enjoyed a 31-5 cushion bench scoring. WVU also struggled with 4-of-11 foul shooting in the second half.

Carey saw West Virginia’s 16-game home win streak snapped: “I thought our girls battled. It’s just a little frustrating right now. We’re just not getting a stop when we need to.”

Linda Stepney added 10 points and dished out six assists for WVU, while Averee Fields pitched in 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and two steals.

The Mountaineers host Texas Tech on Wednesday night.

►  Huggins unhappy with passing, rebounding after loss

Bob Huggins takes losses hard. Always has. And after a close one like Saturday’s 74-72 loss to No. 17 Iowa State, the West Virginia coach seemed distraught over too many squandered opportunities.

Huggins saw players open in the halfcourt offense who didn’t receive the ball (clearly wishing Devin Williams had gotten more than nine shots). He saw 50-50 bounces that became Iowa State rebounds (frustrated that the Cyclones won the battle of the glass despite their two best rebounders being saddled with foul trouble). He saw WVU’s perimeter shooting woes surface to the tune of 7-of-29 from 3-point range (with some of those long-range shots hoisted too early for his liking).

“Game slippage happens when you’re unprepared,” Huggins said.

►  Iowas State’s bench gives WVU a taste of its own medicine

With Iowa State’s starters in deep foul trouble, reserve forward Abdel Nader matched a season high with 19 points and the No. 17 Cyclones edged No. 14 West Virginia 74-72.

“We needed every one of those points,” said Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg, whose team has won each of its first two Big 12 games by a basket. “Abdel was unbelievable out there tonight—not only hitting shots, getting to the free-throw line and getting to the basket, but also his poise against the press.”

Georges Niang, playing the final 11 minutes with four fouls, added 16 points for Iowa State (12-2, 2-0 Big 12), which suffered a season-worst 18 turnovers yet snapped the Mountaineers’ seven-game win streak.

Point guard Juwan Staten scored 23 and forward Devin Williams delivered a 14-point, 15-rebound double-double for West Virginia (14-2, 2-1). Though their trademark press created throwaways, the Mountaineers could not overcome 32% shooting, including a 7 of 29 night from 3-point range. They came in last in the Big 12 in 3-point percentage.

“We just didn’t pass the ball. We had guys open and we didn’t pass the ball,” Mountaineers coach Bob Huggins said. “We had Velcro hands—everybody who caught it wanted to hold it, play with it, dribble it.”

West Virginia has grown accustomed to flexing its depth, but this time Iowa State enjoyed a 29-19 edge in bench scoring. Much of that came courtesy of Nader, the Northern Illinois transfer who hadn’t scored a point in his previous two outings.

Nader’s second double-digit scoring game of the season proved crucial after Iowa State’s Monte Morris and Dustin Hogue fouled out. Nader made all six of his free throws, including two with 14 seconds left for a 73-70 lead.

After West Virginia chose not to try a potential tying 3-pointer, Williams was fouled trying to stick back Staten’s miss with 6 seconds. Williams’ free throws trimmed the deficit to 73-72, but West Virginia couldn’t produce a steal on the inbounds pass and fouled Naz Long with 1.6 seconds left.

Long made the first free throw and intentionally missed the second, leaving West Virginia’s Nate Adrian to launch an off-target 60-foot heave as time elapsed.

“You have to win road games if you want to compete for league championships,” Hoiberg said. “But not many people are going to win in this building.”

Niang’s spinning left-handed bank shot put Iowa State up 69-65 with 1:03 left, but Staten converted a three-point play on the other end, fouling out the Cyclones point guard Morris in the process.

West Virginia missed a chance to pull even on Paige’s in-and-out 3-point try with 2:29 left, and the guard fouled out on the ensuing defensive possession.

What about Nader? WVU’s pregame storyline was how to stop Iowa State’s five starters who scored in double figures—not how to stop Nader, who had scored only 14 points in his last five games.

“This is obviously the best game he’s had of the season,” Staten said. “Nobody could have predicted that he would played that well. I think we did a pretty good job trying to contain the guys we wanted to contain. That just adds another guy to the list that we need to be more aware of.”

After losing by 25 in Morgantown last season, Nader said the Cyclones expected a strenuous game with any number of potential heroes.

“We’re talented,” he said. “We have a lot of guys that can do a lot of things.”

Rebounding edge to Cyclones: Though the Mountaineers collected 19 offensive rebounds, Iowa State won the boards overall, 40-38. That included seven rebounds each for Nader and fellow reserve Jameel McKay.

“To out-rebound them in their own building was huge,” Hoiberg said.

Beyond Williams, who matched his career best on the glass, no West Virginia player grabbed more than four rebounds.

“They got more 50-50 balls than we did,” said Williams. “Coach (Huggins) showed us stats that when they win the rebounding battle they’re like 9-0, and tonight they won it.”

Miles hurt: West Virginia’s Daxter Miles Jr. was helped to the locker room with an injured right leg at the 13:41 mark of the second half. The freshman fell after becoming tangled with teammate Devin Williams. He finished 1-of-5 with three points and a steal in 16 minutes.

Iowa State stats: Morris entered with a 4.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranked No. 2 in the nation. He produced six assists and only one turnover in the win. …  McKay, playing in his fifth game since becoming eligible after a transfer from Marquette, blocked five shots. … Niang came in fighting a 6-of-25 shooting slump the past two games. He made 6-of-12 from the floor Saturday.

Huggins at 754: With a 754-304 coaching record, Huggins remained one win shy of matching Henry Iba for 13th on the NCAA career wins list.

Attendance: The game drew 12,076, West Virginia’s second-largest crowd through seven home games.

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Sunday, January 11)

Final Score: North Carolina State 87, (2) Duke 75

PNC Arena hasn’t been kind to Duke since 2010. The Blue Devils were 1-3 in their past four games at North Carolina State’s home court entering Sunday’s ACC clash, including two losses to the Wolfpack and an untimely defeat in the second round of the 2014 NCAA Tournament against Mercer. Trevor Lacey scored 21 points and NC State upset No. 2 Duke 87-75, continuing its streak of strong play at home against the Blue Devils. Ralston Turner added 16 points on nine shots and BeeJay Anya gave 14 with four blocks off the bench for the Wolfpack (12-5, 3-1 ACC), who picked up a crucial win in their most grueling stretch of the season. They either play on the road or against a ranked team, or both, for six straight games. Duke won its first true road game of the season by 10 points against Wisconsin on December 3, but couldn’t duplicate that success in its second more than a month later. The Blue Devils (14-1, 2-1) got 23 points and 12 rebounds from Jahlil Okafor and 18 points from Quinn Cook in their first loss of the season.

Final Score: Rutgers 67, (4) Wisconsin 62

Myles Mack had 21 points, Kadeem Jack scored 20 and Rutgers shocked No. 4 Wisconsin 67-62 on Sunday. It was the first win over a top-five team in Rutgers history. The Scarlet Knights (10-7, 2-2 Big Ten) outscored the short-handed Badgers (15-2, 3-1) by a 44-27 margin in the second half for the program’s first win over a ranked team in more than two years. Wisconsin played without leading scorer Frank Kaminsky because of a concussion and finished the game without point guard Traevon Jackson, who appeared to suffer an injury when he landed on Mack’s foot while trying to block a 3-point shot in the second half. In their absence, Nigel Hayes and Sam Dekker scored 15 points each to lead the Badgers and Bronson Keonig had 12.

Final Score: Oregon State 58, (7) Arizona 56

Langston Morris-Walker drove in for a layup with 26 seconds remaining to lift Oregon State to a 58-56 upset win over No. 7 Arizona on Sunday night. The Wildcats looked to force overtime, but T.J. McConnell missed a runner. Morris-Walker finished with 12 points and eight rebounds for the Beavers (11-4, 2-1 Pac-12), who posted their first win over a top-10 team since beating these same Wildcats—then ranked No. 3—in overtime on March 2, 2000. Gary Payton II scored 10 points with nine rebounds, helping Oregon State end a seven-game slide to Arizona and improve to 10-0 at home this season. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson had 14 points and McConnell added 13 with six assists for Arizona (14-2, 2-1).

Final Score: (15) Wichita State 67, Loyola-Chicago 53

Fred VanVleet had 14 points, 10 assists and six rebounds as No. 15 Wichita State defeated Loyola-Chicago 67-53 on Sunday. Tekele Cotton netted 16 points and Ron Baker added 15 for the Shockers (14-2, 4-0 MVC), who have won four straight games. Earl Peterson posted 13 points to lead Loyola-Chic

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Sunday, January 11)

Final Score: Atlanta 120, Washington 89

Balanced scoring and a dominant fourth quarter helped the NBA’s hottest team to another win on Sunday. Kyle Korver hit 5-for-7 from long distance and led eight Hawks in double figures with 19 points as the Atlanta Hawks toppled the Washington Wizards 120-89 for their eighth straight win. DeMarre Carroll gave 16 points with four steals, Al Horford netted 15 points and Jeff Teague had 11 with a game-high 10 assists for Atlanta, winners in 22 of 24 since a 7-6 start. Atlanta has a 3 1/2 game lead on Toronto and Chicago for best record in the East. It kicks off a stretch of four road games in five days in Philadelphia on Tuesday. John Wall paced the Wizards with 15 points and eight assists, but he committed eight of their 20 turnovers. Atlanta turned the ball over just nine times as a team.

Final Score: Miami 104, LA Clippers 90

Chris Bosh scored 34 points to lead the Miami Heat to a 104-90 win over the Los Angeles Clippers on Sunday and center Hassan Whiteside added career highs of 23 points and 16 rebounds. Dwyane Wade scored 17 with 10 assists for the Heat, who have won two of three on the heels of a four-game losing streak. Blake Griffin had 26 points and Chris Paul scored 23 with nine assists for the Clippers, who finished a 6-3 homestand.

Final Score: Memphis 122, Phoenix 110 (2-OT)

Zach Randolph had 27 points and 17 rebounds as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Phoenix Suns 122-110 in double overtime on Sunday. Mike Conley posted 25 points, eight assists and seven rebounds, while Courtney Lee netted 18 points for Memphis, which blew a 14-point fourth-quarter lead, but outscored Phoenix 14-2 in the second overtime to snap a brief two-game skid. Marc Gasol supplied seven of his 12 points in the second extra session. Alex Len tallied 14 points and 13 boards, Isaiah Thomas poured in 20 points off the bench and Markieff Morris provided 17 points and six rebounds for the Suns, who have dropped two straight on the heels of a four-game winning streak.

Final Score: Sacramento 103, Cleveland 84

DeMarcus Cousins had 26 points and 13 rebounds as the Sacramento Kings routed the LeBron James-less Cleveland Cavaliers 103-84 on Sunday. Rudy Gay netted 23 points and Darren Collison added 16 points and six assists for the Sacramento, which has won three of its last five games. James missed his eighth straight game with a sore knee and Cleveland fell to 1-7 in that stretch. Kevin Love posted 25 points and 10 rebounds, Kyrie Irving supplied 21 points and seven assists and Timofey Mozgov provided 14 points and 12 boards for the Cavaliers, whose fifth consecutive loss dropped them to .500 (19-19) for the first time since November 26 when they were 7-7.

Final Score: Portland 106, LA Lakers 94

Damian Lillard had 34 points and seven assists as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 106-94 on Sunday night. LaMarcus Aldridge posted 15 points and nine rebounds, while Wesley Matthews added 16 points and five helpers for Portland, which has won eight of its last nine games. Wesley Johnson netted 17 points to lead the Lakers, who were without Kobe Bryant due to rest. LA fell to 2-4 on the season without him in the lineup.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Hanley Ramirez could be in line for a big season

One of the biggest transactions this offseason was when the Boston Red Sox signed free agent shortstop Hanley Ramirez.

Now, it is looking likely that Ramirez will start the season in left field, but nevertheless, he should be able to produce some nice numbers in 2015.

Ramirez has battled through injuries over the past two seasons, and was limited to just 86 games in 2013 and 128 games during the 2014 season. While his overall numbers were still solid, they have the potential to be even better if Ramirez can stay on the field in 2015.

During 2013, Ramirez was very good in limited action, as he had a .345/.402/.638 line along with 20 homers, 57 RBI, and 105 hits. This past season, he had a .283/.369/.448 line with 13 home runs, 71 RBI, and 127 hits.

What makes those numbers so legitimate is the fact that Ramirez was playing the majority of his games in a stadium that really does not favor pitchers or hitters.

Dodger Stadium is ranked in the middle of the pack when it comes to determining how easy it is to pitch or hit in. According to Los Angeles’ home field was ranked the 17th easiest park for hitters to produce in (data from 2010-2013). For every 100 runs scored in the average MLB stadium, 91 runs were scored at Dodger Stadium, and for every 100 homers hit in the average park, 102 were blasted in Los Angeles.

Heading into 2015, and with Ramirez making his new home at Fenway Park, fantasy owners need to know that Boston’s home stadium is the 10th easiest park to hit in.

For every 100 runs scored in the average stadium, 115 come across the plate in Boston, and for every 100 homers in the average park, 95 are hit out at Fenway, proving it provides more for hitters than it does for pitchers.

Ramirez is now back with the team that originally drafted him, and at 31- years-old, he still has a lot of good baseball left in him. The last season he did not battle injuries was in 2012, when Ramirez played 157 games, and hit 24 homers with 92 RBI.

With Ramirez surrounded by players like Dustin Pedroia, David Ortiz, Pablo Sandoval, and Rusney Castillo, he should have a great opportunity to hit for average and produce some nice power numbers, especially with the short porch in left field.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Still one of the best

There have been quite a few disappointing fantasy goalies through the first half of the season, however, Carey Price is not one of them.

Price gave owners high expectations going into the season as the consensus No. 2 goalie. He has lived up to the hype with a 22-10-1 record, 2.20 GAA and .927 save percentage this season.

The three-time All-Star goalie ranks in the top six in all three of those categories.

Even more impressively, Price has gotten better as the season has gone. He started the season 7-1-1 and posted a .920 save percentage in October. Since the hot start, Price has gone on two different three-game losing streaks, but has still managed to win at least six games in both November and December.

And his save percentage has increased each month.

November saw just a slight incline in save percentage, up to .924, and in December, Price’s save percentage went up to .937. Price has also “carry-ed” his strong play in the new year.

In fact, Price has been playing his best hockey since December 9. Despite a 4-2 setback on Tuesday versus the Lightning, Price has won eight of his last 10 starts.

Before the four goals he allowed on Tuesday to the top scoring team in the league, Price had not allowed more than two scores in each of the last nine contests. Over that stretch, Price was 8-1-0 with a 1.33 GAA and a .953 save percentage.

And for those owners concerned Price might drop the next two and lose three games in a row again especially because another high-flying offense in the Penguins is coming to Montreal on Saturday, Price beat Pittsburgh last Saturday, 4-1.

Pekka Rinne may be the front-runner for the Vezina Trophy and Marc-Andre Fleury may be having a career-year, but Carey Price remains one of the best goalies an owner can have in fantasy hockey.

►  NHL Game Results

(Sunday, January 11)

Final Score: Florida 4, Edmonton 2

Tomas Kopecky and Sean Bergenheim scored in the third period, sending the Florida Panthers to a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday night. Roberto Luongo made 31 saves for the Panthers, who have won a season-high three straight games and improved to 4-1-0 on their six-game road trip. Ben Scrivens stopped 23-of-27 shots for Edmonton, which was looking to win back-to-back games for the first time since November 7-9. The Oilers beat the visiting Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Friday.

Final Score: Chicago 4, Minnesota 1

Marian Hossa, Bryan Bickell and Brad Richards all posted a goal with an assist as the Chicago Blackhawks downed the reeling Minnesota Wild 4-1 on Sunday. Johnny Oduya also lit the lamp for Chicago, which has alternated wins and losses over the last seven games. Corey Crawford’s shutout bid was spoiled by Matt Cooke with 4:52 remaining in regulation, but the All-Star goaltender was otherwise stellar in a 36-save performance. Niklas Backstrom surrendered all four goals on 35 shots for Minnesota, which has fallen into last place in the Central Division with five straight losses.

Final Score: Anaheim 5, Winnipeg 4 (SO)

On a night the Anaheim Ducks retired Teemu Selanne’s No. 8 jersey, it was only fitting that a Finland native won the game. Sami Vatanen scored the decisive goal in the sixth round of the shootout as the Ducks rallied to beat the Winnipeg Jets 5-4 at Honda Center. Rickard Rakell had two goals and two assists for Anaheim, which killed a pair of 5-on-3 power plays before erasing a two-goal deficit in the third period. Frederik Andersen made 28 saves for the Ducks, who improved to 4-2-0 on their eight-game homestand. Mark Scheifele had a goal with one assist and Ondrej Pavelec stopped 39 shots for the Jets, who have lost three of four.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Federer notches 1,000th win in Brisbane final victory

Top-seeded Roger Federer recorded the 1,000th win of his ATP career in a victory over Milos Raonic in Sunday’s final at the season-opening Brisbane International.

The 17-time Grand Slam champion became just the third man in history to record 1,000 wins as he joined retired greats Jimmy Connors (1,253) and Ivan Lendl (1,071).

It wasn’t easy for Federer on Sunday, as he won the first set but then lost in a tiebreak to the third-seeded Raonic. In the third set, Federer broke Raonic’s serve to record the 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4 victory.

The 33-year-old Federer improved to 8-1 against the 24-year-old Canadian in winning his 83rd career ATP singles title.

Brisbane serves as a tune-up for the Australian Open, which will begin January 19 in Melbourne.

►  Wawrinka defeats Bedene for another Chennai crown

Stanislas Wawrinka defeated Aljaz Bedene on Sunday to claim a second consecutive Chennai Open title.

The top-seeded Wawrinka earned a 6-3, 6-4 victory over Slovenian qualifier Bedene, who was playing in his first ATP final, for the championship.

Wawrinka claimed his eight singles title, third at this event, and avenged a quarterfinals defeat at the hands of Bedene in this tournament two years ago.

The Swiss star used this tournament victory last year as a stepping stone to his first major title a few weeks later at the Australian Open. He also won the Chennai crown in 2011 and was the runner-up in 2010.

Chennai serves as a tune-up for the Aussie Open, which will begin January 19.

►  Aircel Chennai Open Men’s Tennis Update - January 11

Chennai, India

Total Prize Money: $458,000


Stan Wawrinka (1) def. Aljaz Bedene, 6-3, 6-4


Stan Wawrinka (1) def. David Goffin (4), 7-5, 6-3
Aljaz Bedene def. Roberto Bautista Agut (3), 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (10-8)


Stan Wawrinka (1) def. Gilles Muller (8), 6-2, 7-6 (7-4)
Roberto Bautista Agut (3) def. Yen-Hsun Lu (6), 7-6 (9-7), 6-4
David Goffin (4) def. Andreas Haider-Maurer, 7-5, 6-2
Aljaz Bedene def. Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (5), 2-6, 6-3, 6-2


Stan Wawrinka (1) def. Borna Coric, 6-1, 6-4
Aljaz Bedene def. Feliciano Lopez (2), 6-4, 6-4
Roberto Bautista Agut (3) def. Peter Gojowczyk, 6-3, 6-2
David Goffin (4) def. Ricardas Berankis, 6-0, 4-6, 7-6 (7-1)
Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (5) def. Tatsuma Ito, 6-7 (1-7), 6-2, 6-0
Yen-Hsun Lu (6) def. Pablo Carreno Busta, 6-4, 6-4
Gilles Muller (8) def. Elias Ymer, 6-4, 6-3
Andreas Haider-Maurer def. Jiri Vesely, 6-7 (3-7), 6-4, 6-4


Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (5) def. Evgeny Donskoy, 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-3
Yen-Hsun Lu (6) def. Somdev Devvarman, 6-3, 6-4
Andreas Haider-Maurer def. Marcel Granollers (7), 3-6, 7-6 (8-6), 2-0, Retired
Gilles Muller (8) def. Edouard Roger-Vasselin, 6-7 (11-13), 6-1, 7-6 (7-3)
Ricardas Berankis def. Luca Vanni, 6-1, 2-6, 7-5
Jiri Vesely def. N Vijay Sundar Prashanth, 6-2, 6-1
Borna Coric def. Robin Haase, 6-2, 6-2
Elias Ymer def. Igor Sijsling, 6-4, 4-6, 6-3
Pablo Carreno Busta def. Alejandro Gonzalez, 6-1, 6-3
Peter Gojowczyk def. Alejandro Falla, 6-0, 6-1
Tatsuma Ito def. Ramkumar Ramanathan, 6-3, 6-3
Aljaz Bedene def. Lukas Lacko, 7-6 (7-0), 6-3

►  Brisbane International Men’s Tennis Update - January 11

Queensland Tennis Centre, Brisbane, Australia
al Prize Money: $495,000


Roger Federer (1) def. Milos Raonic (3), 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4


Roger Federer (1) def. Grigor Dimitrov (4), 6-2, 6-2
Milos Raonic (3) def. Kei Nishikori (2), 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-4), 7-6 (7-4)


Roger Federer (1) def. James Duckworth, 6-0, 6-1
Kei Nishikori (2) def. Bernard Tomic, 6-0, 6-4
Milos Raonic (3) def. Sam Groth, 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-6 (7-2)
Grigor Dimitrov (4) def. Martin Klizan, 6-3, 6-4


Roger Federer (1) def. John Millman, 4-6, 6-4, 6-3
Kei Nishikori (2) def. Steve Johnson, 6-4, 7-5
Milos Raonic (3) def. Mikhail Kukushkin, 6-3, 6-4
Grigor Dimitrov (4) def. Jeremy Chardy, 3-6, 6-4, 7-6 (10-8)
Martin Klizan def. Alexandr Dolgopolov (7), 1-6, 7-6 (8-6), 7-6 (9-7)
Sam Groth def. Lukasz Kubot, 6-4, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-3)
James Duckworth def. Jarkko Nieminen, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5), 6-3
Bernard Tomic def. Thanasi Kokkinakis, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1


Lukasz Kubot def. Kevin Anderson (5), 7-6 (7-3), 6-4
James Duckworth def. Gilles Simon (6), 6-2, 6-2
Alexandr Dolgopolov (7) def. Carlos Berlocq, 6-2, 6-3
Thanasi Kokkinakis def. Julien Benneteau (8), 6-4, 6-3
Bernard Tomic def. Sam Querrey, 7-5, 7-6 (7-5)
Steve Johnson def. Marinko Matosevic, 2-6, 7-6 (7-0), 7-5
Sam Groth def. Lleyton Hewitt, 6-3, 6-2
Mikhail Kukushkin def. Marius Copil, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4
Jeremy Chardy def. Andrey Golubev, 6-4, 6-4
Martin Klizan def. Jurgen Melzer, 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (8-6), 6-1
John Millman def. Rhyne Williams, 6-3, 6-1
Jarkko Nieminen def. Denis Kudla, 4-6, 6-1, 6-4

►  Keys wins in rain-delayed start at Sydney

American Madison Keys grabbed a first- round victory on Sunday in a rainy start to the Apia International Sydney tournament.

Keys recorded a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Russian Svetlana Kuznetsova, while Russian Daria Gavrilova notched a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Swiss Belinda Bencic.

Rain postponed the final two matches on Sunday in this warmup for the Australian Open.

►  Apia International Sydney Women’s Tennis Update - January 11

Sydney, Australia

Total Prize Money: $731,000


Daria Gavrilova def. Belinda Bencic, 6-3, 6-0
Madison Keys def. Svetlana Kuznetsova, 6-4, 6-4

►  Apia International Sydney Men’s Tennis Update - January 12

Sydney, Australia

Total Prize Money: $495,000


Leonardo Mayer (5) def. Benjamin Becker, 7-6 (7-3), 6-2
Pablo Cuevas (6) def. Nicolas Almagro, 7-6 (7-5), 6-4
Simone Bolelli leads Marinko Matosevic, 4-2


Jeremy Chardy (7) vs. Sam Querrey
Sam Groth vs. Gilles Muller
Juan Martin del Potro vs. Sergiy Stakhovsky
Andreas Seppi vs. Vasek Pospisil
Nick Kyrgios vs. Jerzy Janowicz

►  Heineken Open Men’s Tennis Update - January 12

Auckland, New Zealand

Total Prize Money: $520,000


Steve Johnson (8) leads Joao Sousa, 7-5
Jan-Lennard Struff def. Dominic Thiem, 6-7 (6-8), 6-4, 6-3
Adrian Mannarino def. Federico Delbonis, 6-1, 6-1


Guillermo Garcia-Lopez (7) vs. Diego Schwartzman
Yen-Hsun Lu (9) vs. Juan Monaco
Borna Coric vs. Pablo Carreno Busta
Paolo Lorenzi vs. Albert Ramos-Vinolas

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Basketball Association
Detroit at Toronto, 7:30 PM - FS-Detroit, TSN2, DSS
Houston at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - ROOT-Southwest, YES, DSS
New Orleans at Boston, 7:30 PM - CSN-New England, NBA TV, DSS
Orlando at Chicago, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, CSN-Chicago, DSS
National Hockey League
Colorado at Washington, 7:00 PM - Altitude, CSN-DC, DSS
Tampa Bay at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - SunSports, CSN-Philadelphia, NHL Net, DSS
Toronto at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - SNET-Ontario, FS-West, DSS
College Basketball
Coastal Carolina at Campbell, 8:00 PM - American Sports, MASN,
College Football
Oregon vs. Ohio State (FBS Championship), 8:30 PM - ESPN
International Soccer
Rayo Vallecano de Madrid vs. Cordoba CF, 3:00 PM - beIN Sport
PGA - Tournament of Champions, 4:00 PM - Golf Channel



National Basketball Association
Minnesota at Indiana, 7:00 PM - FS-North, Indiana, DSS
Atlanta at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - SportSouth, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
San Antonio at Washington, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-DC, DSS
Cleveland at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Arizona, DSS
Golden State at Utah, 9:00 PM - CSN-Bay, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Dallas at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - FS-Southwest, CSN-California, DSS
Miami at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - SunSports, Time Warner, DSS
National Hockey League
Minnesota at Pittsburgh, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, NBCSN
NY Islanders at NY Rangers, 7:00 PM - MSG+, MSG, DSS
Detroit at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Tampa Bay at Boston, 7:00 PM - SunSports, NESN, DSS
Colorado at Carolina, 7:00 PM - Altitude, SportSouth, DSS
Edmonton at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - SNET-West, FS-Midwest, DSS
Vancouver at Nashville, 8:00 PM - SNET-Pacific, DSS
Florida at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, TSN3, DSS
Ottawa at Dallas, 8:30 PM - TSN5, FS-Southwest+, DSS
San Jose at Arizona, 9:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-Arizona+, DSS
College Basketball
Michigan at Ohio State, 7:00 PM - ESPN
Oklahoma State at Kansas, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Arkansas at Tennessee, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Butler at Seton Hall, 7:00 PM - FS1
Penn State at Indiana, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Virginia Tech at Louisville, 7:00 PM - RSN,
Oklahoma at West Virginia, 7:00 PM - ESPNews
USC Upstate at Lipscomb, 7:30 PM -
VCU at Rhode Island, 7:30 PM - CBSSN
Wake Forest at Syracuse, 8:00 PM - ACC Network,
Clemson at Virginia, 8:00 PM - ACC Network,
Missouri at Kentucky, 9:00 PM - ESPN
Miami-Florida at Duke, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Alabama at South Carolina, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Georgetown at DePaul, 9:00 PM - FS1
Iowa at Minnesota, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Miss State at Texas A&M, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
Connecticut at Tulsa, 9:30 PM - CBSSN
UNLV at Boise State, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Longwood at Liberty, 7:00 PM -
Western Michigan at Buffalo, 7:00 PM -
Iowa State at Baylor, 7:30 PM - FS-Southwest

Sports News   150110

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Ricky Williams, Bosworth among college football HOF class

Heisman Trophy winner Ricky Williams of Texas and former Oklahoma standout linebacker Brian Bosworth highlight the 2015 class for induction to the College Football Hall of Fame.

A total of 15 players and two coaches were selected for enshrinement. Induction ceremonies are set for December 08 in New York City.

This year’s class also includes linebackers Trev Alberts of Nebraska, Zach Thomas of Texas Tech and Bob Breunig of Arizona State; receivers Wes Chandler of Florida and Thom Gatewood of Notre Dame; running backs Dick Jauron of Yale, Clinton Jones of Michigan State and Rob Lytle of Michigan; offensive linemen Lincoln Kennedy of Washington and Ruben Brown of Pittsburgh; defensive linemen Art Still of Kentucky and Sean Brewer of Millsaps; and quarterback Michael Payton of Marshall.

Coaches Bill Snyder of Kansas State and Jim Tressel of Ohio State and Youngstown State will also join the class.

“We are extremely proud to announce the 2015 College Football Hall of Fame Class,“ said Archie Manning, Chairman of the National Football Foundation and a 1989 College Football Hall of Famer from Ole Miss. “Each of these men has established himself among the absolute best to have ever played the game, and we look forward to immortalizing their incredible accomplishments.“

Williams won the Heisman Trophy in 1998 and finished his four-year career at Texas as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher with 6,279 yards while setting 46 school records. He was a unanimous First-Team All-American in his final two years and was the first two-time recipient of the Doak Walker Award as the nation’s top running back.

Bosworth spent three seasons at Oklahoma and led the Sooners to a trio of Big 8 titles with an appearance in the Orange Bowl each year, highlighted by a national championship in 1985. He was a consensus All-American in his final two years and is the only two-time recipient of the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker.

Alberts was the first Butkus Award winner at Nebraska in 1993 and led the Cornhuskers to at least a share of three conference titles. He is Nebraska’s all-time sacks leader.

Thomas was a two-time First-Team All-American and the Southwest Conference’s top defensive player in 1994 and ‘95 at Texas Tech.

Breunig was the Western Athletic Conference’s top defensive player twice during his career at Arizona State from 1972-74, helping the Sun Devils to a pair of WAC titles while finishing his career as the Sun Devils’ all-time leader in tackles.

Chandler led Florida in receiving for three straight seasons during his career from 1974-77 and was 10th in the Heisman voting as a senior, finishing as the highest-scoring non-kicker in Gators history.

Gatewood set nearly every receiving record at Notre Dame in an All-American career from 1969-71, leading the Irish in receiving during each of his three seasons. He was also the first African-American captain in Notre Dame history.

Jauron was the Ivy League’s Player of the Year in 1972 as a senior at Yale and led the Bulldogs in rushing each of his three seasons.

Jones led Michigan State to consecutive national championships in 1965 and ‘66 in his final two seasons with the Spartans, finishing sixth in the 1966 Heisman voting.

Lytle, who died in 2010 following a heart attack, was the Big Ten MVP as a senior in 1976 when he finished third in the Heisman balloting after rushing for a then-school record 1,469 yards. He finished with 3,317 yards and helped the Wolverines to a pair of conference titles.

Kennedy helped Washington a national championship as a junior in 1991 and was a unanimous First-Team All-American in 1992, helping the Huskies to three Pac-10 titles.

Brown was a three-time All-Big East selection and a First-Team All-American as a senior in 1994.

Still led Kentucky to its last 10-win season as a senior in 1977, when he was voted the SEC’s top defensive player.

Brewer was the only defensive lineman in Division III history to earn First- Team All-America honors three times during his career from 1989-92.

Payton was Marshall’s quarterback from 1989-92 when the Thundering Herd played in Division I-AA. He was selected as the Walter Payton Award winner as the division’s most outstanding player as a senior in ‘92 while helping Marshall to the Division I-AA national championship.

Snyder has turned a moribund Kansas State program into a national championship contender during his 23-year career from 1989-2005 and 2009-present. He led the Wildcats to a pair of Big 12 titles and 16 of the school’s 18 bowl appearances, including 11 straight from 1993-2003, and joins Bobby Bowden, Joe Paterno and John Gagliardi as the only coaches to earn induction into the Hall of Fame while still actively leading a program.

Tressel won five national championships during his coaching tenure and is the only coach to win a title at both the Division I-A and Division I-AA levels. He guided Youngstown State to four I-AA championships during his tenure from 1986-2000 and guided Ohio State to the 2002 FBS title.

Among the notables not elected from the ballot of 87 players and 25 coaches were former Heisman Trophy winners Eric Crouch and Rashaan Salaam.

►  Cooper, Yeldon, Collins leaving Alabama for NFL

Alabama standouts Amari Cooper, T.J. Yeldon and Landon Collins have decided to enter the NFL Draft.

Alabama coach Nick Saban made the announcement Friday, calling it “business decisions,“ for the trio.

Cooper won the Bilietnikoff Award as the nation’s top wide receiver in 2014, finishing the campaign with 124 receptions for 1,727 yards with 16 touchdowns.

“I want to thank Coach Saban and all of my teammates,“ said Cooper on Friday. “I want to thank everyone who has had an influence in my time at Alabama.“

Yeldon was the Crimson Tide’s second-leading rusher this past season with 979 yards, just 11 behind Derrick Henry, and added 11 touchdowns. He eclipsed 1,000 yards in each of his first two seasons, and finished his career with 3,355 yards and 37 touchdowns.

Collins tied for the team lead with three interceptions this past season and was a finalist for the Thorpe Award as the nation’s top defensive back.

“My time has come for me to take the next step in my journey,“ said Collins.

Alabama finished 12-2 this season, falling to Ohio State on New Year’s Day in the College Football Playoff semifinals at the Sugar Bowl.

►  Mississippi State LB McKinney to enter NFL Draft

Mississippi State linebacker Benardrick McKinney has made the decision to forgo his senior season and declare for the 2015 NFL Draft.

McKinney, a top inside linebacker prospect, led the Bulldogs with 142 tackles over the past two seasons.

“I have decided to enter the NFL Draft and look forward to the next chapter,“ McKinney said in a press release. “It’s been a privilege to be a part of one of the best teams in school history. Mississippi State has developed me into the player I am today, and I will always be part of the Bulldog family.“

The first team All-American compiled 244 tackles, 7 1/2 sacks and six fumble recoveries in 39 games (36 starts) over the course of his collegiate career.

►  FSU’s Edwards, Darby to enter NFL draft

Florida State junior defensive end Mario Edwards, Jr. and junior cornerback Ronald Darby have decided to give up their remaining collegiate eligibility and enter the 2015 NFL Draft.

Edwards, a native of Mississippi, picked up 44 tackles and three sacks this past season. He departs campus having racked up 89 tackles and eight sacks over 36 games (26 starts) for the Seminoles.

“Mario was a tremendous player and person here at FSU and I want to thank him for three great years here,“ FSU head coach Jimbo Fisher said. “Mario improved each year since he arrived on campus and I’m excited to see him continue that growth in the NFL. I’m excited for him and his family and I think he will have a great professional career.“

Darby, the ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2012, recorded 79 tackles, 16 passes defensed and one forced fumble over 42 lifetime appearances (23 starts).

“Ronald was a big part of our success here and helped us reach the next level over the last three years,“ Fisher added. “I’m excited for Ronald and his family. He was a phenomenal player for us here at Florida State, and I think he has a chance to be a great pro.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Patriots extend Chung, Bolden

The New England Patriots have reportedly extended the contracts of safety Patrick Chung and running back Brandon Bolden. said the deal for Chung is for three seasons and worth $3.4 million in guarantees, while the pact for Bolden is for two years.

Chung spent his first four NFL seasons with New England before playing the 2013 campaign in Philadelphia. He returned to the Patriots in April with a one-year deal and this season posted 85 tackles with an interception in 16 games, all but one as a starter.

Bolden has played each of his three NFL seasons in New England, mostly on special teams. He ran for 89 yards with a touchdown in 2014.

►  Extra Points: Luck is ahead of a pretty impressive curve

As the 2012 NFL Draft approached plenty of observers called Andrew Luck the best pure quarterback prospect since Peyton Manning.

It was a nice little narrative because the Indianapolis Colts just happened to have the No. 1 overall selection for the first time since 1998 when they selected Manning with the top overall spot.

Over the ensuing 13 years in Indy, Manning amassed a gaudy 141-67 regular- season record as a starter, passing for 54,828 yards with 399 touchdowns and a 94.9 passer rating as well as guiding the Colts to the playoffs 11 times, including a victory in Super Bowl XLI.

A neck injury that ultimately required four different surgical procedures sidelined Manning for the entire 2011 season which is the major reason Indianapolis fell off the cliff and was in a position to bridge a generation of greatness at the game’s most important position with another one.

Manning was eventually released by the Colts in March of 2012 and the divorce was hardly acrimonious. He was attempting to recover from the four procedures on his neck, and Indianapolis was focused on its future and Luck.

“(Manning) said, ‘You’ve got to take Andrew (Luck),‘ (in the 2012 draft)“ Colts owner Jim Irsay recalled during an interview with USA TODAY Sports. “‘You have to you’re crazy if you don’t.‘“

The Colts did draft Luck with the No. 1 overall pick out of Stanford after moving on from Manning, who subsequently signed with the Denver Broncos.

Whether the still emerging Luck, and perhaps more importantly his teammates, have progressed enough to take down the veteran Manning and the supremely talented Broncos in the AFC’s divisional round of the playoffs will be answered on Sunday afternoon.

“It was my hope and dream that this sort of situation would occur,“ Irsay said of squaring off with the former face of his franchise. “I feel blessed that it has. I think it’s going to be a great game and having these two great quarterbacks go against each other at this point in their careers is really exciting.“

Luck is not only bigger and stronger than Manning ever was, he’s far more athletic with elite arm talent, a signal caller with the body of a tight end, the fastball of Roger Clemens, impressive 4.65 speed, and a high-football IQ.

Luck showed off all of his immense talents during a 36-yard touchdown pass to Donte Moncrief in the Colts’ 26-10 wild-card win over the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend.

With the pocket collapsing the third-year star raced forward as Cincinnati’s best pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, closed in. He shed that tackle easily with eyes firmly focused downfield as other defenders swarmed in before finally firing a perfectly placed pass to Moncrief over two defenders, all while falling down.

“(Luck) can make all the throws, and also he can make all the throws on the run,“ Broncos Pro Bowl cornerback Chris Harris said. “So that sets him apart from a lot of quarterbacks, and we know we’re going to have to cover a little bit longer.“

“I think he’s getting better and better,“ Denver star linebacker Von Miller added. “The concern with him is that he passes, runs, extends plays. He’s the heart of their offense. He’s the heart of their organization.“

Manning did so much for the Colts that it’s almost surreal to realize Luck is far ahead of the pace the future Hall of Famer set during his first three seasons in the Hoosier State.

Manning, a five-time NFL MVP, won 26 regular-season games during his first three NFL seasons with the Colts, throwing for 12,287 yards with two playoff starts, both losses. By comparison Luck has already won 33 in the regular season, tossed for 12,957 yards and won his second playoff game last week with the drubbing of the banged-up Bengals.

Manning didn’t get his second playoff victory until 2003, his sixth NFL campaign.

“What (Luck’s) accomplished may be better than any quarterback has ever accomplished early in a career,“ Broncos coach John Fox said. “He’s been as advertised.“

Manning hasn’t slowed down a bit in the Rockies, leading the Broncos to three straight AFC West crowns and a conference championship last season while earning his record fifth MVP award.

“To be honest, even since Day 1 here, it hasn’t been an issue,“ Luck said of the comparisons between he and Manning. “I never came in saying, ‘Oh, I have to replace a legend, one of the greatest of all-time.‘ Professional sports people, they come and they go. Someone’s going to replace me eventually, hopefully later rather than sooner.“

At this rate, it’s going to be a lot later because Luck has quickly developed into one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks and is already knocking on the door of the “elite club” headlined by talents like Manning, Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers.

Any he may kick in that door on Sunday in Manning-Luck III, the rubber match. Manning and Julius Thomas connected for three touchdowns during a 31-24 Broncos win during Kickoff Weekend this season, avenging a Week 7 39-33 loss to Luck and the Colts in 2013.

Manning has thrown for 655 yards with six touchdowns against his former team, while Luck has piled up 598 yards and five scoring tosses in the previous two meetings.

“It’s not the quarterback versus quarterback thing,“ Luck lamented. “We’re not on the field at the same time. I have a lot of respect for (Peyton), what he does, what he still does is amazing. He’s a stud. I’ll worry about the Denver defense, that’s what I worry about.“

Generally you want to be the guy who replaces the guy who replaced the legend.

For Luck, that’s something his eventual successor needs to think about.    ~~  John McMullen ~~

►  NFL investigating text messages sent to sideline during Browns games

It’s been a tough week for the Cleveland Browns, mostly because the team’s offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan quit. While many pointed the finger at rookie quarterback/veteran party boy Johnny Manziel for Shanahan’s early exit, it’s now coming to light that he may have left because a non-coaching Browns employee thought it proper to send text messages about play calls to the sideline during games.


Yes, that’s the sound of Browns fans everywhere slamming their heads into their computer screens.

The NFL opened an investigation into the allegations on Friday, ESPN reports, just days after first reported about the text controversy on Tuesday in a single line in a larger article about the troubles between the Browns coaching staff and the team’s front office.

“One source said some coaches became upset when a high-ranking personnel member texted from the press box to the sidelines about play calls,” according to the report.

The Gilmer Free Press

NFL spokesman Michael Signora, who confirmed the NFL would open an investigation into the matter, did not reveal from whom or to whom the messages were sent, nor did Signora elaborate on the content of the messages. He did underlined that texting to the sideline during games violates the NFL’s electronic devices rules.

Upon hearing the news, Browns supporters expressed extreme dismay.

“If (the texting allegations are) remotely true, that’s pretty shameful. How an organization even has an outlet for something like that undercuts the coaching staff big time. If I were Shanahan, I’d be upset, too. Simply can’t let some exec try to call plays,” Jeremy Fowler wrote on ESPN’s Browns blog on Friday.

Others spoke out on Twitter, including @CLEsportsTalk, the account of a popular Cleveland blog, which joked about what the messages might’ve said.

►  Jerry Jones says two seats are waiting for Chris Christie at Cowboys-Packers game

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie is facing increasing pressure over the trips he’s taken to see his beloved Dallas Cowboys, but according to Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, Christie will be a welcome guest when Dallas visits the Green Bay Packers on Sunday in the second round of the NFC playoffs.

“I’ve got him two seats,” Jones said in an interview broadcast Friday on ESPN’s “Mike & Mike in the Morning.” (The interview was taped on Thursday afternoon.)

“He’s a friend. … He’s gonna be true blue. I admire that in him. I hope he just keeps coming to games for about the next three, stirring it up out here. … He’s our mojo.”

Jones said setting aside seats for political figures is nothing new for him. He said he’s done the same for Nelson Mandela and Bill Clinton.

But neither Mandela or Clinton had a business relationship with Christie the way that Jones does. Christie controls the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey along with New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo. In 2013, the Port Authority awarded a contract to Legends Hospitality, which is co-owned by the Cowboys, to operate the observation deck at the Port Authority’s One World Trade Center.

In the wake of Christie’s Jones-paid trip to see the Cowboys beat the Lions in Texas last weekend, two New Jersey state legislators said Thursday they would consider having a legislative panel look into the Port Authority deal. The same panel already is investigating Christie’s role in the 2013 shutdown of lanes heading to the George Washington Bridge in New Jersey.

Specifically, the panel will look at why Christie and Cuomo publicly lobbied the Port Authority’s board of commissioners to approve the deal with Legends in a news release issued a day ahead of the vote in March 2013.

“The question you have to ask yourself is, ‘Why did the governors need to publicly urge the commissioners to vote for this?” New Jersey state assemblyman John Wisniewski (D), co-chair of the panel investigating the GW Bridge scandal, told “If this was a fair and open process, why did they feel compelled to advocate for the commissioners to vote to approve the agreement with Legends?”

State Senator Loretta Weinberg (D), the other co-chair of the committee, told that she found Christie and Cuomo’s public support of the Legends bid “a little strange.”

The committee likely will probe exactly when Christie and Jones became close friends. According to, Christie and has aides have given differing accounts:

                A spokesman for Christie on Wednesday said the start of Jones and Christie’s friendship began in the summer of 2013 – a few months after the late spring approval of the Legends bid, although Christie last month publicly stated the two men had become friends “over the last five years.”

                  “The more I hear about questions like, ‘When did you become friends?’ and then you have the governor saying one thing and his staff another, it becomes eerily familiar to the questions of ‘When did you first hear about the lane closures?’,” Wisniewski said.

                Weinberg derided it as “worthy of ‘Saturday Night Live.’”

►  Rodgers probable to face Cowboys

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ injured calf isn’t serious enough to keep the former league MVP out of Sunday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game against the Dallas Cowboys at Lambeau Field.

The Packers officially designated Rodgers probable for Sunday’s clash, with head coach Mike McCarthy telling reporters following Friday’s practice that he does not expect Rodgers to have any limitations during the game.

“Aaron came through the practice, everything OK,“ McCarthy said. “He looks like he’s moving fine to me right now, so we’re not going to change any approach for how we want to attack the Dallas defense.“

Rodgers has been dealing with a strained left calf, which various outlets reported earlier in the week to be a slight muscle tear, since Green Bay’s Week 16 game against Tampa Bay. The All-Pro signal-caller then aggravated the injury during the Packers’ division-clinching win over Detroit in the final week of the regular season.

After Rodgers sat out Wednesday’s practice, McCarthy said he took about 50- to-60% of the reps during Thursday’s workout.

On the Cowboys’ side, middle linebacker Rolando McClain and defensive end Jeremy Mincey each received medical clearance on Friday from concussions each sustained in last week’s victory over Detroit in the Wild Card Round. Both starters are listed as questionable, however.

Also questionable is linebacker Anthony Hitchens, the player involved in the controversial pass interference call that was later waved off during the fourth quarter of Dallas’ comeback win over the Lions. The rookie has not practiced this week as he attempts to recover from an ankle sprain.

Offensive tackle Doug Free is expected to miss a fourth straight game for Dallas with an ankle injury.

►  Chargers ink WR Pettis

The San Diego Chargers signed wide receiver Austin Pettis on Friday.

Pettis was released by the St. Louis Rams in October after making 12 catches for 118 yards and a touchdown in five games last season.

The 26-year-old’s best season came in 2013 when he set career highs in catches (38), receiving yards (399) and touchdowns (four).

Over 47 career games across four seasons with the Rams, Pettis has caught 107 passes for 1,034 yards and nine scores.

►  Seahawks healthy entering playoff matchup with Panthers

The Seattle Seahawks are mostly healthy heading into Saturday night’s NFC Divisional Round matchup with the Carolina Panthers.

Seattle had eight of its 10 players on Friday’s final injury report listed as probable.

Center Max Unger is one of those eight players and will most likely return from a six-game absence due to ankle and knee injuries.

Running back Marshawn Lynch (back), cornerbacks Tharold Simon (shoulder) and Byron Maxwell (illness), defensive ends Demarcus Dobbs (ankle) and Michael Bennett (not injury related), wide receiver Jermaine Kearse (hamstring) and tight end Cooper Helfet (ribs) are also listed as probable.

Tight end Tony Moeaki was listed as questionable with a calf injury, while backup safety Jeron Johnson was ruled out after he suffered a dislocated elbow in Week 17.

►  Ravens’ Monroe questionable vs. Patriots

Baltimore Ravens left tackle Eugene Monroe is questionable for Saturday’s AFC Divisional Playoff game against the New England Patriots.

Monroe (ankle) has missed the past two games, including last week’s playoff win over the Steelers. James Hurst has started the past two weeks with Monroe sidelined.

Backup defensive tackle Timmy Jernigan (foot/ankle) is probable after full participation in practice this week.

►  Panthers WR Brown questionable vs. Seahawks

The Carolina Panthers have listed wide receiver Philly Brown as questionable for Saturday’s NFC Divisional Playoff game against Seattle.

Brown hurt his shoulder in last week’s Wild Card Round win over the Cardinals. He was limited in practice the past two days.

The Ohio State product caught 21 passes for 296 yards and two touchdowns during the regular season.

If Brown is unable to play, Carolina could use No. 3 quarterback Joe Webb as a receiver.

Safety Thomas DeCoud (hamstring), linebacker A.J. Klein (ankle) and cornerback Melvin White (ankle) are also questionable. The Panthers had already ruled out defensive tackle Star Lotulelei due to a broken foot he sustained in practice earlier in the week.

►  NFL Play offs Game Results

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Which Smith is better?

The only upset during Wild Card Weekend occurred last Saturday night, when the sixth-seeded Baltimore Ravens took down their division rival, the third-seeded Pittsburgh Steelers.

Quarterback Joe Flacco continued where he left off from two postseasons ago, throwing for 259 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions. However, Flacco would not have the success he is having if it were not for the playmakers who catch his passes.

Torrey Smith and Steve Smith Sr. are Baltimore’s top receiving threats, and during the 2014 season both players performed for fantasy owners, in some capacity.

Yet, which Smith should owners consider rolling with for the Divisional Round against the New England Patriots?

Although he is technically the No. 2 wideout on the depth chart behind Torrey, Steve was the player who had better overall numbers during the regular season.

Through 16 games, Steve recorded 79 receptions for 1,065 yards and six touchdowns on 133 targets, while Torrey accumulated 49 catches for 767 yards and 11 scores on 93 targets.

Yes, Torrey found the end zone a bit more, but the disparity in the number of targets proves that Steve was Flacco’s go-to guy.

Both players have had postseason experience throughout their careers. Steve has played in 10 playoff games, and has averaged 5.6 receptions for 95.7 yards and scored a total of eight touchdowns during that span. Torrey has averaged 2.4 receptions for 50.3 yards over seven postseason contests and has totaled five scores.

Not only has he outperformed Torrey in both the 2014 regular season and through each of their postseason careers, but Steve was also more reliable during their first playoff game as teammates (Steve had five catches for 101 yards, Torrey had two catches for 28 yards and 1 TD).

Even though Torrey scored the only touchdown between the two, fantasy owners need to know it is clear that Steve was much more involved and made the most of his opportunities (Steve had seven targets, Torrey had six targets) in the game against the Steelers.

One of the bigger intangibles for Saturday’s contest against the Patriots, is which defensive back will lineup across from the “Smith brothers”? Steve will most likely draw All-Pro Darrelle Revis, which would allow Torrey to go up against cornerback Brandon Browner.

There is no denying the temptation to stay away from a player who will be shadowed by Revis, but Torrey’s postseason numbers simply make it difficult for owners to trust him.

Torrey has never had more than four receptions in a playoff game and during Baltimore’s Super Bowl run two seasons ago, he was clearly the second option behind receiver Anquan Boldin. (Torrey had 11 catches for 233 yards and 2 TD on 25 targets, Boldin had 22 catches for 380 yards and four TD on 36 targets).

It is not a ridiculous thought for owners to feel this could be the week Torrey has a monster playoff game, however, the numbers are just not there to support that.

Boldin became the top receiving threat during the Ravens’ run two years ago, and after what we have seen in 2014, Steve has become Flacco’s top option this season.

As a result, for owners who like to choose their players solely based on numbers; Steve is your guy this week versus New England.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Friday, January 09)

#6 Robert C. Byrd 63     Lewis County 34

#9 Notre Dame 62     #5 Tucker County 57

Buckhannon-Upshur 66     Liberty 43

Ritchie County 48     Wirt County 47

Williamstown 69     Parkersburg Catholic 40

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Friday, January 09)

Webster County 67     #9 Gilmer County 63 (OT)

Clay County 58     Roane County 32

#2 North Marion 87     Philip Barbour 46

Buckhannon-Upshur 65     Liberty 32

Lincoln 59     East Fairmont 39

Robert C. Byrd 61     Lewis County 53

#3 Tucker County 59     #9 Notre Dame 31

Parkersburg 62     St. Albans 50

Parkersburg South 80     John Marshall 34

St. Marys 70     Tyler Consolidated 54

The Gilmer Free Press

►  No. 14 West Virginia welcomes No. 17 Iowa State to the Coliseum for what could be a telling matchup

Daxter Miles Jr. has yet to face Kansas or Texas or Iowa State or Oklahoma, yet the West Virginia freshman watches TV games, and he doesn’t blink in response to an entirely premature and slightly unfair question of the moment:

Are the Mountaineers good enough to win the Big 12?

“I believe so. I think we might be the toughest team,” Miles said. “I don’t want to toot that horn yet, but I believe we can do it. We’ve got enough people and enough energy, so why not? Let’s try to win it all.”

Currently at work on their second seven-game winning streak of the season, the No. 14 Mountaineers (14-1, 2-0) opened conference play by handling their chores against TCU and Texas Tech. While road victories should never be viewed as assumptions, those games represented mere appetizers to the schedule meat that awaits.

For the next proving ground, here comes Saturday night’s showdown against No. 17 Iowa State— the highest-scoring and least turnover-prone team West Virginia’s press has encountered this season. Are the skilled Cyclones immune to the press because of their slick passing or have they simply not faced a defense so assailing as the one WVU throws out?

“I think people are afraid to press them because of their skill level,” said Bob Huggins, who is afraid not to press this season.

The 33rd-year head coach realized months ago—not long after Eron Harris and Terry Henderson sought transfers—that his roster wasn’t going to exploit anybody in the halfcourt, at least not consistently. And taking the “best-available” replacement players so late in the spring recruiting cycle wasn’t about picking athletes who fit his system, but rather, retrofitting a system around whatever athletes eventually landed in Morgantown.

So, essentially, “Press Virginia” was born because two sophomore gunners opted to be reborn elsewhere. (However, Huggins contended Friday that even had Harris and Henderson remained, the team’s focus would have shifted toward defense. “We were going to start guarding again—either that was going to happen or they weren’t going to play,” he said. “We decided we weren’t going to keep trying to outscore people.”)

Now, with 15 regular-season games elapsed and another 16 to go, the product of all that attrition/addition is astounding. No WVU team has won so many games so soon since Reagan’s first term, and what’s more, the trickle-down effect of deploying pressure defense has Huggins’ offense scoring at a clip of 78.8 points-per-game. Last year’s team, blessed with two of the Big 12’s best 3-point shooters, averaged 77.2.

As the season began, West Virginia knew about Juwan Staten, Devin Williams and Gary Browne, though it was hard to calculate the worth of the newcomers. At the season’s midpoint, the value is glaringly apparent.

Miles and ball-hawking defender Jevon Carter, true freshmen roommates, have delivered contributions more crucial and more immediate than their recruiting rankings suggested. Jonathan Holton has fronted the press with bounce and exuberance. Jaysean Paige, shooting 47 percent from 3-point range, could be in line for explosive performances once he learns to stay on the floor for more than 14 minutes. Elijah Macon, riddled by injuries and personal loss, has shown scarcely a fraction of his capabilities.

That collection didn’t resemble anyone’s idea of a Big 12 contender in October, but as January unfolds, it’s obvious our first inclination was wrong.

No. 14 WEST VIRGINIA (14-1, 2-0) vs. No. 17 IOWA STATE (11-2, 1-0)

Tipoff: 8 p.m. Eastern at the WVU Coliseum (ESPN2)

Scouting the Cyclones: Georges Niang (15.2 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.8 assists) is proof not all superstars can jump. The 6-foot-8 junior is savvy and skilled, though like the rest of the Cyclones, he has hit a slump the past two games, making only 6-of-25 from the floor. Iowa State split those games, losing 64-60 to lightly regarded South Carolina in Brooklyn and edging Oklahoma State 63-61 in Ames. … Transfers are always welcome at Iowa State and Bryce Dejean-Jones is spending his senior season there after stops at USC and UNLV. The 6-6 guard (13.4 points, 6.1 rebounds) is a matchup conundrum. … Point guard Monte Morris (10.1 points, 3.5 rebounds) owns a 4.8 assist-to-turnover ratio, which ranks No. 2 in the nation. Dustin Hogue (11.8 points) and guard Naz Long (12.8 points) round out the starting five.

Coaching the Cyclones: Fred Hoiberg, the unofficial “Mayor of Ames” only because he never officially sought office, owns a 101-49 mark in his fifth season. His last two teams might have been Final Four-bound if not for a bum call against Ohio State in 2013 and Niang’s untimely broken foot in 2014.

Mountaineer musings: Juwan Staten (16.1 points, 4.0 assists, 3.3 rebounds) matched his season-high with 37 minutes at Texas Tech. Amid the rigors of Big 12 action, will Huggins be unable to rest his point guard as much as he hoped? … With a 754-303 coaching record, Huggins needs one win to much Henry Iba for 13th on the career wins list. … Holton (10.4 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Devin Williams (10.6 points, 7.2 rebounds) are No. 2 and No. 5 in fouls committed among Big 12 players. … Gary Browne has strung together three double-digit scoring games for only the second time in his career. (The last streak was against Davidson, Oklahoma and VMI in November 2012.)

Pressing question: Will Iowa State—which ranks third nationally with an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.62—become the first opponent to carve up “Press Virginia?” The Cyclones haven’t committed more than 15 turnovers in any game this season; the Mountaineers haven’t forced fewer than 18. How’s that for a gap of demarcation?

RPIs: West Virginia 10, Iowa State 36

Line: West Virginia favored by 5

Prediction: West Virginia 77-75

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bucks add Kenyon Martin

The Milwaukee Bucks have signed veteran forward/center Kenyon Martin to a 10-day contract.

Martin was the first overall pick by the Nets in 2000 and played with current Bucks coach Jason Kidd from 2001-04 in New Jersey and again with the Knicks in 2012-13.

“Kenyon provides some needed depth to our front court and brings an additional veteran presence to help develop our young team,“ said Bucks general manager John Hammond in a statement Friday. “He has always been known for his tough- minded, physical approach to the game and we’re excited to welcome him to the Milwaukee Bucks.“

Martin last played for the Knicks in 2013-14, appearing in 32 games. He owns career averages of 12.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in 746 games with the Nets, Nuggets, Clippers and Knicks.

The Bucks opened a roster spot by waiving guard Nate Wolters, who averaged 2.3 points and 1.5 rebounds in 11 games this season.

“We appreciate everything Nate gave to the Bucks both on and off the court,“ said Hammond. “We know we will see him again in the NBA and wish him well in the future.“

Wolters has averaged 6.4 points, 2.9 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 69 NBA games.

►  Nothin’ but Net: Pistons firing without Smith

Addition by subtraction is a time- honored theory in team improvement.

A team gets rid of someone who is either, hurting the team with his attitude, or is standing in the way of someone else, normally younger, and said team thrives.

That appears to be the case with the Detroit Pistons. They have gone 7-0 since the shocking release of Josh Smith, a player who has infuriated coaches in the past, but also a player with about $25 million left on his contract.

To take such a drastic step as to waive Smith showed how little the Pistons wanted him. He’s mercurial. Truthfully, very little is said about him negatively in terms of being a teammate, or a pain in the posterior.

Smith’s rap is bad because of his propensity to take too many 3-pointers. He’s a power forward who has played out of position, out of necessity, for both the Pistons and Atlanta Hawks. Smith is an elite athlete and has buckets of talent, but it’s never truly materialized.

And let’s be clear, seven consecutive wins since cutting Smith is a reflection on Smith. If the Pistons had won say four games in a row after cutting him, that’s not necessarily a true representation of Smith. We could attribute that to the newness of the situation.

But, seven? That’s two weeks of perfection. There has to be a reason.

“How this has all happened, I really don’t know,“ Stan Van Gundy told

Van Gundy is not only the coach of the Pistons, but also the president of basketball operations. It was his call to send Smith packing, although, in Tim McMahon’s piece on ESPN. com, the author clearly states Van Gundy had no problem with Smith off the court, nor his work ethic.

“What we anticipated was giving different guys opportunities, our young guys. Josh’s a 10-year vet in a tough situation at 5-23, and I wanted to give other people opportunities, which was probably going to cut his minutes and take the ball out of his hands some,“ Van Gundy told “I didn’t really think it was fair in that regard. It was easier to do it this way, plus in the future we also get a cap-space benefit, so it helps us for the future.“

Let’s put aside Smith, the personality, for a moment.

On the court, this monstrous trio of Smith, Andre Drummond and Greg Monroe was an interesting idea that never worked. Smith and Monroe were both power forwards and Smith had to play small forward. It turned out to be a horrible fit, like me and anything with horizontal stripes.

So, the easiest explanation is that re-inserting Monroe into the starting lineup, alongside Kyle Singler at the three spot, is a more natural fit all the way along. You can’t emphasize the importance of everyone playing their natural positions.

With Singler out there and Monroe on the block and playing like a legitimate force on the interior (15.4 ppg), it’s opened the floor for the Pistons. They are shooting 40.7% from 3-point range during their winning streak. Jodie Meeks’ return has helped, but his playing time has increased since Smith left.

Another factor in stretching the floor has been Jonas Jerebko. He’s averaged 20-plus minutes a game since Smith’s departure and is scoring a shade under 6.5 ppg. He is, however, 6-for-12 from beyond the arc.

The other revelation has been Brandon Jennings. He’s averaging 19.2 ppg during the win streak, which is a tremendous output.

As for Smith’s personality, or mere presence, hampering the team, the proof is somewhat in the math. They are 7-0 and their average margin of victory has been 15 points. The wins have come on the road against the Cleveland Cavaliers, who still had LeBron James, albeit a hobbled one, in the lineup. They beat San Antonio on a last-second basket and Dallas in back-to-back nights on the road. That’s extremely impressive.

No one on the Pistons is saying anything about Smith, the person, or the teammate. But, it would be naive to ignore the on-court product without him. The Pistons sure seem crisper.

“Well, we’ve gotten better on both ends of the floor,“ Van Gundy said after the win over the Mavericks on Wednesday. “The ball is going in the basket that helps quite a bit when the ball goes in. It not only helps obviously for the reason that the ball goes in and you score a point, but I think it gets your energy up when things are going well. We’ve also defended a lot better.

“Also our group, I don’t know why, but started December 22 we had three days of practice and from then on it’s just been different. Guys have worked harder, they’ve been more attentive. A lot more together and again we don’t have guys that are getting concerned about who’s in the game or their playing time, or their shots, or anything else. They just want to win games.“

That’s not a shot at Smith. Van Gundy was commenting on the fact that, in those two wins in San Antonio and Dallas, different players were in the fourth-quarter lineup.

“You have guys, four guys that were in the game in a great win last night sitting on the bench on the sideline tonight and loving every minute of it,“ Van Gundy said. “You know Greg Monroe didn’t get in the game last night in the fourth quarter. Tonight Andre (Drummond) doesn’t get in, in the fourth quarter there at the end of the game. Brandon doesn’t get back in, KCP doesn’t get back in and guys are into the game.“

Morale is clearly high and confidence means everything. This group is extraordinarily positive and the scenes from the sidelines as Jerebko, Monroe, Caron Butler, Meeks and D.J. Augustin played the entire fourth quarter, and out-scored the Mavs by seven, tell a tale.

There’s a spring in the step of the Pistons right now. It’s not a coincidence it’s happened with Smith in a Houston Rockets’ uniform. It wasn’t a good fit. Now, Monroe and Drummond form the interior nucleus. Good 3-point shooters are taking 3-point shots. It’s all fitting.

Remember this, the Pistons are just 2 1/2 games out of the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. The playoffs are more than in reach, so while Smith may have been a decent guy, his good-bye has the Pistons firing.


- At its surface, two first-round picks for Timofey Mozgov seems like a lot. But, both picks weren’t originally Cleveland’s so maybe the Cavs feel like it’s house money. They desperately need a center. Mozgov may not be an athletic, ideal fit, but he’s better than nothing. That’s what you want from someone who goes for two first-rounders - he’s better than nothing.

- The East backcourt situation is tough for the All-Star game. John Wall and Dwyane Wade are going to start, which is not terrible. Kyle Lowry and Jimmy Butler are going. Two guards get selected as reserves, three frontcourt players, then two additional players at any position. Jeff Teague of the Atlanta Hawks and Kemba Walker of the Charlotte Hornets both deserve consideration and the backup frontcourt situation is ... shaky, so maybe one of the two has a chance.

- It’s no surprise the Memphis Grizzlies want Luol Deng or Jeff Green. Deng probably isn’t available, but Green is incredibly available. He has a player option for $9.4 million, which I’d imagine he’ll pick up for next season. What does Boston want? Do they make someone take Gerald Wallace and his $10 million contract for next season?

- With the Baseball Hall of Fame on people’s minds, the only interesting first-ballot candidate worth discussing this year is Dikembe Mutombo. Four Defensive Player of the Year awards, eight All-Stars, three times on the All- NBA team makes him a pretty strong choice. He’s curried enough good favor in his lifetime that voters probably put him in this year. No beef from me.

- Movie moment - “Back to the Future” is on people’s minds since 2015 was a year in the trilogy and we clearly aren’t flying to work via jet pack. But, what always cracked me up, and I love the original and hate the sequels, was how Marty had time to sing another song at the dance. To say his plan was predicated on timing was an understatement. His only chance at traveling TO THE FUTURE, mind you, was based on the exact timing of a lightning strike to a clock tower. Maybe he passes on the encore at the Enchantment Under the Sea Dance to make sure everything is exactly where it needs to be for his intricate return home 30 years in the future.

- TV moment - I will miss “Parenthood.“ It’s a really great show. I hope they don’t kill Zeek.  ~~  Jim Brighters ~~

►  Derek Fisher’s unusual speech doesn’t work as Knicks fans wear bags over heads

Nothing has worked for Derek Fisher’s Knicks so far this season, so why not try reminding them that their opponents “put their shorts on the same way you put yours on”? That didn’t work, either, but at least it provided a few laughs.

New York’s game Thursday against the Rockets was nationally televised, for some reason, and TNT recorded Fisher giving his troops the kind of speech that usually doesn’t take place at the NBA level. Of course, the likes of Travis Wear, Langston Galloway and Cleanthony Early don’t usually receive major minutes at the NBA level, so these were unusual circumstances.

Here’s what Derek Fisher said to his Knicks players in one of the team’s early huddles vs. the Rockets tonight:

►  Celtics ship Wright to Suns

Brandan Wright is on the move again.

Just over three weeks after being acquired from the Dallas Mavericks in the Rajon Rondo trade, the seventh-year center was dealt by the Celtics to the Phoenix Suns just prior to the start of Boston’s game at Indiana on Friday.

The Suns will send a protected 2015 first-round pick they originally obtained from Minnesota as well as a trade exception to the Celtics.

According to Yahoo! Sports, the pick is protected if it falls between slots 1-12 in both the 2015 and 2016 drafts. Boston will receive two 2017 second- round choices in the event it doesn’t receive the pick in the next two years.

Wright saw action in just eight games with the Celtics after coming over in the December 18 trade involving Rondo, averaging 3.3 points, 2.1 rebounds and 10.8 minutes during his brief tenure with the team.

The well-traveled 27-year-old put together a strong 2013-14 season as a key reserve for Dallas, with Wright posting career bests of 9.1 points and 4.2 rebounds over 58 games and shooting 67.7% from the field.

Over 320 career NBA games, Wright owns averages of 7.1 points, 3.6 rebounds and a 60.9% field goal percentage.

The rebuilding Celtics may not be done dealing, as Yahoo! Sports also reported that the team has a tentative agreement in place with Memphis to send leading scorer Jeff Green to the Grizzlies for veteran forward Tayshaun Prince and another protected first-round pick. According to the report, the Celtics and Grizzlies are awaiting authorization from a third unidentified team to complete that trade.

Green was not spotted on the floor during Boston’s pregame warmups for Friday’s matchup with the Pacers.

►  NBA Game Results

(Friday, January 09)

Final Score: Indiana 107, Boston 103 (OT)

David West hit two free throws with 31.2 seconds remaining in overtime to lift the Indiana Pacers to a 107-103 win over a Boston Celtics team that continued shuffling its roster on Friday. The Celtics played without leading scorer Jeff Green amid reports that the forward will be traded to Memphis in exchange for veteran Tayshaun Prince and a future first-round draft pick. Boston did deal Brandan Wright just prior to tip-off, sending the reserve center to Phoenix for a protected 2015 first- round choice. Despite their absences, the Celtics fought back from a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit to force overtime on Avery Bradley’s triple with 4.3 seconds to go in regulation. Roy Hibbert shook off a sprained ankle to lead the Pacers with 19 points and 11 rebounds, while C.J. Miles tallied 17 points off the bench and C.J. Watson finished with 15 along with eight boards. Bradley scored 16 of his game-high 23 points in the fourth quarter and overtime, but his efforts weren’t enough to prevent Boston’s eighth loss in 10 games.

Final Score: Philadelphia 90, Brooklyn 88

Nerlens Noel’s slam with 3.2 seconds left lifted the Philadelphia 76ers over the Brooklyn Nets, 90-88, on Friday night. Noel ended with 12 points for the Sixers, who ended the game on a 10-2 run. Robert Covington added 20 points, seven rebounds and six steals. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute had 16 points and three steals in his return to the lineup for Philadelphia, which had lost it previous five trips to the Barclays Center. Mbah a Moute missed the past two games with turf toe. Brook Lopez tallied 18 points, six rebounds and two blocks for the Nets, who have lost four in a row. Mason Plumlee donated 15 points and 15 boards, Jarrett Jack had 14 points and 10 assists and Joe Johnson contributed 13 points.

Final Score: Atlanta 106, Detroit 103

Al Horford collected 19 points and 16 rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks held off a furious rally to beat the Detroit Pistons 106-103 on Friday night in a game between two of the NBA’s hottest teams. Sitting on a seven-game winning streak since releasing Josh Smith last month, the Pistons trailed by as much as 23 points but had a chance to tie the score at the buzzer after an out-of-bounds call went their way following a replay review. But Kentavious Caldwell-Pope’s off-balance 3- pointer from the right wing was short, ending the winning streak. Paul Millsap added 17 points for the Eastern Conference-leading Hawks, who extended their winning streak to seven games, improving to 21-2 since late November. They have won eight in a row and 12 of their last 13 on the road. Caldwell-Pope fired up 23 shots, including 16 3-pointers, and led Detroit with 20 points. The Pistons set a franchise record by attempting 43 3-pointers, making just 13 of them. Caldwell-Pope missed all seven of his 3-point attempts over the first three quarters, then made four to lead a Pistons rally in the fourth. It came just three days after Detroit erased an 18-point deficit to beat San Antonio on Brandon Jennings’ last-second shot Tuesday.

Final Score: New Orleans 106, Memphis 95

Jrue Holiday had 23 points and eight assists as the New Orleans Pelicans defeated the Memphis Grizzlies 106-95 on Friday night. Tyreke Evans posted 21 points and 10 rebounds, Anthony Davis supplied 20 points, nine boards and three blocks and Ryan Anderson added 20 points and six rebounds for the Pelicans, who had dropped three of their last four games coming in. Mike Conley tallied 19 points, seven assists and five rebounds for Memphis, which has dropped three of its last four contests. Marc Gasol netted 19 points and Zach Randolph provided 11 points and 11 boards in his return from a nine-game absence Randolph had been out with a sore right knee and the Grizzlies went just 4-5 without him in the lineup.

Final Score: Oklahoma City 99, Utah 94

Kevin Durant scored 10 of his 32 points in the fourth quarter as the Oklahoma City Thunder rallied for a 99-94 victory over the Utah Jazz. Six of Durant’s total came during a pivotal 10-1 run that turned a six-point deficit into a 94-91 lead with two minutes remaining, helping the Thunder bounce back from consecutive lopsided road defeats to Golden State and Sacramento. Russell Westbrook came up big for Oklahoma City as well, racking up 25 points and 12 assists, while newly acquired Dion Waiters put up 15 points off the bench in his second game with the Thunder. Utah, fresh off a 20-point triumph at Eastern Conference power Chicago on Wednesday, received 27 points from Gordon Hayward and 22 from Derrick Favors. Trey Burke added 20 points in the loss, with Favors finishing with 11 rebounds.

Final Score: Washington 102, Chicago 86

Marcin Gortat had 21 points and 13 rebounds in the Washington Wizards’ 102-86 victory over the Chicago Bulls on Friday night. Bradley Beal added 17 points for the Wizards, who have won three in a row. John Wall tallied 16 points and 12 assists, Nene contributed 15 points and 11 rebounds and Rasual Butler donated 13 points. Derrick Rose finished with 19 points for the Bulls, who have dropped two straight since a three-game winning streak. Aaron Brooks had 16 points and Pau Gasol added 12 points and 13 boards.

Final Score: Milwaukee 98, Minnesota 84

Brandon Knight had 14 points and four assists as the Milwaukee Bucks cruised past the Minnesota Timberwolves 98-84 on Friday night. O.J. Mayo and John Henson each netted 12 points off the bench, while Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo added 10 points and seven rebounds apiece for the Bucks, who have won five of their last seven games. Andrew Wiggins posted 20 points, seven boards and five helpers to lead Minnesota, which has dropped 14 consecutive games.

Final Score: San Antonio 100, Phoenix 95

Patty Mills scored 13 of his 15 points in the fourth quarter as the San Antonio Spurs got a late spark from their bench to beat the Phoenix Suns 100-95 on Friday night. Mills and the Spurs reserves scored 30 of the team’s 41 points in the fourth quarter, leading them back from 10 points down over the final 12 minutes to cap what was a roller coaster game. Earlier, the Spurs led by 11 in the first quarter and by as much as 14 points in the second. The Suns used a big run spanning halftime to take a 12-point lead in the third quarter. Danny Green had 20 points to lead the Spurs and Tim Duncan scored 12, but only four after the first quarter. Cory Joseph added 11 off the bench, including nine in the fourth, and Tiago Splitter had a game-high 14 rebounds in the win. Eric Bledsoe and P.J. Tucker scored 19 points apiece to lead the Suns, who had a four-game winning streak snapped. It was only their third loss in the last 13 games. Goran Dragic added 17 points, Gerald Green scored 16 off the bench and Alex Len had 12 rebounds. The Suns acquired center Brandan Wright from Boston on Friday in exchange for a protected 2015 first-round draft pick. Wright appeared in just eight games for the Celtics after being acquired from Dallas in the Rajon Rondo deal last month.

Final Score: Denver 118, Sacramento 108

Ty Lawson scored 14 of his 22 points during a dominant third quarter, leading the Denver Nuggets to a 118-108 victory over the Sacramento Kings on Friday night. Arron Afflalo added 22 points for the Nuggets, who have won four in a row. Jusuf Nurkic and J.J. Hickson each had 16 points, with Nurkic also pulling down eight boards and blocking three shots. Denver outscored Sacramento by a 36-15 margin in the third. DeMarcus Cousins ended with 32 points, 13 rebounds, four blocks and three steals for the Kings, who got 22 points from Rudy Gay. Darren Collison contributed 15 points and seven assists.

Final Score: Golden State 112, Cleveland 94

Stephen Curry had 23 points and 10 assists as the Golden State Warriors defeated the Cleveland Cavaliers 112-94 on Friday night. Klay Thompson netted 24 points, while Draymond Green added 10 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Warriors, who have won six straight games. Andrew Bogut posted four points, five boards and three assists in just under 20 minutes off the bench in his second game back from a knee injury. Kyrie Irving tallied 23 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals, Kevin Love supplied 17 points and 14 boards and J.R. Smith scored a game-high 27 points for Cleveland, which has dropped seven of its last eight games. Six of those defeats have come without LeBron James, who was held out of the lineup for a seventh straight game due to knee soreness.

Final Score: LA Lakers 101, Orlando 84

Jeremy Lin scored 18 points and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the Orlando Magic without Kobe Bryant, pulling away for a 101-84 win on Friday night. Rookie Tarik Black got 10 of his career-high 14 points in the fourth quarter, when Los Angeles out-scored Orlando 28-17 while stretching a six-point lead to as high as 19 down the stretch. The Lakers out-rebounded the Magic 60-36, with Carlos Boozer collecting 14 boards and 12 points and Ed David getting 10 and 10. Ryan Kelly added 13 points and Jordan Hill scored 11 with nine rebounds. Bryant rested for the second time in three games. He sat out Monday’s loss to Portland, the second game of a back-to-back, then had a season-low four points on 2-of-12 shooting in a loss to the Clippers on Wednesday. The Lakers snapped their two-game losing streak without him, winning for the fourth time in their last 13 games. Victor Oladipo had 17 points and Tobias Harris scored 15 for the Magic, who have lost five in a row. Nikola Vucevic had 14 points and 11 rebounds in the loss and Luke Ridnour scored 12.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  The All-Improved Team

The NBA is the only sport, out of the four major ones, that has a “Most Improved Player of the Year Award.“

As a result, with teams nearing the 40-game mark, I decided to take a look at which players have drastically improved since last season.

This “All-Improved Team” consists of players, one at each position, just as the league presents it’s “All-NBA Team.“

Jeff Teague, PG, Atlanta

Atlanta Hawks’ point guard Jeff Teague has improved every season over his six- year career. After solid averages of 16.5 points per game, 6.7 assists per game, and 1.1 steals per game, along with a field-goal percentage of 44 percent and a free-throw percentage of 85 percent during the 2013-2014 season, Teague has been even better this season (17.7 ppg, 7.0 apg, 1.8 spg, 49 percent FG, 87 percent FT).

According to Yahoo, Teague finished last season as the 54th-ranked fantasy player, and came into the 2014-2015 season as the 57th overall player.

He is currently performing as the 14th-ranked guy.

Not only has he helped catapult the Hawks into first place in the Eastern Conference, but Teague has also returned great value to fantasy owners. He should be looking at his first All-Star appearance, but more importantly should continue his career-season for owners.

Jimmy Butler, SG, Chicago

One of the leading candidates for the “NBA Most Improved Player of the Year Award” has to be Chicago Bulls’ shooting guard Jimmy Butler. He has eligibility at both the shooting guard and small forward positions, but fits the mold of the No. 2 guard, for this specific team.

Heading into this season, Butler was viewed as a player who is a lockdown defender, and could potentially average 15 ppg.

Well, he has indeed become a dynamic defender, but Butler has also found a way to become a “go-to” offensive guy for fantasy owners.

He currently has career-high averages in a number of major categories (21.7 ppg, 6.3 rpg, 3.2 apg, 0.7 bpg, 1.0 three-pointers per game, 48 percent FG, 83 percent FT), and after shooting just 28 percent from downtown last season, Butler has improved to 35 percent in 2014-2015.

Butler finished the 2013-2014 season as the 77th-ranked player, and after entering this season as the 72nd fantasy player, owners are enjoying a player who is producing at No. 6 in all of fantasy basketball.

There really is not much more an owner can ask for.

Danny Green, SF, San Antonio

One guy who seems to get overlooked from the NBA Champion San Antonio Spurs is small forward Danny Green.

In no way will his numbers overwhelm you (12.4 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 2.1 apg, 2.4 3- pointers per game, 1.4 spg, 1.2 bpg, 44 percent FG, 81 percent FT), but the fact that he is such a versatile player, makes Green a solid fantasy option.

Green undoubtedly belongs on this list, as he finished last season as the 92nd-ranked player and came into 2014-2015 ranked 100th overall.

Since he essentially helps owners out in every fantasy category, Green has found himself inside the top-25 of the fantasy player rankings.

Draymond Green, PF, Golden State

Like Butler, Golden State Warriors’ power forward Draymond Green is definitely a candidate for the “NBA Most Improved Player of the Year Award,“ and like the other Green on this team, he is also versatile.

Golden State’s starting power forward has come out of nowhere this season, and is currently a top-20 option. This comes as a rather big shock, because Green ended last season as the 99th-ranked fantasy player, and entered this season ranked 105th overall.

However, there is no denying the improvement he has shown.

With the exception of free-throw percentage (71 percent), Green is averaging career-highs in every major fantasy category (11.9 ppg, 8.3 rpg, 3.7 apg, 1.5 3-pointers per game, 1.5 spg, 1.5 bpg, 44 percent FG), proving how much of an impact he is providing.

Green’s strong play has really hampered the value of teammate David Lee, who is now healthy (hamstring injury), yet still cannot crack the Warriors’ starting lineup. Lee is currently the 125th-ranked player, but came into the season ranked 56th overall.

Hopefully owners did not waste a fifth-rounder on Lee, and instead waited until the 10th or 11th round for Green.

Gorgui Dieng, C, Minnesota

When looking at the list of centers, and potential candidates to fill this spot on the “All-Improved Team,“ my initial thought was to go with Dallas Mavericks big man Tyson Chandler.

However, after some thought, I felt Chandler simply did not fit the makeup of this squad. Although he has improved a ton from a dreadful 2013-2014 season with the New York Knicks (155th-ranked player last season, and is currently the 22nd overall player), the other players on this team are in the midst of career-years. Chandler on the other hand, has had a number of solid seasons throughout his 13-year career.

So, the guy I decided to go with is Minnesota Timberwolves’ center Gorgui Dieng.

The biggest reason Dieng makes this team comes as a result of Minnesota’s big man Nikola Pekovic being limited to just nine games with an ankle injury.

Dieng, who is in just his second season, has filled in admirably.

He is easily averaging career-highs in each major fantasy category (9.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 2.1 apg, 1.6 bpg, 1.0 spg, 50 percent FG, 78 percent FT), but more importantly, Dieng is currently ranked as the 45th overall fantasy option (115th-ranked player coming into the season).

While it is nice to see him being recognized for his superb play, owners cannot expect Dieng’s numbers to stay this high. Pekovic has been cleared for contact, and could be back in a couple of weeks, which will likely send Dieng back to a reserve role.

Owners should act now on Dieng, and attempt to sell high. He has clearly improved since last season, and definitely will hold nice value until Pekovic’s return. It is important to play those cards correctly.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  White Sox finalize deal with Bonifacio

The Chicago White Sox have officially announced that the club has agreed to terms with utilityman Emilio Bonifacio on a one-year, $4 million contract that includes a team option for the 2016 season. reported Monday that the versatile Bonifacio was set to sign with Chicago. The eight-year major league veteran will earn $3 million this coming season, with the White Sox holding a $4 million option with a $1 million buyout for 2016.

Bonifacio began last season with the crosstown rival Cubs before being traded to Atlanta on July 31. The 29-year-old switch-hitter batted .259 with three home runs, 24 RBI and 26 stolen bases over a combined 110 games in 2014.

“Emilio brings an excellent mix of versatility, speed and experience to our club which will provide (manager) Robin (Ventura) with additional flexibility with the roster this year,“ said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn. “We expect Emilio’s ability to switch hit, help at multiple positions and steal a base to be very beneficial to us.“

Bonifacio started games at six different positions this past season, seeing time at all three outfield spots as well as second base, shortstop and third base. He owns a .262 career average with 164 steals over 722 MLB games.

Outfielder Jordan Danks was designated for assignment to create a space for Bonifacio on Chicago’s 40-man roster.

Danks, the younger brother of White Sox pitcher John Danks, hit just .227 with eight homers, 26 RBI and 15 stolen bases in 180 games with Chicago over the past three seasons. The 28-year-old batted .222 with two homers and 10 RBI in 51 contests in 2014.

►  Nats’ Werth to have shoulder surgery

Washington Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth will undergo surgery Friday to repair the AC joint in his right shoulder, according to the Washington Post.

Werth is expected to be sidelined between 2-to-3 months, putting his availability for the start of the 2015 season in question. The Nationals have yet to confirm that the veteran slugger is headed for the procedure.

The 35-year-old initially hurt his shoulder while making a catch against the Philadelphia Phillies in early August. Werth missed a week with the injury, but batted .339 over the final 35 games of the regular season after returning to the lineup.

In 147 overall regular season games in 2014, Werth hit .292 with 16 home runs and 82 RBI to help Washington win a National League-best 96 games.

Werth, entering the fifth season of a seven-year, $126 million contract he signed with Washington in December of 2010, has had an eventful offseason. He was sentenced to 180 days in jail, 170 of which were suspended, after being found guilty last month of reckless driving in Fairfax County, Virginia during the summer.

►  Cubs agree to terms with OF Denorfia

The Chicago Cubs have agreed to terms on a one-year contract with outfielder Chris Denorfia on Friday.

Denorfia, 34, split 121 games between the San Diego Padres and Seattle Mariners last season, compiling a .230 batting average with three home runs and 21 RBI.

Although his numbers were down last season, the nine-year veteran owns a career .272 batting average with 38 homers and 178 RBI over 705 career games with Cincinnati, Oakland, San Diego and Seattle.

To make room for Denorfia on the 40-man roster, the Cubs designated pitcher Mike Kickham for assignment.

►  Orioles bring back Delmon Young

Outfielder Delmon Young has returned to the Baltimore Orioles on a one-year contract, the team officially announced Friday. reported the deal to be worth a guaranteed $2.25 million and could earn Young up to $3 million with incentives.

Signed to a minor league contract by Baltimore last January, Young hit a solid .302 with seven home runs and 30 RBI in just 242 at-bats in 2014. The former No. 1 overall pick also led the majors with a .500 average (10-for-20) as a pinch hitter during the regular season, then delivered a go-ahead three-run double off the bench in the eighth inning that keyed the Orioles’ Game 2 win over Detroit in the American League Division Series.

Young may be in line for an increased role this season with Baltimore losing AL home run champion Nelson Cruz and outfielder Nick Markakis in free agency.

Catcher Ryan Lavarnway was designated for assignment to make room for Young on the 40-man roster.

Lavarnway, who played in 97 games for Boston from 2011-14, has been with three different organizations since being DFA’d by the Red Sox in late November. The Orioles claimed the 27-year-old off waivers from the Chicago Cubs, who previously claimed Lavarnway from the Los Angeles Dodgers, on December 23.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Laviolette, Sutter to coach NHL All-Star game

Peter Laviolette of the Nashville Predators and Darryl Sutter of the Los Angeles Kings were named the head coaches for the upcoming 2015 NHL All-Star Game in Columbus.

The coaching selections were determined by the team with the highest points percentage in the NHL through January 10 and the team that hoisted the Stanley Cup the prior season.

Laviolette, who also coached at the 2011 All-Star game in Raleigh, has guided the Predators to a 27-9-4 record (.725) and a top spot that will stay intact through Saturday’s games.

Sutter will be making his first All-Star appearance after his Stanley Cup champion Kings defeated the New York Rangers in five games last June.

The 2015 All-Star festivities will take place at Nationwide Arena on January 24-25.

►  NHL Game Results

(Friday, January 09)

Final Score: NY Islanders 3, New Jersey 2 (OT)

John Tavares tied the game late in the third period and won it in overtime with an impressive sequence, powering the New York Islanders to a 3-2 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Friday. Tavares lifted the stick of Devils defenseman Adam Larsson below the goal line to acquire the puck, moved in on net and finished the play with a wrister past the blocker of Keith Kinkaid for the win. Tavares also assisted on a goal by Josh Bailey and Jaroslav Halak made 21 saves in his sixth straight start for the Islanders, who ended a two-game skid. Travis Zajac and Scott Gomez lit the lamp for the Devils, who earned a point after being held to just 14 shots in Thursday’s 3-0 loss at Boston. Kinkaid turned aside 28 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Toronto 5, Columbus 2

James van Riemsdyk had two goals with one assist to help the Toronto Maple Leafs to a 5-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday night. Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak and Daniel Winnik each registered a goal and one assist for the Maple Leafs, who got 18 saves from Jonathan Bernier. Toronto snapped a three-game skid and posted its first win under interim head coach Peter Horachek. Ryan Johansen extended his goal streak to a career-high five games, supplying both tallies in only Columbus’ fourth loss since the start of December (12-3-1). Sergei Bobrovsky gave up four goals on 31 shots hours after signing a four-year contract extension with the Blue Jackets.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 2, Buffalo 1

Steven Stamkos scored the game-winning goal late in the third period to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres on Friday. Valtteri Filppula also scored and Ben Bishop made 20 saves for the Lightning, who have won seven of their last eight games. Cody McCormick provided a short-handed goal and Michal Neuvirth kept the Sabres in the game by stopping 45 shots in the team’s seventh straight loss.

Final Score: Florida 6, Calgary 5

Tomas Fleischmann scored with 3:09 remaining in the third period to lift the Florida Panthers to a 6-5 win over the Calgary Flames on Friday night. Fleischmann backhanded in a rebound from the slot 45 seconds after the Flames had tied it on Matt Stajan’s second goal of the game. Brad Boyes, who had a goal and an assist for Florida, was called for slashing with 2:25 left. The Flames pulled Jonas Hiller during the subsequent power play for a 6-on-4 advantage and Brian Campbell, who gave the Panthers a 5-4 lead at 9:29 of the third, bailed out goaltender Al Montoya. The puck sat in the crease, but the veteran defenseman alertly pinned it against Montoya to trigger a whistle. Jonathan Huberdeau, Jimmy Hayes and Sean Bergenheim also scored as Florida improved to 3-1-0 on its six-game road trip. TJ Brodie also had two goals for Calgary, which concluded a six-game homestand with a third straight loss.

Final Score: Edmonton 5, Chicago 2

Derek Roy finished with a goal and two assists, helping the Edmonton Oilers defeat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 on Friday night. Taylor Hall and Nail Yakupov both had one goal and an assist for the Oilers, who got 19 saves from Ben Scrivens. Edmonton has gone 3-1-2 over its last six games and beat a Central Division opponent for the first time this season (1-4-5). Brandon Saad scored both goals for Chicago, which posted a 7-1 win over the Oilers in its last trip to Rexall Place on Nov. 22. Antti Raanta stopped 17 shots in the loss.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Federer charges into Brisbane semis

Top-seeded Roger Federer was an easy quarterfinal winner Friday at the season-opening Brisbane International tennis event.

Federer and his other fellow top-four seeds all secured berths in the final four this weekend.

The 2014 Brisbane runner-up Federer whipped Aussie wild card James Duckworth 6-0, 6-1 in a laughable 40 minutes on the hardcourts at Queensland Tennis Centre.

“I had a great start to the match. Calmed the nerves,“ Federer said. “It was a bit tense yesterday. Today, I was serving well, returning well, playing aggressive.“

Federer, who lost to Aussie favorite Lleyton Hewitt in last year’s all-former- No. 1 Brisbane final, will meet “Baby Fed,“ fourth-seeded Grigor Dimitrov, on Saturday. The 2013 Brisbane runner-up Dimitrov eased past Slovak Martin Klizan 6-3, 6-4.

“I’m always excited when I get to play a match like that against a player like that,“ said Dimitrov, who has lost both of his previous matches against the 17-time Grand Slam champion Federer. “I have quite a bit of experience behind me now. I’ve learned from each match that I’ve played against him. I like my odds.“

The other semifinal will pit second-seeded U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori against third-seeded Canadian slugger Milos Raonic. The Japanese star Nishikori rolled past Aussie Bernard Tomic 6-0, 6-4, while Raonic outgunned Aussie Sam Groth 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 7-6 (7-2) in a 37-ace affair, including 22 from the loser.

Brisbane serves as a tune-up for the Australian Open, which will begin January 19 in Melbourne.

►  Sharapova, Ivanovic to clash in Brisbane final

Former world No. 1s Maria Sharapova and Ana Ivanovic will do battle in Saturday’s final at the season- opening $1 million Brisbane International tennis event.

The final berths were secured when the top-seeded Sharapova defeated rising Ukrainian Elina Svitolina 6-1, 6-3 and the second-seeded Ivanovic held off game American Varvara Lepchenko 7-6 (7-2), 6-4 at this Australian Open tune-up on the hardcourts at Queensland Tennis Centre.

Sharapova dropped just nine games in her three matches to get to the final and was ruthless against Svitolina, the 2010 junior French Open titlist.

“I expected her to play well. I think I did a lot of things good to try to take away her game,“ Sharapova said.

“In the end, it became a little bit more difficult. She became more free, went for her shots a little bit, a few unforced errors from my end, but overall I’m happy I stuck with it and finished the last point.“

When the reigning French Open champion Sharapova and Ivanovic meet on Saturday, it will mark their 14th encounter on the WTA, with the Russian leading the lifetime series 9-4. They split four meetings last season.

Sharapova is 33-22 in her career finals, including a perfect 4-0 mark last year.

Her fellow 27-year-old Ivanovic is 15-7 in her career title tilts, including 4-2 last year.

Sharapova beat Ivanovic in the 2008 Aussie Open final.

►  Wozniacki, Venus to meet in Auckland final

Caroline Wozniacki and Venus Williams were semifinal winners Friday and will meet for the title at the ASB Classic.

Wozniacki, the top seed in this season-opening event, was a 4-6, 6-3, 6-4 winner over fourth-seeded Barbora Zahlavova Strycova in the first match of the day.

The third-seeded Williams then made quick work of Lauren Davis, topping her fellow American in straight sets, 6-0, 6-3.

Williams was last year’s Auckland runner-up, dropping a 6-2, 5-7, 6-4 decision to Ana Ivanovic.

Wozniacki was down a set and a break on Friday before storming back to win. The Dane reached three finals in 2014, winning in Istanbul last July for her lone title of the year. She then lost consecutive finals in September, first falling to Serena Williams in the U.S. Open before losing to Ivanovic in Tokyo two weeks later.

Venus Williams was 1-3 in finals last year. After the loss to Ivanovic in Auckland, she beat Alize Cornet in February for her lone title of the season in Dubai, then lost finals last summer in Montreal and Quebec City.

Wozniacki will be trying for her 23rd career title, while Williams will be gunning for her 46th.

Williams has never lost a set to Wozniacki in five previous meetings, capturing a 6-3, 6-2 triumph in their last matchup last February in the Dubai semifinals.

►  Wawrinka reaches SFs in India

Top-seeded and defending champion Stan Wawrinka continued his winning ways in Chennai on Friday.

The reigning Chennai Open and Australian Open champ got past eighth-seeded Gilles Muller of Luxembourg 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) on the hardcourts at SDAT Tennis Stadium.

The two-time Chennai titlist Wawrinka, who also titled here in 2011 and was the runner-up in 2010, beat Frenchman Edouard Roger-Vasselin in last year’s finale in India.

His semifinal opponent on Saturday will be fourth-seeded rising Belgian David Goffin, who doused Austrian Andreas Haider-Maurer 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.

The other semi will pit third-seeded Spaniard Roberto Bautista Agut against upstart Slovenian Aljaz Bedene. The 2013 Chennai runner-up Bautista Agut edged out sixth-seeded Taiwanese Yen-Hsun Lu 7-6 (9-7), 6-4, while the qualifier Bedene bounced fifth-seeded Spaniard Guillermo Garcia-Lopez in come- from-behind fashion, 2-6, 6-3, 6-2.

Chennai serves as a tune-up for the Aussie Open, which will begin January 19.

►  Berdych, Ferrer reach Doha final

Former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych and former French Open finalist David Ferrer will be the combatants in Saturday’s championship match at the season-opening $1.22 million Qatar Open tennis event.

The third-seeded Czech Berdych cruised past unseeded Italian Andreas Seppi 6-2, 6-3, while the fourth-seeded Spaniard Ferrer edged out seventh-seeded 6- foot-10 Croat Ivo Karlovic in a three-tiebreak affair, 6-7 (2-7), 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4), on the hardcourts at Khalifa International Tennis Complex.

Berdych improved to 7-2 lifetime against Seppi, including wins in six straight, while Ferrer is now 4-1 all-time against Karlovic, who stunned world No. 1 star Novak Djokovic on Thursday. Karlovic clubbed 30 aces past Ferrer in a match where there were no breaks of serve.

Berdych and Ferrer will meet for a 13th time at the ATP level, with the Spaniard holding a 7-5 lifetime advantage. The big Czech, however, has won their last two meetings.

The 29-year-old Berdych is 10-14 in his career finals, including a 2-3 mark last year, while the 32-year-old Ferrer will appear in his 47th career final, seeking a 22nd title. The gritty Spaniard was 1-3 in his 2014 finals.

Doha serves as a tune-up for the Australian Open.

►  Halep, Bacsinszky advance to Shenzhen final

Top-seeded Simona Halep of Romania easily won her semifinal match Friday at the season-opening Shenzhen Open, but won’t face second-seeded Petra Kvitova in the expected final after Switzerland’s Timea Bacsinszky pulled off an upset of the Wimbledon champion.

Halep quickly dispatched Chinese crowd favorite Zheng Saisai in a 6-2, 6-3 rout, but Bacsinszky denied the blockbuster final with a 6-4, 6-4 triumph over Kvitova.

The eighth-seeded Bacsinszky was broken just once during Friday’s match and broke Kvitova three times to reach her third career final. The 25-year-old last played for a title in 2010, losing to Julia Goerges in Bad Gastein, and earned her lone tournament crown a year earlier in Luxembourg with a victory over Sabine Lisicki.

Halep, meanwhile, had no trouble on Friday and will play in her 15th career final. She is 8-6 all-time in title matches, including 1-3 last year. After a victory over Angelique Kerber in the Doha final in February, Halep lost title matches to Maria Sharapova at both Madrid and the French Open before also losing to Serena Williams at the season-ending WTA Finals.

Bacsinszky lost to Halep in their only previous meeting, dropping a 6-1, 6-3 decision five years ago in a lower-tier event in Belgium.

Shenzhen serves as a tune-up for the Australian Open. The first Grand Slam of the season will begin January 19 in Melbourne.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Woods to begin year at Phoenix Open

Tiger Woods announced on Twitter on Friday that he will begin his 2015 season at the Waste Management Phoenix Open followed by the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines the week after.

“Starting my year off at Phoenix & Torrey back-to-back weeks. I’m ready to go. Should be a lot of fun,“ Woods said on his Twitter account Friday.

Woods has made three career appearances at the Phoenix Open, with his last one coming all the way back in 2001. This year’s Phoenix Open will begin January 29, with the Farmers Insurance Open being played the following week from February 5-8.

“It will be great to return to Phoenix,“ Woods said on his website. “The crowds are amazing and always enthusiastic, and the 16th hole is pretty unique in golf. Torrey is a very important place to me. My pop took me there when I was younger, and I have a lot of special memories of watching the tour play there when I was growing up.“

Woods has never won the Phoenix Open in three starts, but he has had plenty of success at Torrey Pines. Back when the event was named the Buick Invitational, Woods won six times, including a stretch of four straight victories from 2005-08. After the event’s name changed to the Farmers Insurance Open in 2010, Woods added one more win in 2013.

Woods made his return to competition in early December at the Hero World Challenge, an unofficial event that he also hosts, where the 39-year-old finished tied for last in an 18-player field.

Prior to the Hero World Challenge, Woods had not played since missing the cut at the PGA Championship. Woods was limited to just eight events during the 2013-14 season as he was dealing with a number of back issues.

►  Sullivan takes outright lead at South African Open

Andy Sullivan carded a second-round, 2-under 70 on Friday and he will take a 1-shot lead into the weekend at the South African Open Championship.

Sullivan, who finished the first round tied atop the leaderboard with Jbe Kruger, finished 36 holes at 8-under-par 136. The Englishman has never won on the European Tour.

“When I get in these positions I find myself enjoying it more,“ Sullivan said. “It’s where you want to be, you practice to be in these situations and I am playing with the guys I always wanted to as a kid. It’s fantastic.“

South African Charl Schwartzel fired a 3-under 69 at Glendower Golf Club, which was good enough to put him alone in second place at 7-under 137.

Also playing on their home soil, JJ Senekal (67) and Colin Nel (70) are tied for third at 6-under 138 with Lasse Jensen (71).

Kruger struggled on day two, finishing with an 8-over 80, dropping him all the way into a tie for 58th at 2-over 146, just putting him above the cut line.

Five-time champion Ernie Els began the day tied for second and just one shot back, but he also ran into trouble and shot a 5-over 77. The 45-year-old South African is tied for 36th at even-par 144.

Starting on the back nine, Sullivan picked up where he left off on Thursday, starting with a par on 10 before pouring in back-to-back birdies on 11 and 12. Following four straight pars from No. 13, Sullivan drained his third gain on 17 and made the turn with a par on 18.

Much like the first round, Sullivan struggled a bit on the first nine at Glendower Golf Club on Friday. After making four more pars from No. 1, Sullivan bogeyed two of his next three holes on five and seven. He finished strong, however, with a birdie on eight and a par on nine to grab the outright lead.

“I thought it was going to be a really good knock on the front line, but a few little errant drives meant the rough got its payback on me today,“ said Sullivan. “But anything in red figures is good so I am really happy with the position I am in.“

Schwartzel had a very up-and-down day, but a strong finish propelled him into second place. Also beginning on the back nine, Schwartzel made a pair of bogeys on 10 and 11, but he got back to even par with back-to-back birdies on 14 and 15.

A bogey on 18 had Schwartzel making the turn at 1-over. Following a trio of pars from one, Schwartzel briefly got back to even par with a gain on four, but another bogey on five dropped him back another shot.

Then came the strong finish. After making his fourth birdie on No. 7, Schwartzel rolled in an eagle on No. 8 before making a birdie at the last to complete a 3-under 69.

NOTES: Sullivan had five top-10 finishes last season. His best finish was a runner-up at the Trophee Hassan II ... Schwartzel has nine career wins on the European Tour, including a victory at last season’s Alfred Dunhill Championship ... Schwartzel also claimed the 2011 Masters title ... Defending champion Morten Orum Madsen (71) finished 36 holes tied for 34th at even-par 144 ... With the cut falling at 2-over 146, 66 players advanced to play the weekend.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Football League - Playoffs
Baltimore at New England, 4:35 PM - NBC
Carolina at Seattle, 8:15 PM - FOX
National Basketball Association
Charlotte at New York, 1:00 PM - SportSouth, MSG, DSS
Dallas at LA Clippers, 3:30 PM - FS-Southwest, Prime Ticket, DSS
Indiana at Philadelphia, 7:30 PM - FS-Indiana, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Brooklyn at Detroit, 7:30 PM - YES, FS-Detroit+, DSS
Boston at Toronto, 7:30 PM - CSN-New England, SNET-360, DSS
Milwaukee at Chicago, 8:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, WGN, DSS
Utah at Houston, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, Southwest, DSS
San Antonio at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, North, DSS
Orlando at Portland, 10:00 PM - FS-Florida, CSN-Northwest, DSS
National Hockey League
Boston at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM - NESN, CSN-Philadelphia, NHL Network, DSS
Nashville at Minnesota, 2:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, North, DSS
Dallas at Colorado, 3:00 PM - FS-Southwest+, Altitude, DSS
Pittsburgh at Montreal, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, TVA, NHL Network, CBC, DSS
Detroit at Washington, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, CSN-DC, DSS
Ottawa at Arizona, 7:00 PM - FS-Arizona, DSS
NY Islanders at Columbus, 7:00 PM - MSG+, FS-Ohio, DSS
Carolina at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - FS-Carolina, Midwest, DSS
Calgary at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - CBC, DSS
Winnipeg at Los Angeles, 10:00 PM - SNET, FS-West, DSS
NY Rangers at San Jose, 10:00 PM - MSG, CSN-California, DSS
College Basketball
Cincinnati at Connecticut, 11:00 AM - ESPN 2
Ohio State at Indiana, 12:00 PM - ESPN
Georgia Tech at Wake Forest, 12:00 PM - ACC Network,
Navy at Army, 12:00 PM - CBSSN
Georgetown at Providence, 12:00 PM - FS1
Clemson at Pittsburgh, 12:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, NW, YES,, STO
George Washington at La Salle, 12:30 PM - NBCSN
Lafayette at Boston Univ, 1:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Rhode Island at Duquesne, 1:00 PM -  MASN, American Sports, CSN-Chicago, Bay
Denver at IUPUI, 1:00 PM - RTV6, HTSN,
Minnesota at Michigan, 1:00 PM - ESPN U
Kentucky at Texas A&M, 1:00 PM - CBS
Stony Brook at Vermont, 2:00 PM -
Kennesaw State at USC Upstate, 2:00 PM -
Louisville at North Carolina, 2:00 PM - ESPN
Colorado State at Air Force, 2:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain, Northwest
Loyola-Maryland at Lehigh, 2:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Saint Josephs at VA Commonwealth, 2:00 PM - CBSSN
Northeastern at Towson, 2:00 PM - CSN-Mid-Atlantic, NE, BALT, TCN
Alabama at Tennessee, 2:00 PM - SEC Network
Seton Hall at Creighton, 2:15 PM - FS1
Maryland at Purdue, 2:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Portland State at North Dakota, 3:00 PM - MidcoSportsNet, FCS-Pacific
Tulsa at Temple, 3:00 PM - ESPNews
Washington St at Washington, 3:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
North Texas at Rice, 3:00 PM - American Sports Network, ROOT-Southwest
Texas Tech at Kansas, 3:00 PM - ESPN U
North Florida at Jacksonville, 3:00 PM -
Oakland at Detroit, 3:00 PM -
Northern Iowa at Drake, 4:00 PM - MVC-TV,, CSN-Chicago, FS-Midwest
Long Island at Wagner, 4:00 PM -
Citadel at Mercer, 4:00 PM -
Baylor at TCU, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2
San Francisco at Portland, 4:00 PM - Time Warner, ROOT-Northwest, RM, CSN-Bay
Presbyterian at Radford, 4:00 PM - RUTV, Big South Network
Boston College at Miami-Florida, 4:00 PM - NESN, YES,, SportsTime OH
Indiana State at Southern Ill, 4:00 PM -
DePaul at Villanova, 4:00 PM - CBSSN
Southern Utah at Northern Arizona, 4:00 PM - FS-Arizona
Xavier at Butler, 4:30 PM - FS1
UNC Greensboro at Western Carolina, 4:30 PM - WMYA, MY40,
Colgate at American Univ, 4:30 PM - CSN+
Vanderbilt at Arkansas, 4:30 PM - SEC Network
Arizona State at Oregon, 5:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
South Carolina at Ole Miss, 5:00 PM - FS-Florida, SportSouth
Texas at Oklahoma State, 5:00 PM - ESPN U
Penn at Princeton, 5:00 PM - Ivy League Digital Network
Old Dominion at Western Ky, 5:30 PM - MASN2, American Sports Network, CSN-Bay
South Dakota St at Nebraska Omaha, 5:30 PM - MidcoSportsNet,
Virginia at Notre Dame, 6:00 PM - ESPN 2
Boise State at Wyoming, 6:00 PM - CBSSN
Delaware at Coll of Charleston, 6:00 PM - WCIV, MyTV
Fresno State at Nevada, 6:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Pepperdine at San Diego, 6:00 PM - Time Warner, ROOT-Northwest, RM, CSN-Bay
Miss State at Florida, 7:00 PM - SunSports, SportsTime Ohio, FS-San Diego, PT
Dayton at Fordham, 7:00 PM - Atlantic 10 Network
Missouri at Auburn, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Kansas State at Oklahoma, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Coastal Carolina at Liberty, 7:00 PM - MASN,
Winthrop at Gardner-Webb, 7:00 PM -
Harvard at Dartmouth, 7:00 PM - Ivy League Digital Network
Stetson at Fla Gulf Coast, 7:00 PM -
South Dakota at IUPU-Ft Wayne, 7:00 PM - PBS39
Northern Ky at Lipscomb, 7:30 PM -
Santa Clara at Gonzaga, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, Rocky Mountain
Iowa State at West Virginia, 8:00 PM - ESPN 2
Hofstra at Elon, 8:00 PM - SNY, American Sports Network
Kent State at Northern Ill, 8:00 PM -
Cleveland State at Valparaiso, 8:05 PM -
UMKC at New Mexico State, 9:00 PM -
Loyola Marymount at BYU, 9:00 PM - BYUtv
New Mexico at Utah State, 9:00 PM -
Georgia at LSU, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
San Jose St at UNLV, 10:00 PM - Mountain West Network
St Marys-CA at Pacific, 11:00 PM - CSN-California, Bay
Long Beach State at UC Davis, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
CS-Northridge at Hawaii, 11:59 PM - OCSports
Women’s College Basketball
Milwaukee at Oakland, 11:30 AM -
Texas at Iowa State, 12:00 PM - FS-Florida, Ohio, Detroit, MSG+, SportSouth
Rutgers at Penn State, 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Long Island at Wagner, 1:00 PM -
North Florida at Jacksonville, 1:00 PM -
Northern Ill at Central Michigan, 1:00 PM -
Mercer at Western Carolina, 2:00 PM -
Marist at Monmouth, 2:00 PM -
Detroit at Wright State, 2:00 PM -
Youngstown State at Green Bay, 2:00 PM -
Penn at Princeton, 2:00 PM - Ivy League Digital Network
Ill-Chicago at Valparaiso, 2:30 PM -
Baylor at West Virginia, 3:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh
Stetson at Florida Gulf Coast, 4:00 PM -
Charleston Southern at Gardner-Webb, 4:30 PM -
Kennesaw State at USC Upstate, 4:30 PM -
Northern Kentucky at Lipscomb, 5:00 PM -
Oklahoma State at TCU, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest+, South, West
College Football
North Dakota State vs. Illinois State (FCS Championship), 1:05 PM - ESPN 2
Medal of Honor Bowl, 2:30 PM - NBCSN
College Hockey
Ohio State at Penn State, 3:00 PM - American Sports Network
Minnesota at Michigan, 4:00 PM - FS-Detroit, North+
Western Michigan at Notre Dame, 6:00 PM - NBCSN
Northeastern at Boston College, 7:00 PM - NESN
Minnesota-Duluth at North Dakota, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
Yale vs. Harvard, 8:15 PM - NBCSN, TSN2
Westchester at Canton, 7:00 PM - MSG2
International Soccer
Ipswich Town FC vs. Derby County FC, 7:10 AM - beIN Sport
Sunderland vs. Liverpool, 7:40 AM - NBCSN
Real Madrid CF vs. RCD Espanyol, 9:55 AM - beIN Sport
Chelsea vs. Newcastle United, 10:00 AM - NBCSN
Crystal Palace vs. Tottenham, 12:30 PM - NBC
Torino FC vs. AC Milan, 2:40 PM - beIN Sport
EUROPEAN - South African Open, 5:30 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Tournament of Champions, 1:00 PM - Golf Channel
Brisbane, 4:00 AM - Tennis Channel

Sports News   150109

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Contract details emerge for WVU’s 3 assistants and newcomer Bruce Tall

Incoming West Virginia defensive line coach Bruce Tall signed a two-year deal worth $250,000 annually and three other assistants received extensions.

Running backs coach JaJuan Seider received a $75,000 raise and cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell a $50,000 bump, increasing their annual salaries to $275,000. Receivers coach Lonnie Galloway, who some believe remains a candidate for a promotion to offensive coordinator, was renewed for two years at his current $300,000.

MetroNews received the contract details Wednesday through a Freedom of Information Act request. A request for Joe DeForest’s possible new deal included only the current contract that expires January 30. He was being paid $500,000 under that agreement, an amount tied to his original post of defensive coordinator. That salary is expected to drop if DeForest is retained.

The incentives for Tall, Seider, Galloway and Mitchell are identical:

12 wins: $15,000

11 wins: $10,000

10 wins:  $7,500

9 wins: $5,000

Big 12 championship: $7,500

Non-playoff bowl appearance: $10,000

College Football Playoff appearance: $15,000

CFP semifinal victory: $5,000

National title appearance: $20,000

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Why isn’t anyone talking about the college football national title game?

The first-ever college football playoff title game is four days away, so everyone should be talking about it, right? Well, no.

Take a look at screengrabs of the front pages of some major national sports Web sites, taken Thursday morning.

Here’s ESPN. There’s one story on the front, and you have to click on a tiny picture of Michigan State Coach Mark Dantonio with the headline “Spartans’ Take” to find it. Michigan State played both Oregon and Ohio State this season. But hey, when else do you get a chance to blow out a story on the Detroit Pistons in January?

Here’s Lookit all these college football players! And … it’s a package about the NFL draft, which is months from now.

Yahoo Sports will have some white-hot college football championship game takes, right? //scans page. “Watch: Puppies pick Ducks to win title on Fallon” WE’RE MAKING PROGRESS.

Of a limited though far-reaching sample, only SBNation has the national title game front and center.

Yes, this is a limited sample size, and the the importance of Web-site front pages has lessened in the age of Google searches and Twitter. And I realize that last weekend’s semifinal games drew the largest television audiences in cable television history. But I think it’s illustrative of a larger point: Namely, that with the introduction of the four-team playoff, all the attention has been shifted to the semifinals, especially now that they’ll be broadcast on a holiday.

The championship game, at least this year, is hardly making a dent in the discussion, not with the NFL playoffs going strong, Jameis Winston declaring for the draft and his accuser suing Florida State (oh, if only the seminoles had beaten Oregon), sports fans having their annual “Hey, college basketball is in full swing!” realization and ESPN’s Stuart Scott sadly passing away. All of this is sucking the air out of the room.

This will change by the weekend, obviously. Most non-entrenched reporters will be arriving in Texas on Friday, and media day is Saturday. But it just seems so odd that the buzz about the playoff — which was so passionately clamored-for — has died now the bracket has been reduced to two.

►  Ducks and Bucks collide for national title

The Oregon Ducks and Ohio State Buckeyes are the two teams left standing and will face off against one another in the first-ever College Football Playoff National Championship game at AT&T Stadium on Monday, January 12.

Mark Helfrich’s Ducks earned their way into the playoff, by going 12-1 during the season, including routing Arizona in the Pac-12 title game. The team than steam-rolled defending national champion Florida State in the Rose Bowl (59-20) to post its 13th victory and a spot in the national title game. The 59 points set a new Rose Bowl record.

Star offensive lineman Hroniss Grasu put the Rose Bowl win in perspective after the game.

“It’s a huge deal to win the Rose Bowl—but it’s a playoff semifinal now. We’re not done yet, and we’ve got one more to go.“

Oregon is attempting to win its first-ever national title. The Ducks had a chance in the 2011 season to pick up that elusive championship, but lost to Auburn, 22-19 in the BCS Title Game. Overall, OU is 13-15 in bowl history and now 4-2 in BCS/CFB bowl games.

Urban Meyer has done it again, as he has brought Ohio State to the pinnacle of the college football world, after leading Florida to a couple of national titles a few years ago.

This one has to be sweeter though, as the Buckeyes battled adversity all season long with the loss of key personnel, but still found their way to the CFP by winning the Big Ten title in emphatic fashion with a 59-0 blanking of Wisconsin, setting up a showdown with top-ranked Alabama in the Sugar Bowl. Ohio State fell behind early, but rallied and earned its 13th win of the season with a 42-35 defeat of the Crimson Tide.

Ohio State’s postseason resume is a bit longer than Oregon’s. The Buckeyes own seven national championships (four AP national titles), have 44 bowl appearances and five BCS bowl wins (most in the nation). The Buckeyes are playing in their fourth national title game in the last 13 years (2002, 2006, 2007).

This marks the ninth all-time meeting between these two programs. It has been all Ohio State, which has won all eight previous matchups, the last of which was the 2010 Rose Bowl, a 26-17 victory for Ohio State.

Oddly enough, the Oregon and Ohio State participated in the first-ever NCAA basketball championship in 1939 in Evanston, Ill. Oregon won that matchup, 46-33.

Anyone that considers Oregon a finesse team, need only look at last week’s matchup with Florida State to change their mind. The Ducks punched the Seminoles in the mouth on both sides of the football en route to the lopsided victory, ending FSU’s 29-game win streak. A lot of that had to do with the pace in which Oregon runs its offense.

No one in the nation does it better than quarterback Marcus Mariota, who brought the Heisman Trophy to Eugene, the first in school history.

Oregon’s star quarterback is the architect of an offense that averages 47.2 ppg on 552.9 yards of offense per outing. The Ducks have the ability to move the chains both on the ground (241.9 ypg) and through the air (311.0 ypg), but the key is the team’s star under center.

Meyer is certainly impressed with Mariota as the complete package.

“I’ve been around him when he first when he was a young player, I went out and visited and I remember them telling me about him. I think Chip (Kelly) recruited him when he was was it which high school was it, Puna? St. Louis, yeah, the other great one. Was a backup for a while and just a great kid. I think that’s so good for college football to see a guy like that go out and win it. Great, great player. Great, great person, great leader, you can tell. Plays his best when it’s hard.“

The 6-4 Mariota has been remarkable in his time in Eugene and this, his junior year, has been nothing short of amazing. Mariota enters this contest, having completed 68.6% of his passes, for 4,121 yards, with 40 TDs against just three interceptions (one of which came against FSU). Perhaps the nation’s top dual threat, Mariota also found the time to rush for 731 yards and 15 more scores. If it isn’t Mariota running with the football, it is likely either freshman Royce Freeman (1,343 yards, 18 TDs) or sophomore Thomas Tyner (511 yards, 5 TDs) getting the ball. Tyner is coming off a season-high 124 yards and two TDs against Florida State.

Converted tailback Byron Marshall (66 receptions, 834 yards, five TDs) has settled in as Mariota’s favorite target downfield. However, the team did lose a key contributor in the passing game with last week’s injury to Devon Allen (41 receptions, 684 yards, 7 TDs) on the opening kickoff. With Allen expected to miss this game (knee), Marshall will need to step up even more, along with Dwayne Stanford (39 receptions, 578 yards, 6 TDs) and Darren Carrington (37 receptions, 704 yards, 4 TDs), who

The offensive eruption against the Seminoles had a lot to do with the defensive effort by Oregon. A close game (25-20) turned into a rout, thanks to five total FSU turnovers, four in the third-quarter, all of which the Ducks cashed in for touchdowns.

Defensive backs coach John Neal summed up that third quarter.

“That was almost freaky,“ Neal said. “There was a point where they’re moving the ball as easy as they want. But the study of the game still goes back to, from a defensive point of view, takeaways. If you win the takeaway battle, you win games.“

That has really been the way Oregon has played defensively all season long. The Ducks don’t completely shut teams down, as evidenced by the 421.9 yards yielded per contest. However, this is an opportunistic bunch, with 36 sacks and a whopping 30 forced turnovers to date.

Safety Erick Dargan is the defensive leader on the field now that star cornerback Imo Ekpre-Olomu is out due to injury. Really, Dargan has performed at a high level all season long. The 5-11, 210-pound senior posted eight tackles, a forced fumble and an interception in the Rose Bowl and currently leads the team in tackles (90) and interceptions (7).

Senior linebacker Tony Washington was named the Rose Bowl Defensive MVP after returning a fumble 58 yards for a TD to really end Florida State’s hopes of a comeback. Washington (53 tackles, 11.0 TFL. 6.0 sacks) teams with junior linebacker Christian French (24 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 6.5 sacks) to put pressure on opposing QBs.

It was quite the 2014 season in Columbus. The Buckeyes were dealt a harsh blow when their Heisman candidate quarterback Braxton Miller was injured before the season started. The team had to go to “Plan B” which was J.T. Barrett and despite an ugly loss early on at home to Virginia Tech, Barrett and the rest of the team rallied, as the young signal caller was phenomenal in his own right, and actually picked up some Heisman chatter along the way, by throwing for 2,834 yards and 34 TDs, while rushing for 938 yards and 11 more scores.

However, Barrett went down near the end of the season with his own injury, setting the stage for sophomore Cardale Jones to step in. All Jones has done is lead the Buckeyes to huge wins over Wisconsin and Alabama of late in his only career starts. Against Alabama, Jones passed for 243 yards and one TD, and led the team back from a 21-6 deficit to earn the victory.

The running game is still the preferred mode of travel for Ohio State, which averages 262.2 yards per game on the ground. Tailback Ezekiel Elliott has been a revelation in OSU’s backfield. The 6-0, 225-pound sophomore has amassed 1,632 yards and 14 TDs on the season. He comes into this game red-hot, having rushed for a Sugar Bowl-record 230 yards and two TDs against Alabama, including an 85-yard scamper in the fourth quarter to keep Alabama at arm’s length.

The Buckeyes are as balanced as they come, as the passing game generates well over 200 yards per game. The team has a deep pool of quality pass catchers, headlined by Michael Thomas (50 receptions, 746 yards, 9 TDs), Jalin Marshall (33 receptions, 447 yards, 6 TDs) and speedster Devin Smith (32 receptions, 886 yards, 12 TDs).

The Buckeyes have gotten the job done on the defensive side of the ball as well this season. Ohio State is limiting foes to just 333.6 yards per game (17th nationally), while amassing 43 sacks and forcing 32 turnovers, including 24 interceptions (second-most in school history).

Junior linebacker Joshua Perry leads the team in tackles with 118. However, playmakers can be found at every level of the OSU defense.

The secondary is headlined by a pair of ball hawks in sophomore safety Vonn Bell (86 tackles, 6 INTs) and senior cornerback Doran Grant (58 tackles, 5 INTs).

The defensive line is highlighted by All-American sophomore Joey Bosa at end and senior Michael Bennett in the middle. Bosa was named the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Of his 53 total tackles, 20 have come behind the line of scrimmage, including 13.5 sacks. He has also forced a team-high four fumbles. Bennett penetrates from the inside with 40 tackles, 14.0 TFL and 7.0 sacks to his credit.

►  Don’t expect a shootout in National Championship game

Two of the highest scoring teams in FBS play meet in the first College Football Playoff National Championship Game. Oregon is second averaging 47 points per game while Ohio State is fifth at 45 ppg.

Given the fact both teams have lit up the scoreboard this season, one would assume the final score in the title game will reach epic numbers. Even the posted total is high at 75 points.

Playing into that method of thinking, it is easy to roll with the over, especially since Ohio State has gone under the number just once since its opening game against Navy and that came in the snow against Minnesota.

However, try not to get suckered into wagering on the over so quickly. Remember, only three of the Buckeyes’ posted totals this season were higher than 60 points, which is over two touchdowns less than the number for this matchup.

Ohio State is averaging 43 points per game in its last five contests with the Buckeyes scoring over 42 points just once. Most folks would say the semifinal game against Alabama was a high-scoring affair but 42 and 35 comes to 77, which is only two points higher than the posted total of 75 for this game.

It is true Oregon is more explosive offensively than the Crimson Tide but not by much. The Ducks are averaging about 70 more yards per game - akin to about one touchdown drive per contest. Furthermore, the Ducks don’t turn the ball over like Alabama does, which means their defense will not allow easy points for the opposition.

Oregon is No. 1 in FBS play with just 10 turnovers, two less than the next closest set of teams. Don’t forget, over one quarter of the 77 points scored in the Ohio State-Alabama game were off turnovers while almost half of the 79 total points in the Oregon-Florida State contest came off turnovers.

Oregon has topped the 100-point mark in its last two games combined, while reaching the 40-point mark in nine straight contests. Still, the Ducks have been known to score far fewer points in bowl games than they have during the regular season.

During the regular season, the Ducks averaged 36, 47, 46, 50, 46 and 47 points per game, respectively, since 2009. Their bowl totals since 2009 have been 17, 19, 45, 35, 30 and 59, respectively. The one outlier from the second set is the 59 points in this year’s game versus Florida State, a game Oregon scored just 18 first-half points, with five of the six second-half touchdowns coming off turnovers.

Offense is not the only area where these two teams excel. Ohio State is 26th nationally in scoring defense while Oregon is 27th. Ohio State’s defense allowed just 21 points (not counting points off turnovers) to Alabama and held Wisconsin scoreless in the previous game.

Oregon has held its opponents to 20 points or less in four consecutive contests and six of the last eight. Oregon’s offensive postseason woes have been well documented but the defense usually comes to play. Over the last three years, the Ducks have allowed fewer points in the bowl game than their defensive point per game average during the regular season.

This championship game certainly won’t be a defensive struggle but it also won’t be an offensive shootout. Look for both teams to score in the 30s meaning the final tally will be somewhere in the 60s to low 70s.

Take under 75 points (a one-star play for those keeping track).


This year’s final regular season record was 104-87-6 (54%). The five- star selections finished at 10-8. The three-star plays went 22-14-2. The two- star choices wound up at 33-30 and the one-star plays finished 39-35-4.

The bowl record was hideous with just seven wins in 20 games. However, the lone five-star play (Wisconsin plus the points versus Auburn) won outright. In addition, all three headline games (Wisconsin, Penn State and Air Force) proved victorious. Overall, the headline games went 12-6 this season for a 67% winning percentage.


1) Oregon, 112; 2) TCU, 108.5; 3-T) Ohio State and Michigan State, 104; 5) Alabama, 103; 6) Georgia, 102.5; 7-T) Georgia Tech and Baylor, 98.5; 9-T) Arkansas and Ole Miss, 97.5; 11-T) Mississippi State and Stanford, 97

(The Dirty Dozen is not a reflection of a given team’s won-loss record. It is based on power ratings used to predict spreads for the upcoming week. At the beginning of the season, all FBS teams are assigned a power number, which changes on a week-to-week basis depending on the results of the previous week.)

►  College football parity?

Two worthy candidates will vie for the first-ever CFP National Championship and the funny thing is that neither is from the SEC.

The Southeastern Conference held the rest of the college football world at bay over the last decade or so, as a member of the conference had played in every BCS National Title game since 2007 and won seven championships in a row prior to Florida State’s victory over Auburn last year.

With a new system in place in 2014, the times are changing. Not only is there no SEC member playing in the final game next week in Arlington, but the conference as a whole took it on the chin in the postseason.

Alabama won the conference crown and did represent the SEC in the College Football Playoff, but faltered against Ohio State in the Sugar Bowl (42-35). That was the marquee matchup for the conference but not the only disappointment, especially in the vaunted SEC West.

The powerhouse division went just 2-5 in the bowl season this year, with losses by Alabama, LSU, Auburn, Ole Miss and Mississippi State. It was an embarrasing overall performance by a division that had as many as four teams with realistic shots at staking claims to spots in the first-ever playoff system at some point this year.

So, did we witness the demise of the SEC, or are we privy to the start of a college football revival across the country. I am leaning towards the latter.

The much maligned Big Ten took some harsh criticism as the weakest among the Power Five conferences this season. Well, outside of Michigan’s total collapse, the Big Ten has re-establushed itself as a powerful entity going forward. Ohio State, under Urban Meyer, has been consistently spectacular and this season is no different. The Buckeyes, who play the Oregon Ducks for the national title, have been so successful, that their Heisman candidate quarterback (Braxton Miller) may be looking for somewhere else to play now that OSU’s quarterback depth has proved to be second to none.

Michigan State, Wisconsin and Nebraska failed to win the conference title this season, but all three are powerhouses in their own right and will be for years to come.

Penn State has now had its bowl sanctions lifted and celebrated with a thrilling victory over Boston College in the Pinestripe Bowl. With a star QB under center (Christian Hackenberg) much more is expected of the Nittany Lions in 2015. Even Michigan’s collapse has brought about a change in Ann Arbor, as Jim Harbaugh has been brought in from the NFL to lead the Wolverines into a new era.

The Big Ten is not the only conference to step up in 2014. It just so happens that the Pac-12’s star is on the rise as well. The other conference represented in next week’s championship game, the Pac-12 had a revival of sorts in 2014. Oregon is clearly the cream of the conference crop and proved that by winning back-to-back lopsided decisions over Arizona in the Pac-12 Championship Game (51-13) and Florida State in the Rose Bowl (59-20).

With the reigning Heisman winner under center in Marcus Mariota, Oregon is favored next week against Ohio State to capture its first national title.

It didn’t come as easy as it has looked over the last couple of games, as the Pac-12 competition was tight. The Ducks were able to avenge their only loss of the season in the Pac-12 championship, but don’t forget that the Arizona Wildcats went into Eugene early on and took out Oregon on its own field (31-24).

Stanford took a step back and had a down year for sure, but Arizona State, UCLA, Utah and USC all had strong seasons as well, capped off by bowl victories.

Add the Big 12 to the mix. It wasn’t the usual teams like Oklahoma or Texas making their presence felt, but rather, Baylor and TCU that made things extremely difficult on the CFP selection committee down the stretch. In fact, there were plenty of naysayers around the country when the four spots were decided and neither the Horned Frogs nor the Bears were invited to the party.

One thing is for sure—the Big 12 is on the upswing heading into 2015

It remains to be seen if the NCAA finally got it right with the long sought-after playoff in college football. It’s hard to argue its merits after year one, though.

In the world of college football, this year’s changes have opened the door to possibilities beyond just the SEC.

In that case, change is definitely a good thing.    ~~  Scott Haynes ~~

The Gilmer Free Press

►  New Redskins GM Scot McCloughan brings new level of talent acquisition to franchise

Back when Scot McCloughan was an NFL scout, tasked with ferreting out football talent in a region of the country much like scent hounds track prey, what impressed his boss was the joy he took in the pursuit and the conviction he felt about the players he discovered.

Andrew Brandt, a former vice president of the Green Bay Packers, took a special interest in McCloughan from that point on, struck by an enthusiasm and geniality that set him apart from the rest. And he followed McCloughan’s ascent after he moved on and up through the ranks of National Football League executives, helping construct Super Bowl contending rosters at San Francisco and Seattle.

“He’s a gem in terms of finding talent,” Brandt said of McCloughan, a former scout who honed his skills at Green Bay in the late 1990s. “That’s the name of the game.”

Now 43, McCloughan is expected to be introduced this week as Washington’s general manager, accorded full responsibility for selecting the team’s players going forward.

The hiring of McCloughan, who has been hailed as a football savant for his success in divining professional potential among college prospects, will bring to the job a level of professionalism and expertise in the front office that Washington has lacked the past 15 years, nearly the full tenure of Daniel Snyder’s ownership.

It also will usher in a fundamental shift in front-office philosophy, with McCloughan hailing from a Packers management tree that believes in identifying and developing young players rather than cherry-picking established veterans on the free agent market.

As McCoughan told the Boston Globe in 2008: Free agent splashes “can look good on paper because it’s a quick fix and fans can say, ‘They’re trying to get better.’ But you can’t lose sight of the bigger picture.”

Brandt, now an NFL business analyst for ESPN, explains that bigger picture.

“Our philosophy in Green Bay was always the same: Draft and develop,” Brandt said. “Build through the draft. Trust your coaches to play young players. Avoid and eschew quick fixes. Work toward long-term success, which is the ultimate goal. I think that is what he’s going to bring to Washington.”

Long-term success has become the stuff of nostalgia for the Redskins, who have finished last in the NFC East six out of the last seven years.

Four days after the team’s final indignity under first-year Coach Jay Gruden, a 44-17 loss December 28 to the Dallas Cowboys that dropped its record to 4-12, the Redskins fired longtime defensive coordinator Jim Haslett. That afternoon, Redskins President and general manager Bruce Allen stood at a podium at the team’s headquarters in Ashburn and insisted he was capable of continuing in both roles.

The hiring of McCloughan relieves Allen of his title as general manager and all responsibility for acquiring players.

In McCloughan, Washington gets a former NFL scout, as well as the son of a veteran NFL scout, with a keen appreciation of football’s nuances in his blood. He’s a former general manager of the 49ers and former senior personnel executive for the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks.

“He has a good eye for talent,” said former San Francisco coach Mike Nolan, who hired McCloughan as the 49ers’ personnel director for both the college and pro ranks. “That’s critical. The most important job of a general manager is to be able to choose players.”

Among the standouts McCloughan is credited with signing are San Francisco running back Frank Gore, tight end Vernon Davis and linebacker Patrick Willis — all recipients of Pro Bowl honors during NFL careers that have spanned 10, nine and eight years, respectively.

At Seattle, McCloughan was the driving force behind drafting Russell Wilson, convinced the undersize quarterback had big-game potential few others saw. Wilson went on to lead Seattle to last season’s Super Bowl championship.

Former Seahawks fullback Michael Robinson, now an analyst with the NFL Network, told his hometown radio station, Richmond’s Fox Sports 910, that McCloughan also has a knack for assembling locker rooms of quality, committed players.

“He’s not just looking for your attributes on the field,” Robinson said Wednesday. “He’s looking for how can I infuse you into this locker room to make this . . . a place where it’s conducive to winning.”

McCloughan joins the Redskins’ front office after spending the past nine months running a scouting service based in his remote Washington state home. The Redskins were among the NFL teams that paid him a reported $75,000 to evaluate players they were considering signing.

Running his own scouting service had been an idea he had toyed with in the past.

McCloughan had learned football talent evaluation, more art than science, from his father, Kent, who spent more than 30 years as a scout with the Oakland and Los Angeles Raiders. Baseball was the son’s forte as an athlete, and Scot McCloughan spent three seasons in the minor leagues’ Class A after being picked by Toronto in the 10th round of the 1992 major league draft. He went to work as an NFL scout in Green Bay in 1995.

But after resigning from his second stint with the Seahawks two weeks before the 2014 NFL draft, McCloughan realized the scouting service also was his best career option.

Affable and admired in NFL circles, McCloughan spoke frankly about his periodic bouts of alcohol abuse in interviews last fall with Seth Wickersham, a writer with ESPN The Magazine. Wickersham’s profile, published last month, portrays a man who had managed to keep his longtime love of beer, shared by many scouts and coaches in the league, from interfering with his work until his marriage faltered.

McCloughan revealed in the article that he got treatment at the Betty Ford Center, which helped for a time. But after divorce proceedings were initiated, he substituted vodka for beer and ended up resigning as San Francisco’s general manager in 2010 to address what was identified as a private matter.

He was not out of work long — a tribute, friends and associates say, to the loyalty he engenders among co-workers and employers and his sought-after expertise in identifying talent.

Nolan, the former San Francisco coach who had hired him as vice president of football operations in 2005, is a case in point. After three seasons, the team’s owner stripped Nolan of his additional duties as general manager and assigned them to McCloughan. Roughly six months later, Nolan was fired, while McCloughan was retained.

Currently defensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons, Nolan doesn’t hesitate to enumerate McCloughan’s strengths, calling him “a good fit” for the Redskins.

“The number one thing someone needs to do is have the ability to pick players. Some [NFL team] buildings don’t have anyone who can do that, and Scot’s ability sets him above all the others,” said Nolan, who served as Washington’s defensive coordinator from 1997 to 1999. “Scot is a good person. He’s not an undermining kind of guy. He’s a good person, and I’m pulling for him.”

During the interview process with Washington, the Redskins had a chance to ask McCloughan about his personal demons, according to someone familiar with the process. McCloughan, in turn, had a chance to ask the Redskins about their history of front-office turnover. Washington got its man, and McCloughan came away with a four-year contract.  ~~  Liz Clarke ~~

►  Peyton Manning to blame for Broncos recent red-zone issues

The Denver Broncos take on the Indianapolis Colts in what will certainly be billed as two of the NFL’s best quarterbacks squaring off for the right to advance to the AFC title game. However, Peyton Manning appears to have been taken off his red-zone game ever since the win against the Miami Dolphins in Week 12.

Peyton Manning in the red zone: Weeks 1-12: 78% completion (1st), 97 Total QBR (1st) Weeks 13-17: 39% completion (30th); 18 Total QBR (22nd)

That downturn has dropped the Broncos from having the second-highest red zone efficiency in Weeks 1-12 (74%) to 24th over the season’s final five weeks (44%). And the answer to why lies somewhere in the passes from Manning to Demaryius Thomas.

Thomas was targeted 23 times in the red zone over Weeks 1 to 12 and caught 17 of those passes. Six of them for touchdowns.

But from Week 13 to 17, he made just one catch 16 targets.

So who is at fault? Manning is. Of the 15 passes that weren’t caught:

  •  Ten were either poor throws, forced into double coverage or out of bounds
  •  Two were well defended one-on-one
  •  One was a bad throw
  •  One was intercepted
  •  One was dropped

Having a healthy Julius Thomas, one of the Broncos best scoring threats when healthy, would certainly help.

            Over the first eight games, the Broncos scored 31 touchdowns compared to just 24 touchdowns over the final eight games. Of those scores, only 25.8% of them came on third or fourth down in the first half, but 42.3% of them came on late downs in the second half of the season.

            Not only did the Broncos not score as many touchdowns, but they also needed to execute on the later downs to do it. A key stop here and there can swing a game, and it was easier to stop the Broncos in the second half despite similar total point outputs.

              Of Thomas’ 12 touchdowns, 10 came in the first half and all 12 before he hurt his ankle against the St. Louis Rams in Week 11. Thomas had 54 targets before he was injured and just eight since. Thomas turned his eight targets into three receptions for 63 yards, so he’s still proving capable of making big plays even while hurt.

“We’ve tried to find different ways to win football games, and hopefully that prepares us well when we get into these playoff games and anything can go on,” Manning said. “You never know what it’s going to be, and [I] think we’ve proven we can win games different ways. Hopefully that serves us well potentially on Sunday.”

One of those ways will have to be to find another red-zone target that isn’t Demaryius Thomas.

►  Panthers lose Lotulelei to broken foot

Carolina Panthers defensive tackle Star Lotulelei will miss Saturday’s NFC playoff game against Seattle because of a broken bone in his foot.

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Wednesday that Lotulelei was hurt during practice Tuesday when he stepped on another player’s foot. He underwent surgery Wednesday morning.

Lotulelei, in his second NFL season, notched 25 tackles and two sacks in 14 regular-season games.

►  Bears CB Jennings arrested

Chicago Bears cornerback Tim Jennings was arrested Wednesday by the Gwinnett County police in Georgia on charges of speeding, reckless driving and driving under the influence of alcohol.

“We are aware of the reports regarding Tim Jennings’ arrest. We are currently gathering information to learn more about the circumstances surrounding the situation,“ the Bears said in a statement.

According to Gwinnett County Detention Center records, Jennings was released at 3:41 PM ET and the three charges held a bond total of $2,711.

The 31-year-old Jennings, who played collegiately at Georgia, had a disappointing 2014 season in which he went without an interception. He registered 50 tackles in 16 starts with seven pass breakups and one forced fumble.

►  Former Cowboys DL Pugh dies

Jethro Pugh, a defensive lineman on two Dallas Cowboys Super Bowl champion teams in the 1970s, died Wednesday at the age of 70.

The Cowboys released a statement confirming Pugh’s passing, which the team said was from natural causes.

Pugh spent his entire 14-year NFL career with Dallas after joining the Cowboys as an 11th-round draft choice in 1965. The North Carolina native played in 183 regular-season games and recorded 95 1/2 sacks, the sixth-highest total in franchise history.

“This is a sad day for Cowboys fans, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Jethro’s family,“ Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said in a statement. “He was loved and appreciated by his teammates and Cowboys fans for decades, and his spirit will be felt when our team travels to Green Bay this weekend.“

Pugh was a part of the Cowboys’ first two Super Bowl victories (VI, XII) as well as five NFC championships, playing in a total of 23 postseason games during his tenure with the organization.

►  Falcons adjust front office

A week after firing coach Mike Smith, the Atlanta Falcons announced more changes.

Atlanta’s general manager Thomas Dimitroff, reportedly on the hot seat after the team failed to make the postseason in consecutive years, will remain on the job, managing the salary cap, player affairs, equipment, sports medicine and performance, and video activities.

Assistant general manager Scott Pioli, who was hired last February, will now be in charge of pro and college scouting, including the NFL draft. Pioli will still report to Dimitroff.

“After reviewing all of our options—internally and externally—I have no reservations that this is the best approach to setting up our player personnel groups for future success,“ said Falcons owner and chairman Arthur Blank. “It maximizes the talents of Scott, allows for more time and focus on all areas of our football operations groups managed by Thomas, and is in line with other player personnel groups in the league.

“While this decision was not tied to the head coach search currently underway, we also believe that independent thinking and collaboration will contribute to taking us to the next level in our league. Therefore, our new head coach and Thomas will report separately to me.“

Dimitroff was hired prior to the 2008 season along with the now-departed Smith. In his tenure, the Falcons drafted players including quarterback Matt Ryan, wide receiver Julio Jones and safety William Moore. Atlanta has reached the playoffs four times under Dimitroff.

►  NFL Play offs Game Results

The Gilmer Free Press

►  So much talent but only pick one

There is a smorgasbord of talent available for fantasy owners this weekend.

With the return from their first-round bye, the four best teams in the NFL Seattle, Green Bay, New England and Denver will see action Saturday and Sunday and they bring with them the talents that won them the elite top-two spots in their conferences.

The situation is particularly difficult for fantasy owners at quarterback. All eight quarterbacks on display this weekend are extremely talented and capable of posting a big fantasy total.

We will analyze this decision based on three criteria; past playoff performance, expected weather and the defense on the other side of the ball.

Who to choose? Who to choose?

The obvious choice would seem to be between the two signal-callers who scored the most points in fantasy football this season (Aaron Rodgers edged out Andrew Luck for the top spot 342-336). But with Rodgers limping and Luck’s mediocre career record on the road in two playoff games, fantasy owners may want to continue looking at all the other options.

Below is an analysis of all eight quarterbacks.

Aaron Rodgers - Rodgers has actually been a better playoff road warrior than at Lambeau Field. On the “frozen tundra” he’s won one of three games while averaging just 238 ypg in the air. That’s in stark contrast to his 2014 regular season record at home where he threw for 291.8 ypg and 25 touchdowns without an interception in eight Green Bay victories.

The game-time weather will certainly be very cold, as one would expect from Green Bay in January, but at least it appears it will be dry and without much wind. And the Dallas defense is very “giving” having yielded 4,031 passing yards during the regular season (26th best). That’s good news because fantasy owners already have enough to be concerned about in Rodgers’ leg. He’s certainly a possible option.

Andrew Luck - Luck is a career 58.6% passer, but in two road playoff games he is a 50.5% passer with a 2:5 TD-to-interception ratio. The weather in Denver appears to be the best of any of the four venues (44 degrees, no precipitation, negligible wind). The real problem with choosing Luck is the fierce pass rush he’ll face led by DeMarcus Ware and Von Miller and the high quality secondary with Aqib Talib and Chris Harris at the corners. So keep searching.

Peyton Manning - It’s a tough thing to say - don’t pick Manning, but that’s what you are about to hear. Manning hasn’t been the same guy that we saw break records in 2013. For one thing, the offensive line hasn’t been as secure and Manning has felt opposing pass rush pressure. And while Emmanuel Sanders has successfully replaced Eric Decker, Wes Welker has not played well and Julius Thomas (ankle) has spent the second half of the season as a shell of himself. The Broncos have been featuring the running game down the stretch and for those reasons we will say - “don’t pick Manning this weekend.“

Tony Romo - Romo has probably been the hottest quarterback over the past month. He has played five playoff games, and while last weekend’s performance was the best of his career, from a fantasy standpoint it still wasn’t great. Romo has yet to pass for more than 293 yards in any playoff game and averages 225 ypg and 1.2 TD passes. That just won’t get it done.

Tom Brady - The Patriots’ signal-caller is a career 18-8 including 12-3 at home with 27 TDs, 14 INTs and averaging 246 ypg. Unfortunately, two of those three home playoff losses were to the Ravens, including last season. The weather in Gillette Stadium on Saturday is expected to be a Green Bay-like 15 degrees, but at least it won’t be windy. Keep Brady in the running.

Cam Newton - The 25-year-old has only played two NFL playoff games and has yet to post anything exciting in either one. He won last weekend, but didn’t even reach the 200-yard passing mark. And he’ll face the best pass defense in the league in the Seahawks. Scratch Newton.

Russell Wilson - Wilson is a career 4-1 with six touchdown passes against just one interception, averaging 219.2 ypg in the air in the postseason. He’s also a running threat averaging another 33 yards on the ground and scoring once. Those rushing yards are the equivalent to more than 75 yards passing. But his playoff numbers are skewed by a 385-yard game against Atlanta in 2013. The weather in Seattle is expected to be nice, 47 degrees and overcast, so should not be a factor. The Panthers’ defense has played well this season despite all the changes to their lineup, but Wilson is still an option.

Joe Flacco - Flacco is a career 10-4 in the playoffs and a stunning 8-4 on the road in the postseason. He’s thrown 21 touchdowns against just eight interceptions. In his early years, Flacco was used as a “game manager,“ but that hasn’t been the case over his past two playoff seasons. In his last five playoff starts, Flacco is averaging 279.8 ypg with 13 touchdowns and zero interceptions. Bingo!

The weather in New England won’t exactly be like a day on the beach in Maui, but it shouldn’t prevent Flacco from continuing to produce. The numbers don’t lie and our surprise fantasy selection at quarterback for this weekend is the Baltimore Ravens signal-caller.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 08)

Braxton County 69     Clay County 66

Calhoun County 60     Roane County 51

Parkersburg 58     St. Albans 55

Wood County Christian 81     Grace Christian 64

Postponements and Cancellations:

Gilmer County vs. Doddridge County

Lewis County vs. Robert C. Byrd

Grafton vs. Bridgeport

Liberty (Harrison) vs. Buckhannon-Upshur

Lincoln vs. East Fairmont

North Marion vs. Philip Barbour

Parkersburg Catholic vs. Tyler Consolidated

Parkersburg South vs. Morgantown

Tygarts Valley vs. South Harrison

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 08)

#4 Williamstown 50     Ritchie County 40

Belpre, Ohio 80     Wood County Christian 56

The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 08)

#1 West Liberty 102, Shepherd 83 | Final Stats

Seger Bonifant, the nation’s leading scorer, added 34 more to lead top-ranked West Liberty to a 102-83 win over Shepherd.

The win improved West Liberty’s record to 12-0 overall and 7-0 in the MEC. Shepherd fell to 9-4 overall and 4-3 in conference play.

Bonifant hit 10 three-pointers in the game and added seven rebounds. Devin Hoehn scored 14 and dished out seven assists, and Zac Grossenbacher had 10 points and eight rebounds. West Liberty shot 55% from the field and had assists on 23 of its 36 baskets.

Shepherd was paced by 20 points from Steffen Davis and Skyler Roman added 16.

Fairmont State 75, Wheeling Jesuit 69 | Final Stats

Fairmont State trailed by as many as 18 points in the first half, but rallied to pick up a 75-69 win over Wheeling Jesuit. 

Trailing 43-34 at halftime, Fairmont State started the second half on a 17-3 run over the first six minutes. Jamel Morris keyed the run with 12 of FSU’s 17 points during that span. 

Morris finished with 33 points on 11-of-22 shooting, including 6-of-10 from behind the arc, to lead Fairmont State (8-5, 5-2). Nick Harney added 19 points and nine rebounds. 

Justin Fritts scored 17 points and had four assists for the Cardinals (6-5, 2-4). Eric Siefert had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Cardinals were plagued by 20 turnovers in the game. 

Charleston 70, Concord 65 | Final Stats

Charleston withstood a late Concord rally and hung on to defeat the Mountain Lions, 70-65.

UC’s lead swelled to 10 with just over four minutes to play, but Concord came up with the next nine points to make it a 66-65 game with 1:03 left. Concord got the miss it was looking for, but Tino DiTrapano pulled down the offensive rebound and was then sent to the line where he made both free throws. CU turned the ball over on its next possession and Chris Evans sealed the game with two more free throws.

Aleksander Kesic led Charleston (9-4, 4-3) with 18 points, including 5-of-9 shooting from behind the arc. Cameron Dozier scored 14, Evans finished with 12 and Jevonte Hughes had a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. The Golden Eagles finished with 13 three-pointers in the game.

Concord (7-5, 3-4) was led by 15 points and eight rebounds from B.J. Hamlet. Rob Reed added 12 for the Mountain Lions. 

Glenville State 89, Urbana 78 | Final Stats

Glenville State erased a halftime deficit by shooting 60% form the field in the second half to pick up its seventh-straight win, 89-78, over Urbana.

The Pioneers (11-2, 7-0) trailed 40-37 at the break, but went on a 17-6 run in the first 6:30 of the second half to seize control of the game. GSC finished the game shooting 50% from the field. Urbana out-rebounded GSC 50-33 and had a 23-7 edge in second chance points, but shot 36% from the field.

All five starters reached double figures for Glenville State led by 19 from Donte Morales. Luke Campbell had 15, Sedric Nady had 14, Brett Morris finished with 13 and Reggie Williams netted 12. 

Mike Newton led Urbana (4-9, 1-6) with 22 points. Matt Csuhran and Christopher Cromity each scored 10.

West Virginia State 90, UVa-Wise 77 | Final Stats

West Virginia State snapped a seven-game losing streak by handling UVa-Wise, 90-77.

WVSU (2-12, 2-4) got 21 points and 12 rebounds from Damion Harris and 20 points from Markee Mazyck. Dominic Phillips came off the bench to add 11. The Yellow Jackets dominated the glass, 49-34.

Philip Owens II scored a game-high 33 points for UVa-Wise (1-11, 0-7). Oliver Thompson scored 18 and Brian Sydnor contributed 11 points and nine rebounds. 

West Virginia Wesleyan 80, Notre Dame College 64 | Final Stats

West Virginia Wesleyan picked up its second-straight win after stifling Notre Dame, 80-64.

West Virginia Wesleyan improved to 5-8 overall and 3-4 in conference play. Notre Dame slipped to 7-6 overall and 3-4 in the MEC.

Tanner McGrew had his league-best sixth double-double of the year in the victory.

►  MEC Women’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 08)

West Liberty 90, Shepherd 87 | Final Stats

West Liberty forged into a tie atop the Mountain East Conference standings with a 90-87 win over Shepherd. 

West Liberty and Shepherd now have identical 9-4 records and are both 6-1 in conference play.

Kailee Howe led the way for the ‘Toppers with 30 points to go with seven assists and four rebounds. Her jumper with :43 left gave WLU the lead for good. Liz Flowers scored 18 points and Kierra Simpson had 16 points and 10 rebounds before fouling out. 

Morgan Arden came off the bench to lead the Rams with 20 points. Liz Myers had 15 points and nine rebounds, and Rachel Johnson and Gabby Flinchum each had 13. 

Shepherd had the edge in field goal percentage, 49-43, but West Liberty compensated by making 15-of-21 free throws compared to just 8-of-15 for the Rams.

Fairmont State 87, Wheeling Jesuit 79 | Final Stats

Fairmont State used a 14-4 run over three minutes late in the second half to pull away from Wheeling Jesuit, 87-79.

The Falcons (11-2, 5-2) were led by 22 points apiece from Emily Lohr and Emily Puskarich. Hallie Gunnoe scored 18 and Hailey Garrett had 14 points and nine rebounds. The Falcons were 26-of-29 from the free throw line in the victory. 

Jaila Bryant and Taylor Lubinsky each scored 17 for the Cardinal (6-4, 3-3). Mariah Callen came off the bench and added 16.

Charleston 61, Concord 46 | Final Stats

Charleston’s Nichole Perry scored her 1,000th career point as the Golden Eagles cruised to a 61-46 win over Concord.

Perry finished with 10 points for UC (10-3, 5-2). Monet Saunders led the squad with 14 points and Marissa Koob had 11. Kiara Johnson pulled down a game-high 15 rebounds.

Rachel Artrip led Concord (3-7, 3-4) with 13 points. Jacqueline Kestner added 10 points. 

Glenville State 97, Urbana 64 | Final Stats

Glenville State snapped a two-game losing streak with a 97-64 home victory over Urbana. 

The Pioneers (4-6, 3-4) had four players in double figures led by 20 points from Keyanna Tate. Paige Tuttle had 15, while Julie Bishop and Kayla Tibbs added 14. The Pioneers forced 21 turnovers and drained 17 three-pointers in the game.

Jeni Jordan led Urbana (1-12, 1-6) with 15 points and seven rebounds. Katy Barkley had 12 and Kate Francisco, Tori Purk and Megan Hatfield each scored 10.

UVa-Wise 71, West Virginia State 58 | Final Stats

UVa-Wise broke a 44-44 tie with 10:56 left by scoring 22 of the game’s next 30 points and closing out West Virginia State, 71-58.

The Cavs (5-8, 4-3) started in a 9-0 hole, but roared back and took a 10-point halftime lead, 35-25. The game stayed close in the second half until the Cavs hit four three-pointers to key the critical 22-8 run. 

Kayla Carey led the way for UVa-Wise with 14 points and 13 rebounds. Blair Harding added 11 points, and Katie Jo Dockery and Megan Smith contributed 10. 

West Virginia State (4-7, 2-4) was paced by Trina Current’s 13 points. Deyahnna Styles had 12 points to go with six rebounds and five assists. Alexus Hobbs contributed 11 and Shealyn Shafer netted 10.  

Notre Dame 73 West Virginia Wesleyan 56 | Final Stats

Notre Dame shot 50% from the field to snap a four-game conference losing streak with a 73-56 triumph over West Virginia Wesleyan. 

Kelsey Miller and Jessica Garcia led NDC (7-6, 3-4) with 13 points apiece. Lauren Langenderfer contributed 11 points, seven assists and five rebounds in the victory. 

Mari Stewart led all players with 16 points for the Bobcats (0-10, 0-6). Adrian Cunningham scored 15 points and Alexa Mortenson had 11

The Gilmer Free Press

►  No. 3 Texas too much for West Virginia women

After facing the depth of No. 3 Texas first-hand, West Virginia coach Mike Carey was reminded of the team he had last year. The one that earned a share of the Big 12 championship.

This season, it could be the Longhorns’ turn.

Nneka Enemkpali had 11 points and 12 rebounds as Texas stayed unbeaten with a 61-55 win at the Erwin Center on Wednesday night.

The Mountaineers (10-4, 0-2 Big 12), who trailed by 14 in the first half, climbed within four with 7:09 left in the game as Bria Holmes hit a jumper for two of her game-high 22 points. However, back-to-back layups stretched the lead to eight for Texas (13-0, 2-0 Big 12).

“That’s the defending Big 12 champion over there. We knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said Texas coach Karen Aston.

Neither team did much from deep: West Virginia made just 3-of-19 from 3-point range and Texas only 2-of-9.

The Longhorns led 38-33 in rebounding, including a 24-9 edge in the first half.

“We lost five seniors. The same team is not walking through the locker room,” said West Virginia coach Mike Carey said. “Texas has the numbers I could play last year, 10 or 11. This year I can play about six.

“We got tired. We don’t have substitutions. It’s going to be the same thing all year.”

Point guard Linda Stepney was held to one point on 0-of-5 shooting for West Virginia, which finished the game 34.5% from the field. Texas made 46.2%.

Averee Fields scored 12 points on 6-of-10 shooting while freshman Teana Muldrow added 10 points.

The Mountaineers slipped to 0-3 in Austin.

“I thought both teams played extremely hard,” said Carey. “Both teams battled. I told the team after the game, that even after 10 wins, we’ve played with more emotion than we have played with all year. That was good to see.”

With her bucket at the 14:50 mark in the second half, Holmes became the 31st WVU player to reach 1,000 points.

“I feel like my team never gave up and we fought all the way to the end,” she said.

Carey described Holmes as “a great player.” “We knew she was going to be a 1,000/2,000-point scorer coming in here because that’s the type of player she was coming out of high school. I am proud of her.”

WVU hosts No. 5 Baylor on Saturday at 3 PM.

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Thursday, January 08)

Final Score: (6) Gonzaga 88, San Francisco 57

Kevin Pangos had 17 points and five assists and No. 6 Gonzaga cruised to an 88-57 win over San Francisco on Thursday night. Przemek Karnowski netted 16 points and Kyle Wiltjer added 15 points and five rebounds for the Bulldogs (15-1, 4-0 WCC), who have won eight straight games since their lone loss at Arizona on December 6. Kruize Pinkins led the Dons (7-10, 1-4) with 20 points.

Final Score: (7) Arizona 80, Oregon 62

T.J. McConnell came out uncharacteristically aggressive and it paid off, as the redshirt senior scored 21 points to lead No. 7 Arizona in a 80-62 win over Oregon. McConnell, who transferred from Duquesne after two seasons with the Dukes, had never scored more than 19 points in an Arizona uniform. All five starters reached double figures for the Wildcats (14-1, Pac-12), who snapped Oregon’s six-game win streak with a result that was never really in doubt. Stanley Johnson had 14 points and seven rebounds, Rondae Hollis-Jefferson gave 13 with nine boards and Kaleb Tarczewski posted his first double-double of the season after totaling 11 points and 10 rebounds. Joseph Young scored 12 points on 4-of-15 shooting to lead Oregon (11-4, 1-1).

Final Score: (25) Old Dominion 72, Marshall 51

Jonathan Arledge had 13 points to help 25th-ranked Old Dominion extend its best-ever start as a Division I program with an easy 72-51 victory over Marshall in a Conference USA clash. Trey Freeman and Jordan Baker chipped in 11 points each in the Monarchs’ 10th straight win. Freeman added eight rebounds for ODU (13-1, 2-0 C-USA), playing for the first time in school history as a team ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. Marshall (4-11, 0-2), which had dropped 11 of 12 since a 3-0 start, was paced by Austin Loop’s 15 points. Ryan Taylor and Jay Johnson each finished with 13 for the Thundering Herd, but Taylor was charged with eight of Marshall’s 22 turnovers.

►  No. 25 Old Dominion vs. Marshall

The 25th-ranked Old Dominion Monarchs moved into the nation’s top 25 for the first time in program history, and will do everything they can to remain there as they face the Marshall Thundering Herd in a Conference USA matchup at Cam Henderson Center.

Old Dominion enters this game with a 12-1 record on the season, and is searching for its 10th consecutive victory. The only loss the Monarchs suffered was back in November to Illinois State, 64-45. ODU took down Charlotte, 61-54, on Sunday before earning its spot in the Top-25.

Marshall, on the other hand, is off to a rough start to the 2014-15 season. The Herd have dropped four consecutive games, and have lost 10 of their last 11 altogether. Marshall is coming off an 81-62 demolition at the hands of Western Kentucky, which dropped the team to 4-10 on the season and 0-1 in conference play.

Old Dominion and Marshall, two relatively new conference rivals, have met 10 times on the floor before in their series history. The Monarchs own a 6-4 all- time mark over the Herd, which includes a season sweep by ODU in 2013-14.

A strong first half lifted Old Dominion to a 29-18 lead over Charlotte at halftime, which provided the Monarchs with enough of a cushion to simply coast the rest of the way through the contest. ODU connected on 50% of its first-half shots, and ended the game shooting 42.9% from the floor. Trey Freeman netted 14 points to pace Old Dominion, adding in six assists with five turnovers. Richard Ross scored 12 points with six rebounds, and Aaron Bacote added 10 points. Jonathan Arledge chipped in with nine points and seven boards for ODU.

Old Dominion isn’t the most explosive team offensively, as the Monarchs enter Thursday’s matchup scoring 66.3 ppg on the season, connecting on 42.3% of its field goal tries from the floor. It’s a middle-of-the-road scoring average in terms of Conference USA rankings, but the team’s scoring defense (55.1 ppg allowed) is by far the best in the conference this season. Freeman is the only Monarchs player to average a double-digit scoring total coming into Thursday, with 16.4 ppg and a team-best 45 assists. ODU is 2-0 on the road so far, and is 2-1 in neutral-site games.

Once again, it was just not Marshall’s night, this time versus Western Kentucky. The Thundering Herd connected on a mere 33.3% shooting from the field (25.8% in the second half), and shot 5-of-23 from beyond the 3-point arc as the Hilltoppers ran to an 81-62 victory. Ryan Taylor once again led Marshall in scoring, netting 15 points with six rebounds (10 of his points came from the free-throw line). Aleksa Nikolic and Austin Loop each had 10 points, while Nikolic grabbed a team-high eight boards in the defeat.

Marshall’s offense hasn’t been all that bad in 2014-15, although the Thundering Herd are tied for last in the Conference USA standings in field goal percentage (38.7% from the floor). The Herd are averaging a pedestrian 67.4 ppg this season. It’s the scoring defense that hasn’t been able to keep up (70.9 ppg allowed to opponents). Taylor owns team leads in scoring (14.1 ppg) and rebounding (8.3 rpg), and is second in passing (42 assists). Loop is the only other active Marshall player with a double-digit scoring average (10.3 ppg). The Herd could really use Shawn Smith back, who has been out for awhile with a shoulder injury.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Thursday, January 08)

Final Score: Charlotte 103, Toronto 95

Gerald Henderson netted 20 of his 31 points in the second half, Kemba Walker added 29 and the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Toronto Raptors 103-95 on Thursday night. Marvin Williams posted 13 points and nine rebounds, while Michael Kidd-Gilchrist provided 10 points and 12 boards for the Hornets, who have won four straight games. Kyle Lowry recorded 24 points, seven rebounds and seven assists to lead Toronto, which has dropped four straight on the heels of an 8-1 stretch.

Final Score: Houston 120, New York 96

Another home game at Madison Square Garden, another embarrassing loss for the Knicks. James Harden totaled 25 points and nine assists and the Houston Rockets routed New York, 120-96, on Thursday. All five starters reached double figures for Houston, which has dominated the Knicks in recent years. The Rockets have won 11 straight against New York and are 19-1 in the last 20 meetings. Dwight Howard posted his fourth straight double-double with 13 points and 10 boards. Trevor Ariza scored 18 points, Donatas Motiejunas had 17 with seven rebounds and four steals and Patrick Beverley added 14 points on 4-of-6 shooting from behind the arc. Travis Wear scored 21 points and Langston Galloway, in his first home game since being signed to a 10-day contract from New York’s D-League affiliate, netted 19. Cleanthony Early gave 16 points. New York’s starters did not attempt a free throw, and none of the five reached double digits. The Knicks extended the worst home losing streak in franchise history to 11 games.

Final Score: Portland 99, Miami 83

LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points and 12 rebounds as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Miami Heat 99-83 on Thursday night. Wesley Matthews netted 18 points and Damian Lillard added 16 for the Blazers, who have won six of their last seven games. Dwyane Wade tallied 23 points and seven rebounds, while Chris Bosh provided 18 points, five boards and five assists for Miami, which has dropped five of its last six contests.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Thursday, January 08)

Final Score: Boston 3, New Jersey 0

Milan Lucic potted a pair of goals in support of a lightly tested Niklas Svedberg in the Boston Bruins’ 3-0 victory over the New Jersey Devils. Boston’s second win in as many nights came even easier than the final score indicated, as the Bruins put up 43 shots to New Jersey’s 14 to make Svedberg’s second career shutout a relatively stress-free one. Carl Soderberg added a goal to help Boston record a point for a seventh consecutive home game (4-0-3). After putting up nine goals in back-to-back wins over Philadelphia and Buffalo coming in, the Devils generated little offense on this night. Cory Schneider managed to keep New Jersey in it most of the way by stopping an outstanding 40-of-42 attempts.

Final Score: Philadelphia 3, Washington 2 (OT)

Jakub Voracek’s game-winning goal occurred on the power play just 1:28 into overtime, as Philadelphia claimed a 3-2 victory over Washington on Thursday. Matt Niskanen was sent off for hooking 71 seconds into the extra session and it didn’t take long for the hosts to capitalize. Claude Giroux drew the primary assist, as he held the puck in the left circle until Voracek moved into position and uncorked a shot which was slowed by the stick of Caps forward Nicklas Backstrom before sliding underneath Braden Holtby. Sean Couturier and R.J. Umberger also tallied for the Flyers, who have won the first two in a four-game homestand. Matt Read and Nick Schultz each had a pair of assists to aid Steve Mason’s 26-save effort. Mason won back-to-back starts for the first time since early November. Alex Ovechkin and Karl Alzner scored for the Capitals, who were coming off a 6-2 win in Toronto on Wednesday. Holtby ended up with 30 saves in defeat.

Final Score: Carolina 5, Buffalo 2

After having scored more than two goals only once in their last 18 games, the Carolina Hurricanes scored three in less than 1 1/2 minutes en route to a 5-2 win over the Buffalo Sabres. Jiri Tlusty put Carolina up 2-1 on a 5-on-3 marker at the 13:50 mark of the second period. Less than a minute later, Eric Staal was credited with a wrap- around goal, and Victor Rask followed that up with a goal on a deflection 26 seconds later. Jeff Skinner and Riley Nash also scored for the Hurricanes, while Ryan Murphy and Justin Faulk each had two assists. Cam Ward stopped 18-of-20 shots to help Carolina win its third straight home game. Both Sabres goals were scored by Philip Varone, who entered the contest with one goal in 10 NHL games. Chris Stewart assisted on both tallies. Jhonas Enroth allowed all five Hurricanes goals on 31 shots as Buffalo fell for the 10th time in its last 11 games.

Final Score: St. Louis 7, San Jose 2

Brian Elliott stopped 24 shots and seven different St. Louis players recorded a goal in the Blues’ 7-2 rout of the San Jose Sharks at Scottrade Center. Alex Steen, Jay Bouwmeester, Paul Stastny, Jori Lehtera, T.J. Oshie, Patrik Berglund and David Backes all lit the lamp for the Blues, who have won three in a row and tied a season high for offensive output set in an identical 7-2 victory at San Jose five days ago. Logan Couture and Melker Karlsson scored for the Sharks, who have dropped five of their last eight contests. Antti Niemi was pulled after giving up five goals on 21 shots in 33-plus minutes. Alex Stalock finished up and yielded the other two St. Louis scores.

Final Score: Nashville 3, Dallas 2 (OT)

Shea Weber had two goals, including the game winner 17 seconds into overtime, as the Nashville Predators topped the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Thursday. After Nashville forced a turnover in the offensive zone, Weber’s shot from the right circle bounced off the shoulder of Kari Lehtonen and fluttered over the goal line to end the game. Mikka Salomaki scored in his first NHL game, Roman Josi supplied two assists and Pekka Rinne made 18 saves for the Predators, who moved into a tie with the idle Anaheim Ducks for league’s top spot with 58 points. Jason Spezza and Trevor Daley for the Stars, who have lost three straight games. Lehtonen allowed all three goals on 21 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Chicago 4, Minnesota 2

Under siege for much of the last two periods, Corey Crawford made 42 saves to lead the Chicago Blackhawks to a 4-2 win over the Minnesota Wild. Minnesota outshot Chicago 37-10 after the first period, but Crawford was up to the task by stopping 35 of them to help the Blackhawks win for the second time in three games. Chicago got a pair of goals from Bryan Bickell in the third period to pull away. Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane also scored for the Blackhawks. Jason Zucker and Jason Pominville scored the Minnesota goals, with Niklas Backstrom making 16 saves on 16 shots. Minnesota was without forward Zach Parise due to the death of his father, J.P., on Wednesday. The elder Parise was a long-time NHL player himself and played nine seasons for the Minnesota North Stars.

Final Score: Colorado 5, Ottawa 2

Jarome Iginla led a Colorado scoring blitz with a pair of goals as the surging Avalanche delivered a 5-2 victory over the Ottawa Senators at Pepsi Center. Iginla’s big night was aided by markers from Brad Stuart, Erik Johnson and Daniel Briere, as well as another tremendous performance from Semyon Varlamov, in Colorado’s fourth win in five games. Coming off a spectacular 54-save effort in Tuesday’s shutout of Chicago, Varlamov was busy again in turning aside 36-of-38 Ottawa shots. Craig Anderson didn’t come close to matching Varlamov’s level of play, allowing three goals on just nine chances before being pulled for Robin Lehner just past the midway mark of the second period. Mark Stone and Bobby Ryan had the Ottawa goals in the Senators’ third straight loss.

Final Score: Arizona 4, Winnipeg 1

Mikkel Boedker’s three-point night lifted the Arizona Coyotes to a 4-1 win over the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. Boedker finished with two goals and an assist, Shane Doan tallied a goal and two helpers and Oliver Ekman-Larsson also lit the lamp for the Coyotes, who bounced back from a 6-0 loss to the Blues on Tuesday. Mike Smith was stellar in between the pipes, stopping 34-of-35 shots to earn just his second win since December 1. Mathieu Perreault supplied Winnipeg’s lone goal and Ondrej Pavelec gave up all four goals on 30 shots.

Final Score: Florida 3, Vancouver 1

Roberto Luongo was victorious in his return to Vancouver as he turned aside 32 shots to help the Florida Panthers to a 3-1 victory over the Canucks on Thursday. The veteran netminder, who set franchise records with 252 wins and 38 shutouts over eight seasons with the Canucks, tied Sabres great Dominik Hasek for 11th on the NHL’s all-time win list with 389. Jonathan Huberdeau posted two goals and an assist and Aleksander Barkov scored for the Panthers, who rebounded from a 4-3 loss to Washington on Sunday. Daniel Sedin lit the lamp and Ryan Miller allowed all three goals on 30 shots for the Canucks, who won their previous two games.

Final Score: NY Rangers 4, Los Angeles 3

Cam Talbot made 28 saves and the surging New York Rangers went into Staples Center and beat the Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in a rematch of last year’s Stanley Cup Finals. The Kings led 2-0 early on a pair of first-period goals, but New York scored four straight to claim control. Justin Williams’ second goal of the game with 4:03 remaining made it a one-goal game and LA went on a power play following Rick Nash’s tripping penalty with 36 seconds left, but Talbot turned aside the only shot he saw before the final horn sounded. Dan Boyle, Kevin Klein, Lee Stempniak and Martin St. Louis lit the lamp for New York, winners in four straight and 12 of its last 13 games. The Kings, meanwhile, are trending the opposite direction having lost four of five. Williams scored twice and Tanner Pearson found the back of the net while Jonathan Quick was responsible for all four goals on 26 shots.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Basketball Association
Boston at Indiana, 7:00 PM - CSN-New England, FS-Indiana, DSS
Philadelphia at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, YES, DSS
Atlanta at Detroit, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Detroit, DSS
Memphis at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-New Orleans, DSS
Chicago at Washington, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC, ESPN
Utah at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, FS-Oklahoma, DSS
Minnesota at Milwaukee, 8:30 PM - FS-North, Wisconsin, DSS
Phoenix at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - FS-Arizona, Southwest, DSS
Denver at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - Altitude, CSN-California, DSS
Orlando at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - FS-Florida, Time Warner, DSS
Cleveland at Golden State, 10:30 PM - FS-Ohio, CSN-Bay, ESPN
National Hockey League
NY Islanders at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - MSG+, MSG, DSS
Columbus at Toronto, 7:30 PM - FS-Ohio, TSN4, DSS
Buffalo at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - MSG-Buffalo, SunSports, DSS
Florida at Calgary, 9:00 PM - FS-Florida, SNET-1, DSS
Chicago at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - CSN-Chicago, SNET-West, DSS
College Basketball
Quinnipiac at Monmouth, 7:00 PM -
Akron at Toledo, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Green Bay at Milwaukee, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Xavier at Seton Hall, 7:00 PM - Pirate Sports Network
DePaul at Marquette, 7:00 PM - Big East Digital Network
Butler at St. John’s, 8:00 PM - FS1
California at Washington State, 8:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
UCLA at Utah, 8:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Oregon at Oregon State, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Stanford at Washington, 10:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
College Hockey
Minnesota at Michigan, 6:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Ohio State at Penn State, 7:00 PM - American Sports Network
Dartmouth at New Hampshire, 7:30 PM - NBCSN
Notre Dame at Western Michigan, 7:30 PM - CBSSN
Miami-Ohio at St. Cloud State, 8:30 PM - FSN
International Soccer
Montpellier vs. Olympique de Marseille, 2:25 PM - beIN Sport
EUROPEAN - South African Open, 7:30 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Tournament of Champions, 4:30 PM - Golf Channel
Brisbane, 5:30 AM - Tennis Channel
Qatar Open, 7:30 AM - beIN Sport
Qatar Open, 11:00 AM - beIN Sport

Sports News   150107

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bruce Tall, Former Rich Rod assistant reportedly returning to WVU defense

Bruce Tall, the former West Virginia assistant who served as defensive coordinator at UNC Charlotte the past four seasons, reportedly has agreed to return to the Mountaineers. reported the hire, which likely means a current West Virginia assistant won’t be returning. Cornerbacks coach Brian Mitchell and special teams/safeties coach Joe DeForest are the only two with expiring contracts.

Tall has history with Mountaineers defensive coordinator Tony Gibson. He coached safeties at West Virginia from 2003-2007 and joined the Rich Rodriguez staff at Michigan for three seasons, where he coached defensive line. Tall is expected to work with the line at WVU, a unit that Tom Bradley and Damon Cogdell coached this season.

Tall’s addition could allow Bradley to refocus on the linebackers, the primary position where he made his name as a longtime coach at Penn State.

Before Bradley’s surprising hire last February, Tall was a candidate to rejoin the West Virginia staff. A year later, that move has come to fruition.

West Virginia continues to search for an offensive coordinator as well, following the departure of Shannon Dawson to Kentucky.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Heupel out: Stoops fires offensive coordinators

Oklahoma head football coach Bob Stoops fired co-offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell on Tuesday.

Stoops also announced that defensive line coach Jerry Montgomery will take on additional responsibilities as co-defensive coordinator along with Mike Stoops.

Heupel has served as co-offensive coordinator for the Sooners since 2011, having served on Stoops’ staff since 2005.

He played for Stoops at Oklahoma and was the Heisman Trophy runner-up and Walter Camp Award winner in 2000. He recorded a 20-5 record and 7,456 passing yards and 53 TDs during his time under center for the Sooners.

The Oklahoma offense put up solid numbers this year, averaging 36.4 points and 464.7 yards, but the team faltered to an 8-5 mark and lost to Clemson 40-6 in the Russell Athletic Bowl. As a result, both Heupel and Norvell took the fall.

“They’re great people, they’re great family men,“ Stoops said of Heupel and Norvell. “I thank them though for what they have contributed and their dedication and hard work through all these years, and I’m sure they’ll continue to have successful coaching careers as they move forward.“

Stoops indicated that no decisions have been made relative to filling the open positions on his staff.

“I just want to also say I’m more determined than ever to get Oklahoma back in the position to competing for national championships like we have so many other times,“ Stoops added.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Potentially fatal flaws for Patriots, Broncos, Seahawks, Cowboys and remaining teams

No team is perfect, even with the NFL now down to its final eight postseason participants.

Everyone has a flaw, something that potentially could be exploited to force that team from the playoffs.

Here is the issue most likely to factor in the possible downfall of the remaining teams, ranked in order of how potentially damaging each shortcoming is:

1. Panthers: Run Defense

Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly led the NFL in tackles during the regular season but the Carolina defense struggled at times against the run. The Panthers ranked 16th in the league during the regular season in rushing defense, based on yards allowed per game (and 27th in rushing yards per play). That didn’t matter in last weekend’s opening-round playoff win over Arizona, in which the Cardinals managed only 27 rushing yards on 15 attempts. But it could matter quite a bit this weekend at Seattle. The Seahawks have Marshawn Lynch and led the league in rushing offense during the regular season.

2. Colts: Hits on Luck

It’s not so much the sacks. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck was sacked 27 times during the regular season, his fewest number of sacks in a season in his three-year NFL career. It’s that Luck absorbs a sometimes-alarming number of hits on plays on which he’s not sacked. Some have attributed that to Luck’s savvy, poise and toughness, saying he has great pocket awareness and is willing to hold the ball until the last possible moment to give his receivers time to get open. But he’s a tremendous young quarterback and no one should want to see him take too many hits too early in his career. The Colts play at Denver this weekend and the Broncos have productive pass rushers in Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware, who combined for 24 sacks during the regular season.

3. Ravens: Which Flacco Shows Up?

At one point during the Ravens’ loss at Houston in the second-to-last game of the regular season, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was four for 22 with three interceptions. He also struggled for three quarters in the regular season finale against the Browns before having a perfect passer rating in the fourth quarter as the Ravens just squeezed into the playoffs. Then the postseason began, and Flacco was back to being Mr. January. He threw a pair of touchdown passes during the Ravens’ opening-round triumph at Pittsburgh and now has 13 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his last five postseason games, including a Super Bowl in which he was named the most valuable player. The Ravens need his run of postseason excellence to continue Saturday at New England, rather than having him revert to his form of late in the regular season.

4. Broncos: Manning’s Postseason Past

Peyton Manning is the greatest regular season quarterback in NFL history. He is a five-time league MVP. He holds the single-season records for passing yards and touchdown passes. He became the NFL’s career leader in touchdown passes this season. But when he last was seen playing a postseason game, he and the Broncos were being overrun by the Seahawks in last season’s Super Bowl. That dropped Manning’s career postseason record to 11-12. His teams have been one-and-done in the playoffs eight times. A second career Super Bowl triumph would greatly bolster the case that Manning is the greatest quarterback ever, with no qualifier attached.

5. Packers: Rodgers’s Calf

Quarterback Aaron Rodgers had an extra week to rest his injured calf muscle, thanks to the Packers’ first-round playoff bye. But the fact that the injury has lingered as long as it has, forcing Rodgers to exit the regular season finale against the Lions temporarily before returning to the game, should be worrisome for the team and its fans. The Packers simply are not a Super Bowl team without Rodgers in the lineup and playing at something relatively close to full strength.

6. Cowboys: Defense

A Dallas defense that widely was expected to be historically bad this season actually was nowhere close to that. Instead, it was a middle-of-the-road NFL defense, good enough for the Cowboys to win the NFC East title. The Cowboys ranked 19th in the league in total defense and 15th in the NFL in scoring defense during the regular season. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli did a superb coaching job. But an offense that featured NFL rushing leader DeMarco Murray certainly helped, as the Cowboys were among the league leaders in time of possession and usually kept their defense from being on the field for long stretches and exposed. That must continue if the Cowboys are going to extend their postseason run.

7. Patriots: Safeguarding Brady

The Ravens are a problematic matchup for the Patriots because they have pass rushers — in Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata — who can win individual matchups and bother Tom Brady. The New England quarterback had a terrific season with 33 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions. He was sacked a modest 21 times, down from the 40 sacks he endured last season. But the fact remains the best way to disrupt the usually smooth operation of the New England offense is to get pressure on Brady, make him uncomfortable in the pocket and force him to move around and reset his feet before delivering passes. The Ravens don’t seem at all bothered by the assignment of playing at New England, where they have a 2-1 postseason record under Coach John Harbaugh. If their pass rushers can find a way to keep Brady from being dominant, the Ravens have a chance.

8. Seahawks: Which Wide Receiver Will Make Plays?

The Seahawks are back to resembling the team that steamrolled the rest of the league last season en route to a Super Bowl title. Someone will have to go to Seattle and win during the NFC playoffs to prevent the Seahawks from making a return trip to the Super Bowl, and that won’t be easy. The Seahawks led the league in rushing offense and total defense during the regular season. The one potential downfall for the Seahawks is their lack of proven playmakers among their receivers, if an opponent can somehow get them out of their comfort zone and into a downfield passing duel. The Seahawks traded wideout Percy Harvin during the season and had no one with even 900 receiving yards during the regular season. They ranked 27th in the league in passing offense. That doesn’t mean they don’t have wide receivers capable of contributing a big play or two. It just means they usually aren’t forced to rely on that. So good luck to their opponents getting that to matter. It probably would mean building a significant lead, and that isn’t easily done against this defense.

►  Dolphins hire former Jets GM Tannenbaum

The Miami Dolphins have hired former New York Jets general manager Mike Tannenbaum to a position in the front office.

The Dolphins said Tuesday that Tannenbaum will be the executive vice president of football operations.

Tannenbaum and coach Joe Philbin will both report to Dolphins owner Stephen Ross, the team said.

General manager Dennis Hickey, who was hired last January, will report to Tannenbaum.

The Jets fired Tannenbaum in December 2012 after the team went 57-55 in his seven seasons on the job, which included back-to-back trips to the AFC title game. He had worked for the Jets since 1997.

The Dolphins were 8-8 for the second season in a row and haven’t made the playoffs since 2008, the last time they had a winning record.

►  Former Giants coach Allie Sherman dies at 91

Allie Sherman, who led the New York Giants to NFL championship games in his first three seasons as head coach, died Saturday in Manhattan. He was 91.

Sherman coached the Giants from 1961-68 and compiled a 57-51-4 regular-season record.

The Giants lost to Green Bay in the 1961 and 1962 championship games and to Chicago in the 1963 title game.

Sherman was the Giants’ backfield coach from 1949-53 and returned to the club as a scout in 1957 after coaching the Canadian Football League’s Winnipeg Blue Bombers for three years. He was named offensive coordinator two years later when Vince Lombardi left for the Packers.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Surprise: Tony Romo is a postseason performer

When most NFL fans and fantasy football owners discuss Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Tony Romo, it seems rather natural to simply think about the failures that have occurred in the months of December and January throughout his 10-year career.

However, while there are numerous examples of poor play throughout the years during the tail-end of regular seasons, it is unfair to label Romo a “poor playoff performer.“

The image that comes to mind in regards to Romo’s postseason play, is his botched hold, on a field-goal attempt during Wild Card Weekend of the 2006 season, against the Seattle Seahawks. Romo fumbled the snap, on what would have been the go-ahead 19-yard field goal with 1:19 left in the game. The kick would have put Dallas ahead 23-21.

Although that mishap devastated Cowboys’ fans across the country, Romo still went 17-of-29 for 189 yards, one touchdown, zero interceptions, and an 89.6 passer-rating.

Not too shabby.

Romo has now played in five postseason games, and after defeating the Detroit Lions on Sunday, he recorded his second playoff victory and first since the 2009 season.

With fantasy football still going on until the conclusion of the Super Bowl, owners need to know that Romo is a solid option, when it comes to daily fantasy.

Through his five postseason performances, Romo has averaged 225 passing yards per game, and thrown a total of six touchdowns against one interception, along with compiling an 87.9 passer-rating.

To get a better idea of how good those numbers really are; New England Patriots’ signal-caller Tom Brady has averaged 283 passing yards over his previous five playoff games, and has tossed a total of seven scores versus three interceptions with an 88.1 passer-rating during that span.

Very comparable.

On top of his solid postseason numbers, Romo has seemingly found a way to win during December and January of this current season, to respond to critics and potentially conquer any personal demons.

Since the calendar flipped to the month of December, Dallas has a 5-0 record, with Romo being the main reason why.

Throughout the past five games he has averaged 256 passing yards, and has thrown a total of 14 touchdowns and just one interception, to go along with a stunning 127.8 passer-rating.

He is as hot as they come at this moment in time, and owners who are still competing in any type of fantasy playoff league, need to consider playing Romo this weekend against the Green Bay Packers.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, January 06)

Gilmer County 68     Braxton County 51

Webster County 53     Calhoun County 44

Hurricane 68     Parkersburg 41

Nicholas County 54     Richwood 48

Postponements and Cancellations:

Bridgeport vs. Preston, to February 14.

Buckhannon-Upshur vs. Grafton

Liberty Harrison vs. Philip Barbour

Lincoln vs. Lewis County

South Harrison vs. Doddridge County, to January 10.

Tyler Consolidated vs. Ravenswood

University vs. Parkersburg South, to January 07.

Wood County Christian vs. Grace Christian

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Tuesday, January 06)

Clay County 58     Herbert Hoover 46

Postponements and Cancellations:

Parkersburg South vs. Morgantown, to February 03.

Ravenswood vs. Williamstown

Wood County Christian vs. Grace Christian

The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Player of The Week

The Gilmer Free Press

Glenville State’s Sedric Nady has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after helping the Pioneers remain unbeaten in league play.

Nady, a junior from Virginia Beach, VA, averaged 14.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists as GSC picked up wins over West Virginia State and Charleston.

After scoring nine and pulling down nine rebounds in a road win at WVSU, he scored a game-high 20 points to go with six rebounds as the Pioneers downed rival Charleston, 67-60.

Other Top Performances

C.J. Hester (WLU) averaged 25 points and 9.5 rebounds in a 2-0 week for the top-ranked Hilltoppers ...

Thomas Wimbush (FSU) averaged 17 points and six boards in a pair of victories ...

Skyler Roman (SU) scored a career-high 27 points in a win over Notre Dame and averaged 18.5 points for the week ...

Terry Hopewell (CU) averaged a double-double (21 points and 11.5 rebounds) in a 1-1 week ...

Tanner McGrew (WVWC) averaged 22 points and 11.5 rebounds as the Bobcats went 1-1.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Seger Bonifant (WLU)
November 24 Donte Morales (GSC)
December 01 Mike Boyd (CU)
December 08 C.J. Hester (WLU)
December 15 Devin Hoehn (WLU)
December 22 Morgan McDonald (SU)
January 06 Sedric Nady (GSC)

►  MEC Women’s Basketball Player of The Week

Fairmont State’s Emily Lohr has been named Mountain East Conference Player of the Week after leading the Falcons to a pair of league wins last week.

Lohr, a senior from Stoystown, PA, averaged 19.5 points in wins over Notre Dame College and Urbana. 

Emily Lohr averaged 19.5 points and 7.5 rebounds as Fairmont State opened up January with a 2-0 start in MEC play. Lohr, who currently leads NCAA Division II in three-point field goal percentage, went 6-of-9 from three and tallied a team-high 20 points and seven rebounds as FSU rallied to a 66-56 win over the Blue Knights.

She then wrapped up the week hitting 5-of-6 from three and finishing with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and three steals against the Falcons of NDC

Other Top Performances

Shealyn Shafer (WVSU) averaged 16 points and 7.7 rebounds in a 2-1 week ...

Rachel Johnson (SU) averaged 18.0 points as the Rams remained perfect in MEC play ...

Kailee Howe (WLU) averaged 10 points, 9.8 assists and 4.7 rebounds as the Hilltoppers went 2-1 ...

She also dished out a MEC-best 16 assists against Concord ...

Monet Saunders (UC) helped the Golden Eagles to a 2-0 week by way of her 20-point, 18-rebound effort against Glenville State ...

Jacqueline Kestner (CU) averaged 16 points and nine rebounds in a pair of contests ...

Mari Stewart (WVWC) contributed 15.5 points and 6.5 rebounds in two games for the Bobcats.

2014-15 MEC Players of the Week
Week Player (Team)
November17 Hallie Gunnoe (FSU)
November 24 Hailey Garrett (FSU)
December 01 Nichole Perry (UC)
December 08 Jacqueline Kestner (CU)
December 15 Cara Mason (SU)
December 22 Martha Nagbe (NDC)
January 06 Emily Lohr (FSU)

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game

(Tuesday, January 06)

Final Score: (1) Kentucky 89, Ole Miss 86 (OT)

Aaron Harrison scored a season-high 26 points and No. 1 Kentucky needed overtime to take down Ole Miss, 89-86, in the SEC opener. Kentucky asserted itself as the most dangerous team in the nation during non- conference play, beating perennial powers Kansas, Texas, North Carolina and UCLA by a combined 97 points before edging in-state rival Louisville, 58-50, on Dec. 27. But the Wildcats (14-0, 1-0 SEC) had a nine-day layoff since that win over the Cardinals and the rust showed as Ole Miss, which lost at home to Charleston Southern earlier this season, took the top- ranked Wildcats to the wire. Harrison made five 3-pointers and 9-of-10 from the foul line while his brother Andrew posted 12 points and five assists. Willie Cauley-Stein provided his usual stellar defense, racking up four blocks and three steals on top of a game-high 12 rebounds. Stefan Moody paced Ole Miss (9-5, 0-1) with 25 points, but missed most of overtime with a leg cramp. Jarvis Summers scored 23 points and Ladarius White added 15.

Final Score: (8) Villanova 90, (24) St. John’s 72

Darrun Hilliard scored 21 points and No. 8 Villanova downed No. 24 St. John’s, 90-72, at a lively Madison Square Garden on Tuesday night. The Big East Top-25 clash had a March feel with fans of both schools providing plenty of energy in the back-and-forth battle. The Wildcats (14-1, 2-1 Big East) silenced the Red Storm supporters down the stretch, however, and recovered nicely from their first loss of the season. Daniel Ochefu led a dominant frontcourt effort that owned a commanding 40-21 rebounding advantage. Ochefu finished with 13 points and 12 boards, while Dylan Ennis added 15 and nine for the victors. D’Angelo Harrison led St. John’s (11-4, 0-3) with 25 points, while Phil Greene IV netted 14 in the club’s third straight loss. The Red Storm went 11-1 in non-conference play before falling to Seton Hall, Butler and now Villanova over the past week.

Final Score: (17) Iowa State 63, Oklahoma State 61

Dustin Hogue finished with 17 points and eight rebounds and No. 17 Iowa State used two key blocks in the waning seconds to hold off Oklahoma State for a 63-61 win in its Big 12 opener. Hogue shot 7- for-9 from the floor, including 3-for-4 from 3-point range, Georges Niang and Matt Thomas each scored 10 points and Monte Morris contributed eight points and six assists for the Cyclones (11-2, 1-0 Big 12), who bounced back from a 64-60 loss to South Carolina on Saturday. Phil Forte paced the Cowboys (11-3, 1-1) with 21 points and Le’Bryan Nash supplied 19 points, six boards and six assists in the loss.

Final Score: (22) Ohio State 74, Minnesota 72 (OT)

Marc Loving’s floater in the final seconds of overtime gave No. 22 Ohio State a 74-72 win over Minnesota on Tuesday. D’Angelo Russell scored 25 of his game-high 27 points in the first half. Loving added 13 points for the Buckeyes (13-3, 2-1 Big Ten), who ended Minnesota’s 14-game home win streak. With time winding down in overtime, Loving came off a curl on the left side of the court, caught a feed from Sam Thompson and got a one-handed push shot to fall. Minnesota had a timeout left but opted not to use it, instead rushing the ball up the court. Thompson deflected a pass, knocking the ball towards midcourt, and the clock hit zero before Minnesota’s desperation heave. Maurice Walker tallied 18 points and nine rebounds and DeAndre Mathieu scored 17 for Minnesota (11-5, 0-3).

Final Score: (23) Arkansas 79, Georgia 75

Bobby Portis had a game-high 21 points as No. 23 Arkansas opened SEC play with a close 79-75 victory over Georgia on Tuesday. Michael Qualls finished with 17 points and seven rebounds and Alandise Harris supplied 15 points, three boards and three steals for the Razorbacks (12-2, 1-0 SEC), who won their sixth straight game. Nemanja Djurisic had 16 points and seven rebounds and Marcus Thornton and Juwan Parker each netted 11 as the Bulldogs’ (9-4, 0-1) six-game winning streak came to an end.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: Analyzing the trade

Dion Waiters was introduced as a starter on Monday.

Problem was, he was getting traded. He did not start and reserve big men were seen hugging head coach David Blatt good-bye. It was a strange sight, but it foreshadowed a very intriguing trade on a few levels.

The main stars in our play are: Waiters, J.R. Smith, Iman Shumpert, Phil Jackson, the Cavs, New York Knicks, Oklahoma City Thunder, Kevin Durant and somehow, some way, LeBron James.


The Cavs acquired Smith and Shumpert from the Knicks and received a conditional first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder. They gave up Waiters, Lou Amundson, Alex Kirk and a 2019 second-round pick.

Waiters was doomed from arrival in Cleveland. He never fit in, battled with Kyrie Irving and became a poster boy for those who hate high-volume and ineffective shooters.

This season did nothing to improve the situation. Waiters started at the beginning of the season, then was relegated to the bench, a situation he did not love. He was the “fourth banana” if such a phrase existed about how a pecking order related to fruit. Waiters was behind James, Irving and Kevin Love, another situation that probably didn’t bring a smile to Waiters’ face.

What Cleveland needed from that fourth guy was a shooter who could play defense, or, one or the other exceptionally well, preferably off the bench. Waiters fit none of that criteria. He almost literally offered no value to the Cavaliers. Moving him broke few hearts in the Cavs’ organization.

Shumpert is a nice fit in Cleveland. He’s a better career 3-point shooter than Waiters (34.3% to 32.8) and of course is better defensively. I say “of course” because everyone in your phone book is a better defender than Waiters. Shumpert had a big-time defender rep, which is not quite there anymore. He’s still solid though, just not on that upper tier with Klay Thompson, Andre Iguodala ... pretty much any Warriors wing.

Shumpert is also inexpensive. He’s playing on his rookie contract with no extension in place. He’s free as a bird after the season, so if it doesn’t work, no hard feelings.

Smith is the rub. He’s the cost of business. To get Shumpert, the Cavs had to take Smith, who is still a potential nightmare off the court and some times on. He’s a high-volume shooter with a propensity to do dumb things at dumb times. Smith is not a good defender, but he can still score.

The problem with Smith, aside from the bizarre behavior, and shot-happy nights, is his salary. He signed a three-year deal after his 2013 Sixth Man of the Year season, but the third year is a player option. His favor has fallen so precipitously in the league, he’ll almost assuredly pick up his own option. Smith won’t get anywhere near the almost $6.4 million his third year offers on the open market.

That’s a financial albatross that could keep Cleveland from making moves in the offseason. Although, for having three All-NBA performers, the Cavs are in decent shape with the coin. Brendan Haywood has a very strange, movable contract.

The odd thing about this trade from the Cavs’ perspective is, it’s almost like they got everything they wanted Waiters to be in these two former Knicks. They thought Waiters could defend and Shumpert can. They thought he could be a perimeter threat, Shumpert is a better one. They then thought he could be an explosive bench scorer, Smith can be.

Plus, a protected first-round pick (protected through 18 in 2015, then through 15 in 2016 and 17), is always nice. First-round picks are like uncashed lottery tickets in today’s NBA.

All in all, a solid trade, although Smith’s antics may need to be checked. And, the Cavs did improve their pathetic depth, but did nothing to improve their biggest weakness - an interior defender. They still have time.


The Knicks acquired Amundson, Kirk and a 2019 second-round pick from the Cavs, and forward Lance Thomas from the Thunder. They gave up Shumpert and Smith.

This is a 100% salary dump and addition by subtraction-type trade. They are waiving Amundson and Kirk, but do plan to keep Thomas.

In jettisoning themselves of Smith, the Knicks shed his option for next season, freeing up $6.4 million. The Knicks were going to pay luxury tax, but this trade means Mr. Dolan will pay substantially less of it.

Plus, they rid themselves of Smith, the person. He may not be a bad guy, but he’s a goofball who does things that hurt the team, be it untying an opponent’s sneakers or smoking weed. Smith has talent and he’s almost as important as Carmelo Anthony was to the Atlantic Division championship team of two seasons ago.

But, he’s not worth the aggravation. He’s just not and coupled with his salary hamstrings, Phil Jackson should get a lot of credit for getting Smith out of New York. I wasn’t sure it could be done.

And trading Smith, and releasing Samuel Dalembert as reports indicate, show Jackson’s most important moves to date—Jackson is shedding this organization of all problem people:

Tyson Chandler - Dallas Maverick (Although I never believed he was a problem.)

Raymond Felton - Dallas Maverick

Smith - Cleveland Cavalier

Dalembert - who cares?

In less than a year, Jackson rid his team of problems financially and personality-wise. He got nothing for Shumpert, which hurts because the Knicks probably could’ve had Kenneth Faried for him a year ago, but the Knicks didn’t care about Shumpert. If they did, they’d have offered him a contract extension.

This trade frees up time for Tim Hardaway, Jr. and Cleanthony Early, who I loved in the second round, but hasn’t found much time. Develop youth.

Also, let’s be honest about the Knicks. Season’s over. Melo is going to shut it down soon. (Predicted at the office it would have been Monday. Settled for a big trade.) The Knicks’ lottery status keeps improving. That’s fine for them at the moment.

Plus, expectations, however preposterously over-inflated they might have been in Knicks’ world, are shut down. That’ll help head coach Derek Fisher, who has appeared a little over his head. There’s almost no pressure on Fisher now, which is good considering his performance to date has elicited “Fire Fisher” chants from Woody Allen, Taylor Swift and everyone in the Garden.

Jackson will take about $30 million in cap space to the sweltering heat of a New York summer. He’ll be in the best position to try and lure Marc Gasol, Rajon Rondo, LaMarcus Aldridge, or Kevin Love. That’s assuming those last two don’t go through with the formality of re-signing.

That’s very impressive work by the Zen Master.


The Thunder acquired Waiters. They gave up a protected first-round pick to the Cavs, and Thomas to the Knicks.

This is the murkiest one for me to understand.

If the Thunder don’t make another move before the deadline, this makes little sense. In OKC’s backcourt, there is Russell Westbrook, Andre Roberson, Reggie Jackson, Anthony Morrow and Jeremy Lamb. Where does Waiters fit in there? Lamb barely plays as is. Roberson is a stud defender. Morrow is a great shooter.

How does Waiters crack the lineup, already being so far behind in learning the systems? I’m not sure he does ... unless ...

The Thunder trade Jackson.

Until about a half hour into various reports, it seemed like Jackson was going to New York. He’s a free agent at the end of the season, so the plan might be to trade him, or for Waiters to replace Jackson next season.

Waiters is viewed as a combo-type of guard in the vein of Jackson, although Waiters is nowhere near as good running an offense. Jackson could get them a decent haul, although not a fortune with his summer status.

The Waiters acquisition also flies in the face, to some degree, of how the Thunder operates. His deal puts them over the luxury tax line and Oklahoma City never pays the luxury tax. The Thunder’s small-market, girl next door type of feel is what’s held them back from being able to pay someone like James Harden in seasons past.

Now, they’re all of a sudden a financial powerhouse capable of absorbing a few million in the pursuit of a title? And, the one that puts them over the top is someone who may not be able to meaningfully crack the rotation until the ides of March?

That doesn’t make sense. That indicates GM Sam Presti will make a move prior to the deadline. The Thunder also trade someone they don’t feel like they can sign. Think Harden. Think Jeff Green.

So, if the intention is to use Waiters in the Jackson role, it’s dicey. I’ve never considered him a point guard. But, Waiters can score. He’d fill that role for sure.

Assuming Oklahoma City keeps the pick this year, if the Thunder are as good as assumed next season, they lose maybe the 26th pick in the draft. Is that worth it for someone three years removed from being the fourth pick in the draft? It’s certainly a good value move, even if Waiters was taken too high.

Maybe Waiters is misunderstood. Maybe no one could get through to him properly. Maybe he just hated Irving that much. The onus is now on Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Scott Brooks.

“We’re gonna make him feel wanted. I don’t think he felt that the last couple years,“ Durant said after Monday’s loss to the Golden State Warriors. “He’s gonna fit in well. He’s gonna get comfortable real quick. It’s on the leaders - Russell, myself, Nick (Collison) - to make him feel at home and feel special and let him play his game.“

Maybe, the Thunder will have better luck. Even if it doesn’t work, the price tag wasn’t punitive enough to pass.

►  Bucks’ Parker has surgery to repair torn ACL

Milwaukee Bucks rookie forward Jabari Parker had surgery to repair the torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee, the team announced Monday night.

The No. 2 pick in the 2014 draft, Parker is expected to miss the remainder of the season. A timeline for a return to basketball activity will be established at a later date.

Parker suffered the injury in the third quarter of Milwaukee’s win at Phoenix on December 15. He averaged 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 25 games.

►  NBA Game Results

(Tuesday, January 06)

Final Score: Phoenix 102, Milwaukee 96

Markieff Morris finished with 26 points and 10 rebounds and the Phoenix Suns opened a four-game road trip on a winning note with a 102-96 victory over the Milwaukee Bucks. Isaiah Thomas donated 19 points off the bench, Goran Dragic added 16 and the Suns won their third straight despite turning it over 20 times. Brandon Knight paced the Bucks with 26 points, and Giannis Antetokounmpo totaled 16 with 12 rebounds in Milwaukee’s fourth straight home loss.

Final Score: Detroit 105, San Antonio 104

Brandon Jennings raced down the court following a San Antonio turnover and made the game-winning shot with 0.1 seconds left, lifting the red-hot Detroit Pistons over the Spurs, 105-104, on Tuesday. The Spurs left the door open after going 4-of-8 from the foul line over the final 1:52. Jennings ended with 13 points and seven assists for the Pistons, who have won six in a row. Jeff Ayres finished with 16 points for the Spurs, who had a brief two-game winning streak snapped. San Antonio point guard Tony Parker played just 13 minutes in his return from a five-game absence due to a hamstring injury. He ended with three points.

►  Pacers’ Watson fined $5K for flopping

Indiana Pacers guard C.J. Watson was fined $5,000 by the NBA on Tuesday for violating the league’s anti-flopping rules for the second time this season.

Watson threw his arms out and went to the ground after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert put his hands on his back as the two positioned themselves for a rebound in the first quarter Monday night.

Indiana won the game 105-101.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Six NBA teams fit the profile of an NBA champion this season

There are four Western teams (Warriors, Trail Blazers, Clippers and Mavericks) and two in the East (Raptors and Hawks) who meet or should meet this threshold by their 35th game.

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

One could determine a team’s probability of winning a championship based on a team’s points per 100 possessions and the following formula:

    Probability of a Championship = ~1 / (1 + EXP(5.5573404 – (0.5306148 * Offense) + (0.6129486 * Defense)))

If the formula is applied to each NBA team, scaling the odds to add up to 100% we will have:


The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Johnson, Martinez, Smoltz, Biggio elected to Hall of Fame

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame on Tuesday.

This marks the first time in 60 years that as many as four players were elected and the first time in history that three pitchers were honored in the same election. The Baseball Writers’ Association of America last elected four candidates in 1955, when Joe DiMaggio, Gabby Hartnett, Ted Lyons and Dazzy Vance earned election.

Johnson led the group by being named on 97.3% of the 549 ballots cast, while Martinez was on 91.1% and Smoltz garnered 82.9% of the vote. The trio were appearing on the ballot for the first time. Biggio, who was appearing on the ballot for a third time and fell two votes shy a year ago, was on 82.7% of the ballots. Seventy-five% of the vote is needed for induction.

They will be inducted July 26 as part of the Hall’s Induction Weekend July 24-27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Johnson pitched 22 seasons for the Expos, Mariners, Astros, Diamondbacks, Yankees and Giants, posting three 20-win seasons (1997, 2001-02) and winning five Cy Young Awards.

The hard-throwing left-hander ended his career with a 303-166 mark and a 3.29 ERA, finishing in the top 10 of his league’s Most Valuable Player Award voting twice: 1995 (6th) and 2002 (7th) and was named to 10 All-Star Games, starting four times.

Known as a strikeout pitcher, Johnson led his league in strikeouts nine times (1992-95, 1999-2002, 2004) and is second on the all-time strikeout list with 4,875.

Martinez played 18 seasons for the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies, going 219-100 with a 2.93 ERA. He had two 20-win seasons (1999, 2002) and captured three Cy Young Awards (1997, 1999-2000).

An eight-time All-Star, the right-hander finished in the top 10 of his league’s Most Valuable Player Award voting twice: 1999 (2nd) and 2000 (5th). He won 1999 American League Pitching Triple Crown after leading the league in wins (23), earned run average (2.07) and strikeouts (313).

Smoltz made a name for himself as a starter and closer, pitching 21 seasons for the Braves, Red Sox and Cardinals. He had a career record of 213-155 with a 3.33 ERA with 154 saves. He won the 1996 National League Cy Young Award and was named to eight All-Star Games.

As a reliever, the right-hander topped the 40-save mark three times (2002-04), the only three full seasons he served as his team’s closer. His 3,084 strikeouts rank 16th all-time.

Smoltz appeared in 25 postseason series over 14 seasons with the Braves and Cardinals, posting a 15-4 record with four saves and a 2.67 ERA in 41 appearances (27 starts).

Biggio was a seven-time All-Star, collecting 3,060 hits during a 20-year career with the Houston Astros. Known for his ability to play multiple positions, he appeared in 428 games as a catcher, 363 as an outfielder and 1,989 at second base. He had 291 career homers, 1,175 RBI, 1,844 runs scored and a .281 batting average. He is the only player in baseball history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs.

The player closest to election was Mike Piazza, who was on 69.9% of the ballots. That is an increase from the 62.2% of the ballots he appeared on a year ago. Jeff Bagwell (55.7 %) and Tim Raines (55 %) were the next two players to not receive the nod.

The others receiving votes who will remain on the ballot are: Curt Schilling (39.2%), Roger Clemens (37.5%), Barry Bonds (36.8%), Lee Smith (30.2%), Edgar Martinez (27.0%), Alan Trammell (25.1%), Mike Mussina (24.6%), Jeff Kent (14.0%), Fred McGriff (12.9%), Larry Walker (11.8%), Gary Sheffield (11.7%), Mark McGwire (10.0%), Sammy Sosa (6.6%) and Nomar Garciaparra (5.5%).

Don Mattingly was appearing on the ballot for the final time and received 50 votes.

Coming off the ballot next year because they didn’t receive five% of the vote are Carlos Delgado (3.8%), Troy Percival (0.7%), Aaron Boone (0.4%), Tom Gordon (0.4%), Darin Erstad (0.2%), Rich Aurilia, Tony Clark, Jermaine Dye, Cliff Floyd, Brian Giles, Eddie Guardado and Jason Schmidt (0.0%).

►  Gorzelanny, Tigers agree to 1-year deal

The Detroit Tigers and left-hander Tom Gorzelanny agreed to terms on a one-year contract Tuesday.

Gorzelanny, 32, had a 0.86 earned run average while making 23 appearances out of the Milwaukee bullpen last season. He missed two-plus months recovering from offseason shoulder surgery.

“We are pleased to add a veteran pitcher like Tom to our ball club,“ said Tigers president, chief executive officer and general manager David Dombrowski. “Tom is an established reliever who can help solidify the bullpen on the left side and will be a nice addition to our roster.“

Gorzelanny has a career record of 47-51 with a 4.27 ERA in 259 games (121 starts) for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Chicago Cubs, Washington Nationals and Brewers.

To create room for Gorzelanny on the 40-man roster, the Tigers designated pitcher Luke Putkonen for assignment.

►  BBWAA almost gets it right

The Baseball Writers’ Association of America continued to serve as the moral police on Tuesday.

First of all, congratulations to the newest electees to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, as pitchers Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson and John Smoltz, all got in on their first time on the ballot, while Craig Biggio enters one year after coming up just two votes shy.

There is no question all four deserved to be in and while the general consensus is that this is a good day for baseball, I’m not so sure.

Yes, Cooperstown will be rocking next July with four people going in, but I’m still focused on the guys who did not get in. And I am not even talking about the Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens types. I am talking about the guys who have now been labled steroid abusers without a shred of evidence by the BBWAA.

If I had a vote Bonds and Clemens would be on my ballot, but I can at least understand why they are not on others. Someone, though, has to explain to me why Mike Piazza is not in the Hall of Fame. It was ridiculous that he wasn’t in last year and it’s even more absurd that he has to wait for a third ballot.

Piazza is the best hitting catcher of all-time. There is no dispute about that. But, the rank and file of the BBWAA has pegged him as someone who may have taken performance-enhancing drugs without any evidence.

Piazza was the closest of those not elected and received 69.9% of the vote and was 28 votes shy of election. He is going to get in at some point and he’s far from the best player not to get elected on his first or even second try. Ryne Sandberg, Roberto Alomar and even Joe DiMaggio were passed over their first time around too.

Yes, Joe DiMaggio was not a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

This isn’t some grass-roots campaign to get Piazza in, I just can’t take the fact that people chose not to vote him in because, maybe, just maybe he may have dabbled with PEDs. Although nobody knows for sure.

There is no paper trail like there is with guys like Bonds or Clemens. The only red flag for him are the obscene offensive numbers produced by a catcher in an era where the numbers were skewed by the guys we know were using. That and speculation from blogger Murray Chass, who once noted that Piazza had a case of back acne.

So, of course, that means he is guilty. Career tarnished.

And you can throw Jeff Bagwell into that same mix too.

Now if you held a gun to my head and asked me if either of those two guys took PEDs, I’d say yes, especially in the case of Bagwell. But a whole lot of other people did in that time, too. Is it the 75-percent that Jose Canseco once claimed? I’m not sure, but it’s probably not far from that number and I’d be willing to bet some of them who did take them have already been elected.

Remember, the Mitchell Report flat out stated that as far back as 1973 performance enhancing drug use in baseball was “alarming.“

Now, there is nothing to suggest that Pedro, Unit or Smoltz ever used PEDs, but why are they not under the same scrutiny that Piazza seems to be?

Pedro and Unit were as dominant as any pitchers we have seen in the last 50 years and Smoltz had to overcome Tommy John surgery in 2000 and eventually became one of the more dominant closers in the league.

Are we 100-percent sold Smoltz did not take anything to speed up that recovery?

If you smile a lot and get along well with the press, those questions don’t seem to come up I guess.

Forget Piazza, though, the Hall will always be tarnished for me until it opens its doors to Bonds and Clemens. The same group of people who chose to give Darin Erstad and Tom Gordon Hall of Fame votes are the ones who decided to keep Bonds and Clemens out.

Makes perfect sense.

When you go to a museum about American history, are the bad times just ignored? Of course not.

And what exactly are they trying to keep so sacred up in Cooperstown?

The Hall of Fame features a guy like Ty Cobb, someone who may have been a better racist than he was a ballplayer. And that’s saying something. And Cobb is nowhere near the only bad guy in the Baseball Hall of Fame.

That’s the point.

For some reason, though, PEDs are the hill BBWAA will die on.

Now, Piazza stands a good chance at getting in next year, as Ken Griffey Jr. is really the only lock candidate on the ballot. Don’t get me started on Trevor Hoffman. He’ll probably get in at some point, but it won’t be his first time on the ballot.

Regardless, balloting has become the all powerful BBWAA getting up on their high horse and letting the world know that they are the ones who judge the game’s most extraordinary individual honor.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Tuesday, January 06)

Final Score: New Jersey 4, Buffalo 1

Patrik Elias reached 1,000 career points with a goal and two assists and the New Jersey Devils beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-1 on Tuesday night. Elias scored his 399th career goal in the first period and picked up assists Nos. 600 and 601, becoming the 82nd player in NHL history with at least 1,000 points. Jordin Tootoo, Travis Zajac and Mike Cammalleri also scored for the Devils, who won the last two games of a three-game homestand for their first back-to-back victories since Nov. 11 and 14. Cory Schneider made 20 saves in his NHL-leading 37th start of the season. Mikhail Grigorenko scored for the Sabres, who have lost five in a row and nine of their last 10 games. Jhonas Enroth surrendered three goals on 27 shots in the loss.

Final Score: Philadelphia 2, Ottawa 1 (SO)

Wayne Simmonds netted the tying goal in the third period before adding the shootout winner, as Philadelphia snapped a five-game skid with a narrow 2-1 decision over Ottawa on Tuesday. Steve Mason came up with 41 saves and halted four of the Sens’ five breakaway chances for the Flyers, who dropped the final batch of games on their season-long eight- game road trip. Mike Hoffman tallied and Craig Anderson made 33 saves in defeat for the Senators, who have dropped five of their last seven.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 4, Montreal 2

Tyler Johnson scored twice to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-2 victory over the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday. Brett Connolly and J.T. Brown also scored, while Ben Bishop made 20 saves for the Lightning, who have won six of their last seven. Dale Weise and Max Pacioretty scored for the Canadiens, who had a six-game winning streak broken. Carey Price allowed all four goals on 36 shots in the loss.

Final Score: Nashville 3, Carolina 2

Roman Josi’s game winner was the last of three goals in the third period, and Nashville claimed a 3-2 victory over Carolina at Bridgestone Arena. Ryan Ellis and Mike Fisher also lit the lamp in the final 20 minutes for the Predators, who have reeled off seven wins in their last 10 outings. Pekka Rinne made 23 saves to back the Central Division frontrunners. Eric Staal and Justin Faulk scored once each for the Hurricanes, while Cam Ward stopped 23 pucks in defeat.

Final Score: San Jose 4, Minnesota 3 (OT)

Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored the winner again, burying a slap shot with 1:52 remaining in overtime to lift the San Jose Sharks to a 4-3 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. The Sharks snapped a seven-game losing streak against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center when Vlasic’s shot from above the left circle near the boards flew past Darcy Kuemper on the near side. The defenseman also gave San Jose a dramatic 3-2 win on Monday in Winnipeg, scoring with 4.5 seconds left in regulation. Melker Karlsson, Joe Pavelski and Tommy Wingels scored three consecutive goals to give the Sharks a 3-2 lead in the third period, but Jason Zucker’s second goal of the game tied it for Minnesota. Zucker added an assist for three points and Jared Spurgeon also scored for the Wild, who fell to 2-4-4 in their last 10 games. They were coming off a 7-1 loss in Dallas on Saturday. Alex Stalock made 28 saves for San Jose and Kuemper stopped 22 shots for the Wild.

Final Score: Colorado 2, Chicago 0

Semyon Varlamov more than earned his third shutout of the season as he made a career-high 54 saves to lift the Colorado Avalanche to a 2-0 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Tuesday. Varlamov’s 54 saves are the most in Avalanche history and second most in a regular-season shutout since the 1982-83 season. Nathan MacKinnon and Max Talbot each scored early in the game for the Avalanche, who bounced back from a 4-3 loss to Columbus on Sunday. Corey Crawford allowed both goals on 24 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Columbus 4, Dallas 2

Ryan Johansen had a goal and an assist to lead the Columbus Blue Jackets in a 4-2 win over the Dallas Stars on Tuesday. Nick Foligno had three assists while Kevin Connauton, James Wisniewski and Mark Letestu all scored for the Blue Jackets, who have won four of five. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 24 shots in the win. Antoine Roussel and Ales Hemsky each scored a goal for the Stars, who have dropped their past two. Anders Lindback allowed four goals on 20 shots.

Final Score: St. Louis 6, Arizona 0

David Backes had four goals and Brian Elliott stopped 23 shots for his second shutout of the season to give the St. Louis Blues a 6-0 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday. Paul Stastny had a goal and an assist while Jaden Schwartz also scored for the Blues, who have won their past two. Mike Smith allowed all six goals on 39 shots for the Coyotes, who have lost two of three.

Final Score: Detroit 4, Edmonton 2

A costly penalty by Benoit Pouliot led to the Reds Wings’ game-winning goal with 34 seconds remaining in regulation as Detroit pulled out a 4-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday. Jordan Eberle’s second goal of the night evened things at 2-2 late in the third period, but Pouliot’s head-scratching spearing penalty with 2:29 on the clock put the Oilers in a bind. A scrum in front resulted in the puck getting accidentally knocked into the net by Edmonton’s Matt Hendricks with time winding down. Pavel Datsyuk was credited with the goal, and Luke Glendening sealed things with an empty-netter. Justin Abdelkader and Kyle Quincey also scored for the Red Wings, who have won eight straight against the Oilers and four of six overall. Jimmy Howard made 21 saves to pick up the win, while his counterpart, Vikor Fasth, posted 37 saves in defeat.

Final Score: Vancouver 3, NY Islanders 2

Linden Vey scored the eventual game-winner late in the second period, sending the Vancouver Canucks to a 3-2 victory over the New York Islanders on Tuesday night. Ryan Stanton and Nick Bonino also lit the lamp for the Canucks, who have won two in a row. Eddie Lack made 21 saves. Matt Martin and Mikhail Grabovski scored for the Islanders, who have dropped two straight since a three-game winning streak. Jaroslav Halak gave up all three goals on 20 shots.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Basketball Association
New York at Washington, 7:00 PM - MSG, CSN-DC+, DSS
Milwaukee at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Houston at Cleveland, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Southwest, FS-Ohio, ESPN
New Orleans at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, SportSouth, DSS
Memphis at Atlanta, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, DSS
Boston at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - CSN-New England, YES, DSS
Utah at Chicago, 8:00 PM - ROOT-Northwest, CSN-Chicago, DSS
Detroit at Dallas, 8:30 PM - FS-Detroit, Southwest, DSS
Orlando at Denver, 9:00 PM - FS-Florida, Altitude, DSS
Phoenix at Minnesota, 9:30 PM - FS-Arizona, ESPN
Oklahoma City at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - FS-Oklahoma, CSN-California, DSS
LA Lakers at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - Time Warner, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
Indiana at Golden State, 10:30 PM - FS-Indiana, CSN-Bay, DSS
National Hockey League
Washington at Toronto, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, SNET, DSS
Boston at Pittsburgh, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Detroit at Calgary, 9:30 PM - FS-Detroit+, SNET, DSS
NY Rangers at Anaheim, 10:30 PM - MSG+, NBCSN
College Basketball
Lehigh at Army, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Lafayette at Bucknell, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Holy Cross at Colgate, 7:00 PM - Patriot League Network
Syracuse at Georgia Tech, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
Florida at South Carolina, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
Temple at Tulane, 7:00 PM - ESPNews
Davidson at VCU, 7:00 PM - MASN
NC State at Virginia, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Purdue at Wisconsin, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Seton Hall at Xavier, 7:00 PM - CBSSN
Missouri State at Indiana State, 7:05 PM -
American at Loyola-MD, 7:30 PM - Patriot League Network
Drake at Illinois State, 8:00 PM -
Boston Univ at Navy, 8:00 PM - Patriot League Network, MASN2
Southern Ill at Northern Iowa, 8:00 PM -
IUPUI at Oral Roberts, 8:00 PM -
Bradley at Wichita State, 8:00 PM - COX-KS,
Loyola-Chicago at Evansville, 8:05 PM - CSN-Chicago,
San Jose State at Air Force, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Kansas at Baylor, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
SIU Edwardsville at Belmont, 9:00 PM - CBSSN
Wyoming at Colorado State, 9:00 PM - Mountain West Network
DePaul at Creighton, 9:00 PM - FS1
Maryland at Illinois, 9:00 PM - Big Ten Network
TCU at Kansas State, 9:00 PM - ESPNews
Clemson at Louisville, 9:00 PM - ACC Network,
Tennessee at Miss State, 9:00 PM - SEC Network
Colorado at Utah, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Duke at Wake Forest, 9:00 PM - ACC Network,
Utah State at Fresno State, 11:00 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Nevada at UNLV, 11:00 PM - CBSSN
California at USC, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
Cal Poly at Hawaii, 12:00 AM - OCSports
Women’s College Basketball
Vermont at Stony Brook, 11:00 AM -
Tulsa at Connecticut, 7:00 PM - SNY,
Green Bay at Wright State, 7:00 PM -
Milwaukee at Detroit, 7:00 PM -
Memphis at UCF, 7:00 PM -
Miami-Ohio at Ball State, 7:00 PM -
Buffalo at Central Michigan, 7:00 PM -
Tulane at East Carolina, 7:00 PM -
Oklahoma at Kansas, 8:00 PM - Jayhawk TV,
West Virginia at Texas, 8:00 PM - Longhorn Network
International Soccer
Club Atletico de Madrid vs. Real Madrid CF, 2:55 PM - beIN Sport
Qatar Open, 7:30 AM - beIN Sport
Qatar Open, 11:00 AM - beIN Sport

Sports News   150104

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Football Bowl Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

Final Score: Florida 28, East Carolina 20

Vernon Hargreaves III intercepted a Shane Carden pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter as the Florida Gators held on for a 28-20 victory over the East Carolina Pirates in the Birmingham Bowl. The turnover came with 1:20 remaining, but East Carolina still possessed all three timeouts. After two of them were used by the Pirates, Jeff Driskel ran nine yards for the game-sealing first down. Driskel had replaced Treon Harris, who was injured in the second half. Harris threw two touchdown passes before departing. Adam Lane had 109 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for Florida (7-5), which was led by interim head coach D.J. Durkin. Durkin took over for Will Muschamp, who stepped down at the end of the regular season. Jim McElwain was hired away from Colorado State on Dec. 4 to be Florida’s new head coach and brought in Mississippi State’s Geoff Collins to replace Durkin as defensive coordinator. Carden was 34-of-66 for 427 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for East Carolina (8-5).

►  Florida tops ECU in Birmingham Bowl

Vernon Hargreaves III intercepted a Shane Carden pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter as the Florida Gators held on for a 28-20 victory over the East Carolina Pirates in the Birmingham Bowl.

The turnover came with 1:20 remaining, but East Carolina still possessed all three timeouts. After two of them were used by the Pirates, Jeff Driskel ran nine yards for the game-sealing first down.

Driskel had replaced Treon Harris, who was injured in the second half. Harris threw two touchdown passes before departing.

Adam Lane had 109 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries for Florida (7-5), which was led by interim head coach D.J. Durkin.

Durkin took over for Will Muschamp, who stepped down at the end of the regular season. Jim McElwain was hired away from Colorado State on Dec. 04 to be Florida’s new head coach and brought in Mississippi State’s Geoff Collins to replace Durkin as defensive coordinator.

Carden was 34-of-66 for 427 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions for East Carolina (8-5).

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFL Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

Final Score: Carolina 27, Arizona 16

Cam Newton’s two third-quarter touchdown passes and a smothering defensive display kept the Carolina Panthers rolling with a 27-16 victory over the Arizona Cardinals in an NFC Wild Card Playoff. Newton delivered scoring strikes to Fozzy Whittaker and Mike Tolbert that erased a 14-13 halftime deficit, and the Panthers’ defense made the lead stand by limiting a weaponless Arizona attack to a mere 13 yards and two first downs over the final two quarters. With third-string quarterback Ryan Lindley at the controls, the Cardinals mustered a paltry 78 total yards overall—the fewest by one team in a playoff game in NFL history. Both of Arizona’s touchdowns came on short fields caused by a pair of Carolina turnovers. Lindley did throw a TD pass to Darren Fells in the second quarter, but was intercepted twice—once near the goal line—and finished with just 81 yards on a 16-of-28 completion rate. Jonathan Stewart added 123 rushing yards and a touchdown on 24 carries in the fifth straight win for the Panthers, whose late-season surge was good enough to capture the soft NFC South with a 7-8-1 record. Newton hit on 18-of-32 throws for 198 yards with one interception. Carolina will next visit either reigning Super Bowl champ Seattle or Green Bay in the Divisional round, depending on the outcome of Sunday’s Detroit-Dallas clash. The loss concluded a disastrous stretch run for Arizona, which owned the NFL’s best record at 9-1 in mid-November. The Cardinals then lost four of their final six regular-season games with quarterbacks Carson Palmer and Drew Stanton beset by injuries.

Final Score: Baltimore 30, Pittsburgh 17

John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco added another notch to their playoff road resume as the Baltimore Ravens went into Heinz Field and came away with a 30-17 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers. Saturday’s AFC Wild Card clash rung familiar in this longstanding rivalry, with hard-hitting defense and opportunistic play deciding which team survived the slugfest. The Ravens, who needed help in Week 17 to even reach the postseason, provided most of the punishing blows, as they sacked Ben Roethlisberger five times and forced two critical interceptions in the fourth quarter. Flacco, who threw for 259 yards with a pair of touchdown passes, and Harbaugh have teamed together for seven playoff victories on the road, and they will shoot for another next Saturday against the top-seeded Patriots in the Divisional Round. The Steelers had won four straight home playoff games but were limited on the ground with All-Pro Le’Veon Bell sidelined. Roethlisberger threw 45 times for 334 yards with a touchdown, but it was his interception off the bands of Tate that essentially did in the Steelers.

►  Bengals seek to end lengthy playoff drought, visit Colts

It’s been nearly a quarter century since the Cincinnati Bengals last won a playoff game and they will be back for a fourth straight year to try again, this time in Indianapolis on Sunday.

The legendary comedian W.C. Fields once said “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again,“ before deadpanning: “Then quit. There’s no point in being a damn fool about it.“

Whether they admit it or not Bengals coach Marvin Lewis and his quarterback Andy Dalton have probably thought about that.

Lewis has been the head man in Cincinnati since the 2003 season and has won 100 career games but he’s 0-5 in the postseason, losing to Pittsburgh after the 2005 season, as well as the New York Jets (‘09), Houston Texans (‘11 and ‘12) and San Diego (‘13). Dalton has been there for the last three of those setbacks since taking over the team in ‘11 as a second-round pick out of TCU.

The franchise itself hasn’t won in January since 1991.

“We have to wait until Sunday to answer it again,“ Lewis said of the criticism surrounding him and his team.

“Regardless of what’s gone on in the past, this is a new team,“ Dalton added. “We’re here again. We were able to earn our way back here. We’ve got to take advantage of that. We understand that.“

A glass-is-half-full person might point to the fact that this is a franchise- record fourth straight postseason appearance for the Bengals while a glass-is- half-empty type wants results when they get there.

And those results will need to come against an emerging superstar in Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

The Bengals finished the regular season at 10-5-1, winning five of their last seven games but they came up short in the winner-take-all battle for the AFC North in Pittsburgh last Sunday night when Antonio Brown scored two touchdowns—one on a punt return and one the conventional way—as the Steelers captured their first division crown since 2010 with a 27-17 victory over Cincinnati.

Dalton completed 27-of-38 passes for 244 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions in the setback. Jeremy Hill carried the ball 23 times for 100 yards.

On the other side winning AFC South titles has been a way of life for the Colts over the last decade plus as Indianapolis has taken nine of the past 12 division crowns and will now be looking to build a deep playoff run off of that.

“It’s one-and-done now,“ said Colts head coach Chuck Pagano. “We all know the stakes get higher and it’s single elimination. Whatever we have to do to win a game, that’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to do whatever it takes.“

Indianapolis warmed up for this in Week 17 when Luck threw a pair of touchdown passes in only one half of action, leading the Colts to a 27-10 win over the moribund Tennessee Titans.

Luck finished 10-of-16 for 160 yards and set the franchise single-season passing yardage mark with 4,761 yards, surpassing Peyton Manning’s previous mark of 4,700 in 2010. Matt Hasselbeck also threw a touchdown pass in the second half for the Colts, who finished 11-5.

Indianapolis bounced back from a dreadful performance at Dallas in Week 16 and completed a sweep of the AFC South for a second straight year. The Colts, who managed only 229 yards against the Cowboys in a 42-7 loss, totaled 378 on Sunday en route to their 13th straight divisional win.

“We needed to come out and win,“ said Luck. “To get a victory after last week was huge.“

Indianapolis leads its all-time series with the Bengals by a 17-10 margin and won the only prior postseason matchup. a 17-0 whitewash in a divisional playoff back in 1970.

Back in Week 7, Luck, who led the NFL with 40 touchdown passes this season, threw two scores as the Colts handed Cincinnati its worst loss of the year, a 27-0 shutout, the Bengals’ first in five years.

Indy limited Cincinnati to 135 total yards in that one and sacked Dalton three times while forcing Kevin Huber to punt it a franchise record-tying 11 times.

“Man, there were a lot of problems,“ Bengals safety Reggie Nelson admitted when talking about that game. “We got beat and they got the best of us, so it’s always good going back to a stadium, back to the scene of the crime.“

In the postseason the Colts are 20-22 all-time while the Bengals are only 5-12.


The offenses here are polar opposites with the Colts having nary a running game while placing everything on the shoulders of Luck, and Cincinnati becoming more of a run-based, play-action club with the emergence of Hill, who led all NFL rookies in rushing yards (1,124) and rushing TDs (nine).

In his past nine games, Hill has been dominant at times, averaging 103.2 yards on the ground per contest and becoming just the third NFL rookie with four 140-plus yard games.

Hill’s presence forces the opposing linebackers to honor the run fake and that creates better throwing lanes for Dalton, who, despite all the criticism, is 40-23-1 as the Bengals’ starter, the highest winning percentage in franchise history.

“Winning in general is how quarterbacks are judged,“ Dalton said. “If you win a lot in the regular season but you haven’t won a lot in the postseason, then they’re going to say that you couldn’t do something.“

Dalton will be without his favorite target. Wide receiver A.J. Green suffered a concussion last week at Pittsburgh and has been ruled out. Green’s running mate, Mohamed Sanu recorded career-highs in catches (56), receiving yards (790) and TD catches (five) but struggles with drops at times.

The Colts defense, meanwhile, has lacked consistency, especially on the pass rush where they the club has missed Robert Mathis, who sat the entire season, first on a suspension and then with an Achilles’ injury.

Veteran linebacker D’Qwell Jackson is the leader of the group in his first season since coming over from Cleveland, pacing the AFC with 140 total tackles. Jackson has rubbed well on rookie LB Jonathan Newsome, who comes in off a two-sack game last week.

The defensive backfield is highlighted by Vontae Davis, one of football’s best man-to-man coverage corners as well as veteran safety Mike Adams, who led the team with a career-high five INTs this season.

The Indy offense remains the team’s strength, though, and finished third in the NFL with 406.6 ypg but was No. 1 overall in passing with 305.9 of those yards coming through the air thanks to Luck, who is just the eighth QB in NFL history to toss 40 TD in a season. The Stanford product has 12,957 passing yards since entering the league in 2012, the most of any player in their first three seasons.

Luck has got a plethora of weapons starting with the speedy T.Y. Hilton, who amassed a career-high 1,345 receiving yards with 1,159 of them coming after the first month. Meanwhile tight ends Dwayne Allen and Coby Fleener each had eight TD receptions.

“Suppressing Andrew Luck is going to be kind of hard,“ Nelson admitted. “He always starts off kind of slow and the scary thing is, he can always get his team going.“

What Luck doesn’t have, though, is a running game although the disappointing Trent Richardson has always played pretty well against the Bengals, averaging 101.3 scrimmage yards per game in four career meeting against Cincinnati.

Defensively the Bengals will need a big day from their top pass rusher, Carlos Dunlap, who lead the team with eight sacks. Luck will also take chances at times so when the opportunities are there to make a play, a talented defensive backfield has to pounce. Nelson led Cincinnati with four picks.

“We have a lot of respect for what they do,“ Luck said. “They do a lot and they do it well. These guys do everything and do it with confidence and competence. It’s a fun team to play.“


Geico Insurance has introduced a new generation of NFL fans to Ickey Woods and his famed “Ickey Shuffle” with a cute little marketing campaign showing Ickey celebrating getting some cold cuts with the shuffle.

Fans in Cincinnati, however, understand the Bengals haven’t won in the postseason since Boomer Esiason was handing it to Ickey. In their minds it’s time to celebrate something far more important than cold cuts.

“At the end of the day, there are only so many teams that get this opportunity,“ said Bengals left tackle Andrew Whitworth. “It doesn’t matter what your record is anymore. It doesn’t matter where you’re seeded. All that matters is if you win.“

And winning here is going to take some “Luck.“

“Do we want to take the next step? Yes,“ Pagano said. “Do we want to reach the Super Bowl that’s going to be played in Arizona? Yes. We’re glad to be in (the playoffs), but (we’re) never satisfied until we hoist (the Lombardi Trophy).“

►  Lions and Cowboys finish off Wild Card Weekend

Playoff football is back in Big D.

The Dallas Cowboys knew it would happen before the season began by boldly sending out postseason packages to their season-ticket holders last summer.

It’s unknown if Nostradamus had something to do with Dallas’ audacious prediction to reach the postseason, but the Cowboys know they will have their hands full with the Detroit Lions Sunday in an NFC Wild Card Game.

Dallas captured the NFC East title and the third seed in the conference with a 12-4 record and are in the playoffs for the first time since winning the division in 2009. Cowboys quarterback and MVP candidate Tony Romo has only one playoff victory under his belt and looks to build on that.

“I’m playing at a level I’m proud of and hope to get better,“ said Romo, who passed for 299 yards and two touchdowns with an interception in a 44-17 drubbing of Washington in the season finale. “I’m just excited about the progression of improvement and want to keep this going in our next game.“

Romo passed for 3,705 yards, 34 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He is 1-3 as a starter in the playoffs, completing 80-of-1,235 passes for 832 yards, four TDs and two INTs. Now that the running game has hit full stride, Romo won’t have to carry the offensive load. In four starts against the Lions, Romo is 1-3 with 1,160 yards, 10 TDs and four picks.

In seven home games this season, Romo passed for 1,772 yards, 14 touchdowns and was picked off seven times. He dealt with a lingering back issue all season, but has received treatment prior to the last few games to deaden the pain. Romo has built a strong rapport with leading receiver Dez Bryant, who led the team with 88 catches for 1,320 yards and a franchise-best 16 TDs.

Bryant had six touchdown receptions over the last three games for the Cowboys, who ripped off four straight wins after an embarrassing loss at home to the Philadelphia Eagles. Bryant is the only player in the NFL with 12 or more receiving touchdowns in each of the past three seasons, and has five touchdown catches in three meetings with Detroit.

“Dez is really a remarkable player,“ Cowboys tight end Jason Witten said. “As a teammate, as a leader, as a veteran guy, you take a lot of pride in seeing the growth of Dez and (running back) DeMarco (Murray) mature as players. Dez is a unbelievable player, he’s a dynamic player, and it’s great to see his growth.“

The Lions are in the playoffs for only the second time in the past 15 years and ended a two-year drought with an 11-5 record in the first year of head coach Jim Caldwell. The Lions just missed out on an NFC North title and the Green Bay Packers claimed it with a 12-4 mark.

Detroit was hoping to close the regular season with five straight wins, but dropped a 30-20 decision to the Packers Sunday at Lambeau Field. Matthew Stafford passed for 217 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions for the Lions, whose 11 wins are the most since a 12-4 record back in 1991.

Stafford threw for 4,257 yards with 22 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, and has eclipsed the 4,000-yard passing mark for a fourth straight season. He is 2-0 in his career versus Dallas and lost his only playoff appearance to New Orleans in 2011, throwing for 380 yards, three TDs and two INTs in a 45-28 setback in the Big Easy.

Wide receiver Calvin Johnson is Stafford’s main target and he had 211 yards and two scores on 12 receptions against the Saints.

Stafford is focused on winning his first playoff game.

“I think, obviously, you watch every game and find ways that you can get better, win, lose or draw,“ Stafford said. “We’re a battle-tested team and have won 11 football games this year. We found ways to win a lot of them and we’ll continue to do that. We just have to move forward.“

Golden Tate, not Johnson, led Detroit with 99 receptions for 1,331 yards in his first year with the team, while Megatron grabbed a team-high eight touchdown receptions. Johnson missed three games because of injury.

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh almost missed this playoff game against the Cowboys after he stepped on the legs of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers while he was down on the grass. Suh was originally suspended for the game for violating playing rules prohibiting unnecessary roughness, but the penalty was reduced on appeal to a $70,000 fine.

Suh paced the Lions with 8 1/2 sacks and is a vital piece to the stout run defense, which finished first in rushing yards allowed (69.3). The Lions were second in total defense and held opponents to 100 rushing yards or fewer in 14 of 16 games, including five games with 50 rushing yards or fewer.

Murray led the NFL in rushing with a team-record 1,845 yards and 12 100-yard games. Murray was tied for the league lead in rushing scores with 13 and opened the season with eight straight 100-yard games for Dallas, which was second overall with 147.1 rushing yards per game.

“Controlling the line of scrimmage is important,“ Caldwell said. “Our defense has been really strong in that area throughout the year.“

The Lions defeated the Cowboys, 31-30, on Oct. 27, 2013 and were aided by Stafford’s 488 passing yards. Johnson caught 14 passes for a franchise-record 329 yards and a score in that one for Detroit, which has won two in a row in this series after losing five of the previous six encounters.

Detroit and Dallas have split two playoff matchups, while the Cowboys lead the overall series by a 13-12 margin.


Sunday’s game features two great quarterbacks and two outstanding wide receivers. The Romo-to-Bryant connection has been on point the last few weeks and cannot afford to have a Thanksgiving flop. Romo threw for 199 yards and two interceptions, and was sacked twice in that Big D debacle

Bryant had 73 yards on six catches with no TDs. He has made great strides since that loss, however.

“We’re just getting started and we’re excited about the opportunity in front of us,“ Romo said about the postseason.

Romo led the NFL with a club-record 113.2 passer rating. He has to be aware of Detroit defenders Suh, Ezekiel Ansah, George Johnson and DeAndre Levy. Levy led the Lions with 151 tackles, while Glover Quin snatched an NFL-best seven interceptions.

Detroit had 20 INTs this season, second most in NFC. It will try to produce a few more turnovers and contain the likes of Bryant and Witten.

The Lions hope right guard Larry Warford will be available after he was carted off the field Sunday with a knee injury. Warford is day-to-day and hopes to be ready for the Cowboys.

“They haven’t really told me what to say,“ Warford said. “Can’t say anything about the injury right now, but hopefully I’ll be back soon.“

Lions rookie center Travis Swanson made his first start in Green Bay and replaced suspended veteran Dominic Raiola.

Dallas had four players with 70 or tackles in Barry Church (97), Rolando McClain (81), Anthony Hitchens (75) and J.J. Wilcox (74). Bruce Carter recorded five interceptions and Wilcox had three.

Church and Wilcox will have to help over the top with corners Brandon Carr and Orlando Scandrick lining up against Johnson and Tate.


The Lions have it tough facing the Packers two times a season and were able to split the NFC North series with each team winning at home. The Cowboys are just as talented, and the Lions will have to enter Dallas’ den in hopes of keeping the season alive.

The Cowboys were a perfect 8-0 on the road in the regular season and 4-4 at AT&T Stadium. The house that Cowboys owner Jerry Jones built will be electric this weekend, and getting Murray going early is priority No. 1. As difficult as that will be for Detroit to stop, there’s Romo and Bryant to worry about.

“We have a great defense, they’ve held us in games a lot of times,“ Johnson said of Detroit’s stop unit. “Like they say, ‘defense wins championships’, so if we just step our game up on offense we’ll be alright.“

Detroit is facing a fine collection of talent and will need a complete effort to pull off the victory. It won’t happen this year, unfortunately, as Romo and the ‘Boys ride off into the NFC divisional round of the playoffs.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

#10 Gilmer County 53     Roane County 49

Doddridge County 47     Buffalo 40

Webster County 63     Ritchie County 61 (OT)

Buckhannon-Upshur 65     Valley (Fayette) 63

Union Grant 38     South Harrison 35

Parkersburg South 71     John Marshall 35

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

Ritchie County 52     Webster County 51

Union Grant 42     South Harrison 16

Wirt County 50     Tyler Consolidated 40

The Gilmer Free Press

►  MEC Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

Shepherd 120, Notre Dame 114 (2 OT) |FinalStats

Freshman Skyler Roman and freshman Steffen Davis each scored a team-high 27 points to lead Shepherd to a 120-114 double overtime win over Notre Dame.

The Rams improved to 8-3 on they ear and 3-2 in the MEC. Notre Dame slipped to 7-4 overall and 3-2 in conference play.

Davis hit on 8-of-14 shots from the floor with a 6-of-11 effort from three-point range, and was 5-of-5 from the charity stripe. Roman was 5-of-10 from the floor with a 1-of-3 performance from beyond the arc. He was 16-of-17 from the foul line. Roman added five assists.

Morgan McDonald added 21 points and Ryan McTavish grabbed a team-high nine rebounds and tied Roman for team-high assist honors. AJ Carr was in double figures with 12 points.

Tyree Gaiter scored a game-high 30 points and dished out a game-high 11 assists for the Falcons. Lawrence DeArmond added 29 points and 13 rebounds, whileOliver Megins tossed in 23 points.

#1 West Liberty 113, Concord 107 (OT) |Final Stats

Top-ranked West Liberty needed overtime to slip past Concord, 113-107.

WLU (10-0, 5-0) led by 15 at halftime, but a furious rally from Concord in the second half tied the score at 82-82 with still six minutes to play. The Mountain Lions led late, but a pair of free throws from Seger Bonifant with :40 left sent the game into overtime.

A pair of early three-pointers in overtime from Zac Grossenbacher helped the ‘Toppers out to a lead it would not relinquish the rest of the way.

Bonifant finished with a game-high 30 points – his fifth 30-point game of the season – to lead all scorers while C.J. Hester checked in with 27 points and a dozen rebounds for his fourth consecutive double-double. Brandon Smith came off the bench to score 14 points while Devin Hoehn added 13 points and five assists.

Terry Hopewell and Jametrius Wade tallied 26 and 20 points, respectively, to lead five double-figure scorers for the hosts. B.J. Hamlet scored 18, Aaron Miller netted 16 and Mike Boyd scored 13 and dished out nine assists.

Fairmont State 76, Urbana 73 |FinalStats

Fairmont State withstood a late Urbana rally to hold for a 76-73 win over the Blue Knights.

Shammgod Wells had a season-high 16 points and six assists to lead the Falcons (6-5, 3-2) in the victory.Nick Harneychipped in 14, Thomas Wimbush andCaleb Daviseach added 12 andChase Morganhad 11.

John Summers had a career and game-high 25 points and 10 rebounds for Urbana (4-7, 1-4) Myles Busby chipped in 11 for UU.

The Falcons led by as many as 13 early in the second half, but Urbana managed to cut the lead to one with 4:30 to play, but Wells responded with a three of his own on FSU’s next possession. Urbana had a chance to tie or get the game-winner with 20 seconds left, but Summers’ three would not fall and the Falcons held on for the win.

Glenville State 89, West Virginia State 80 |Final Stats

Glenville State overcame a halftime deficit and used a late 9-0 run to break away from West Virginia State, 89-80.

Five players reached double figures for the Pioneers (9-2, 5-0), led by 22 from Reggie Williams. Donte Morales added 18, Luke Campbell scored 14, and Brett Morris and Brien Winston each netted 12.

Markee Mazyck led the effort for WVSU (1-10, 1-3) with 20 point, 14 of which came in the second half. Dominic Phillips registered 18 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists for the Yellow Jackets. Steve Wing and Awwal Reid each scored 10.

Charleston 60, West Virginia Wesleyan 52 | Final Stats

Charleston built a 12-point halftime lead and never looked back on its way to a 60-52 win over West Virginia Wesleyan.

The Golden Eagles (8-3, 3-2) used a steady attack in the victory with 13 points from Jevonte Hughes and 12 from Chris Evans.

Tanner McGrew helped keep WVWC (3-8, 1-4) in the game with 20 points and 12 rebounds. Chris Dewberry chipped in 13 points for the Bobcats.

Wheeling Jesuit 76, UVa-Wise 63 |Final Stats

Pat Moseh scored 26 points to lead Wheeling Jesuit to a 76-63 road win over UVa-Wise.

Wheeling Jesuit (6-3, 2-2) shot 48 percent from the field on its way to the victory. Justin Fritts scored 16 and handed out seven assists, and Eric Siefert filled the box score with 10 points, nine assists and eight rebounds. Chase Lawson came off the bench to score 11 points.

Philip Owens II led UVa-Wise (1-9, 0-6) with 20 points, and Matt Day scored 18. Oliver Thompson contributed 14 points.

►  MEC Women’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

West Virginia State 72, Glenville State 60 |Final Stats

West Virginia State broke a 54-54 tie with 8:24 to go by closing out the game on an 18-6 run to defeat Glenville State, 72-60.

WVSU improved to 3-6 overall and 1-3 in the MEC. Glenville State dropped to 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the league.

The Yellow Jackets were led by Shealyn Shafer who shot 8-of-11 from the field and went for a game-high 24 points while also pulling down 10 rebounds. Trina Current added 16 points and eight rebounds, Alexus Hobbs had 10 points and nine boards, and Deyahnna Styles chipped in 11 points. Aurreshae Hines dished out seven assists to go with six points and six rebounds.

GSC was led by 17 points from Kayla Tibbs and 13 points and nine rebounds from Keyanna Tate.

West Virginia State shot 49 percent from the field and held the Pioneers to just 29 percent shooting in the game.

Wheeling Jesuit 56, UVa-Wise 49 |Final Stats

Wheeling Jesuit erased an 11-point deficit in the final 10 minutes to rally for a 56-49 victory over UVa-Wise.

The Cardinals (5-3, 2-2) outscored the Cavs (3-6, 3-2) 23-5 over the final 10:41, including holding UVa-Wise scoreless for the game’s final 3:47. WJU dominated the inside with 34 points in the paint compared to just 12 for the Cavs.

Jaila Bryant led the Cards with 14 points, and Kylie Frizell scored eight of her 13 points in the second half. Jaana Motton had 13 rebounds to go with eight points.

Kayla Carey had 13 points and eight rebounds for the Cavs. Blair Harding had a double-double with 12 points and 13 rebounds. Katie Jo Dockery added 10 points.

Shepherd 76, Notre Dame 71 |Final Stats

Rachel Johnson scored 23 points to help Shepherd defeat Notre Dame, 76-71.

With the win, the Rams improved to 8-3 on the year and remained unbeaten in the MEC at 5-0. Notre Dame fell to 6-5 on the year and 2-3 in conference play.

Johnson hit 10-of-14 from the field, including 3-of-5 from three-point range for her 23 points. She also had five rebounds and three assists. Morgan Arden came off the bench to add 11 points and Liz Myers chipped in 10.

Martha Nagbe scored 18 points and pulled down 10 rebounds to lead NDC. Lauren Langenderfer scored 15, Molly Ritz scored 12 points and had nine rebounds, and Jessica Garcia came off the bench to score 10.

Shepherd shot 52 percent from the field to help it overcome a 43-33 rebounding deficit. The Rams also got 30 points off the bench compared to just 14 from NDC.

Fairmont State 66, Urbana 56 |Final Stats

Fairmont State overcame a halftime deficit and held off Urbana late to pick up a 66-56 win over the Blue Knights.

The Falcons (9-2, 3-2) trailed at the break 34-28, but started the second half on a 12-4 run to get back into the game. FSU then outscored Urbana (1-10, 1-4) 9-1 in the final 4:17 to hold off a late charge from the Blue Knights.

Emily Lohr was 6-of-9 from three-point range and led the Falcons with 20 points. Hallie Gunnoe scored 14 and Emily Puskarich added 12. The Falcons shot 45 percent in the second half helping outscore Urbana 38-22 in the final 20 minutes.

Katy Barkley led Urbana with 13 points and eight rebounds. Jeni Jordan had 12 points and eight rebounds and Megan Hatfield came off the bench to add 11.

West Liberty 90, Concord 65 | Final Stats

Liz Flowers scored 30 points and Kailee Howe dished out 16 assists to help West Liberty power past Concord, 90-65.

Flowers hit four three-pointers and was 7-of-7 from the free throw line to lead WLU (7-4, 4-1). Jenn Mohney added four three-pointers on her way to 19 points, and Kierra Simpson scored 12 and added nine rebounds. Howe added eight points and six rebounds to go with her 16 assists.

Rachel Artrip led Concord (3-5, 3-2) with 18 points and 10 rebounds. Jacqueline Kestner scored 13 points and added eight rebounds.

Charleston 58, West Virginia Wesleyan 54 | Final Stats

Charleston held off a late charge by West Virginia Wesleyan to hold on for a 58-54 win.

The Golden Eagles (8-3, 3-2) featured a balanced attack led by 15 points from Dejanique Reddix, 14 from Nichole Perry and 12 from LeAnne Ross. Ross hit four threes on the day and Perry added three for UC.

Adrian Cunningham led the Bobcats (0-8, 0-5) with 19 points. Mari Stewart 11 and pulled down a team-best eight rebounds.

UC led by as many as 14 in the second half, but saw its advantage dwindle to just two points with 1:25 to go. The Bobcats could not manage any points in their final two possessions as UC’s Reddix made two free throws down the final stretch to seal the win.

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

Final Score: (2) Duke 85, Boston College 62

Jahlil Okafor had 28 points and eight rebounds as No. 2 Duke routed Boston College in the ACC opener for both teams on Saturday. Okafor was 7-of-11 from the field and 14-of-17 from the foul line for the Blue Devils (13-0, 1-0 ACC), who have won each of their 13 games by double-digit margins. Quinn Cook tallied 15 points, while Rasheed Sulaimon added 11 points off the bench in the victory. Duke posted its ninth 13-0 start in school history and extended the nation’s longest home winning streak to 41 games. Olivier Hanlan netted 22 points to lead Boston College (7-5, 0-1), which has dropped two of its last three games on the heels of a four-game winning streak.

Final Score: (3) Virginia 89, Miami-Florida 80 (2-OT)

It took 10 extra minutes, but No. 3 Virginia narrowly escaped with an 89-80 double-overtime win over Miami-Florida to remain undefeated. The Cavaliers (13-0, 1-0 ACC) were led by London Perrantes with 26 points and eight assists. Justin Anderson added nine of his 16 points in the overtime periods, including a clutch 3-pointer. Angel Rodriguez scored a career-high 25 points for the Hurricanes (10-4, 0-1), to go with seven assists and four rebounds. His three free throws with less than a second remaining in regulation forced overtime. Sheldon McClellan chipped in 16 points and eight boards for Miami, and Omar Sherman added 13 on 5-of-10 shooting with six rebounds.

Final Score: Seton Hall 66, (6) Villanova 61 (OT)

Sterling Gibbs scored 20 points and came up with a steal late in overtime as the Seton Hall Pirates beat sixth-ranked Villanova 66-61 to deny the Wildcats their best start in school history. Khadeen Carrington had a career-high 17 points off the bench for Seton Hall (12-2, 2-0 Big East), which posted its second straight win over a ranked opponent. The Pirates knocked off No. 15 St. John’s 78-67 on Wednesday to begin Big East play. Daniel Ochefu finished with career highs of 19 points and 24 rebounds to lead the Wildcats (13-1, 1-1), who were looking to become the first team in program history to open a season with 14 consecutive wins.

Final Score: (7) Gonzaga 87, Portland 75

Przemek Karnowski dropped 21 points and No. 7 Gonzaga survived a stiff test from Portland, beating the Pilots 87-75 to avenge last season’s loss at Chiles Center. Karnowski shot 9-for-12 and made his first career 3-pointer during a balanced scoring attack that saw four Bulldogs reach double figures and three others score at least five. Kevin Pangos also notched 21 points while Gary Bell Jr. and Byron Wesley posted 12 and 10, respectively, for Gonzaga (14-1, 3-0 WCC), which is 3-0 in conference play for the ninth straight season. Alec Wintering and Thomas van der Mars did the heavy lifting for Portland (10-5, 1-2), which trailed by as many as 21 points before trimming the gap to five late in the game. It fell short of a miraculous comeback for the second straight game.

Final Score: South Carolina 64, (9) Iowa State 60

Duane Notice had 15 points and six rebounds to lead South Carolina in a 64-60 victory over No. 9 Iowa State. Sindarius Thornwell scored 13 points with eight rebounds and Tyrone Johnson added 13 points and seven boards for the Gamecocks (9-3), who have won seven straight games. Dustin Hogue and Jameel McKay each scored 15 points with six rebounds and Georges Niang added 10 points and eight rebounds for the Cyclones (10-2), who had a seven-game winning streak snapped.

Final Score: (11) Texas 70, Texas Tech 61

Javan Felix scored a game-high 15 points as 11th-ranked Texas won its Big 12 opener with a 70-61 verdict over Texas Tech at United Supermarkets Arena. Jonathan Holmes added 14 points and Cameron Ridley had 13 along with seven rebounds for a Longhorns team that received a further boost in the return of point guard Isaiah Taylor from a broken wrist. Taylor, who had missed the Longhorns’ last 10 outings, shot just 2- of-10 from the field but had four steals to key another strong defensive effort for Texas (12-2). The Longhorns also did plenty of damage from the foul line, hitting 25-of-34 free throw attempts to offset a 38.5 percent shooting display. Texas Tech (10-4) had just one player score in double figures, with Isaiah Manderson finishing with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting.

Final Score: (12) Maryland 70, Minnesota 58

Melo Trimble scored 20 points and the 12th-ranked Maryland Terrapins held off the Minnesota Golden Gophers 70-58 on Saturday afternoon. Trimble went 5-of-15 from the floor and 1-of-8 from beyond the arc for the Terrapins (14-1, 2-0 Big Ten), who have won seven in a row. Jake Layman and Dez Wells each had 12 points. Maurice Walker ended with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three blocks and two steals for the Gophers (11-4, 0-2), who have dropped two straight since an eight-game winning streak. Carlos Morris contributed 18 points, six boards and two steals.

Final Score: (14) Notre Dame 83, Georgia Tech 76 (2-OT)

Jerian Grant totaled 24 points and six assists as No. 14 Notre Dame outlasted Georgia Tech, 83-76, in double overtime on Saturday. Steve Vasturia had 17 points and six rebounds for the Fighting Irish (14-1, 2-0 ACC), while Zach Auguste added 13, Demetrius Jackson picked up 11 and Pat Connaughton poured in 10 points and eight boards. Marcus Georges-Hunt led the way with 20 points and eight rebounds for the Yellow Jackets (9-4, 0-1). Charles Mitchell posted 14 points and 12 boards in defeat.

Final Score: Butler 73, (15) St. John’s 69

Kellen Dunham scored a season-high 28 points, and the Butler Bulldogs upset No. 15 St. John’s, 73-69, on Saturday. Dunham could not be stopped from long range, hitting 6-of-7 from beyond the arc to help Butler (11-4, 1-1 Big East) rebound from a loss at Villanova on Wednesday. The Bulldogs also got 15 points from Alex Barlow and 14 from Roosevelt Jones. Butler coach Chris Holtmann earned his first win since officially being named the head coach. Prior to Friday, he was working under the interim label since Brandon Miller took a leave of absence before the season started. The Red Storm (11-3, 0-2), entered the game yielding the lowest opponents’ field goal percentage in the conference at 37.1 percent but allowed Butler to shoot 48.1 percent from the floor. D’Angelo Harrison scored 31 points to lead all scorers for St. John’s. He made 9-of-11 from the free throw line and shot 10-of-21 from the field. Phil Greene IV added 14 points for the Red Storm, and they also received 11 points, seven rebounds and five blocks from Chris Obekpa. Neither team got a single point from its bench. St. John’s was playing its first game without second-leading scorer Rysheed Jordan, who took a leave of absence from the team on Friday.

Final Score: (17) West Virginia 78, TCU 67

Gary Browne had 16 points, Devin Williams scored 14 with eight rebounds and No. 17 West Virginia began Big 12 play with a 78-67 win over previously unbeaten TCU on Saturday. Jaysean Paige totaled 10 points while both Jonathan Holton and Daxter Miles Jr. added nine points apiece for the Mountaineers (13-1, 1-0 Big 12), who played without Juwan Staten. West Virginia’s leading scorer sat out because of an illness. Kyan Anderson led TCU (13-1, 0-1) with 19 points, followed by Trey Zeigler with 17. The Horned Frogs, who were off to the best start in school history, failed to win a conference game last season.

Final Score: (18) Oklahoma 73, (22) Baylor 63

TaShawn Thomas scored 24 points with eight rebounds as No. 18 Oklahoma nabbed a 73-63 win over 22nd-ranked Baylor to open Big 12 action. Buddy Hield had 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Isaiah Cousins added 19 points and eight boards for the Sooners (10-3, 1-0 Big 12), who have won their last three. Johnathan Motley scored 24 points and Taurean Prince gave 17 for the Bears (11-2, 0-1), who had a six-game winning streak broken.

Final Score: (19) North Carolina 74, Clemson 50

Kennedy Meeks had 12 points and 12 rebounds to help 19th-ranked North Carolina roll to a 74-50 victory over cold-shooting Clemson in the ACC opener for both teams. Justin Jackson added 13 points on 6- of-8 shooting and Brice Johnson tallied 10 points and eight rebounds for the Tar Heels (11-3, 1-0 ACC), but it was the defense that played the biggest role in North Carolina’s fifth straight win. The Tar Heels built a lopsided 39-17 halftime lead by limiting the Tigers to a 5-of-28 performance from the field. Clemson (8-5, 0-1) shot a troubling 28.3 percent for the game and was outrebounded by a 49-30 margin.

Final Score: (20) Ohio State 77, Illinois 61

D’Angelo Russell had 22 points and No. 20 Ohio State pulled away in the second half to dispatch Illinois 77-61 on Saturday afternoon. Marc Loving posted 13 points and eight rebounds, while Sam Thompson added 13 points for the Buckeyes (12-3, 1-1 Big Ten), who have won three of their last four games. Rayvonte Rice tallied 20 points and seven boards for Illinois (10-5, 0-2), which has dropped its first two conference games.

Final Score: New Mexico 66, (24) Colorado State 53

Freshman Sam Logwood scored 15 points off the bench and New Mexico knocked off 24th-ranked and previously-unbeaten Colorado State, 66-53, Saturday night. The Rams (14-1, 1-1 MWC) were the third unbeaten team to lose on Saturday. No. 6 Villanova fell in overtime at Seton Hall, and TCU lost to 17th-ranked West Virginia. That leaves only Kentucky, Duke and Virginia, the top three teams in the nation, still without a loss. Logwood came into Saturday averaging just 3.2 points, but made all five of his shots from the field and all four attempts from the foul line. Devon Williams added 13 points for New Mexico (10-4, 2-0 MWC), which has won seven of its last eight games.

Final Score: (25) Georgetown 76, Creighton 61

Joshua Smith scored 16 points to lead five Georgetown players in double figures as the 25th-ranked Hoyas posted a 76-61 victory over the Creighton Bluejays on Saturday. L.J. Peak had 14 points and Tre Campbell added 13 for Georgetown (9-4, 1-1 Big East), which shot 58.7 percent in rebounding from a loss to Xavier in Wednesday’s conference opener. Devin Brooks and Zach Hanson scored 11 points apiece for the Bluejays (9-6, 0-2), who have lost three straight games.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

Final Score: Charlotte 98, Orlando 90

Kemba Walker had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists as the Charlotte Hornets defeated the Orlando Magic 98-90 on Saturday night. Michael Kidd-Gilchrist posted 17 points and 12 rebounds, Gary Neal netted 16 points off the bench and Cody Zeller added 12 points and seven boards for the Hornets, who snapped a five-game losing streak. Nik Vucevic tallied 20 points and 10 rebounds, while Tobias Harris provided 18 points and 11 boards for Orlando, which has dropped three consecutive games. Victor Oladipo supplied 21 points and four steals in defeat.

Final Score: Chicago 109, Boston 104 (OT)

Pau Gasol had another solid all-around game with 29 points, 16 rebounds and five blocks to lead the Chicago Bulls to a 109-104 overtime win over the Boston Celtics. In Thursday’s 106-10 win versus Denver, Gasol recorded 17 points, nine boards and a career-high nine blocks. As a team, Chicago tallied a franchise record 18 blocks. On Saturday, the Bulls had nine blocks, but shot just 37 percent from the field, yet they managed to win for the ninth time in 10 games. Aaron Brooks provided 19 points and Derrick Rose scored 12, but was just 5- of-18 from the floor. Taj Gibson had 12 points and Nikola Mirotic scored 10 in the win. Evan Turner scored 29 for Boston, which lost for the sixth time in seven games. Avery Bradley chipped in 17 points and Jared Sullinger scored 16 and had 16 rebounds in defeat.

Final Score: Houston 115, Miami 79

Dwight Howard had 19 of his 23 points in the second quarter and pulled down 13 rebounds as the Houston Rockets blew out the Miami Heat 115-79 on Saturday night. Houston outscored Miami 71-39 in the second and third quarters to turn the game into a rout. James Harden posted 28 points and five rebounds for the Rockets, who had dropped five of their last eight games coming in. Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh each netted 15 points to lead Miami, which has dropped four in a row—three since Bosh returned from his ankle injury.

Final Score: Utah 101, Minnesota 89

Trey Burke scored a season-high 28 points on 10-of-16 shooting to help the Utah Jazz defeat the Minnesota Timberwolves 101-89 on Saturday. Burke added six assists and six rebounds for the Jazz, winners of two of their last three. Rudy Gobert set career highs with 13 points and six blocks and added 11 boards for Utah. Trevor Booker scored eight points with 15 boards. Minnesota was led by Andrew Wiggins’ and Mo Williams’ 20 points each in its 11th straight loss. The Timberwolves have not won since their victory over Portland on Dec. 10.

Final Score: San Antonio 101, Washington 92

With the worst month in recent memory behind them, the San Antonio Spurs shot better than 55 percent in their first game of 2015 and beat the Washington Wizards, 101-92. Cory Joseph scored 17 of his 19 points in the first half and Boris Diaw dropped 12 of his 14 in the second, as the Spurs rallied past the struggling Wizards. Tiago Splitter and Patty Mills added 16 and 15 points, respectively, for San Antonio, which finished December with a losing record (8-10). It was San Antonio’s first losing month since February, 1999. John Wall and Bradley Beal led six Wizards in double figures with 15 points apiece. They fell to 1-3 on a five-game Western Conference road trip. It was their 17th straight loss to the Spurs.

Final Score: Denver 114, Memphis 85

Ty Lawson scored 25 points, handed out 11 assists and grabbed five rebounds in the Denver Nuggets’ dominating 114-85 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday. Lawson’s backcourt mate, Arron Afflalo, chipped in 23 points on 8-of-12 shooting to help Denver snap a three- game skid. Kenneth Faried scored 13 points and pulled down 13 boards, and Jusuf Nurkic contributed 11 points, 10 boards and five blocks off the Nuggets’ bench. Marc Gasol scored 18 points as the Grizzlies saw their three-game winning streak come to an end. Rookie Jordan Adams scored 12 in the final quarter on 5-of-6 shooting.

Final Score: Atlanta 115, Portland 107

Paul Millsap scored 27 points to lead Atlanta to yet another impressive road win. The Hawks had seven players in double figures in their 115-107 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday. Atlanta had been climbing the Eastern Conference standings with a tremendous run starting in late November, and it moved into first place with Toronto losing in Golden State on Friday. Since losing to the Raptors on Nov. 26 to fall to 7-6, the Hawks have won 18 of 20 games, including seven straight on the road against the West. Their six straight road wins overall are the most since 2011. Jeff Teague tallied 22 points and six assists, Kyle Korver made four 3- pointers en route to 14 points and Al Horford and Thabo Sefolosha netted 13 apiece. Portland got 30 points and 12 assists from LaMarcus Aldridge in its first game since Dec. 30. Damian Lillard posted 16 points, eight rebounds and seven assists.

Final Score: LA Clippers 127, Philadelphia 91

Chris Paul registered 24 points and 12 assists, and the Los Angeles Clippers pulled away in the second half to rout the Philadelphia 76ers, 127-91, at Staples Center. J.J. Redick tallied 17 points and Blake Griffin had 15 for the Clippers, who held a 65-38 scoring advantage in the second half. Tony Wroten scored 27 and Robert Covington chipped in 23 points for the Sixers, who went 2-5 on a seven-game road trip.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Smoke and mirrors

Two weeks ago, the Celtics traded their star point guard Rajon Rondo to the Dallas Mavericks. It may be time for fantasy owners to follow suit and shop the point guard.

Whenever a star in the NBA is traded, he grabs a lot of headlines, but that isn’t the only reason Rondo is getting a lot of attention at the moment. Over the last few years, Boston fans criticized him for his lack of defensive effort, yet in fewer than 14 days, Rondo has drastically increased his intensity on that side of the ball.

Rondo admitted to before taking the floor for the first time as an opposing player at the Boston Garden that he “hadn’t played defense in a couple of years.“

I’m sure Celtics fans felt “wicked awesome” to hear that.

Then versus Boston, Rondo shot 12-of-19, including 5-for-7 from the 3- point line on his way to a season-high 29 points. He also had six rebounds and five assists.

Maybe Rondo hasn’t tried on his 3-pointers in recent years either because he never hit five 3-pointers in a game as a Celtic.

Fantasy owners who have Rondo need to realize his stock is never going to be higher than it is right now. He just played the game of his life, likely due to an emotional high he received in his return to Beantown. Rondo was motivated to prove the Celtics made a mistake in giving up on him, plus the arena played a tribute video for him before the tip.

That would get any athlete in “the zone.“

Since joining the Mavericks, the perception is Rondo is playing better than he was with the Celtics. That is definitely true in many cases, particularly defensively, but that perception is nothing but smoke and mirrors in fantasy realms.

He averaged 8.3 ppg, 7.5 rpg and a league-high 10.8 apg through 22 games in Boston this season. In seven games with Dallas, Rondo is averaging 15.4 ppg, 7.4 apg and 5.4 rpg. On a better team, he isn’t getting the ball as much so naturally, his numbers are going down.

The only reason his scoring numbers are up is because his shooting percentage has gone through the roof. With Dallas, Rondo is shooting 53.3 percent from the 3-point line. His career average from downtown is less than half that (26.1 percent).

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle told ESPN Dallas he wants to improve Rondo’s shot, but a 30 percent increase is not sustainable. Of course Rondo is still a triple-double threat, he just didn’t become a lethal 3-point shooter overnight.

Because of the good perception he is receiving along with all the media attention and huge game from Friday, owners should be able to demand a lot for Rondo in a trade.

It would be wise for owners to trade the new Maverick away quickly because once the shooting numbers go back down, Rondo is the same poor shooting point guard he was in Boston just with fewer opportunities for assists and rebounds.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, January 03)

Final Score: Ottawa 3, Boston 2 (OT)

Bobby Ryan scored 44 seconds into overtime to lift the Ottawa Senators over the Boston Bruins, 3-2, on Saturday afternoon. Erik Karlsson controlled a bouncing puck at the right circle and batted a pass in front to Ryan, who pushed the disc across the line. Mike Hoffman and Kyle Turris scored in regulation for the Senators, who have won two in a row since a three-game skid. Craig Anderson made 26 saves. Torey Krug and Brad Marchand lit the lamp for the Bruins, who have dropped two straight. Tuukka Rask stopped 23-of-26 shots.

Final Score: Nashville 7, Los Angeles 6 (OT)

Josi scored at the 18-second mark of overtime, letting the steam out of a momentous Los Angeles comeback, and the Nashville Predators claimed a rousing 7-6 victory over the Kings at Staples Center. Mike Fisher, Colin Wilson, Ryan Ellis, Mattias Ekholm, Marc Arcobello and Olli Jokinen also lit the lamp for the Predators, winners in six of their last eight despite wasting a three-goal lead in the final two minutes of regulation. Mike Ribeiro chipped in a pair of assists while Pekka Rinne escaped with a 24-save win. Dwight King, Marian Gaborik and Jeff Carter netted goals in a span of 1:27 late in the contest for the Kings, who have dropped three of four by gamely fighting back from a 5-1 deficit to earn a point. Martin Jones took the loss, charged with four goals on 16 shots including Josi’s winner. He subbed for an ineffective Jonathan Quick, who was yanked after yielding three goals on nine shots in almost 10 minutes of play.

Final Score: New Jersey 5, Philadelphia 2

Jaromir Jagr recorded his first hat trick in almost nine years and set a league record in the process, Cory Schneider came up with 18 saves, and New Jersey pounded Philadelphia by a 5-2 count at Prudential Center. Jagr became the oldest player in NHL history to score three times in one contest, doing so at 42 years, 322 days. Scott Gomez added a goal and two assists with Patrik Elias providing the other marker for the Devils, who won for just the third time in their last 13 games. Andrew MacDonald and Vincent Lecavalier scored once each for the Flyers, who finished their eight-game road trip at 3-4-1 after losing their final five dates. Ray Emery allowed three goals on 10 shots in the first period to take the loss. Steve Mason finished up with just six saves on eight shots.

Final Score: NY Rangers 6, Buffalo 1

Derick Brassard, Rick Nash and Dan Boyle each had a goal and an assist during a first-period flurry that propelled the New York Rangers to a 6-1 rout of the Buffalo Sabres. Chris Kreider also scored during the Rangers’ four-goal opening stanza, with Martin St. Louis recording a pair of assists in the Blueshirts’ 10th win in their last 11 games. Henrik Lundqvist made 24 saves for New York, which also received goals from Carl Hagelin and Jesper Fast. Michael Neuvirth stopped just 5- of-9 shots for Buffalo before being lifted after less than 13 minutes. Jhonas Enroth had 28 saves on 30 chances in relief. Drew Stafford tallied Buffalo’s lone goal in the loss, the Sabres’ fourth straight and eighth in their last nine outings.

Final Score: Montreal 4, Pittsburgh 1

Carey Price turned away 30 shots to lead the Montreal Canadiens in a 4-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Saturday. Max Pacioretty and Tom Gilbert each posted a goal and an assist for the Canadiens, who have ripped off six straight victories. David Desharnais and Alexei Emelin also scored in the win. In his Pittsburgh debut, David Perron had the only goal of the game for the Penguins, who had a two- game winning streak stopped. Marc-Andre Fleury allowed four goals on 33 shots in the defeat.

Final Score: Winnipeg 5, Toronto 1

Bryan Little registered one goal and two assists as the Winnipeg Jets easily took down the Toronto Maple Leafs, 5-1, on Saturday night. Winnipeg used five different goal scorers behind Michael Hutchinson, who made 20 saves to pick up the win. Dustin Byfuglien, Ben Chiarot, T.J. Galiardi and Matt Halischuk all lit the lamp as the Jets rebounded from back-to-back regulation losses to the Wild and Islanders. James Reimer gave Jonathan Bernier a breather and was peppered with 40 shots. He allowed all five goals as Toronto finished its disappointing seven-game road trip with a 2-5-0 record. Mike Santorelli recorded Toronto’s only goal.

Final Score: Dallas 7, Minnesota 1

Vernon Fiddler scored twice as the Dallas Stars dominated the Minnesota Wild, 7-1, on Saturday. Erik Cole and Tyler Seguin each had a goal and an assist, while Kari Lehtonen posted 21 stops for the Stars, who have won four straight and eight of their last nine. Thomas Vanek scored the only goal of the game for the Wild, who have lost seven of their last nine games. Darcy Kuemper was pulled from the start after allowing four goals on 21 shots, with Niklas Backstrom allowing three goals on 14 shots in relief.

Final Score: Arizona 6, Columbus 3

Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Sam Gagner and Martin Hanzal scored in the second period and Arizona came from behind to down Columbus by a 6-3 count on Saturday. Hanzal added three assists, Gagner ended up scoring twice, while Tobias Rieder and Kyle Chipchura also lit the lamp for the Coyotes, who have reeled off four wins in their last five outings. Mike Smith backed up his offense with a 23-save victory. Fedor Tyutin, James Wisniewski and Ryan Johansen all tallied for the Blue Jackets, who opened up a four-game road trip by having their two-game win streak halted. Sergei Bobrovsky surrendered six goals on 31 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Vancouver 4, Detroit 1

Ryan Miller stopped 29 shots and Henrik Sedin scored a pair of empty-net goals in Vancouver’s 4-1 win over the Detroit Red Wings. Radim Vrbata and Alexander Edler each lit the lamp, and Daniel Sedin had three assists for the Canucks, who won for the fourth time in six games. Miller moved to 3-10-2 all-time against the Red Wings. Tomas Tatar scored the lone Detroit goal. Jimmy Howard made 20 saves for the Red Wings, who suffered their eighth loss in 11 games.

Final Score: St. Louis 7, San Jose 2

T.J. Oshie recorded his second career hat trick and the St. Louis Blues scored a season-high seven goals in a 7-2 rout of the San Jose Sharks on Saturday. Oshie added an assist in the onslaught, and Alexander Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk posted their own four-point performances with a goal and three assists apiece. Brian Elliott, making his second start since returning from a knee injury, made 18 saves for St. Louis, which had dropped five straight on the road coming in. Antti Niemi followed up his shutout of the Ducks on Wednesday by surrendering six goals on 27 shots before being lifted in the third period.

The Gilmer Free Press

ABC - American Broadcasting Company
CBS - Columbia Broadcast System
FOX - Fox Entertainment Group
NBC - National Broadcasting Company
JIP - Joined in Progress
TSN - Sports Network (Canada)
SNET/SN - Rogers SportsNet (Canada)
RDS - Reseau des sports
MSG - Madison Square Garden Network
TNT - Turner Network Television
TBS - Turner Broadcasting System
SNY - SportsNet New York
CBSSN - CBS - College Sports Network
CSN - Comcast SportsNet
TCN - The Comcast Network
NBCSN - NBC Sports Network
NESN - New England Sports Network
MASN - Mid-Atlantic Sports Network
ROOT - Root Sports (Pittsburgh, Northwest, Rocky Mountain)
CST - Cox Sports Television
FCS - FOX College Sports
FS - FOX Sports Regional
RSN - Regional Sports Networks
CPTV - Connecticut Public Broadcasting
TVG - Horse Racing Channel
FS1 - FOX Sports 1
TWC - Time Warner Cable Sports Channel
* - If Necessary

National Football League - Playoffs
Cincinnati at Indianapolis, 1:05 PM - CBS
Detroit at Dallas, 4:40 PM - FOX
National Basketball Association
Dallas at Cleveland, 1:00 PM - FS-Southwest, Ohio, DSS
Sacramento at Detroit, 6:00 PM - CSN-California, FS-Detroit, DSS
Brooklyn at Miami, 6:00 PM - YES, SunSports, DSS
Milwaukee at New York, 7:30 PM - FS-Wisconsin, MSG, DSS
Toronto at Phoenix, 8:00 PM - SNET, FS-Arizona, DSS
Indiana at LA Lakers, 9:30 PM - FS-Indiana, Time warner, NBA TV, DSS
National Hockey League
Boston at Carolina, 1:00 PM - NESN, SportSouth, DSS
Florida at Washington, 3:00 PM - FS-Florida, CSN-DC, DSS
Tampa Bay at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - TVA, CITY, SunSports, DSS
Dallas at Chicago, 8:00 PM - WGN, NBCSN
Columbus at Colorado, 8:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Altitude, DSS
Nashville at Anaheim, 8:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, Prime Ticket, DSS
NY Islanders at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - MSG+, SNET-West, DSS
College Basketball
UCF at Temple, 12:00 PM - ESPNews
Milwaukee at Detroit, 1:00 PM - American Sports Network
Old Dominion at Charlotte, 1:00 PM - MASN, American Sports Net, Altitude
VA Commonwealth at Fordham, 1:00 PM - CBSSN
Evansville at Indiana State, 1:30 PM -
Iona at Siena, 2:00 PM - Time Warner Sports
USC at Colorado, 2:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Houston at Tulsa, 2:00 PM - ESPNews
Youngstown State at Valparaiso, 2:30 PM -
TX-San Antonio at North Texas, 3:00 PM - FSN
Marshall at Western Ky, 3:00 PM - HSSN
Texas-El Paso at Rice, 3:30 PM - MASN, American Sports Network, Altitude
Loyola-Chicago at Northern Iowa, 3:30 PM -
Cleveland State at Ill-Chicago, 4:00 PM -
UCLA at Utah, 4:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
UNLV at Kansas, 4:30 PM - CBS
South Dakota St at North Dakota St, 5:00 PM -
Illinois State at Wichita State, 5:30 PM - ESPN U
Washington St at California, 6:00 PM - Pac-12 Network
Arizona State at Arizona, 7:00 PM - FS1
Louisville at Wake Forest, 8:00 PM - ESPN U
Wisconsin at Northwestern, 8:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Washington at Stanford, 10:00 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Iowa at Rutgers, 12:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Alabama at Georgia, 1:00 PM - FSN
Notre Dame at Syracuse, 1:00 PM - RSN, ACC Network, YES,
Connecticut at St. John’s, 1:00 PM - ESPN 2
Texas A&M at Arkansas, 1:30 PM - ESPN U,
Ole Miss at Kentucky, 2:00 PM - SEC Network
St. Louis at George Mason, 2:00 PM - NBCSN
Michigan State at Michigan, 2:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Louisville at Pittsburgh, 2:00 PM -
Florida A&M at Mercer, 2:00 PM -
South Dakota State at North Dakota State, 2:00 PM -
South Carolina at LSU, 3:00 PM - ESPN 2,
Miss State at Missouri, 3:00 PM - SEC Network+
NC State at North Carolina, 3:00 PM - RSN,, YES
Richmond at Fordham, 3:30 PM - CBSSN
George Washington at Dayton, 3:30 PM - ESPN U
Florida at Auburn, 4:00 PM - SEC Network
Northwestern at Ohio State, 4:00 PM - Big Ten Network
West Virginia at Oklahoma, 4:30 PM - FS1
TCU at Texas Tech, 5:00 PM - FSN
South Florida at Tulane, 5:30 PM - CBSSN
College Football
Toledo vs. Arkansas State (GoDaddy Bowl), 9:00 PM - ESPN
College Hockey
Colorado College at Providence, 4:00 PM - OSN
International Soccer
Dover vs. Crystal Palace, 8:00 AM - FS1
Yeovil vs. Manchester United, 10:30 AM - FS1
Valencia vs. Real Madrid, 10:55 AM - beIN Sport
Arsenal vs. Hull, 12:30 PM - FS1
RCD Espanyol vs. SD Eibar, 12:55 PM - beIN Sport
Real Sociedad vs. FC Barcelona, 2:55 PM - beIN Sport

Click Below for More Sports...

Page 1 of 8 pages  1 2 3 >  Last »

The Gilmer Free Press

Copyright MMVIII-MMXVIII The Gilmer Free Press. All Rights Reserved