This Date in Sports History - March 22, 2015

The Gilmer Free Press

1952 — The St. John’s Redmen avenge an earlier 41-point loss, beating top-ranked Kentucky 64-57 in the East Regional championship game of the NCAA Division I Men’s Tournament. St. John’s, led by Bob Zawoluk’s NCAA tournament record 32 points, advances to its first Final Four.

1953 — The United States beats host Chile, 49-36 to win the first FIBA World Championship for Women basketball tournament.

1958 — Vern Hatton and Johnny Cox combine for 54 points to give Kentucky an 84-72 victory over Seattle in the NCAA basketball championship.

1967 — Muhammad Ali knocks out Zora Folley in the seventh round at Madison Square Garden to retain his world heavyweight title.

1969 — Lew Alcindor leads UCLA to the NCAA basketball title with a 97-72 win over Purdue, and is chosen as MVP for the third straight year.

1969 — West Chester State beats Western Carolina 65-39 to win the first-ever women’s collegiate national championship. The game is played using the six player format.

1986 — Trevor Berbick wins a unanimous 15-round decision over Pinklon Thomas in Las Vegas for the WBC heavyweight title.

1994 — The NFL announces the addition of the 2-point conversion, the league’s first scoring change in 75 seasons.

1997 — Tara Lipinski’s jumps, the cleanest and the surest in women’s figure skating, lift the 14-year-old into history as the youngest women’s world champion ever.

2000 — Pat Verbeek of the Detroit Red Wings scores twice in a 2-2 tie with Calgary to become the 28th player in NHL history with 500 career goals.

2004 — Los Angeles’ Luc Robitaille becomes the highest-scoring left wing in NHL history, picking up an assist in a 2-1 loss to Edmonton for his 1,370th career point.

2005 — Amare Stoudemire with 40 points and 13 rebounds helps Phoenix beat Atlanta 105-94 as the Suns become the ninth NBA team to win 50 games following a 50-loss season.

2007 — Kobe Bryant becomes the fourth player in NBA history to score at least 50 points in three straight games. Bryant scores 60 points in the Los Angeles Lakers’ 121-119 win over Memphis. Bryant joins Elgin Baylor, Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan.

2007 — Brian Joubert is the first Frenchman in 42 years to win the world title by taking the men’s event at the World Figure Skating Championships in Tokyo.

2008 — Detroit reaches 50 wins for the third straight season by defeating Columbus 4-1. No NHL franchise has done that since Montreal did it four years in a row from 1975-79.

2008 — The first of two assists Colorado captain Joe Sakic has in a 7-5 loss to Edmonton are the 1,000th of his career. He is the 11th player in NHL history to reach the milestone.

2011 — The NFL owners vote to make all scoring plays subject to review by the replay official and referee.

2013 — Florida Gulf Coast, a school so new it wasn’t eligible for the NCAA men’s tournament until last year, upsets second-seeded Georgetown 78-68 in the second round of the South Regional. The Eagles used a 21-2 second-half run to pull away from the Hoyas and hold on in the final minute to become the seventh No. 15 seed to beat a No. 2.

2014 — Clayton Kershaw flashes his Cy Young form and the Los Angeles Dodgers open the Major League Baseball season with a 3-1 win over the Arizona Diamondbacks at Sydney Cricket Ground. A crowd of about 40,000 watch as MLB plays its first regular-season game in Australia.

Sports News   150321

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►  2015 high school boys basketball state tournament


Class A:   #3 Magnolia 49,   #6 Notre Dame 48

Class AAA:   #2 Hurricane 59,   #7 Parkersburg 56

Class A:   #2 Greater Beckley Christian 79,   #7 Tucker County 50

Class A:   #1 Wheeling Central 73,   #8 Charleston Catholic 66 (OT)

Class AAA:   #1 Parkersburg South 71,   #8 Musselman 49

Class A:   #4 Tug Valley 42,    #5 Williamstown 46



Class AA:   #3 Fairmont Senior  59,  #6 Mingo Central  44

Class AAA:   #4 Martinsburg  59,  #5 Woodrow Wilson  60

Class AA:   #2 Bridgeport  70,   #7 Bluefield  56

Class AA:   #1 Poca  51,  #8 Ravenswood  31

Class AAA:   #3 Huntington  82,   #6 Greenbrier East  73

Class AA:   #4 Westside  58,   #5 Robert C. Byrd  57


FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015

Class A:   Magnolia 59,   Greater Beckley Christian, 46

Class AA:   Fairmont Senior  80,   Bridgeport, 56

Class A:   Wheeling Central  62,   Williamstown 53

Class AAA:   Parkersburg South  63,   Woodrow Wilson 45

Class AA:   Poca  59,   Westside  49

Class AAA:   Huntington  82,   Hurricane  57



12:00 PM — Class A championship:  Magnolia vs. Wheeling Central

2:30 PM — Class AA championship:  Fairmont Senior vs. Poca

7:15 PM — Class AAA championship:  Parkersburg South vs. Huntington

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  NCAA Tournament Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Friday, March 20)

Final Score: Duke 85, Robert Morris 56

Quinn Cook scored 22 points to power top- seeded Duke to an 85-56 win over Robert Morris in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. Jahlil Okafor, the ACC Player of the Year, netted 21 points on 9-of-11 shooting and Marshall Plumlee posted his first double-double with 10 points and 10 boards for the Blue Devils (30-4), who will face San Diego State in the third round of the South Region on Sunday. Rodney Pryor and Marcquise Reed scored 23 and 22 points, respectively, for the 16th-seeded Colonials (20-15), who were coming off a First Four win over North Florida on Wednesday.

Final Score: Wisconsin 86, Coastal Carolina 72

Frank Kaminsky scored 27 points and pulled down 12 rebounds as Wisconsin cruised past Coastal Carolina, 86-72, in a second round matchup out of the West Region of the NCAA Tournament. Sam Dekker scored 20 points while Nigel Hayes added 15 points and eight rebounds for the top-seeded Badgers (32-3), who are in the tourney for the 17th year in a row and are looking for their first national championship since 1941. Wisconsin, which set a school record for wins in a season, advances to face Oregon in the third round on Sunday. Warren Gillis totaled 22 points and five rebounds and Elijah Wilson gave 20 for the Chanticleers (24-10), who were in the tournament for the second straight year after winning the Big South Conference Tournament.

Final Score: Kansas 75, New Mexico State 56

It figured that the Big 12’s first victory in the 2015 NCAA Tournament would come from its most storied program. After an 0-3 showing by the conference on Thursday, Kansas provided a lift with a 75-56 win Friday over New Mexico State. Frank Mason III scored 17 points and grabbed nine rebounds for the Jayhawks (27-8), who were coming off a loss to Iowa State in the Big 12 championship game last Saturday. Five other players scored at least eight points in the balanced attack for Kansas, which shot 54.0 percent. Next up for Kansas, seeded second in the Midwest Region, is a third- round matchup Sunday with Wichita State. The Jayhawks and Shockers, despite their proximity, haven’t played since Jan. 6, 1993. DK Eldridge led New Mexico State (23-11) with 11 points, while leading scorer Remi Barry added 10.

Final Score: Virginia 79, Belmont 67

Malcolm Brogdon scored 22 points and second-seeded Virginia survived a challenge from upset-minded Belmont to record a 79-67 victory in an NCAA Tournament East Region second round tilt. The 15th-seeded Bruins pared a 14-point second-half deficit down to two when Craig Bradshaw’s 3-pointer brought them within 62-60 with 4:37 remaining. However, the Cavaliers’ trademark strong defense resurfaced down the stretch as Virginia countered with a 9-0 run that kept their underdog opponent at bay. Anthony Gill added 16 points for Virginia (30-3) and Justin Anderson got back in the swing to help the Cavs earn a rematch with Michigan State in Sunday’s Round of 32. The Spartans ended UVa’s 2013-14 season with a 61-59 decision in last year’s East Regional semifinals. Bradshaw allowed Ohio Valley Tournament champion Belmont (22-11) to hang around until the final minutes by depositing 25 points and grabbing nine rebounds.

Final Score: Gonzaga 86, North Dakota State 76

Kyle Wiltjer had 23 points and Kevin Pangos scored 18 as Gonzaga held off pesky North Dakota State, 86-76, in a South Region second-round contest. Making its 17th consecutive NCAA Tournament appearance, the second-seeded Bulldogs received 13 points from Gary Bell Jr. and 11 from Przemek Karnowski. Gonzaga (33-2), which set a school record for wins in a season, will play the seventh-seeded Iowa Hawkeyes Sunday. Iowa downed Davidson Friday night. Dexter Werner scored a season-high 22 points and Lawrence Alexander had 19 for North Dakota State (23-10), which earned the Summit League’s automatic bid into the tournament with a victory over rival South Dakota State, 57-56, in the league championship game.

Final Score: Oklahoma 69, Albany 60

TaShawn Thomas scored 18 points and Oklahoma held off Albany, advancing to the third round of the NCAA Tournament with a 69-60 win. Thomas, a transfer in his first season with the Sooners, shot 7-for-11 and added four blocks in the win. Buddy Hield netted 15 points and Ryan Spangler pulled down a game-high 11 rebounds. The win helps the reputation of the Big 12, at least in the short term. The conference took a hit after all three teams in action on Thursday—including No. 3 seeds Baylor and Iowa State—were upset. The Big 12 went 3-1 on Friday, with Kansas and West Virginia also advancing. Third-seeded Oklahoma (23-10), which lost a heart-breaker to Iowa State a week ago in the Big 12 Tournament, will meet Dayton on Sunday with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Aussie Peter Hooley, whose late 3-pointer gave Albany (24-9) its win over Stony Brook in the America East title game, scored 15 points to lead a balanced scoring effort in this one. Evan Singletary added 13 points, Sam Rowley had 12 and Ray Sanders posted 11 points, seven boards and four assists.

Final Score: Louisville 57, UC Irvine 55

Quentin Snider scored 16 points, including two go-ahead free throws with less than 10 seconds to play, to help the fourth-seeded Louisville Cardinals win 57-55 over upset-minded UC Irvine. Luke Nelson’s long 3-pointer with 12 seconds left missed for UC Irvine, and Snider chased down the loose ball in the corner and took a foul. After he hit both free throws, Louisville’s tough defense forced Alex Young to commit a game- ending turnover. Wayne Blackshear led the Cardinals (25-8) with 19 points and seven rebounds and Terry Rozier added 12 points. Louisville will now play fifth-seeded Northern Iowa on Sunday. The 13th-seeded Anteaters (21-13) were making their first-ever tournament appearance in 38 seasons as a Division I program. Will Davis II paced them with 14 points and nine boards, 7-foot-6 center Mamadou Ndiaye added 12 points and Nelson scored 10.

Final Score: Maryland 65, Valparaiso 62

Maryland returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in five years and was carried to a win by its top scorers. But it was a little-used senior guard who made perhaps the biggest play in a 65-62 win over upset-minded Valparaiso on Friday. Varun Ram, standing all of 5-foot-9, checked into the game for the first time with 13 seconds remaining and stripped Valparaiso’s Keith Carter as he went up for a 3-point attempt. Melo Trimble and Dez Wells scored 14 points each for the Terrapins (28-6) but third-leading scorer Jake Layman was held to just one shot and four points before fouling out late. The fourth-seeded Terrapins, in the tournament for the first time since 2010, will face fifth-seeded West Virginia on Sunday in the Midwest Region. Bryce Drew, the former Crusaders star who’s in his fourth year as their coach, had a chance to draw up a final play during a timeout with 13 seconds left. But Carter ended up with the ball, not leading scorer Alec Peters, who paced Valparaiso (28-6) with 18 points. The Crusaders still haven’t won an NCAA Tournament game since their Sweet 16 run in 1998, the year Drew famously hit “The Shot”—a leaning 3-pointer at the buzzer to upset fourth-seeded Ole Miss in the first round.

Final Score: West Virginia 68, Buffalo 62

Devin Williams scored 17 points, Juwan Staten had 15 and West Virginia escaped with a 68-62 win over Bobby Hurley and Buffalo in an NCAA Tournament second-round game on Friday. Coached by the former Duke star Hurley, Buffalo played its first ever NCAA Tournament game and tied the score at 62-62 on Xavier Ford’s 3-pointer with 2:42 left. But West Virginia scored the last six points, including a shot clock-beating 3 by Tarik Phillip that gave the fifth-seeded Mountaineers a 67-62 lead with 28.4 seconds left. West Virginia (24-9) moved into the third round of the Midwest Region and will face fourth-seeded Maryland on Sunday. Ford led 12th-seeded Buffalo (23-10) with 16 points, Shannon Evans scored 15 and Justin Moss had 13.

Final Score: Northern Iowa 71, Wyoming 54

Northern Iowa used a balanced attack to earn a 71-54 win over Wyoming in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The fifth-seeded Panthers (31-3) had five players reach double figures, led by Paul Jesperson with 16 points off the bench. Missouri Valley Conference Player of the Year Seth Tuttle finished with 14 points and nine rebounds, Nate Buss added 13 points and Deon Mitchell and Wes Washpun had 10 apiece. UNI will take on the winner of Friday’s game between fourth-seeded Louisville and 13th- seeded UC Irvine. Larry Nance Jr. paced the 12th-seeded Cowboys (25-10) with 16 points, including 15 in the second half. Charles Hankerson Jr. scored 15 on a career- high five 3-pointers.

Final Score: Dayton 66, Providence 53

The state of Ohio has been kind to Dayton this season. Two days after defending home court in a First Four win over Boise State, the Flyers drove 73 miles to Columbus and took care of Providence 66-53 to advance to the Round of 32. Controversy surrounded Dayton’s win on Wednesday, as it became the first team since 1987 to play an NCAA Tournament game on its home floor. Then, to add fuel to the fire, the 11th-seeded Flyers played in front of a virtual home crowd against the sixth- seeded Friars. Dayton is now 19-0 in Ohio this season, with one more game still to go, a meeting with 3rd-seeded Oklahoma with a trip to the Sweet 16 on the line. Dyshawn Pierre scored 20 points and anchored Dayton’s defense, which held Big East leading scorer LaDontae Henton to 7-for-25 shooting. Jordan Sibert, playing through an injury on his shooting hand, added 15 points for the Flyers (27-8). Dayton took 30 free throw attempts. Providence took just seven. Henton, a former Dayton commit, finished a tremendous college career at Providence (22-12) with 18 points and 11 rebounds.

Final Score: Michigan State 70, Georgia 63

Denzel Valentine scored Michigan State’s final eight points to help the Spartans hold off the Georgia Bulldogs, 70-63, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday. Valentine ended with 16 points, six rebounds, six assists and three steals for the seventh-seeded Spartans (24-11), who are making their 18th straight NCAA Tournament appearance. Travis Trice tallied 15 points and six assists for Michigan State, which will play second-seeded Virginia on Sunday. Bryn Forbes and Branden Dawson each had 14 points. Charles Mann ended with 19 points for the 10th- seeded Bulldogs (21-12), who made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011. Kenny Gaines recorded 15 points and Marcus Thornton added 12 points and 10 rebounds.

Final Score: Wichita State 81, Indiana 76

Fred VanVleet matched a career high with 27 points and reached a scoring milestone Friday, helping Wichita State to an 81-76 win over Indiana in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. VanVleet, who added four assists and two steals, became the third Wichita State player to join the 1,000-point club this season. One of the other players to reach the mark, Ron Baker, struggled from the floor against Indiana but made critical free throws down the stretch. Baker shot 3-for-13, including 0-for-5 from the 3-point range, and finished 9-for-10 at the foul line for 15 points. Zach Brown had 11 points and eight rebounds—both career highs—for the Shockers (29-4), who are seeded seventh in the Midwest Region and will face Kansas on Sunday. The two programs have not played since Jan. 6, 1993. Yogi Ferrell scored 24 points to lead four Indiana players in double figures. Troy Williams had 11 points and 12 rebounds for the 10th-seeded Hoosiers (20-14).

Final Score: Iowa 83, Davidson 52

Aaron White personally assured Iowa of its first NCAA Tournament win in 14 years. White scored 26 points, as the Hawkeyes pounded Davidson, 83-52, in a South Region second-round contest. The senior scored all of Iowa’s points during a 13-1 run in the second half that effectively put the game away. The seventh-seeded Hawkeyes, who had lost their previous four NCAA Tournament contests, will take on No. 2 seed Gonzaga Sunday at Key Arena. The Bulldogs beat 15th seed North Dakota State, 86-76, Friday night. This is the first NCAA Tournament win for the Hawkeyes (22-11) since 2001 when they beat Creighton in the first round before falling to Kentucky in the second round. Mike Gesell tallied 15 points and six assists, and Peter Jok scored 12 for the Hawkeyes. Jack Gibbs and Peyton Aldridge each had 14 points for 10th-seeded Davidson (24-8), which shot 33.3 percent from the field.

Final Score: Oregon 79, Oklahoma State 73

Joseph Young scored a game-high 27 points to lead Oregon in a 79-73 victory over Oklahoma State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament West Region. Elgin Cook scored 18 points with five rebounds and Dillon Brooks added 17 points for the eighth-seeded Ducks (26-9), who had won seven straight before losing to Arizona in the Pac-12 Tournament final to garner an at-large nod in the NCAA Tournament. Oregon moves on to take on Wisconsin in Sunday’s third round. Le’Bryan Nash scored 18 points with seven rebounds and Anthony Hickey gave 17 points for the ninth-seeded Cowboys (18-14), who gained a tournament nod despite losing six of their final seven games, including a loss to Oklahoma in the Big 12 Tournament.

Final Score: San Diego State 76, St. John’s 64

J.J. O’Brien led the way with 18 points as San Diego State topped St. John’s 76-64 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament Dwayne Polee II, a St. John’s transfer, scored 15 points on 5-of-7 shooting from 3-point range, while Matt Shrigley and Skylar Spencer scored 12 and 10 points, respectively, for the eighth-seeded Aztecs (27-8). They will face first-seeded Duke in a third-round South Region matchup on Sunday. Sir’Dominic Pointer netted 21 points with 10 boards and two blocks, while D’Angelo Harrison provided 18 points with nine rebounds for the ninth-seeded Red Storm (21-12), who have not won a tournament game since 2000.

►  Why did Buffalo’s uniforms say ‘New York’ instead of ‘Buffalo’?

Say, that “New York” team was hanging in there with West Virginia, wasn’t it? But that’s funny: I don’t remember New York receiving an invitation to the NCAA tournament this season. Is NYU a Division I school now?

Nah. That’s Buffalo, aka the State University of New York at Buffalo, the 12th-seeded team in the Midwest Region.

But instead of highlighting their innate Buffalo-ness on their uniforms, the Bulls have a New York state of mind. Take a look.

Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News explains:

For those who have not been paying close attention the past two years: It’s an attempt to make people – especially on a national level – understand that UB is the flagship university of the New York State system and it’s on a par in terms of its size and academic standing with the other biggest state universities in the country.

This is the biggest exposure UB has received since starting its “New York Bulls Initiative” two years ago.

“It’s probably the largest platform we’ve played on,” said UB Athletics Director Danny White. “I think that the whole point of the New York Bulls Initiative is to tell the country those things that you instantly assume when you see Ohio State take the court, or when you see the University of Michigan or the University of Texas. You assume that’s the premier public university from that state. We’re trying to tell that story.”

Buffalo area fans, understandably, would rather see the city’s name on the jerseys, but they usually come around after getting an explanation, White told Gaughan.

“We’ve talked about this place being a sleeping giant,” White said. “The reason is it’s the biggest public university in New York State. If we’re not telling people that, we’re missing a huge opportunity.”

►  West Virginia escapes Hurley, Buffalo

Devin Williams scored 17 points, Juwan Staten had 15 and West Virginia escaped with a 68-62 win over Bobby Hurley and Buffalo in an NCAA Tournament second-round game on Friday.

Coached by the former Duke star Hurley, Buffalo played its first ever NCAA Tournament game and tied the score at 62-62 on Xavier Ford’s 3-pointer with 2:42 left.

But West Virginia scored the last six points, including a shot clock-beating 3 by Tarik Phillip that gave the fifth-seeded Mountaineers a 67-62 lead with 28.4 seconds left.

“Probably the only one who wanted Tarik to shoot it was Tarik,“ West Virginia coach Bob Huggins said of Phillip, not known as a 3-pointer shooter. “He had to, it was the end of the clock. But he relishes that kind of moment. And we’re fortunate to have a couple of guys that do.“

West Virginia (24-9) moved into the third round of the Midwest Region and will face fourth-seeded Maryland on Sunday.

Ford led 12th-seeded Buffalo (23-10) with 16 points, Shannon Evans scored 15 and Justin Moss had 13.

“You’ve got to credit West Virginia, they’re a great team and I’m just proud of my guys,“ said Ford. “We all went out here and battled and showed that we can compete with anybody.“

The Bulls entered the tournament on an eight-game winning streak, including a victory over Central Michigan in the Mid-American Conference title game.

Hurley took them to the tournament in his second year as their coach. As a point guard, he led Duke to back-to-back national championships in the 1990s and still ranks as the NCAA’s all-time leader in assists.

No stranger to tough competition, Hurley coached his Bulls against Kentucky and Wisconsin during the regular season. Both teams are expected to make runs in the tournament, but Hurley said the moral victories of competing against the national powerhouses faded long ago.

He wanted to beat West Virginia.

“It’s a hard loss, because we didn’t come in here satisfied being the champion of our league,“ Hurley said. “We felt we had a team that could win games in the tournament. It didn’t play out that way.

“We were a couple of possessions here or there from that happening. But ultimately I’m excited about the enthusiasm about our program and what we’re doing and the excitement that Buffalo had to back us here. It felt great. And it’s something to build on with so many returning players coming back.“

The Bulls made a run, cutting a 10-point halftime deficit to three in just 90 seconds and later climbing out of a nine-point hole with 6 1/2 minutes left.

Ford, a senior, buried two 3-pointers in a 12-3 run, including the tying shot from the left wing. The Bulls had another chance to tie the score down 64-62 but Moss missed a tough layup off an inbounds pass with 1:40 remaining.

The Mountaineers gained possession in a scrum after a miss at the other end and Phillip knocked down his clutch 3 from the left side. The sophomore guard was just 5-for-26 on 3-pointers this season before making the shot.

“The previous possessions I got my shot blocked, so I was just thinking to get it up,“ said Phillip. “When (Staten) found me, I just thought, get it up on the rim.“

West Virginia is in the tournament for the first time since 2012 and won a game for the first time since 2011, giving the Big 12 another lift after the conference went 0-3 on Thursday. Big 12 rival Kansas also won Friday.

The Mountaineers scored the first seven points of the game and had a 13-point lead after just 8 1/2 minutes. Buffalo used an 11-2 run later in the first half to trim its deficit to three, but the Mountaineers scored the final seven points of the half to make it 36-26 at the break.

Game Notes

Daxter Miles Jr. scored 10 points for West Virginia, which shot 44.9 percent in the game ... Buffalo shot 45.5 percent ... The teams played for the third time. They split the first two meetings, a Buffalo win at home on Feb. 21, 1918, and a West Virginia win on Dec. 11, 1991, in Morgantown.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: Never forget the greatness of Wade

We still reside in an era of historical greatness.

Kobe Bryant is an all-time great, maybe a top-six player in the game.

Tim Duncan is the best power forward ever to wear high tops.

Dirk Nowitzki might just be the top foreign power in the long tradition of the sport.

Kevin Garnett may go down as one of the best leaders in basketball.

LeBron James hasn’t finalized his legacy, but at 30, it’s already among the immortals.

Every generation features the elite. Every generation also forgets someone and his ranking among the true titans of the industry.

This generation’s forgotten man is Dwyane Wade.

It’s forgivable to forget about Wade’s occupancy on the Mount Rushmore of two guards along with Michael Jordan, Bryant and Jerry West. James’ arrival in South Beach in the prime of his career, coupled with knee injuries that made Wade walk like Verbal Kint, robbed him of some quality years.

When James came to the Miami Heat, there was a learning curve. They went to the NBA Finals, but lost to the Dallas Mavericks. It was late in their second season together that James, Wade and Erik Spoelstra landed on the formula - James was Batman, Wade was Robin.

That worked to the tune of two NBA titles. James almost single-handedly carried the Heat to the second ring against the San Antonio Spurs. Wade was hobbled and ineffective. But, it was Wade’s decision to accept a lesser role that made Miami the Eastern Conference representative in the Finals the last three trips.

Sacrifice is required within the framework of a team. Chris Bosh did it is as well and the results are what we as a society admire. The Heat won as a team, based not solely on James’ immense talents, but on two other Hall of Famers willing to do whatever was required at the expense of individuality.

It’s something I won’t forget when I reflect on the legacy of Wade. Could he have been the Dwyane Wade of old with the injuries? Probably not at that time, but it was necessary for him to be.

Don’t forget the Wade of old. His numbers pre-LeBron were 25.4 points, 6.6 assists, 4.9 rebounds, 1.8 steals and almost a blocked shot per game. Wade’s numbers were as stout in the postseason with averages of 26.3 points, 6.0 assists, 5.3 rebounds, 1.7 steals and a full blocked shot a game. That is obscene production and displayed an all-around game that led to five All-NBA honors (twice first team), three All-Defensive honors and three times finishing in the top six in MVP voting.

Wade led the Heat to a title in 2006 and, yes, he had Shaquille O’Neal still close to his prime. But Wade averaged 34.7 points in that six-game Final series and went 37-for-46 from the foul line in the last two games, both Heat victories.

Things cooled statistically when King James took his talents to humidity, but Wade is back at it.

Healthy for the first time in years (OK, he missed 18 games this season), Wade is once again carrying the load for the Heat. After a nice trade deadline pickup in Goran Dragic, Bosh’s season ended due to blood clots in his lungs.

Wade stepped in and is trying to lead Miami to the postseason. Wade has scored at least 25 points in seven straight games, averaging 29.1 points per game in that span. Miami is 5-2.

“This is what I love to do,“ Wade said. “This is the fun part of this game. I mean, obviously the last couple years I had to do what I had to do for that team. But now for this team I get to be a little bit back to my usual self, having the ball. I’m not going to do it right every time, but I like my chances most nights.“

The Heat are in a dog fight for one of the two available spots in the Eastern Conference playoff race. They are seventh, one game ahead of the Indiana Pacers and Boston Celtics, 1 1/2 games in front of Charlotte. And, Miami is 2 1/2 behind the sinking Milwaukee Bucks for third.

Wade is doing everything within his power to make the playoffs happen. The Heat would classify as one of those teams no one would want to see in the postseason. Wade, Mario Chalmers, Udonis Haslem and Chris Andersen have championship pedigrees. Luol Deng is a postseason veteran.

If they stay at seven, who knows? The Cleveland Cavaliers are second in the conference. We’d all enjoy that matchup and so would Miami. The Heat beat the Cavs handily both games in South Beach, so it’ll be fun to watch.

It already is, thanks to Wade. It was so easy to forget how spectacular a player, both offensively and defensively, he was (defense is not where it was before).

Wade is turning back the clock to a time when he was the elite of the elite. Everyone should enjoy seeing one of the best ever return to form.

Don’t forget the legends.


- I say this every year, and I know I’m in the majority, but I don’t get why people love college basketball so much more than pros. The tournament’s format is the obvious reason, but when I watch college basketball, I see undisciplined players chucking up an alarming number of 3-pointers. The argument is about diving into the stands and the kids care more. I don’t buy that, either. It’s a played-out position. Scoring is down in college, attendance is down. I love college basketball. I grew up in the Big 5 and the tournament is the best piece of American sports theater there is. Just don’t believe what most say about college. We poo-poo NBA players because they make money? That’s idiotic. There’s a passion in professional basketball. For every kid diving into the stands, I’ll show you a kid with no interest in defense and more of an interest in holding his fingers in an “OK” position after he makes a 3.

- I took Kentucky, Wisconsin, Duke and Virginia with Kentucky beating Duke. I think Wisconsin and Arizona could play with Kentucky. Gonzaga is really good, but I worry about their recent form in the tournament. Mark Few hasn’t done well when his teams are highly ranked. My dark horses are Wichita State and Utah.

- Fred Hoiberg of Iowa State is the name most frequently mentioned as a potential college coach who could go to the NBA. I’ve seen the Cyclones play and was mightily discouraged in the preparation and focus of his team on Thursday. It’s a small sample size, but Iowa State acted like it didn’t have to do anything to win.

- Kevin Durant’s foot is not healing and he’s been shut down from basketball activities. There goes that intriguing matchup with the Golden State Warriors. Durant might return, but it doesn’t sound likely.

- Almost every player, collegiate or professional, walks when he takes the ball at the top of the key under pressure. Reggie Miller brought it up about D’Angelo Russell from Ohio State on Thursday, but everyone does it. Bugs me.

- Movie moment - Sean Penn once derided Nicolas Cage for acting in blockbusters instead of true art. Now, Penn is in a shoot-em up action movie. Funny how that works.

- TV moment - Another plug for “The Last Man on Earth.“ There are so many possibilities with this show, I can’t wait to see what they do. It’s a blank canvas.  ~~  Jim Brighters ~~

►  NBA Game Results

(Friday, March 20)

Final Score: Orlando 111, Portland 104

Rookie Elfrid Payton became the first player in Orlando Magic history with consecutive triple-doubles in a 111-104 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Friday night. Payton had 22 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists and the Magic used a late- game surge to snap a six-game losing streak. The first-round draft pick had 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists in a loss to Dallas on Wednesday. Victor Oladipo and Nikola Vucevic also scored 22 points for Orlando. LaMarcus Aldridge scored 18 of his 31 points in the third quarter for the Blazers, who have dropped three in a row to fall to 1-3 on a five-game road trip. Aldridge added 10 rebounds, Damian Lillard scored 18 points, but just two after halftime, and C.J. McCollum had 15 points for the Blazers.

Final Score: Philadelphia 97, New York 81

Nerlens Noel scored a career-high 23 points and added 14 rebounds, five steals and three blocks in the Philadelphia 76ers’ 97-81 win over the New York Knicks. With 15 points and nine assists from Ish Smith, 14 points from Luc Mbah a Moute and 12 from Isaiah Canaan, Philadelphia won two games in a row for the first time since Jan. 28-30 and ended a four-game losing streak against the Knicks. Alexey Shved scored a career-high himself with 25 points for the Knicks, who lost for the fourth time in five games. Andrea Bargnani contributed 17, and Shane Larkin had 13.

Final Score: Brooklyn 129, Milwaukee 127 (3-OT)

Brook Lopez’s 32 points and 18 rebounds helped the Brooklyn Nets outlast the Milwaukee Bucks 129-127 in another triple-overtime thriller between the teams. The rematch of a Nov. 19 clash at Barclays Center, which also lasted three overtimes, mirrored the first meeting except for the result. The Bucks won that previous showdown, but ultimately ran out of steam and were saddled with their 10th consecutive loss on the road. Thaddeus Young added 24 points for Brooklyn and Joe Johnson had 20 while twice extending the contest with late 3-pointers. The Bucks received nearly all their production from their starting five while pulling down an astounding 38 offensive rebounds, 18 of which were recorded by center Zaza Pachulia. Khris Middleton paced Milwaukee with 29 points, Giannis Antetokounmpo had 23 with 14 rebounds and Pachulia finished with 21 total boards along with 22 points and seven assists.

Final Score: Cleveland 95, Indiana 92

LeBron James is headed back to the playoffs with the Cleveland Cavaliers. James scored 29 points and the Cavaliers held on to beat the Indiana Pacers 95-92 on Friday night to clinch a spot in the playoffs for the first time since James left for Miami following the 2009-10 season. Kevin Love added 11 points and 13 rebounds and Kyrie Irving scored 13 for the Central Division-leading Cavs, who have won six of their last seven. James played despite missing Friday’s shootaround with an illness and scored 20 of his 29 points in the second half, including 13 in the fourth quarter. George Hill led Indiana with 24 points and Roy Hibbert scored 20 but the Pacers dropped their fourth game in a row following a season-high seven-game winning streak.

Final Score: Miami 108, Denver 91

Miami, FL ( - Dwyane Wade scored 22 points to lead five Heat players in double figures in Miami’s 108-91 win over the Denver Nuggets on Friday. The Heat have won three games in a row for the first time since the opening three games of the season. They got 18 points, eight rebounds and five assists from Goran Dragic, 15 points from Luol Deng, 14 points and 10 boards from Hassan Whiteside and 10 points off the bench from Mario Chalmers. All five Denver starters reached double figures in its third straight loss. Kenneth Faried led the Nuggets with 20, Jusuf Nurkic and Randy Foye had 16 apiece, Wilson Chandler tallied 13, and Ty Lawson added 10 points and 12 assists.

Final Score: Chicago 108, Toronto 92

Nikola Mirotic scored 29 points with 11 rebounds and Joakim Noah came up just shy of a triple double as the Chicago Bulls posted a 108-92 victory over the Toronto Raptors on Friday night. Noah finished with 14 assists, 10 rebounds and eight points for Chicago, which has won two straight following a 1-5 stretch. Mike Dunleavy had 21 points and Pau Gasol and Aaron Brooks netted 11 apiece. DeMar DeRozan had 27 points and seven rebounds for a Toronto team that has dropped six of nine. Patrick Patterson supplied 17 points and Greivis Vasquez scored 11. Kyle Lowry didn’t play for the Raptors because of a back contusion.

Final Score: Oklahoma City 123, Atlanta 115

Oklahoma City, OK ( - The Oklahoma City Thunder have gotten used to playing without reigning MVP Kevin Durant. They showed Friday they can still beat the best without him, as Russell Westbrook recorded yet another triple-double in the Thunder’s 123-115 victory over the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks. Before the game the Thunder announced Durant will be sidelined indefinitely because of lingering soreness in his foot and did not give a timetable for his return. Someone will need to step up and complement the otherworldly production of Westbrook, who posted his ninth triple-double of the season—seventh in the past month—with 36 points, 14 assists and 10 rebounds. Several role players did just that in the club’s fourth win in five games, notably Dion Waiters pouring in 26 points and Anthony Morrow scoring 21, including 12 during a game-changing run in the fourth quarter. Atlanta finished its six-game road trip at 3-3 despite seven players scoring in double figures. Pero Antic netted a career- high 22 points, Dennis Schroder added 21 and Paul Millsap dropped 19.

Final Score: Memphis 112, Dallas 101

Zach Randolph led seven Grizzlies in double figures with 21 points as Memphis lit up the Dallas Mavericks, 112-101, in a Southwest Division showdown on Friday. The Grizzlies shot an impressive 53.2 percent from the floor with nearly all of their regulars getting in on the act. Marc Gasol totaled 15 points and 10 rebounds, Jeff Green added 15 points and Mike Conley scored 14 for division-leading Memphis, which bounced back from a loss in Detroit on Tuesday. Dallas’ stars struggled most of the night. Dirk Nowitzki shot 4-of-14 from the field and finished with 16 points before fouling out, while Monta Ellis was held without a field goal for the first three quarters before scoring 10 of his 12 in the fourth.

Final Score: San Antonio 101, Boston 89

Kawhi Leonard scored 22 points and the San Antonio Spurs went wire-to-wire in a 101-89 win over the Boston Celtics at AT&T Center. Tiago Splitter added 18 points in a game the Spurs never trailed en route to a ninth win in 11 outings. Tony Parker contributed 15 points and seven assists for the reigning NBA champs. The Celtics, who dropped both tests of a two-game trip they entered off a season-best five straight wins, were paced by Evan Turner’s 17 points. Avery Bradley and Jae Crowder finished with 16 and 14, respectively, in defeat.

Final Score: Sacramento 101, Charlotte 91

Rudy Gay poured in 33 points and the Sacramento Kings ended a four-game skid with a 101-91 victory over the struggling Charlotte Hornets on Friday. With All-Star forward DeMarcus Cousins sidelined due to a calf injury, Sacramento used a balanced scoring attacked behind Gay. Derrick Williams chipped in with 13 points, Omri Casspi added 10 and four other Kings scored at least eight in the wire- to-wire win. Charlotte has opened its five-game road trip with three straight losses and has dropped five of six overall to stay on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff race. Gerald Henderson led the way with 20 points, Kemba Walker netted 18 and Al Jefferson added 17 in a losing effort.

Final Score: Golden State 112, New Orleans 96

Harrison Barnes scored 22 points and Stephen Curry had 16 as the Golden State Warriors topped the playoff-hopeful New Orleans Pelicans, 112-96, at Oracle Arena. Marreese Speights added 13 points, Leandro Barbosa scored 12 and Andre Iguodala had 10 for the Warriors, who played without Klay Thompson (ankle). Golden State won despite Curry having an off-night, as he shot 4-of-17 from the field. He did have 11 assists. The Western Conference-leading Warriors posted their fourth straight victory overall and 11th straight at home. It was their 55th win of the season, which ties for second-most in franchise history, just shy of the 59 set during the 1975-76 campaign. Norris Cole had 16 points for New Orleans, which sits two games behind Oklahoma City for the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.

Final Score: LA Clippers 113, Washington 99

Chris Paul posted 30 points, 15 assists and six rebounds to guide the Los Angeles Clipper to a 113-99 rout of the Washington Wizards on Friday. J.J. Redick scored 26 points, Blake Griffin had 22, six boards and five assists and DeAndre Jordan pulled down 23 rebounds in the Clippers’ third straight win. John Wall had 19 points and 10 assists to lead six Wizards in double figures. Bradley Beal netted 18, though 16 of those came in the first half, Nene added 14 and Marcin Gortat scored 12 in the setback.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Friday, March 20)

Final Score: New Jersey 3, Buffalo 1

Steve Bernier scored two goals to reach 100 in his career, and the New Jersey Devils beat the Buffalo Sabres 3-1 on Friday night. Keith Kinkaid made 28 saves for the Devils, who have won three straight and improved to 10-3-2 in their last 15 games. New Jersey played without leading goal-scorer Mike Cammalleri and veteran Patrik Elias. Cammalleri sat out against the Sabres because of an illness, while Elias missed a third consecutive game due to back spasms. Anders Lindback gave up three goals on 27 shots for Buffalo, which has dropped eight of nine.

Final Score: Tampa Bay 3, Detroit 1

Alex Killorn scored the winning goal halfway through the third period as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Detroit Red Wings, 3-1, in an Atlantic Division battle on Friday. Anton Stralman and Steven Stamkos each had a goal and Ben Bishop posted 30 stops for the Lightning, who have won their past two and now trail Montreal by two points for first place in the Atlantic Division and first overall in the Eastern Conference. Tomas Tatar scored the only goal of the game for the Red Wings, who sit eight points back of Tampa Bay for second in the division but do have two games in hand. Jimmy Howard allowed two goals on 31 shots in the loss.

Final Score: Anaheim 3, Colorado 2 (OT)

Corey Perry scored the game-winning goal 1:25 into overtime to lift the Anaheim Ducks to a 3-2 win over the Colorado Avalanche on Friday. After Sami Vatanen stripped a player of the puck, Perry took the loose puck and finished off a breakaway with a wrister over Semyon Varlamov’s glove for the win. Jiri Sekac and Rickard Rakell each tallied a goal and an assist and Frederik Andersen made 22 saves en route to the Ducks’ fourth straight win. Jarome Iginla and Ryan O’Reilly each lit the lamp, while Varlamov made 37 stops as Colorado’s three-game winning streak was halted.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Federer charges into Indian Wells final four

Four-time champion Roger Federer was an easy quarterfinal winner Friday at the $5.3 million BNP Paribas Open.

The second-seeded former world No. 1 great handled ninth-seeded Czech Tomas Berdych 6-4, 6-0 in 68 minutes at Indian Wells Tennis Garden. Federer broke Berdych four times, while the big Czech was unable to break the Swiss legend and committed five double faults.

Federer is now 13-6 lifetime versus the former Wimbledon runner-up Berdych, who had won five of their previous nine meetings.

The 33-year-old Federer titled here from 2004-06 and again in 2012 and was last year’s runner-up to Novak Djokovic.

The 17-time Grand Slam champ Federer’s semifinal opponent on Saturday will be third-seeded former No. 1 Rafael Nadal or sixth-seeded Canadian slugger Milos Raonic. The French Open king Nadal is a three-time Indian Wells champ and was the 2011 runner-up to Djokovic in the California desert.

Saturday’s other semifinal will pit the current world No. 1 Djokovic against fourth-seeded Andy Murray in a rematch of January’s Australian Open final, which was won by the Serbian stalwart.

Djokovic is a dominant 16-8 lifetime versus Murray, including a victory over the Scot in a semi here at Indian Wells in 2007.

The reigning Aussie Open and Wimbledon champ Djokovic won this event for a third time last year when he topped Federer in a marquee finale. The Serb was also a runner-up in 2007 against Nadal.

Murray was the 2009 Indian Wells runner-up to Nadal.

The winner of the first ATP Masters event of the season will claim $900,400.

►  Lisicki, Jankovic move into IW semis

Sabine Lisicki outlasted defending champion Flavia Pennetta in a three-set thriller to advance to the semifinals of the $5.3 million BNP Paribas Open on Thursday.

After the 15th-seeded Pennetta rallied to win a second-set tiebreaker to continue the match, Lisicki prevailed in a tiebreaker in the third to grind out a 6-4, 6-7 (3-7), 7-6 (7-4) decision in two hours and 40 minutes.

Pennetta, who upset Agnieszka Radwanska in last year’s final in the California desert, had three match points while up 5-4 in the third set. However, the 24th-seeded Lisicki fought back to hold serve and ultimately force a tiebreak.

Lisicki moved on to face former world No. 1 and 2010 Indian Wells champ Jelena Jankovic in Friday’s semis. Jankovic, seeded 18th, was flattening Lesia Tsurenko 6-1, 4-1 when the Ukrainian, who tweaked her ankle badly during her upset of Eugenie Bouchard on Tuesday, retired on Day 9 at Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Friday’s other semifinal will pit world No. 1 and two-time Indian Wells champion Serena Williams against third-seeded 2014 French Open runner-up Simona Halep.

The 33-year-old American great Williams, playing here for the first time in 14 years, was the Indian Wells champ back in 1999 and 2001.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Hoffmann moves 3 clear at Bay Hill

Morgan Hoffmann pushed his lead to three strokes at the Arnold Palmer Invitational thanks to a 7-under 65 in Friday’s second round.

He finished 36 holes at 13-under-par 131. Hoffmann is searching for his first tour win.

Hoffmann has played the first two rounds with a heavy heart as his grandmother passed away early Thursday morning.

Defending champion Matt Every, world No.3 Henrik Stenson and Harris English all fired 6-under 66s on Friday and they jumped into a share of second place at minus-10 at Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge.

Ben Martin posted a 67 in round two and he moved into fifth place at 9-under- par 135.

World No. 1 Rory McIlroy ran off five consecutive birdies from the second and that helped him shoot 66. He soared into a share of sixth place at minus-8. McIlory was joined there by Danny Lee (64), David Lingmerth (67) and Matt Jones (65).

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Vickers sidelined again due to blood clots

Michael Waltrip Racing revealed on Friday that Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 55 Toyota, will miss this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway after he experienced a reoccurrence of blood clots, requiring him to begin taking blood-thinning medication.

Brett Moffitt will drive the No. 55 car in place of Vickers in Sunday’s Auto Club 400.

This will be the fourth time that Vickers has been sidelined due to a medical issue.

“He’s in the care of his doctors and expects to be able to operate normally today,“ team co-owner Michael Waltrip said during a press conference on Friday at Auto Club Speedway. “That’s really all the information I have on what his current state is other than he feels really good and he’s really sad.“

In 2010, Vickers was diagnosed and treated for blood clots in his left leg and both lungs, which had put him out of competition for a majority of that season. Then in 2013, Vickers missed part of the season after he was placed on blood-thinning medication to treat a blood clot in his right calf.

Vickers underwent open heart surgery in December when doctors discovered that his body was rejecting a patch that was surgically placed over a hole in his heart in 2010. The 31-year-old driver was forced to miss the February 22 season- opening Daytona 500 and the March 1 race at Atlanta.

He returned to competition the second weekend in March at Las Vegas, where he finished 15th. He placed 41st in last Sunday’s race at Phoenix after being involved in a crash with Jimmie Johnson on the third lap.

Vickers was being treated by doctors in Los Angeles on Friday.

“Thankfully, because I recognized the signs and symptoms, the doctors caught this early and I’m going to be OK,“ Vickers said in a team statement. “I had finished my treatment for the clot I had in my leg back in 2013, and I haven’t needed to be on a blood thinner for a clot in my leg or lung since. Now I won’t be able to race because I’ll need to be back on a blood thinner. I’m going to follow doctor’s orders and do everything I need to do to get well.“

Waltrip drove Vickers’ car to a 26th-place finish in the Daytona 500, while Moffitt had an impressive eighth-place run at Atlanta.

It is not known at this time how long Vickers will be out of the car.

“We support Brian, we love his heart, we love who he is and we don’t know how long he will be sidelined,“ Waltrip said. “This is all very fluid and new information, and we’re learning as we go. But we’ve elected again, of course, to put Brett Moffitt in the car. Brett was a wonderful replacement driver when he drove for us at Atlanta ... We expect that Brett will race the car competitively.“

Waltrip noted that Moffitt will be behind the wheel of the No. 55 for the “foreseeable future.“ Moffitt was scheduled to drive the No. 34 Ford for Front Row Motorsports at Fontana. Front Row announced that Chris Buescher, a regular in the Xfinity Series, will take over the wheel of the No. 34 in this race.

►  This Week in Auto Racing March 21 - 22

The NASCAR Sprint Cup and Xfinity Series conclude its three-week West Coast swing at Auto Club Speedway.


Sprint Cup Series

Auto Club 400 - Auto Cub Speedway - Fontana, California

This weekend, Kevin Harvick is hoping to accomplish something that he has never done before in his Sprint Cup Series career—win three races in a row.

Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, is 2-0 in NASCAR’s three-week West Coast swing. He’ll aim for the trifecta on Sunday at his home track, Auto Club Speedway. The Bakersfield, California native has never won three consecutive races during his 15-year career in NASCAR’s premier series.

When Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team headed to Las Vegas earlier this month for the start of the West Coast tour, they never imagined completing it with a sweep. They have one more race to go to do it.

“We never talk about stuff like that,“ Harvick said. “We don’t talk about things we’ve done. We always talk about the things we do wrong, and we talk about the things we need to do differently. It’s never really anything about last week. It’s always about next week and the things we have to do to try to be prepared when we come to the racetrack.“

Perhaps they should have a broom on hand at this two-mile Southern California track on Sunday afternoon.

Harvick has one win and nine top-10 finishes in 21 Sprint Cup starts at this track. His victory here occurred in 2011 when he passed Jimmie Johnson and led only the final lap.

He finished 36th at Fontana last year, his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing after spending the past 13 years in the series with Richard Childress Racing.

“I know everybody kind of wants to redeem themselves after last year,“ Harvick said. “We ran really well and had two or three flat tires and things didn’t finish well. But it was a great performance for us all in all.“

Last weekend, Harvick won at Phoenix for a record-extending seventh time, including his fourth victory in a row there. He also continued his streak of finishing either first or second to seven races, dating back to last season. Not since Richard Petty in 1975 has a driver in the series finished in the top-two in seven or more consecutive races.

What’s been Harvick’s secret to success?

“I think that just comes down to the guys on my race team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing for just bringing really good cars to the racetrack,“ he said. “Particularly the No. 4 team and being able to capitalize and manage the weekends, races, and keeping the cars together, as well as doing all the things it takes to just make laps and keep yourself in contention.

“Just really proud of everybody on my team for everything they have done. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We will try to ride the wave as long as we can.“

After California, the series heads back east to Martinsville (March 29) and then Texas (April 11) followed by Bristol (April 19) and Richmond (April 25). Harvick has finished in the top-two at each one of those tracks in the past.

No driver in Sprint Cup has won three or more consecutive races since 2007 when Johnson claimed four victories in a row during the championship Chase (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).

Johnson, who hails from nearby El Cajon, California, holds the record for most wins at Fontana with five. His most recent victory here happened in February 2010.

Kyle Busch has won the Sprint Cup race at this track the past two years. Busch continues to be sidelined due to a fractured right leg and left foot he sustained during an accident in the February 21 Xfinity Series race at Daytona. David Ragan has been substituting for him in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Forty-five teams are on the entry list for the Auto Club 400.

Xfinity Series 300 - Auto Cub Speedway - Fontana, California

The Xfinity Series is set to run its fifth race of the season on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway.

One year ago, Kyle Larson became a first-time race winner in NASCAR’s second- tier series after holding off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the closing laps at Auto Club Speedway. Larson’s maiden Xfinity win came in his 38th start. He had finished second five times in the series before capturing his first victory.

Larson’s hometown is Elk Grove, California, a suburb of Sacramento. This is his second full season competing in the Sprint Cup Series, driving the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. He has yet to win a race in NASCAR’s top racing circuit.

This year, Larson is running a limited Xfinity schedule for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi. He is sharing driving duties with Brennan Poole in the No. 42 car. Poole has driven the car in the past two races, finishing ninth at Las Vegas and 26th at Phoenix.

“Auto Club (Speedway) has a lot of meaning to me because I won my first career Xfinity Series race there,“ Larson said. “It’s also nice to return to my home state to race. Auto Club is a very fast, multiple-groove track. The more grooves there are, the better it is for us as drivers, and it puts on a great show for the fans.

“Qualifying (on Saturday) will be important because the race usually has long green-flag runs. Brennan did a great job the last few weeks, and I am very excited to be back behind the wheel of the ENEOS (team sponsor) Chevy.“

Larson finished sixth in the 2013 Xfinity race at ACS. He was a rookie in the series at the time. Larson is one of six Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in Saturday’s Xfinity event here. Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Sam Hornish Jr. and Brad Keselowski are the others.

Ty Dillon enters this race with a 14-point lead over Chris Buescher and a 22- point advantage over Ryan Reed. Chase Elliott, the defending Xfinity champion, trails by 25.

Forty teams are on the entry list for the 300.

►  Harvick going for the West Coast sweep

This weekend, Kevin Harvick is hoping to accomplish something that he has never done before in his Sprint Cup Series career—win three races in a row.

Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, is 2-0 in NASCAR’s three-week West Coast swing. He’ll aim for the trifecta on Sunday at his home track, Auto Club Speedway. The Bakersfield, California native has never won three consecutive races during his 15-year career in NASCAR’s premier series.

When Harvick and his No. 4 Stewart-Haas Racing Chevrolet team headed to Las Vegas earlier this month for the start of the West Coast tour, they never imagined completing it with a sweep. They have one more race to go to do it.

“We never talk about stuff like that,“ Harvick said. “We don’t talk about things we’ve done. We always talk about the things we do wrong, and we talk about the things we need to do differently. It’s never really anything about last week. It’s always about next week and the things we have to do to try to be prepared when we come to the racetrack.“

Perhaps they should have a broom on hand at this two-mile Southern California track on Sunday afternoon.

Harvick has one win and nine top-10 finishes in 21 Sprint Cup starts at this track. His victory here occurred in 2011 when he passed Jimmie Johnson and led only the final lap.

He finished 36th at Fontana last year, his first season with Stewart-Haas Racing after spending the past 13 years in the series with Richard Childress Racing.

“I know everybody kind of wants to redeem themselves after last year,“ Harvick said. “We ran really well and had two or three flat tires and things didn’t finish well. But it was a great performance for us all in all.“

Last weekend, Harvick won at Phoenix for a record-extending seventh time, including his fourth victory in a row there. He also continued his streak of finishing either first or second to seven races, dating back to last season. Not since Richard Petty in 1975 has a driver in the series finished in the top-two in seven or more consecutive races.

What’s been Harvick’s secret to success?

“I think that just comes down to the guys on my race team and everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing for just bringing really good cars to the racetrack,“ he said. “Particularly the No. 4 team and being able to capitalize and manage the weekends, races, and keeping the cars together, as well as doing all the things it takes to just make laps and keep yourself in contention.

“Just really proud of everybody on my team for everything they have done. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling. We will try to ride the wave as long as we can.“

After California, the series heads back east to Martinsville (March 29) and then Texas (April 11) followed by Bristol (April 19) and Richmond (April 25). Harvick has finished in the top-two at each one of those tracks in the past.

No driver in Sprint Cup has won three or more consecutive races since 2007 when Johnson claimed four victories in a row during the championship Chase (Martinsville, Atlanta, Texas and Phoenix).

Johnson, who hails from nearby El Cajon, California, holds the record for most wins at Fontana with five. His most recent victory here happened in February 2010.

Kyle Busch has won the Sprint Cup race at this track the past two years. Busch continues to be sidelined due to a fractured right leg and left foot he sustained during an accident in the February 21 Xfinity Series race at Daytona. David Ragan has been substituting for him in the No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota.

Forty-five teams are on the entry list for the Auto Club 400.

Series: NASCAR Sprint Cup. Date: Sunday, March 22. Race: Auto Club 400. Site: Auto Club Speedway. Track: 2-mile oval. Start time: 3:30 PM ET. Laps: 200. Miles: 400. 2014 Winner: Kyle Busch. Television: FOX. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.

►  Larson returns to site of first Xfinity win

The Xfinity Series is set to run its fifth race of the season on Saturday at Auto Club Speedway.

One year ago, Kyle Larson became a first-time race winner in NASCAR’s second- tier series after holding off Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch in the closing laps at Auto Club Speedway. Larson’s maiden Xfinity win came in his 38th start. He had finished second five times in the series before capturing his first victory.

Larson’s hometown is Elk Grove, California, a suburb of Sacramento. This is his second full season competing in the Sprint Cup Series, driving the No. 42 Chevrolet for Chip Ganassi Racing. He has yet to win a race in NASCAR’s top racing circuit.

This year, Larson is running a limited Xfinity schedule for HScott Motorsports with Chip Ganassi. He is sharing driving duties with Brennan Poole in the No. 42 car. Poole has driven the car in the past two races, finishing ninth at Las Vegas and 26th at Phoenix.

“Auto Club (Speedway) has a lot of meaning to me because I won my first career Xfinity Series race there,“ Larson said. “It’s also nice to return to my home state to race. Auto Club is a very fast, multiple-groove track. The more grooves there are, the better it is for us as drivers, and it puts on a great show for the fans.

“Qualifying (on Saturday) will be important because the race usually has long green-flag runs. Brennan did a great job the last few weeks, and I am very excited to be back behind the wheel of the ENEOS (team sponsor) Chevy.“

Larson finished sixth in the 2013 Xfinity race at ACS. He was a rookie in the series at the time. Larson is one of six Sprint Cup regulars scheduled to compete in Saturday’s Xfinity event here. Austin Dillon, Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Sam Hornish Jr. and Brad Keselowski are the others.

Ty Dillon enters this race with a 14-point lead over Chris Buescher and a 22- point advantage over Ryan Reed. Chase Elliott, the defending Xfinity champion, trails by 25.

Forty teams are on the entry list for the 300.

Series: NASCAR Xfinity. Date: Saturday, March 21. Race: 300. Site: Auto Club Speedway. Track: 2-mile oval. Start time: 4 PM ET. Laps: 150. Miles: 300. 2014 Winner: Kyle Larson. Television: FOX Sports 1. Radio: Motor Racing Network (MRN)/SIRIUS NASCAR Radio.

►  German GP dropped from 2015 F1 schedule

Formula One’s governing body, the FIA, confirmed on Friday that it has dropped the German Grand Prix from the 2015 schedule.

The FIA said in a release “the German Grand Prix has been withdrawn as the CRH (commercial rights holder) and promoter did not reach agreement.“

There will now be 19 grand prix on this year’s F1 calendar. F1 began its season last weekend in Melbourne, Australia. The German GP had been scheduled for the third weekend in July, in between the grand prix in Great Britain and Hungary.

The Nurburgring circuit was to host the German GP this year after Hockenheim staged it in 2014. Both circuits have an agreement to hold the race on alternate years. Nurburgring had to withdrawal its 2015 date due to financial reasons. Hockenheim attempted to secure the date but could not come to an agreement with F1 top boss Bernie Ecclestone.

Germany has hosted a F1 grand prix each year since 1960. Last year’s race was won by Mercedes’ Nico Rosberg, a German.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NYCFC hopes to keep rolling at Colorado

New York City FC will attempt to keep rolling on Saturday when the expansion club travels to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to face the Colorado Rapids.

New York marked its MLS debut with a fine performance in a 1-1 draw Orlando City SC before producing a dominant display in its home opener, dictating play in a 2-0 defeat of the New England Revolution at Yankee Stadium last Sunday.

David Villa ran the show, roving around the pitch and making himself a nuisance to the New England defense. It paid dividends as the Spanish striker opened the scoring in the 19th minute following a nifty give-and-go, then turned provider late in the contest by setting up Patrick Mullins for the insurance goal.

It was the type of outing that is sure to put other MLS clubs on alert, which is precisely how Colorado plans to contain Villa.

“Obviously he’s a great player, with a goal and an assist at the weekend, so he’s kind of the guy that makes them tick a little bit up front and in their attacking play, so (if we) limit his time and space on the ball, then everything should be good from there,“ Rapids midfielder Sam Cronin told the club’s official website.

Colorado may be very well suited to deny New York’s wealth of attacking options. The Rapids earned a point from a scoreless draw on the road against the Philadelphia Union in their first outing of the season, thanks in large part to the pairing of Bobby Burling and Axel Sjoberg in the center of the club’s defense.

They will have their hands full against a New York side littered with technical and creative players, as well as difference-makers coming off the bench.

Mullins, a second-half substitute against New England, exhibited a great deal of excitement in scoring for the expansion club, immediately kissing the NYCFC badge upon slotting Villa’s pass into the back of the net, even despite scoring against his former club.

“The Revolution were a great organization to me, but tonight was about one thing and that was NYCFC,“ Mullins said Sunday evening. “I think I showed after that goal I couldn’t be happier to be here and proud to represent the organization.“

►  DCU seeks revenge at RBNY

Red Bull New York will open Red Bull Arena for the 2015 season with a rivalry match as the club gets set to host D.C. United on Sunday.

With both clubs coming off of bye weeks, it should be a lively and entertaining affair at Red Bull Arena as both sides aim to maintain their unbeaten starts to the season.

New York got off the mark with a very solid performance at Sporting Park, riding a Lloyd Sam equalizer to a 1-1 draw against Sporting Kansas City.

United, meanwhile, managed to claim three points from its first contest, grinding out a narrow home win over the Montreal Impact.

New York and D.C. have combined to produce one of the fiercest rivalries in MLS, which was perfectly exhibited throughout the 2014 season.

They met five times last term with United getting the better of the Red Bulls by earning three wins.

But New York had the last laugh, winning when it mattered most by prevailing in the Eastern Conference semifinals to eliminate D.C. from the playoffs at RFK Stadium for the first time in club history.

That result has been in the minds of D.C. players for some time, and the club will be out for a bit of revenge when it travels up I-95 to Red Bull Arena on Sunday.

“There’s a lot of bitterness toward the way we finished last year,“ midfielder Nick DeLeon told United’s official website. “It won’t rectify it, but it will help it feel better if we come out there and spoil their home opener.“

Chris Pontius echoed those sentiments, adding that the bye week has only fueled United’s motivation to claim a result at RBA.

“We’ve had New York on our minds since we reported for practice last week,“ the United striker told the club’s official site. “Once the Montreal game was done, I think people were looking forward to it. You kind of wish it was the next week.“

The last time the two sides met at Red Bull Arena was during the playoffs when New York dominated in a 2-0 victory.

Bradley Wright-Phillips and Peguy Luyindula provided the goals, but it was Thierry Henry who produced stunning assists on both strikes. And with the fabled Frenchman no longer with the club, new head coach Jesse Marsch will be hoping that Sacha Kljestan can take up the mantle and offer some creativity going forward.

►  Revs welcome Impact to Gillette

The New England Revolution will open the home portion of their 2015 season looking for their first win of the campaign on Saturday when the club welcomes the Montreal Impact to Gillette Stadium.

After making a spectacular run to MLS Cup final last season, the Revs have struggled early in 2015, losing both of their first two matches, while the defense looks a bit shaky without A.J. Soares, who left for Norwegian club Valerenga.

The Revs were trounced by Seattle in their opening match and then faced a daunting task against New York City FC at Yankee Stadium last weekend.

New England was off the pace from the start against NYCFC as David Villa etched his name into the NYCFC history books when he was played through by a nice ball from Ned Grabavoy and slotted it into the top right corner for the club’s first goal on home soil.

NYC doubled its lead six minutes from time when Villa broke free down the left flank and played it across for Mullins, who smashed it home against his former team with his first touch.

After missing the Seattle match, playmaker Lee Nguyen returned to the starting 11 against NYCFC.

“We created a lot of chances early on and had one gone in, it probably would’ve been a different game,“ said Nguyen. “But that’s how the game goes. Now we’ve got to look forward to Montreal this weekend.“

Montreal, meanwhile, had last week off from league play, but is coming off a season-opening 1-0 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium,

It was a tight affair through a scoreless 45 minutes and Montreal fashioned the first good chance of the second half when Justin Mapp forced United goalkeeper Bill Hamid into a diving save.

But the home side found the only tally minutes later as Chris Rolfe sent an excellent ball over the top to Jairo Arrieta and the former Columbus Crew striker made no mistake, sliding it past out-of-position Montreal goalkeeper Evan Bush.

Despite falling in league play, the Impact have done well carrying the torch for MLS in the CONCACAF Champions League.

The club is coming off an impressive 2-0 first-leg win over Costa Rican side L.D. Alajuelense in the semifinals, leaving the club 90 good minutes away from the final.

Just 10 minutes into the game, rookie Cameron Porter was involved as Dominc Oduro fed a ball from the right flank into the box near the penalty spot. Porter then ran onto the ball diagonally and played a back heel towards Ignacio Piatti, who cut inside before hammering the ball off the crossbar and in short side.

Four minutes later, another rookie found glory as defender Victor Cabrera scored his first career goal as a pro when he got on to the end of a loose ball in the box and slotted it home off of a Marco Donadel corner kick.

“This was the result we were looking for as we managed to score two and concede none,“ explained assistant coach Mauro Biello. “The players followed the game plan and we were tight defensively, giving away few scoring chances. We are very pleased with the result.“

The teams met three times last season and were all even as each club won once with a 2-2 draw late in the season on October 11.

►  OCSC returns home to face ‘Caps

Expansion side Orlando City SC will aim for its second-ever Major League Soccer win on Saturday when the Lions return home to host Vancouver Whitecaps FC at the Citrus Bowl.

After opening their MLS existence in front of 62,000-plus fans on home soil against fellow expansion club New York City FC, Orlando hit the road for the first time to face Houston Dynamo at BBVA Compass Stadium last week.

The Lions had the first great chance of the night in the 16th minute when Carlos Rivas let one go with pace on the turn from the top of the box, but it fizzed past the top right corner.

Orlando City had another golden opportunity five minutes before the break when Kaka lined up a free kick from the top of the area and blasted a curling effort that looked ticketed for the top left corner, but Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric came up with an outstanding diving save, lunging to his right to keep Kaka’s effort out.

The only goal of the match came amidst some odd circumstances as Deric misplayed a back-pass which led to an own-goal. He tried to smash the ball away, but Orlando’s Pedro Ribeiro, the former Philadelphia Union man, took the ball away from the Houston ‘keeper and forced it into the empty net for the goal by shielding off Deric.

“I thought tonight we started to play the football the way we can, and some of our play at times was excellent,“ said Orlando head coach Adrian Heath. “I didn’t think the goal was going to come but eventually it did. It wasn’t the greatest goal or the prettiest he’s (Ribeiro) scored, but I can honestly say it’s probably one of the most important for us.“

Vancouver, meanwhile, is coming off its first win of the season after the ‘Caps left Toyota Park with a 1-0 win over the Chicago Fire last week.

The best chance of the opening period fell to Vancouver just before halftime when Pedro Morales beat the offside trap to get through on Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson, but the ‘Caps winger curled his right-footed effort just wide of the far post.

Vancouver controlled much of the second half, nearly getting on the board in the 74th minute when Rivero latched on to a through ball but sliced his shot wide of goal.

It was all building toward a late winner, which came in the 86th minute when Steven Beitashour collected a failed clearance from Lovel Palmer and squared a pass to the top of the six-yard box for Octavio Rivero to steer past Johnson.

“They were lively and interested. It was a very good, hard-fought victory for us against a good team, said Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson. “It was just two teams going hard, it was a good open game.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lionel Messi knows ‘There Will Be Haters’ in awesome new ad for Adidas

At 5-foot-6 and 148 pounds, Lionel Messi looks anything but intimidating at first glance. But give him a soccer ball and, suddenly, the diminutive Barcelona striker is one of the most intimidating athletes on the planet. The 27-year-old Argentine is the all-time leading scorer in the Champions League, as well as the all-time leading scorer in La Liga. Add to those accolades his record-breaking number of awards, an inspirational speech and a soaring sound track, and it looks like we have the makings of one out-of-this-world Adidas ad.

Sure enough, there will be haters, as the slogan goes, but Messi likely won’t care. As the second-richest soccer player in the world (behind Cristiano Ronaldo, according to, he’s got a lot to gloat about.

►  Atletico, Real Madrid to meet in UCL quarterfinals

Atletico Madrid and Real Madrid will square off in a rematch of last year’s Champions League final as the two La Liga sides were drawn against one another in Friday’s quarterfinal draw.

Real Madrid fell behind in last year’s finale but stormed back to claim an emphatic 4-1 victory after extra time, landing the club its 10th European Cup title.

It is, however, one of the few bright spots for the Merengues in an otherwise poor run of recent results against their bitter city rivals.

The two Madrid clubs have met six times already this term with Atletico topping Real Madrid in the Spanish Super Cup, eliminating the Galacticos from the Copa del Rey and defeating Carlo Ancelotti’s men twice in La Liga action.

Elsewhere, Paris Saint-Germain has been draw against Barcelona after the two clubs dispatched Chelsea and Manchester City, respectively.

It will be a rematch of the 2013 Champions League quarterfinal that saw Barcelona progress to the semifinals only to be trounced by eventual champion Bayern Munich.

Bayern, meanwhile, will face FC Porto in this season’s quarterfinals as the Bundesliga club seeks its second Champions League crown in three years.

Finally, AS Monaco, after surviving a late scare against Arsenal, will take on a Juventus side that eased past Borussia Dortmund in the round of 16.

►  United’s Carrick signs one-year extension

Manchester United midfielder Michael Carrick has signed a one-year contract extension, manager Louis van Gaal confirmed on Friday.

Carrick has made 376 appearance for the Red Devils since arriving in Manchester from Tottenham-Hotspur in 2006. He has scored 23 goals in United’s famous red kit, including a clinical header in last week’s 3-0 destruction of Spurs at Old Trafford.

“He is for me my second captain behind Wayne Rooney and he can also read the game as a team player so that’s very important,“ Van Gaal told the club’s official television network. “He has also an excellent pass forward. I like as a manager passers forward so that’s very important for me.“

Carrick has won five Premier League titles and the 2008 Champions League title during his time with United.

Carrick’s Red Devils will face a stern test this weekend when the club travels to Anfield to battle bitter rivals Liverpool on Sunday with a spot in the top- four hanging in the balance.

►  Sampdoria continues push against Inter Milan

Sampdoria will aim to notch its fourth successive win in Serie A on Sunday when the club hosts Inter Milan in the midst of an important stretch for the Genoa-based club.

Sampdoria’s recent success has vaulted the club into a tie for sixth place and into the mix for a place in Europe next season.

Sinisa Mihajlovic’s team started its run with a 2-1 win at Atalanta before blanking Cagliari, 2-0, at home.

The most recent triumph came Monday in a surprising 2-0 win at second-place Roma, with games against Inter, Fiorentina and AC Milan to follow.

Sunday’s game is another important one for Sampdoria if the club wants to continue to harbor hopes of securing a berth in European play next season, while the Champions League is just four points away with third-place Lazio holding that spot.

Inter is hopeful of reversing its recent struggles with the team having failed to win any of its last five games in all competitions, including a 2-1 defeat to Wolfsburg in the Europa League which knocked the side out of the competition.

Lazio is currently in the midst of a five-game winning streak to close to within one point of Roma and the club will aim to continue its winning ways at home against Hellas Verona.

Roma visits second-from-the-bottom Cesena in the hopes of ending its five-game winless streak in league play, while leaders Juventus sit 14 points clear at the top of the league entering the weekend and will host Genoa.

Napoli is fourth and three points back of Lazio but the club must get back to winning ways after a run of just one win from five league games. Rafael Benitez’s side will entertain Atalanta on Sunday, while fifth-place Fiorentina travels to Udinese.

AC Milan hosts a Cagliari side that sits four points from safety, Chievo hosts Palermo, Empoli squares off with Sassuolo and Torino invades Parma.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Significant replay rules changes proposed in NFL

Video replays galore. More coaches’ challenges. And a “bonus field goal.“

All are on the agenda for next week’s NFL meetings, when team owners will spend much time deciding whether 13 proposals to amend instant replay should pass.

Among the replay proposals are Detroit suggesting reviewing all penalties called by game officials — yes, including pass interference and holding calls; all personal fouls; penalties against defenseless players; any foul that results in an automatic first down; and clock issues.

New England even proposed that everything except scoring plays or turnovers be challengeable. Washington suggested increasing a coach’s number of challenges from two to three, regardless of whether he is successful on an early challenge.

Even stadium-produced video could be used to correct officiating errors if a suggestion by Tennessee is approved.

Currently, no penalties are reviewable. The Lions felt burned by a flag against the Dallas defense that was picked up in Detroit’s loss in January.

St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the powerful committee, made it clear that his peers wouldn’t favor such a change.

“It would be our responsibility on the field whether these are fouls or not fouls,“ Fisher said of his fellow coaches. “This (replay review) was never designed to involve fouls.“

Also to be discussed in Phoenix will be a proposal by the Patriots to place fixed cameras on all boundary lines. That would guarantee coverage of the goal lines, end lines and sidelines regardless of where network cameras are positioned.

Other proposals include moving the extra point attempt to the 15-yard line; guaranteeing both teams a possession in overtime even if one scores a touchdown on its first drive; and a scenario that gives teams that successfully convert a 2-point conversion the chance to immediately add another point from midfield with a “bonus field goal.“

Indianapolis came up with the latter which, if approved, would make a nine-point deficit a one-possession game.

The Colts also proposed allowing host teams to open a retractable roof at halftime, weather permitting, to enhance fan experience.


—The catch-no catch rule so heavily debated after the Cowboys’ Dez Bryant had a reception overruled in the final minutes of a playoff game at Green Bay will not be changed — except for some potential changes to the language of the rule.

—Almost certain to be discussed is an expansion of the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams, which also would cut out one wild-card round bye per conference. The committee looked into the advantages and disadvantages last year and, according to Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, “from a competitive standpoint we don’t think there is a competitive negative to (expanding) the playoffs.“

But more playoff teams and games could remain tabled while the NFL concentrates on boosting its Thursday night TV package.

—No proposals on the handling of footballs before games were made while the league awaits the Wells report on the Patriots’ use of deflated footballs in the AFC championship game.

—New England’s use of eligible players in ineligible positions during a playoff win over Baltimore prompted a proposal that such players must line up inside the tackle box, eliminating confusion for defenses.

—Because teams are running out of permitted numbers for linebackers, the committee proposed allowing numbers 40-49 to be used for the position, along with 50-59 and 90-99.

—Several player safety rules will be discussed, particularly for defenseless receivers, to eliminate chop blocks by running backs outside the tackle box, to prohibit pushing ahead rushers when a team is punting, and prohibiting any peel-back blocks.

—Experimenting with tighter space between the goalposts, as done in the Pro Bowl, could be done in preseason games.

—Washington suggested eliminating the first cutdown in preseason to 75 players, citing player safety and development. That would make for one cut after all exhibition games are played.

►  Giants sign DE Selvie

The New York Giants signed free agent defensive end George Selvie on Friday.

The one-year deal is reportedly worth $1.4 million.

Selvie spent the last two seasons with the Dallas Cowboys, where he started 29 of 32 games. The South Florida product had 10 sacks over that span.

Originally selected by St. Louis in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft, Selvie has played in 68 career games (29 starts) with the Rams, Panthers, Jaguars and Cowboys. He has recorded 117 tackles and 13 sacks.

►  Browns sign WR Bowe

The Cleveland Browns officially signed wide receiver Dwayne Bowe on Friday.

Bowe had spent his entire eight-year career with the Kansas City Chiefs before being released in a salary cap move last week.

“The Browns were the perfect situation from the fan base to the style of offense and the way I’ll be utilized to help the team go to the next level,“ Bowe said.

The 30-year-old Bowe, who was drafted 23rd overall by the Chiefs in 2007 out of LSU, had 60 receptions and 754 yards in 15 games last season, but was held without a touchdown for the first time in his career.

Bowe posted a career-high 15 touchdowns during the 2010 season, but has since scored just 13.

During his time with the Chiefs, Bowe compiled 532 catches for 7,155 yards and 44 scores in 118 games. His reception total ranks second in Chiefs’ franchise history (first among wide receivers) and his 7,155 yards rank third.

Bowe played in the 2010 Pro Bowl.

►  Colts add LB Irving

The Indianapolis Colts agreed to terms with linebacker Nate Irving on Friday.

Irving spent the past four seasons with the Denver Broncos, where he totaled 104 tackles and two sacks in 54 regular-season appearances (12 starts).

The 26-year-old Irving started the first eight games last season and posted a career-high 46 tackles with one sack before being placed on injured reserve.

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

Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Toronto vs. Philadelphia, 1:05 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, MLB Network
Baltimore vs. Minnesota, 1:05 PM - FS-North
Atlanta vs. St. Louis, 1:05 PM - FS-Midwest+
Boston vs. Pittsburgh, 1:05 PM - NESN, ROOT-Pittsburgh
Los Angeles vs. Texas, 2:05 PM - FS-Southwest
Arizona vs. San Diego, 4:05 PM - FS-San Diego
Kansas City vs. Chicago WSox, 4:05 PM - CSN-Chicago, MLB Network
San Francisco vs. LA Angels, 4:10 PM - FS-Prime Ticket
Los Angeles vs. Colorado, 4:10 PM - SportsNet LA, ROOT-Rocky Mountain
National Basketball Association
Brooklyn at Indiana, 7:00 PM - YES, FS-Indiana, DSS
Chicago at Detroit, 7:30 PM - WGN, FS-Detroit, DSS
Phoenix at Houston, 8:00 PM - FS-Arizona, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Portland at Memphis, 8:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, SportSouth, DSS
Utah at Golden State, 10:30 PM - ROOT-Northwest, CSN-Bay, DSS
National Hockey League
St. Louis at Minnesota, 2:00 PM - FS-Midwest, North, NHL Network, DSS
Columbus at Calgary, 4:00 PM - FS-Ohio, SNET-West, DSS
Vancouver at Los Angeles, 4:00 PM - SNET-Pacific, FS-West, DSS
Washington at Winnipeg, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC, CITY, DSS
NY Rangers at Carolina, 7:00 PM - MSG, FS-Carolina, DSS
Toronto at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - TVA, SNET, DSS
Boston at Florida, 7:00 PM - NESN, FS-Florida, DSS
San Jose at Montreal, 7:00 PM - CSN-California, CBC, NHL Network, DSS
NY Islanders at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - MSG+2, MSG+, DSS
Chicago at Dallas, 8:00 PM - CSN-Chicago, FS-Southwest, DSS
Buffalo at Nashville, 8:00 PM - MSG-Buffalo, FS-Tennessee, DSS
Pittsburgh at Arizona, 9:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, FS-Arizona+, DSS
Philadelphia at Edmonton, 10:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, CBC, DSS
Men’s College Basketball
Alabama at Miami-Florida, 11:00 AM - ESPN
UAB vs. UCLA, 12:10 PM - CBS
Cincinnati vs. Kentucky, 2:40 PM - CBS
NCAA Division III Championship, 3:00 PM - CBSSN
Ohio State vs. Arizona, 5:15 PM - CBS
Georgia State vs. Xavier, 6:10 PM - TNT
NC State vs. Villanova, 7:10 PM - TBS
Utah vs. Georgetown, 7:45 PM - CBS
Arkansas vs. North Carolina, 8:40 PM - TNT
Butler vs. Notre Dame, 9:40 PM - TBS
Women’s College Basketball
Green Bay vs. Princeton, 11:00 AM - ESPN 2,
Pittsburgh vs. Chattanooga, 11:00 AM - ESPN 2,
Oklahoma St vs. Fla Gulf Coast, 11:00 AM - ESPN 2,
Liberty vs. North Carolina, 11:00 AM - ESPN 2,
James Madison vs. Ohio State, 1:30 PM - ESPN 2,
Boise State vs. Tennessee, 1:30 PM - ESPN 2,
Alabama State vs. Florida State, 1:30 PM - ESPN 2,
New Mexico St vs. Maryland, 1:30 PM - ESPN 2,
Ark-Little Rock vs. Texas A&M, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2,
Quinnipiac vs. Oklahoma, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2,
BYU vs. Louisville, 4:00 PM - ESPN 2,
LSU vs. South Florida, 6:30 PM - ESPN 2,
Ohio U vs. Arizona State, 6:30 PM - ESPN 2,
CS-Northridge vs. Stanford, 6:30 PM - ESPN 2,
Seton Hall vs. Rutgers, 6:30 PM - ESPN 2,
St Francis-NY vs. Connecticut, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
College Hockey
Hockey East Championship, 7:00 PM - NBCSN
ECAC Championship, 7:30 PM - FCS
Big Ten Championship, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network
NCHC Championship, 8:30 PM - CBSSN
Major League Soccer
Montreal at New England, 3:00 PM - TVA, CSN-New England, DSS
New York City at Colorado, 4:00 PM - YES, Altitude, DSS
Vancouver FC at Orlando City, 7:30 PM - SunSports, MY65, DSS
Portland at Sporting Kansas City, 8:30 PM - KMCI, DSS
Houston at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - ROOT-Southwest, Time Warner, DSS
International Soccer
AFC Bournemouth vs. Middlesbrough FC, 8:10 AM - beIN Sports
Manchester City vs. West Brom, 8:40 AM - NBCSN
Newcastle vs. Arsenal, 10:55 AM - NBCSN
Club Atletico de Madrid vs. Getafe CF, 10:55 PM - beIN Sports
AC ChievoVerona vs. US Citta di Palermo, 12:55 PM - beIN Sports
West Ham vs. Sunderland, 1:25 PM - NBCSN
AC Milan vs. Cagliari Calcio, 3:40 PM - beIN Sports
PGA - Arnold Palmer Invitational, 12:30 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2:30 PM - NBC, Golf Channel
CHAMPIONS - Tucson Conquistadores Classic, 5:00 PM - Golf Channel
LPGA - JTBC Founders Cup, 7:00 PM - Golf Channel
BNP Paribas Open, 2:00 PM - ESPN
BNP Paribas Open, 10:30 PM - Tennis Channel
Auto Racing
XFINITY - qualifying, 12:30 PM - FS1
SPRINT CUP - practice, 2:30 PM - FS1
XFINITY - 300, 4:00 PM - FS1
Horse Racing
Spiral Stakes, 6:00 PM - TVG

Sports News   150320

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  2015 high school boys basketball state tournament


Class A:   #3 Magnolia 49,   #6 Notre Dame 48

Class AAA:   #2 Hurricane 59,   #7 Parkersburg 56

Class A:   #2 Greater Beckley Christian 79,   #7 Tucker County 50

Class A:   #1 Wheeling Central 73,   #8 Charleston Catholic 66 (OT)

Class AAA:   #1 Parkersburg South 71,   #8 Musselman 49

Class A:   #4 Tug Valley 42,    #5 Williamstown 46



Class AA:   #3 Fairmont Senior  59,  #6 Mingo Central  44

Class AAA:   #4 Martinsburg  59,  #5 Woodrow Wilson  60

Class AA:   #2 Bridgeport  70,   #7 Bluefield  56

Class AA:   #1 Poca  51,  #8 Ravenswood  31

Class AAA:   #3 Huntington  82,   #6 Greenbrier East  73

Class AA:   #4 Westside  58,   #5 Robert C. Byrd  57


FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015

9:30 AM — Class A:   Magnolia vs. Greater Beckley Christian

11:15 AM — Class AA:   Fairmont Senior vs. Bridgeport

1:00 PM — Class A:   Wheeling Central vs. Williamstown

5:30 PM — Class AAA:   Parkersburg South vs. Woodrow Wilson

7:15 PM — Class AA:   Poca vs. Westside

9:00 PM — Class AAA:   Huntington vs. Hurricane



12:00 PM — Class A championship

2:30 PM — Class AA championship

7:15 PM — Class AAA championship

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament Game Results

(Thursday, March 19)

Final Score: Notre Dame 69, Northeastern 65

The first game in the second round of the NCAA Tournament nearly produced a major upset. Notre Dame, entering as a conference tournament champion for the first time in its history after winning the ACC title, had to survive against the Colonial Athletic champions from Northeastern, escaping with a 69-65 victory on Thursday. The Huskies had a chance to win it down 67-65 after a Notre Dame turnover, but the Fighting Irish played strong defense and Jerian Grant came up with a steal in the final seconds. Zach Auguste was fouled after corralling the loose ball and sank two free throws to seal Notre Dame’s sixth straight victory. Auguste finished with 25 points and Grant chipped in 17 for the Irish (30-5), who captured the ACC crown with wins over Duke and North Carolina in the final two rounds of the tournament in Greensboro. Notre Dame, seeded third in the Midwest Region, also halted a three-game NCAA Tournament losing streak and will play Butler on Saturday.

Final Score: Butler 56, Texas 48

Kellen Dunham hit a late 3-pointer to help Butler hold off Texas 56-48 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. Dunham, who finished with 20 points, came off a screen and nailed a 3 from the right wing to put the Bulldogs up 48-43 with 1:18 remaining. Butler then made 8-of-10 free throws in the final minute as Texas missed a trio of 3-point attempts. Kameron Woods had nine points and nine rebounds for the Bulldogs (23-10), the sixth seed from the Midwest Region. They will play No. 3 seed Notre Dame on Saturday. Jonathan Holmes led the 11th-seeded Longhorns (20-14) with 15 points. Isaiah Taylor had 14 points, four assists and three steals.

Final Score: UAB 60, Iowa State 59

William Lee’s jumper with 24 seconds left gave Alabama-Birmingham the lead for good, as the 14th-seeded Blazers upset third-seeded Iowa State, 60-59, in second-round action of the NCAA Tournament. Lee ended with 14 points and 12 rebounds and Robert Brown scored a game-high 21 points to lead UAB (20-15), which moved on to the third round to face 11th-seeded UCLA, which beat SMU later Thursday on a controversial goaltending call. Monte Morris scored 15 points to lead Iowa State (25-9), which got off to a quick start but failed to hold on to a lead and saw its recent run of good luck come to an end. The Cyclones entered the NCAA Tournament having won five straight games, including three in a row to capture the Big 12 Conference Tournament, where they trailed by double-digits in every game.

Final Score: UCLA 60, SMU 59

One thing’s for sure: Yanick Moreira’s right hand was in the wrong place. Whether or not the goaltending call that sent UCLA to a dramatic win over SMU in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday was warranted seems to depend on the angle of the replay. Even the NCAA’s coordinator of officials couldn’t say for sure whether or not the heaved 3- point try by UCLA’s Bryce Alford had a chance to go in, though he seemed to lean toward trusting the officials on the court. Goaltending isn’t a reviewable play under NCAA rules. Either way you see it, Alford’s 3-pointer with around 13 seconds remaining was counted and 11th-seeded UCLA escaped with a 60-59 win over sixth-seeded SMU to move into the third round of the South Region against UAB, which upset No. 3 seed Iowa State earlier Thursday.

Final Score: Georgia State 57, Baylor 56

Georgia State coach Ron Hunter fell off his rolling stool as he watched his son make a game-winning 3-pointer with 2.8 seconds left. R.J. Hunter, the two-time Sun Belt Player of the Year, buried a long 3 to cap a 13-0 Georgia State run to end the game, and the 14th-seeded Panthers stunned third-seeded Baylor 57-56 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. Baylor did not score after going up 56-44 on two Rico Gathers free throws with 2:53 remaining. R.J. Hunter scored nine straight points to get Georgia State within 56-53. After Baylor’s Taurean Prince turned the ball over, Isaiah Dennis made 1-of-2 free throws to make it a two-point contest. Kenny Chery missed the front end of a 1-on-1 and T.J. Shipes came down with a key defensive rebound for the Panthers. Shipes then got the assist on R.J. Hunter’s 3-pointer. Prince’s desperation heave from beyond halfcourt was off the mark at the buzzer. Baylor turned the ball over four times during Georgia State’s 13-0 surge.

Final Score: Xavier 76, Ole Miss 57

Matt Stainbrook scored 20 points on 8- of-10 shooting, pulled down nine rebounds and dished out five assists as the Xavier Musketeers handled the Ole Miss Rebels 76-57 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Dee Davis made four 3-pointers en route to 17 points for the sixth-seeded Musketeers (22-13), who are making their ninth NCAA Tournament appearance in 10 years. Xavier will play 14th-seeded Georgia State on Saturday. The Panthers stunned third-seeded Baylor earlier Thursday in a West Region matchup. Stefan Moody ended with 14 points for the 11th- seeded Rebels (21-13), who rallied past BYU in Tuesday’s first round. M.J. Rhett and Ladarius White tallied 12 and 11 points, respectively.

Final Score: Arizona 93, Texas Southern 72

Rondae Hollis-Jefferson scored a career- high 23 points and added 10 rebounds to lead the Arizona Wildcats to a 93-72 win over Texas Southern in second round action of the NCAA Tournament. All five Arizona starters finished in double figures, with Pac-12 Freshman of the Year Stanley Johnson scoring 22, Brandon Ashley adding 14, and Kaleb Tarczewski and T.J. McConnell finished with 13 and 12 points, respectively. The second-seeded Wildcats (32-3) will play Saturday against 10th-seeded Ohio State in the next round in the West Region. SWAC Player of the Year Madarious Gibbs paced the 15th-seeded Tigers (22-13) with 15 points, and Chris Thomas contributed 13.

Final Score: Ohio State 75, VCU 72 (OT)

Freshman star D’Angelo Russell scored 28 points to lead the Ohio State Buckeyes to a 75-72 overtime win over the VCU Rams in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. Amir Williams added 13 points and Jae’Sean Tate contributed 12 for the 10th-seeded Buckeyes (24-10), who will take on the second-seeded Arizona Wildcats on Saturday. Keita Bates-Diop only attempted two shots in 13 minutes off the bench, but they were 3-pointers down the stretch that gave Ohio State a lead. Melvin Johnson paced VCU (26-10) with 17 points, including two big 3s late in regulation to keep the Rams in the game. Doug Brooks chipped in with 14 points but committed a crucial turnover in overtime that led to a go-ahead 3 for the Buckeyes.

Final Score: Villanova 93, Lafayette 52

Dylan Ennis led a razor-sharp Villanova offense with 16 points and the top-seeded Wildcats rolled to a 93-52 win over Lafayette in the NCAA Tournament East Region second round. The Wildcats looked every bit the part of a national championship contender in their tournament opener, shooting a torrid 63.2 percent from the field and going 11-of-22 from 3-point range while committing just eight turnovers in an overwhelming performance. Daniel Ochefu chipped in 14 points on 5-of-5 shooting and Ryan Arcidiacono had 13 points for Villanova (33-2), which will take a school-record 16-game win streak into Saturday’s Round of 32 matchup with eighth-seeded North Carolina State. The Wolfpack battled back from a 16-point second-half deficit to earn a 66-65 decision over LSU in Thursday’s finale of the Pittsburgh session. Darrun Hilliard and JayVaughn Pinkston added 12 points each while finishing a combined 10-of-13 from the floor. Dan Trist paced 16th-seeded Lafayette (20-13), the champions of the Patriot League Tournament, with 18 points and Seth Hinrichs netted 13 for the Leopards.

Final Score: North Carolina State 66, LSU 65

BeeJay Anya’s buzzer-beating hook shot capped a remarkable North Carolina State rally that catapulted the Wolfpack to a startling 66-65 win over LSU in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The eighth-seeded Wolfpack trailed by 16 points early in the second half and were down 62-48 with 9:15 remaining, but closed the game on an 18-3 run capped by Anya’s turnaround jumper that fell in with 0.1 seconds on the clock. The improbable victory sent N.C. State (21-13) into a matchup with East Region top seed Villanova in Saturday’s Round of 32. Ninth-seeded LSU (22-11), meanwhile, is going home after failing to make a basket over the final 10:26 and missing five free throws in the last three minutes. Anthony Barber aided the Wolfpack’s comeback by scoring 17 points, with Abdul-Malik Abu adding 13 on 5-of-7 shooting. Tim Quarterman flirted with a triple-double in the loss, finishing with 17 points, nine rebounds and seven assists. Martin and Jordan Mickey each posted double-doubles, but Mickey bricked four very costly free throws down the stretch that helped seal the Tigers’ fate. Martin recorded 16 points and 11 rebounds, while Mickey ended with 12 points and 14 boards.

Final Score: Cincinnati 66, Purdue 65 (OT)

Cincinnati trailed by seven with under a minute left in regulation and somehow survived Purdue 66-65 in an overtime thriller in the Midwest Region on Thursday. A matchup against undefeated Kentucky waits them in the next round, but the eighth-seeded Bearcats (23-10), even without their leading scorer and rebounder, showed they will not be as easy out. Just ask Purdue, which had multiple chances to put the game away but wound up on the losing end when Vince Edwards missed a 3-pointer at the OT buzzer. Troy Caupain forced overtime with buzzer-beating runner to cap a 10-3 run over the final 44 seconds of regulation. Caupain finished with 10 points, Farad Cobb scored 14 and Coreontae DeBerry added 13 for the Bearcats, who were without Octavius Ellis for the final 21-plus minutes after the star forward was ejected for throwing an elbow. Purdue missed six of its last seven shots and two free throws in the extra session but still had a chance down by one after Caupain missed the front end of a 1-and-1 with time winding down. Edwards had a good look from the left wing but found all iron, spoiling his 14-point, eight-rebound, seven-assist performance. A.J. Hammons chipped in 17 points and 10 rebounds for the ninth-seeded Boilermakers (21-13).

Final Score: Kentucky 79, Hampton 56

Thirty-five down, five to go. The top- seeded and top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats continued their quest for perfection Thursday with a 79-56 drubbing of underdog Hampton in a second- round matchup in the Midwest Region. Kentucky (35-0) will play eighth-seeded Cincinnati on Saturday. The Bearcats needed overtime to knock off Purdue in the night-session opener at KFC Yum! Center, and the late start appeared to affect the Wildcats early on. The heavy favorites were only ahead by four with just over eight minutes to play in the opening half before a 14-0 run provided some energy in what, to that point, was a quiet pro-Kentucky crowd. Karl-Anthony Towns scored eight points during the surge and wound up with 21 points and 11 rebounds. Andrew Harrison chipped in with 14 points, while Tyler Ulis and Trey Lyles added 11 and 10 points, respectively, in the rout. Quinton Chievous carried 16th-seeded Hampton (17-18) with 22 points and 10 boards, but it was not nearly enough. The Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference champions knocked off Manhattan in a ‘First Four’ game on Tuesday and actually held a 4-3 lead over the top-ranked team in the country.

Final Score: North Carolina 67, Harvard 65

Right when North Carolina appeared to be on cruise control, pesky Harvard was at it again in the NCAA Tournament. Siyani Chambers’ four-point play had just given the Crimson their first lead with just over a minute remaining, but his next shot from beyond the arc helped put the Tar Heels ahead for good. Justin Jackson’s go-ahead fastbreak dunk with 23 seconds remaining lifted North Carolina to a 67-65 victory over Harvard in a second-round game in the West Region Thursday night. The Tar Heels (25-11) squandered a 16-point second-half lead. Chambers nailed his straightaway 3-pointer while being fouled on the arm by Marcus Paige with 1:15 on the clock. He sunk the subsequent free throw for a 65-63 Harvard edge. Jackson knocked down a jumper at the other end and Chambers was off the mark on a deep 3, leading to a Tar Heels run-out. J.P. Tokoto secured the rebound and outletted to Paige, who hit Jackson with a right wing bounce pass for the easy two-handed dunk and a 67-65 UNC cushion. Chambers then missed another 3, this time from the right wing, and Kennedy Meeks was fouled going for the rebound. He missed the front end of a 1-and-1, but Wesley Saunders’ potential go-ahead 3-pointer in the waning seconds ricocheted off the glass and clanked off the front of the rim.

Final Score: Arkansas 56, Wofford 53

Neither Arkansas or Wofford led by more than a possession in the second half. It was a fitting way to end a wild day in Jacksonville. Michael Qualls had 20 points, Bobby Portis added 15 points and 13 rebounds and the Razorbacks edged the Terriers 56-53 in second- round action in the West Region on Thursday night. Karl Cochran and Eric Garcia missed potentially game-tying 3-pointers for Wofford in the final 10 seconds. Three of the four games decided at Veterans Memorial Arena were decided by a combined six points. No. 14 seed Georgia State shocked third- seeded Baylor 57-56 to start the day and fourth-seeded North Carolina fended off No. 13 seed Harvard in the opener of the evening session. The fifth- seeded Razorbacks (27-8) will play the Tar Heels in the third round Saturday. There were 18 lead changes and 10 ties in the contest. Neither team led by more than five points. Qualls went 8-of-9 from the field, which included a trio of highlight-reel dunks. Alandise Harris tallied eight points and eight boards for Arkansas, which came in winning 10 of its last 13 games, with two of those losses coming against top-ranked Kentucky. It was the Razorbacks’ first NCAA Tournament game since 2008. The Southern Conference Player of the Year Cochran missed his last eight shots from the field and was 4-of-19 overall—2-of-12 from beyond the arc. He had 12 points and seven rebounds. Spencer Collins supplied 16 points and nine boards for the 12th-seeded Terriers (28-7), who had won eight straight and 15 of their last 16 contests.

Final Score: Utah 57, Stephen F. Austin 50

Freshman forward Jakob Poeltl recorded 18 points with eight rebounds and five blocks to help fifth-seeded Utah defeat Stephen F. Austin, 57-50, in the second round of the NCAA Tournament on Thursday. The 7-footer from Austria was dominant in all aspects down the stretch for the Utes (25-8), finishing the game 7-of-7 from the floor. Jordan Loveridge supplied 12 points and Delon Wright added 11 for Utah, which will play Georgetown on Saturday. Ty Charles led the 12th-seeded Lumberjacks (29-5) with 14 points, while Southland Player of the Year Thomas Walkup went for 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists in defeat. Stephen F. Austin was denied a repeat of last season when it upset fifth-seeded Virginia Commonwealth.

Final Score: Georgetown 84, Eastern Washington 74

D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera scored 25 points with eight rebounds to help Georgetown shake off its struggles in March with an 84-74 win over Eastern Washington in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The fourth-seeded Hoyas (22-10) entered the Big Dance with four losses—all to teams seeded 10th or worse—in the tournament since 2009. Eastern Washington coach Jim Hayford guaranteed a victory during a radio interview earlier in the week, but things didn’t work out as planned. They led comfortably throughout the night on Thursday, however, dispatching the 13th-seeded Eagles (26-9) thanks to shooting 11-of-23 from beyond the arc. Georgetown will now face Utah on Saturday for the right to advance to the Sweet 16. Tyler Harvey recorded 27 points and Venky Jois contributed 19 points and eight rebounds in defeat.

►  WVU vs. Buffalo

If a 3-point goaltend can prolong UCLA’s season. If Baylor’s stingy defense can cough up a 12-point lead in the final 2:39. If UAB can hold Iowa State to 59 points after surrendering 83 to UT-Chattanooga …

If all that weirdness can transpire within the span of a single March afternoon, who dares hazard a guess as to what factor will decide West Virginia-Buffalo on Day 2 of the madness? Here are three pregame storylines to peruse as two 23-9 clubs collide, even though the NCAA tournament warns us expect the ridiculous:

Those fearless West Virginia freshmen

Daxter Miles declared himself a starter the first day of practice and made it stand up for 32 games. Jevon Carter showed whipsmart instincts while TCU’s older players enjoyed a nano-second of celebration. Elijah Macon shot 60 percent during the recent 11-game stretch that included 10 NCAA tournament teams.

Together, they’re the future of West Virginia basketball. That in no way minimizes their importance to the present.

“We have guys who walk into any venue without fear,” said coach Bob Huggins. “You think about what our freshman did walking int Allen Fieldhouse, and should have won the game. You walk in there without your two senior leaders and they never missed a beat. They didn’t act like they were afraid.”

Miles scored a season-high 23 at Kansas and was genuinely deflated when the Jayhawks rallied to win in overtime. He has five consecutive double-figure performances after accomplishing that only seven times in the first 27 games.

With Juwan Staten and Gary Browne sidelined, Carter saw his first extended action at point guard and pumped in 25 at Baylor.

“They’re not your everyday freshman,” Staten said. “When we were out they showed us they have a lot of fight.”

Meet Justin Moss, mid-major beast

As a sophomore last season, the 6-foot-7 forward averaged 3.8 points and 3.2 rebounds in 9 minutes per game while backing up MAC player of the Javon McCrea. So, you’ll forgive Bobby Hurley for not envisioning Moss suddenly emerging as this year’s away winner.

“But then in individual workouts I kept watching Justin Moss just destroy people in the gym,” Hurley said.

While Moss’ totals this year—17.7 points and 9.2 boards—topped the MAC, he also improved his foul shooting from 50 to 73 percent, quite a benefit considering his 226 free throws rank 13th nationally.

His toughness and ability to wrestle for position inside, not to mention those short dreads, certainly bring to mind a familiar villain from West Virginia’s own league

“Reminds us a little of Rico Gathers,” Staten said.

And on a medical front, he also reminds us of Hank Gathers, because Moss plays with a defibrillator inserted in his chest—a means of managing his hypertrophic cardiomyopathy, the condition that claimed Gathers 25 years ago.

Pushing pace

All season, West Virginia’s press has excelled at speeding up opponents, and the Mountaineers will try that Friday. Only Buffalo likes to play fast on offense, and typically manages to avoid turnovers while doing so. With both teams getting their preferred pace, who will capitalize: Steals for the Mountaineers or layups for the Bulls?

“They’re going to run, make or miss,” said Huggins. “They get it to the rim and go rebound it. They really come flying at you.”

For those who think Bulls might be intimidated by WVU’s defensive aggression, second-leading scorer Shannon Evans pointed toward a certain game from Nov. 16.

”We played Kentucky—that’s the best you can get,” Evans said. “The Harrison twins, they’re pretty big, like 6-6. Real fast. So that press that Kentucky has is just as good as West Virginia has, if not better.”

Tipoff: 2:00 PM Friday in Columbus, Ohio (TNT)

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pulse of the NBA

Who’s been the hottest team in the NBA since the All-Star break?

Is it LeBron James’ Cleveland Cavaliers? No. How about the Western Conference- leading Golden State Warriors? Nope. What about the team with the league’s best record in the Atlanta Hawks? Wrong again.

Shockingly, the distinction belongs to the lottery-bound Utah Jazz, who are 11-2.

That run coincides with the departure of Enes Kanter, who was dealt to the Oklahoma City Thunder prior to the NBA trading deadline.

The deal opened the door for 22-year-old Rudy Gobert to move into the starting lineup and allowed Derrick Favors to slide over to power forward. Both players have seen their games take off, and their play has been a big reason for Utah’s recent success.

Gobert has really opened up eyes around the league with his rebounding, shot blocking and overall defense.

Since the second-year center has been in the starting lineup, the Jazz have allowed just 84.7 points per game after giving up an average of 97.7 prior to that.

Gobert, who has earned the nicknames “Stifle Tower” and “French Rejection” for his shot blocking ability, has averaged 2.8 rejections since entering the starting lineup, including a season-high six in a win over the Denver Nuggets on February 27.

Gobert also has been a monster on the boards, averaging just over 15 rebounds per game, including three games with at least 22. In eight games this month, he’s pulling down 17.9 rebounds per game.

With Gobert and Favors patrolling the paint, the Jazz have been dominant defensively and on the boards during this run. Utah is ranked first in the NBA during this stretch in defensive rating, opponents points allowed, opponents field goal percentage and 3-point percentage, rebound percentage and opponents rebounds.

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens had plenty of praise for Utah’s two young bigs after his team beat the Jazz at the buzzer on March 04.

“They’re playing great,“ Stevens said. “It’s one of the more impressive teams I’ve seen since the All-Star break. Their defense has been outstanding. And it’s to be expected somewhat when (Rudy) Gobert’s minutes go up because he’s an absolute force on that end of the floor, and he’s becoming really good on the other end of the floor.

“I’ve always thought they had as good a young talent as there is around, and they’re doing a good job. They’re very active in helping. They can take some gambles and some risks because not only Gobert but Favors is a good rim protector in his own right. So they’ve got some guys down there that can cover up some mistakes.“

Meanwhile, on the offensive end, Favors is starting to make his mark, too. He averaged 15.9 points per game before the All-Star break. Since then (coinciding with the Enes Kanter trade and Favors’ move to the 4), he’s putting up 18 points per contest.

“I feel good right now,“ he said. “Overall, I’m improving a lot. Coach trusts me to actually go to me in the post, and I’m working on my game a lot. The team’s starting to trust me a lot more in the post. They’ve started to get me going early.“

As for Utah’s great play since the All-Star break, what makes it even more impressive is four convincing wins over playoff-bound teams in the West. The Jazz beat the Portland Trail Blazers by 16 points, the San Antonio Spurs by nine, the Memphis Grizzlies by 11 and the Houston Rockets by 18.

You’d have to think the rest of the league won’t take the Jazz lightly at this point, so it’ll be interesting to see how they close out the season.  ~~  Andy Roth ~~

►  NBA Game Results

(Thursday, March 19)

Final Score: Minnesota 95, New York 92 (OT)

Zach LaVine made four free throws in the final 10.7 seconds of overtime to lift the Minnesota Timberwolves over the New York Knicks, 95-92, on Thursday night. Minnesota (15-53) ended a six-game losing streak and snapped a tie with the Knicks (14-54) for the NBA’s worst record. LaVine ended with 20 points and seven rebounds for the Timberwolves, who also snapped a seven-game skid on the road. Kevin Martin and Andrew Wiggins had 22 and 20 points, respectively, with Wiggins also pulling down seven rebounds. Langston Galloway finished with 21 points and seven rebounds for the Knicks, who were coming off a 104-100 overtime triumph over the San Antonio Spurs Tuesday.

Final Score: Houston 118, Denver 108

James Harden scored a career-high 50 points and pulled down 10 rebounds in the Houston Rockets’ 118-108 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Thursday night. Harden made four 3-pointers and went 22- of-25 from the foul line for the Rockets, who have won three in a row. Trevor Ariza and Josh Smith tallied 17 and 12 points, respectively. Wilson Chandler and Randy Foye each scored 23 points for the Nuggets, who have dropped two straight following a four-game winning streak. Kenneth Faried contributed 19 points and 12 rebounds.

Final Score: Phoenix 74, New Orleans 72

Markieff Morris scored 17 points, Brandan Wright added 16 and the Phoenix Suns grinded out a 74-72 win over the New Orleans Pelicans Thursday in a battle of playoff hopefuls. The Pelicans entered the game a half-game behind the Thunder for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoff race and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Suns. They found out before the contest they would be without star Anthony Davis, who rolled his left ankle during shootaround and had to sit out. Wright also finished with eight rebounds and seven blocks, while P.J. Tucker totaled 12 points and 12 rebounds for the Suns, who have won three of their last four. Eric Gordon paced the Pelicans with 14 points, while Tyreke Evans was held to nine on 4-of-16 shooting. New Orleans lost for the second time in three games.

Final Score: Utah 80, LA Lakers 73

Gordon Hayward had 22 points, five assists, five rebounds and four steals as the Utah Jazz defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 80-73 on Thursday night. Trey Burke netted 17 points and Derrick Favors added 14 points and seven boards for the Jazz, who have won seven of their last eight games. Tark Black posted 13 points and 10 rebounds for Los Angeles, which has dropped nine of its last 10 games.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Brewers pick up 2016 option on Roenicke

The Milwaukee Brewers exercised the 2016 option on manager Ron Roenicke Thursday.

The move comes just a few months after the club confirmed they were sticking with their skipper for 2015 after his job status came into question following a late-season collapse that cost the Brewers a playoff spot in 2014.

The Brewers were 51-32 and led the National League Central by 6 1/2 games on June 28, but wound up finishing third in the division and six games back in the wild card race at 82-80.

Roenicke, 58, has compiled a 335-313 record during his four seasons at the helm. In his first year in 2011, he led the Brewers to a franchise-record 96 wins and a division title.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Thursday, March 19)

Final Score: Florida 3, Detroit 1

Jaromir Jagr passed Phil Esposito for fifth place on the NHL’s all-time goals list with No. 718 and the Florida Panthers beat the Detroit Red Wings 3-1 on Thursday night. Brandon Pirri and Scottie Upshall also scored and Roberto Luongo returned from a six-game absence to make 25 saves for the Panthers, who are fighting to join the Red Wings in playoff position in the Eastern Conference. Luongo made his first appearance since a March 3 loss to Toronto, when he left the game between the first and second periods but was forced back into action after backup Al Montoya was also injured. His return saw the Panthers, seven points out of a playoff spot when the day began, snap a two-game losing streak. Erik Cole scored for Detroit and Petr Mrazek gave up three goals on 32 shots.

Final Score: Ottawa 6, Boston 4

Kyle Turris finished with two goals and one assist, as Ottawa outgunned Boston by a 6-4 count in a contest with playoff- seeding implications. Milan Michalek added a goal and two assists for the Senators, who have won five in a row and pulled within two points of their opponents in the race to lock up the final wild-card berth in the Eastern Conference. Bobby Ryan, David Legwand and Jean-Gabriel Pageau also lit the lamp in the victory. Andrew Hammond’s streak of allowing two or fewer goals to start his career ended at 12 games, tying him with Boston’s Frank Brimsek. Nonetheless, he remained unbeaten in regulation thanks to 31 saves. Ryan Spooner tallied twice while Carl Soderberg and Torey Krug added a goal apiece for the Bruins, who have dropped three straight. David Pastrnak contributed two assists, but Tuukka Rask allowed five scores on 31 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Montreal 4, Carolina 0

Carey Price made 31 saves for his eighth shutout of the season, and the Montreal Canadiens took over first place in the Eastern Conference with a 4-0 win over the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. Price, who turned aside 16 shots in the third period, leads the NHL with a career-high 39 wins. Max Pacioretty and Dale Weise each had a goal and one assist as the Canadiens snapped a two-game home losing streak. Anton Khudobin stopped 18 shots for the Hurricanes, who have lost seven of their last nine games.

Final Score: San Jose 4, Toronto 1

Antti Niemi made 27 saves to help the San Jose Sharks pick up two key points in the playoff chase with a 4-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. San Jose entered the day six points out of playoff position as it ended a two-game losing streak. The Sharks have five games left on their seven-game road trip, their longest of the season. Tomas Hertl, Logan Couture, Melker Karlsson and Tommy Wingels scored the San Jose goals. The Maple Leafs lost for the fourth time in a row despite getting 38 saves from Jonathan Bernier. Jake Gardiner scored their only goal.

Final Score: Winnipeg 2, St. Louis 1 (SO)

Ondrej Pavelec made 32 saves through the first 65 minutes and then made two key stops in the shootout to help the Winnipeg Jets top the St. Louis Blues by a 2-1 score. Winnipeg entered the game holding onto the second wild card spot in the Western Conference and needed its third straight win to stay six points ahead of San Jose, which had beaten Toronto earlier Thursday. Drew Stafford scored the Jets’ goal in regulation and was one of two Jets to score in the shootout. The Blues lost their two-game winning streak despite 33 saves, including four in overtime, from Brian Elliott. David Backes scored his 25th goal of the season to help St. Louis earn a point.

Final Score: Washington 3, Minnesota 2

Alex Ovechkin scored his NHL-leading 46th and 47th goals of the season, and the Capitals posted their first-ever win against the Wild in Minnesota with a 3-2 decision on Thursday night. Evgeny Kuznetsov also scored for Washington and Braden Holtby made 28 saves. The Capitals, who were 0-6-1 in their seven prior trips to Xcel Energy Center, have won three straight to tie the Penguins for third place in the Metropolitan Division. Christian Folin and Jared Spurgeon scored for Minnesota, which owns the Western Conference’s first wild-card spot. Devan Dubnyk gave up three goals on 27 shots in his 30th straight start. The Wild have won a franchise-record eight straight road games, but Thursday’s loss was the fourth in their last six home games.

Final Score: Dallas 2, Pittsburgh 1

Brett Ritchie and Jamie Benn scored within 83 seconds of each other in the second period and the Dallas Stars beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-1 on Thursday night. Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves for the Stars, who have won six of their last eight and improved to 1-1 on a four-game homestand. Kris Letang scored and Marc-Andre Fleury gave up two goals on 26 shots for the Penguins, who have dropped four in a row. Pittsburgh, still without Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist, are now tied for fifth place in the Eastern Conference with Washington, which beat Minnesota on Thursday.

Final Score: Calgary 4, Philadelphia 1

Johnny Gaudreau’s goal and two assists paced Calgary in a 4-1 decision over Philadelphia at the Saddledome. Sean Monahan and T.J. Brodie also scored while Jiri Hudler and Kris Russell tacked on two assists apiece for the Flames, who vaulted over idle Los Angeles for third place in the Pacific Division and into more favorable playoff positioning. Karri Ramo backed up his offense with a 26-save effort. Claude Giroux provided the lone tally for the Flyers, who dropped their eighth straight contest away from home (0-5-3) with their first loss in Calgary in 14 years. Steve Mason started and absorbed the loss after yielding two goals on 16 shots. Ray Emery finished up by allowing the other two scores on 10 shots.

Final Score: Colorado 5, Arizona 2

Semyon Varlamov stopped 27 shots and five different Colorado players lit the lamp in a 5-2 decision over Arizona on Thursday. Ryan O’Reilly, Jarome Iginla, Freddie Hamilton, Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog scored once each for the Avalanche, who opened a five- game road trip with their third straight win and sixth in seven overall. Oliver Ekman-Larsson netted both goals for the Coyotes, who dropped their sixth consecutive game. Louis Domingue allowed four goals on 28 shots in the loss.

Final Score: Columbus 6, Vancouver 2

Marko Dano recorded two of six unanswered Columbus goals that lifted the Blue Jackets to a 6-2 decision over the Vancouver Canucks at Rogers Arena. All of the Blue Jackets’ scoring came over the final two periods, with Dano finishing with three points and Alexander Wennberg adding a goal and an assist. Rene Bourque, Cam Atkinson and Scott Hartnell also lit the lamp in Columbus’ fifth win in its last six games. Sergei Bobrovsky did his part as well for the Blue Jackets, coming up with a 38-save effort. Eddie Lack stopped 25-of-30 shots before being removed in favor of Jacob Markstrom midway through the third period. Daniel Sedin and Bo Horvat accounted for the Canucks’ two goals.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Djokovic leads top seeds into Indian Wells QFs

World No. 1 Novak Djokovic and four- time champion Roger Federer eased into the quarterfinals of the $5.3 million BNP Paribas Open on Wednesday.

Djokovic handled 18th-seeded John Isner in straight sets, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) in the final match of the night. He will face 32nd-seeded Bernard Tomic, who beat Thanasi Kokkinakis, 6-4, 4-6, 6-4.

Djokovic, the reigning Australian Open and Wimbledon champ, won this event for a third time last year when he topped Federer in a marquee finale. The Serb was runner-up in 2007 to Rafael Nadal.

The second-seeded Federer needed just 69 minutes to knock off Jack Sock 6-3, 6-2 in their fourth-round match.

Three-time champion Nadal, seeded No. 3, also moved on with a 6-2, 6-4 win over 13th-seeded Gilles Simon in 78 minutes.

Federer moved on to face No. 9 seed Tomas Berdych, who won an all-Czech match against 27th-seeded Lukas Rosol 6-2, 4-6, 6-4. Nadal will play Canadian Milos Raonic, seeded sixth, who beat 17th-seeded Tommy Robredo 6-3, 6-2.

Former runner-up Andy Murray, seeded No. 4, cruised past left-hander Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3 on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Murray, who lost to Nadal in the 2009 final, will meet another southpaw, No. 12 seed Feliciano Lopez, in the quarterfinals. Lopez beat fifth-seeded U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) on Day 7 in the California desert.

The winner of the first ATP Masters event of the season will claim $900,400.

►  Serena, Halep reach Indian Wells semis

Two-time champion Serena Williams and French Open runner-up Simona Halep were quarterfinal winners Wednesday at the $5.3 million BNP Paribas Open.

The world No. 1 Williams fired seven aces past 27th-seeded Swiss Timea Bacsinszky in a 7-5, 6-3 victory. The American great Williams, playing here for the first time in 14 years, was the Indian Wells champ back in 1999 and 2001.

Bacsinszky was fresh off back-to-back titles in Acapulco and Monterrey in Mexico. She had a 15-match winning streak snapped.

The 33-year-old Williams will meet Halep in the semifinals. The third-seeded Halep overcame nifty 12th-seeded Spaniard Carla Suarez Navarro 5-7, 6-1, 6-1 in 1 hour, 53 minutes at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. The Romanian star Halep broke Suarez Navarro eight times on Day 8.

Two other quarterfinals will be held here on Thursday, when 18th-seeded former world No. 1 Jelena Jankovic takes on Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko and 15th-seeded reigning Indian Wells titlist Flavia Pennetta battles 24th-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Sabine Lisicki.

Pennetta upset Agnieszka Radwanska in last year’s final. Jankovic titled here in 2010.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens passes

Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens died Wednesday in a South Florida hospital at the age of 85.

Jerkens, known as “The Chief,“ died after a brief illness. He was predeceased by his wife, Elisabeth, and is survived by three sons, Allen, Steven and Jimmy, daughter Julie, and several grandchildren.

Based primarily in New York, Jerkens was elected into the Racing Hall of Fame in 1975 at the age of 45. He trained 3,859 winners for nearly $104 million in earnings.

“The men and women of the New York Racing Association mourn the passing of Hall of Fame trainer H. Allen Jerkens, not only one of the most revered horsemen of our time, but one of the finest people our industry has ever known,“ said Christopher Kay, CEO and President of the New York Racing Association. “‘The Chief’ leaves behind a lasting legacy both on and off the track. We were humbled and proud to have honored him at Saratoga Race Course last summer in our second annual Red Jacket ceremony for achievement and excellence inn our sport. Our deepest sympathies go out to his children and grandchildren.“

In 1973, he posted a pair of victories over Triple Crown champ Secretariat, with Onion in the Whitney Handicap and with Prove Out in the Woodward Stakes. One of the best thoroughbreds Jerkens trained was Devil His Due, who won the Gotham and Wood in 1992 and in 1993 captured the Pimlico Special, Suburban, and Excelsior.

Jerkens’ first champion came in 1994, when Sky Beauty won the Eclipse Award for Champion Older Female. Sky Beauty won the New York Triple Tiara for fillies in 1993.

The octogenarian was still an active trainer in South Florida.

►  ‘Chrome’ arrives for Dubai World Cup, nine to contest

Horse of the Year California Chrome arrived safely in Dubai for this month’s $10 million Dubai World Cup at Meydan Racecourse.

Trained by Art Sherman, “Chrome” left Los Angeles on Tuesday and arrived Wednesday to train for the 1 1/4-mile race. The 4-year-old chestnut colt will take on eight rivals on Saturday, March 28.

Also entered for the World Cup is Lea, winner of last year’s Donn Handicap at Gulfstream Park. Lea is trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott who saddled Cigar in winning the inaugural World Cup in 1996.

Defending winner African Story will try to become the first two-time winner of the race. Others set to run are Prince Bishop, Candy Boy, Epiphaneia, Side Glance, Hokko Tarumae and 2013 Jockey Club Gold Cup winner Ron The Greek.

►  Will chalk-fest continue on Kentucky Derby trail?

Making money on the Kentucky Derby is the goal for most horseplayers, but pocketing cash in the multitude of Derby prep races should not be overlooked. Unfortunately, 2015 has been difficult for the non-chalk player.

Not only have eight favorites won the past 16 preps, but five of the other eight winners were the second and third choices in the wagering. Only one horse has been higher than 6-1 and that was International Star (9-1) back on January 17 in the LeComte Stakes.

Lately it seems the only way to win any money is to dump it in on the favorite. The last four prep winners were 2-5 (American Pharoah), 1-1 (Carpe Diem), 4-5 (Dortmund) and 6-5 (El Kabeir).

There are 10 more Kentucky Derby prep races remaining, including two this weekend - the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on Saturday and the Sunland Derby at Sunland Park on Sunday.

These two are the last of the “50 points to the winner” races. The victors of the next seven get 100 points while the final race is worth just 10 points to the winner.

The Spiral sports a field of 11 due to the scratch of Imperia. Royal Son, the morning line favorite, breaks from the rail while Metaboss, the second choice, begins from the No. 10 post.

Royal Son is extremely well bred, but the bay colt was unable to replicate his pedigree on the race track. He finished second in his first three races, but was placed first via disqualification in the last of the three.

Trainer Todd Pletcher sent him into stakes company in the Sam F. Davis off the win and the son of Tiznow faded badly running a dismal seventh, beaten 11 lengths.

His last start was by far his best. Taking his talents to the Polytrack surface at Turfway Park, Royal Son blew away the competition in the John Battaglia Memorial, going gate-to-wire to win by 5 1/4 lengths. He was hounded until the far turn by The Great War, but once that horse packed it in, there was nothing behind to overtake him, even with his 33-second final 2 1/2 furlongs and 15 taps with the whip down the stretch.

Royal Son should be put to the test early once again with Big Family, Watchyourownbobber and Wireless Future all breaking immediately to his right. All three colts should keep Royal Son honest on the front end. Will he make it two straight? It is unlikely as there are better colts in the race.

Metaboss comes into the Spiral off a magnificent victory in the El Camino Real Derby on the Tapeta surface at Golden Gate. Last year, Tamarando came into the Spiral as the 2-1 favorite after defeating Dance With Fate in the El Camino Real, but he did not adapt well to the Polytrack and ran eighth, beaten over 10 lengths.

A few years ago, Silver Medallion, another winner of the El Camino Real Derby, went to Keeneland for the Lexington Stakes and finished fourth as the 6-5 favorite.

Can Metaboss reverse those recent mishaps? He ran the fastest El Camino Real Derby since the race was moved to 1 1/8 miles in 2009. It was his second consecutive victory after breaking his maiden over nine furlongs on the turf at Santa Anita.

If Metaboss handles the track surface, he should make his presence known down the stretch and land a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.


Wireless Future makes his debut on Polytrack after cruising to a seven-length win in an allowance race at the Fair Grounds on February 5. The son of Scat Daddy worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5 at Turfway Park this past Sunday, so he should be a horse to watch. The only question mark is his ability to win at the 1 1/8-mile distance.

Another Lemon Drop looked like a horse on the rise after his five-length allowance win over the slop at Fair Grounds. He was unable to sustain the momentum in the LeComte, finishing fourth to International Star, War Story and Tiznow R J.

Trainer Philip Bauer sent him to the turf for his next start and dropped him back from 1 mile and 70 yards to the about 7 1/2-furlong distance of the Black Gold Stakes. Another Lemon Drop made a menacing move down the stretch but lost by one-half length to a 63-1 shot named Tuba.

Another Lemon Drop’s best races have come on the grass and on sloppy dirt tracks, so he should handle Polytrack. However, will his best be enough to topple the others in the field?

Conquest Typhoon returned from a 2 1/2-month layoff to finish third to Metaboss in the El Camino Real. The Mark Casse-trained colt led the field of 10 inside the final furlong but came up a short horse at the wire. Look for a much-improved effort in the Spiral even though all his wins have come on the grass.

Turf specialist Dubai Sky breaks from the far outside, but We Miss Artie won from the No. 11 post in last year’s Spiral. The Kitten’s Joy Stakes winner is bred to handle the synthetics as he is a half-brother to Twirling Candy and his second dam is a half to Chocolate Candy.

Finally, don’t overlook Firespike. The Michael Maker colt ran poorly in the Battaglia, finishing fifth, beaten 21 lengths, but he broke poorly and was wide for most of the early going.

He is magnificently bred as his dam is a half to the Queen’s Plate winner, Basqueian. He also has won three of his last six races and posted a bullet five-furlong work over the track on March 14.

Spiral Stakes - 1) Metaboss 2) Conquest Typhoon 3) Dubai Sky LS) Firespike


Dortmund is ranked first or second on almost everyone’s Kentucky Derby list, but Firing Line is much further down despite two losses to Dortmund, each by only a head.

Firing Line has yet to win past 6 1/2 furlongs, but that was due more to the brilliance of Dortmund as the third-place finisher in the Robert B. Lewis was over 20 lengths behind the top pair.

It is very doubtful Firing Line will lose the Sunland Derby, but how much he gets out of the race is of utmost importance. This should be his final race before the Kentucky Derby and the last thing trainer Simon Callaghan wants is a gate-to-wire victory without any challenges from the other seven horses.

Thankfully, there is speed outside of Firing Line as Where’s the Moon, Why Two and Malibu Mogul should contend for the top spot early on. That should give Firing Line a few targets to tackle. In addition, Bob Baffert entered Lord Nelson, who is coming off a fourth-place finish to Dortmund in the San Felipe Stakes. If Firing Line can put away the speed, then hold off Lord Nelson and draw away to an impressive five-length score, it will be a perfect final prep.

One other interesting aspect of the Sunland Derby is the inclusion of Tiznow R J.

There has not been much crossover this winter between the different regions as the Florida horses have stayed home, the Midwest contingent has not veered east or west and most of the California colts have remained in the Golden State.

Tiznow R J comes to New Mexico off a pair of stakes races in Louisiana. He ran third in the LeComte and then seventh in the Risen Star, both won by International Star. If Tiznow R J finishes a close second, it might not say much about the abilities of the colts and geldings in the Sunland Derby.

Sunland Derby - 1) Firing Line 2) Lord Nelson 3) Why Two LS) Pain and Misery


1) Prospect Park - Proper pedigree and running style to win Derby

2) Dortmund - Tougher challenges ahead in both SA and Ky derbies

3) Firing Line - Should continue parade of favorites at Sunland

4) American Pharoah - Blew away Rebel field with slow fractions

5) Carpe Diem - Not sold he will like the Derby distance

6) Upstart - Will have one more workout before Florida Derby

7) Itsaknockout - Not much separates him and No. 6 Upstart

8) Maftool - A UAE Derby victory brings him to Kentucky

9) Far From Over - Three starts prior to Derby is not ideal

10) El Kabeir - Leading point-getter trying to outrun pedigree

11) Metaboss - A win in Spiral might spiral him up the list

12-T) War Story - Still believe he’s better than International Star

12-T) International Star - We’ll find out on March 28 in LA Derby

►  Net Gain rated slight favorite for Private Terms Stakes

Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott will saddle Net Gain in Saturday’s $100,000 Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park with the chance of recording a second win in the race in the last three renewals.

Net Gain, owned by WinStar Farm, will start the 1 1/8-mile stakes from post 2 with local rider Julian Pimentel in the saddle. The 3-year-old colt has been made the 9-5 morning line favorite in the six-horse field.

“He’s doing well. He was a bit unlucky two back.“ said Mott who saddled Mr Palmer to victory in the 2013 Private Terms.

Net Gain will be making his first start in a race other than a maiden event after winning for the first time February 22 at Aqueduct with a rally from last over a muddy track. He was fourth in each of his first two starts as a 2-year- old and got nosed out at Aqueduct in December. The colt finished third at the Big A in his 3-year-old debut effort on February 01. Net Gain has earned $61,350.

The 2-1 second pick is stakes veteran Combat Diver, trained by Gary Contessa for Wounded Warrior Stables. The chestnut colt and jockey Sheldon Russell will break from post 5.

“We look at Saturday’s race this way,“ Contessa said, “if he wins, we have eight weeks to get enough points to get into the (Kentucky) Derby. I’d love to see the Derby give points for the Private Terms.“

Combat Diver rallied from last in Laurel’s Miracle Wood Stakes last month to drop a nose decision to Savvy Street. Just two weeks ago, the colt was ninth behind El Kabeir in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Combat Diver has banked $67,900 with a win and a second in five starts.

“He’s doing great,“ said Contessa of Combat Diver. “He ran lights out at Laurel last time and should have won. Then we went to the Gotham and he didn’t have the best of trips. I think coming back to Laurel will very much be the best to our advantage.“

Leaving from the inside post will be Bodhisattva, the 3-1 third choice, with Trevor McCarthy in the saddle. The chestnut colt is owned and trained by Jose Corrales.

Sent off at 11-1, Bodhisattva set most of the pace in last month’s Miracle Wood Stakes but finished fourth, just a half-length behind Savvy Street. It was his second straight fourth-place finish at Laurel. He rallied from last in the Frank Whiteley on January 29 at 11-1 after going six wide. The 3-year-old has two wins and four thirds in nine starts for $85,095.

Here is the field for the Private Terms Stakes in post position order: Bodhisattva, Trevor McCarthy, 3-1; Net Gain, Julian Pimentel, 9-5; Now We Are Free, Victor Carrasco, 20-1; Slick William, Jevian Toledo, 12-1; Combat Diver, Sheldon Russell, 2-1 and Bridget’s Big Luvy, Angel Cruz, 5-1.

Post time for the Private Terms Stakes will be approximately 1:56 PM ET.

►  Firing Line gets nod as Sunland Derby favorite

Firing Line, second in his last two starts, is the 8-5 morning line favorite for Sunday’s $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park.

The 1 1/8-mile stakes offers 50 points to the winning 3-year-old toward a spot in the 20-horse starting field for this year’s Kentucky Derby on May 02.

Firing Line will start from the inside post in the eight-horse field with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens again riding. Trained by Simon Callaghan, the colt is owned by Arnold Zetcher.

Firing Line will be making just his second start of the season as he tries to qualify for the Kentucky Derby. He was second in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita last month, beaten a head by Dortmund. It was the same outcome as last December’s Los Alamitos Futurity. Firing Line has earned $174,800 from four starts with one win and three seconds.

Starting next to Firing Line will be 3-1 second choice Lord Nelson. The chestnut colt, owned by Peachtree Stable, will have the riding services of Martin Garcia.

Lord Nelson is coming off a fourth-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes two weeks ago. Trained by Bob Baffert, the colt began the year by winning Santa Anita’s San Vicente Stakes on February 01 and has won half of his six career starts for $273,571. Baffert is a three-time Sunland Derby winner, including last year with Chitu.

The 5-1 third program pick is trainer Steve Asmussen’s Tiznow R J. Owned by Mike McCarty, Tiznow R J will break from post 6 with Robby Albarado again in the saddle.

After a pair of third-place results to begin his career, Tiznow R J won last December at Fair Grounds with Albarado riding the first time. As a 3-year-old, Tiznow R J was third in the Lecomte Stakes and seventh in the Risen Star, both at Fair Grounds. The colt has banked $54,180.

Here is the field for the Sunland Derby from the rail out: Firing Line, Gary Stevens, 8-5; Lord Nelson, Martin Garcia, 3-1; Where’s the Moon, Luis Contreras, 6-1; Why Two, Victor Espinoza, 8-1; Malibu Mogul, Enrique Gomez, 15-1; Tiznow R J, Robby Albarado, 5-1; Pain and Misery, Norberto Arroyo Jr., 6-1 and Dirt Monster, Ry Eikleberry, 12-1.

Post time for the Sunland Derby will be approximately 7:40 PM ET.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rory McIlroy rules on a PGA Tour where talent runs deep

The PGA Tour hasn’t seen this kind of parity in two decades.

Jordan Spieth won the Valspar Championship last week at Innisbrook to become the 18th winner in 18 tournaments this season. The last time the PGA Tour went this deep before it had a multiple winner was in 1994 with Nick Price, whose second win came at Colonial in the 21st event of the season.

Price went on to win six times that year, including consecutive majors at the British Open and PGA Championship, and finally got to a No. 1 ranking.

Rory McIlroy already is there, and it’s hard to imagine anyone replacing him this year.

That won’t make it any easier for Boy Wonder to pile up victories.

The competition seems to be everywhere these days, even if McIlroy is just starting the PGA Tour portion of his schedule.

Bubba Watson already has two Masters and a World Golf Championship, and he cannot be overlooked at Augusta National next month when he goes for a third green jacket in four years. Jack Nicklaus is the only other player to win that many in such a short stretch.

Jason Day, already a winner at Torrey Pines this year, is healthy and working harder than ever. He has been at Bay Hill for two days this week, spent Tuesday afternoon in the hot sun with a towel wrapped around his chest and under his arms during a chipping drill. He tried to land his pitch shots on a tube of lip balm placed about 25 feet away and nailed it on the sixth try.

The 21-year-old Spieth, in his third season, already has amassed more than $10 million for his career and picked up his second PGA Tour title (fourth worldwide). Brooks Koepka won against a strong field in Turkey and Phoenix. Dustin Johnson, after sitting out for six months, lost in a playoff at Riviera and won the World Golf Championship at Doral in a span of three weeks. Koepka and Johnson are examples of how much more athletic golf looks now.

The next generation — the group now faced with challenging McIlroy — grew up watching Tiger Woods outclass his competition. They were, in effect, trained by Tiger. They are hungry. And they are not intimidated by anything or anyone.

Patrick Reed went so far as to dress like Woods, with black pants and a red shirt on Sunday. The 25-year-old Reed already has won four times, and he even showed the kind of fight that would have impressed his golfing hero in the playoff at Innisbrook when he twice turned impossible shots into pars until Spieth beat him with a 30-foot birdie.

Reed spoke late last year about the influence Woods had on him.

“He was so much better than anyone else at the time,“ Reed said. “With my growing up and watching it, I tried to copy his mental strength. ... You could see it just by looking at him in the eye. If looks could kill you, he would literally kill you. He was so focused and determined to play well. And that’s what I’m trying to do.“

Matt Every, who picked up his first PGA Tour win last year in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, is in his fifth year on tour and already has noticed how much harder it is to win because of so many possibilities every week.

“When I first got out here, about 20% of guys were in shape. Now it’s 80%,“ Every said. “You hardly ever see a young looking sloppy.“

Whether this great depth is a detriment to golf is the question.

It’s easy to say that golf needs a dominant player because it had one for some 15 years. Even when Price went on his great run in 1994, he shared the stage with Nick Faldo and Greg Norman. Ernie Els and Phil Mickelson were the rising stars.

Woods didn’t have a rival. He had rivals, a revolving door of them for a decade, from Els to David Duval, from Mickelson to Vijay Singh.

McIlroy isn’t as dominant as Woods, at least not yet.

There is no argument who is the best player in golf. And it’s not because of the world ranking but because McIlroy won the British Open and PGA Championship in a span of four weeks and joined Nicklaus, Woods and Bobby Jones as the only players in the last century to win four majors by age 25. These things don’t happen by accident.

For now, the one comparison McIlroy has with Woods is trying to settle on a rival.

There are more options now.

►  Bubba Watson withdraws from Bay Hill

Masters champion Bubba Watson withdrew from the Arnold Palmer Invitational on Wednesday because a childhood friend died unexpectedly.

Watson told the PGA Tour that the friend died Tuesday night.

“I have chosen to withdraw so I can attend the funeral and pay respect to my friend and his family,“ Watson said in a statement.

Watson is No. 2 in the world, leaving the tournament with four of the top five players in the world ranking.

Watson will try to become only the fourth player to defend his title at Augusta National.

A year ago, he withdrew after an 83 in the opening round because of allergies. A few weeks later, he took out a membership at Bay Hill.

Watson was replaced by Kevin Kisner, who will play the opening two rounds with Brooks Koepka and Adam Scott.

►  McIlroy feeling puny with company he keeps _ in the gym

Rory McIlroy was in the gym and in a rare moment, he felt out of his element.

Consider his company.

McIlroy was at Augusta National last week with his father and went to the fitness center at the club Friday morning. Before long, in walked Super Bowl MVP Tom Brady. The next person through the door about 15 minutes later? Peyton Manning.

“That was my time to leave,“ McIlroy said.

Along with being a little in awe, McIlroy was impressed. The Masters is three weeks away. Training camp for the NFL is four months away.

“It’s their offseason,“ McIlroy said. “I guess for me it was to see all those guys in the gym before their season starts and they’re so dedicated and committed to what they do, especially those two guys, Peyton and Tom. They’re both in their mid-30s and they want to prolong their careers as much as they can.

“To see them putting so much into it even after 15 successful years ... it was great for me to see. It was inspirational in some ways.“

He said there was some football talk, mostly about all the trades that were going on.

“It was nice to be in that little world for a couple of days and experience it,“ he said.

McIlroy described his two days at Augusta National as 100% fun and zero% serious. It was a father-son outing with Augusta National members, and McIlroy and father Gerry wound up in what he described as the consolation match.

McIlroy also said he played well the first day, though he wouldn’t give a score except to say it was in the 60s and not the course record.


KING’S ADVICE: Arnold Palmer had some simple advice for Tiger Woods to turn his game around: Practice and regain confidence.

Woods is missing the Arnold Palmer Invitational for the second straight year. He had a back injury in 2014 and feels he’s not ready to compete this year. Palmer said Woods called him to apologize for his absence, though contrary to one reporter’s suggestion, the phone conversation did not last one hour.

“Well, first of all, whoever told you it was an hour is full of (it),“ Palmer said in a jocular tone that caused the room to break out in laughter.

Woods, an eight-time winner at Bay Hill, has played only 47 holes in two tournaments this year, which included a career-high 82 in the Phoenix Open and a chipping display that is simply shocking to watch.

Woods has played six PGA Tour events in the last year. He has missed the cut three times, withdrawn twice and finished 69th in the British Open.

“Tiger ... I’ve known him since he was 3 feet high, and he’s a great player,“ Palmer said. “He was a very talented young kid with his father instructing him. For me to tell you or tell Tiger what he could do, there’s only one thing I can say and that’s practice and confidence. Regain the confidence he had when he was starting out and that was what made him what he is and that’s the way he’ll get it back — just regain the confidence and the ability to hit the golf ball.“

Palmer also said Woods should find a coach that he has confidence in “and go work on his game. And that’s my best advice.“


PALMER’S SHOULDER: Arnold Palmer slipped on carpet in his home last December and dislocated his right shoulder.

He still is in physical therapy, with the Masters quickly approaching.

The King isn’t playing, but he is determined to hit the ceremonial tee shot with Jack Nicklaus and Gary Player.

“Maybe this week or next week I’m going to start hitting the ball,“ he said, “and I have every intention of hitting the first drive at Augusta.“


LACK OF COURSE KNOWLEDGE: Sam Saunders said he began to appreciate everything his grandfather — Arnold Palmer — did for golf when he began playing top amateur events and read up on the history, most of it involving Palmer.

That doesn’t mean he knows everything.

Saunders has moved to Colorado with his wife and two sons, and he talked about playing one course in Denver called Bear Creek.

“We were teeing off and I said, ‘Who built this?‘“ Saunders said. “And they went, ‘Um, your grandfather.‘“


HAPPY HARRINGTON: Padraig Harrington sat at his locker and was handed a stack of Honda Classic flags to sign.

He won the Honda Classic earlier this month, his first win on a major tour since the PGA Championship in 2008 at Oakland Hills.

“The signings have doubled, tripled,“ Harrington said.

He feigned frustration, though the smile told a different story. Someone mentioned that he was all too happy to bear such a burden.

“Absolutely,“ he said. “This is good.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  IOC plans to retest hundreds of doping samples from Beijing

Armed with more effective methods and targeting specific athletes, the IOC plans to retest hundreds of doping samples from the 2008 Beijing Olympics in a bid to catch any drug cheats who escaped detection at the time.

IOC medical director Richard Budgett said Wednesday that some retests have already been carried out on stored samples from Beijing, the 2010 Winter Games in Vancouver and the 2012 London Olympics.

Retesting opens the possibility of athletes being stripped of Olympic medals up to 10 years after they won them.

“Even if it’s five or 10 years later, it’s really an important thing to do,“ Budgett said. “It’s not ideal. You want to do it as close as possible to the time, but if you’ve got no option but to do it later, then that’s what you have to do.“

The International Olympic Committee has stored Olympic doping samples since 2004 at a lab in Lausanne, Switzerland, keeping them for reanalysis when new methods become available. The original eight-year statute of limitations has been extended to 10 years under the new World Anti-Doping Code, meaning the IOC can retest Beijing samples up to 2018.

A small number of Beijing’s total of 4,000 samples have already been retested based on intelligence about suspected cheaters, with no positive tests confirmed so far, Budgett said.

While an official decision hasn’t yet been made by the IOC executive board, Budgett said a “significant number” of samples will be reanalyzed in the coming months from athletes who could compete in next year’s Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

“Another significant number will be done before the samples expire in 2018,“ Budgett said on the sidelines of the Tackling Doping in Sport conference at the Emirates Stadium in London. “It will be in the hundreds. Who knows what tests are going to be developed over the next two years? It makes a lot of sense to wait another couple of years for the majority.“

Retests will also be targeted based on intelligence from recent positive cases and allegations of widespread doping in Russia and Kenya.

“We will document that sort of intelligence,“ Budgett said. “The countries where doping is prevalent and particularly where we know now that doping was prevalent, say back in 2008, that will be taken into account.“

A few target tests have been done so far on Vancouver and London samples, Budgett said, adding he had no positive findings to report.

It’s not the first time the IOC is going after doping cheats from Beijing. It retested some samples a year after the 2008 Games in search of the blood-booster CERA and caught five athletes — including Bahrain runner Rashid Ramzi, who was stripped of his gold medal in the 1,500 meters.

Retests of samples in 2012 from the 2004 Athens Olympics led to five athletes being stripped of medals for using steroids, including men’s shot put winner Yuriy Bilonog of Ukraine.

In 2013, the IOC retested about 350 samples from the 2006 Winter Games in Turin, Italy. Budgett said the results of those tests remain confidential for legal reasons. At least one positive case is believed to remain under review.

Budgett said the Beijing retests will use the “long-term metabolite” method that can detect the use of steroids going back several months — rather than days — and an improved analysis that is more sensitive in detecting the endurance-boosting drug EPO.

“You can look back at something that you couldn’t report as positive in the past and say, under the new rules, we can report that as positive,“ Budgett said.

On a separate issue, Budgett said he is confident the anti-doping lab in Rio will be reinstated by the World Anti-Doping Agency in May and be ready for use at next year’s Olympics. The lab was suspended by WADA in 2013 for repeated errors, forcing FIFA to send samples to Switzerland for testing during last year’s World Cup.

Budgett said the IOC plans to conduct “roughly the same number” of tests in Rio as the 5,000 it carried out in London. Rather than increasing the number of tests as the IOC usually does at each games, Budgett said “we want to move away from a total focus on numbers” and concentrate on intelligent, targeted and flexible testing.

Also Wednesday, WADA and the IOC said world governments have pledged $6.45 million toward anti-doping research, bringing to nearly $13 million the total fund for finding new tests. The funds are split 50-50 between the IOC and governments.

“We must consider every cent in the fight against doping as an investment in the future of Olympic sport, not as an expense,“ IOC President Thomas Bach said.

►  No Plan B yet for Olympic tournament without Sao Paulo

There is no Plan B yet for the Olympic football tournament if Sao Paulo drops out as a host city, local organizers said Wednesday.

FIFA this week announced Sao Paulo among six cities hosting matches next year. Local officials said, however, that the city may not be able to stage any games because of the costs involved.

The local Olympic organizing committee said it remains confident a solution will be reached and is not yet considering an alternative plan if Sao Paulo withdraws.

“In a project like this, you run risks all the time, but you always focus on the Plan A,“ Rio communications director Mario Andrada said. “The work we are doing is to have Sao Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Salvador, Brasilia, Rio and Manaus hosting events for the football tournament.“

A meeting is scheduled for next Monday to discuss the issue. A decision must be made by the end of the month, when fans seeking tickets will be allowed to choose which specific events they want to watch.

The organizing committee said the schedule for the men’s and women’s tournaments are already being prepared with Sao Paulo included as a host city.

“At this point we work with Sao Paulo only,“ Andrada said. “If you start having a Plan B, a Plan C, or a Plan D, the negotiations for the Plan A change because people think differently. We think it’s doable in Sao Paulo and Sao Paulo is the best city.“

The city and the state of Sao Paulo have already said they don’t want to spend public funds to stage the tournament. Corinthians, the club which owns the Itaquerao stadium that is set to host the games, said it will not spend anything to adapt its venue for the Olympic tournament.

Local officials said they only received the list of tournament requirements last week, so there hasn’t been enough time to analyze all the costs involved.

“People are trying to announce their position to the media to somehow establish the limits of the negotiations,“ Andrada said. “But the goal is for everybody to be in agreement at the end. We are positive that a solution will be reached and Sao Paulo will be at the games. We don’t work with a Plan B yet, we work with a Plan A.“

Also Wednesday, the local committee announced the calendar for 44 test events, beginning in July with volleyball’s World League finals. A November date has been set for the controversial golf course but there was no detailed information on the type of event that will be organized. The course is under construction amid legal battles over land rights and environmental issues.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  McMurray credits new crew chief, teamwork for Ganassi start

Jamie McMurray thought he had a shot at winning the pole two weeks ago in Las Vegas until a bobble on his lap ended his chance.

He looked at the scoring tower and, for a moment, teammate Kyle Larson was in first.

“I thought to myself, ‘Well, at least one of us got it,‘“ McMurray said Wednesday. “I was going to go down there and tell him ‘Great job. Awesome.‘ And even though he didn’t get the pole in the end, you can’t hide that feeling. You can’t hide when you are happy that someone else has done well.“

It’s that very cooperation and teamwork that has Chip Ganassi Racing off to a solid start through the first month of the NASCAR season.

McMurray finished second last week at Phoenix, where he had an opportunity on a final restart to snatch the win away from Kevin Harvick. It would have been a steal after the way Harvick dominated, so McMurray was satisfied with second.

It followed an 11th-place finish the week before in Las Vegas, and a strong run that was ended early at Atlanta when he was caught in a crash.

Larson, meanwhile, has put together back-to-back top-10 finishes, and both drivers have advanced into the final round of qualifying in the last three races.

In their second season working together, McMurray believes the absence of a professional rivalry has helped the Chip Ganassi Racing team grow into consistent weekly contenders. He said he views Team Penske, where Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have a strong belief in teamwork, as the model for a successful two-car organization.

“Kyle and I get along exceptionally well. There’s no jealousy. Egos and jealousy, to me, are what destroys teammates,“ McMurray said. “When you don’t want to see the other guy do well, and are bitter when they do, it’s really hard to share everything. But Kyle and I, both of our personalities, we’re pretty laid-back, and even though we both want to beat each other, we are genuinely happy when we do well.

“I just look at Penske, how Brad wanted Joey and felt he and Joey together could build something; that’s where we needed to be as a two-car team.“

The Ganassi organization, up and down and occasionally able to win a race, has struggled for years to build consistency and get its drivers into the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship. In a system now in which a regular-season victory secures a Chase berth, McMurray and Larson slowly began inching toward that benchmark last season.

Then McMurray got a jolt when crew chief Keith Rodden returned to Hendrick Motorsports after just one season. Rodden was replaced by Matt McCall, the lead engineer for Ryan Newman last season, and he and McMurray have bonded quickly.

“I am in my second year with a rookie crew chief, and that’s hard,“ McMurray said. “But I love his work ethic, and I sit back and watch his process, how he handles people, and he just has super good people skills. He’s not hard to work for, he wants things done a certain way, and he’s not scared to yell or address the issue immediately.“

And immediately, McMurray noticed a difference in his cars.

He’s been among the fastest on the track when the teams unload each week, and with momentum and confidence building, McMurray believes he and Larson are very close to a win.

How good does McMurray feel about where the Ganassi organization is right now? He likened his weekends to the kind that reigning champion Harvick has been having for more than a year.

“I’ve never been able to unload and be one of the fastest three cars on the track,“ McMurray said. “But now we are, and it’s stuff like what the (No.) 4 car did last year. Every week, they were among the fastest. It’s a feeling like no other, because you feel like you belong and you have this opportunity to go out and win a bunch of races. It’s the only reason you are here.“


INDYCAR-AERO KITS: Defending IndyCar Series champion Will Power was fastest at the two-day test this week at Barber Motorsports Park, where the full field tested the new aerodynamic bodywork.

Power, the pole winner at Barber last year, turned a lap during testing this week that was a full second faster than his pole-winning speed in 2014. In all, 21 drivers bettered Power’s pole lap time over the four sessions.

“The aero kits produce so much more downforce and there’s a lot of grip, so the cars are faster everywhere,“ Power said. “I would expect to break lap records just about everywhere.“

The high-downforce aero kits, which can be tailored to a driver’s personal style and individual racetrack, are brand new for 2015. In addition to designs that allow Chevrolet and Honda to differentiate from each other, the aero kits are expected to improve the on-track product throughout the season.

“This car is going to get better and better through the first half of the year as we understand more and more,“ said James Hinchcliffe. “To see the times we’ve been doing, given the warm track conditions (at Barber), it gives you a lot of confidence heading into St. Pete to see records fall.“

The season opens March 29 at St. Petersburg. Teams will test again next week — some at Sebring International Raceway, some at NOLA Motorsports Park, and Andretti Autosport will go to Texas Motor Speedway — before heading to St. Pete.


ROUSH FENWAY-NCAA TOURNAMENT: Roush Fenway Racing has created an online NCAA Tournament contest that will allow fans to go head-to-head with all seven of its drivers in filling out a bracket.

The top performing fans will win Roush Fenway related prizes, with the ultimate winner taking home a unique autographed Jack Roush racing helmet.

“I’m a huge basketball fan and I follow college hoops all year long,“ said Elliott Sadler, who once played at James Madison University. “March Madness is one of the best times of the year. It seems like every 15 minutes there is another buzzer beater, or a Cinderella team just knocked off a top seed.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lindsey Vonn, Kjetil Jansrud win World Cup downhill titles

Lindsey Vonn recently built a new trophy cabinet. The way things are going, she will soon need another one.

The 30-year-old American added another crystal globe to her burgeoning collection by claiming the season-long downhill title on Wednesday, winning the last race in the discipline at the World Cup finals.

Her seven downhill titles and her 18th World Cup title overall, each coming with a crystal globe trophy, are both records for women.

“I’ve just built a new trophy case that’s just finished now. It has room for 23 globes,“ said Vonn, who is the all-time women’s World Cup leader with 66 race wins. “Hopefully I’ll have a few more successful years.“

A 19th crystal globe could come on Thursday when the super-G title will be decided. Vonn holds a narrow eight-point lead over Austrian rival Anna Fenninger, who finished second behind Vonn in the downhill and is also competing for the overall World Cup title.

“It’s going to be tough because Anna’s skiing really well,“ Vonn said. “But something about this track suits me.“

In the men’s downhill, Kjetil Jansrud won the race and discipline’s season-long title.

The 29-year-old Norwegian, who has already clinched the super-G title, beat Didier Defago by .24 seconds on the Roc de Fer course to deprive the 37-year-old Swiss veteran of a retirement present.

“I had to apologize to Didier, I felt like I ruined his farewell party,“ Jansrud said. “I remember when I started doing World Cups, Didier was always so easy to talk with and smiling. One of the good old legends in the game.“

Jansrud, the Olympic super-G champion, is battling for the World Cup title with Marcel Hirscher, the giant slalom champion. Hirscher leads Jansrud by 64 points with the super-G, slalom and giant slalom still to come.

“Marcel’s been skiing well all year, and if he grabs the overall he deserves that,“ Jansrud said.

In the race for the women’s overall World Cup title, Fenninger holds a 12-point lead over Tina Maze, who was fourth on Wednesday.

Vonn has won the overall title four times in her career, but this season she’s just happy to be racing again after missing nearly two years of competition with injuries.

She blew out her right knee in a super-G at the 2013 world championships in Schladming, Austria, and then hurt the same knee again in her comeback, keeping her out of last year’s Sochi Olympics.

“I’m incredibly thankful to be holding another downhill title,“ said Vonn, who finished 0.24 seconds ahead of Elisabeth Goergl and 0.30 ahead of Nicole Hosp.

Vonn went nearly two years without a victory before winning a downhill in Lake Louise, Canada, in December. The following month, she overtook Austrian great Annemarie Moser-Proell’s 35-year-old record of 62 race wins.

“It is just amazing to be sitting where I am today,“ Vonn said. “I really have to thank the people that supported me.“

►  Barca top City to reach CL quarterfinals

Ivan Rakitic netted a first-half tally on Wednesday to hand Barcelona a 1-0 second-leg victory over Manchester City at the Camp Nou as the Catalans advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions League with a 3-1 aggregate triumph.

The La Liga club grabbed the initiative in the opening leg of the tie when former Liverpool star Luis Suarez netted a pair of goals at the Etihad Stadium to stake the club to a 2-1 aggregate lead heading home.

At the Camp Nou Barcelona again had the better of the play from the outset and carved out the first quality chance of the night after just seven minutes when Neymar slipped through the City defense and went for placement over power with his strike, but it clanged off the left post and rolled behind for a goal kick.

The Catalans opened the scoring in the 31st minute as Lionel Messi galloped into the penalty area on the right side of the pitch and looked up to see two City defenders marking him. He lofted a long switched ball across the box to Rakitic, who deftly controlled with one touch and lofted it over City goalkeeper Joe Hart into the bottom right corner for a 3-1 aggregate advantage.

City picked up its pace in the second half and answered with a chance in the early stages as Yaya Toure let a strike go from outside the box, but it sailed harmlessly over the crossbar.

The Citizens had a prime opportunity to get back in the game in the 78th minute when Sergio Aguero was pulled down in the box, resulting in a penalty kick, but Aguero’s take was poor and easily saved by Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen

The fourth official’s board showed only two minutes of added time, which Barcelona was able to see out with ease to advance to the next round, eliminating the last remaining English club from the competition.

In Wednesday’s other Champions League fixture, Carlos Tevez netted a pair of goals to go with a third strike from Alvaro Morata as Juventus rolled to a 3-0 second leg and 5-1 aggregate victory over Bundesliga side Borussia Dortmund at Signal Iduna Park.

The Old Lady was in control from the outset as Tevez put the club in front after just three minutes and Morata added the second tally with 20 minutes to play.

Tevez, the former Manchester City forward put an exclamation point on Juve’s ticket to the quarterfinals when he completed his brace in the 79th minute, ending Dortmund’s Champions League hopes.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Graduation rates of women’s tourney teams again top men

Women competing in this year’s NCAA Tournament continue to graduate at a higher rate than their male counterparts, according to an annual study released Tuesday.

The report by The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport shows athletes on teams selected for the women’s tournament have a graduation rate of 88%, compared to 75% for men’s tournament teams.

Both tournaments have only one team each that failed to meet the NCAA’s standard of averaging a 50% graduation rate over a four-year period.

Study author Richard Lapchick noted concern after seeing the disparity gap between white and African-American female athletes grow to 12 percentage points, up from 5 percentage points in 2014. The disparity between white and African-American athletes on men’s tournament teams was 24 percentage points for the second consecutive year.

“My hope is that it’s an anomaly, but I’m very concerned about a jump that’s that great,“ Lapchick said. “That’s statistically a very significant number.“

This year marked the first time since 2010 that the disparity among women’s tournament teams has reached double-digits. It had steadily decreased since it was 17 percentage points in 2006 and 2007. The gap for men’s teams remains at its lowest point since 2011, when it was 32 percentage points.

The Academic Progress Rate was developed by the NCAA in 2004 as a way to improve graduation rates. It is a four-year rolling average of academic performance that takes into account academic eligibility and retention.

The NCAA voted in 2011 to institute stricter APR performance policies, raising the score from 925 to 930, equivalent to a 50% graduation rate. Teams that fall below that standard could be subject to penalties, including lost practice time and tournament bans.

For 2014-15, teams had to earn a 930 four-year average APR, or a 940 average over the most recent two years to participate in postseason play. In 2015-16 and beyond, teams must earn a four-year APR of 930 to qualify for postseason tournaments.

This year Coastal Carolina (910) was the only team in the men’s tournament field and Savannah State (853) the only team in the women’s tourney to fall below 930. In 2014, seven teams fell below 925, compared with three teams in 2013.

Lapchick said he would like to see the NCAA include a racial disparity factor in the APR to encourage schools to improve what he said continue to be “unacceptable” disparities between white and African-American athletes.

“Good things don’t happen because they are right, good things happen because sanctions are imposed and people are moved by those sanctions,“ Lapchick said. “It’s time for the NCAA to change not only the APR (standard), but other factors. If the disparity gap doesn’t continue to go down, there should be sanctions for like there are for other things currently.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Running back Reggie Bush signs one-year deal with 49ers

Free-agent running back Reggie Bush has signed a one-year contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

The team announced the deal Wednesday. Bush had reached agreement Saturday after his visit to team headquarters and Levi’s Stadium last Wednesday.

Bush played in only 11 games with nine starts last season for the Lions because of injuries, including an ankle issue. He carried 76 times for 297 yards and two touchdowns.

The 30-year-old Bush joins a Niners team that lost franchise rushing leader Frank Gore in free agency to the Colts, among other departures that include the surprising retirements of linebackers Patrick Willis and Chris Borland.

►  Cowboys agree to deal with pass rusher Greg Hardy

The Dallas Cowboys have made their big play in free agency with defensive end Greg Hardy.

Although Hardy could face a league suspension for violating the NFL’s domestic conduct policy, the team said it agreed to terms with the former Carolina Panther on Wednesday.

A person with knowledge of the contract tells The Associated Press it is a one-year deal that could earn him $13.1 million if he meets incentives. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because terms of the deal were not announced.

The Cowboys let DeMarco Murray go to NFC East rival Philadelphia because they decided the NFL rushing champion was too expensive. Now, they’ve bolstered the defense, particularly the pass rush.

Hardy remains on the commissioner’s exempt list as he seeks reinstatement by the NFL, which filed a lawsuit Wednesday seeking the release of records from the trial that led to Hardy’s conviction by a judge in North Carolina on domestic violence charges. The case was dismissed after Hardy requested a jury trial and his accuser couldn’t be located to testify.

The league is seeking the evidence through an open records request after prosecutors refused to release anything. Without the evidence, it could be difficult for the NFL to enforce a tougher personal-conduct policy approved by owners after Hardy’s conviction.

First-time violations involving assault, sexual assault and domestic violence. Previously, first-time offenders typically received two-game suspensions.

The 26-year-old Hardy played just one game last season while his case was still in the courts after tying a Carolina franchise record with 15 sacks in 2013. He made $13.1 million in 2014 as Carolina’s franchise player.

NFL officials met with Hardy earlier this month to discuss the case. His ex-girlfriend testified that Hardy threw her around and threatened to kill her, and he denied those allegations.

League spokesman Greg Aiello said Wednesday that Hardy’s status was still “being reviewed for potential discipline.“

The 6-foot-4, 275-pound Hardy, a sixth-round pick by the Panthers in 2010, had 26 sacks over two seasons before his legal troubles arose. He had 194 tackles and 33 sacks in his first four seasons.

The Cowboys were 28th in the NFL in sacks with 28 last year. Jeremy Mincey, a low-cost defensive end added in free agency last year, led Dallas with six sacks and is returning. Tackle Henry Melton, who had five sacks despite battling injuries, signed with Tampa Bay.

Dallas moved up in the second round of the 2014 draft to grab DeMarcus Lawrence after cutting franchise sacks leader DeMarcus Ware in a salary cap move. But Lawrence missed the first half of the season after breaking his foot in training camp.

It’s the second time in four years the Cowboys made a big move for their defense in free agency. They added cornerback Brandon Carr on a $50 million deal in 2012, and could release him if he doesn’t accept a pay cut after going without an interception for the first time in his seven-year career.

The Cowboys also hope to re-sign linebacker Rolando McClain, a former top 10 pick by Oakland who returned after a year away from the game to have a solid first season in Dallas.

►  Giants re-sign Fells

The New York Giants re-signed tight end Daniel Fells on Thursday.

Fells played in all 16 games for the Giants last season, his first with the team, and recorded 16 receptions for 188 yards with four touchdowns.

In seven seasons with the Falcons, Rams, Broncos, Patriots and Giants, Fells has 108 catches for 1,274 yards with 12 touchdowns.

►  Clay headed to Buffalo after Dolphins decline to match offer

Charles Clay will become a member of the Buffalo Bills after the Miami Dolphins reportedly declined to match an offer sheet the tight end signed on Wednesday.

Miami placed the transition tag on Clay earlier this month, allowing him to field offers from other teams. The Bills made such an offer and the Dolphins had five days to match.

However, both and cited sources as saying Miami needed just one day to make the decision to let Clay go to its AFC East rival.

Terms of the contract weren’t disclosed by the Bills, but reported the deal to be worth $38 million over five years, including $24.5 million over the first two years. Under the transition tag, Clay would have earned about $7.7 million in 2015 with the Dolphins, who could not work out a long-term deal with the four-year veteran.

Clay had played his entire career with the Dolphins, making the transition from fullback in college to tight end. He caught 58 passes for 605 yards and three touchdowns last season after hauling in a career-best 69 passes for 759 yards with six scores in 2013.

In 58 games, 47 of which have been starts, the Tulsa product has 161 receptions for 1,809 yards with 14 touchdowns.

The Dolphins have already added a tight end through free agency, signing Jordan Cameron to a two-year deal.

►  Falcons sign TE Jacob Tamme

Flowery Branch, GA ( - The Atlanta Falcons have signed tight end Jacob Tamme to an undisclosed contract.

Tamme spent the past three seasons in Denver after playing his first four years with Indianapolis. He caught 14 passes for 109 yards with two touchdowns in 15 games last season for the Broncos.

The 30-year-old Kentucky product has 178 career receptions for 1,703 yards and 10 touchdowns in 107 games.

Tamme, who has spent most of his career catching passes from Peyton Manning, had his most productive season in 2010 with the Colts, hauling in 67 passes for 631 yards with four touchdowns.

►  Lions re-sign Mathis

The Detroit Lions re-signed cornerback Rashean Mathis to a two-year contract on Thursday.

Mathis started all 16 games in 2014, recording 51 tackles, nine pass defenses, one forced fumble and one interception.

Prior to joining the Lions two years ago, Mathis spent the first 10 seasons of his career (2003-12) as the face of the Jacksonville Jaguars secondary, where he was named to the Pro Bowl in 2007 and an alternate in 2006.

Entering his 13th season, Mathis has started 158-of-168 career games and has recorded 606 tackles, one sack, 31 interceptions and four touchdowns.

►  Bengals re-sign Still, bring back Ghee

The Cincinnati Bengals have re-signed defensive tackle Devon Still and brought back cornerback Brandon Ghee.

Terms of the contracts were not disclosed.

Still has appeared in 30 games for the Bengals since the club selected him in the 2012 NFL Draft. He notched 19 tackles in 12 games last season, a year in which he became most known for the care of his daughter, Leah, who last spring was diagnosed with pediatric cancer.

Leah Still, who will turn five years old in May, underwent tests recently which showed her condition to be significantly improved.

“Now that it looks like things are headed on the right path, I’m ready to go back and play football,“ said Still in a statement Thursday.

Still and the Bengals teamed last year to sell jerseys with his No. 75 to raise funds for families affected by childhood cancer. Nearly 15,000 jerseys were sold, leading to a $1.3 million donation for pediatric cancer research.

“It’s great to have Devon back with us,“ said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis. “We know it has been a very difficult journey for him the last year. Devon remains focused on Leah’s recovery and on furthering his NFL career, and we’re excited to be able to provide that opportunity.“

Ghee previously played with Cincinnati from 2010-13 and last season appeared in six games for Tennessee.

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

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015
Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Washington vs. Houston, 1:05 PM - ROOT-Southwest, MLB Network
St. Louis vs. NY Mets, 1:10 PM - SNY
Seattle vs. Texas, 4:05 PM - TXA21
Los Angeles vs. Oakland, 4:05 PM - SportsNet LA
Chicago Cubs vs. Chicago WSox, 4:05 PM - CSN-Chicago, MLB Network
Oakland vs. Colorado, 4:10 PM - ROOT-Rocky Mountain
Atlanta vs. Miami, 7:05 PM - FS-Florida
Cincinnati vs. San Francisco, 9:05 PM - NBC-Bay, MLB Network
Kansas City vs. San Diego, 10:05 PM - FS-San Diego
National Basketball Association
New York at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - MSG, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Portland at Orlando, 7:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, FS-Florida, DSS
Denver at Miami, 7:30 PM - Altitude2, SunSports, DSS
Milwaukee at Brooklyn, 7:30 PM - FS-Wisconsin, YES, DSS
Indiana at Cleveland, 7:30 PM - FS-Indiana, Ohio, DSS
Toronto at Chicago, 8:00 PM - SNET, WGN, DSS
Atlanta at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Oklahoma, DSS
Memphis at Dallas, 8:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Southwest, DSS
Boston at San Antonio, 8:30 PM - CSN-New England, FS-Southwest, DSS
Charlotte at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - SportSouth, CSN-California, DSS
New Orleans at Golden State, 10:30 PM - FS-New Orleans, CSN-Bay, DSS
Washington at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - CSN-DC, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
National Hockey League
New Jersey at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - MSG+, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Detroit at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - FS-Detroit, SunSports, DSS
Colorado at Anaheim, 10:00 PM - SNET1, Altitude, FS-West, DSS
Men’s College Basketball
New Mexico State vs. Kansas, 12:15 PM - CBS
Georgia vs. Michigan State, 12:40 PM - truTV
Wyoming vs. Northern Iowa, 1:40 PM - TBS
Buffalo vs. West Virginia, 2:10 PM - TNT
Indiana vs. Wichita State, 2:45 PM - CBS
Belmont vs. Virginia, 3:10 PM - truTV
UC Irvine vs. Louisville, 4:10 PM - TBS
Valparaiso vs. Maryland, 4:40 PM - TNT
Oklahoma State vs. Oregon, 6:50 PM - TBS
Robert Morris vs. Duke, 7:10 PM - CBS
Davidson vs. Iowa, 7:20 PM - TNT
Albany vs. Oklahoma, 7:27 PM - truTV
Coastal Carolina vs. Wisconsin, 9:20 PM - TBS
NIT Tournament, 9:30 PM - ESPN U
St. John’s vs. San Diego State, 9:40 PM - CBS
North Dakota State vs. Gonzaga, 9:50 PM - TNT
Dayton vs. Providence, 9:57 PM - truTV
Women’s College Basketball
Miami-Florida vs. Washington, 12:00 PM - ESPN2,
Albany at Duke, 12:00 PM - ESPN2,
Arkansas vs. Northwestern, 12:00 PM - ESPN2,
Iowa State vs. Dayton, 12:00 PM - ESPN2,
Tennessee State vs. Kentucky, 2:30 PM - ESPN2,
Northwestern State at Baylor, 2:30 PM - ESPN2,
Tulane vs. Miss State, 2:30 PM - ESPN2,
American vs. Iowa, 2:30 PM - ESPN2,
Savannah State at South Carolina, 5:00 PM - ESPN2,
DePaul vs. Minnesota, 5:00 PM - ESPN2,
South Dakota State at Oregon State, 5:00 PM - ESPN2,
Western Kentucky vs. Texas, 5:00 PM - ESPN2,
Montana at Notre Dame, 7:30 PM - ESPN2,
Wichita State at California, 7:30 PM - ESPN2,
Nebraska vs. Syracuse, 7:30 PM - ESPN2,
Gonzaga vs. George Washington, 7:30 PM - ESPN2,
College Hockey
Big Ten Tournament, 4:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Vermont vs. UMass Lowell, 5:00 PM - NESN, NBCSN
Bowling Green vs. Michigan Tech, 5:00 PM - FS-North
St. Cloud State vs. North Dakota, 5:00 PM - CBSSN
New Hampshire vs. Boston University, 8:00 PM - NESN, NBCSN
Big Ten Tournament, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Denver vs. Miami-Ohio, 8:30 PM - CBSSN
Ferris State vs. Minnesota State, 8:30 PM - FS-North
International Soccer
Paris Saint-Germain FC vs. FC Lorient, 3:25 PM - beIN Sports
PGA - Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel
LPGA - JTBC Founders Cup, 6:00 PM - Golf Channel
CHAMPIONS - Tucson Conquistadores Classic, 8:00 PM - Golf Channel
BNP Paribas Open, 5:00 PM - Tennis Channel
BNP Paribas Open, 9:00 PM - Tennis Channel
BNP Paribas Open, 11:00 PM - ESPN 2
Auto Racing
SPRINT CUP - practice, 3:00 PM - FS1
XFINITY - practice, 4:30 PM - FS1
XFINITY - practice, 6:00 PM - FS1
SPRINT CUP - qualifying, 7:30 PM - FS1

Sports News   150319

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  2015 high school boys basketball state tournament


Class A No. 3 Magnolia 49, No. 6 Notre Dame 48

Class AAA No. 2 Hurricane 59, No. 7 Parkersburg 56

Class A No. 2 Greater Beckley Christian 79, No. 7 Tucker County 50

Class A No. 1 Wheeling Central 73, No. 8 Charleston Catholic 66 (OT)

Class AAA No. 1 Parkersburg South 71, No. 8 Musselman 49

Class A No. 4 Tug Valley 42,  No. 5 Williamstown 46


9:30 AM — Class AA No. 3 Fairmont Senior vs. No. 6 Mingo Central

11:15 AM — Class AAA No. 4 Martinsburg vs. No. 5 Woodrow Wilson

1:00 PM — Class AA No. 2 Bridgeport vs. No. 7 Bluefield

5:30 PM — Class AA No. 1 Poca vs. No. 8 Ravenswood

7:15 PM — Class AAA No. 3 Huntington vs. No. 6 Greenbrier East

9:00 PM — Class AA No. 4 Westside vs. No. 5 Robert C. Byrd

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015

9:30 AM — Class A Magnolia vs. Greater Beckley Christian

11:15 AM — Class AA Fairmont Senior/Mingo Central winner vs. Bridgeport/Bluefield winner

1:00 PM — Class A Wheeling Central vs. Williamstown

5:30 PM — Class AAA Parkersburg South vs. Martinsburg Woodrow Wilson winner

7:15 PM — Class AA Poca/Ravenswood winner vs. Westside/Robert C. Byrd winner

9:00 PM — Class AAA Huntington/Greenbrier East winner vs. Hurricane


12:00 PM — Class A championship

2:30 PM — Class AA championship

7:15 PM — Class AAA championship

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  NCAA Tournament Game Results

(Wednesday, March 18)

Final Score: Robert Morris 81, North Florida 77

Lucky Jones scored 14 of his 21 points in the second half, helping Robert Morris extend its season with an 81-77 come- from-behind victory over North Florida in an NCAA Tournament First Four matchup. The Northeast Conference champion Colonials overcame a 44-31 deficit early in the second period behind big efforts from Jones, Marcquise Reed and Rodney Pryor. Reed tallied 15 of his 19 points after the break, while Pryor had 12 in the second half and 20 on the night. Robert Morris (20-14) also capitalized on sloppy play from the Ospreys, generating 21 points off 19 North Florida turnovers. The Colonials earned a meeting with fourth-ranked Duke, the No. 1 seed of the South Region, Friday in Charlotte. North Florida (23-12), making its NCAA Tournament debut after winning the Atlantic Sun Tournament, lost despite a career high-tying 28 points from Beau Beech. Jalen Nesbitt finished with 14 points and nine rebounds in defeat, with Dallas Moore posting 13 points and eight boards.

Final Score: Dayton 56, Boise State 55

Jordan Sibert’s 3-pointer with 35 seconds left was the difference as Dayton defended its home court and knocked off Boise State 56-55 to advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Flyers trailed by nine before staging a late comeback, scoring on eight straight possessions with five field goals and three trips to the free throw line to tie the score at 53-53. A pair of Montigo Alford free throws with 45 ticks left put Boise State back in front, but Sibert was pure from NBA range at the other end to the delight of the home crowd. Empty trips both ways left the Broncos with one final look at the basket, but star point guard Derrick Marks air-balled a 3-point attempt while attempting to draw a foul at the horn. Kendall Pollard scored 17 points to lead Dayton (26-8), which was the first team to play an NCAA Tournament game at home since 1987. Sibert and Scoochie Smith added 13 and 11 points, respectively. The Flyers ran their win streak at UD Arena to 22 games.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Stretching the Field: Jazz in tune to make push

While most sports enthusiasts are scrambling to fill out the perfect NCAA Tournament bracket, the Utah Jazz are quietly moving up the ranks at the professional level.

Most office pools have undefeated Kentucky as the favorite to be the last team dancing in early April, when the NBA’s playoff picture will be more lucid.

Whether the Jazz will be in postseason contention by then remains a mystery, but right now they’re trying to punch a ticket to the round of 16. The Jazz have missed the playoffs in each of the past two seasons and three times over the previous four.

The Salt Lake City faithful deserve better.

They were used to watching consistent postseason basketball under Frank Layden and the great Jerry Sloan, and are hoping newcomer Quin Snyder will have similar success.

Unlike Bob Dylan’s perception upon the arrival of Quinn the Eskimo, Jazz fans were not jumping for joy when Snyder appeared and pigeons were not running to him. Jazz fans, however, probably opted to doze when learning that Snyder would become the eighth head coach in Utah Jazz history and the fifth since the franchise relocated from New Orleans.

With his scrubbed good looks and wavy locks, Snyder started his first NBA head coaching gig with a 6-19 record following a 119-111 loss at New Orleans on December 16. The Jazz would win four of their next five games until falling down another rabbit hole, dropping 13 of the next 20 games.

Then something clicked.

Now the buzzword around Salt Lake City is playoffs with six straight wins and 13 in the last 16 tries, including Monday’s 94-66 rout of the Charlotte Hornets at EnergySolutions Arena. Rookie Rodney Hood recorded a career-high 24 points and appears 100% from an early foot injury.

“It’s been amazing just being healthy, finally getting my foot right,“ said Hood of his recent play. “Just knocking down shots and shooting with confidence has been the biggest thing.“

Snyder will concur.

“He’s confident. He’s getting some of that from the group,“ Snyder said. “He’s working so hard. If he’s got a good shot, we want him taking it.“

Snyder mentioned the hard work Hood has put forth in returning from injury and is especially impressed with his intensity, a trait that was picked up playing under the great Mike Krzyzewski at Duke. Snyder also said Hood’s length on defense has impacted his recent boost of certainty.

Hood is just one mind Snyder is trying to mold with the Jazz. Take a gander at Snyder’s resume and you will see the basketball wizards he has worked under, including Larry Brown, Coach K and Doug Collins. He was the head coach of the Austin Toros, the D-League affiliate of the San Antonio Spurs. Guess who runs the five-time NBA champion Spurs? Yep, Gregg Popovich.

According to Snyder, Krzyzewski still monitors Hood from afar.

“He asked about Rodney. He’s obviously following Rodney,“ Snyder said of a recent conversation he had with the Blue Devils coach. “You gotta guy who’s just playing ... playing the right way. Good things happen.“

So it’s clear Snyder has a melting pot of sorts to work with when it comes to teaching the game of basketball. The Jazz have picked up on it the past few weeks as evidenced by the best run of the season.

The Jazz, who are an NBA-best 11-2 since the All-Star break and 6 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, have won five in a row in Salt Lake City, where they own a 17-16 record this season. The Jazz had a 30-16 lead after the first quarter versus Charlotte and a season-high 61 points in the first half.

“When the ball’s passed accurately and on time ... there are better shots,“ Snyder said after the beatdown of the Hornets. “We got it going tonight. We got it going early. Sometimes that can be infectious.“

Utah set a franchise record in 3-pointers made in a quarter (eight), a half (12) and a game (15-of-24). Hood made all five of his shots from downtown.

The pick-and-roll Jazz are holding opponents to just 82.8 points per game since the break and have outrebounded every opponent in the last 13 games. They’re better sharing the basketball, too, and it shows with the recent success.

The nucleus of the Jazz boils down to two players: Gordon Hayward and Derrick Favors. Hayward leads the team in scoring average with 19.6 points and Favors is second in both scoring (16.3) and rebounding (8.2). Trey Burke, Rudy Gobart and now Hood have given Utah a lineup worthy of cracking the last two spots in the Western Conference playoff race.

Who knows how far this team could go had Alec Burks (shoulder) been able to stay healthy and be a part of what could be something special? But injuries happen and it’s the best teams that persevere through hard times.

Even if the Jazz miss out on a playoff berth in the ultra-competitive Western Conference, the future looks promising.

Sitting almost seven games behind the postseason cutoff line may seem overwhelming. If the Jazz remain consistent and get some help around the league to halt their playoff drought, fans will be jumping for joy.    ~~  Shawn Clarke ~~

►  NBA Game Results

(Wednesday, March 18)

Final Score: Cleveland 117, Brooklyn 92

Kevin Love returned to get 10 points and 11 rebounds and the Cleveland Cavaliers eased to a 117-92 win over the Brooklyn Nets on Wednesday night. Timofey Mozgov and J.R. Smith led the way with 17 points each and LeBron James scored 16 for the Cavs, who bounced back from a 106-92 loss in Miami on Monday to win for the fifth time in six games. They have won 14 in a row at home, last losing at Quicken Loans Arena on Jan. 7 to Houston. Kyrie Irving added 12 points and 10 assists for the Central Division leaders and Love played 27 1/2 minutes after resting the last two games. Deron Williams had 20 points to lead six Brooklyn scorers in double digits and Bojan Bogdanovic added 12 off the bench. The Nets had a two- game winning streak snapped and finished 2-2 on a four-game road trip.

Final Score: Philadelphia 94, Detroit 83

Ish Smith scored 15 points with eight assists to power the Philadelphia 76ers to a 94-83 win over the Detroit Pistons on Wednesday. Jason Richardson went 3-for-5 from 3-point range and finished with 14 points, while Thomas Robinson and Jerami Grant netted 12 and 10 points, respectively, off the bench for the 76ers, who have won three of its four meetings with Detroit this season. Nerlens Noel finished with 11 points and three blocks before departing in the third quarter with a right foot contusion. Kentavious Caldwell-Pope supplied 20 points and eight boards, while Reggie Jackson recorded a triple-double with 11 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists for the Pistons, who have lost 11 of their last 12 games.

Final Score: Miami 108, Portland 104

Dwyane Wade took over down the stretch, scoring 15 of Miami’s final 17 points in a 108-104 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Wednesday. Trailing 102-97, the Blazers scored seven straight points to take the lead. Arron Afflalo made a 3-pointer before LaMarcus Aldridge made two short jumpers to make it 104-102 with 52.1 seconds left. Wade responded with a pair of jumpers around a miss from Aldridge to give the Heat a two-point edge with 13.6 seconds remaining. The Blazers were then called for a backcourt violation, and Wade added two free throws to seal the victory. Wade ended with 32 points and six assists for the Heat, who overcame an 11-point deficit. Luol Deng made four 3-pointers en route to 24 points and Goran Dragic added 20 points and 11 assists. Aldridge had 34 points and 12 rebounds for the Northwest Division-leading Blazers, who have lost two in a row since a three-game winning streak. Damian Lillard and Afflalo contributed 17 and 15 points, respectively.

Final Score: Toronto 105, Minnesota 100

Jonas Valanciunas had 15 points and 15 rebounds as the Toronto Raptors defeated the Minnesota Timberwolves 105-100 on Wednesday night. DeMar DeRozan posted 21 points and seven boards, Terrence Ross netted 15 points and Patrick Patterson added 14 off the bench for the Raptors, who have won three of their last four games on the heels of a 1-9 stretch. All-Star guard Kyle Lowry left in the third quarter after taking a hard fall on his back. Kevin Martin scored 37 points, while Chase Budinger supplied 19 points and eight rebounds for Minnesota, which has dropped six in a row and 10 of its last 11 contests. Andrew Wiggins, who grew up in the north suburbs of Toronto, received a loud ovation during pregame introductions.

Final Score: Chicago 103, Indiana 86

Mike Dunleavy scored 19 of his 21 points in the first half and the Chicago Bulls led for the final 39-plus minutes in a 103-86 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Nikola Mirotic led the way with 25 points off the bench and Pau Gasol added 19 points and 12 rebounds for the Bulls, returned home after losing the last two games of a three-game road trip in Charlotte and Oklahoma City. They won for only the second time in their last seven games and remained 2 1/2 games behind Cleveland for first place in the Central Division. Solomon Hill scored 13 points and Roy Hibbert had 12 to lead the Pacers, who shot just 39.5 percent in the game. Chicago outrebounded Indiana 52-38.

Final Score: Dallas 107, Orlando 102

Dirk Nowitzki finished with 25 points and eight rebounds as the Dallas Mavericks held off the Orlando Magic for a 107-102 win on Wednesday. Monta Ellis scored 21 points and Devin Harris had 12 off the bench for the Mavericks, who won their third straight game. Elfrid Payton notched his first career triple-double with 15 points, 10 rebounds and 12 assists, while Victor Oladipo and Maurice Harkless netted 19 and 18 points, respectively, in the Magic’s 12th consecutive road loss.

Final Score: San Antonio 114, Milwaukee 103

Danny Green had 20 points and eight rebounds and the San Antonio Spurs defeated the Milwaukee Bucks 114-103 on Wednesday night. Tim Duncan posted 19 points, seven assists and five boards, while Boris Diaw added 18 points, six rebounds and five helpers for San Antonio, which is 2-2 since a six-game winning streak. Giannis Antetokounmpo supplied 19 points and eight rebounds for the Bucks, who have dropped four straight.

Final Score: Oklahoma City 122, Boston 118

Russell Westbrook scored 36 points and led a third-quarter barrage that lifted the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 122-118 victory over the Boston Celtics. Westbrook recorded 15 points during a third quarter in which Oklahoma City outscored Boston by a 40-24 margin, then put up 10 more in the fourth to help the injury-plagued Thunder to an important win. Wednesday’s result moved Oklahoma City, still without Kevin Durant and now minus Serge Ibaka for likely the remainder of the regular season, a half-game in front of New Orleans for the Western Conference’s eighth seed. Enes Kanter finished with 22 points and 10 rebounds starting in Ibaka’s place, while Anthony Morrow gave Oklahoma City a huge lift off the bench by pouring in 20 points on 7-of-11 shooting. Westbrook added 10 assists. The Celtics, locked in a battle with Indiana and Miami for the East’s final two playoff spots after winning a season-high five straight coming in, received a career-high 25 points and nine rebounds from Marcus Smart. Kelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass each tallied 20 points in defeat.

Final Score: LA Clippers 116, Sacramento 105

Chris Paul scored 20 of his 30 points in the second half to lead the Los Angeles Clippers past the Sacramento Kings, 116-105, on Wednesday night. Paul also dished out 11 assists for the Clippers, who went 17-of-37 from beyond the arc. J.J. Redick made seven 3-pointers en route to 27 points and Blake Griffin tallied 19 points and 10 rebounds. Rudy Gay ended with 23 points, six rebounds and three steals in his return from a two-game absence for the Kings, who have dropped four straight. Andre Miller and Nik Stauskas contributed 16 and 13 points, respectively. Sacramento was without DeMarcus Cousins (calf).

Final Score: Golden State 114, Atlanta 95

Stephen Curry had an off night and Klay Thompson has a bad ankle, but the Golden State Warriors still routed the best team in the Eastern Conference. Harrison Barnes netted 25 points and the Warriors blew out the Atlanta Hawks 114-95 on Wednesday night. Despite shooting just 4-of-11, Curry still finished with 16 points and dished out 12 assists for Golden State, which has won eight of its last nine games. Andre Iguodala provided 21 points and six assists and Andrew Bogut pulled down 14 boards in the triumph. Warriors head coach Steve Kerr announced Tuesday that Thompson will miss 7-to-10 days due to an ankle injury after suffering it Monday against the Los Angeles Lakers. Golden State is two games ahead of Atlanta in the loss column for the best record in the NBA. DeMarre Carroll tallied 16 points and 12 rebounds for the Hawks, who had their three-game winning streak snapped. Atlanta had an opportunity to clinch its first division title since the 1993-94 season with a win.

Final Score: Washington 88, Utah 84

John Wall tallied 24 points, nine rebounds and six assists and the Washington Wizards pushed their win streak to five games with an 88-84 triumph over the Utah Jazz. Paul Pierce added 18 points for Washington, which ended Utah’s six-game win streak. It also broke a three-game losing skid in Utah. The Wizards held on despite a number of crucial mistakes down the stretch. First, holding a four-point lead with 20 seconds to play, Pierce traveled on an inbounds pass. Then, Washington’s defense allowed Gordon Hayward to fly in for an alley-oop on a side out-of- bounds play, and Wall dribbled the ball off his foot under Utah’s basket with 11 ticks remaining, leaving the door open. But Hayward’s 3-point attempt was off the mark, and Wall hit two free throws to secure the win. Hayward scored a game-high 26 points, Derrick Favors netted 16 and Rudy Gobert pulled down 14 rebounds in the loss.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Darvish undergoes Tommy John procedure

The Texas Rangers announced Tuesday that staff ace Yu Darvish had successful ligament reconstruction surgery performed on his right elbow.

The procedure, performed by noted sports surgeon Dr. James Andrews in Gulf Breeze, Florida, will sideline the standout right-hander for the entire 2015 season.

Darvish left his 2015 spring training debut on March 05 after just one inning after experiencing discomfort in his elbow. An MRI taken by the Rangers’ medical staff the following day revealed a sprained ulnar collateral ligament that necessitated Tommy John surgery.

The All-Star hurler missed the final seven weeks of last season due to mild inflammation in his right elbow. Darvish finished the year 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA over 22 starts and struck out 182 hitters in 144 1/3 innings.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top Shelf: Leafs still searching for rock bottom

Even bad NHL teams go on hot streaks every now and again.

With the way the second half of the season has gone in Toronto, it’s difficult to imagine the Maple Leafs going on one of those runs anytime soon,

The good news for Toronto’s players and fans, the club only has 11 games remaining before 2014-15 comes to a merciful end. And even if the Maple Leafs by some sort of miracle managed to win all 11 of those tilts, it wouldn’t come close to erasing the awful memory of a season gone horribly wrong.

It’s clear now that Toronto’s high point came during a 10-1-1 stretch from November 20-December 16. The run pushed the club’s season record to 19-9-3 and to say things have gone downhill from there is a massive understatement.

In the months since then, it has seemed to be a steady string of low points. However, none of them turned out to be rock bottom because Toronto has managed to line up one awful effort after another.

Monday in Edmonton, the Maple Leafs lost a 4-1 decision to the Oilers, one of only three teams beneath them in the NHL standings. It was so bad even Phil Kessel, a guy who has complained about the negative media glare in Toronto, gave the beat writers exactly what they wanted to hear.

“This is an all-time low in hockey right now,“ said Kessel. “It’s a tough go.“

The latest loss dropped Toronto to 8-29-3 since a season-high winning streak of six games in December, which capped the aforementioned high point.

Having already fired head coach Randy Carlyle earlier this season, at this stage there is little for team president Brendan Shanahan and the Toronto brass can do about the free-fall. The club was a major seller at the trade deadline earlier this month, but now it’s a matter of watching the clock tick by until the end of the season.

Carlyle’s firing on January 6 did little to change things. The Leafs replaced him with the no-nonsense Peter Horachek on an interim basis, but all the tough talk has produced a dismal 6-22-3 record.

Shanahan and general manager Dave Nonis did their best to shed some dead weight before the trade deadline, but the club still will carry some immense contracts into the offseason, including the ones with Kessel and captain Dion Phaneuf’s names on them.

The Leafs got rid of David Clarkson’s awful contract, but had to take on another one with Nathan Horton coming over from Columbus. Toronto so desperately wanted to get rid of Clarkson they were willing to accept Horton, who may never play again due to a degenerative back injury.

Of course, the silver lining in having this type of season is getting a high pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft. It is expected to be a deep one with value to be had after the top prospects, Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, are selected.

The Maple Leafs could land a game-changing talent in June or they could swing and miss like they have with most of their recent draft classes. When things have be going as poorly as they have been in Toronto, it’s easy to assume they’ll never get better until they actually do.

Some folks say Toronto needs a “culture change,“ but Shanahan is finding that is easier said than done. Others believe the franchise’s financial success is actually a hindrance to the club improving on the ice, but it’s not like giving away its profits to charity is a viable solution.

Currently, there is nothing the Leafs can do except take their lumps and play out the string. I would say there is always the promise of brighter days ahead, but it may be a long time before the sun shines on Toronto.    ~~  Dan Di Sciullo ~~

►  NHL Game Results

(Wednesday, March 18)

Final Score: Chicago 1, NY Rangers 0

Scott Darling halted all 25 shots he faced to post his first career shutout and Chicago gained a measure of revenge over the New York Rangers with a 1-0 decision at Madison Square Garden. Brad Richards registered the lone score for the Blackhawks, who suffered a 1-0 overtime defeat to the Metropolitan Division leaders at United Center 10 days earlier. Chicago, which is chasing Nashville and St. Louis for the Central Division lead, has won four in a row. Cam Talbot made 30 saves for the Rangers, whose five-game win streak came to a halt.

Final Score: Columbus 4, Edmonton 3 (SO)

Alexander Wennberg posted the deciding score in the third round of the shootout and sent Columbus to a 4-3 decision over Edmonton at Rexall Place. David Savard, Ryan Johansen and Mark Letestu tallied for the Blue Jackets, winners in four of their last five. Curtis McElhinney recorded a career-best 44 saves in regulation and added a pair of saves in the game’s final segment. Derek Roy, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Nail Yakupov lit the lamp for the Oilers, losers in eight of their last nine. Ben Scrivens halted just 17-of-20 shots in the loss. Both Johansen and Jordan Eberle tallied in the second round after both shooters failed to open the shootout. Wennberg began the final round by beating Scrivens on a high backhander before Roy’s chance to prolong the contest was turned away by McElhinney.

Final Score: Anaheim 3, Los Angeles 2 (OT)

Ryan Kesler’s goal at the 45-second mark of overtime lifted Anaheim to a 3-2 victory over Los Angeles at Honda Center. Kesler was allowed free rein with the puck to circle behind Quick, pull out into the right circle and score the winner on a wrister inside the far post. Patrick Maroon and Jakob Silfverberg scored in the third period for the Ducks, who have won two in a row and six of their last nine and pulled ahead of both idle St. Louis and Montreal to top the NHL’s point list with 97. John Gibson finished with 29 saves. Jeff Carter and Jason Williams tallied for the Kings, who had won three of four coming in. Jonathan Quick turned aside 23 shots.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Federer, Nadal advance to Indian Wells QFs

Second-seeded Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were both second-round winners at the $5.3 million BNP Paribas Open on Tuesday.

Federer eased past 30th-seeded Italian Andreas Seppi 6-3, 6-4 at the first ATP Masters 1000 event of the year. The Swiss native has won this event four times and was last year’s runner-up to Novak Djokovic. He also avenged a third-round loss to Seppi at the Australian Open.

Third-seeded Nadal, who has titled here three times and was a runner-up to Djokovic in 2011, overcame early adversity and cruised to a 6-4, 6-2 result over Donald Young at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Milos Raonic, seeded sixth, topped Alexandr Dolgopolov 7-6 (7-2), 6-4, while ninth-seeded former Wimbledon runner-up Tomas Berdych drilled two-time NCAA singles champion Steve Johnson 6-4, 6-2.

Next up for Berdych will be 27th-seeded fellow Czech Lukas Rosol, who outlasted Dutchman Robin Haase 6-4, 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (7-3) on Day 6.

In other action, 17th-seeded Spaniard Tommy Robredo defeated 11th-seeded Gregor Dimitrov 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 in a match that lasted just under two hours and Jack Sock dropped 15th seed Roberto Bautista Agut 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.

Also on Tuesday, 13th-seeded former top-10 Frenchman Gilles Simon handled German Michael Berrer 6-2, 7-5 to reach the round of 16.

This week’s champion will collect $900,400.

►  Serena reaches IW quarters

Two-time champion Serena Williams had to overcome Sloane Stephens in order to reach the quarterfinals at the $5.3 million BNP Paribas Open.

The world No. 1 Williams dropped the opening set in a tiebreak before charging back to stop her fellow American and complicated rival Stephens 6-7 (3-7), 6-2, 6-2 in just over two hours at the beautiful Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Williams swatted 14 aces, but also piled up nine double faults, while breaking Stephens six times, compared to only two breaks for the loser.

The 33-year-old Williams is now 3-1 lifetime versus Stephens, and Tuesday marked their first meeting since 2013. The one win for Stephens was a big one, coming in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open that year. But things turned sour for Stephens after that run to the semifinals in Melbourne. In an interview published in May that year, Stephens said Williams had completely ignored her after the loss, and their relationship has never quite been the same.

Williams, playing here for the first time in 14 years, was the Indian Wells champ back in 1999 and 2001.

Defending-champion and 15th-seeded Flavia Pennetta, who defeated Agnieszka Radwanska in last year’s final, upset second-seeded Maria Sharapova 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 in a match that lasted just over two hours.

Sharapova titled here in 2006 and 2013 and was the runner-up in 2012.

Meanwhile, No. 3 seed Simona Halep knocked out 14th-seeded Karolina Pliskova 6-4, 6-4, Lesia Tsurenko knocked off sixth-seeded Eugenie Bouchard 6-7 (5-7), 5-7, 6-4, 12th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro drove out Heather Watson 7-6 (7-5), 3-6, 6-1, 18th-seeded and 2010 Indian Wells champion Jelena Jankovic dropped No. 31 seed Belinda Bencic 6-3, 3-6, 6-3, 24th-seeded Sabine Lisicki downed No. 25 seed Carolina Garcia 6-4, 6-4 and No. 27 seed Timea Bacsinszky topped 23rd-seeded Elina Svitolina 4-6, 6-1, 6-1.

►  American tennis player Wayne Odesnik banned 15 years for second doping violation

American tennis player Wayne Odesnik has committed his second doping violation in five years and will be banned until January 29, 2030, the International Tennis Federation announced Wednesday.

The 29-year-old South Africa native — he became an American citizen after emigrating to the United States with his family at a young age — provided out-of-competition urine samples in December and January that tested positive for numerous banned substances, including steroids.

Odesnik’s ban is backdated to January 30 and his results from the three tournaments he played this year will be disqualified, along with forfeiture of ranking points and prize money.

In 2010, Odesnik was sanctioned after Australian customs officials found vials of human growth hormone in his luggage. He pleaded guilty that March to importing the hormone and was sanctioned a month later.

The ITF originally banned Odesnik for two years but suspended half of it after he cooperated with its anti-doping program, which made him available to play starting December 29, 2010.

Playing in mostly Futures and Challengers tournaments, Odesnik stormed up the rankings to finish the 2011 season just outside of the top 100. Despite his performance on the court, his questionable behavior and reticent demeanor hardly endeared him to his fellow players.

When asked if that rise would earn Odesnik, who has a career-high ranking of No. 77 in 2009, the comeback player of the year award, Great Britain’s Andy Murray replied on Twitter, “Absolutely not!”

American Andy Roddick, who has since retired, called for him to be banned from the sport, saying in March 2010 that Odesnik’s actions were “just plain cheating.”

James Blake, another retired American player, told SB Nation in 2011 that Odesnik was not a player who went out of his way to support his compatriots.

“People look for a way to get ahead, and that’s unfortunate,” Blake said in 2010. “It’s something that’s frustrating. You want to feel like you’re playing on a fair playing field. I’m glad they caught him.”

►  Murray eases into Indian Wells quarters

Former runner-up Andy Murray was an easy fourth-round winner Wednesday at the $5.3 million BNP Paribas Open, the first ATP Masters event of the season.

The fourth-seeded former world No. 2 star cruised past Frenchman Adrian Mannarino 6-3, 6-3 on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

This year’s Australian Open runner-up Murray lost to Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Indian Wells championship match.

Murray’s quarterfinal opponent will be 12th-seeded Spanish left-hander Feliciano Lopez, who ousted fifth-seeded U.S. Open runner-up Kei Nishikori 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) on Day 7 in the California desert.

This week’s big winner will claim $900,400.

►  Kvitova pulls out of Miami

Wimbledon champion Petra Kvitova has pulled out of the Miami Open, which will begin next Tuesday in Florida.

The world No. 4 left-handed star also skipped the ongoing mandatory WTA event in Indian Wells, citing exhaustion.

“Unfortunately I am still not feeling 100% and am therefore disappointed to announce my withdrawal from the Miami Open,“ Kvitova wrote on her website. “I have always enjoyed playing in Miami so I will be sad not to be there this year.“

The 25-year-old Kvitova hopes to be healthy enough to play for the reigning champion Czech Republic in a Fed Cup semifinal against France next month.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Wide open field of 12 for Spiral Stakes

Saturday’s $550,000 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park offers an evenly matched and wide open field of 12 3-year-olds.

The 1 1/8-mile Spiral is an important race on the road to the Kentucky Derby. Winning the stakes is worth 50 points for a start in the Run for the Roses on May 02.

Getting the nod as the 7-2 morning line favorite is Royal Son, winner of Turfway’s John Battaglia Memorial three weeks ago. Trained by Todd Pletcher, Royal Son will leave from the inside post with Rodney Prescott again riding.

Royal Son, owned by WinStar Farm, won the Battaglia Memorial by 5 1/4 lengths as an overlooked 9-1 front runner. The colt finished second in each of his first three career starts, but was elevated to winner in his 2015 debut effort at Gulfstream Park. He finished seventh in the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs on January 31.

Royal Son has earned $133,825 in five career starts.

Imperia and Metaboss are the 4-1 co-second selections for the Spiral. Trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Imperia will start from post 6 with jockey Joel Rosario and Metaboss, trained by Jeff Bonde, will be ridden by Alex Solis from post 11.

Owned by Godolphin Racing, Imperia is coming off a disappointing fifth as the 3-2 favorite in last month’s Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds. The colt broke his maiden in last September’s Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont Park on the turf. He was 10th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf on October 31 and second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes over Churchill Downs’ main track on November 29.

Imperia has banked $191,404 in five starts.

Metaboss has won his last two starts, including the El Camino Real Derby on February 14 over Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic main track. The colt’s bankroll sits at $177,520 with two wins from five starts. He has 10 points in the Kentucky Derby points system.

Metaboss notched his maiden victory on January 04 over Santa Anita’s turf course. He finished third in his debut race at Santa Anita last October and three weeks later was fourth to Ocho Ocho Ocho in the Juvenile Turf Sprint. At Del Mar on November 29 he was second in a maiden race on the Jimmy Durante Turf course.

“In the sprints he was in with tough horses with a lot of speed but when we stretched him out you could see the difference,“ said Bonde. “When you’ve got a 3-year-old, you’re hoping you can make it to the Kentucky Derby. There are a lot of steppingstones on the way, and you have to make sure you’re at your best on that given day.“

Here is the field for the Spiral Stakes in post position order: Royal Son, Rodney Prescott, 7-2; Big Family, Albin Jimenez, 30-1; Watchyourownbobber, Rajiv Maragh, 20-1; Wireless Future, Florent Geroux, 12-1; Another Lemon Drop, Calvin Borel, 6-1; Imperia, Joel Rosario, 4-1; Magic of Believing, Shane Laviolette, 20-1; Task Force Glory, Rafael Hernandez, 30-1; Conquest Typhoon, Mike Smith, 5-1; Firespike, Miguel Mena, 20-1; Metaboss, Alex Solis, 4-1 and Dubai Sky, Jose Lezcano, 8-1. All starters will carry 123 pounds.

Post time for the Spiral Stakes will be approximately 6:28 PM ET.

►  Where’s the Moon versus seven in Sunland Derby

Where’s the Moon, winner of Sunland Park’s Mine That Bird Derby, will take on seven other 3-year-olds Sunday in the $800,000 Sunland Derby.

The 1 1/8-mile stakes offers 50 points to the winning 3-year-old toward a spot in the 20-horse starting field for this year’s Kentucky Derby on May 02.

Where’s the Moon, trained by Henry Dominguez, will start from post 3 with Luis Contreras coming in to ride. The chestnut gelding, owned by J. Kirk and Judy Robison, has won his last two starts, all at Sunland, highlighted by his 13-1 upset victory four weeks ago in the Mine That Bird Derby.

Where’s the Moon began his career last October at Santa Anita with a sixth- place finish. He duplicated that result the following month at Del Mar and was eighth over Del Mar’s turf course on November 29. On January 16 the gelding got third at Sunland and won for the first time on February 13 by 6 3/4 lengths.

The chestnut 3-year-old has banked $75,100 in six starts.

Firing Line, ninth in the current 3-year-old poll, has drawn the inside post with Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens again riding. Trained by Simon Callaghan, the colt is owned by Arnold Zetcher.

In four career starts, Firing Line has been second three times, most recently in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita behind Dortmund on February 07. The pair finished in the same order in December’s Los Alamitos Futurity. Firing Line has earned $174,800 from four starts with one win.

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sends out San Vicente Stakes winner Lord Nelson in the Sunland Derby. Owned by Peachtree Stable, Lord Nelson gains the riding services of Martin Garcia and will leave from post 2.

Lord Nelson, fourth in the San Felipe Stakes on March 07, has won half of his six career starts for $273,571. Baffert is a three-time Sunland Derby winner, including last year with Chitu.

Starting from post 4 will be Turf Paradise Derby winner Why Two with Victor Espinoza in the saddle. Espinoza, the regular jockey for champion colt and Rebel Stakes winner American Pharoah, had been aboard for Why Two’s first two starts in January.

Why Two, trained by Michael Machowsky for the Kagele Brothers and Ernest Marcho, won the Turf Paradise Derby on February 21 as the 3-10 favorite going wire to wire.

“He got a breather out there,“ said jockey Aaron Gryder, “and wasn’t surprised by the closers. He’s still learning how to race.“

Why Two has two wins in three starts for $82,065.

Here is the field for the Sunland Derby from the rail out: Firing Line, Gary Stevens; Lord Nelson, Martin Garcia; Where’s the Moon, Luis Contreras; Why Two, Victor Espinoza; Malibu Mogul, Enrique Gomez; Tiznow R J, Robby Albarado; Pain and Misery, Norberto Arroyo Jr. and Dirt Monster, Ry Eikleberry.

Post time for the Sunland Derby will be approximately 7:40 PM ET.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Arsenal falls short at Monaco

Arsenal claimed a 2-0 win at the Stade Louis II on Tuesday but was eliminated from the Champions League by AS Monaco on away goals.

Things looked dire after Arsenal suffered a 3-1 home defeat in the opening leg, and while the Gunners produced two goals in the return match courtesy of Olivier Giroud and Aaron Ramsey, the English side fell just short of a miraculous comeback, crashing out of the competition before the quarterfinals for the fifth consecutive year.

Arsenal broke the deadlock in the 36th minute when Giroud latched on to Danny Welbeck’s through ball and fired a shot toward goal that was stopped by Danijel Subasic. The rebound, however, fell kindly for Giroud, and the France international sent a shot into the roof of the net to give the Gunners the lead.

The goal galvanized Arsenal, nearly giving way to a second just two minutes later when Welbeck hammered a shot toward goal from the center of the box, but Aymen Abdennour flung his body toward the attempt and blocked the ball away for a corner.

Arsenal pulled another goal back in the 79th minute when Theo Walcott slammed a square pass off the base of the post, only to see Ramsey tuck the rebound just inside Subasic’s far post.

The Monaco ‘keeper came up big three minutes later by denying Giroud’s header from close range following a free kick, stopping the effort on the goal line to allow the hosts to remain in front on away goals.

It proved to be a pivotal stop as Monaco staved off considerable pressure from Arsenal in the closing stages to advance.

Also on Tuesday, Atletico Madrid needed penalties to advance to the Champions League quarterfinals after claiming a 1-0 victory over Bayer Leverkusen at the Vicente Calderon.

Mario Suarez struck for the home side in the 27th minute, and with neither side finding a goal the rest of the way, penalties were needed to decide a winner.

Both sides missed two of their opening four attempts, and after Fernando Torres buried Atletico’s fifth kick, Stefan Kiessling fired his shot over the goal to see the Spanish side advance.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Is Chris Borland’s retirement the beginning of the end for the NFL?

The news Monday night was shocking, even at a time in which the NFL has had one shocking headline after another. Chris Borland is quitting one of the most coveted jobs in America, retiring as a linebacker for the San Francisco 49ers at 24 because he’s concerned about the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma. Now, just weeks before a new crop of college kids are drafted into the league, the NFL finds its offseason dominated by stories about young players who are quitting.

Borland becomes the fourth player at the age of 30 or younger to retire in just the last week, joining Patrick Willis, another 49ers linebacker who quit six days earlier because of pain in his feet. Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Jason Worilds is quitting at 27 to do religious work and Jake Locker, a Tennessee Titans quarterback who was an NFL bust, says he “has no burning desire to play.”

Last year, Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Sidney Rice retired because of his increased awareness of the dangers of concussions, an awareness that was heightened after watching a documentary in which Dallas Cowboys Hall of Famer Tony Doresett spoke of his daily battles with deteriorating health brought on by chronic traumatic encephalopathy. In early March, Rice and New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford, announced that they would donate their brains to science research when they die. Rice estimated that he has had eight concussions; Weatherford two. But, as everyone is becoming increasingly aware, small, repetitive hits take their toll, too.

That’s why playing the game just wasn’t worth it for Borland. A third-round draft pick out of Wisconsin, he was one of the top rookies in the NFL last season and was due to make $530,000 in 2015. A history major, Borland made his choice after speaking with concussion experts and former players and will undergo baseline tests to monitor his health and “contribute to the greater research.”

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk … I feel largely the same, as sharp as I’ve ever been, for me it’s wanting to be proactive. I’m concerned that if you wait ’til you have symptoms, it’s too late. … There are a lot of unknowns. I can’t claim that ‘X’ will happen. I just want to live a long healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”

Over the last few years, suicides by former players have been gaining increasing attention, with Junior Seau’s in May 2012 the tipping point on a crisis the NFL has been slow — putting it charitably — to address. The league has committed funds to the study of concussion prevention and teaching how to play the game smartly, but, for every positive step forward, there’s a regression as another prominent citizen (President Obama) or former player (Mike Ditka) expresses reservations about letting children play the sport. Days after Seau’s May 2012 suicide, Jacob Bell walked away from the Cincinnati Bengals at 31, an outlier at the time.

“I’ve been thinking about some different things, thinking about health, thinking about the future of my family having to deal with some kind of crazy disease that nobody even knows about, where people want their brains studied after they’re dead, donating their brains to research,” Bell said then. “It’s just crazy to see how someone like Junior Seau took his own life over — God knows what he was really struggling and dealing with. But you have to believe it came from the game of football. I want to get out before the game makes me get out, where I can get out on my own terms, and I can limit the amount of stress and negative impact that the game would leave on me. I played under a guy, Mike Munchak in Tennessee, and I used to watch him as he was running around the practice field for a half hour before practice, and I’d see the way he’d run. He played 13 seasons, he played all 13 seasons with no cartilage in his knees. And I thought to myself, I don’t want to look like that. I don’t want to be at the point where I’m jeopardizing my true health for money pretty much. For money and for celebrity.”

Borland had the same realization. “I just thought to myself, ‘What am I doing? Is this how I’m going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I’ve learned and knew about the dangers?’” Borland told Fainaru and Fainaru-Wada. “… I’ve thought about what I could accomplish in football, but when you read about Mike Webster and Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling, you read all these stories and to be the type of player I want to be in football, I think I’d have to take on some risks that as a person I don’t want to take on.”

All three of those former players were found to be suffering from CTE after their deaths. CTE led to memory loss, aggression, confusion, depression and suicidal thoughts, even as the men became increasingly aware that something was terribly wrong. Duerson, like Seau, chose to shoot himself to death in the chest to preserve his brain for study. Seau was recently voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame and his induction ceremony this summer is sure to be filled with praise for his courage and cautionary reminders about the dangers of the game. It will be perhaps the most crystallizing moment yet for the issue and the future of the game. The NFL was sufficiently aware of that to issue a statement Tuesday morning (via Pro Football Talk)  in which Jeff Miller, its senior vice president for health and safety policy, pointed out that the game “has never been safer.”

“We respect Chris Borland’s decision and wish him all the best. Playing any sport is a personal decision.

“By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players. Concussions in NFL games were down 25% last year, continuing a three-year downward trend. We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority.”

For now, sky-high TV ratings and the obscene revenues they generate continue and for every player that quits, a 100 more will take their place — until children whose parents won’t let them play grow up and the pool of players shrinks precipitously. The real effects on the game might not be felt for a few more years, but they’re going to be devastating. “Obviously, guys will continue to play football,” ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit tweeted, “but I guarantee the Borland early retirement gets the attentionof a lot of moms and youth football.”

It’s another watershed moment for the game.

►  Extra Points: Here’s hoping Borland isn’t used

San Francisco 49ers star linebacker Chris Borland sent shock waves through the football world Monday night, announcing his retirement from the game at the tender age of 24.

Borland told ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” he was worried about the long-term effects of repetitive head trauma, an issue that’s been raised in recent years as studies have linked the sport with neurodegenerative diseases like Chronic traumatic encephalopathy or CTE.

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,“ Borland told ESPN. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk.“

The 2014 third-round draft pick, who was scheduled to make $540,000 this season, notified the 49ers on Friday that he was calling it quits and San Francisco confirmed the news late Monday night.

“While unexpected, we certainly respect Chris’ decision,“ said 49ers general manager Trent Baalke. “From speaking with Chris, it was evident that he had put a great deal of thought into this decision.

“He was a consummate professional from day one and a very well respected member of our team and community. Chris is a determined young man that overcame long odds in his journey to the NFL and we are confident he will use the same approach to become very successful in his future endeavors. We will always consider him a 49er and wish him all the best.“

“We respect Chris Borland’s decision and wish him all the best,“ NFL senior vice president of health and safety policy Jeff Miller added. “Playing any sport is a personal decision.“

At 5-foot-10, Borland was always too short and too slow for the NFL, except for the fact he could flat-out play. He was an instinctive, tackling machine during his rookie season, amassing 108 stops, one sack and two interceptions in 14 games before being placed on season-ending injured reserve in December with an ankle injury.

With Patrick Willis calling it a career at 30 earlier this month, citing his painful feet and an inability to play at a Pro Bowl level any longer, and the uncertainty over NaVorro Bowman, who is still attempting to return from a gruesome leg injury suffered in the NFC Championship Game after the 2013 season, Borland was the future for the 49ers on the inside of their defense.

And as good as $540,000 might look to the average 24-year-old, Borland was in line for a massive pay day on his second contract if he continued to play at the level his showed in 2014.

Despite that potential windfall and the fact Borland has never been diagnosed with a concussion at the college or professional level, he told ESPN he wanted to be “proactive” despite feeling “as sharp as I’ve ever been.“

Credit Borland for his maturity and wisdom because most twentysomethings don’t process information that way.

“It’s extremely difficult when you’re living your dream of playing in the NFL as a 20-something to contemplate what life could be like at 50,“ former wide receiver Donte Stallworth tweeted in reaction to Borland’s announcement.

Others had a different take.

“No offense to anyone, but I’m playing until I can’t anymore,“ Seattle Seahawks star linebacker Bobby Wagner wrote on Twitter. “I love this game to much.“

The reality is Borland’s position and style of play almost guaranteed future concussions and the Ohio native confirmed he had already been diagnosed with two to date.

For the activists champing at the bit to jump on the NFL, though, understand Borland was first concussed in eighth grade while playing soccer and then while playing football at Kettering Alterin High School in Ohio. He has had a clean bill of heath at least from a neurological sense at Wisconsin and with the 49ers.

Yet, because Borland immediately becomes the most prominent player to walk away from the game early over concerns regarding CTE, those with agendas will be attempting to use his personal decision as a launching pad for their own motives.

It’s very fair to point out the NFL’s policies almost always favored public relations over its players until very recently, but things have gotten better, at least according to noted-concussion expert Christopher Nowinski.

“NFL medical leaders have said that it was the meticulous research of Dr. Ann McKee, the director of the neuropathology laboratory for the New England Veterans Administration Medical Centers, which linked Lou Gehrig’s death to concussions, that opened their eyes to the depth of the problem, and having been in those meetings. I think that changed their minds about the risks of brain trauma,“ Nowinski said in a previous interview with The Sports Network.

Nowinski, a former World Wrestling Entertainment performer and Harvard football player with a long history of concussions, along with Dr. Robert Cantu, went on to found the Massachusetts-based Sports Legacy Institute.

Post-mortem analysis of the brain tissue by the SLI of former contact sports athletes has revealed that repetitive brain injuries, both concussions and non-concussive blows, could lead to CTE.

Nowinski himself was diagnosed with post-concussion syndrome in June 2003 after getting his bell rung during a WWE match in Hartford, Connecticut. He performed for three more weeks before his symptoms became worse and he was forced to take an extended leave of absence before finally calling it quits when things hadn’t cleared up a year later.

Nowinski began studying the suicide of Andre Waters, the former Philadelphia Eagles star who shot himself at age 44 in 2006, and also played an integral role in the discovery of CTE in former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive lineman Justin Strzelczyk, who was killed in a car crash in 2004 at 36 after a 37-mile police chase at speeds up to 100 miles per hour.

His work helped alert an asleep-at-the-wheel media to the problems going on in the NFL as well as the NHL, professional wrestling, mixed martial arts and boxing.

Fearing a backlash, the NFL has slowly implemented a much tougher policy regarding diagnosed concussions, including an examination by an independent physician not involved in any way with the team of the affected player.

Problems still exist, but Nowinski has called the current NFL policies “strong.“

Miller agreed.

“By any measure, football has never been safer and we continue to make progress with rule changes, safer tackling techniques at all levels of football, and better equipment, protocols and medical care for players,“ the NFL VP said.

“Concussions in NFL games were down 25% last year, continuing a three- year downward trend,“ Miller continued. “We continue to make significant investments in independent research to advance the science and understanding of these issues. We are seeing a growing culture of safety. Everyone involved in the game knows that there is more work to do and player safety will continue to be our top priority.“

That wasn’t enough for Borland, though, who pointed to the suicides of Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling, ex-players who were diagnosed with CTE after dying.

“I’m concerned that if you wait ‘til you have symptoms, it’s too late.“ Borland continued. “There are a lot of unknowns. I can’t claim that X will happen. I just want to live a long, healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.“

Despite Miller’s assertions, there is really only one way to take concussions out of the game of football and any other sport for that matter—stop playing them.

Only Borland knows what’s right for him and he’s made his decision. Taking his choice a step further, though, and assuming it’s the right one for everyone else is far from science, it’s an ideology.

Common sense says head injuries are part of a cocktail that has been created by the NFL lifestyle, and blaming concussions for every single NFL-related tragedy is not only unfair, it’s specious and convenient.

Some who have committed suicide over the years were battling with depression, money issues, drug dependencies and alcoholism but their survivors have been sold a bill of goods, an improvable thesis that CTE and only CTE is responsible for their loved one’s demise.

Others who are still with us and suffering are being used in a similar fashion, ignoring other peccadilloes in an ends-justify-the-means mentality designed to hurt the sport.

Dogma is never science, whether you agree with it or not.

We all want an answer to life’s problems and the black and white one will do for most in a society far too easily distracted to seek out a much more layered truth.

Football can be a brutal, savage game but everyone should have the right to play it if they choose. And for every Duerson or Waters there are hundreds of success stories who lead productive, and often charmed lives because of the game.

Those taking shots at Borland or calling him a quitter in an effort to protect the NFL are fools but those propping up the 24-year-old retiree as some kind of eidolon in order to undermine the sport are just as irrational.

Borland is neither a hero nor a pariah, he’s just a young man who decided his personal risk is not worth his potential reward.

Let’s leave it at that.    ~~  John McMullen ~~

►  As another NFL player retires early, football’s future comes under scrutiny

Football is on trial, and the evidence against it is mounting. The speed with which America’s favorite game has gone from celebrated to excoriated is breathtaking. Just as stunning, no one seems to have a solution to reverse the trend.

Where is the perfect helmet, the rule changes or the unexpected Solution X that heals the sport now that its essential nature is known?

Could football really just go away? Or wither rapidly, just as boxing fell swiftly from a popular American sport to a disreputable guilty pleasure with a limited audience?

The latest pair of cleats to drop — and they landed with loud symbolic clatter — was the unexpected retirement of San Francisco 49ers linebacker Chris Borland. The 24-year-old quit after a brilliant rookie year with 108 tackles and many accolades. A rising star with no extensive concussion history, Borland was uninjured and would have earned $530,000 this coming season. But after extensive research, he chose to quit.

How many more will follow, and how soon? The potential NFL draft class of 2025 is now 12 years old and needs many years of permission slips from adults to put on pads. How many signatures will they get?

“I just honestly want to do what’s best for my health,” Borland told ESPN’s Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru. “From what I’ve researched and what I’ve experienced, I don’t think it’s worth the risk . . . [I’m] as sharp as I’ve ever been. . . . I’m concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it’s too late. . . . I can’t claim that ‘X’ will happen. I just want to live a long, healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”

What we’re seeing is a cascading progression, a toppling of dominoes. And they are falling faster than anyone expected. Borland is the fourth NFL player within a week to retire while healthy and no more than 30 years old. He’s the second NFLer since the Super Bowl to attribute a very early retirement to fear for his life.

If a 5-foot-11, 248-pound heat-seeking missile of a linebacker calls it quits after one year of exposure to the NFL life, what happens next? We can guess what some of the future watershed moments will be, but their ETA just moved up — a lot.

For now, at least, for every player who steps away from the game, 12 more are waiting in line to replace him. But for how long?

When will the first college with a noticeable football tradition cancel its program as a simple, common-sense concession to medical decency? It’ll happen.

When will the first high school league, perhaps after a spinal cord or concussion-related tragedy, decide that a dozen others sports are enough variety and say, “Football is banned here.” That will happen, too.

Once I would have thought such landmarks were 20 years in the future. But as momentum builds and they’re met more rapidly, how will parents across the United States explain to their friends, their neighbors and even to their own parents that they are allowing their sons to play tackle football? Where do I buy soccer futures?

Many of us who have worked close to sports and football have had a gut sense for many years that football was far more dangerous than scientists or the sport itself acknowledged. But where was solid documentation? How long would it take to be believed? And after that, how many more years would it take for football to become disreputable or sad, like boxing — a sport that was chosen only by those who saw it as their only way to climb up the sociological ladder?

But many of us were wrong. We never dreamed that when the great Junior Seau was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, the honor would be nearly three years after his death. Seau was the perfect football hero — violent on the field but kind, smart and civic-minded off it. His committed suicide at age 43, shooting himself through the heart so science could study his brain for evidence that a life of contact had led to his madness and despair.

Borland was a junior at Wisconsin when Seau killed himself. Like Borland’s whole football generation, a huge wave of new football facts — and decades of NFL lies and strategic misinformation — swept over him as he joined the league.

As suicides such as Seau’s and Dave Duerson’s hit the news, the NFL reached an incredibly incriminating concussion settlement with the NFL players’ union for $765 million to its retired players. Earlier this year, a judge questioned whether that sum is sufficient.

Football’s huge problem is that the latest data indicate repeated blows to the head at any age — not just big hits by big players in the pros or college — can lead to chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) and brain damage. Those cute little kids in their comically big helmets and shoulders pads — what a hoot — are apparently at risk, too.

Change often arrives at a modest speed that allows us to analyze, adapt, accept and usually embrace our inevitable future. But sometimes, even in sports, the shift is so fast and violent that we hardly grasp its arrival before a radically different reality suddenly has become our new norm.

That’s where football sits now, its billions in wealth built on decades of human wreckage. Life can’t seem to resist irony, especially with a malicious, or perhaps long-deserved twist of the knife. Last month, a vast TV audience held its breath in delighted disbelief at one of the best football games ever played: the New England Patriots’ Super Bowl victory. At its best, is any sport so unpredictably entertaining?

Yet a month later, it’s rational to wonder how long that sport will flourish. We’ll still have Super Bowls for plenty of years. But, unless something extremely unexpected happens to change the fundamental (and now undeniable) dangers of the game, football’s bleeding isn’t going to stanch. There is a vast difference between a sport in which one unlucky hit out of a million leads to tragedy and one in which mere participation may lead to neurological hell. It’s the difference between a game parents reluctantly allow their sons to play and one they absolutely oppose.

With an increasingly rapid flow of chilling data points, such as Borland’s retirement, the future of football is coming into view, racing at us over the horizon. It’s a blank line on a permission slip, where a parent’s signature used to be.

►  Bills sign Miami TE Clay to offer sheet

The Buffalo Bills have signed Miami Dolphins tight end Charles Clay to an offer sheet.

Miami placed the transition tag on Clay earlier this month, allowing him to field offers from other teams. The Dolphins now have five days to match.

Terms of the offer weren’t disclosed by the Bills, but reported the contract to be worth $38 million over five years, including $24.5 million over the first two years. Under the transition tag, Clay would have earned just $7.7 million in 2015 with the Dolphins, although Miami was reportedly trying to work out a long-term deal.

Clay has played his entire four-year career with the Dolphins, making the transition from fullback in college to tight end. He caught 58 passes for 605 yards and three touchdowns last season after hauling in a career-best 69 passes for 759 yards with six scores in 2013.

In 58 games, age 47 of which have been starts, the Tulsa product has 161 receptions for 1,809 yards with 14 touchdowns.

The Dolphins have already added a tight end through free agency, signing Jordan Cameron to a two-year deal.

►  Bears ink long snapper Gafford

The Chicago Bears signed long snapper Thomas Gafford to a one-year contract on Wednesday.

Gafford played his first seven years in the league with the Kansas City Chiefs, appearing in 105 straight games as long snapper.

The University of Houston product has recorded 19 special teams tackles and a fumble recovery during his NFL career, which began as an undrafted free agent with Green Bay in January 2006. He also spent time with Seattle (2007 offseason) and Chicago (2008 preseason, including two preseason contests) before signing with Kansas City in October 2008.

►  Ravens release RB Bernard Pierce after DUI arrest

Running back Bernard Pierce was released by the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday afternoon, hours after he was arrested and charged with driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while impaired by alcohol, according to Baltimore County police.

Pierce was stopped for going 55 mph in a 30-mph zone in his 2014 Ford Mustang at Dulaney Valley Road and I-695 at around 2 AM in Towson, Md., according to CBS Baltimore.

“The officer suspected that the driver been drinking so he had the driver exit the vehicle for field sobriety tests. After failing field sobriety tests, the driver was arrested and taken to the Towson precinct for processing,” police said in a statement Wednesday morning.

Pierce, who was processed and released, is the eighth Ravens player arrested in the last year. Two others — nose tackle Terrence Cody and cornerback Victor Hampton — were arrested this offseason and were quickly released. Cody was arrested on felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor drug charges, Hampton on DUI.

“Do you know what happened the last time a Ravens player got a DUI?” Pierce asked, according to the charging documents. “I’m getting cut tomorrow, not like you care.”

►  Ravens bring back DE Canty on 2-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have agreed to terms with defensive end Chris Canty less than three weeks after cutting him.

The Ravens said Wednesday they agreed to terms on a two-year deal with Canty, whose contract was terminated on February 27 with one year remaining. According to reports at the time, the move saved the Ravens $2.6 million against the salary cap.

The new deal is for a total of $4.65 million and his salary cap number for 2015 is $1.75 million, according to the Baltimore Sun.

“We talked weeks ago about the possibility of Chris coming back, and we are happy he is,“ Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome said in a statement.

Canty spent the past two seasons in Baltimore after playing four years with the New York Giants and four seasons with the Dallas Cowboys. He was a Super Bowl champion with the Giants in 2011 and had considered retirement after last season concluded.

The 10-year veteran had 33 tackles and a half-sack last season. He has 21 1/2 sacks with 335 tackles in his career.


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

Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Minnesota vs. Tampa Bay, 1:05 PM - SunSports
Miami vs. Atlanta, 1:05 PM - FS-Florida
NY Mets vs. St. Louis, 1:05 PM - FS-Midwest, MLB Network
Houston vs. NY Mets, 1:10 PM - SNY
LA Angels vs. Los Angeles, 4:05 PM - SportsNet LA, FS-West
San Francisco vs. Milwaukee, 4:05 PM - FS-Wisconsin, MLB Network
Philadelphia vs. NY Yankees, 7:05 PM - YES, ESPN
Cleveland vs. Seattle, 10:05 PM - ROOT-Northwest, MLB Network
Chicago Cubs vs. Arizona, 10:10 PM - CSN-Chicago
National Basketball Association
Minnesota at New York, 7:30 PM - FS-North+, MSG, DSS
Denver at Houston, 8:00 PM - Altitude, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
New Orleans at Phoenix, 10:00 PM - FS-New Orleans, Arizona, DSS
Utah at LA Lakers, 10:30 PM - ROOT-Northwest, Time Warner Sports, DSS
National Hockey League
Carolina at Montreal, 7:30 PM - FS-Carolina, RDS, DSS
San Jose at Toronto, 7:30 PM - CSN-California, TSN4, DSS
Detroit at Florida, 7:30 PM - FS-Detroit, Florida, DSS
Boston at Ottawa, 7:30 PM - NESN, TSN5, DSS
St. Louis at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - FS-Midwest, TSN3, DSS
Washington at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - CSN-DC, FS-North, DSS
Pittsburgh at Dallas, 8:30 PM - ROOT-Pitt, FS-Southwest, NHL Network, DSS
Philadelphia at Calgary, 9:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, SNET-West, DSS
Colorado at Arizona, 10:00 PM - Altitude2, FS-Arizona+, DSS
Columbus at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - FS-Ohio, SNET-Pacific, DSS
Men’s College Basketball
Northeastern vs. Notre Dame, 12:15 PM - CBS
UAB vs. Iowa State, 12:40 PM - truTV
Georgia State vs. Baylor, 2:10 PM - TBS
Texas Southern vs. Arizona, 2:10 PM - TNT
Texas vs. Butler, 2:45 PM - CBS
UCLA vs. SMU, 3:10 PM - truTV
TBA vs. Xavier, 4:10 PM - TBS
Ohio State vs. VCU, 4:40 PM - TNT
Lafayette vs. Villanova, 6:50 PM - TBS
Purdue vs. Cincinnati, 7:10 PM - CBS
Harvard vs. North Carolina, 7:20 PM - TNT
Stephen F. Austin vs. Utah, 7:27 PM - truTV
LSU vs. NC State, 9:20 PM - TBS
TBA vs. Kentucky, 9:40 PM - CBS
Wofford vs. Arkansas, 9:50 PM - TNT
Eastern Washington vs. Georgetown, 9:57 PM - truTV
College Hockey
Ohio State vs. Penn State, 4:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Wisconsin vs. Michigan, 8:00 PM - Big Ten Network
International Soccer
Dynamo Kyiv vs. Everton, 2:00 PM - FS1
Inter vs. Wolfsburg, 4:00 PM - FS1
PGA - Arnold Palmer Invitational, 2:00 PM - Golf Channel
LPGA - JTBC Founders Cup, 6:00 PM - Golf Channel
BNP Paribas Open, 2:00 PM - ESPN 2
BNP Paribas Open, 8:00 PM - ESPN 2

Sports News   150318

The Gilmer Free Press

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  NCAA Tournament Game Results

(Tuesday, March 17)

Final Score: Hampton 74, Manhattan 64

Quinton Chievous and Reginald Johnson each scored 15 points as Hampton defeated Manhattan 74-64 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at University of Dayton Arena. Chievous also grabbed 13 rebounds before leaving the game with three minutes left due to an ankle injury. Brian Darden added 13 points for the Pirates (17-17), who will travel to Louisville for a meeting with top overall seed Kentucky on Thursday. Hampton had a season-high 20 assists, with Deron Powers leading the way with seven dimes. Shane Richards led the Jaspers (19-14) with 17 points. Emmy Andujar posted 11 points and eight rebounds in the setback.

Final Score: Ole Miss 94, BYU 90

In a tale of two halves, Ole Miss saved the best for last as it erased a 17-point halftime deficit to move on in the NCAA Tournament on Tuesday night. Stefan Moody scored 26 points and M.J. Rhett recorded 20 in the Rebels’ 94-90 win over BYU at University of Dayton Arena. Ole Miss (21-12) outscored the Cougars 62-41 in the second half to surge back and advance to play sixth-seeded Xavier in Jacksonville on Thursday. Jarvis Summers had 11 points with 10 assists and Sebastian Saiz totaled 10 points with nine rebounds in the win. Tyler Haws did all he could for BYU (25-10), netting 19 of his 33 points in a high-scoring first half, while Chase Fischer finished with 23 points, although he scored 17 of those in the opening 20 minutes. Kyle Collinsworth, who recorded an NCAA record six triple-doubles this season, tweaked his surgically repaired right knee in the first half and was not his dominant self for the Cougars. He finished with eight points on 1-of-7 shooting, but the stat-stuffing guard dished out 10 assists and grabbed seven rebounds.

►  What channel is truTV? How do I watch NCAA tournament games?

It’s become a rite of spring — trying to find truTV to watch NCAA tournament games. We’re here to make this part of your lives a little easier with a handy list of what channel to click to find truTV on your cable or satellite provider:

  • Comcast Channel 65, Channel 841 (HD)
  • Cox Communications Channel 79, Channel 1079 (HD)
  • DIRECTV Channel 246 (HD)
  • DISH Network Channel 242 (HD), Channel 9430 (HD)
  • RCN Cable Channel 116, Channel 658 (HD)
  • Verizon FiOS Channel 183, Channel 683 (HD)

Now that you know what channel is truTV, it begs the question: What games are on truTV this week? We can help with that too, here’s this week’s tournament game schedule:

Tuesday — March 17 (play-in games)

6:40 PM: Manhattan vs. Hampton in Dayton, Ohio (truTV).

Approx. 9:10 PM: BYU vs. Mississippi in Dayton, Ohio (truTV).

Wednesday — March 18 (play-in games)

6:40 PM: North Florida vs. Robert Morris in Dayton (truTV).

Approx. 9:10 PM: Boise State vs. Dayton in Dayton (truTV).

Thursday — March 19 (first round)

12:15 PM: Notre Dame vs. Northeastern in Pittsburgh (CBS).
12:40 PM: Iowa State vs. UAB in Louisville ( truTV).

1:40 PM: Baylor vs. Georgia State in Jacksonville (TBS).

2:10 PM: Arizona vs. Texas Southern in Portland, Ore. (TNT).
Approx. 2:45 PM: Butler vs. Texas in Pittsburgh (CBS).
Approx. 3:10 PM: SMU vs. UCLA in Louisville (truTV).
Approx. 4:10 PM: Xavier vs. BYU/Mississippi in Jacksonville (TBS).
Approx. 4:40 PM: VCU vs. Ohio State in Portland, Ore. (TNT).
6:50 PM: Villanova vs. Lafayette in Pittsburgh (TBS).
7:10 PM: Cincinnati vs. Purdue in Louisville (CBS).
7:20 PM: North Carolina vs. Harvard in Jacksonville (TNT).
7:27 PM: Utah vs. Stephen F. Austin in Portland, Ore. (truTV).
Approx. 9:10 PM: N.C. State vs. LSU in Pittsburgh (TBS).
Approx. 9:40 PM: Kentucky vs. Hampton/Manhattanin Louisville (CBS).
Approx. 9:50 PM: Arkansas vs. Wofford in Jacksonville (TNT).
Approx. 9:57 PM: Georgetown vs. Eastern Washington in Portland (truTV).

Friday — March 20 (first round)

12:15 PM: Kansas vs. New Mexico St . in Omaha (CBS).
12:40 PM: Michigan State vs. Georgia in Charlotte (truTV).
1:40 PM: Northern Iowa vs. Wyoming in Seattle (TBS).
2:10 PM: West Virginia vs. Buffalo in Columbus, Ohio (TNT).
Approx. 2:45 PM: Wichita State vs. Indiana in Omaha (CBS).
Approx. 3:10 PM: Virginia vs. Belmont in Charlotte (truTV).
Approx. 4:10 PM: Louisville vs. UC Irvine  in Seattle (TBS).
Approx. 4:40 PM: Maryland vs. Valparaiso in Columbus, Ohio (TNT).
6:50 PM: Oregon vs. Oklahoma St. in Omaha (TBS).
7:10 PM: Duke vs. North Florida/ Robert Morris in Charlotte (CBS).
7:20 PM: Iowa vs. Davidson in Seattle (TNT).
7:27 PM: Oklahoma vs. Albany in Columbus, Ohio (truTV).
Approx. 9:10 PM: Wisconsin vs. Coastal Carolina in Omaha (TBS).
Approx. 9:40 PM: San Diego State vs. St. John’s in Charlotte (CBS).
Approx. 9:50 PM: Gonzaga vs. North Dakota St. in Seattle (TNT).
Approx. 9:57 PM: Providence vs. Boise State/Dayton in Columbus, Ohio (truTV).

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Tuesday, March 17)

Final Score: Detroit 105, Memphis 95

Reggie Jackson had 23 points and a career-high 20 assists as the Detroit Pistons rallied for a 105-95 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Tuesday night. The Pistons trailed by as many as 17 points in the first half, but outscored the Grizzlies 66-39 over the final 24 minutes to overcome the deficit and snap a 10-game losing streak. Andre Drummond posted 16 points and 16 rebounds and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope supplied a game-high 24 points for the Pistons. Jeff Green netted 21 points and Marc Gasol supplied 17 points, 11 boards and six assists for Memphis, which has dropped three of its last five games.

Final Score: New York 104, San Antonio 100 (OT)

Langston Galloway and Alexey Shved combined for 43 points, Lou Amundson pulled down a career-high 17 rebounds and the New York Knicks stunned the San Antonio Spurs 104-100 in overtime on Tuesday. Galloway had a game-high 22 points, Shved added a game-high seven assists and Andrea Bargnani posted 17 points and 10 rebounds for the Knicks, who improved to 2-2 on the heels of six straight losses. They led 101-99 late in overtime when Tim Duncan worked his way to the free throw line. He was pure with the first free throw, but missed the second one, and Amundson secured the board. Amundson then got fouled and split his pair with eight seconds to play. Out of a timeout, Duncan looked for a cutting Kawhi Leonard, but his pass was knocked away and Amundson came up with the loose ball. Shved made two free throws to put the game away. Tony Parker paced the Spurs with 21 points, and Tiago Splitter had 12 with 13 rebounds in the disappointing setback.

Final Score: New Orleans 85, Milwaukee 84

Anthony Davis had 20 points and 12 rebounds as the New Orleans Pelicans edged the Milwaukee Bucks 85-84 on Tuesday night. Eric Gordon broke an 80-80 tie with a triple at the 1:56 mark of the fourth. Jerryd Bayless sunk two foul shots before Davis knocked down a jumper for an 85-82 New Orleans cushion with 1:07 on the clock. A pair of Bayless free throws clawed the Bucks within 85-84 with 34.5 seconds left. New Orleans took the clock down at the other end and Gordon’s layup didn’t drop with just over 10 ticks to play. Ersan Ilyasova’s 3-pointer with a second remaining was off the mark and Tyreke Evans secured the rebound and the outcome. Quincy Pondexter posted 18 points and seven rebounds, Omer Asik supplied 16 points and 11 boards and Evans provided 12 points, 10 rebounds and six assists for the Pelicans, who have won four of their last five games. Giannis Antetokounmpo recorded 15 points and nine rebounds, Ilyasova tallied 15 points and eight boards and Zaza Pachulia added 11 points and 11 rebounds for Milwaukee, which has dropped three straight and eight of its last 10 contests.

Final Score: Houston 107, Orlando 94

Donatas Motiejunas netted 23 points to lead six Rockets in double figures as Houston pulled away from the Orlando Magic 107-94 on Tuesday. James Harden, Trevor Ariza and Josh Smith all scored 17 points for the Rockets, who improved to 15-3 at home since December 31. Corey Brewer had 13 points and 12 rebounds off the bench and Patrick Beverley added 12 points with seven assists. Victor Oladipo scored a game-high 29 points for Orlando, which lost for the fifth straight time.

Final Score: LA Clippers 99, Charlotte 92

Both Clippers big men had double-doubles and Los Angeles nearly coughed up a 22-point lead before holding off the Charlotte Hornets 99-92 on Tuesday. Blake Griffin had 19 points and 11 rebounds and DeAndre Jordan posted 12 and 14 boards for the Clippers, who are just 10-10 since the start of February. J.J. Redick scored a game-high 23 points and Chris Paul netted 20 in the win. Charlotte opened a five-game road trip on Monday with a humbling 94-66 loss in Utah, and nearly duplicated that result in this one. A second-half rally made things interesting before the Hornets ultimately came up short. Al Jefferson had 21 points and Marvin Williams tallied his first double-double of the season with 10 points and 11 rebounds.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Little League World Series star Mo’ne Davis unveils new sneaker line

Little League World Series phenom Mo’ne Davis’s empire is still growing. The athletic young woman who shot to fame at age 13 can add her new sneaker line to her list of growing accomplishments, which already includes a book deal, her name in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, and a starring role in a Spike Lee-directed mini documentary for Chevrolet.

The Gilmer Free Press

The new shoes come courtesy of the brand M4D3 (Make A Difference Everyday), which teamed up with Davis to create a line of fashion sneakers for girls. The sneakers are predictably adorable, featuring contrast baseball stitching and bright colors. The shoes will sell for $75 a pop, The Root reports.

The proceeds won’t go into Davis’s pockets, however. Davis has expressed interest in playing basketball for the University of Connecticut, and accepting proceeds for her endorsement could be construed as a violation of NCAA rules. Instead, the proceeds will got to Plan International’s Because I Am A Girl initiative, which will direct the funds to girls living in poverty in the developing world.

The Gilmer Free Press

“I never thought at the age of 13 I’d be a role model, but having young girls look up to me is pretty cool,” Davis said in a news release (via ESPN). “If I can inspire them to reach their goals, that would be even cooler. Designing shoes with M4D3 is exciting and I wanted them to support Because I am a Girl to help girls and give them a chance at a better future.”

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Lady Pioneers Split Double Header with WV Tech‏

The Glenville State Lady Pioneer Softball team split a double header on Tuesday afternoon with West Virginia Tech in a non-conference game.

Glenville State fell in game one by a final score of 5-4.

In the first game the Lady Pioneers would take a 1-0 lead over West Virginia Tech heading into the third inning. However West Virginia Tech would score three runs in the fourth inning and two runs in the fifth inning as they took a 5-1 lead. Glenville State would then score three runs in the seventh inning but they would fall 5-4 to West Virginia Tech.

Mackenzie Smith went 1 for 3 with 2 RBI’s while Johnni Tillman went 1 for 2 with an RBI and also scored a run. Pitcher Chelsey Hager pitched the entire game as she allowed 9 hits, 5 runs, and struck out 3 batters.

In the second game the Lady Pioneers would get off to a great start as they held an 8-4 lead heading into the fifth inning. Glenville State would add another run in the top of the fourth inning as they lead 9-4. But West Virginia Tech would go on to score five runs in the bottom of the sixth inning as they tied the game up at 9-9 as they headed into extra innings.

The Lady Pioneers however walked away with the, 15-9 win as they scored six runs in the top of the eighth inning.

Mackenzie Smith had another great game as she went 2 for 3 with 8 RBI’s and scored 2 runs. Also for the Lady Pioneers Erica Damone went 3 for 4 with 2 RBI’s and scored 3 runs.

Miranda Cropp pitched 5.0 allowing 8 hits, 6 runs, and struck out 1 batter. Chelsey Hager picked up the win as she pitched 2.0 innings allowing no hits, no runs, and struck out 1 batter.

The Lady Pioneers return to the diamond this Saturday, March 21, 2015 at home as they host the University of Charleston in a double header. Game time is set for 2:00 PM.

Box score (NCAA) - Game 1

                      Glenville State at WVU Tech (Game 1)
                          Mar 17, 2015 at Smithers, WV

Glenville State 4 (3-8)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
MaKenzie Edmonds c…....  2  1  0  0   3  2  3  0   1
Charity Ramsey rf….....  3  1  0  1   0  0  1  0   0
Casey Sheaffer ss….....  3  0  0  0   1  0  1  0   0
 Tia LeMaster pr…......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Mackenzie Smith 1b…....  3  0  1  2   1  0  5  0   0
Erica Damone cf….......  3  0  0  0   1  0  3  0   2
Briana Jackson lf….....  3  1  0  0   1  1  0  0   5
Chelsey Hager p….......  2  0  0  0   1  0  1  2   0
Miranda Cropp 3b…......  3  0  0  0   0  0  0  2   0
Johnni Tillman dh….....  2  1  1  1   1  0  0  0   0
Tori Parker 2b…........  0  0  0  0   0  0  4  1   0
Totals…................ 24  4  2  4   9  3 18  5   9

WVU Tech 5 (3-6)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
K. Lively lf…..........  4  1  2  3   0  1  2  0   1
B. Renner 3b…..........  4  0  1  0   0  0  2  4   0
S. Seewer rf…..........  3  0  1  0   0  1  1  0   1
K. Harbin 2b…..........  3  1  1  0   0  0  5  1   0
H. Calhoun dh….........  3  1  1  0   0  0  0  0   1
M. Wilson p…...........  3  0  1  1   0  1  1  0   3
 A. Rosendo pr…........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
M. Waugh ss…...........  1  0  1  1   1  0  3  0   0
L. Huck c….............  3  0  0  0   0  0  3  1   1
 M. Blythe pr….........  0  1  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
M. Craze cf…...........  3  1  1  0   0  0  0  0   0
B. Harless 1b….........  0  0  0  0   0  0  4  0   0
Totals…................ 27  5  9  5   1  3 21  6   7

Score by Innings                  R  H  E
Glenville State….. 010 000 3 -  4  2  2
WVU Tech…......... 000 320 X -  5  9  2
E - M. Cropp; T. Parker; M. Waugh; M. Craze. LOB - GSC-SB 9; WVUITSB 7. 2B -
M. Smith; J. Tillman; M. Wilson. HR - K. Lively. HBP - C. Ramsey; S. Seewer.
SF - M. Waugh. CS - J. Tillman.

Glenville State        IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
Chelsey Hager…....  6.0  9  5  2  1  3 27 30

WVU Tech               IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
M. Wilson…........  7.0  2  4  1  9  3 24 34

Win - M. Wilson (3-1).  Loss - C. Hager ().  Save - None.

WP - M. Wilson 4. HBP - by M. Wilson (C. Ramsey); by C. Hager (S. Seewer). PB -
M. Edmonds.

Umpires -

Start: 2:00 PM   Time: 4:10 PM   Attendance: 89
Box score (NCAA) - Game 2

                      Glenville State at WVU Tech (Game 2)
                          Mar 17, 2015 at Smithers, WV

Glenville State 15 (4-8)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
MaKenzie Edmonds 3b…...  3  3  0  1   2  0  3  2   1
Briana Jackson lf….....  5  1  0  0   0  0  1  0   3
Casey Sheaffer c…......  4  3  3  0   1  0  2  2   0
Mackenzie Smith 1b…....  3  2  2  8   2  0  6  0   0
 Tia LeMaster pr…......  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Erica Damone cf….......  4  3  3  2   1  0  6  1   0
Charity Ramsey rf….....  4  0  0  0   0  1  3  0   3
 Abbie Wilfong ph….....  0  0  0  0   1  0  0  0   0
Johnni Tillman 2b….....  4  2  0  2   1  1  3  0   1
Miranda Cropp p….......  2  0  0  0   1  1  0  3   0
 Raven Greer p…........  0  0  0  0   1  0  0  0   0
 Chelsey Hager p…......  1  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
Emily Meyers dh….......  4  1  1  1   1  2  0  0   0
Tori Parker ss…........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  4   0
Totals…................ 34 15  9 14  11  5 24 12   8

WVU Tech 9 (3-7)

Player                    AB  R  H RBI BB SO PO  A LOB
K. Lively lf…..........  4  1  1  2   0  0  0  1   0
B. Renner 3b…..........  5  1  1  1   0  0  1  3   3
S. Seewer rf…..........  5  0  1  1   0  1  4  0   0
K. Harbin 2b…..........  5  1  0  1   0  0  7  0   1
 H. Calhoun 2b…........  0  0  0  0   0  0  1  0   0
K. Jones c…............  3  0  1  0   1  1  5  1   0
 L. Huck c…............  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
B. Harless 1b….........  3  1  1  0   0  0  6  1   1
 M. Blythe ph….........  1  0  0  0   0  0  0  0   1
M. Waugh ss…...........  4  2  3  0   0  0  0  2   0
K. Shull p…............  2  1  1  2   0  0  0  1   2
 S. Sirles p…..........  1  0  1  0   1  0  0  0   0
 A. Rosendo pr…........  0  1  0  0   0  0  0  0   0
 M. Wilson p…..........  0  0  0  0   0  0  0  1   0
M. Craze cf…...........  4  1  2  1   0  0  0  0   0
Totals…................ 37  9 12  8   2  2 24 10   8

Score by Innings                   R  H  E
Glenville State….. 113 301 06 - 15  9  3
WVU Tech…......... 031 005 00 -  9 12  2
E - M. Cropp; T. Parker 2; K. Harbin; M. Waugh. LOB - GSC-SB 8; WVUITSB 8.
2B - E. Damone; K. Lively; K. Shull. HR - M. Smith 2. HBP - M. Edmonds. SF -
K. Lively. SB - C. Sheaffer; E. Damone 4; B. Renner 2; M. Waugh 2.

Glenville State        IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
Miranda Cropp…....  5.0  8  6  4  0  1 26 26
Raven Greer…......  1.0  4  3  3  2  0  7  9
Chelsey Hager…....  2.0  0  0  0  0  1  4  5

WVU Tech               IP  H  R ER BB SO AB BF
K. Shull….........  4.0  6  8  7  6  3 18 24
S. Sirles…........  3.0  2  5  4  4  2 11 16
M. Wilson…........  1.0  1  2  1  1  0  5  6

Win - C. Hager.  Loss - S. Sirles.  Save - None.

WP - M. Cropp; K. Shull; S. Sirles. HBP - by S. Sirles (M. Edmonds). PB - K.
Jones 2.
Umpires -

Start: 3:30 PM   Time: 7:30 PM   Attendance: 89

M. Cropp faced 2 batters in the 6th.
R. Greer faced 2 batters in the 7th.
S. Sirles faced 3 batters in the 8th.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pioneers Drop Four Games at Notre Dame

The Glenville State College Baseball team dropped four games to MEC Conference opponent Notre Dame College this past Sunday, March 15 and Monday, March 16, 2015.

Glenville State fell in game one: 6-3, game two: 4-2, game three: 2-1, and game four: 13-7.

The Pioneers were led by Heath Swisher and Randy Baugher on Sunday. Swisher went 1 for 5 with 2 RBI’s while Baugher finished 2 for 5 with an RBI in both games on Sunday.

Brock McClung pitched 4.1 allowing four hits, six runs, and struck out three batters.

On Monday Glenville State was led by Heath Swisher and Khalfani Mar’na. Swisher had another good two games as he went 2 for 7 with 2 RBI’s while Mar’na went 2 for 4 and scored a run.

Wesley Stauffer pitched 6.0 innings allowing four hits, two runs, and struck out six batters.

The Pioneers return to action this Saturday, March 21 and Sunday, March 22, 2015 when they travel to Wheeling Jesuit for another four game series. Game time is set for 1:00 PM on Saturday and Sunday.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL general managers discuss diving, protecting goalies

NHL general managers opened three days of meetings without action on two key items on the agenda — goalie interference and the possibility of three-on-three play in overtime.

Instead, discussions Monday centered on diving and embellishment, and protecting goaltenders in the crease. The NHL is debating whether it should tell referees which players are frequent offenders.

“One of the key questions before they departed the room was, ‘Do you want us informing the referees of who we think the individuals are who embellish more often than others?‘“ said Colin Campbell, the NHL executive vice president. “And for the most part, we had most of the managers agree. ... It’s the hardest call on the ice for an official — embellishment.“

Any rule recommendations must go to the NHL/union competition committee and the Board of Governors before approval.

Tuesday’s discussion is expected to address goalie interference and whether video review, which can slow the game, is essential to making an accurate call.

“It’s the most contested area on the ice so it deserves a lot of attention,“ Edmonton Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish said. “The referees are doing a great job. They’re all judgment calls, all split-second calls, they’re difficult calls. But they’re really getting the calls right.“

Concern also remains that too many games that go beyond regulation are ending in shootouts rather than in overtime.

This year, the American Hockey League’s decreased the number of games ending in shootouts by changing their overtime format. The AHL has increased overtime from five to seven minutes with four-on-four play until the first whistle after three minutes. Play is then three-on-three for the rest of the time.

Pittsburgh Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford likes the split format.

“It’s worked well in the AHL and I personally think it’s something we should look at it,“ he said.

General managers are also expected to discuss emergency goaltending options. The Florida Panthers were left without a goalie when Roberto Luongo and Al Montoya were injured during a March 03 game against Toronto.

On Monday night, Ottawa Senators general manager Bryan Murray is to be honored by the NHL for lifetime work. The 72-year-old Murray is the first active general manager to receive this annual award. He is undergoing chemotherapy for colon cancer but has not ruled out staying on the job next year.

“I think that any time you’re recognized by your peer group, it is an honor and it’s a nice thing to have happen,“ he said.

►  NHL Game Results

(Tuesday, March 17)

Final Score: Ottawa 2, Carolina 1 (OT)

Mark Stone scored with just 13.4 seconds remaining in overtime to give the surging Ottawa Senators a 2-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. Stone’s late goal and a historic performance from Andrew Hammond between the pipes lifted the Senators to their fourth consecutive win and 12th in their past 14 outings (12-1-1) as they make a belated push for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Hammond came up with 35 saves, including 18 in the third period and three more in overtime, in the rookie’s 12th straight game of allowing three goals or fewer to begin his NHL career. That ties a league record set by Hall of Famer Frank Brimsek in 1938-39. Patrick Wiercioch also tallied a goal for the Senators, with Erik Karlsson assisting on both Ottawa markers. Anton Khudobin finished with 31 saves for Carolina, with Elias Lindholm recording the lone Hurricanes’ goal.

Final Score: New Jersey 2, Pittsburgh 0

Cory Schneider stopped all 35 shots he faced and Jacob Josefson scored the game winner late in the second period as New Jersey silenced Pittsburgh by a 2-0 count at Prudential Center. Adam Henrique added an empty-net score late for the Devils, who have won two in a row. Schneider earned his fifth shutout of the season, making the most saves in a whitewash since a 38-save effort against the Coyotes on Feb. 23. Thomas Greiss made just 17 saves for the Penguins, who have dropped three straight and four of five. Pittsburgh has also been blanked in two of its last three contests.

Final Score: Montreal 3, Florida 2

Dustin Tokarski stopped 41 shots to lead the Montreal Canadiens in a 3-2 win over the Florida Panthers. Jacob De La Rose had a goal and an assist while Alexei Emelin and P.K. Subban also scored for the Canadiens, who had lost three of four coming in. Aleksander Barkov and Brandon Pirri each scored for the Panthers, who have dropped their past two. Dan Ellis made 22 saves in the loss.

Final Score: Buffalo 2, Boston 1 (SO)

Anders Lindback posted 44 saves and Tyler Ennis scored the lone goal of the shootout as the Buffalo Sabres topped the Boston Bruins 2-1 on Tuesday. Ennis, Buffalo’s first shooter in the skills competition, faked a shot and proceeded to send a wrister over a sprawled Niklas Svedberg. Lindback stopped Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and Torey Krug in the shootout to seal the outcome. Rasmus Ristolainen scored a power-play goal early in the third period and Lindback earned his first win with the Sabres, who ended a seven-game skid. Loui Eriksson provided Boston’s lone marker and Svedberg made 23 saves in defeat.

Final Score: Minnesota 3, Nashville 2 (OT)

Matt Dumba netted the game winner 22 seconds into overtime, and Minnesota rallied to down Nashville, 3-2, at Bridgestone Arena. Charlie Coyle netted the other two scores for the Wild, who have taken two in a row and eight of their last 10. Devan Dubnyk picked up yet another win thanks to 25 saves. Roman Josi recorded both scores for the Predators, who fell to 2-6-1 in March. Pekka Rinne halted just 18 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Winnipeg 5, San Jose 2

Blake Wheeler had two goals and an assist to help the Winnipeg Jets roll to a 5-2 triumph over the San Jose Sharks and improve their playoff positioning in the Western Conference. The Jets moved into the West’s top eight behind a first-period barrage in which Adam Lowry, Mark Scheifele and Andrew Ladd all scored on Sharks netminder Antti Niemi, pulled after just 13 minutes and eight shots seen. Scheifele added two assists and Drew Stafford also had a pair of helpers in the rout, with Ondrej Pavelec doing his part as well by coming up with 38 saves. The Sharks, meanwhile, began a critical seven-game road trip with a second straight lopsided loss, having dropped a 6-2 decision at home to Chicago on Saturday. Joe Pavelski was the lone bright spot for San Jose, recording his 33rd and 34th goals of the season. Alex Stalock stopped 12-of-14 shots in relief of Niemi.

Final Score: Chicago 4, NY Islanders 1

Jonathan Toews scored twice and assisted on two more as the Chicago Blackhawks downed the New York Islanders, 4-1, on Tuesday. Marian Hossa scored the other two goals while Patrick Sharp had two helpers for the Blackhawks, who have won three straight and five of six. Corey Crawford stopped 38-of-39 shots. Nikolay Kulemin scored the only goal of the game for the Islanders, who have dropped four straight for the first time this season. Michal Neuvirth allowed all four goals on 30 shots in the loss.

Final Score: St. Louis 4, Calgary 0

Alexander Steen scored twice and Brian Elliott made 25 saves for his fifth shutout of the season as the St. Louis Blues topped the Calgary Flames 4-0 on Tuesday. David Backes posted a goal and two assists, Jori Lehtera also scored and T.J. Oshie supplied two assists for the Blues, who have won five of their last six games. Elliott turned aside six shots during the first period, 11 in the middle stanza and eight more in the third for his 30th career whitewash. Jonas Hiller allowed three goals on 25 shots in Calgary’s second straight loss.

Final Score: Vancouver 4, Philadelphia 1

Alexandre Burrows scored a pair of third- period goals in a 17-second span to lift the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night. The game was tied at 1-1 before Burrows lit the lamp twice to surge the Canucks in front. Alexander Edler’s stretch pass through the middle of the ice hit Daniel Sedin in stride and Sedin dished to Burrows, whose wrister from the right circle beat Steve Mason between his legs. Following a turnover, Sedin wristed a shot on net from the slot and Burrows put home the rebound to make it 3-1 at 7:01. Edler and Radim Vrbata also scored for the Canucks, who have won four of their last five games. Eddie Lack stopped 27 shots in the triumph. Michael Raffl tallied the lone goal for Philadelphia, which has dropped six of its last seven games. Mason made 31 saves in defeat.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Djokovic, Murray move on at Indian Wells

Top-seeded Novak Djokovic and fourth- seeded Andy Murray were third-round winners Monday at the BNP Paribas Open, a Masters 1000 ATP event.

Djokovic managed his way past Albert Ramos-Vinolas 7-5, 6-3, while Murray held off 26th-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in a topsy-turvy affair on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The reigning titlist Djokovic is a three-time Indian Wells champion and former runner-up. He beat Roger Federer in last year’s marquee finale.

Murray, meanwhile, is just two wins from surpassing Tim Henman’s haul of 496 career match victories, which will make him Britain’s most successful player in the Open Era in terms of matches won. He also needs just four more triumphs to join the 500 wins club.

The Australian Open runner-up Murray lost to the great Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Indian Wells finale.

Up next for the two-time Grand Slam champion from Scotland will be Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who upended 14th-seeded struggling Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4.

Kei Nishikori, the No. 5 seed, dropped the first set of his third-round match to Fernando Verdasco before rallying for a 6-7 (6-8), 6-1, 6-4 win. The 12th- seeded Feliciano Lopez beat Pablo Cuevas 6-2, 4-6, 6-3.

In an upset, 32nd-seeded Bernard Tomic fought past eighth-seeded David Ferrer 7-5, 6-4.

American John Isner got past 16th-seeded Kevin Anderson 7-6 (8-6), 6-2 and Thanasi Kokkinakis defeated Juan Monaco 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (7-5).

►  Sharapova advances at Indian Wells

Maria Sharapova beat Victoria Azarenka in a match between former No. 1 players Monday night at the BNP Paribas Open.

The second-seeded Sharapova posted a 6-4, 6-3 victory to reach the fourth round. She won this tournament in 2006 and 2013 and lost to Azarenka in the 2012 final.

Sharapova’s next opponent will be defending champion Flavia Pennetta. The 15th-seeded Italian defeated 21st-seeded Australian Samantha Stosur 6-4, 6-2.

Former Indian Wells champion and No. 4 seed Caroline Wozniacki lost 6-4, 6-4 to 31st-seeded Swiss Belinda Bencic. Wozniacki titled here in 2011 and was a runner-up twice.

Bencic, 18, failed to win a game off Wozniacki last year in Istanbul.

The teenager will face 2010 Indians Wells champion Jelena Jankovic in the fourth round. The 18th-seeded Serbian rallied to beat 16th-seeded American Madison Keys 5-7, 6-4, 6-3.

No. 5 seed Ana Ivanovic of Serbia, the 2008 Indian Wells winner, was beaten 6-2, 5-7, 6-2 by 25th-seeded Frenchwoman Caroline Garcia.

Garcia will next play 24th-seeded German Sabine Lisicki, who beat 11th-seeded Italian Sara Errani a 6-4, 6-2.

Sixth-seeded Canadian star Genie Bouchard cruised into the round of 16 by getting past 30th-seeded American Coco Vandeweghe, 6-3, 6-2.

“I felt very solid today. That’s important against player with big weapons—I told myself to be ready for anything,“ Bouchard said. “She had some great serves and some great forehands, and I was just ready for that. I was really going to try and neutralize that and take my chances when I had them.

“I’m happy I was able to step in and attack whenever she let up a bit out there.“

Up next for the 2014 Wimbledon runner-up Bouchard will be rising Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko, who upended 20th-seeded Frenchwoman Alize Cornet 7-5, 1-6, 6-2.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  This Week in Golf—March 19-22

PGA TOUR - ARNOLD PALMER INVITATIONAL, Bay Hill Golf Club and Lodge, Orlando, Florida - The PGA Tour is in Orlando this week for the final leg of the Florida swing at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Last year, Matt Every rallied with a 2-under 70 in Sunday’s final round to come from behind and beat out Keegan Bradley by one shot. The win was Every’s first on the PGA Tour and he has not won since.

Bradley just missed a birdie putt on the final hole, which would have forced a playoff. Bradley was looking to make it three straight birdies to end his round after making gains on 16 and 17. He carded an even-par 72 and finished runner-up.

Adam Scott, the leader after each of the first three rounds due to an opening- round 62, struggled on his way to a 4-over 76 on the final day. He finished alone in third at 11-under 277.

The field this week includes the top-5 players in the world: Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Scott and Jason Day. They are the only players inside the world’s top-10 that will be in action.

While Scott finished alone in third place last year, Stenson ended tied for fifth and just four shots back.

Every will get a chance to defend his title as he is also in this week’s field along with last year’s runner-up Bradley.

Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds of this event and NBC will also have afternoon coverage over the weekend.

Next week the PGA Tour begins its two-week stint in Texas prior to the Masters at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. Last year, Steven Bowditch carded a 4-over 76 in the final round but was still able to hang on and win by one shot over Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays.


MADEIRA ISLANDS OPEN, Santo da Serra Golf Club, Santo Antonio da Serra, Madeira - After three straight weeks in South Africa, the European Tour returns to Portugal for the Madeira Islands Open.

Daniel Brooks made par on the first playoff hole last year to defeat Scott Henry and pick up his first career victory on the European Tour. Brooks has not won since and will not be in action this week to defend his title.

Brooks fired a 5-under 67 in the final round and finished regulation play tied for the lead with Henry, who shot a 4-under 68. The duo went to a playoff after finishing 36 holes at 9-under-par 135.

Last year’s tournament was shortened due to heavy fog throughout most of the week. Officials decided to shorten the event on Saturday and the first round did not finish up until Sunday morning before players were able to complete the second and final round later in the day.

The final day ended on a somber note as Alastair Forsyth’s caddie Ian MacGregor, a 52-year-old from Zimbabwe, collapsed and died of a heart attack on the ninth hole, which was Forsyth’s last.

While Brooks is not playing this week, last year’s runner-up Henry will be. There are no players inside the top-100 in the field.

There will be no television coverage of this event.

The European Tour is in Morocco next week for the Trophee Hassan II. Alejandro Canizares shot a 2-under 70 in the final round last season and he cruised to a 5-shot win over Andy Sullivan.


TUCSON CONQUISTADORES CLASSIC, Omni Tucson National Resort (Catalina Course), Tucson, Arizona - After over a month off, the Champions Tour is back as it heads to Arizona for the inaugural Tucson Conquistadores Classic.

The last event, which ended on February 15, saw Lee Janzen defeat Bart Bryant on the first playoff hole at the ACE Group Classic. Of the three events so far on tour, it was the only tournament to go to a playoff, while the Mitsubishi Electric Championship and the Allianz Championship were both decided by one stroke.

Janzen and Paul Goydos, the winner of the Allianz Championship, are both in the field this week along with Bernhard Langer, Colin Montgomerie, Fred Couples and Kenny Perry.

Golf Channel will have tape-delayed coverage of this event, which begins on Friday.

The Champions Tour is back in action again next week for the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic, where Jeff Maggert won by two shots over Billy Andrade last season.


FOUNDERS CUP, Wildfire Golf Club at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa (Palmer and Faldo Nines), Phoenix, Arizona - The LPGA Tour returns to the United States for the Founders Cup in Arizona after events in the Bahamas, Australia, Thailand and Singapore.

Last year, Karrie Webb exploded up the leaderboard with a 9-under 63 and she beat out five others at 18-under to win by one shot at 19-under-par 169. The win was Webb’s 41st on the LPGA Tour and she has not won since.

Webb birdied six of her final eight holes on Sunday to win for the second time at this event. She also took home the 2011 title. The victory was Webb’s second in 2014.

At the end of the tournament there were plenty of names nipping right at Webb’s heels. Lydia Ko, Stacy Lewis, Amy Yang, Azahara Munoz and Mirim Lee all finished one shot back.

Webb will be back this week as she looks to successfully defend her title and win here for the third time.

World No. 1 Ko and world No. 3 Lewis will both be back in action and they are among five players inside the top-10 in the world playing this week. Michelle Wie (No. 7), Hyo-Joo Kim (No. 8) and Webb (No. 9) are the others.

Golf Channel will have coverage of all four rounds of this event.

The LPGA Tour heads to California next week for the Kia Classic, where Anna Nordqvist picked up her fourth career victory by one shot last season.


CHILE CLASSIC, Club de Golf Mapocho, Santiago, Chile - The Tour is set for its fourth straight tournament in South America this week at the Chile Classic.

Adam Hadwin earned his first of two victories on tour last year at this event as he closed with a 3-under 69 to defeat Alistair Presnell by one shot.

Hadwin, now playing on the PGA Tour thanks to his first two career wins in 2014, made birdie on his final two holes to rally and win. He finished the week at 16-under 272, while Presnell shot a 4-under 68 to finish one shot back at 15-under.

While Hadwin is playing at this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational on the PGA Tour, Presnell will be back as he tries to do one better.

Three of the four Tour winners this season will be playing this week: Patrick Rodgers, Andrew Landry and last week’s Brasil Champions winner Peter Malnati.

There will be no television coverage of this event.

The Tour will be in the United States for the first time this season next week as it heads to Louisiana for the Chitimacha Louisiana Open. Kris Blanks birdied the third playoff hole to defeat Brett Stegmaier and win this event last year.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  The Inside Line: Harvick continues dominant run

Kevin Harvick has become a one-man show in the Sprint Cup Series.

Harvick has now finished in the top two in seven straight races, a streak that began on November 2, when he was runner-up at Texas. He went on to win the last two races in the 2014 Chase for the Sprint Cup—Phoenix and Homestead—to claim his first championship in NASCAR’s premier series. Harvick began this season with second-place finishes in the Daytona 500 and at Atlanta before winning at Las Vegas last week and Phoenix on Sunday.

Not since Richard Petty in 1975 has a driver in the series finished either first or second in seven or more consecutive races. When Harvick was informed of that statistic at the start of his Phoenix post-race news conference, he responded, “When you said the Richard Petty part, that gives me chills.“

Harvick’s fellow competitors Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, all of whom are repeat champions in the series, have yet to accomplish that feat. Gordon had six straight finishes of first or second during the 1996 season.

Petty’s streak of 11 consecutive 1-2 finishes 40 years ago is a NASCAR record. He also had seven or more top-twos in a row in 1964, ‘67 (twice that season) and ‘71. David Pearson had eight straight in 1968.

Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California (March 22), Martinsville (March 29), Texas (April 11) and Bristol (April 19) are the next four races on the schedule, as Harvick attempts to match Petty’s record. Harvick has finished in the top two at each one of those tracks in the past.

Harvick once again showed he is the most dominant driver at Phoenix after notching his fourth win in a row there over the weekend. He became the first driver in the series to score four consecutive victories at a track since Johnson won that many at Charlotte from 2004-05.

It was also Harvick’s fifth win in six races and record seventh overall in Sprint Cup competition at Phoenix.

“I’ve raced here (at Phoenix) for a long time, and the success wasn’t there right off the bat, but it was always a place that we came to year after year to race our Southwest Tour cars and every other division along the way. To be able to come back here now and continue to win races is something that is a lot of fun for me.“

This is Harvick’s second season as driver of the No.4 Chevrolet for Stewart- Haas Racing after spending his first 13 years in the series with Richard Childress Racing.

Harvick and crew chief Rodney Childers have paired well since the start of the 2014 season, but the two are really on a roll right now.

“I think at this point everybody just expects you to keep winning,“ Childers said. “That’s what makes it hard on all of us. I feel like we’ve got a team that can do that. We have a driver that can do that. We have the resources to do that.

“The more you win, the more you expect out of yourself and the more pressure you put on yourself. When we left Las Vegas last week, (Harvick) made a point to say, ‘I want to win all three of these West Coast races.‘ I think anybody that knows Kevin Harvick, if he puts his head to something, he’s going to try to make it happen.“

The series will conclude its three-week West Coast swing at Fontana, which is Harvick’s home track. The Bakersfield, California, native won there for the first time in 2011. He has never won three races in a row in Sprint Cup.

“You don’t want it to end; you want it to keep going,“ he said. “You just want to keep that same approach every week as you go to a different track.“  ~~  Chris Symeon ~~

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NYCFC’s Villa named MLS Player of the Week

New York City FC striker David Villa made history on Tuesday by becoming the club’s first player to take home MLS Player of the Week honors.

Villa produced a fine performance to lead NYC to a 2-0 victory over the New England Revolution in the club’s home opener at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.

The former Spain international opened the scoring in the 19th minute, working a neat give-and-go with Ned Grabavoy before finishing a shot past Bobby Shuttleworth.

Villa had a hand in the second goal, as well, beating his man on the left flank and curling a superb low cross to the back post for Patrick Mullins to double the advantage six minutes from time.

It was New York City’s first win of the campaign, and the expansion club will attempt to keep rolling on Saturday when it heads to Dick’s Sporting Goods Park to take on the Colorado Rapids.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Extra Points: Mock Draft version 3.0, free agency fallout

Hindsight has always proven the NFL Draft is nothing more than a glorified crapshoot for the organizations who spend millions trying to get things right.

So, predicting the thing six weeks out is an exercise in futility.

History will ultimately document that even the most accurate of mock drafts won’t be all that precise but the crystal ball does tend to get a lot less murky after the opening days of free agency and the frenzy it creates.

After all, no matter how clandestine NFL teams can be, their actual actions in the free agency process give you the first real look at their thought process as they begin to cobble together their rosters for the 2015 season.

With that in mind here’s The Sports Network’s latest snapshot in time, Mock Draft version 3.0, the free agency fallout edition:

1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Jameis Winston, QB, Florida State - In the first few days of free agency Bucs general manager Jason Licht spent most of his time writing the wrongs of the past by releasing overpaid defensive end Michael Johnson and preparing to waive goodbye to high-priced safety Dashon Goldson. He also brought in more cover-2-centric talent like defensive tackle Henry Melton, linebacker Bruce Carter and safety Chris Conte.

What Licht hasn’t done is address the elephant in the room—the quarterback position—and that’s because it will taken up in the draft. Tampa Bay is doing its due diligence on both Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota but Winston is way ahead in the clubhouse and neither Bucs coach Lovie Smith nor his new offensive coordinator, Dirk Koetter, have much interest in building an entire system around the strengths of the talented but ultra-raw Mariota.

Previous Pick: Winston

2. Tennessee Titans - Leonard Williams, DT, Southern California - Forget Mariota here also. With Dick LeBeau joining Ray Horton in Nashville, the Titans have gone all in on rebuilding their defense, bringing in Brian Orakpo and re-signing Derrick Morgan on the edges, while also signing former Buffalo safety Da’Norris Searcy and cornerback Perrish Cox to bolster the back end.

That trend will continue on April 30 and Tennessee will take the best player in this draft in Williams, who ran a 4.97-second 40-yard dash and had a nearly nine-foot broad jump at 6-foot-5 and 302 pounds at the NFL Combine. Williams is very versatile and could be a star at defensive end or defensive tackle in either a 3-4 or 4-3 scheme. He should excel as a 5-technique in LeBeau’s system.

Previous Pick: Williams

3. Jacksonville Jaguars - Dante Fowler, OLB/DE, Florida - The Jags had the most money in free agency and used plenty of it to get Blake Bortles a big- time threat at tight end in former Peyton Manning-target Julius Thomas, as well as a new right tackle in Jermey Parnell. On defense, Gus Bradley was given DT Jared Odrick as well as CB Davon House and linebacker Dan Skuta. What wasn’t addressed was a pass rusher and Jacksonville should get the pick of the litter here.

Nebraska’s Randy Gregory may be the best pure rusher available, but concerns over his size are a real issue so look for the Jaguars to go the safer route with Fowler, who weighed in at 261 pounds at the combine and may be the most well-rounded of the edge players in this draft.

Previous Pick: Fowler

4. Oakland Raiders - Kevin White, WR, West Virginia - Oakland was right there with Jacksonville as far as cap space available in free agency and used most of its assets on the defensive side, signing potential starters at DT, Dan Williams, LB, Curtis Lofton and Malcolm Smith, and safety, Nate Allen. The offense, however, only added a blocking tight end in Lee Smith, a complimentary piece at running back (Roy Helu) and a backup quarterback (Christian Ponder).

So while Derek Carr showed plenty of potential as a rookie signal caller in 2014, he needs some help outside the numbers if he plans to avoid a sophomore slump. The lengthy White moved past Alabama’s Amari Cooper as the top receiver on the board by running a 4.35 40 at 6-3 and 215 pounds at the combine.

Previous Pick: White

5. Washington Redskins - Brandon Scherff, OL, Iowa - Some people believe the Redskins will take Mariota here because it’s pretty clear Jay Gruden has no interest in moving forward with Robert Griffin III. But, that’s assuming Gruden has the power to move away from RG3 and it’s unlikely Daniel Snyder will allow that, making Scherff, the best offensive lineman in this draft who can play inside or outside at right tackle, the logical choice.

Washington also needed plenty of help on the interior of the defensive line but addressed that in free agency by inking a pair of DTs, Stephen Paea and Terrance Knighton.

Previous Pick: Danny Shelton, DT, Washington

6. New York Jets - Vic Beasley, OLB, Clemson - New Jets GM Mike Maccagnan is building quite a defense, hiring the ultra-aggressive Todd Bowles as head coach and bolstering what was already a top-tier front with three good-to- great corners in Buster Skrine, Antonio Cromartie and Darrelle Revis. What’s missing is the elite edge rusher and Beasley, despite lacking the prototypical length you look for, has the strength and athleticism to standout pretty quickly.

Previous Pick: Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon

7. Chicago Bears - Danny Shelton, DT, Washington - The Bears are shifting to a 3-4 under John Fox and Vic Fangio and already lost Stephen Paea to the Beltway. Meanwhile, the Bears signed an edge player in former Raven Pernell McPhee, a development which should take a Randy Gregory or Shane Ray out of the equation and point straight toward the massive Shelton, who has shown really impressive movement skills for a 340-pound player.

Previous Pick: Shane Ray, DE/OLB, Missouri

8. Atlanta Falcons - Randy Gregory, DE/OLB, Nebraska - It was obvious new Falcons coach Dan Quinn was going to want to bolster the front seven in Dixie immediately and sure enough the Falcons brought in LBs Brooks Reed and Justin Durant in free agency as well as defensive end Adrian Clayborn. That’s not enough, though, especially on the pass rush and Gregory is the type of edge player who could make a difference if he can hold up to the grind. The 6- foot-6 rangy prospect is way too lean, though, and could get bullied at times, especially in the run game.

Previous Pick: Gregory

9. New York Giants - Landon Collins, S, Alabama - Collins isn’t the best coverage safety in the world and probably isn’t deserving of a top-10 position but the Giants lost veteran safety Antrel Rolle to Chicago in free agency and have virtually nothing of note at the position.

Previous Pick: Scherff

10. St. Louis Rams - Amari Cooper, WR, Alabama - Nick Foles is now the man in St. Louis and while the Rams brought back WR Kenny Britt and TE Lance Kendricks, the new signal caller still needs a real No. 1 on the outside and that’s where Cooper comes in. He’s a polished product who should hit the ground running as a sharp route-runner with plus hands and tremendous short- area quickness.

Previous Pick: Cooper

11. Minnesota Vikings - Shane Ray, DE, Missouri - The trade for Mike Wallace took receiver off the board for the Vikings and it’s pretty clear the team wants to upgrade opposite Harrison Smith on the back end. Collins’s absence, however, puts Ray, a top-10 talent, in play and it makes more sense than you think. Minnesota has Everson Griffen, an ascending star, at defensive end but Brian Robison is on the downside and Scott Crichton didn’t show much as a rookie which is why Mike Zimmer took a run as his old friend. Michael Johnson, from Cincinnati in free agency. Ray is undersized but has the first step to create havoc early in his career.

Previous Pick: La’el Collins, OT, LSU

12. Cleveland Browns - DeVante Parker, WR, Louisville - The Browns are probably the most dysfunctional team in the NFL right now and Ray Farmer’s first draft has already been labeled a disaster. Johnny Manziel is still in rehab and that could put Mariota in play except Farmer can’t afford that kind of gamble. Conversely, with Josh Gordon suspended yet again, getting a rangy receiving threat like Parker would make a lot of sense for whomever is playing QB (McCown? Manziel?) for Cleveland in 2015. Parker brings a big body to the dance, along with soft hands, very good body control and the leaping ability to high-point the football.

Previous Pick: Parker

13. New Orleans Saints - Marcus Mariota, QB, Oregon - Drew Brees is 36 and 2016 is the last year on his massive contract when his cap number will be an astronomical $27 million. Mariota, on the other hand, is a project because his mechanics, particularly his footwork, and accuracy downfield aren’t up to snuff by NFL standards. His athleticism, live arm, football IQ and work ethic, however, make him a gamble which may pay off in the end and spending a year under the Brees learning tree makes a lot of sense.

Previous Pick: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State

14. Miami Dolphins - Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State - The cornerback position opposite Brent Grimes in South Florida is in flux. Cortland Finnegan is gone and Brice McCain was brought in from Pittsburgh in free agency but would be better suited as a sub-package guy. Getting Waynes, the best corner in this draft with the size and length NFL teams crave on the outside, would be a nice fit.

Previous Pick: Malcom Brown, DT, Texas

15. San Francisco 49ers - Marcus Peters, CB, Washington - The Niners already lost CBs Chris Culliver (to Washington) and Perrish Cox (to Tennessee) in free agency. They were able to sign ex-Charger Shareece Wright and re-sign Chris Cook but more talent is needed and Peters would fit the bill. From a pure football perspective, Peters is regarded as the best cornerback prospect in the 2015 draft class and the top man-to-man coverage option in the process. He comes with plenty of baggage, though, which could be an issue for San Francisco because the club had so many off-the-field problems last year.

Previous Pick: Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State

16. Houston Texans - Jaelen Strong, WR, Arizona State - With Andre Johnson now in Indianapolis, the Texans need an alternative opposite DeAndre Hopkins and Strong, a 6-foot-3 nightmare for opposing defensive backs, is a far safer option than the immensely talented Dorial Green-Beckham.

Previous Pick: T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt

17. San Diego Chargers - Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin - The Chargers upgraded their offensive line by signing Orlando Franklin away from the Broncos, meaning running back is the top option now because the talented but injury prone Ryan Mathews fled to Philadelphia in free agency. Because San Diego lived through the Mathews era, the club will likely settle on Gordon, who has great vision, natural balance and strength, over Todd Gurley, who tore his ACL last November.

Previous Pick: Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford

18. Kansas City Chiefs - La’el Collins, OL, LSU - The Chiefs addressed their biggest need in free agency by signing WR Jeremy Maclin away from the Eagles. That probably bumps up the offensive line where the team did bring in guards Ben Grubbs and Paul Fanaika but could use more help outside at right tackle. Collins is the best pure drive blocker in this draft and the prototypical road-grader you look for on the strong side.

Previous Pick: Strong

19. Cleveland Browns (from Buffalo) - Ereck Flowers, OT, Miami (Fla.) - The signing of former Dolphins DT Randy Starks will likely have the Browns focusing in on right tackle here in an effort to slide incumbent Mitchell Schwartz inside. The 6-6, 330-pound Flowers is a little raw but has great size and a nasty attitude.

Previous Pick: Flowers

20. Philadelphia Eagles - Phillip Dorsett, WR, Miami-Florida - Until the Eagles actually extend Sam Bradford don’t give up on the unhinged Chip Kelly mortgaging the farm to move up and get Mariota. That said, if the Eagles stay put, wide receiver has become a far bigger issue than cornerback because Philadelphia signed a pair of former “Legion of Boom” members, albeit JV ones in Byron Maxwell and Walter Thurmond. Dorial Green-Beckham is by far the best option but doesn’t fit Chip’s “culture,“ opening the door for the sprinter- fast Phillip Dorsett.

Previous Pick: Jalen Collins, CB, LSU

21. Cincinnati Bengals - Alvin “Bud” Dupree, DE, Kentucky - The Bengals’ pass rush was dismal last season and the assumption Michael Johnson will cure things is fool’s gold. Johnson is more of a base end and really had one good pass-rushing season. And he’s two years removed from that. Dupree, who models himself after Aldon Smith, is a natural rusher with long arms and solid closing speed off the edge.

Previous Pick: Dupree

22. Pittsburgh Steelers - Kevin Johnson, CB, Wake Forest - The Steelers were ranked 27th in pass defense last season and currently have nothing outside the numbers with Cortez Allen, who was a mess last season, and the nondescript BW Webb penciled in as the starters. Johnson doesn’t strike me as a first-round guy but he does have solid man-to-man coverage skills and desperation will win out.

Previous Pick: Peters

23. Detroit Lions - Malcom Brown, DT, Texas - The Lions lost Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley in free agency and could still lose C.J. Mosley. They did manage to sign Tyrunn Walker away from the Saints but more help is needed for the interior of what was the second-best defense in the NFL. Brown is the stoutest option in this draft after Shelton, with the strength to dominate at the point of attack and the natural quickness to penetrate gaps.

Previous Pick: Gurley

24. Arizona Cardinals - Todd Gurley, RB, Georgia - The Cardinals think they are a legitimate Super Bowl contender if they can just develop a running game. Rumors persist they are making a run at disgruntled Vikings star Adrian Peterson. Until that happens, though, Gurley, a big, physical runner who understands how to stick his foot in the ground and get north and south, has to be in play.

Previous Pick: Gordon

25. Carolina Panthers - Andrus Peat, OT, Stanford - When your 2014 tackles were Byron Bell and Mike Remmers, it’s time for an upgrade and Peat looks like a natural left tackle, who can play for a decade if he shows enough functional football strength, something that has been a major problem for some recent big name Stanford O-linemen.

Previous Pick: Cameron Erving - OT, Florida State

26. Baltimore Ravens - Breshad Perriman, WR, Central Florida - Torrey Smith’s sojourn to San Francisco has left the Ravens very thin at receiver with the aging Steve Smith as the only proven commodity. Perriman is a player on the rise, a big receiver with strong hands and decent route-running skills.

Previous Pick: Collins

27. Dallas Cowboys - Arik Armstead, DL, Oregon - The Cowboys need help on defense, particularly in the front seven and Armstead is a versatile player who can move inside and out while helping with the pass rush. He’s raw but possesses quite the ceiling as a prospect.

Previous Pick: Beasley

28. Denver Broncos - T.J. Clemmings, OT, Pitt - You know Chris Clark isn’t the answer at right tackle and the Broncos would prefer to keep Louis Vasquez inside where he is more comfortable. That opens the door for a right tackle and Clemmings is a natural for the that side of the line, often playing with a very nasty disposition.

Previous Pick: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota

29. Indianapolis Colts - D.J. Humphries, OT, Florida - The Colts think they are close and went all in on free agency bringing in veterans Frank Gore, Andre Johnson, Trent Cole and Todd Herremans. Indy could still use some help in front of Andrew Luck, though, and Humphries is a very athletic tackle on the rise who needs to show he can play with more consistency.

Previous Pick: Armstead

30. Green Bay Packers - Eddie Goldman, DT, Florida State - The one persistent weakness with the Packers over the past few seasons has been their inability to stop the run consistently. Both B.J. Raji, who is attempting to return from a torn biceps, and Letroy Guion, who has some serious legal issues to deal with, are free agents and likely won’t be back. Goldman is a big body whose strength is stuffing the run.

Previous Pick: Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma

31. New Orleans Saints (from Seattle) - Eli Harold, OLB, Virginia - The Saints acquired this pick, along with Max Unger, when they sent Jimmy Graham to the Pacific Northwest. New Orleans needs plenty of help on defense and Harold has the skills to eventually develop into an impact rusher off the edge as a complement to Cam Jordan and an insurance policy for Junior Galette.

Previous Pick: P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State to Seahawks

32. New England Patriots - Dorial Green-Beckham, WR, Oklahoma - The Patriots can obviously afford to take chances and the mercurial Green-Beckham could provide the kind of home-run hitter Tom Brady hasn’t had since Randy Moss was in Foxborough.

Previous Pick: Green-Beckham


Cameron Erving - OT, Florida State

Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota

Jordan Phillips, DT, Oklahoma

P.J. Williams, CB, Florida State

~~  John McMullen ~~

►  49ers LB Chris Borland is retiring after one season rather than risk head injuries

Chris Borland made a stunning announcement Monday, telling ESPN that he will be retiring from the NFL after an outstanding rookie season. The 49ers linebacker told “Outside the Lines” that he was concerned about the possible effects that head injuries could have on his quality of life.

The news about Borland comes less than a week after fellow San Francisco linebacker Patrick Willis also retired, in his case over concerns that foot injuries had sapped his abilities. Borland and Willis are among five NFL players aged 30 and under who have left the game this offseason, for different stated reasons. From the ESPN report:

Borland said he began to have misgivings during training camp. He said he sustained what he believed to be a concussion stuffing a running play but played through it, in part because he was trying to make the team.

“I just thought to myself, ‘What am I doing? Is this how I’m going to live my adult life, banging my head, especially with what I’ve learned and knew about the dangers?’”

He said the issue “gathered steam” as the season progressed. Before the fourth game of the preseason, at Houston, he wrote a letter to his parents informing them that he thought his career in the NFL would be brief because of his concerns about the potential long-term effects of head injuries.

After the season, Borland said, he consulted with prominent concussion researchers and former players to affirm his decision. He also scheduled baseline tests to monitor his neurological well-being going forward “and contribute to the greater research.” After thinking through the potential repercussions, Borland said the decision was ultimately “simple.”

Borland had 107 tackles, two interceptions, a sack and a fumble recovery during an impressive rookie season, one that included an NFL Defensive Player of the Week nod. A third-round pick out of Wisconsin, the linebacker had already figured prominently into the 49ers’ plans, but never more so than following Willis’s retirement, and now the team must scramble to replace both players.

By retiring, Borland is walking away from a four-year contract worth just under $3 million. However, his retirement for essentially precautionary reasons is another indication of the growing concern among NFL players over the effects of repeated head trauma, as numerous studies have suggested a link between the violence of football and debilitating brain injuries such as chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE).


“I feel largely the same, as sharp as I’ve ever been. For me, it’s wanting to be proactive,” Borland told ESPN. “I’m concerned that if you wait till you have symptoms, it’s too late. … There are a lot of unknowns. I can’t claim that X will happen. I just want to live a long healthy life, and I don’t want to have any neurological diseases or die younger than I would otherwise.”

The other 30-and-under NFL players who have retired recently are the Steelers’ Jason Worilds, the Titans’ Jake Locker and the Raiders’ Maurice Jones-Drew. Worilds reportedly wants to devote his life to his faith; Locker said that he had lost the necessary “burning desire” to play (and could try out baseball); and Jones-Drew, after gaining just 96 yards on 43 carries last season, apparently decided that his nine-year career had run its course.

►  Chargers add WR Stevie Johnson

Wide receiver Stevie Johnson agreed to a three-year contract with the San Diego Chargers on Tuesday.

Johnson was released by the San Francisco 49ers last week.

The 28-year-old Johnson was acquired by the 49ers in a trade with the Buffalo Bills last May and finished with 35 receptions for 435 yards and three touchdowns in 13 games last season.

A seventh-round pick of the Bills in 2008, Johnson has caught 336 passes for 4,267 yards and 31 touchdowns in 89 career games with the Bills and 49ers.

►  Vikings re-sign Harris

The Minnesota Vikings have re-signed offensive lineman Mike Harris.

Harris played in 12 games last season, starting the final five games of the year at right tackle.

From 2012-13, Harris played for the San Diego Chargers, starting 12-of-20 games.

►  Raiders sign Trent Richardson

The Oakland Raiders signed running back Trent Richardson on Tuesday.

Richardson was cut by the Indianapolis Colts last week after two lackluster seasons with the organization.

Richardson, a former No. 3 overall pick and All-American out of Alabama, was acquired by Indianapolis in a September 2013 deal that sent a 2014 first-round draft pick to the Cleveland Browns.

In two seasons with the Colts, Richardson played in 29 games (20 starts) and rushed 316 times for 977 yards and six touchdowns, while also adding 494 receiving yards and a TD catch.

Richardson’s relationship with Indianapolis soured toward the end of his tenure.

The 24-year-old was suspended for last season’s AFC Championship Game against New England after missing the Colts’ walkthrough due to a serious family medical situation.

He was inactive the week prior in Denver, which came a week after he saw just one snap in the Colts’ wild card win over Cincinnati.

Richardson has carried the ball 614 times for 2,032 yards and 17 touchdowns in 46 career games with the Browns and Colts.

►  49ers add OL Pears

The San Francisco 49ers have signed veteran offensive lineman Erik Pears to a two-year contract, the team announced Tuesday.

Pears has started 86 games over a 10-year career, including all 16 over the past two seasons while then a member of the Buffalo Bills. The 32-year-old was the Bills’ regular right tackle in 2013 before kicking inside to right guard last year.

Since entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent with Denver in 2005, Pears has appeared in 101 overall games with the Broncos (2005-08), Oakland (2009) and Buffalo (2010-14).

In San Francisco, Pears is expected to compete for the starting left guard vacated by Pro Bowler Mike Iupati’s departure to Arizona in free agency.

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

Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Chicago Cubs vs. Los Angeles, 4:05 PM - SportsNet LA
Oakland vs. Seattle, 4:05 PM - MLB Network
Detroit vs. Pittsburgh, 6:05 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh
National Basketball Association
Detroit at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Brooklyn at Cleveland, 7:00 PM - YES, FS-Ohio, DSS
Portland at Miami, 7:30 PM - CSN-Northwest, SunSports, DSS
Minnesota at Toronto, 7:30 PM - FS-North, TSN, DSS
Boston at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - CSN-New England, FS-Oklahoma, DSS
Orlando at Dallas, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, Southwest, ESPN
Indiana at Chicago, 8:00 PM - FS-Indiana, CSN-Chicago, DSS
San Antonio at Milwaukee, 8:00 PM - FS-Southwest, Wisconsin, DSS
LA Clippers at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - FS-Priem Ticket, CSN-California, DSS
Atlanta at Golden State, 10:30 PM - SportSouth, CSN-Bay, DSS
Washington at Utah, 10:30 PM - CSN-DC, ROOT-Northwest, ESPN
National Hockey League
Chicago at NY Rangers, 8:00 PM - NBCSN
Columbus at Edmonton, 10:00 PM - FS-Ohio, SNET, DSS
Los Angeles at Anaheim, 10:30 PM - NBCSN
Men’s College Basketball
Robert Morris vs. North Florida, 6:40 PM - truTV
Arizona State at Connecticut, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
Bucknell at Temple, 7:00 PM -
Charleston Southern at Old Dominion, 7:15 PM -
St. Francis (NY) at Richmond, 7:30 PM -
Green Bay at Illinois State, 8:00 PM - ESPN U
Vanderbilt at St. Mary’s (CA), 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Dayton vs. Boise State, 9:10 PM - truTV
South Dakota State at Colorado State, 10:00 PM - ESPN U
International Soccer
Atletico Madrid vs. Bayer Leverkusen, 11:00 AM - FS1
Barcelona vs. Manchester City, 3:30 PM - FS1
BNP Paribas Open, 2:00 PM - Tennis Channel

Sports News   150317

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  2015 high school boys basketball state tournament schedule

The 2015 high school boys basketball state tournament will run from Wednesday, March 18 through Saturday, March 21, 2015


9:30 AM — Class A No. 3 Magnolia vs. No. 6 Notre Dame

11:15 AM — Class AAA No. 2 Hurricane vs. No. 7 Parkersburg

1:00 PM — Class A No. 2 Greater Beckley Christian vs. No. 7 Tucker County

5:30 PM — Class A No. 1 Wheeling Central vs. No. 8 Charleston Catholic

7:15 PM — Class AAA No. 1 Parkersburg South vs. No. 8 Musselman

9:00 PM — Class A No. 4 Tug Valley vs. No. 5 Williamstown


9:30 AM — Class AA No. 3 Fairmont Senior vs. No. 6 Mingo Central

11:15 AM — Class AAA No. 4 Martinsburg vs. No. 5 Woodrow Wilson

1:00 PM — Class AA No. 2 Bridgeport vs. No. 7 Bluefield

5:30 PM — Class AA No. 1 Poca vs. No. 8 Ravenswood

7:15 PM — Class AAA No. 3 Huntington vs. No. 6 Greenbrier East

9:00 PM — Class AA No. 4 Westside vs. No. 5 Robert C. Byrd

FRIDAY, MARCH 20, 2015

9:30 AM — Class A Magnolia/Notre Dame winner vs. Greater Beckley Christian/Tucker County winner

11:15 AM — Class AA Fairmont Senior/Mingo Central winner vs. Bridgeport/Bluefield winner

1:00 PM — Class A Wheeling Central/Charleston Catholic winner vs. Tug Valley/Williamstown winner

5:30 PM — Class AAA Parkersburg South/Musselman winner vs. Martinsburg Woodrow Wilson winner

7:15 PM — Class AA Poca/Ravenswood winner vs. Westside/Robert C. Byrd winner

9:00 PM — Class AAA Huntington/Greenbrier East winner vs. Hurricane/Parkersburg winner


12:00 PM — Class A championship

2:30 PM — Class AA championship

7:15 PM — Class AAA championship

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  College Basketball Rankings

Associated Press Top 25
1. Kentucky
2. Villanova
3. Wisconsin
4. Duke
5. Arizona
6. Virginia
7. Gonzaga
8. Notre Dame
9. Iowa State
10. Kansas
11. Northern Iowa
12. Maryland
13. Oklahoma
14. Wichita State
15. North Carolina
16. Baylor
17. Louisville
18. SMU
19. Utah
20. West Virginia
21. Arkansas
22. Georgetown
23. Michigan State
24. Butler
25. VCU

Coaches Poll
1. Kentucky
2. Villanova
3. Wisconsin
4. Arizona
5. Duke
6. Virginia
7. Gonzaga
8. Notre Dame
9. Northern Iowa
10. Iowa State
11. Kansas
12. Maryland
13. Wichita State
14. North Carolina
15. Oklahoma
16. Louisville
17. Baylor
18. Utah
19. SMU
20. Arkansas
21. West Virginia
22. Michigan State
23. Butler
24. Georgetown
25. Oregon

Top 25 (and one)
1 Kentucky
2 Villanova
3 Virginia
4 Wisconsin
5 Duke
6 Arizona
7 Gonzaga
8 Notre Dame
9 Iowa State
10 Kansas
11 Maryland
12 Northern Iowa
13 Baylor
14 North Carolina
15 West Virginia
16 Oklahoma
17 Georgetown
18 Louisville
19 Wichita State
20 Butler
21 Providence
22 Arkansas
23 SMU
24 Utah
25 Michigan State
26 Stephen F. Austin

►  Big 12 NCAA Tournament Notes Package

Iowa State is making a school-record fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament thanks in large part to the coaching of Fred Hoiberg. The third-seeded Cyclones will take on No. 14 seed Alabama Birmingham in a second-round game of the South Regional in Louisville, KY, Thursday.

The Blazers are coached by former Kansas player Jerrod Haase. Two decades ago, Haase and Hoiberg were playing against each other. Hoiberg, a senior, scored 32 – including 17 in a row – in the Cyclones’69-65 victory over the Jayhawks in a Big Eight Conference game in Hilton Coliseum.

That game will have no impact on the NCAA Tournament matchup other than an interesting back story and history lesson.

“The difference will be that Jerrod and I won’t be out there running around,” Hoiberg said Monday. “If we were it would be a pretty ugly game. … We guarded each other quite a bit. When Greg Gurley got switched off on me my eyes really lit up. I used to love when Greg guarded me … no offense to Greg.”

Gurley is currently an analyst on Kansas’ radio broadcasts and will no doubt be anxious to get in a return dig on The Mayor.

“I had a great deal of respect for Jerrod,” Hoiberg said. “He was talented, was one of the hardest working guys and he was tough to guard. You can tell his team has his personality because of how hard they play. I’ve been really impressed with that team. It’s a tough draw for us.”

The Blazers were one game over .500 before winning three games in the Conference USA tournament and gaining that league’s automatic bid.

“I had a great deal of respect for Jerrod,” Hoiberg said of playing days of seasons past. “He was talented, was one of the hardest working guys and he was tough to guard. You can tell his team has his personality because of how hard they play. I’ve been really impressed with that team. It’s a tough draw for us.”

Time To Win

During the Big 12 teleconference Monday, several coaches were asked about the league’s No. 1 RPI, getting seven teams in the bracket and how the NCAA Tournament can validate the Big 12’s strength.

“You do feel pride in the conference,” Oklahoma coach Lon Kruger said. “The seeds show the respect for the conference. We beat up on each other but we made each other better and that needs to translate to winning some games in the tournament. “

The Big 12 has a No. 2 seed in Kansas and three No. 3 seeds in Iowa State, Oklahoma and Baylor.

“You always want your league to do well, you’ve battled against each other for two months and 18 games and now you’re pulling for each other unless you play in the Tournament,” Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford said. “I don’t think it’s truly fair to judge just on the NCAA Tournament. I don’t care what happens from this point, we have the best league in America.

“It’s why it’s a great time of the year because it’s the unknown. The NCAA Tournament is so much about matchups and it takes a little bit of luck at some point.”

“I don’t know why we need to do that, to be honest with you,” said West Virginia coach Bob Huggins when asked about if the Big 12 needs to validate itself in March. “What tends to get lost at this time of the year is that we’ve already played 30 games. I don’t think we’ve got a whole lot to prove. Upsets don’t get as much attention during the regular season as they do in March.”

Blocking Out The Noise

Kansas heads to Omaha, Neb., for its second-round game with No. 15 seed New Mexico State. If the Jayhawks win and Wichita State beats Indiana, KU will face a team from the Sunflower State that it last played in 1993.

The Shockers were a No. 1 seed last season and has that program has risen there’s been a clamor for Kansas to schedule Wichita State. The bracket would deliver that game … if both teams win on Friday.

Kansas coach Bill Self was asked about how the noise about a game with the Shockers could be a distraction for his players.

“At this time of year, you have to eliminate distractions, put blinders on,” he said. “If you’re really focused and want to do well, you have to understand you need to eliminate distractions. You don’t look left, you don’t look right, listen to what the (coaching) staff is telling you.

“Nobody knows they’re infringing on (players’) focus – family members don’t know, friends don’t know about what they say or do could be distracting. If you have so many things coming at you, it’s a formula for disaster.”

Facing Top Players

Three of the seven opponents facing Big 12 teams feature players of the year from their conferences.

Baylor will play Georgia State, which is led by Sun Belt Conference player of the year R.J. Hunter, a junior guard who is the son of coach Ron Hunter.

Oklahoma State takes on Oregon. The Ducks’ top player is Joseph Young, a senior guard who was named the Pac-12 Conference player of the year.

Buffalo, which will play West Virginia, is led by Justin Moss, the Mid-American Conference player of the year.

Know Your Foe

When Scott Drew coached at Valparaiso, Ron Hunter was the coach at IUPUI and both schools were in the same conference. Hunter is now the coach at Georgia State, Baylor’s opponent in the West Regional Thursday.

“We had a lot of great games and he’s a tremendous coach,” Drew said. “He was pretty active on the sidelines back in the day. There were times when the ball was in the corner in he’d jump into to trap and it would be six on five.

“He might be a little slowed down now.”

During the celebration of his team clinching the Sun Belt Conference tournament title and NCAA bid, Hunter suffered a torn Achilles tendon. His mobility on the bench could be limited.

“He’s a gamer and he’ll tough it out,” Drew said.

One of the players on Georgia State’s roster is Kevin Ware, who suffered a gruesome broken leg during the 2013 Final Four while playing for Louisville.

“He looked really good in the championship game and looks like he’s fully recovered,” Drew said. “You have to tip your hat to for battling back from that injury. We won’t cheer for him for these 40 minutes but you have to cheer for him for overcoming that injury.”

Quotes To Note

Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg on his team rallying to win its last five games after trailing by double digits:

“I’ve really liked the resolve of our group. We played three great teams in Kansas City and found a way to win. It is a little bit concerning. We’ll talk a lot about it in the next few days. If we want to do anything at all in the NCAA Tournament we need to get off to better starts and play a 40-minute game.”

Texas coach Rick Barnes on No. 6 seed Butler, which led the Big East Conference in rebounding:

“They finish plays on both ends and especially in rebounding. That has to be a point of emphasis with the coaching staff. When it gets down to rebounding, you watch Butler play and one word is toughness.”

West Virginia coach Bob Huggins on the possibility that Buffalo, making its first NCAA Tournament appearance, might have some jitters:

“We’ve got one guy on our roster who has been in the NCAA Tournament so we’re not gonna feel sorry for ‘em. (But) our young guys play without any fear anyway. They’re probably as mentally ready to play as any freshmen I’ve had.

Oklahoma State coach Travis Ford on junior guard Phil Forte, who is averaging just 7.8 points over the last five games:

“He knows how important he is but the other guys have to do their roles better when it becomes crunch time. One of Phil’s main roles is to score points but we’ve got other guys who can step up.”

►  2015 NCAA tournament: TV schedule, sites and announcing teams

The Madness begins! The NCAA tournament kicks off on Tuesday with its slate of four play-in games before things get going in earnest on Thursday. Here is the schedule through the round of 64.

Play-in Games

Tuesday — March 17,

6:40 PM: Manhattan vs. Hampton in Dayton, Ohio (truTV).

Play-by-play/analyst//reporter: Brian Anderson/Steve Smith//Lewis Johnson.

Approx. 9:10 PM: BYU vs. Mississippi in Dayton, Ohio (truTV).


Wednesday — March 18

6:40 PM: North Florida vs. Robert Morris in Dayton (truTV).

Ian Eagle/Doug Gottlieb//Evan Washburn.

Approx. 9:10 PM: Boise State vs. Dayton in Dayton (truTV).


Round of 64

Thursday — March 19,

12:15 PM: Notre Dame vs. Northeastern in Pittsburgh (CBS).

Brian Anderson/Steve Smith//Lewis Johnson.

12:40 PM: Iowa State vs. UAB in Louisville ( truTV).

Verne Lundquist/Jim Spanarkel//Allie LaForce.

1:40 PM: Baylor vs. Georgia State in Jacksonville (TBS).

Andrew Catalon/Steve Lappas//Jamie Erdahl.

2:10 PM: Arizona vs. Texas Southern in Portland, Ore. (TNT).

Kevin Harlan/Reggie Miller/Dan Bonner//Rachel Nichols.

Approx. 2:45 PM: Butler vs. Texas in Pittsburgh (CBS).


Approx. 3:10 PM: SMU vs. UCLA in Louisville (truTV).


Approx. 4:10 PM: Xavier vs. BYU/Mississippi in Jacksonville (TBS).


Approx. 4:40 PM: VCU vs. Ohio State in Portland, Ore. (TNT).


6:50 PM: Villanova vs. Lafayette in Pittsburgh (TBS).

7:10 PM: Cincinnati vs. Purdue in Louisville (CBS).

7:20 PM: North Carolina vs. Harvard in Jacksonville (TNT).

7:27 PM: Utah vs. Stephen F. Austin in Portland, Ore. (truTV).

Approx. 9:10 PM: N.C. State vs. LSU in Pittsburgh (TBS).


Approx. 9:40 PM: Kentucky vs. Hampton/Manhattan in Louisville (CBS).


Approx. 9:50 PM: Arkansas vs. Wofford in Jacksonville (TNT).


Approx. 9:57 PM: Georgetown vs. Eastern Washington in Portland (truTV).


Friday — March 20

12:15 PM: Kansas vs. New Mexico St . in Omaha (CBS).

Marv Albert/Chris Webber/Len Elmore//Craig Sager.

12:40 PM: Michigan State vs. Georgia in Charlotte (truTV).

Jim Nantz/Bill Raftery/Grant Hill//Tracy Wolfson.

1:40 PM: Northern Iowa vs. Wyoming in Seattle (TBS).

Spero Dedes/Mike Gminski//Jaime Maggio.

2:10 PM: West Virginia vs. Buffalo in Columbus, Ohio (TNT).

Ian Eagle/Doug Gottlieb//Evan Washburn.

Approx. 2:45 PM: Wichita State vs. Indiana in Omaha (CBS).


Approx. 3:10 PM: Virginia vs. Belmont in Charlotte (truTV).


Approx. 4:10 PM: Louisville vs. UC Irvine  in Seattle (TBS).

Approx. 4:40 PM: Maryland vs. Valparaiso in Columbus, Ohio (TNT).


6:50 PM: Oregon vs. Oklahoma St. in Omaha (TBS).


7:10 PM: Duke vs. North Florida/ Robert Morris in Charlotte (CBS).


7:20 PM: Iowa vs. Davidson in Seattle (TNT).


7:27 PM: Oklahoma vs. Albany in Columbus, Ohio (truTV).


Approx. 9:10 PM: Wisconsin vs. Coastal Carolina in Omaha (TBS).


Approx. 9:40 PM: San Diego State vs. St. John’s in Charlotte (CBS).


Approx. 9:50 PM: Gonzaga vs. North Dakota St. in Seattle (TNT).


Approx. 9:57 PM: Providence vs. Boise State/Dayton in Columbus, Ohio (truTV).


The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Monday, March 16)

Final Score: Toronto 117, Indiana 98

Kyle Lowry scored 20 points and added 11 rebounds and 10 assists for his second triple-double this season to lead the Toronto Raptors to a 117-98 win over the Indiana Pacers. Toronto never trailed on its way to its second win in three games and a season sweep of Indiana. Lou Williams paced the Raptors with 24 points off the bench, DeMar DeRozan scored 22, and Jonas Valanciunas contributed 14 points and 12 boards.

Final Score: Washington 105, Portland 97

Bradley Beal scored 23 points, John Wall flirted with a triple-double and the Washington Wizards held on for a 105-97 win over the Portland Trail Blazers on Monday after leading by as much as 25 points. Wall had 21 points, 11 assists and nine rebounds for the Wizards, who finished off a 3-0 homestand with their fourth consecutive win. Paul Pierce added 16 points, Marcin Gortat had 16 points and nine rebounds and Nene scored 12 in the win.

Final Score: Boston 108, Philadelphia 89

Seven Celtics scored in double figures as Boston started fast and rolled to a 108-89 rout of the lowly Philadelphia 76ers on Monday. Avery Bradley filled the box score with 20 points, 10 rebounds and six assists, while Tyler Zeller scored a career-high 26 points in Boston’s fifth straight victory. Nerlens Noel recorded 18 points and seven rebounds for the Sixers, who have lost two straight and seven of their last nine.

Final Score: Memphis 92, Denver 81

Zach Randolph had 21 points and 16 rebounds and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the Denver Nuggets 92-81 on Monday night. Marc Gasol and Tony Allen added 14 points apiece and Nick Calathes scored 12 for the Grizzlies, who increased their lead over idle Houston to 2 1/2 games atop the Southwest Division. Jameer Nelson scored a game-high 24 points to lead the Nuggets, who had a four-game winning streak snapped, falling one victory shy of matching a season best.

Final Score: Miami 106, Cleveland 92

LeBron James returned to Miami for the second time since his offseason departure, and for the second time he left with a loss. Dwyane Wade scored 21 of his 32 points in the first half as the Miami Heat downed the Cleveland Cavaliers 106-92 on Monday night. Goran Dragic supplied 20 points and nine assists, Hassan Whiteside had 16 points with 11 rebounds and three blocks and Mario Chalmers added 16 points off the bench for the Heat.

Final Score: Brooklyn 122, Minnesota 106

Brooklyn’s offense could not be stopped in the Nets’ 122-106 win over the short-handed Minnesota Timberwolves on Monday. The Timberwolves were without three starters—Kevin Garnett, Ricky Rubio and Nikola Pekovic—and only had eight players available. The Nets shot 57.8 percent with Joe Johnson leading the team with 22 points on 10-of-14 shooting. Bojan Bogdanovic added 21 off the bench, Thaddeus Young scored 19 against one of his former teams, and Brook Lopez and Jarrett Jack each recorded 16 in Brooklyn’s second straight win.

Final Score: Dallas 119, Oklahoma City 115

Chandler Parsons scored 31 points on 10-of-14 shooting and the Dallas Mavericks outlasted the Oklahoma City Thunder 119-115 in a playoff-like atmosphere on Tuesday. The Mavs went down by 15 early in the second half but rallied for their third win in four games behind Parsons and several key contributors. Monta Ellis added 24 points, and Dirk Nowitzki broke out of a mini slump with 22 after not scoring more than 14 in six games this month. Rajon Rondo checked in with 11 points and 13 assists for the victors.

Final Score: Utah 94, Charlotte 66

Rodney Hood recorded a career-high 24 points on 9-of-11 shooting to lead the Utah Jazz in a 94-66 rout of the Charlotte Hornets on Monday night. Gordon Hayward had 18 points and Rudy Gobert grabbed a game-high 22 rebounds for the Jazz, who have won six straight overall and at home. Lance Stephenson led the woeful Charlotte offense with 17 points off the bench and Al Jefferson finished with 10.

Final Score: Atlanta 110, Sacramento 103

Paul Millsap totaled 19 points and 10 rebounds and the Atlanta Hawks beat the Sacramento Kings for a 14th straight time in a rather tight 110-103 victory on Tuesday. Atlanta has already set a single-season franchise record with 23 road wins. Jeff Teague scored a team- high 23 points and handed out six assists as the Hawks improved to 3-1 on a six-game road trip that continues Wednesday against the Western Conference- leading Warriors. DeMarre Carroll made three of Atlanta’s 12 3-pointers and finished with 16 points in the club’s third straight win.

Final Score: Golden State 108, LA Lakers 105

Klay Thompson netted 26 points to lead the Golden State Warriors to a 108-105 win over the Los Angeles Lakers on Monday night. Stephen Curry totaled 19 points with nine assists and Draymond Green had 16 points with eight rebounds in the win. Golden State, which has the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks on the horizon, clinched a postseason berth because of Oklahoma City’s loss earlier in the night. The Warriors have won two straight and seven of their last eight. Jordan Clarkson and Wayne Ellington each had 17 in the Lakers third straight loss.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Mets’ Wheeler has torn UCL

New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler has a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow.

The Mets did not disclose the severity of the tear, but the injury most times leads to Tommy John surgery. Doctors, however, could recommend rest and rehab for a partial tear.

Wheeler underwent an MRI exam Saturday in Florida and the results were reviewed Monday by doctors in New York. The 24-year-old right-hander will return to New York on Monday for a further exam and to discuss the next step toward recovery.

Mets ace Matt Harvey underwent the reconstructive procedure in October 2013 and is making his return this spring after missing the entire 2014 campaign.

Another Mets pitcher, lefty reliever Josh Edgin, will have Tommy John surgery this spring.

Wheeler was set to begin his third season in the Mets’ rotation. He was 11-11 with a 3.54 ERA in 32 starts last year after posting a mark of 7-5 with a 3.42 ERA in 17 starts in 2013.

►  Phils’ Lee shut down, put on 60-day DL

Philadelphia Phillies starter Cliff Lee will be shut down indefinitely due to a strained left forearm, the team said Monday.

The Phillies and Lee mutually decided to try to rehab the elbow rather than go with the recommended surgery, which would end the left-hander’s season and possibly his career. The hope is that rehab will allow Lee to pitch again this season.

Lee was placed on the 60-day disabled list and will immediately be shut down from throwing, the team said. He will be sent home to rest and will be set up with a rehabilitation program to maintain his overall conditioning.

He will be brought to Philadelphia periodically to be evaluated to determine a time at which he might be able to begin a throwing program again.

Lee, 36, owns a 143-91 record with a 3.52 ERA over 13 seasons with Philadelphia, Cleveland, Texas and Seattle.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Hartnell, Talbot, Hammond named NHL weekly winners

Columbus Blue Jackets wing Scott Hartnell and goaltenders Cam Talbot of the New York Rangers and Andrew Hammond of the Ottawa Senators were selected as the NHL’s top players for last week.

Hartnell earned the First Star after leading the NHL with five goals in four games last week. He scored at least once in each game, including a two-goal effort in a 4-3 shootout win over Carolina on March 10.

Talbot, last week’s Third Star, is the Second Star. He won all three of his starts last week with a 1.00 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage to help the Rangers to the No. 1 overall position in the NHL standings.

Hammond also won all three of his starts last week with a 1.30 GAA and a .957 save percentage to pick up the Third Star. The “Hamburglar” has a record of 10-0-1 since making his first NHL start February 18, allowing two goals or fewer in all 11 games.

►  NHL Game Results

(Monday, March 16)

Final Score: Washington 4, Buffalo 3 (SO)

Evgeny Kuznetsov scored the lone goal in the shootout as the Washington Capitals edged the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 on Monday night. Kuznetsov beat Anders Lindback to conclude the first round, and the Capitals prevailed when Philip Varone lost control of the puck on Buffalo’s third attempt. Braden Holtby made 30 saves for Washington and stopped bids from Tyler Ennis and Matt Moulson in the shootout. The Capitals moved within one point of the Detroit Red Wings for sixth place in the Eastern Conference standings. Lindback stopped 35 shots for the Sabres, who have lost seven games in a row (0-5-2).

Final Score: Tampa Bay 4, Montreal 2

Steven Stamkos scored twice to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens. Tampa Bay matched Montreal with 93 points and pulled even atop the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens have a game in hand on the Lightning. Ben Bishop made 32 saves, and Valtteri Filppula and Victor Hedman also scored as the Lightning beat the Canadiens for the fourth time this season. Carey Price made 30 saves in Montreal’s third loss in its last four games. Tomas Plekanec tallied a goal and an assist, and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau also lit the lamp for the Canadiens.

Final Score: Edmonton 4, Toronto 1

Jordan Eberle had a goal and two assists in leading the Edmonton Oilers to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday night. The Oilers ended a six-game losing streak to the Leafs and a seven-game skid overall (0-5-2) behind an early wave of goals. They scored four times in the first 11 minutes of the game and Benoit Pouliot had two of them. Ben Scrivens made 28 saves for Edmonton. Jonathan Bernier was pulled after allowing three goals on four shots. James Reimer finished with 27 saves in relief for Toronto, which went winless on a three-game trip through western Canada.

Final Score: Los Angeles 1, Arizona 0

Andy Andreoff’s first career goal backed a shutout from Jonathan Quick as the Los Angeles Kings downed the punchless Arizona Coyotes 1-0 on Monday. Quick made 25 saves for his sixth shutout of the season, and the whitewash helped LA pull even with the Flames for third place in the Pacific Division. The Coyotes have scored three goals during a five-game skid. They have lost 14 of 15 overall and wasted a 34-save effort from Mike Smith on Monday.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Federer, Nadal win Indian Wells openers

Four-time champion Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were both winners in second round action of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.

Federer fired eight aces against Argentine Diego Schwartzman and didn’t face a break point in the 63-minute match, winning by a 6-4, 6-2 final. The second- seeded Swiss star lost to Novak Djokovic in last year’s final at Indian Wells.

Nadal, who has won this event three times, cruised past Igor Sijsling, 6-4, 6-2 on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Sixth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic defeated Italian Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round, while Robin Haase of the Netherlands stunned seventh- seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Other seeded winners included: Tomas Berdych (9), Grigor Dimitrov (11), Gilles Simon (13), Roberto Bautista Agut (15) and Tommy Robredo (17), Lukas Rosol (27) and Andreas Seppi (31).

Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who reached the semifinals last year, topped 29th-seeded Colombian Santiago Giraldo 6-1, 7-6 (7-4).

Americans Steve Johnson, Donald Young and Jack Sock were also among the winners. Johnson upended 21st-seeded Ivo Karlovic (21), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), Young beat 31st-seeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-2, and Sock rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.

German qualifier Michael Berrer moved on when 22nd-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet retired trailing 3-1 in the third set.

►  Murray wins third-rounder at Indian Wells

Former runner-up Andy Murray was a three-set third-round winner Monday at the BNP Paribas Open, a Masters 1000 ATP event.

The fourth seed held off 26th-seeded German Philipp Kohlschreiber 6-1, 3-6, 6-1 in a topsy-turvy affair on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The Dunblane native Murray is now just two wins from surpassing Tim Henman’s haul of 496 career match victories, which will make him Britain’s most successful player in the Open Era in terms of matches won. He also needs just five more triumphs to join the 500 wins club.

The Australian Open runner-up Murray lost to the great Rafael Nadal in the 2009 Indian Wells finale.

Up next for the two-time Grand Slam champion from Scotland will be Frenchman Adrian Mannarino, who upended 14th-seeded struggling Latvian Ernests Gulbis 6-4, 6-4.

►  Serena cruises in 3rd round at Indian Wells

Top-seeded Serena Williams cruised in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.

Williams lost just two games, defeating No. 28 seed Zarina Diyas 6-2, 6-0 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

In other action featuring a top-five seeded player, third-seeded Simona Halep topped No. 26 seed Varvara Lepchenko.

Heather Watson upset seventh-seeded Agniezska Radwanska 6-4, 6-4 and No. 27 seed Timea Bacsinszky surprised eighth-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. No. 23 seed Elina Svitolina took down 10th-seeded Lucie Safarova 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 and Sloane Stephens defeated 22nd-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-4.

Other winners included 12th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 14 seed Karolina Pliskova.

The 2015 titlist will earn $900,400.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  American Pharoah wins Rebel to gain in ‘Road to the Kentucky Derby’

Champion colt American Pharoah easily defeated six rivals in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park to advance into the fifth spot in the “Road to the Kentucky Derby” points system.

Trained by Bob Baffert for Zayat Stables, American Pharoah posted a 6 1/4- length win in the 1 1/16-mile Rebel and gained 50 points for a total of 60 toward a place in the 20-horse starting field for the Kentucky Derby on May 02.

“It wasn’t really taxing on him. It turned out all right. He didn’t have to go too fast early,“ Baffert said about American Pharoah’s 2015 debut effort.

Gotham Stakes winner El Kabeir leads the rankings with 75 points followed in the top 10 by Risen Star winner International Star (71), San Felipe champ Dortmund (70) and Tampa Bay Derby winner Carpe Diem (64).

Falling in behind American Pharoah are Fountain of Youth winner Itsaknockout (50), Fountain of Youth runner-up Upstart (36), Risen Star runner-up War Story (24), Southwest Stakes winner Far Right (22), Rebel runner-up Madefromlucky (20), Tampa Bay runner-up Ami’s Flatter (20) and San Felipe runner-up Prospect Park (20).

Saturday at Turfway Park will be the $550,000 Spiral Stakes and Sunday will be the $800,000 Sunland Derby at Sunland Park. Both 1 1/8-mile races offer 50 points to the winning 3-year-old with the next three under the wire receiving 20, 10 and 5 points, respectively.

►  Shared Belief probable for Charles Town Classic

Shared Belief, convincing winner of the Santa Anita Handicap, isn’t done growing which is bad news for the competition.

Just over a week after winning the 1 1/4-mile Big ‘Cap, Dan Ward, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, reported on Shared Belief.

“He’s filling out and getting bigger and better,“ said Ward. “He’s a horse that’s easy on himself and not hard to handle.“

If Shared Belief is getting “bigger and better,“ what does that leave for the rest of the handicap division this year?

Ridden by Mike Smith, Shared Belief, co-owned by Hollendorfer, came from off the pace in the 1 1/4-mile Big ‘Cap on March 7 to register a 4 1/4-length victory versus a dozen competitors. The 4-year-old gelding, 2013 champion 2- year-old, went three wide around the final turn, drew even with Moreno at the top of the stretch and rambled home unchallenged.

“I had a lot of confidence and a lot of horse at the end but the other horse, Shared Belief, was just too much today,“ said Santiago Gonzalez, Moreno’s jockey.

In last week’s opening NTRA Poll, Shared Belief received all 47 first-place votes and is expected to return to the races in April either in the Oaklawn Handicap on April 11 or the Charles Town Classic on April 18.

“We love the horse and we want to keep the horse close to home,“ co-owner Jim Rose said after winning the Big ‘Cap.

The 4-year-old has already earned $900,000 this year with his victories in the San Antonio Invitational over 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome and the Santa Anita Handicap. Shared Belief has banked $2,932,200 with just one loss in 11 career starts.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Spieth up to career-best 6th in world rankings

Jordan Spieth drained a 28-foot putt on the third playoff hole to win a wild Valspar Championship over Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair on Sunday, which propelled Spieth up to a career-best sixth in the world rankings.

Spieth, who picked up his second career victory on the PGA Tour, jumped four spots from No. 10 to No. 6.

There was no movement inside the top-5 as Rory McIlroy remained firmly in control of the No. 1 spot. He was followed yet again by Bubba Watson, Henrik Stenson, Adam Scott and Jason Day from two.

With Spieth jumping four spots, Jim Furyk dropped one from six to seven. While Sergio Garcia held steady at No. 8, WGC-Cadillac Championship winner Dustin Johnson fell two to No. 9 and Justin Rose dropped one spot to No. 10.

Rickie Fowler, Martin Kaymer, Jimmy Walker and Matt Kuchar all remained Nos. 11-14 and Reed improved one to No. 15. Reed traded spots with Hideki Matsuyama, who fell to 16.

Billy Horschel and Brooks Koepka stayed put at 17 and 18, while Victor Dubuisson and J.B. Holmes swapped places, with Dubuisson up one to 19 and Holmes down to 20.

With his tie for second at the Valspar Championship, O’Hair made a huge move up the rankings. He improved 213 spots from No. 401 to No. 188.

George Coetzee, who picked up his second career victory on the European Tour with a win at the Tshwane Open last week, jumped from 87 to 67.

►  Golf Tidbits: Spieth displays fire, ice in Florida

Jordan Spieth has won two PGA Tour events, both of which came after he reigned in his fiery side and let the ice water flow throw his veins.

Spieth holed a 28-foot birdie effort on the third playoff hole Sunday to beat his 2014 Ryder Cup partner Patrick Reed and Sean O’Hair.

The 21-year-old Spieth had a chance in regulation to win, but missed a 7-foot birdie putt at the 15th. Over the next three holes, Spieth showed off a short game that is quickly gaining recognition as one of the best on tour.

Spieth missed the green on each of the last three holes, but made par all three times. He chipped to three feet on 16 and six feet on 17. Neither were easy shots, but he saved par nonetheless.

“I would rank those definitely in the top five I’ve ever had given the lies and the scenario and the green to work with,“ Spieth said of his par saves on 16 and 17.

On the final hole of regulation, Spieth found sand off the tee, then hit a poor approach. As he left the bunker, Spieth was yelling at himself and seemed overly frustrated.

As he walked to his third shot, Spieth calmed himself. He hit a nice chip, but still left himself 12 feet for par. Not to worry, Spieth poured that putt in to become the third man in the three-man playoff.

All three players made par on the first two playoff holes, with O’Hair having the best chance to win. His birdie effort on the second playoff hole, No. 16, lipped out after Spieth and Reed missed their birdie chances.

The trio moved to the par-3 17th for the third extra hole. After Reed and O’Hair failed to make birdie, Spieth drained his birdie try for the win.

His two official PGA Tour wins have come in playoffs. In his first victory, Spieth holed a bunker shot just to get into the extra session.

His fiery side seems to get the better of him at times, but there are moments of clarity when Spieth is able to dial in his focus and come through in the clutch.

The ability to balance the two will be among the determining factors of how good he will be going forward.

This victory puts Spieth in a group of four players - along with Tiger Woods, Robert Gamez and Sergio Garcia - who had two PGA Tour wins before the age of 22. Spieth has two other titles (Hero World Challenge and Australian Open), both of which came in dominating fashion.

Maybe the thing that helped Spieth the most in the playoff was the fact that Reed was there, too. They went 2-0-1 as teammates at the Ryder Cup last year, and what more could you want than to beat a good friend?

“When he got that one up and down and we were going to 17 ... I certainly didn’t like that. I didn’t like him still in the playoff,“ Spieth joked. “You can’t count him out. He’s just a competitor. He’s fiery. Finds a way to get it done.“

Spoken like a man who breaths plenty of fire of his own.


The old man of Sunday’s playoff, 32-year-old Sean O’Hair, has been trying to claw his way back into contention after a couple of years without much success.

The high point for O’Hair came in 2009. Among his nine top-10 finishes that season were a win (his fourth), a second-place finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where Tiger Woods rallied to beat him, and a third-place finish at the Tour Championship.

That season was topped by his first United States team appearance as he competed in the Presidents Cup.

In the five seasons that followed, O’Hair had a win and another runner-up finish. Those were among the few high points.

The last two seasons were the low points. He had a single top-10 finish in 47 PGA Tour starts, and only four top 25s in that time. O’Hair needed to go to the Tour Finals Series to retain his card after each of the last two seasons.

This season, he has made nine cuts in 10 starts and already has tallied three top-25 finishes. Those might seem like baby steps to some, but they are big improvements for the four-time PGA Tour winner.

O’Hair has improved nearly 300 spots in the world rankings thanks to his solid play, from No. 474 to start the year to No. 188 this week. He is still a long way from his career-high ranking of No. 12, but at least O’Hair is once again ascending the rankings as opposed to descending them.

The baby steps have done one thing for O’Hair - he has nearly earned enough money to secure his tour card for 2016. That is enough progress for now, but he doesn’t want to stop there.


* Sunday’s playoff was the eighth of the season on the PGA Tour. There have been extra sessions in each of the last four weeks and five of the last six overall. The only shame of Sunday’s playoff was how many people missed the drama while tuning into the NCAA selection show.

* George Coetzee claimed his second European Tour title in South Africa on Sunday. Both of his wins have come in his homeland, but this was more special as it came on his home course. He grew up playing Pretoria Country Club, so he knew when to be aggressive and when to dial it back.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Guess where Danica Patrick threatened to kick Alex Bowman

Danica Patrick has never been one to back down from a confrontation with another driver ever since she made the move to NASCAR and Alex Bowman found out first-hand over the weekend just how far she was willing to go.

On Sunday, Bowman angered Patrick by racing hard against her despite being down several laps during the Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway and, after finishing 26th to Bowman’s 30th, she let him know about it by threatening to kick him in the man region. Bowman admitted that it was wrong of him to be unaware that she was in the same lap as the leaders and then explained further on Twitter:

Alex Bowman   @AlexBRacing
Rough day. Great run for @DanicaPatrick she continues to impress me on and off the racetrack every weekend. ❤

Keegan @kpoliveria
@AlexBRacing @DanicaPatrick how bout handling the situation directly with her instead of going straight to Twitter.

Alex Bowman   @AlexBRacing
@kpoliveria I tried. She said she was gonna kick me in the 🍒

      Riccardo De Nuzzo @QuakeRick
      @AlexBRacing But you hung on her quarter panel lap after lap after lap. You know that…

  Alex Bowman     @AlexBRacing
  @QuakeRick did not know she was on the lead lap. I take complete blame for that one How she acted after on the other hand…....

      Riccardo De Nuzzo @QuakeRick
      @AlexBRacing @DanicaPatrick Doesn’t make much sense to fight like a dog with a car on the lead lap while you’re a couple laps down.

  Alex Bowman       @AlexBRacing
      @QuakeRick I pulled over and gave her the bottom…

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NY Cosmos and Cuba set June 2 for soccer friendly in Havana

The coaches of the New York Cosmos and Cuba national soccer teams jointly announced Monday they will play a June 2 match in Havana.

The announcement comes amid talks by Washington and Havana to work toward the restoration of diplomatic relations between the former Cold War foes. The Cuban and Cosmos teams conducted their own negotiations in January, during a CONCACAF Under-20 tournament in Jamaica.

“Everything happened very quickly,“ Cosmos president Seamus O’Brien said of the match, which both sides call an act of sports diplomacy. “Everything was done in a couple of weeks.“

The Cosmos will be the first professional U.S. soccer club to play on the island in 37 years. The now-defunct professional Chicago Sting played in Cuba in 1978, while the amateur U.S. national team played a World Cup qualifier there in 2008.

“When I was told that there was a chance of facing the Cosmos, I quickly said ‘yes,‘ because I was aware of this club, their history, their prestige,“ Walter Benitez, the Cuban team coach said in a press conference. “Now I realize that this is bigger than I figured.“

The Cosmos compete in the second-tier North American Soccer League. The team’s roster includes Raul Gonzalez, a longtime star with Spain’s national team and club powerhouse Real Madrid. Pele and Franz Beckenbauer, at the sunset of their careers, played with the team during its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s.

The announcement follows the December 17 announcement by both governments that they would negotiate the restoration of relations severed after the 1959 Cuban revolution.

U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel, a Democrat who is a critic of the American trade embargo against Cuba, praised the match. He said was in Havana when presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced they would work toward restored relations.

“There were two things that all the Cubans said that they loved about the United States: One was sports and the other was every damn thing else,“ Rangel said.

At the press conference, a video was shown of the 1971 trip by U.S. ping pong players to China that was credited in helping revive diplomatic ties between those countries.

Cosmos coach Giovanni Savarese said the team “historically has been a soccer ambassador,“ adding that Cuba will be the 42nd country it has visited.

For the Cuban team, the match will also be a tuneup for the 2018 World Cup qualifiers and the CONCACAF Gold Cup held in the U.S. in July.

Sports exchanges between Cuba and the United States have increased in recent years, including several visits by U.S. college baseball players.

Baseball is Cuba’s most popular sport, but soccer has made strides in recent years with many young people sporting jerseys of Real Madrid and Barcelona.

“You can watch a lot of soccer in Cuba, breathe a lot of soccer. This could help us find more talent,“ Benitez said.

►  Red Bulls add Jamaica international Lawrence

Red Bull New York announced on Monday that the club has signed Jamaica international defender Kemar Lawrence from Harbour View FC.

The 22-year-old has been on trial with the club since the preseason and he is expected to challenge for time at left back with current starter Roy Miller.

“We’re delighted to be able to add Kemar to our club,“ Red Bulls sporting director Ali Curtis said in a statement. “He is a promising young player with experience at a big club in Jamaica and with the national team. His style of play fits with what we’re trying to establish here.“

Lawrence made 50 appearances for Harbour View since breaking into the team in 2011, while he has also earned 13 caps for Jamaica’s national team, scoring two goals.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  FIFA rejects club compensation for 2022 World Cup

Soccer’s world governing body FIFA flexed its muscles again on Wednesday when it announced that clubs would not receive compensation for losing players and suffering domestic disruption due to a 2022 December World Cup in Qatar.

A day after a FIFA task force angered Europe’s clubs by recommending a November/December tournament, the organization’s secretary general, Jerome Valcke, told reporters there would be no financial payments for any disruption to domestic leagues.

“There will be no compensation. I mean they have seven years to reorganize football around the world for this World Cup,“ said Valcke when asked if any payment would be made following the shift from the originally proposed dates of a European summer tournament.

“It’s not perfect, we know that — but why are we talking about compensation? It’s happening once, we’re not destroying football,“ he added.

“Why should we apologize to the clubs? We have had an agreement with the clubs that they are part of the beneficiaries. It was $40 million in 2010 and $70 million in 2014.“

European Clubs’ Association chairman Karl-Heinz Rummenigge said Europe’s clubs would seek financial compensation, but Valcke ruled that out following a meeting of a FIFA task force in the Qatari capital.

The proposed new dates for the event are set to be ratified by FIFA’s executive committee next month.

Valke also said the duration of the 2022 tournament is set be cut from 32 to 28 days, meaning more games will be played per day, so a country of Qatar’s size might need fewer stadiums.

“We are talking about a reduction of the competition in terms of the number of competition days. We are talking about 28 days and not anymore 32 days,“ Valcke told reporters following the first board meeting with Qatar’s 2022 organizing committee.

“It is a very special World Cup to organize because we would describe Qatar 2022 as a compact World Cup,“ he added. “Normally we are looking at 10 (stadiums) but it could be eight.“

Major challenges

One of the major challenges facing Qatar was finding an efficient and cost effective way to cool down stadiums during the scorching summer months, which the Gulf state’s organizing committee said they were committed to delivering.

If the finals are held in the winter the need for cooling technology will be reduced, although 2022 organizing committee chief Hassan al-Thawadi told Wednesday’s news conference that the research would carry on.

“We have always said that the cooling technology will be the legacy of the World Cup and beyond… our development of the cooling technology will continue… our research will continue,“ he said.

Despite its vast oil and gas reserves, Qatar like other Gulf states has been hit by the drop in prices which has affected several energy and construction projects.

But Thawadi said completing World Cup-related projects was part of the Gulf state’s economic diversification and “lavish spending” on projects was an option the state was pursuing.

During Valcke’s visit to the Gulf state, which has been repeatedly criticized for neglecting workers’ rights, he said World Cup projects could bring hope for improvement in the area.

“If the standard for all construction sites in Qatar reach the level of standard we have for all the specific World Cup construction site, then a big step will be made in the country for this working conditions.“

►  Sunderland sacks Poyet

Sunderland sacked manger Gus Poyet on Monday after a poor run of form which saw the Black Cats earn just one win from their last 12 Premier League games.

The final straw for Poyet came on Saturday when his club surrendered four first-half goals on Saturday in a 4-0 defeat against Aston Villa at the Stadium of Light.

“Sadly, we have not made the progress that any of us had hoped for this season,“ said chairman Ellis Short.

“We find ourselves battling, once again, at the wrong end of the table. We have therefore made the difficult decision that a change is needed.“

Poyet, 47, took over for Paolo Di Canio in October 2013 and guided the club to four victories and a draw from their final six league games to keep them up last season - a run that included wins at Chelsea and Manchester United and a draw at Manchester City.

He also led the Wearsiders to the 2014 Capital One Cup final, which they lost to City.

“I would like to thank Gus for his endeavors during his time at the club, in particular last season’s ‘great escape’ and cup final appearance, which will live long in the memory of every Sunderland fan,“ said Short.

►  Henderson’s goal helps Liverpool edge Swansea

It wasn’t the most convincing performance of the season from Liverpool, but Jordan Henderson’s goal in the 68th minute was enough to see the Reds past Swansea City, 1-0, at the Liberty Stadium on Monday.

Following a poor first-half display, Liverpool gradually began to ask questions of the Swansea defense, and in the 68th minute the visitors found the breakthrough with a bit of good fortune to remain within two points of fourth-place Manchester United, which visits Anfield on Sunday.

The best opportunities in the first half belonged to the hosts, who should have taken advantage of a below-par Liverpool outfit.

Visiting goalkeeper Simon Mignolet did well to keep his side level at halftime as he first denied a fine low shot from Bafetimbi Gomis in the 31st minute after the forward exchanged passes with Ki Sung-Yeung.

Seven minutes later Mignolet came to the rescue again as a curling shot from Gylfi Sigurdsson was headed for the top corner, only for Mignolet to reach it at full stretch and tip the ball around the post.

Swansea goalkeeper Lukasz Fabianski had a pretty quiet first 55 minutes, but he needed to make a quality stop at his near post to keep out a first-time effort from Philippe Coutinho.

The breakthrough finally arrived in the 68th when Daniel Sturridge released Henderson with a clever flick. A Swansea defender attempted to make a last- ditch tackle to deny Henderson, but his effort redirected off the Liverpool captain and looped over the head of Fabianski and into the net.

It was a cruel blow for the hosts, and Sturridge nearly added a second goal in stoppage time when he struck the post on the break.

►  Anderson’s double powers Lazio past Torino

Felipe Anderson netted two goals in a span of seven second-half minutes on Monday as Lazio claimed a 2-0 win over Torino at the Stadio Olimpico.

Coming off a comfortable 4-0 thrashing of Fiorentina in league play last time out, Lazio was hoping to extend their unbeaten run in Serie A to seven matches and Anderson got the club off to a good start with the opening salvo in the 71st minute.

Anderson then doubled his side’s advantage with 12 minutes to play and Torino managed to put four attempts on target, but could never bulge the back of the net as the home side suffered its ninth defeat of the season.

The win for Lazio moves the club to 49 points from 27 matches for third place in Serie A, while Torino remains in ninth place on 36 points.

Also in Italy’s top flight on Monday, Joaquin and Gonzalo Rodriguez scored six minutes apart as Fiorentina rallied for a 2-1 win over AC Milan at the Stadio Artemio Franchi.

In Monday’s final fixture, Roma’s winless run across all competitions reached four matches as Sampdoria earned a 2-0 win on the strength of goals from Lorenzo De Silvestri and Luis Muriel.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NFLPA re-elects Smith as executive director

The NFL Players Association has re-elected DeMaurice Smith to a third term as executive director.

Smith was elected on the first ballot among player representatives for the 32 teams, although voting totals were not made available by the union. Eight others were finalists for the position.

“I am proud to represent the best athletes in the world,“ said Smith in the union’s release. “There will always be those who will sacrifice their dignity in a race to the bottom so that they can climb over others to get to the top. I will not join them, and no human should.“

The other finalists were James Acho, Jason Belser, Sean Gilbert, Robert Griffith, Arthur McAfee, Rob London, Andrew Smith and John Stufflebeem.

“The Board of Player Representatives made a decision today after two comprehensive days of deliberation and careful consideration of all candidates,“ said NFLPA President Eric Winston. “We look forward to continue working with DeMaurice Smith to make our union stronger.“

Smith was first elected in 2009 to succeed the late Gene Upshaw and was unanimously re-elected in 2012.

►  Chiefs re-sign Ron Parker

The Kansas City Chiefs have re-signed defensive back Ron Parker.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but reports this past weekend indicated the contract to be worth at least $25 million over five years with $8 million guaranteed.

Parker played in all 16 games and started 15 for the Chiefs last season, his second with the team, spending time at cornerback and safety. He notched 94 tackles with one sack and one interception.

“I am happy we were able to work out a deal with Ron and his agent to keep him in Kansas City,“ said Chiefs general manager John Dorsey on Monday. “He is a versatile player with a great attitude that’s made a positive impact on both defense and special teams. Right from the beginning of this process, we wanted Ron back in a Chiefs uniform.“

The 27-year-old South Carolina native joined Kansas City just before the start of the 2013 season after being waived by Seattle. He appeared in five games with Oakland and Seattle in 2011, then appeared in five games with Carolina and Seattle in 2012.

►  Panthers sign Coleman

The Carolina Panthers signed unrestricted free agent safety Kurt Coleman to a two-year contract on Monday.

Coleman played in 15 games with three starts for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2014. He totaled 30 tackles, three interceptions, six passes defensed, one forced fumble and one fumble recovery on defense. He also tied for third on the team with seven special teams tackles.

“Kurt gives us a versatile safety who can play both spots,“ Panthers coach Ron Rivera said. “He’s athletic, he’s intelligent, and will understand the system. He’s a very consistent player and also adds special teams ability. That is something we’ve talked about improving upon and we’ve made some moves this offseason looking for guys that can help us on special teams. Kurt will help us not only on defense, but on special teams as well.“

A veteran of five NFL seasons, Coleman spent the first four seasons of his career with Philadelphia after being selected by the Eagles in the seventh round of the 2010 NFL Draft. Panthers’ defensive coordinator Sean McDermott was the defensive coordinator for Philadelphia during Coleman’s rookie season.

“Being familiar with Sean (McDermott) and watching this defense, I wanted to be able to help this team build into something special and make a run,“ said Coleman. “They’ve done great the last two years getting into the playoffs, but the great thing is they’re not satisfied with just getting there. I want to be a piece to help this team go and be something special.“

Coleman has played in 74 career regular-season games with 32 starts, including starting 27 of 29 games played for Philadelphia in the 2011 and 2012 seasons. He has totaled 269 tackles, 10 interceptions, 15 passes defensed, four forced fumbles and one fumble recovery.

►  Giants bring back Jerry, Brown

The New York Giants re-signed guard John Jerry and cornerback Chykie Brown on Monday.

Jerry joined the Giants last year and started all 16 games at right guard in 2014. He spent his first four seasons with Miami and started 32 straight games at right guard over two years with the Dolphins before signing with the Giants.

Brown played in eight games for the Giants last season, starting at cornerback in each of the last four contests after a season-ending injury to Prince Amukamara. He finished with 32 tackles.

The Texas product played his first 3 1/2 seasons with Baltimore before the Ravens released him last November.

►  Browns sign former Packers CB Williams

The Cleveland Browns signed longtime Green Bay Packers cornerback Tramon Williams, Browns general manager Ray Farmer announced Monday.

Williams, 32, started all 16 regular season games for the Packers in each of the last three seasons and at least 15 games in the last five.

He had 70 tackles and three interceptions last season and collected 464 tackles and 28 interceptions over 127 games since 2007.

►  Tim Tebow works out for Eagles

Yes, Tim Tebow worked out for the Philadelphia Eagles.

No, it doesn’t appear Chip Kelly and the Eagles will sign the former Heisman Trophy winner anytime soon.

Out of the league the past two seasons and currently working as an analyst on TV, Tebow worked out for the Eagles on Monday, a team spokesman confirmed to

But the Eagles were not expected to sign the former Florida star and 2007 Heisman Trophy winner anytime soon, according to ESPN.

Tebow, 27, played two seasons for the Denver Broncos from 2010-11 and last appeared in the NFL for the Jets in 2012.

He joined the New England Patriots in June 2013 but was cut two months later before the start of the regular season.

Kelly and the Eagles have been busy re-working a roster that seems to change by the week. Gone are quarterback Nick Foles and running back LeSean McCoy, replaced by Sam Bradford and DeMarco Murray.

The Eagles also have quarterbacks Mark Sanchez, Matt Barkley and G.J. Kinne on the roster. Sanchez and Tebow were teammates on the Jets in 2012.

Even the mention of Tebow’s name elicits strong opinions, so news that he worked out for the Eagles caused a stir on social media Monday afternoon.

►  Raiders cut QB Schaub

The Oakland Raiders have released veteran quarterback Matt Schaub.

Oakland traded for the 34-year-old Schaub last March, giving Houston a sixth- round pick. Derek Carr beat Schaub for the starting job in training camp and Schaub threw just 10 passes in one season with the Raiders, two of which were intercepted.

In 11 NFL seasons with the Raiders, Texans and Falcons, Schaub, 33, has passed for 24,311 yards, 130 touchdowns and 86 interceptions in 139 games (90 starts). He reached two Pro Bowls with Houston and led the league in passing yards with 4,770 in 2009.

Atlanta selected Schaub in the third round of the 2004 NFL Draft and later traded him to Houston in 2007 for draft picks.

Last week, the Raiders signed free-agent quarterback Christian Ponder, who played his first four seasons with Minnesota. He will compete with Matt McGloin for the backup job.

►  Patriots sign TE Chandler

The New England Patriots signed veteran tight end Scott Chandler, the team announced Monday.

Chandler, age 29, spent the last five seasons with Buffalo. Over 65 games with the Bills, he accumulated 182 catches for 2,120 yards and 17 touchdowns. San Diego drafted him in the fourth round in 2007, and he also played for Dallas before arriving in Buffalo, although he never caught a pass for the Chargers or Cowboys.

It was reported that the Ravens also had interest in Chandler before he settled on joining New England.

►  Wilfork signs with Texans, thanks Patriots

The Houston Texans signed free-agent defensive tackle Vince Wilfork, the team announced Monday.

Wilfork, who reportedly agreed to a two-year deal worth $9 million, tweeted a message thanking the New England Patriots and saying he and his family “will be starting a new chapter in our lives as Houston Texans.“

He spent his first 11 NFL seasons with the Patriots.

“This has been a interesting process for me and my family one we have taken very seriously and given a lot of thought,“ part of Wilfork’s message says.

“The coaching staff in Houston has made this new exciting transition feel like home to us,“ he wrote. “We will forever be Patriots in our hearts thank you everyone for everything.“

Wilfork, 33, became a free agent when the Patriots chose not to pick up his contract option. The move saved the club about $8 million in salary cap space.

He started all but 10 of the 158 games he played for the Patriots after joining the team as a first-round pick in the 2004 draft. He returned from an Achilles injury in 2014 and started all 16 games while registering 47 tackles and one interception.

A five-time Pro Bowl selection, Wilfork won two Super Bowls with the Patriots.

The Texans also announced the signing of wide receiver Cecil Shorts III.

Shorts, 27, led Jacksonville in receptions last season with 53 and ranked second on the team with 557 receiving yards. A fourth-round pick of the Jaguars in 2011, Shorts has caught 176 passes for 2,343 yards and 12 touchdowns in 50 career games.

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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

Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia, 1:05 PM - CSN-Philadelphia
Atlanta vs. Boston, 1:05 PM - NESN, MLB Network
Houston vs. Pittsburgh, 1:05 PM - ROOT-Southwest, Pittsburgh
Minnesota vs. Baltimore, 1:05 PM - MASN
St. Louis vs. Miami, 1:05 PM - FS-Midwest
Miami vs. NY Mets, 1:10 PM - SNY
Cincinnati vs. Cleveland, 4:05 PM - SportsTime Ohio
Los Angeles vs. Texas, 4:05 PM - TXA21, SportsNet LA
Milwaukee vs. San Diego, 4:05 PM - FS-San Diego, Wisconsin
LA Angels vs. Colorado, 4:10 PM - FS-West, MLB Network
Toronto vs. NY Yankees, 7:05 PM - YES, MLB Network
National Basketball Association
Memphis at Detroit, 7:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Detroit, DSS
San Antonio at New York, 7:30 PM - FS-Southwest, MSG, DSS
Orlando at Houston, 8:00 PM - FS-Florida, ROOT-Southwest, DSS
Milwaukee at New Orleans, 8:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, New Orleans, NBA TV, DSS
Charlotte at LA Clippers, 10:30 PM - SportSouth, FS-Prime Ticket, DSS
National Hockey League
Ottawa at Carolina, 7:00 PM - RDS2, TSN5, FS-Carolina, DSS
Pittsburgh at New Jersey, 7:00 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, MSG+, DSS
Montreal at Florida, 7:30 PM - RDS, FS-Florida, DSS
Buffalo at Boston, 7:30 PM - NBCSN
Minnesota at Nashville, 8:00 PM - FS-North, Tennessee, DSS
San Jose at Winnipeg, 8:00 PM - CSN-California, TSN3, DSS
NY Islanders at Chicago, 8:30 PM - MSG+2, CSN-Chicago, DSS
St. Louis at Calgary, 9:00 PM - FS-Midwest, SNET-West, DSS
Philadelphia at Vancouver, 10:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, SNET-Pacific, DSS
Men’s College Basketball
NCAA Tournament, 6:40 PM - truTV
NIT Tournament, 7:00 PM - ESPN
NIT Tournament, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
NIT Tournament, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
NIT Tournament, 9:00 PM - ESPN
NIT Tournament, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
NIT Tournament, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
NCAA Tournament, 9:10 PM - truTV
NIT Tournament, 11:00 PM - ESPN 2
International Soccer
Monaco vs. Arsenal, 3:30 PM - FS1

Sports News   150316

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►  Mountaineers bound for Columbus as fifth seed to face Buffalo

West Virginia received the No. 5 seed in the Midwest Region and will open NCAA tournament play Friday against 12th-seeded Buffalo in Columbus, Ohio.

The Mountaineers (23-9), after missing the past two tournaments, returned to winning form this season with a pressing, trapping style that forced the nation’s most turnovers. They sit 23rd in the RPI, leading coach Bob Huggins to prod local doubters who worried the program might be headed for an extended downturn.

“I don’t think anybody in my business or anybody nationally didn’t think get we weren’t going to get it going again,” Huggins said. “You don’t do this for as long as the people on my staff have done this and not figure out something.”

Buffalo (23-9), in the running for an at-large berth had it not won the Mid-American Conference tournament, sports a No. 35 RPI and a second-year coach with a deep NCAA legacy, Bobby Hurley, who remains the NCAA assists leader from his days as a Duke icon.

“I’m just glad he’s not the point guard,” Huggins said.

With tipoff times and TV network assignments being finalized late Sunday night, Huggins projected a large West Virginia contingent to be on hand at Nationwide Arena, which seats 19,500 for basketball.

“It’s great for our fans,” he said. “It’s 200 miles from here but our people can get to it, though tickets will be an issue.”

Upset pick: Within seconds of the bracket unveiling, CBS analyst Doug Gottlieb called for Buffalo to spring the 12-5 upset.

“That’s who you should listen to,” cracked Huggins.

The West Virginia-Buffalo winner would face the Maryland-Valparaiso survivor in the second round. As for the Sweet 16? That likely would bring a matchup against No. 1 overall seed Kentucky.

Staten and Browne practicing: After Juwan Staten and Gary Browne missed WVU’s one-and-done appearance in the Big 12 tournament, Huggins insisted the guards would be available for the NCAAs. Both seniors reportedly practiced before Sunday’s selection show.

“Both those guys practiced today, and I thought Wannie was real good,” Huggins said.

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Sunday, March 15)

Final Score: (1) Kentucky 78, (21) Arkansas 63

Two championships down, one to go. Kentucky has accomplished its first two goals of the 2014-15 season, first winning the SEC regular-season title and adding the conference tournament crown on Sunday with a 78-63 pounding of Arkansas. Now, it’s on to the one that matters most—the NCAA Tournament. The top-ranked Wildcats (34-0) will enter the tourney as the No. 1 overall seed and will do so with an unblemished record after Sunday’s sterling effort. Andrew Harrison scored 15 points and Willie Cauley-Stein contributed 15 with 10 rebounds for Kentucky, which captured its 28th SEC Tournament title. The Wildcats will learn their destination for the NCAA Tournament later Sunday. Michael Qualls led Arkansas (26-8) with 18 points, while SEC Player of the Year Bobby Portis scored 13. The 21st-ranked Razorbacks will also await their NCAA Tournament seeding later Sunday.

Final Score: (6) Wisconsin 80, Michigan State 69 (OT)

Nigel Hayes scored 25 points and No. 6 Wisconsin shut out Michigan State in overtime Sunday to win the Big Ten Tournament for the first time in seven years. The top-seeded Badgers pulled themselves out of an 11-point hole in the second half, scoring 34 of the final 46 points to capture their third Big Ten title. They tied the score with 15 seconds left in regulation on two Bronson Koenig free throws, which came after Josh Gasser dove into the corner to save a ball from going out of bounds. Hayes and Koenig hit consecutive 3s to start overtime and scored all of the Badgers’ points in the extra five minutes. Michigan State went scoreless over the last 5:44 of the game after Travis Trice gave them a 69-67 lead late in regulation. The Spartans missed all six of their shots in overtime.

Final Score: (20) SMU 62, Connecticut 54

In front of a supportive crowd, reigning national-champion Connecticut made one last run in the second half, but No. 20 SMU almost certainly ended the Huskies’ hopes of returning to the NCAA Tournament. The Mustangs shot 25-of-31 from the free-throw line to put away UConn by a 62-54 score and win the American Athletic Conference Tournament. SMU (27-6) made just two shots from the field in the final 10 minutes but was able to hang on. Markus Kennedy scored 14 of his 15 points in the first half to lead the top-seeded Mustangs. Rodney Purvis scored a career-high 29 points, but it was not enough for the sixth-seeded Huskies (20-14). His teammates combined to shoot just 5-of-27.

Final Score: VCU 71, Dayton 65

When Briante Weber was lost for the season with a torn ACL, VCU’s future seemed grim. But after losing five of nine following the star point guard’s injury, VCU has found its stride. Treveon Graham had 20 points and 13 rebounds and with Weber in street clothes cheering them on from the sidelines, the Rams took down Dayton 71-65 on Sunday to claim the Atlantic 10 title. There were three ties in the final 3:10 before VCU pulled away. Graham darted in for a layup at 1:16 to make it 61-59 and out of a timeout, Doug Brooks intercepted a Scoochie Smith pass and fed JeQuan Lewis for another layup. The Rams shot 8-for-8 from the foul line in the final minute to seal the deal. After the final horn sounded, Weber broke down in tears at midcourt, surrounded by his teammates and head coach Shaka Smart, who was visibly emotional. Lewis netted 15 points and Terry Larrier and Mo Alie-Cox added 13 apiece for the Rams (26-9), who are heading to their fifth straight NCAA Tournament. Smith paced Dayton (25-8) with 16 points in a balanced effort. Jordan Sibert and Dyshawn Pierre each had 14 points, and Kendall Pollard scored 13.

Final Score: Georgia State 38, Georgia Southern 36

R.J. Hunter made two free throws with 21.6 seconds remaining to lift Georgia State to a 38-36 win over Georgia Southern in Sunday’s Sun Belt Conference Tournament championship game. Hunter, averaging 20.1 points per game, finished with nine in the low-scoring final. Kevin Ware was the only player to reach double figures in points, finishing with 18 for top-seeded Georgia State (24-9), which earned its third NCAA Tournament berth and first since 2001. The Panthers lost in overtime to Louisiana-Lafayette in last year’s title game. Trent Wiedeman and Jelani Hewitt each had eight points for the second-seeded Eagles (22-9), who were held to 22.9 percent shooting.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Sunday, March 15)

Final Score: Oklahoma City 109, Chicago 100

He was unable to record his ninth triple-double of the season, but Russell Westbrook still came up big for the Oklahoma City Thunder in a 109-100 win over the Chicago Bulls on Sunday. Westbrook scored 14 of his 36 points in the fourth quarter and added 11 rebounds and six assists as Oklahoma City moved to eight games above .500 for the first time this season. Enes Kanter led five other Thunder players in double figures with 18 points and 18 rebounds. Steven Adams contributed 14 points and 11 rebounds, and Dion Waiters, Anthony Morrow and D.J. Augustin each scored 11. Chicago lost for the fifth time in six games despite Nikola Mirotic’s 27 points. Pau Gasol scored 20, and Joakim Noah added 15 points and seven assists.

Final Score: Houston 100, LA Clippers 98

James Harden posted 34 points, seven rebounds and seven assists and the Houston Rockets held off the Los Angeles Clippers 100-98 on Sunday, picking up a crucial game in the standings in the process. Harden shot 17-for-18 from the foul line, with his lone miss coming in the closing seconds. He split a pair with 12 seconds left that could have made it a three-point game, but Chris Paul hit nothing but air with a baseline jumper at the horn. Terrence Jones gave 16 points and 12 rebounds, and Trevor Ariza scored 19 for the Rockets, who moved 2 1/2 games ahead of the Clippers for fourth in the Western Conference. Paul finished with 23 points, DeAndre Jordan grabbed 20 rebounds and Blake Griffin flirted with a triple-double in his return to the court, finishing with 11 points, 11 rebounds and eight assists. Griffin had missed the previous 15 games after undergoing surgery to remove a staph infection in his right elbow.

Final Score: Denver 118, New Orleans 111 (2-OT)

Will Barton scored 25 points, Kenneth Faried totaled 20 with 10 rebounds, and the Denver Nuggets outlasted the New Orleans Pelicans in double overtime 118-111 on Sunday. Ty Lawson and Jameer Nelson scored 19 and 18 points, respectively, for Denver, and Danilo Gallinari added 17, including a big 3-pointer in the second OT. The Nuggets have won four straight and improved to 6-2 under interim head coach Melvin Hunt. They withstood a superb performance from Anthony Davis, who flirted with a quadruple-double four days after turning 22. The All-Star center posted a line of 36 points, 14 rebounds, nine blocks and seven assists in a losing cause. Tyreke Evans also filled the box score with 25 points, 10 assists and nine rebounds for the Pelicans, who lost for just the third time in their last 12 games. They fell one game behind the Thunder for the eighth spot in the Western Conference playoff race.

Final Score: Cleveland 123, Orlando 108

Kyrie Irving scored 33 points on 15 shots, J.R. Smith added 25 points and LeBron James filled the stat sheet in the Cleveland Cavaliers’ 123-108 rout of the Orlando Magic. Irving followed up his career-high 57 points in a win over the Spurs with a performance that was nearly as impressive, finishing 12—of-15 from the floor and 5-for-6 from behind the arc on Sunday. Smith his six 3-pointers and James tallied 21 points, 13 assists and eight rebounds. James Jones added four triples for 12 points off the bench for the Cavaliers, who connected on a treys as a team. They also shot 59.2 percent from the floor. Kevin Love (rest) did not take part in the offensive onslaught. Orlando got 22 points and 15 rebounds from Nikola Vucevic and 25 points from Victor Oladipo in its fourth straight loss. Elfrid Payton went for 13 points, 10 assists and nine boards.

Final Score: San Antonio 123, Minnesota 97

Eight Spurs scored in double figures and a ninth was one point away as San Antonio cruised to a 123-97 victory over the overmatched Minnesota Timberwolves on Sunday. Kawhi Leonard’s 15 points led the balanced scoring attack, and Tony Parker added 11 points with eight assists and no turnovers for the Spurs, who bounced back from Thursday’s overtime loss to Cleveland. There was some bad news in the rout, as Manu Ginobili (right ankle sprain) and Aron Baynes (rib contusion) both exited early. Ginobili scored 11 points. The Timberwolves, who have dropped four in a row and eight of their last nine, were without Nikola Pekovic, Ricky Rubio, Gary Neal and Kevin Garnett. Kevin Martin and Zach LaVine paced the squad with 19 and 18 points, respectively.

Final Score: Portland 113, Toronto 97

LaMarcus Aldridge had 24 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as the Portland Trail Blazers defeated the Toronto Raptors 113-97 on Sunday night. Damian Lillard netted 23 points and Nicolas Batum added 10 points and 12 assists for the Blazers, who have won eight of their last nine games. Sunday was the start of a tough five-game road trip for Portland. The Blazers will also visit the Washington Wizards, Miami Heat, Orlando Magic and Memphis Grizzlies on this sojourn. DeMar DeRozan posted 22 points and eight boards, while Jonas Valanciunas supplied 14 points and nine rebounds for Toronto, which has dropped 10 of its last 12 games.

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►  Diamondbacks release OF Francisco

The Arizona Diamondbacks announced they released veteran outfielder Ben Francisco on Sunday.

Francisco, 33, signed a minor league contract with Arizona in December. In six spring training appearances, Francisco batted 1-for-9.

The seven-year big league veteran owns a .253 batting average and .323 on-base percentage with 50 home runs in 563 career games for the Indians, Phillies, Blue Jays, Astros, Rays and Yankees.

Francisco spent the 2014 season with Lancaster in the independent Atlantic League and batted .242

►  Mets’ Edgin to have Tommy John surgery

New York Mets reliever Josh Edgin will undergo Tommy John surgery and will miss the 2015 season.

Edgin was likely going to be the Mets’ only left-handed reliever entering the season. He underwent tests earlier this week, revealing a damaged ligament in the elbow.

The 28-year-old was quoted on the Mets’ website as saying it was the “best decision for my future.“

Edgin appeared in a career-high 47 games last year and posted a record of 1-0 with a 1.32 ERA, fanning 28 in 27 1/3 innings. He has a mark of 3-3 with a 3.20 ERA in 115 games out of the bullpen over the last three seasons.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Sunday, March 15)

Final Score: Detroit 5, Pittsburgh 1

Teemu Pulkkinen scored twice to lead the Detroit Red Wings in a 5-1 victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Sunday. Marek Zidlicky posted a goal and two assists, while Riley Sheahan and Henrik Zetterberg also scored once and added a helper for the Red Wings, who were coming off a 7-2 loss at the hands of the Flyers on Saturday. Petr Mrazek allowed just one goal on 43 shots for Detroit, which had dropped four of five coming in. David Perron had the only goal for the Penguins, who have lost three of their last four. Marc-Andre Fleury was pulled in the second period after allowing four goals on 16 shots, while Thomas Greiss stopped 8-of-9 shots in relief. Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin missed the game because of a lower-body injury suffered in Saturday’s game against Boston, but the team did get back Sidney Crosby, who sat out Saturday’s game due to illness.

Final Score: Carolina 3, Columbus 2

Brad Malone notched the game-winner in the second period as the Carolina Hurricanes edged the Columbus Blue Jackets, 3-2, on Sunday. Justin Faulk and Ron Hainsey also scored, while Andrej Nestrasil had two assists for the Hurricanes, who snapped a three-game losing streak. Anton Khudobin turned aside 22 shots in the win. Scott Hartnell and Nick Foligno each had a goal for the Blue Jackets, who had a three-game winning streak broken. Sergei Bobrovsky allowed all three goals on 27 shots.

Final Score: NY Rangers 2, Florida 1

Cam Talbot made 38 saves and the New York Rangers earned a 2-1 win over the Florida Panthers on Sunday at Madison Square Garden. James Sheppard got his first goal since joining the Rangers on March 1 in a trade with San Jose, and Matt Hunwick potted his first goal of the season as New York won its fifth straight game. The Rangers lead the Metropolitan Division by five points over the rival New York Islanders. Brandon Pirri scored in the third period and Dan Ellis stopped 32 shots for the Panthers, who were seeking a season-high fourth straight win. They remain six points behind Washington and Boston in the race for the Eastern Conference’s two wild-card spots.

Final Score: St. Louis 3, Dallas 0

Jake Allen made 28 saves for his fourth shutout of the season and the St. Louis Blues beat the Dallas Stars 3-0 on Sunday to open a key six-game road trip. Vladimir Tarasenko broke a scoreless tie 4:26 into the third period and Alexander Steen added a power-play goal later on as the Blues won for the fourth time in five games. Allen made nine saves in the first period, seven in the second and turned aside 12 shots in the third for his fifth career shutout. Dallas goaltender Kari Lehtonen had 12 saves over the first two periods, then gave up two goals on eight shots in the third.

Final Score: Ottawa 2, Philadelphia 1 (SO)

Andrew Hammond made 27 saves and stopped all three shootout attempts to lead the Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Flyers on Sunday. Bobby Ryan beat Ray Emery to begin the third round of the shootout, and Hammond secured the extra point by stopping Claude Giroux. The rookie goaltender has allowed two or fewer goals in each of his first 11 career NHL starts, going 10-0-1 and helping the Senators get within five points of a playoff spot. Ottawa, 13-2-2 in its last 17 games, nearly scored at the end of regulation as Milan Michalek rang a shot off the post. Emery also finished with 27 saves for a Flyers team that has dropped six straight on the road (0-3-3). They have lost five of six overall.

Final Score: Washington 2, Boston 0

Braden Holtby made 32 saves for his eighth shutout of the season and the Washington Capitals beat the red-hot Boston Bruins 2-0 on Sunday to finish a five-game homestand. John Carlson and Nate Schmidt scored for the Capitals, who snapped a two-game losing streak to finish 2-3-0 on their homestand and take sole possession of seventh place in the Eastern Conference over Boston. Holtby made 14 saves in the second period and had nine apiece in the first and third to pick up his 19th career shutout. Nicklas Backstrom had two assists to break a tie with Alex Ovechkin and Michal Pivonka for first place on the Capitals’ all-time list with 420. Ovechkin took a Torey Krug slap shot to the midsection in the second period and left the ice, but re-entered the game later. Tuukka Rask gave up two goals on 38 shots for the Bruins, whose five-game winning streak and eight-game points streak (7-0-1) was stopped.

Final Score: Anaheim 4, Nashville 2

John Gibson made 25 saves and the Anaheim Ducks scored four goals in the third period for a 4-2 win over the Nashville Predators on Sunday. The goals by Ryan Getzlaf, Kyle Palmieri, Nate Thompson and Cam Fowler helped the Ducks take sole possession of first place in the Western Conference over Nashville and tie the New York Rangers for the NHL points lead with 95. The Pacific Division leaders have won two in a row on the heels of a three-game losing streak and swept the three-game season series with Nashville. Taylor Beck and Roman Josi both scored in the second period and Pekka Rinne had 24 saves for the Predators, who have lost eight of their last 10 (2-8-0).

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Serena cruises in 3rd round at Indian Wells

Top-seeded Serena Williams cruised in the third round of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.

Williams lost just two games, defeating No. 28 seed Zarina Diyas 6-2, 6-0 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

In other action featuring a top-five seeded player, third-seeded Simona Halep topped No. 26 seed Varvara Lepchenko.

Heather Watson upset seventh-seeded Agniezska Radwanska 6-4, 6-4 and No. 27 seed Timea Bacsinszky surprised eighth-seeded Ekaterina Makarova 3-6, 7-5, 6-4. No. 23 seed Elina Svitolina took down 10th-seeded Lucie Safarova 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 and Sloane Stephens defeated 22nd-seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova 7-6 (7-4), 1-6, 6-4.

Other winners included 12th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro and No. 14 seed Karolina Pliskova.

The 2015 titlist will earn $900,400.

►  Federer, Nadal win Indian Wells openers

Four-time champion Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal were both winners in second round action of the BNP Paribas Open on Sunday.

Federer fired eight aces against Argentine Diego Schwartzman and didn’t face a break point in the 63-minute match, winning by a 6-4, 6-2 final. The second- seeded Swiss star lost to Novak Djokovic in last year’s final at Indian Wells.

Nadal, who has won this event three times, cruised past Igor Sijsling, 6-4, 6-2 on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Sixth-seeded Canadian Milos Raonic defeated Italian Simone Bolelli 6-3, 6-4 to reach the third round, while Robin Haase of the Netherlands stunned seventh- seeded Swiss Stan Wawrinka 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

Other seeded winners included: Tomas Berdych (9), Grigor Dimitrov (11), Gilles Simon (13), Roberto Bautista Agut (15) and Tommy Robredo (17), Lukas Rosol (27) and Andreas Seppi (31).

Ukrainian Alexandr Dolgopolov, who reached the semifinals last year, topped 29th-seeded Colombian Santiago Giraldo 6-1, 7-6 (7-4).

Americans Steve Johnson, Donald Young and Jack Sock were also among the winners. Johnson upended 21st-seeded Ivo Karlovic (21), 6-3, 7-6 (7-5), Young beat 31st-seeded Frenchman Jeremy Chardy 6-4, 6-2, and Sock rallied for a 3-6, 6-3, 7-6 (9-7) win over Luxembourg’s Gilles Muller.

German qualifier Michael Berrer moved on when 22nd-seeded Frenchman Richard Gasquet retired trailing 3-1 in the third set.

►  Sharapova moves on at Indian Wells

Second-seeded Maria Sharapova defeated Yanina Wickmayer 6-1, 7-5 in the second round at the BNP Paribas Open on Saturday.

Fourth-seeded Caroline Wozniacki downed Ons Jabeur 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 and fifth- seeded Ana Ivanovic of Serbia cruised past Yulia Putintseva 6-3, 6-1 at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Canadian Genie Bouchard made easy work ofLucie Hradecka 6-2, 6-2, but No. 9 Andrea Petkovic fell to Lesia Tsurenko 3-6, 6-4, 4-6.

Sara Errani, the 11th seed, defeated Lin Zhu 6-0, 4-6, 6-2, Flavia Pennetta, the No. 15 seed, got past Madison Brengle 6-4, 6-2, and 16th-seeded Madison Keys beat Klara Koukalova, 6-3, 6-2.

Other winners included 18th-seeded Jelena Jankovic, 20th-seeded Alize Cornet and 21st-seeded Samantha Stosur, who dispatched American Taylor Townsend 6-4, 6-2.

Sabine Lisicki dropped Roberta Vinci 6-1, 5-7, 6-4, while 25th-seeded Carolina Garcia battled past Polona Hercog 6-4, 6-7 (5-7), 6-4.

Coco Vandeweghe, Belinda Bencic and Victoria Azarenka closed out the victors for Saturday.

The 2015 titlist will earn $900,400.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  American Pharoah comes out of Rebel win ready to run

Champion colt American Pharoah is in great shape following his Saturday victory in Oaklawn Park’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes.

Owned by Zayat Stables and trained by Bob Baffert, American Pharoah used a front running trip to register a 6 1/4-length win in the Rebel for his first start of the year.

“This horse, he does things effortlessly,“ Baffert said. “It wasn’t really taxing on him. It turned out all right. He didn’t have to go too fast early. I thought he ran great.“

The 3-year-old is scheduled to return to Santa Anita on Monday. The $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11 is a possible start before the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

“We’ll see how he is when he gets back (from Arkansas),“ Baffert said en route to the OBS Sale in Florida. “We’ll see how he’s doing. We’ve got lots of options.“

Also reported doing fine Sunday was champion filly Untapable even though she lost the Azeri at Oaklawn to Gold Medal Dancer. Untapable, the 1-10 favorite, lost by a half-length.

Trainer Steve Asmussen said Untapable will start next in either the $600,000 Apple Blossom Handicap on April 10 at Oaklawn or in a stakes race at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks/Derby Day.

Trainer Donnie Von Hemel said Gold Medal Dancer will be pointed for the Apple Blossom.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Daytona to add SAFER barrier to wall hit by Kyle Busch

Daytona International Speedway will install energy-absorbing SAFER barriers to the concrete wall that Kyle Busch hit last month before NASCAR returns in July.

Busch broke his right leg and left foot February 20 when he crashed into a retaining wall that lacked a SAFER barrier.

Daytona president Joie Chitwood said Wednesday the track completed an extensive safety review after Busch’s accident and will make numerous changes before the race in July.

The track also will install SAFER barrier on the outside backstretch wall.

Among the other changes:

— An additional 20,000 square feet of asphalt will be added in Turn 1.

— A portion of the inside retaining wall from infield road course exit to Turn 1 will be realigned, and SAFER barrier will be added to the realigned wall and existing wall.

— SAFER barrier will be installed on the retaining wall at pit road exit.

— SAFER barrier will be installed between the exit of Turn 4 to pit road entry.

►  F1 champ Hamilton wins season-opening Australian GP

Lewis Hamilton from Mercedes launched his Formula One title defense with a solid performance in Sunday’s Australian Grand Prix.

Hamilton, who claimed his second F1 world championship in 2014, led from start to finish in this 58-lap race at Albert Park Circuit. He crossed the finish line 1.36 seconds ahead of his teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg, who won this event one year ago.

It was the 34th career win for Hamilton in F1, including his first in the Australian GP. In last year’s race here, he started on pole but completed only two laps before retiring due to engine failure.

During the post-race podium ceremony, Hamilton was delighted to see Hollywood icon and former California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who did the podium interviews.

“My team did an amazing job today, and it’s an incredible feeling to continue on from last year, but also to be up here with you, man. I thought you would be taller,“ Hamilton said to Schwarzenegger.

Mercedes dominated the ‘14 season, with Hamilton winning 11 grand prix and Rosberg five of them. The team claimed its first constructors’ championship. Rosberg finished the season 67 points behind Hamilton.

“It’s a nice feeling to be second today, and it’s an awesome start,“ Rosberg said. “Lewis did a fantastic job this weekend and drove like a world champion. I couldn’t quite beat him, but for sure I was trying every single lap all the way to the maximum, and I will be all year. I’ll give him a big run for his money.“

Sebastian Vettel, the four-time world champion, finished third in his first grand prix with Ferrari. Vettel crossed the line a distant 34.5 seconds behind Hamilton.

“It was a great start to the season for us,“ Vettel said. “We had a very good winter, and the team has worked phenomenally hard. I’m very proud ... There is a lot of work ahead of us, trying to beat these two (Hamilton and Rosberg) and beat Mercedes, but I’m sure we will.“

Felipe Massa from Williams placed fourth, while Felipe Nasr drove his Sauber to a fifth-place finish in his F1 debut.

Australian Daniel Ricciardo from Red Bull finished one lap behind in sixth in his home race.

Also finishing a lap down were: Nico Hulkenberg (Force India), Marcus Ericsson (Sauber), Carlos Sainz (making F1 debut with Toro Rosso) and Sergio Perez (Force India), placing seventh through 10th, respectively.

Jenson Button from McLaren finished 11th, two laps behind.

Just 15 drivers started this event, and only 11 of them finished it. Daniil Kvyat, making his debut with Red Bull, and Kevin Magnussen, who drove a McLaren in place of the injured Fernando Alonso, did not start after both drivers suffered engine failure during their pre-race warm-up laps. Earlier in the day, F1’s governing body, the FIA, determined that Valtteri Bottas from Williams was unfit to drive after suffering a back injury during Saturday’s qualifying.

Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens from the Manor Marussia team did not participate in qualifying as well as any one of the three practice sessions, therefore excluding them from the grid.

Pastor Maldonado spun out and crashed his Lotus into the barrier in turn 2 on the opening lap when he was bumped around in a tight pack of cars. It forced the deployment of the safety car for three laps.

Romain Grosjean, who is Maldonado’s teammate, also retired on the first lap when he experienced a mechanical problem.

Max Verstappen from Toro Rosso and Ferrari’s Kimi Raikkonen were forced to retire during the mid-stages. Verstappen, who became the youngest driver ever to start a F1 grand prix at age 17 years, 166 days, pulled off track on lap 35 when his car started smoking.

“I’m disappointed,“ Verstappen said. “I could see some smoke in the car, so I said to the (team) that something is not right, and they told me to stop the car.“

Raikkonen had to pull over as well on lap 42 when his left-rear tire was not properly attached during a pit stop.

►  Harvick makes it 4 straight wins at Phoenix with a rout

Kevin Harvick is redefining dominance at NASCAR’s highest level.

The defending NASCAR champion won his fourth consecutive race at Phoenix International Raceway on Sunday with yet another rout of the field. The 42 other drivers knew this was Harvick’s race to win, and he made it look easy.

He led more than 200 laps for the third straight time at Phoenix, where he has won five of the last six races and a record seven overall.

More important, he continued a streak of dominance that dates to last season. He has seven consecutive top-two finishes and has won four of the last seven races, which includes the final two of last year’s championship season.

He opened this season with two runner-up finishes, then won last week at Las Vegas and now Phoenix.

The last driver to open a season with four finishes of second or better? Hall of Famer Richard Petty in 1974.

“Man these things are incredible and they are just fun to drive,” Harvick said about his Rodney Childers-built No. 4 Chevrolet.

“It’s scary how well we get along with each other. I don’t want to talk about it sometimes so I don’t jinx it.”

Harvick now heads to California looking to sweep NASCAR’s three-race West Coast swing. It’s not out of the question, particularly with how well he’s running. But Harvick won at Auto Club Speedway in 2011, and has been among the best drivers there since 2009.

Two late cautions forced Harvick to sweat a little bit, as he twice had to hold off Jamie McMurray on restarts to preserve his victory.

He cleared McMurray on the final restart with 12 laps remaining and beat the Chip Ganassi Racing driver by 1.154 seconds.

Ryan Newman was third and followed by Kasey Kahne and Kurt Busch as Chevrolet drivers took the top five spots.

It was a strong run for Busch, who was making his season debut following a NASCAR suspension that lasted the first three races. He was sidelined for an alleged domestic assault on an ex-girlfriend, but reinstated this week and promptly returned to Stewart-Haas Racing’s No. 41 Chevrolet.

“I’ve got a strong team, and personally, it’s great to get back to them,” Busch said. “The way we raced today was with heart.”

It wasn’t a perfect day for SHR, though.

Team co-owner Tony Stewart, in desperate need of a good finish, crashed out of his third race of the season. He wound up 39th and has not finished higher than 30th this season.

He had been much improved, though, and had steadily picked his way through the field — at times showing his fiery side by nudging both Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and Austin Dillon out of his way — and into the top 10. But he spun while racing Justin Allgaier, had to go to pit road for repairs, and lost three laps before he got back on the track.

Stewart later slammed hard into the outside wall to bring out the first of two late cautions.

Stewart is 36th in the Sprint Cup Standings, seven points behind teammate Busch, who missed three races.

Busch, who needs to be 30th or better in the points and win a race to make NASCAR’s championship field, is 33rd in the standings after one race. But, he’s only 17 points out of 30th.

►  Schumacher Racing sweeps top NHRA series at Gatornationals

Don Schumacher stood directly between his Top Fuel dragsters for the final race Sunday, trying not to show any favoritism.

He was in the ultimate no-lose situation.

It also was the first time in months Schumacher really was able to mentally leave his cancer behind.

Don Schumacher Racing swept the top two NHRA divisions at the Gatornationals, giving the car owner the perfect welcome back gift following cancer treatment.

“This was really a refreshing move for me to get back involved, not only in this but back in life,” Schumacher said. “I’ve been slashed and burned, and you just kind of deal with it from there. It’s a barbaric way of treating a disease, but that’s the best thing we have at this point.”

Spencer Massey won the Top Fuel division, edging DSR teammate Tony Schumacher in the final by covering the 1,000-foot track in 3.882 seconds and reaching 320.74 mph. Ron Capps won the Funny Car division by beating surprising finalist John Hale, the No. 15 qualifier. Capps covered the distance in 4.115 seconds and hit 311.05 mph.

“We won a lot of really special trophies,” Capps said. “This, having Don here, it was lot of incentive to get this win.”

Greg Anderson got the victory in Pro Stock, ending a 59-race drought with a 6.538-second run against Summit Racing teammate Jason Line. Anderson missed the first five events last season after undergoing heart surgery. Karen Stoffer won the Pro Stock Motorcycle division, the 198th victory by a woman in NHRA history. With one motorcycle and one engine, Stoffer’s winning run against Eddie Krawiec took 6.9 seconds and reached 195.11 mph.

But most of the post-race conversation was about Schumacher, a member of the International Motorsports Hall of Fame who was one of the Funny Car pioneers. Schumacher has 13 NHRA championships and 245 event titles.

It was the 43rd Schumacher sweep of the NHRA’s top two series, including his second this season. His son, Tony, and fellow DSR driver Matt Hagan won at Phoenix last month.

Don Schumacher missed that one after a serious health scare.

Schumacher went in for his annual physical in late November. Doctors discovered Stage 1 cancer in his tongue and neck. Schumacher had surgery a few days later that included the removal of a lymph node and then endured 31 radiation treatments, which ended Feb. 20.

Schumacher missed the season’s first two races, Pomona and Phoenix, but was feeling good enough to travel to Gainesville.

And boy was it a worthwhile trip.

“Better every day,” Schumacher said. “Having cancer is a long-term battle and a long-term fight for anybody who has ever had it. It’s fighting every day. I’m recovering. Things are good, it’s going along. I’m looking to just continue on and do what I do.

“Coming out here this weekend, first time I’ve been out and about, this was really a refreshing move for me to come out and get back involved. Not only this, but back involved in life. It’s really important for all of us to do that.”

Schumacher said he is cancer-free now after a “humbling” experience and looking forward to retaking control of his businesses. He stepped aside in November, not wanting to make any decisions that would affect his 2,200 employees while on pain medication.

His drivers welcomed his return.

“I want you to be at every race forever and ever,” Massey told Schumacher. “This is just amazing.”

Although three DSR entries and four of the top contenders reached the Top Fuel semifinals, the elimination rounds were filled with upsets — some stranger than others.

All three John Force Racing entries in Funny Car — Robert Hight, John Force and Courtney Force— exited in the first round. No. 1 qualifier Cruz Pedregon lost in the second round.

And Matt Hagan lost for the first time since Nov. 2. He won the 2014 season finale and the first two races of this season.

Hagan was one of two defending series champs to get booted early. Pro Stock’s Erica Enders-Stevens got sent home in the first round.

Of all the upsets, though, Matt Smith’s had to be weirdest.

The Pro Stock Bike racer and No. 1 seed got to the starting line, cranked his engine and then saw pieces of a red shop towel spew out the exhaust. The two-time series champion, who was racing his teammate and wife, Angie, was angered by the error once he realized something in the engine was amiss.

He jumped off the bike and stormed away, leaving Angie to get an easy victory.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Kovalev retains belts in TKO of Pascal

Sergey Kovalev retained a trio of belts with a technical knockout of Jean Pascal on Saturday night.

Kovalev (27-0-1) stopped Pascal in the eighth round to retain the WBA Super World Light Heavyweight title, the IBF World Light Heavyweight crown and the WBO World Light Heavyweight belt.

Kovalev is coming off a 12-round unanimous decision over Bernard Hopkins in Atlantic City.

Pascal (29-3-1), who lost to Hopkins in 2011, was coming off a no contest against Roberto Feliciano Bolonti. He previously defeated Lucian Bute to win the vacant WBC Diamond light heavyweight title.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Gordon leaves it late as Galaxy draw Timbers

Alan Gordon scored at the death to rescue a point for the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday as the defending champions claimed a 2-2 draw against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park.

After failing to break down a stout Real Salt Lake defense in their season opener last week which ended in a scoreless draw, Caleb Porter’s Timbers returned home hoping to take their first three points of the season.

Things started well for the home-standing Timbers as the team took a direct approach to attacking early on which seemed to catch the Galaxy off guard a bit.

But it was a well-executed counter-attack by the Timbers that led to the first goal just past the half-hour mark as new goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey rolled the ball short to Darlington Nagbe. Nagbe flicked it to an on-rushing Rodney Wallace, who got free down the left flank before feeding it through to Fanendo Adi.

Adi took a quick touch and drove it with pace into the top right corner, leaving Galaxy goalkeeper Brian Rowe with no chance for a save.

Los Angeles adjusted to Portland’s approach in the second half and found an equalizer 25 minutes from time when Jose Villarreal served a great ball into the box from the left flank where Gyasi Zardes nodded it home at the near post.

It looked as if the Timbers were set to claim all three points when Adi fired home his second of the day off a feed from Nagbe, but in the second minute of added time, Gordon came through with a looping header off a corner kick from Stefan Ishizaki that found its way past Kwarasey, forcing the sides to share the spoils.

►  NYCFC knocks off Revs at Yankee Stadium for first win

New York City FC got the home portion of their inaugural season off to a flying start on Sunday goals from David Villa and Patrick Mullins handed NYCFC a 2-0 win over the New England Revolution at Yankee Stadium.

Two days after witnessing their expansion counterparts, Orlando City SC, claim their first win in MLS, NYCFC followed suit, as Villa’s 19th-minute goal and Mullins’ 84th-minute strike gave the club its first ever three-point effort, and sent the 43,000-plus fans home from Yankee Stadium thrilled.

The home side had the better of the play early on as both clubs worked to get used to a small pitch at the stadium. NYC’s first great chance came in the sixth minute as Slovakian international Adam Nemec slipped through the defense and put a good effort on frame, but Revolution goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth came up with a nice save.

Villa had a quality chance in the 17th minute, but the ball got caught in his feet which allowed Shuttleworth to make the save.

But just two minutes later, Villa etched his name into the NYCFC history books when he was played through by a nice ball from Ned Grabavoy and slotted it into the top right corner for the club’s first goal on home soil.

New England had several chances to find an equalizer in the opening 45 minutes, but failed to capitalize on them and went into the break down a goal.

NYC seized control of the play in the second half, with Villa firing several quality chances in Shuttleworth’s direction.

NYC head coach Jason Kreis sent rookie Khiry Shelton onto the field as a substitute in the 66th minute and he immediately changed the game when he got free in on goal and was pulled down by Revs defender Jose Goncalves, resulting in a straight red card from referee Mark Geiger.

Villa lined up the ensuing free kick at the top of the box and whipped it in with plenty of pace, but Shuttleworth did well to get fingertips to it and knock it over the crossbar.

NYC doubled its lead six minutes from time when Villa broke free down the left flank and played it across for Mullins, who smashed it home against his former team with his first touch.

The fourth official’s board showed three minutes of added time, which Kreis’ team was able to see out with ease to claim their first-ever win.

►  ‘Quakes hold on to edge Sounders

Chris Wondolowski recorded a brace and Innocent Emeghara tacked on a third as the San Jose Earthquakes rallied for a 3-2 win over Seattle Sounders FC at CenturyLink Field on Saturday.

Clint Dempsey opened the scoring just 20 seconds into the match, pouncing on a rebound conceded by David Bingham off of a shot from Tyrone Mears and turning the loose ball into the back of the net from close range.

San Jose, though, answered in the 13th minute when Wondolowski settled a cross from Marvell Wynne and placed a low shot past Stefan Frei.

Wondolowski put the ‘Quakes in front in just the third minute of the second half, scooping up a failed backpass from Brad Evans and hammering a powerful shot past Frei at the near post.

San Jose was reduced to 10 men just four minutes later when Victor Bernardez was issued a red card for a brutal kick directed at Michael Azira, but Emeghara extended the club’s lead in the 70th minute, working a neat one-two with Adam Jahn before curling a right-footed effort past Frei.

Obafemi Martins pulled one back for the Sounders six minutes from time, but the hosts were unable to conjure an equalizer, making the Nigerian’s strike merely a consolation goal.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  PSV edges Groningen to stay 11 points clear

PSV Eindhoven maintained its 11- point lead atop the Eredivisie on Sunday as Nicolas Isimat Marin scored in the 66th minute to hand his side a 2-1 home victory over Groningen.

Georginio Wijnaldum’s goal after 11 minutes put PSV in front, but after Luuk de Jong failed to convert from the penalty spot midway through the opening half, Groningen equalized through Eric Botteghin just before the break.

Marin then popped up with the winner in the 66th minute to keep his side 11 points clear of second-place Ajax.

Wijnaldum got things started in the 11th minute when he played a one-two with De Jong and curled a shot into the bottom corner of the net after taking the return pass.

De Jong won a penalty kick in the 27th and had the chance to double his team’s lead from the spot, but his effort was weakly struck and easily parried by goalkeeper Sergio Padt.

Botteghin headed home the equalizer from a corner kick a few minutes before the break, and Groningen started well in the second half but was unable to capitalize.

Marin then hooked a shot into the corner of the net in the 66th to restore PSV’s advantage, while the hosts had a handful of chances to add to their lead over the final 20 minutes as De Jong, Wijnaldum and Memphis Depay each had good looks at goal.

Ajax kept pace with the leaders as Arkadiusz Milik scored twice in a 4-1 win for the Amsterdam outfit at Heerenveen.

Second-half goals from Denni Avdic and Iiass Bel Hassani propelled Heracles to a 3-1 win over Den Haag and Feyenoord escaped Dordrecht with a 2-1 win thanks to a stoppage-time winner from Anass Achahbar.

►  United stifles Spurs

Manchester United turned in one of its best performances of the season on Sunday as the club notched a 3-0 win over Tottenham at Old Trafford.

Louis van Gaal’s men have failed to hit top gear very often this season, but the team took firm control of the match with goals from Marouane Fellaini and Michael Carrick in the opening 20 minutes.

Wayne Rooney then made the most of a mistake by the Tottenham defense to make it 3-0 in the 34th, and United coasted home with little trouble from there, moving the side five points clear of fifth-place Liverpool, which travels to Swansea City on Monday.

United came out with purpose and Carrick cut the Tottenham defense open with a through ball into the area on the left that Fellaini tracked down and drove past goalkeeper Hugo Lloris with a first-time shot.

Both players had a hand in United’s second goal as well when Fellaini’s headed effort from a corner kick was blocked. The ball was only cleared as far as Carrick inside the area, and he nodded a well-placed effort inside the right post from 10 yards.

Tottenham was clearly far from its best, and things got worse in the 34th when a giveaway in the defensive third allowed Rooney to carry the ball past two defenders before beating Lloris with a low shot inside the left post.

Spurs offered little going forward, making it an easy evening for United goalkeeper David De Gea, whose only real action in the match came in the final minutes on a close-range shot from Harry Kane.

Chelsea moved six points clear of second-place Manchester City after a 1-1 draw at home against Southampton.

Diego Costa scored after 11 minutes to put the Blues in front, but Southampton equalized from the penalty spot in the 19th courtesy of Dusan Tadic.

Sunday’s other match saw Everton secure a much-needed 3-0 win against Newcastle with goals from James McCarthy and Romelu Lukaku before a late third goal through Ross Barkley.

►  Wolfsburg coasts past Freiburg

Wolfsburg stayed within 11 points of Bundesliga leaders Bayern Munich on Sunday as the club secured a 3-0 home triumph over second-from-the-bottom Freiburg.

The visitors put up a spirited fight in defeat despite falling behind in the 19th minute to a goal from Kevin De Bruyne.

Wolfsburg remained just one goal up until the final 12 minutes when a penalty kick from Ricardo Rodriguez doubled the lead, while Maximilian Arnold added a late goal to cap the scoring for the home side.

De Bruyne handed Wolfsburg a good start by scoring inside the first 20 minutes as he found space at the top of the penalty area and lashed a shot into the bottom left corner of the net.

Bas Dost missed a pair of chances to extend Wolfsburg’s lead, but Freiburg threatened as well and Wolfsburg goalkeeper Diego Benaglio was called upon to make quality saves on Christian Gunter and Marc Torrejon.

But Wolfsburg got a bit of breathing room 12 minutes from time as Roman Burki was called for bringing down De Bruyne inside the box, which allowed Rodriguez to score from the spot.

De Bruyne capped a strong outing by setting up Arnold with a close-range finish at the far post with the result keeping Freiburg three points from safety.

In Sunday’s other fixture, Monchengladbach regained third place in the league table with a 2-0 win over Hannover as Patrick Herrmann scored a goal in each half.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Redskins stick with plan

Many wondered exactly what the McCloughan Way would look like, and now that the Washington Redskins have been through an under-the-radar week of free agency, there is some clarity.

When he addressed the media for the first time as Washington’s general manager in January, Scot McCloughan clearly communicated his philosophy on the right way to build a roster.

He said the Redskins would rely on the draft, much as the Packers, 49ers and Seahawks did during his front-office stints with those teams, because “you draft and mold your own and re-sign your own.” But, he added, “free agency is still there to be used to make a roster stronger, too.”

It sounded like a change in direction for the Redskins. But no one really knew whether Daniel Snyder and Bruce Allen had truly turned over the keys to McCloughan. Would the owner and his trusted executive find it impossible to stay out of the way? Would they orchestrate blockbuster moves once free agency rolled around?

Well, the busiest days of the free agent shopping period have come and gone, and everything that played out followed the model outlined by McCloughan.

The Redskins needed an upgrade on the defensive line, but they didn’t join the bidding war for Ndamukong Suh, whom the Dolphins awarded a record $114 million contract with $60 million guaranteed.

Washington needed safeties. But the team didn’t go after Devin McCourty, whom the Patriots gave a five-year, $47 million deal with $28 million guaranteed.

Instead of making another run at the offseason Super Bowl, the Redskins maintained a low profile.

Washington signed precisely one player on Day 1 of free agency, which officially began Tuesday: fifth-year defensive lineman Stephan Paea, who recorded six sacks last season for the Chicago Bears and should improve the interior pass rush. The Redskins on Thursday agreed to a one-year deal with another defensive lineman, run-stuffer Terrance Knighton from Denver. And Friday morning, they signed San Francisco cornerback Chris Culliver to a four-year deal that features $16 million in guaranteed money.

Meanwhile, free agent safeties Rahim Moore, Antrel Rolle, Marcus Gilchrist, Nate Allen, Tyvon Branch, Da’Norris Searcy and Mike Adams all came off the market. The Redskins made inquiries about some of those players. They even hosted Branch, and had advanced discussions with Rolle. But they ultimately resisted the urge to exceed the value McCloughan and VP of football administration Eric Schaffer had determined for any of them.

They weren’t going to make significant investments for Branch, who has played five games in the past two years, or Rolle, who is on the wrong side of 30.

The right tackle market dried up as well. Washington pursued Houston’s Derek Newton, but bowed out of the bidding rather than try to top the Texans. Doug Free, Bryan Bulaga, Jermey Parnell and others also went off the market.

There has been no panic inside Redskins Park. McCloughan and his new staff formulated their plan back in January, and they stuck to it.

After the Senior Bowl, the new GM and Washington’s talent evaluators — Scott Campbell, Alex Santos, Doug Williams and the rest of the pro scouts — met to evaluate potential free agents. They ranked players at every position, and selected those who fit their criteria — young players, ages 25 to 28, who also fit well into their systems. From there, they trimmed the lists to the top dozen at each spot and presented those lists of players to the coaches.

This approach differed from previous years. Usually, Redskins scouts would give a list of all free agents to coaches, who would help make selections. McCloughan believed a streamlined list would benefit everyone.

The negotiation window opened March 7, and Schaffer sprang into action, contacting agents, gauging their demands and beginning serious negotiations with players that the team had determined to be of good value while also meeting the criteria of what a Redskins player in this new era should be.

Washington emerged from the first week of free agency with Paea and Knighton, whom they think along with February signing Ricky Jean Francois and holdover Jason Hatcher will help dramatically improve their defensive line, and Culliver, whom they viewed as one of the top young corners on the market.

This remainder of the offseason will likely feature a handful of other signings, but only at the right price, and only for the right type of player.

The Redskins on Sunday and Monday will host Seattle backup safety Jeron Johnson, one of McCloughan’s signings in Seattle. Johnson is hardly a household name. But Redskins fans should get used to that.

The quick-fix days of signing other team’s stars have ended. The Band-Aid deals with long-in-the-tooth veterans are no more. McCloughan also abhors shipping off draft picks for well-worn veterans, as Washington did with Donovan McNabb and Jammal Brown.

McCloughan will hang on to every last draft pick and try to get more if he can. Those picks — regardless of how late the round — are gold to him. His past late-round gems include Richard Sherman (fifth), Kam Chancellor (fifth) and Byron Maxwell (sixth).

The Redskins still need help at safety, linebacker and the offensive line. Those positions may have to be addressed in the draft, and that’s okay with McCloughan.

It’s important to keep in mind that he does not see the Redskins as a quick-fix project. The team has taken such a scatter-shot approach to the draft for so many years, and taken so many flyers on free agents, that the foundation is weak. The only way to build a team for long-term stability, in McCloughan’s view, is to go piece by piece, year by year.

Remember his words, “See in Washington, we’re going to draft these guys. We’re going to draft them and mold them as Redskins. We’re not going to have to go out to other organizations and bring in 32-, 33-year-olds who have different plans.”

McCloughan has his plan and thus far, Snyder and Allen have let him stick to it. Up next, the draft, the step that carries even more importance in McCloughan’s mind.

►  Wild opening week for NFL business season

Maybe everyone should have known from the way the Super Bowl ended that the beginning of the NFL’s business season would be wild.

Chip Kelly made one stunning move after another. The normally free-spending Cowboys let DeMarco Murray, the league’s top offensive player, walk — to Kelly and division rival Philadelphia.

Three players retired in their primes. The Colts loaded up on veterans, a clear message they believe 2015 is their year to make super things happen.

Then the Jets brought back the two key players from their outstanding secondary under Rex Ryan. But wait, Ryan is now in Buffalo, remaking the Bills’ roster. And the Dolphins added Ndamukong Suh. All three teams want to mount some sort of challenge to the Patriots.

Things should slow down now, although who really knows given the frantic nature of this week?

“This is a process that goes all the way through until the trading deadline stops, and (then) there’s no moves until the season’s over,” says Broncos boss John Elway. “It’s a process. It just slows down. Now you get out of the frenzy of everything, and you can get back to reality and try to find some good football players.”

Some observations on all that frenzied action:

PLAYING ALL HIS CHIPS: Giving Kelly the keys to the kingdom in Philly after he won his power struggle with GM Howie Roseman led to the kind of bartering rarely seen in the NFL. Kelly fully believes in the offensive system he brought from Oregon and has gone 20-12 in his two regular seasons with the Eagles. His vision of the players he wants is undeterred by cost — QB Sam Bradford brings a $16.58 million cap hit; RB Murray will get $42 million over five years.

Not only is Kelly changing the face of his franchise by moving around so many pieces, he might be altering the way teams look at making trades. As the salary cap continues to rise through the remaining six years of the labor agreement and all 32 clubs have more spending power, bold steps (leaps really) could become less frightening throughout the NFL.

ALL-IN IN INDY: The Colts have a budding superstar quarterback in Andrew Luck. They have a strong coaching staff led by Chuck Pagano and have systematically rebuilt the roster since Peyton Manning left.

After making the playoffs the last three years and advancing one step further each time, they believe a Super Bowl trip is their 2015 destiny. So GM Ryan Grigson has surrounded Luck and some of his younger regulars with a slew of veterans.

Luck gets a Hall of Fame caliber receiver in Andre Johnson, and a workhouse runner in Frank Gore. Both bring solid leadership to the clubhouse.

They also brought in safety Mike Adams, linebacker Trent Cole, defensive end Kendall Langford and guard Todd Herremans.

Super Bowl or bust? Could be for Indy.

OUT OF HERE: With all this money being thrown around, it was somewhat surprising that three players nowhere near the end of their productive football years called it quits.

Perennial Pro Bowl LB Patrick Willis left millions on the table in departing the 49ers after a borderline Hall of Fame quality eight pro seasons. Steelers free agent LB Jason Worilds likely would have gotten a very nice contract somewhere. And Jake Locker’s upside at age 26 was enchanting in a quarterback-driven sport.

Each of them felt they either weren’t healthy enough or passionate enough to keep going.

HOW ‘BOUT THEM NON-SPENDING COWBOYS?: Maybe the most puzzling approach to free agency came out of Dallas. Owner Jerry Jones has never met a talented, high-priced free agent he wasn’t enamored of. Yet, in great part due to the clear-headed persuasiveness of his son, team COO Stephen Jones, the Cowboys have been quiet. They kept All-Pro WR Dez Bryant, their top priority, but that deal and previous contracts put them in salary cap purgatory. Stephen Jones seems determined to get the Cowboys out of it.

DIVISION RACES: With months of free agency to come, and the draft on April 30-May 2, there are plenty of off-field machinations ahead. But so far, it appears the three pretenders in the AFC East have closed in a bit on New England. The balance of power in the NFC East might have gone with Murray from Dallas to Philly.

Green Bay got its most important business done by keeping WR-KR Randall Cobb and still is the NFC North power. No team in the NFC South particularly stepped up.

Seattle, winner of the last two conference crowns and 1-1 in Super Bowls, should be even stronger on offense with the addition of star TE Jimmy Graham and the retention of RB Marshawn Lynch. The rough NFC West remains the Seahawks’ kingdom.

Kansas City could actually have a receiver who can score touchdowns in Jeremy Maclin, and it held on to sackmaster LB Justin Houston. Still, it doesn’t look like anyone in the AFC West made big strides to catch Denver.

Same in the AFC South, with Houston far in Indy’s review mirror. The most impactful move in the AFC North could be RB Justin Forsett returning to Baltimore.

Of course, check back in a few weeks — when Kelly might have made another dozen deals.

►  Ravens add Kendrick Lewis

The Baltimore Ravens and safety Kendrick Lewis have agreed to a three-year contract.

Lewis spent last season with Houston and led the Texans with a career-high 84 tackles. He added two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown.

The 26-year-old Ole Miss product played his first four NFL seasons with Kansas City and has started all but three of his 69 games. He has nine career interceptions, two of which he has returned for scores, and 256 tackles.

►  Michael Johnson to return to Cincinnati

Defensive end Michael Johnson is set to return to Cincinnati.

Johnson signed a four-year contract with the Bengals on Sunday and will return to the club a year after leaving as a free agent for Tampa Bay. The Buccaneers released Johnson last week.

The 28-year-old Georgia Tech product posted 26 1/2 sacks in his first five seasons with the Bengals, including a career-high 11 1/2 in 2012.

“Our entire organization is just ecstatic about getting Mike back,“ said Bengals coach Marvin Lewis in a statement Sunday. “He’s earned tremendous respect from coaches, teammates and management. He did tremendous things for us while he was here, and we look forward to having him blend back in and uplift us as defensive football team.“

Johnson completed just one season of a five-year, $43.75 million contract he signed with Tampa Bay last March. He dealt with an ankle injury last season and played in 14 games for the Bucs, accumulating four sacks and 27 tackles.

The Gilmer Free Press

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MONDAY, MARCH 16, 2015
Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Baltimore vs. Philadelphia, 1:05 PM - TCN-Philadelphia
Detroit vs. St. Louis, 1:05 PM - FS-Midwest, MLB Network
Houston vs. Washington, 1:05 PM - MASN
Texas vs. LA Angels, 3:10 PM - FS-West
Oakland vs. Los Angeles, 4:05 PM - SportsNet LA
Chicago Cubs vs. San Diego, 4:05 PM - FS-San Diego, MLB Network
National Basketball Association
Toronto at Indiana, 7:00 PM - TSN, FS-Indiana, DSS
Portland at Washington, 7:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, DS, DSS
Philadelphia at Boston, 7:30 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, New England, DSS
Denver at Memphis, 8:00 PM - Altitude, SportSouth, DSS
Cleveland at Miami, 8:00 PM - FS-Ohio, SunSports, ESPN
Brooklyn at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - YES, FS-North, DSS
Oklahoma City at Dallas, 8:30 PM - FS-Oklahoma, Southwest, DSS
Charlotte at Utah, 9:00 PM - SportSouth, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
Atlanta at Sacramento, 10:00 PM - CSN-California, DSS
LA Lakers at Golden State, 10:30 PM - Time Warner, CSN-Bay, ESPN
National Hockey League
Washington at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - CSN-DC+, NBCSN
Montreal at Tampa Bay, 7:30 PM - RDS, SunSports, DSS
Toronto at Edmonton, 9:30 PM - SNET-Ontario, SNET-West, DSS
Arizona at Los Angeles, 10:30 PM - FS-Arizona, West, DSS
Women’s College Basketball
NCAA Selection Show, 7:00 PM - ESPN
NCAA Selection Show, 8:00 PM - ESPN U
International Soccer
ACF Fiorentina vs. AC Milan, 1:55 PM - beIN Sports
Swansea vs. Liverpool, 3:55 PM - NBCSN
AS Roma vs. UC Sampdoria, 3:55 PM - beIN Sports

Sports News   150315

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Pioneers Season Comes to an End

In the Glenville State’s second ever appearance in the NCAA DII Atlantic Regional Tournament the Pioneers would fall to the Indiana University Crimson Hawks (Pa.) (IUP), 73-53.

The Crimson Hawks would jump out to a fast 7-2 lead at the 16:10 minute mark. The Pioneers would then come right back as they tied the game up at 7-7 as GSC’s Brett Morris drilled a deep three-pointer with 14:51 left to play.

However after the tie IUP would then make an 11-0 run as they took an 18-7 lead at the 10:21 minute mark.

The Pioneers would spend the rest of the first half trying to cut into the Crimson Hawks lead and at the 5:05 minute mark GSC would cut it to eight after two back-to-back buckets from Donte Morales making it, 24-16. Again though IUP would extend their lead 13 points as they went into the half up 33-20 over the Pioneers.

In the second half of action the Pioneers would start off with a three-pointer from Sedric Nady as they pulled within 10 points, 33-23, however IUP again would go on an 8-2 run as they built a 41-23 lead at the 18:02 minute mark.

IUP would continue to add to their lead as they would extend it to 24 points, 60-36 with 10:13 left to play in the game.  Later IUP would go up by 27 points, 65-27, their largest lead of the game with under 7:00 minutes to play.

The Pioneers would fall to IUP, 73-53.

It was only the second appearance in school history for the Pioneers in the NCAA DII Tournament.

There was only one tie in the game, it coming in the first half, and the Pioneers never led in the game.

Glenville State struggled shooting the ball as they shot 34% from the floor and only 26% from behind the three-point line. IUP shot 41% from the floor and 38% from behind the three-point line.

The Pioneers were out rebounded by the Crimson Hawks 44 to 31. Glenville State committed 12 turnovers while IUP converted them into 14 points. IUP also scored nine second chance points to the Pioneers three second chance points.

Glenville State had two players score in double figures led by Donte Morales’s team high 17 points. He also pulled down a team high seven rebounds. Brett Morris scored 14 points while Sedric Nady chipped in with six points. Nady also handed out a team high three assists.

The Crimson Hawks had five players score in double figures with Devante Chance scoring a game high 22 points and dished out a game high five assists.

The Glenville State Pioneers (22-11) had a terrific season as they finished with the best record in school history and also winning a Conference Tournament Championship, the first championship in 43 years.

►  Hilltoppers Win NCAA Tourney Thriller

Kiki Simpson grabbed an NCAA Tournament record 29 rebounds and the West Liberty University women overcame a 13-point second-half deficit here Friday to pull out an 88-85 overtime win against West Chester in an Atlantic Region quarterfinal at Hamer Hall on the campus of California (PA) University.

Coach Lynn Ullom’s No. 5-seeded Hilltoppers (24-8) will take on the winner of Friday’s late quarterfinal between top-seeded tournament host California, PA (26-4), ranked No. 14 in the nation, and No. 8 seed Virginia State (19-9).

West Liberty and West Chester (24-6) battled to a 33-33 deadlock at halftime but the No. 4-seeded Rams took charge early in the second half with a blurry fast 12-0 run that used up less than 2 minutes on the clock.

Fueled by 3-point bombs from Chikisia Steele-Hook and 2-time All-Region standout Dallas Ely, West Chester turned a 36-35 Hilltopper lead into a 47-36 Ram advantage with just over 17 minutes on the clock.

The lead eventually reached 13 points on a driving layup by Jasmen Clark at the 15-minute mark but West Liberty refused to fold. Back-to-back 3-pointers from Hillary Southworth and Liz Flowers seemed to spark the Black and Gold and the Hilltoppers began chipping away at the deficit.

Bri Kamarec completed the rally with a 3-pointer from the top of the key off a kick-out pass from Kailee Howe and West Liberty was back on top, 64-63, with 6:10 remaining.

Neither team led by more than three points over the final six minutes of regulation.

Brittany Sicinski, who had a strong game for WCU, got a tough left-handed layup to drop for a 73-70 lead with 52 seconds to go but the Hilltoppers’ Jenn Mohney beat the shot clock with a rainbow 3-pointer at the 23-second mark to tie the game and force it into overtime.

There were four ties and seven lead changes in the overtime period alone but once again it was West Liberty coming up big in the final minute.

Southworth put WLU up, 84-83, on her fourth 3-pointer of the game with 53 seconds left in overtime but Sicinski answered again with a hotly-contested drive to the hoop for an 85-84 West Chester edge with 43 seconds left.
But Howe – who scored 19 of her team-high 22 points in the second half and overtime – drew a foul just across midcourt and calmly splashed home two free throws to put West Liberty ahead to stay, 86-85, with 32 seconds on the clock.

Ely tried to slash her way to the hoop but Simpson capped an “Ironwoman” performance with her final blocked shot, pushing the ball over to Southworth who got it to Howe for two more free throws with 19 seconds to go.
West Chester had two chances at a game-tying 3-pointer but couldn’t get either one to drop before the buzzer touched off a Hilltopper celebration.

Howe had 7 assists to go along with her 22 points while Southworth finished with 20 points. Liz Flowers added 12 points and 6 assists before fouling out at the start of overtime.

But it was Simpson who put up one of the most memorable games in Lady Hilltopper history. The 5-10 post played all 45 minutes, putting up 13 points to go along with her record-setting rebound total. She had a huge impact on the defensive end, as well, blocking 5 shots and altering countless others as WLU held the Rams to 36 percent (31-of-86) shooting from the floor.

Ely led all scorers with 25 points while Sicinski and Clark finished with 22 and 16, respectively.


•  Saturday’s 5 PM semifinal pits No. 3 seed Bloomsburg (25-4) against No. 7 seed Shepherd (22-9). Bloomsburg came from behind to beat Gannon, 81-76, in their quarterfinal while the Rams pulled away late to shock No. 11-ranked Indiana (PA), 68-60.

•  Simpson’s 29 rebounds are a school record, breaking the 33-year-old record of 25 rebounds by Raeanne Ponzo against Concord on Feb. 17, 1982

•  Simpson has now shattered her own school single-season record of 347, set just last year. The junior post now has 363 rebounds this season

•  Simpson’s record-setting performance pushed her past Ponzo and Erica Bevington into third place on WLU’s career rebounding list at 782

•  Friday’s win was West Liberty’s third overtime victory in its last four games.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Big 12 Championship 2015

Wednesday, March 11
#8 Kansas State vs. #9 TCU ✔  TCU 65-67
#7 Texas vs. #10 Texas Tech ✔  Texas 65-53
Thursday, March 12
#4 Baylor vs. #5 West Virginia ✔  Baylor 80-70
#1 Kansas vs. TCU ✔  Kansas 64-59
#2 Iowa State vs. Texas ✔  Iowa State 69-67
#3 Oklahoma vs. #6 Oklahoma State   Oklahoma 64-49
Friday, March 13
Baylor vs. Kansas   Kansas 62-52
Iowa State vs. Oklahoma ✔  Iowa State 67-65
Saturday, March 14
Kansas vs. Iowa State ✔  Iowa State 70-66

Big 12 Champion: Iowa State

►  Big 12 Conference Tournament Recaps

(Saturday, March 14)
Final Score: (13) Iowa State 70, (9) Kansas 66

Kansas City, MO ( - The Iowa State Cyclones are back-to-back Big 12 Tournament champions. And they accomplished the feat in their trademark fashion.

Georges Niang scored 19 points while helping spark a furious Cyclones comeback that vaulted 13th-ranked Iowa State to a thrilling 70-66 victory over No. 9 Kansas in Saturday’s title game.

Thoroughly outplayed in the opening half, the Cyclones completely dominated the second to become the first to win two straight Big 12 tourneys since the Jayhawks claimed two of their nine all-time titles in 2010 and 2011.

On this night, however, it was the longtime conference kings who ran out of gas at the finish line in both teams’ third game in as many nights.

Kansas went a miserable 5-of-19 from the field and committed eight turnovers after the break, helping the unflappable Cyclones overcome a 17-point deficit by outscoring the Jayhawks 36-12 over a stretch of 14-plus minutes.

It’s the fourth straight game in which Iowa State (25-8) has prevailed despite trailing by double digits.

Monte Morris recorded all 11 of his points following the intermission, Niang netted nine in the second half and Abdel Nader contributed 13 points for the Cyclones, including two free throws that snapped a 63-63 tie with 48 seconds remaining.

Wayne Selden Jr. put up a career-best 25 points for Kansas (26-8), but leading scorer Perry Ellis finished with just seven on 2-of-10 shooting and was a non- factor during the Jayhawks’ second-half collapse.

The Cyclones were down 37-23 at the half and were in a 17-point hole when Mason sank three throws 26 seconds into the second period.

As it turned out, they had the Jayhawks right where they wanted them.

Iowa State sprung back to life by putting forth a 17-2 run, in which Niang posted seven points and Jameel McKay six and the Cyclones turned four Kansas giveaways into baskets. Selden temporarily stopped the bleeding with a thunderous driving dunk with 13:51 left, though the Jayhawks’ lead was still tenuous at 44-40.

Kansas’ advantage was still at four when the Cyclones put together a 12-1 spurt to move ahead for the first time since the game’s early stages. Consecutive buckets by Bryce Dejean-Jones put ISU up 53-51, and he and Nader each scored on the next two possessions to increase the differential to six with under six minutes to play. After Mason made 1-of-2 free throws, Nader converted another layup for a 59-52 lead.

However, the Cyclones made just one more field goal the rest of the way—none in the final 4:41—and Kansas closed the gap with its success at the foul line. After six straight free throws brought the Jayhawks within 61-60, Selden got a pull-up in the lane to fall while drawing contact and made the ensuing bonus shot to tie the game with 1:29 to go.

Kansas went 17-of-19 from the charity stripe in the second half and 21-of-23 for the game.

Nader was then fouled while going for the rebound on a Niang missed 3-pointer and drained both attempts, and Niang stole a bad pass from Devonte Graham on the Jayhawks’ next trip before Morris went 1-of-2 from the line for a 66-63 advantage with 23.8 seconds on the clock.

Mason drove the lane on the following possession but couldn’t get a spinning layup to fall, with ISU’s Dustin Hogue coming down with the rebound before hitting two free throws that sealed Kansas’ fate.

Both teams struggled offensively while appearing tired through the first 10 minutes of play, then Jayhawks got hot to make the game’s initial run.

Ellis knocked down a 3-pointer and Selden and Mason buried jumpers after two empty Iowa State possessions, with the last staking Kansas to a 21-13 lead. Less than three minutes later, Selden finished off an 11-3 spurt with a layup off a Cyclones’ turnover to increase the margin to 25-16 with 4:43 left in the opening half.

Iowa State stayed cold, and fell behind by a 37-23 count at the break when triples by Mason and Graham keyed a 10-3 Jayhawks’ finish to the period.

Game Notes

Iowa State also downed the Jayhawks in last year’s Big 12 Tournament semifinals prior to topping Baylor in the championship game ... Niang was named the tournament’s Most Valuable Player ... Kansas fell to 9-2 all-time in the Big 12 title game, with its lone previous loss coming to Oklahoma in 2000 ... The Cyclones were just 2-of-16 from 3-point range, but scored 22 points of 13 KU turnovers ... Ellis had averaged 21.5 points in the Jayhawks’ last four matchups with ISU and amassed 30 points in last year’s semifinals loss to the Cyclones ... McKay ended with 11 points and eight rebounds.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Saturday, March 14)

Final Score: Boston 93, Indiana 89

Tyler Zeller had 18 points and seven rebounds as the Boston Celtics held off the surging Indiana Pacers 93-89 on Saturday night. Avery Bradley, Jae Crowder and Brandon Bass netted 16 points apiece for Boston, which has won four in a row and six of its last seven games. George Hill posted 30 points, eight assists and five boards for Indiana, which had its seven-game winning streak snapped.

Final Score: Washington 113, Sacramento 97

John Wall tallied 31 points and 12 assists and the Washington Wizards overcame a steep halftime deficit to beat the Sacramento Kings, 113-97. Paul Pierce added 17 points for the Wizards, who have won five of seven following a rough 2-11 stretch. They also improved to 18-1 on the season when shooting better than 50 percent from the floor after making 53.1 percent of their attempts on Saturday. DeMarcus Cousins, Wall’s college teammate, had 30 points for the Kings despite battling foul trouble most of the night.

Final Score: Brooklyn 94, Philadelphia 87

Thaddeus Young had 21 points and nine rebounds against his former team and the Brooklyn Nets defeated the Philadelphia 76ers 94-87 on Saturday night. Joe Johnson netted 15 points and Jarrett Jack added 12 points and eight assists for the Nets, who snapped a five-game losing streak. Nerlens Noel posted 17 points and seven boards and Isaiah Cannon supplied 13 points for Philadelphia, which shot just 37.2 percent from the floor.

Final Score: Memphis 96, Milwaukee 83

Courtney Lee scored 17 points and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the short-handed Milwaukee Bucks by a 96-83 margin on Saturday night. Zach Randolph and Jeff Green each had 15 points for the Grizzlies, who snapped a brief two-game skid. Beno Udrih tallied 14 points and Marc Gasol added 12 points, seven rebounds and seven assists. Giannis Antetokounmpo ended with 19 points and six rebounds for the Bucks, who have lost eight in a row on the road. Khris Middleton and Zaza Pachulia contributed 17 and 14 points, respectively. Milwaukee was without Michael Carter-Williams (ankle), Jared Dudley (back spasms) and Jerryd Bayless (ankle). Tyler Ennis made his first NBA start and finished with seven points and 11 assists.

Final Score: Utah 88, Detroit 85

Derrick Favors recorded 26 points to lead the Utah Jazz in an 88-85 win over the Detroit Pistons on Saturday night. Rodney Hood and Gordon Hayward each had 12 points and Rudy Gobert netted 10 points with 19 rebounds in Utah’s fifth straight win. Greg Monroe led the Pistons with 16 points and Anthony Tolliver added 14 points off the bench for Detroit, which has dropped 10 straight games.

Final Score: Golden State 125, New York 94

Klay Thompson and Stephen Curry returned to the lineup to help the Golden State Warriors in a 125-94 rout of the New York Knicks on Saturday night. Thompson and Curry missed Friday’s loss in Denver along with center Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala. All four players were held out to rest and they looked fresh against New York. The Splash Brothers combined to score 52 points, with Thompson leading the team with 27. Curry dished out 11 assists and Justin Holiday netted 13 points off the bench. Golden State has won six of its last seven. Andrea Bargnani paced New York with 18 points.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Saturday, March 14)

Final Score: Boston 2, Pittsburgh 0

Tuukka Rask stopped 30 shots for his third shutout of the season, as the Boston Bruins took advantage of a Pittsburgh team without superstar Sidney Crosby and claimed a 2-0 victory over the Penguins on Saturday at CONSOL Energy Center. Milan Lucic scored in the first period and Zdeno Chara added an empty-net goal in the final minute for Boston, which has won five straight and improved to 7-0-1 in its last eight. Crosby took part in the pregame warmup, but was a late scratch for an undisclosed reason. Evgeni Malkin also missed most of the contest after taking a first-period hit. Thomas Greiss made 28 saves in defeat, as the Penguins lost in regulation for only the second time in their last 10 games (7-2-1).

Final Score: Philadelphia 7, Detroit 2

Brayden Schenn posted two goals and an assist to lead the Philadelphia Flyers in a 7-2 rout over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. Wayne Simmonds had a goal and two assists while Matt Read, Zac Rinaldo, Nicklas Grossmann and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare also scored for the Flyers, who snapped a four-game losing streak. Steve Mason turned aside 31 shots in the win. Justin Abdelkader and Erik Cole scored for the Red Wings, who have lost four of their last five. Jimmy Howard allowed all seven goals on 36 shots in the loss.

Final Score: Chicago 6, San Jose 2

Brandon Saad, Bryan Bickell, Patrick Sharp and Marian Hossa scored in the third period as Chicago breezed past San Jose by a 6-2 count on Saturday. Sharp added a second-period marker, Duncan Keith also lit the lamp, while Brent Seabrook and Antoine Vermette added two assists each for the Blackhawks, who have won six of their last eight contests. Corey Crawford picked up the win thanks to 33 saves. Melker Karlsson and Joe Thornton supplied offense for the Sharks, who finished 2-2 on a four- game homestand ahead of a seven-game road trip. Antti Niemi was dented for five goals on 29 shots in defeat.

Final Score: Vancouver 4, Toronto 1

Derek Dorsett posted a goal and two assists to power the Vancouver Canucks to a 4-1 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday. Chris Higgins, Jannik Hansen and Shawn Matthias all lit the lamp, while Eddie Lack made 28 saves for the Canucks, who rebounded from Thursday’s 4-0 loss to the Kings to win for the third time in their last four games. Phil Kessel scored on a penalty shot and Jonathan Bernier allowed all three goals on 34 shots for the Maple Leafs, who have dropped five of their last six.

Final Score: Florida 2, Carolina 0

Dan Ellis made 27 saves for his first shutout of the season in the Florida Panthers’ 2-0 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. Brandon Pirri and Dave Bolland lit the lamp for the Panthers, who have won three in a row to remain in the playoff race. Cam Ward stopped 20-of-21 shots for the Hurricanes, who went 1-3-1 on their five-game homestand.

Final Score: Montreal 3, NY Islanders 1

Carey Price stopped 35 shots and the Montreal Canadiens topped the New York Islanders by a 3-1 count at Nassau Coliseum. Tomas Plekanec, Max Pacioretty and Lars Eller lit the lamp for the Canadiens, who had lost five of their last six coming in but maintained their deadlocked position atop the Eastern Conference standings with the Rangers, Josh Bailey netted the lone score for the Islanders, who have lost three in a row and fell three points back of the Rangers for first place in the Metropolitan Division. Michal Neuvirth made 27 saves in defeat.

Final Score: NY Rangers 2, Buffalo 0

MacKenzie Skapski turned in a shutout in his second career NHL start, stopping all 20 shots he faced in the New York Rangers’ 2-0 victory over the Buffalo Sabres. The 20-year-old rookie turned aside 24-of-25 chances to win his NHL debut in New York’s 3-1 road triumph over the Sabres on Feb. 20, then sat nine straight games as Cam Talbot went 7-1-1 as the main replacement for the injured Henrik Lundqvist. Keith Yandle’s goal—his first with the Rangers since coming over from Arizona in a trade- deadline deal—snapped a scoreless deadlock 7:31 into the third period, and Martin St. Louis tacked on an empty-netter late to help red- hot New York win its fourth straight and improve to 13-1-2 since Feb. 10. Anders Lindback saved 31-of-32 shots in a hard-luck loss, the lowly Sabres’ sixth in a row.

Final Score: Winnipeg 2, Tampa Bay 1

Entering the day just one point out of playoff position, the Winnipeg Jets earned two key ones with a 2-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. After going down 1-0 in the third period, Drew Stafford and Blake Wheeler scored goals to help the Jets finish 2-2-0 on their four-game road trip. Ondrej Pavelec only had to make 15 saves in the win. Nikita Kucherov scored Tampa Bay’s only goal, but it was his boarding major that led to Winnipeg’s two scores. The Lightning had their four-game home winning streak snapped despite getting 27 saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Final Score: Minnesota 3, St. Louis 1

Devan Dubnyk turned in a 41-save performance as Minnesota edged St. Louis, 3-1, at Scottrade Center. Nino Niederreiter and Kyle Brodziak scored in a 17-second span in the latter stages of the third period and Thomas Vanek tallied earlier for the Wild, who have taken seven of their last nine games. David Backes lit the lamp for the Blues, who saw their three-game win streak halted. Brian Elliott, fresh off a 28- save, 1-0 shootout win against the Flyers on Thursday, made just 16 stops in the loss.

Final Score: New Jersey 4, Arizona 1

Jordin Tootoo and Mike Cammalleri each tallied a goal and an assist as the New Jersey Devils defeated the Arizona Coyotes 4-1 on Saturday. Stephen Gionta and Adam Henrique each scored, Travis Zajac supplied two assists and Cory Schneider made 30 saves for the Devils, who won in Arizona for the first time since Feb. 12, 2003. Shane Doan scored the Coyotes’ lone goal and Mike Smith allowed all four goals in the team’s fourth straight setback.

Final Score: Nashville 2, Los Angeles 1

Craig Smith tied the game in the third and Viktor Stalberg tallied the winner as the Nashville Predators defeated the Los Angeles Kings, 2-1, on Saturday night. Pekka Rinne stopped 19 shots for the Predators, who had lost seven of their last eight. Jeff Carter scored for Los Angeles, while Jonathan Quick made 20 stops in the loss.

Final Score: Colorado 3, Calgary 2

Alex Tanguay had a goal and an assist in the Colorado Avalanche’s 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames on Saturday. Ryan O’Reilly and John Mitchell also scored for the Avs, while Tyson Barrie finished with two assists. Semyon Varlamov made 22 saves to help Colorado to its fifth win in six games.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Johnson, Young win IW openers

Americans Steve Johnson, Donald Young and Jack Sock were first-round winners Friday at the BNP Paribas Open.

The two-time NCAA singles champion Johnson doused Spaniard Marcel Granollers 6-2, 6-3, while the in-form left-hander Young cruised past Spain’s Pablo Carreno Busta 6-3, 6-4 on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Young has now won nine of his last 13 matches on tour, including a trip into a final in Delray Beach last month.

Sock, playing his first match after undergoing hip surgery in mid-December, rallied for a 6-7 (4-7), 6-2, 7-5 win over Chinese Taipei’s Yen-Hsun Lu.

An American setback came when Ukrainian Sergiy Stakhovsky outlasted Sam Querrey 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 in the California desert.

Alexandr Dolgopolov was also among those advancing as the men concluded first- round play. He fired seven aces in a 6-2, 7-5 win over Canadian qualifier Frank Davcevic.

Dolgopolov became the first Ukrainian to beat a reigning world No. 1 player when he eliminated Rafael Nadal in the third round at Indian Wells last year.

Aussie Nick Kyrgios, who is back in action after a six-week layoff due to a back injury, defeated Denis Kudla, 6-4, 7-5.

►  Serena victorious in return to Indian Wells

Serena Williams entered the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden to a chorus of cheers as she made her first appearance at the BNP Paribas Open since 2001.

After a heartfelt standing ovation that brought visible emotions to Williams, she went out and battled her way past Monica Niculescu 7-5, 7-5 on Friday.

The 2001 Indian Wells champ Williams ended her self-imposed exile from this tournament to play here for the first time in 14 years.

At the 2001 BNP Paribas Open, Serena and her older sister Venus were booed by angry fans who accused them of match fixing after Venus withdrew from a scheduled semifinal match. In an article published by USA Today soon after, Serena’s father, Richard, said he was a victim of racial abuse as he watched Serena defeat then 17-year-old Kim Clijsters.

Serena, a 19-time major titlist and top seed at Indian Wells, defeated Niculescu in their first career meeting.

Third-seeded French Open finalist and steady Romanian Simona Halep started off slowly before rebounding to best Russian Daria Gavrilova 2-6, 6-1, 6-2.

In other second-round action involving top-10 seeds on Day 3, No. 7 Agnieszka Radwanska routed American Alison Riske 6-3, 6-1 and No. 8 Ekaterina Makarova mauled fellow Russian Elena Vesnina 6-4, 6-0. The Polish Radwanska was last year’s Indian Wells runner-up to Italy’s Flavia Pennetta.

Czech Lucie Safarova, the No. 10 seed, had her troubles with Mona Barthel, but ultimately won 6-4 (7-4), 7-6. The 12th-seeded Carla Suarez Navarro of Spain cruised past Monica Puig 6-1, 6-1, while American Sloane Stephens upended 13th-seeded Angelique Kerber 7-6 (8-6), 6-2.

Rising 14th-seeded Czech Karolina Pliskova moved on by dismissing Spaniard Lara Arruabarrena 6-3, 7-5.

Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova defeated No. 17 Barbora Zahlavova Strycova 6-3, 6-3, 19th-seeded Garbine Muguruza downed Irina Falconi 4-6, 6-2, 6-3, and 22nd- seeded Svetlana Kuznetsova beat Katerina Siniakova, 7-6 (7-2), 6-2 to move on.

The two-time Grand Slam champion Kuznetsova was the back-to-back Indian Wells runner-up in 2007 and 2008.

Meanwhile, 23rd-seeded Ukrainian Elina Svitolina overcame Belgian Alison Van Uytvanck 4-6, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1, 26th-seeded Varvara Lepchenko eased past Sachia Vickery 6-4, 6-1, 27th-seeded Timea Bacsinszky took care of Marina Erakovic 4-6, 6-3, 6-2, 28th-seeded Kazakhstani Zarina Diyas drubbed Croat Donna Vekic 6-3, 6-3 and Britain’s Heather Watson dismissed 29th-seeded Italian Camila Giorgi 7-5, 7-5.

The 2015 titlist will earn $900,400.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Shared Belief’s next start not yet decided

Leading thoroughbred Shared Belief’s next start is up in the air although trainer Jerry Hollendorfer initially indicated it would be the Oaklawn Handicap.

“We’re going to look at the race, but it’s not written in stone yet,“ The Hall of Fame trainer said.

The day after Shared Belief won the Santa Anita Handicap, Hollendorfer in a radio interview said that the 1 1/8-mile Oaklawn Handicap on April 11 would likely be next for his stable superstar and not the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28.

Shared Belief, co-owned by Hollendorfer, was a unanimous choice in the year’s first thoroughbred poll. Ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, the 4-year- old gelding rolled to a 4 1/4-length victory in the 1 1/4-mile Big ‘Cap on March 7.

The Big ‘Cap win was the 10th in 11 career starts for 2013’s champion 2-year- old and boosted his earnings to $2,932,200. Shared Belief defeated 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome in the San Antonio on February 07 as both horses began their 2015 campaigns. “Chrome” skipped the Big ‘Cap to prepare for the Dubai World Cup.

►  Bayern continues training for return

Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern put in a workout Saturday morning at Santa Anita under the watchful eye of his trainer Bob Baffert.

Bayern, with his regular rider Martin Garcia aboard, covered four furlongs in 47.60 seconds.

“I’m really happy with the way he went,“ Baffert said.

Bayern, owned by Kaleem Shah, has not raced this season after having a foot problem.

Bayern won the 2014 Breeders’ Cup Classic on November 1 at Santa Anita and earlier captured the Woody Stephens Stakes, Haskell Invitational and Pennsylvania Derby, The colt has earned $4,389,680 with six wins from 10 career races, all in 2014.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  De Jonge takes lead at Valspar Championship

With scores not going quite as low as they were in the first round, Brendon de Jonge carded a 2-under 69 in Friday’s second round and he took a 1-shot lead over five others heading into the weekend at the Valspar Championship.

De Jonge, still looking for his first career victory in his 221st start on the PGA Tour, finished 36 holes at 6-under-par 136. The 34-year-old finished tied for second at the McGladrey Classic early on this season.

“It’s tricky out there, you know,“ said de Jonge. “It’s one of those golf courses where it’s tough enough to get it in the fairway when it’s still and then when the wind blows it obviously added difficulty.“

A couple big names sit just one shot back of de Jonge, including world No. 3 Henrik Stenson (70) and Jordan Spieth (67). That duo is joined in a tie for second at 5-under 137 with Ryan Moore (68), Kevin Streelman (69) and Derek Ernst (70).

Lucas Glover (69), Ian Poulter (70), Ricky Barnes (72) and 2008 champion Sean O’Hair (72) are one shot further back at minus-4 on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort.

First-round leader Brian Davis struggled on his way to a 5-over 76 and that dropped him into a tie for 27th at 1-under 141. Defending champion John Senden (71) finished at 3-over 145 and he missed the cut.

Beginning the day two shots behind Davis, de Jonge started his round on the back nine, where he did not get off to an ideal start.

Four pars from No. 10 began de Jonge’s round before he made a mess of the par-5 14th on his way to a bogey, dropping him back to 1-over for the round.

Following a trio of pars from No. 15, de Jonge made the turn in a big way as he drained a 27-foot birdie putt on No. 18, pulling him back to even par.

De Jonge made it back-to-back birdies as he poured in a 16-foot birdie putt on No. 1, getting him into red numbers for the first time. De Jonge went on cruise control for a while when he made four straight pars from No. 2

De Jonge traded a bogey on six for a birdie on seven and he later closed out his second round with a 6-foot birdie conversion on No. 9.

Spieth tied for the best round of the day, which is why he was able to jump into a tie for second. He had a great start to his round with birdies on one, three and six before tripping to a bogey on seven.

It was an up-and-down back nine for Spieth as he made four birdies and two bogeys. A birdie at the last completed Spieth’s 67.

Stenson, making his first appearance at this event, holed a 20-foot eagle putt at the par-5 first, but he gave those two shots back with bogeys on two and nine. Stenson then made eight straight pars from No. 10 before draining a birdie at the last.

“It was a bit of a weird day or a bit of a slow day for me,“ said Stenson. “I got off to a great start ... A lot of fighting, grinding for pars. It was blowing pretty hard there and you have to hit some good shots to hit some greens.“

Moore converted four birdies and just one bogey in his round, while Streelman also had four gains to go along with two bogeys.

Ernst, playing in the later pairings, held the lead throughout most of the day before a tough finish. He did not get off to a great start, however, as he made two bogeys on 12 and 13 to go along with a birdie on 11.

Ernst surpassed de Jonge, who had the clubhouse lead as a member of the early groups, with five straight birdies from No. 17. Now at 8-under and two shots ahead of de Jonge, Ernst began his move down the leaderboard with a bogey on four.

Still in the lead at minus-7, Ernst closed with bogeys on seven and eight along with pars on five, six and nine.

NOTES: Spieth already has three top-10 finishes in six events this season ... De Jonge finished tied for 10th at last week’s Puerto Rico Open ... Jonathan Byrd made a hole-in-one on the par-3 15th ... With the cut falling at 1-over 143, 71 players advanced to play the weekend ... Adam Scott (75) finished at 4-over 146 and missed the cut, breaking a streak of 45 consecutive cuts made, which was highest current PGA Tour streak ... Also missing the cut were Jamie Donaldson, Justin Rose, Ernie Els, Louis Oosthuizen and Padraig Harrington.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Harvick on the pole at Phoenix for the first time

Kevin Harvick has a record six Sprint Cup Series victories at Phoenix International Raceway, including four of the last five races, but had never won a pole position here until Friday’s qualifying.

Harvick, the defending Sprint Cup champion, turned a lap at 140.751 mph during the third and final round of qualifying for his first pole at this flat, one- mile track in 25 starts. If Harvick wins Sunday’s 500, he will become the first driver to score four victories in a row here.

“This is a pretty special place,“ Harvick said. “All these West Coast races are special, but this one in particular, just for the fact that we used to bring our Southwest Tour cars here and our Winston West cars. We struggled a little bit for quite some time and then it all clicked.

“I didn’t actually know that we hadn’t been on pole here, but to get that first pole with these guys and celebrate anything that we hadn’t done or have done; every week is just a new adventure. It’s pretty special to be a part of a group of guys like this.“

It was Harvick’s 15th career pole in Sprint Cup. He won a series-high eight poles last year, his first season as driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.

Harvick has finished either first or second in the last six races, a streak dating back to the first weekend in November at Texas. He won last weekend’s race at Las Vegas to virtually guarantee him a spot in this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup championship.

Phoenix has been Harvick’s best racetrack in the series. He dominated here last year, leading 224 laps in the spring race and 264 laps in the fall event, en route to a season-sweep.

Joey Logano, the Daytona 500 winner, will start on the front row for the third consecutive race. He posted a lap at 140.543 mph.

“That is three straight front-row starts, so we are proud of that,“ Logano said. “Only one pole (Atlanta) - that is the part we aren’t proud of. We need to find some more speed there. That is a good starting spot, and this place isn’t easy to pass. A lot of strategy will come into play. We will have a good pit stall, and that is a good thing. We will be able to race hard and try to win this thing.“

Jamie McMurray qualified third, followed by Matt Kenseth, Ryan Newman, Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards.

Kurt Busch will start eighth in his first race this season. Busch had been suspended for three races—Daytona, Atlanta and Las Vegas—before NASCAR reinstated him on Wednesday.

“It was good just to get back in the seat and shake hands with all the guys,“ Busch said of his return to racing at Phoenix. “Having the support of Stewart- Haas has been like family. Then to see the other crew members that I know and some that I don’t know who shake my hand and say, ‘Welcome back,‘ it feels good.“

Finishing ninth through 12th in the last round of qualifying were: Kasey Kahne, Jeff Gordon, Austin Dillon and Kyle Larson.

Dale Earnhardt Jr., a two-time Phoenix race winner, will start 16th, while Jimmie Johnson, the six-time series champion and winner of four races here, will roll off 20th. Denny Hamlin did not advance out of the first round and ended up qualifying 25th.

Tanner Berryhill and Travis Kvapil failed to qualify.

►  Hamilton tops Rosberg for Australian GP pole

Reigning Formula One world champion Lewis Hamilton will start on the pole for the season-opening Australian Grand Prix after beating his Mercedes teammate and title rival Nico Rosberg in Saturday’s qualifying.

Hamilton made a lap around Melbourne’s Albert Park Circuit in 1 minute, 26.327 seconds for his 39th career F1 pole, including his fourth in the Australian GP. His lap time was nearly six-tenths of a second quicker than Rosberg.

Four months ago, Hamilton clinched his second F1 world championship with a victory in the season-finale in Abu Dhabi. He concluded the season 67 points ahead of Rosberg.

“It’s been a great start to the weekend,“ Hamilton said. “It doesn’t feel like it’s been a long time since the last race we’ve already had and a big rush and a huge effort from all of the guys back at the factory to enable us to come here and have this performance, so I feel incredibly blessed to have this car.“

Rosberg had the quickest lap in each of the first two practice sessions on Friday, but Hamilton led the way in Saturday’s final practice, held shortly before qualifying.

“Lewis was in impressive form today,“ Rosberg said. “He did an awesome job and nailed it all the time. For me, the speed was there, but I just didn’t get it together today. So it wasn’t a great day.“

Rosberg is the defending winner of the Australian GP. Hamilton has yet to win this race. One year ago, Hamilton claimed the pole here, but after completing only two laps, he was forced to retire due to engine failure.

Felipe Massa from Williams qualified third, with his lap a distant 1.4 seconds behind Hamilton.

Sebastian Vettel, making his competition debut with Ferrari this weekend in Melbourne, finished fourth in qualifying, while his teammate, Kimi Raikkonen, placed fifth.

“So far, it’s been a very good weekend for us,“ Vettel said. “No issues with the car so far, and it looks like it will stay that way, so we can be pretty happy.“

Valtteri Bottas from Williams was sixth. Australian Daniel Ricciardo placed his Red Bull seventh on the grid for his home race. Rookie Carlos Sainz Jr. from Toro Rosso took the eighth spot, followed by Lotus teammates Romain Grosjean and Pastor Maldonado.

McLaren drivers Jenson Button and Kevin Magnussen struggled in qualifying, as both drivers will 17th and 18th—the last row on the grid for Sunday’s 58- lap race here.

Roberto Merhi and Will Stevens from the Manor Marussia team did not participate in qualifying. Both drivers also did not get on track for any one of the three practice sessions.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Ross County rallies for draw at Hamilton

Ross County came from two goals down in the opening 20 minutes to claim a 2-2 draw at Hamilton on Saturday, moving the club four points clear of last-place St Mirren.

Hamilton got off to a quick start on Saturday with a goal from Jason Scotland inside of two minutes, while Dougie Imrie added a second in the 18th.

But Craig Curran’s goal in the 28th brought Ross County back into the match before Michael Gardyne equalized in the 72nd to boost his team’s survival bid.

Hamilton remains in the top half of the league with the result, but the club has now gone winless in its last 10 Scottish Premier League games.

An early corner kick produced the first goal for Hamilton with Jesus Garcia Tena’s glancing header sending the ball toward the front of goal, where Scotland redirected it over the goal line.

Imrie made it 2-0 in the 18th when he tracked down a well-weighted ball from Danny Redmond and fired a shot past goalkeeper Mark Brown.

Curran replied 10 minutes later by getting up to head home a cross from Raffaele De Vita, and after a few wasted chances in the second half from Hamilton, the hosts were punished.

De Vita played provider once again as he drove a dangerous cross to the front of the net that skipped through to the back post, where Gardyne snuck in to smack home the equalizer.

St Mirren remains rooted to the bottom of the table after losing 1-0 at Kilmarnock to an 87th-minute goal from Lee Miller, while Partick Thistle handled St Johnstone, 3-0, with a pair of goals coming in the first 10 minutes.

►  Bayern rolls over Bremen as Lewandowski nets brace

Bayern Munich continued its march toward a third straight Bundesliga title on Saturday as Robert Lewandowski scored a pair of goals in the second half to lead the club to a 4-0 win at Werder Bremen.

Bayern was playing without a handful of first-team regulars, including Arjen Robben and Franck Ribery, who were out through injury, while goalkeeper Manuel Neuer was rested.

But Pep Guardiola’s men didn’t skip a beat as Thomas Muller and David Alaba both scored in the opening 45 minutes before Lewandowski’s second-half brace killed the match off.

Bayern moves 14 points clear of second-place Wolfsburg, which hosts Freiburg on Sunday.

Muller struck midway through the first half for Bayern as he got in behind the Bremen defense and had his first shot saved by goalkeeper Raphael Wolf, but scored on the rebound.

Alaba then netted his second league goal of the season just before the break when he curled home a free kick from 20 yards.

Bremen came close to pulling a goal back with a wonderful effort from Fin Bartels, who nearly caught Bayern goalkeeper Pepe Reina off his line with a shot from near midfield, only for Reina to recover and manage to tip the ball over the crossbar.

The hosts created a few more chances in an effort to get back into the game, but Lewandowski snuffed out any hope for Bremen in the last 15 minutes.

He scored his first goal in the 76th by nodding home a cross from Muller, and the two combined once again in the 90th with the Poland international finishing off a nice exchange.

Schalke remains outside the top four after being held to a 2-2 draw at Hertha Berlin that saw the visitors get a goal in the 90th minute from Joel Matip to salvage a point.

Eintracht improved its European hopes by scoring three goals in the first half of a 4-0 victory over Paderborn, Mainz topped Augsburg, 2-0, with goals from Shinji Okazaki and Ja-Cheol Koo, Eugen Polanski scored a goal in each half as Hoffenheim topped 10-man Hamburg, 3-0, and Borussia Dortmund had to settle for a 0-0 draw with Cologne.

►  Burnley shocks City

Burnley pulled off one of the upsets of the season on Saturday with a 1-0 home victory against Manchester City courtesy of a wonderful strike from George Boyd in the 61st minute.

City now finds itself five points back of Chelsea, which has two games in hand, while Manuel Pellegrini’s outfit is just one point clear of third-place Arsenal.

As disappointing as Saturday’s result is for City, Burnley will be delighted at having captured three unlikely points to close to within one point of safety.

City’s attack was surprisingly ineffective against a Burnley side with the second worst defensive record in the Premier League, and the most that Burnley goalkeeper Tom Heaton had to do in the first half was keep out a low drive from Edin Dzeko.

The second half was played at a better pace and Sergio Aguero came close for City when he connected with a ball from Pablo Zabaleta.

Boyd went close with a volley shortly after for the hosts, but they snatched the lead just after the hour mark when Kieran Trippier’s free kick was headed only as far as Boyd at the edge of the area, allowing him to send a scorching left-footed shot into the bottom corner of the net.

City continued to struggle to break down Burnley, and Aguero headed just over from Yaya Toure’s cross before a late penalty appeal was turned down.

Zabaleta darted into the penalty area in injury time and went down under a challenge from Burnley’s Ben Mee, appearing to win a spot kick for his side. However, referee Andre Marriner wasn’t interested and the hosts held on for a famous victory.

Arsenal took advantage of City’s stumble to close the gap on the defending champions to only one point following a 3-0 win over West Ham.

Olivier Giroud fired the Gunners in front just before halftime, and goals from Aaron Ramsey and Mathieu Flamini in the final 10 minutes closed out the match.

Aston Villa claimed a huge 4-0 win at Sunderland with all four goals coming in the first half. Christian Benteke and Gabriel Agbonlahor scored two goals apiece for Villa, while Sunderland resides just one point above the relegation places.

Crystal Palace scored three times in the opening half of a 3-1 victory over second-from-the-bottom QPR, Brown Ideye’s goal in the 20th minute was the difference as West Bromwich topped Stoke City, 1-0, while last-place Leicester City finished in a 0-0 draw with Hull City.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Vikings release Greg Jennings

The Minnesota Vikings released wide receiver Greg Jennings on Saturday.

The move, which clears up about $5 million in cap space, comes one day after the Vikings acquired wide receiver Mike Wallace from the Miami Dolphins.

Jennings led the Vikings in receiving last year with 59 catches for 742 yards and six touchdowns. The Western Michigan product had 68 catches for 804 yards and four touchdowns in 2013, his first season with Minnesota.

The 31-year-old Jennings spent the first seven seasons of his career with the Green Bay Packers before signing a five-year deal with Minnesota in March 2013.

A second-round draft choice by Green Bay in 2006, Jennings has caught 552 passes for 8,083 yards and 63 touchdowns in 127 NFL games.

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

SUNDAY, MARCH 15, 2015
Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Boston vs. Philadelphia, 1:05 PM - NESN, CSN-Philadelphia
St. Louis vs. Minnesota, 1:05 PM - FS-Midwest, North
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh, 1:05 PM - ROOT-Pittsburgh, MLB Network
Cincinnati vs. Chicago Cubs, 4:05 PM - WGN
Milwaukee vs. Texas, 4:05 PM - TXA-21
LA Angels vs. Chicago WSox, 4:05 PM - FS-West, MLB Network
Los Angeles vs. Seattle, 4:05 PM - SportsNet LA
Arizona vs. San Francisco, 6:05 PM - NBC-Bay
National Basketball Association
Chicago at Oklahoma City, 1:00 PM - ABC
Houston at LA Clippers, 3:30 PM - ABC
Denver at New Orleans, 6:00 PM - Altitude, FS-New Orleans, DSS
Cleveland at Orlando, 6:00 PM - FS-Ohio, Florida, NBA TV, DSS
Minnesota at San Antonio, 7:00 PM - FS-North, Southwest, DSS
Portland at Toronto, 7:00 PM - CSN-Northwest, SNET, DSS
New York at Phoenix, 9:00 PM - MSG, FS-Arizona, DSS
Atlanta at LA Lakers, 9:30 PM - SportSouth, Time Warner, DSS
National Hockey League
Detroit at Pittsburgh, 12:30 PM - NBC
Florida at NY Rangers, 5:00 PM - FS-Florida, MSG, DSS
Carolina at Columbus, 5:00 PM - FS-Carolina, Ohio, DSS
St. Louis at Dallas, 6:00 PM - FS-Midwest, Southwest, DSS
Philadelphia at Ottawa, 7:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, CITY, DSS
Boston at Washington, 7:30 PM - NBCSN
Nashville at Anaheim, 8:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, Prime Ticket, DSS
College Basketball
SEC Championship, 1:00 PM - ESPN
Atlantic 10 Championship, 1:00 PM - CBS
Sun Belt Championship, 1:00 PM - ESPN 2
AAC Championship, 3:15 PM - ESPN
Big Ten Championship, 3:30 PM - CBS
NCAA Selection Show, 6:00 PM - CBS
NIT Selection Show, 8:30 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
St. Francis (NY) at Robert Morris, 1:00 PM - ESPN U
Southland Championship, 1:00 PM - CBSSN
CAA Championship, 1:00 PM - CSN-Philadelphia, New England, Chicago, SNY
Northern Kentucky at Florida Gulf Coast, 2:30 PM -
Horizon League Championship, 3:00 PM - ESPN U
MVC Championship, 3:07 PM -
Major League Soccer
New England at New York City, 5:00 PM - ESPN 2
Los Angeles at Portland, 7:00 PM - FS1
International Soccer
UD Almeria vs. Villarreal CF, 6:55 AM - beIN Sports
Chelsea vs. Southampton, 9:30 AM - NBCSN
Genoa CFC vs. AC ChievoVerona, 9:55 AM - beIN Sports
Manchester United vs. Tottenham, 11:55 AM - NBCSN
FC Girondins de Bordeaux vs. Paris Saint-Germain FC, 11:55 AM - beIN Sports
Real Madrid CF vs. Levante UD, 3:55 PM - beIN Sports
EUROPEAN - Tshwane Open, 6:00 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Valspar Championship, 1:00 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - Valspar Championship, 3:00 PM - NBC
Auto Racing
FORMULA ONE - Australian Grand Prix, 12:30 AM - NBCSN
SPRINT CUP - 500, 3:00 PM - FOX
Track and Field
Los Angeles Marathon, 10:00 AM - WGN (America)

Sports News   150314

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Game Results

Magnolia 63     St. Marys 50

Notre Dame 84     Pocahontas County 62

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball Game Results

(2)Fairmont Senior 65     (6)Lincoln 35

The Gilmer Free Press


Wednesday, March 11
#8 Kansas State vs. #9 TCU 6:00 PM
✔  TCU 65-67
#7 Texas vs. #10 Texas Tech 8:00 PM
✔  Texas 65-53
Thursday, March 12
#4 Baylor vs. #5 West Virginia 11:30 AM
✔  Baylor 80-70
#1 Kansas vs. TCU 1:30 PM
✔  Kansas 64-59
#2 Iowa State vs. Texas 6:00 PM
✔  Iowa State 69-67
#3 Oklahoma vs. #6 Oklahoma State 8:00 PM
  Oklahoma 64-49
Friday, March 13
Baylor vs. Kansas 6:00 PM
  Kansas 62-52
Iowa State vs. Oklahoma 8:00 PM
✔  Iowa State 67-65
Saturday, March 14
Kansas vs. Iowa State 5:00 PM
All times Central. Times / network lineups are subject to change
The second game of each session begins 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game
All games also available via WatchESPN

<The Gilmer Free Press

►  Top-25 College Men’s Basketball Game Results

(Friday, March 13)

Final Score: (1) Kentucky 64, Florida 49

Karl-Anthony Towns scored 13 points and grabbed 12 rebounds to led the top-ranked Kentucky Wildcats over the Florida Gators, 64-49, in the quarterfinal round of the SEC Tournament. Aaron Harrison added 13 points for the top-seeded Wildcats (32-0), who will look to continue their undefeated season in the semifinal round on Saturday against 13th-seeded Auburn. Jon Horford scored a game-high 15 points to lead eighth-seeded Florida (16-17), which gave Kentucky a game until a late-game run put the contest out of doubt.

Final Score: (11) Notre Dame 74, (2) Duke 64

Bonzie Colson scored 17 points, Demetrius Jackson added 15 and No. 11 Notre Dame held off No. 2 Duke 74-64 to reach the final of the ACC Tournament. Duke had won 12 in a row since losing in South Bend on Jan. 28, but Notre Dame (28-5) jumped on top of the second-seeded Blue Devils early and held off a late surge to earn a title game matchup against North Carolina on Saturday. Jerian Grant totaled 13 points and seven rebounds for the third-seeded Fighting Irish (28-5), who did not make it out of the opening round of their inaugural ACC tourney a year ago. Duke (29-4), the winningest team in this event, shot just 3-of-17 from 3-point range. Jahlil Okafor led the way offensively with 28 points, while Justise Winslow added 11 points and 11 rebounds in defeat.

Final Score: (19) North Carolina 71, (3) Virginia 67

Justin Jackson shot 8-of-10 from the field, made four 3-pointers and scored 22 points to lead No. 19 North Carolina to a 71-67 victory over No. 3 Virginia in the ACC Tournament semifinals. Opponents were shooting an ACC-low 35.6 percent against the Cavaliers, but the Tar Heels (24-10) came out a lit them up at a 54.8 percent clip to reach Saturday’s title game against Notre Dame. Marcus Paige and Brice Johnson added 14 and 13 points, respectively, for fifth-seeded UNC, which is seeking its first tourney title since 2008. Malcolm Brogdon carried top-seeded Virginia (29-3) with 25 points, while London Perrantes and Anthony Gill chipped in 12 apiece.

Final Score: (4) Villanova 63, Providence 61

Ryan Arcidiacono made two free throws after a controversial foul call with 3.1 seconds left, and No. 4 Villanova prevailed against Providence 63-61 to advance to the final of the Big East Tournament. Villanova led for most of the second half until a late turnover led to Kris Dunn’s layup that tied the score with 12.4 seconds left. Out of a timeout, Arcidiacono drove to the basket against Providence big man Ben Bentil, who was whistled for a foul despite very little contact. Arcidiacono calmly hit both free throws, and LaDontae Henton bricked a deep 3- pointer as time expired at the other end. Daniel Ochefu carried the Wildcats (31-2) for most of the night, finishing with 15 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Josh Hart added 18 points off the bench, and Darrun Hilliard scored 12 before fouling out. Villanova will meet Xavier in Saturday’s final. Dunn’s Herculean effort wasn’t enough for the Friars (22-11). The sophomore finished with 22 points, nine assists and seven rebounds in the loss.

Final Score: (5) Arizona 70, UCLA 64

For the third straight season, Arizona and UCLA met in the Pac-12 tournament and for the third straight time, it went down to the wire. Brandon Ashley poured in a career-high 24 points, T.J. McConnell had a double- double and unlike the previous two seasons, No. 5 Arizona prevailed with a 70-64 win over the Bruins to advance to the finals. Ashley did most of the heavy lifting early on, but it was McConnell and Stanley Johnson who carried the Wildcats (30-3) to the finish line. McConnell, who finished with 10 points and 11 assists, iced the win with two free throws with 19 seconds left. Johnson ended up with 15 points and nine rebounds and Rondae Hollis-Jefferson pulled down 12 boards in the win. Arizona will take on Oregon, which knocked off Utah on Joseph Young’s game-winning 3- pointer, in Saturday’s final. Norman Powell had 21 points and Parker netted 15 for UCLA (20-13).

Final Score: (6) Wisconsin 71, Michigan 60

Frank Kaminsky scored just 16 points, but he sparked a key second half run that gave sixth-ranked Wisconsin a 71-60 win over Michigan in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. Sam Dekker added 17 points, six rebounds and six assists for the top-seeded Badgers (28-3), who will face fourth-seeded Purdue in the semifinal round on Saturday. The Boilermakers beat 13th-seeded Penn State, 64-59, on Friday. Kaminsky hit 6-of-12 shots from the floor and added 12 rebounds for Wisconsin, which has won four straight and 14 of 15 games overall. Zak Irvin scored a game-high 21 points and grabbed 11 rebounds to lead ninth-seeded Michigan (16-15), which gave the Badgers a run before falling apart late.

Final Score: (8) Maryland 75, Indiana 69

Dez Wells had 22 points and six rebounds to lead No. 8 Maryland to a 75-69 victory over Indiana in the quarterfinal round of the Big Ten Tournament. Melo Trimble scored 17 points, Jake Layman added 10 points and nine rebounds and Jared Nickens scored 10 for the Terrapins (27-5), who will play Michigan State in the semifinals on Saturday. Kevin Yogi Ferrell had 18 points, Troy Williams gave 17 with nine boards and Robert Johnson scored 10 for the Hoosiers (20-13), who had defeated Northwestern on Thursday to advance to the quarters.

Final Score: (9) Kansas 62, (16) Baylor 52

Wayne Selden Jr. had 20 points and eight rebounds, helping ninth-ranked Kansas beat No. 16 Baylor 62-52 in the semifinals of the Big 12 Tournament on Friday. Perry Ellis, Kansas’ leading scorer, returned from missing two games with a sprained right knee to chip in 11 points and six rebounds. Kelly Oubre Jr. had nine points and five boards for the top-seeded Jayhawks (26-7), who advanced to the Big 12 championship game for the 11th time. They will seek a 10th title on Saturday when they play No. 13 Iowa State. Kenny Chery netted 20 points and Rico Gathers added 11 with 13 rebounds for the fourth-seeded Bears (24-9), who were held to 32.8 percent shooting.

Final Score: (13) Iowa State 67, (15) Oklahoma 65

It appeared No. 13 Iowa State would need overtime to take down No. 15 Oklahoma and return to the Big 12 championship game. The Sooners’ Ryan Spangler went up for a game-tying layup in the dying seconds of regulation but the ball slipped out of his hand, and the Cyclones survived for a 67-65 victory on Friday. Georges Niang had 13 points, eight rebounds and four assists for second-seeded Iowa State (24-8), which beat Baylor last year to capture its second Big 12 Tournament title. Iowa State will play ninth-ranked Kansas, the Big 12 regular season champs, on Saturday. Jameel McKay scored 12 with nine rebounds and came up with two key blocks late for the Cyclones, who got 11 points from Monte Morris, the hero in the last- second quarterfinal victory over Texas. Buddy Hield netted 16 points to lead third-seeded Oklahoma (22-10) but shot 6-of-20 from the floor, including 2- of-13 from 3-point range. TaShawn Thomas had 13 points and matched Hield with 10 rebounds.

Final Score: Oregon 67, (17) Utah 64

With time winding down in the biggest game of the season, the Pac-12 Player of the Year took matters into his own hands. Joseph Young was midway between the 3-point line and midcourt when he let his game-winner fly. It hit nothing but nylon. Young scored a game-high 25 points and the Oregon Ducks upset No. 17 Utah 67-64 to advance to the Pac-12 Tournament finals. Dillon Brooks and Elgin Cook added 14 and 13 points, respectively, for the Ducks (25-8), who will take on top-seeded Arizona in Saturday’s championship. Brandon Taylor made six 3-pointers for a season- high 24 points and Delon Wright finished with 16, nine rebounds and five assists for the Utes (24-8).

Final Score: (20) SMU 74, East Carolina 68

Nic Moore scored 20 points and No. 20 SMU held off hot-shooting East Carolina for a 74-68 win in the quarterfinals of the American Athletic Conference Tournament on Friday. Markus Kennedy took a bump on the head but scored 15 points for top-seeded SMU (25-6), which will play Markus Kennedy took a bump on the head but scored 15 points for top- seeded SMU (25-6), which will play Temple in one of Saturday’s semifinals. Larry Brown’s Mustangs, who had a bye into the quarterfinals, were left out of the NCAA Tournament last year but are virtually guaranteed the program’s first berth since 1993 this year after winning the regular season conference title. SMU was ranked No. 25 in the Associated Press poll before losing to Houston in the quarterfinals of last year’s AAC tournament. The Mustangs went on to make the final of the NIT, losing to Minnesota, but are hoping to take the next step this year with the program’s first NCAA Tournament berth in 22 years. Terry Whisnant and Antonio Robinson scored 18 points apiece for East Carolina (14-19), which shot 15-of-34 from 3- point range and had the game’s biggest lead at 10 points in the first half.

Final Score: (21) Arkansas 80, Tennessee 72

Bobby Portis posted 26 points and 11 rebounds to lead No. 21 Arkansas in an 80-72 victory over Tennessee in the quarterfinals of the SEC Tournament on Friday. Michael Qualls had 20 points while Alandise Harris gave 14 points and nine rebounds for the Razorbacks (25-7), who will play Georgia in the semifinals on Saturday. Josh Richardson scored 22 points with 10 rebounds and Kevin Punter added 13 points for the Volunteers (16-16), who defeated Vanderbilt on Thursday in the second round.

Final Score: Xavier 65, (23) Georgetown 63

Matt Stainbrook scored 20 points and Xavier nearly squandered a 21-point lead before holding off Georgetown 65-63 to advance to the Big East finals. Remy Abell added 10 points for Xavier (21-12), which will meet top-seeded Villanova in Saturday’s final. Jabril Trawick paced the Hoyas (21-10) with 19 points, Isaac Copeland scored 15 and D’Vauntes Smith-Rivera netted 11 in defeat.

Final Score: (24) Davidson 67, La Salle 66

Tyler Kalinoski’s left-handed floater at the buzzer lifted No. 24 Davidson to a thrilling 67-66 win over La Salle in the quarterfinals of the Atlantic 10 Tournament. Kalinoski got a kiss off the back rim on the winner, which pulled top-seeded Davidson (24-6) all the way out of an early 18-point hole and into a semifinal meeting with fifth- seeded VCU on Saturday. Jack Gibbs scored 22 points and Kalinoski had 18 for the Wildcats, who pushed their winning streak to 10 games. Steve Zack had 24 points and 15 rebounds to lead ninth-seeded La Salle (17-16), which was coming off a win over Massachusetts in Thursday’s second round.

Final Score: Wyoming 71, (25) Boise State 66 (OT)

Wyoming is on the brink of sneaking into the NCAA Tournament as the Cowboys knocked off No. 25 Boise State in overtime 71-66 in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament. Josh Adams poured in a game-high 27 points and Larry Nance Jr. added 20 for the fourth- seeded Cowboys (24-9), who advanced to take on San Diego State in Saturday’s final. Derrick Marks and Nick Duncan contributed 17 and 11 points, respectively, for the MWC regular-season champion Broncos. Wyoming won the lone regular season meeting against Boise State on Jan. 10, and the Broncos bounced back with a 15-1 stretch heading into Friday’s rematch. That type of dominance in a competitive conference seemingly has Boise State (25-8) as a lock for an at-large bid in the NCAA Tournament, but its fate is in the hands of the selection committee.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Nothin’ but Net: MVP is still up for grabs

There is one month and two days remaining in the 2014-15 NBA regular season. That much we know.

What we don’t know is who will win the MVP.

That’s a great thing. Prognosticating and arguing about who deserves what leads to tremendous fun, and, if mixed with alcohol, hilarious fights. Parity is also good for competitive balance, even among individuals.

In recent seasons, this baby has been won by now, but the 2014-15 campaign is different. There is no clear-cut choice and that makes the last month intriguing. We haven’t had a genuine MVP battle since the 2004-05 season when Steve Nash beat Shaquille O’Neal by 34 votes (I still disagree with that outcome, but I’ve fought that fight too often).

Individual performance does not trump all. No one is naive enough to think that, including most speculating on the victor. Golden State’s Steph Curry is still the favorite. His accomplishments are strong with 23.6 points, 7.8 assists and a league-leading 2.1 steals per game, and 42% shooting from beyond the 3-point line.

Curry is fifth in scoring, sixth in assists and eighth in 3-point shooting percentage. Plus, Curry’s defense improved. That’s MVP-caliber stuff, but the biggest factor championing Curry’s cause is the Warriors’ record. They have owned the league’s best mark for most of the season, and when they haven’t, it’s been very close.

Without an obvious choice, it’s easy to tab the best player from the best team. A vote for Curry would fall into such category, but that’s not to suggest his season doesn’t warrant MVP consideration if the Warriors were the fourth seed in the West. It would, but his biggest asset in this debate is his team’s record.

Standings matter. To be an MVP without supreme team success requires a special statistical season. That’s where Russell Westbrook, and, to a smaller extent, Anthony Davis, emerge. The Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans are duking it out for the eighth playoff seed in the West.

Westbrook is close to achieving that special kind of statistical season that merits attention. He leads the NBA in scoring at 27.8 ppg and is fourth in assists at 8.3 per game. Westbrook is a under-appreciated defender and with reigning MVP Kevin Durant out of the lineup so frequently, the Thunder’s success, any of it, should be directly attributed to Westbrook.

Davis is in a similar position. He is fourth in the league in scoring (24.5), 10th in rebounding (10.3), seventh in field-goal percentage (54.5) and first in blocked shots (2.8).

If we want to get analytical, Davis leads the league in player efficiency. Westbrook is second and Curry is third. Davis is fourth in win shares, Curry is third and Westbrook is 13th. That hurts Westbrook’s cause, which seems to be diminishing anyway. Davis, and Westbrook for that matter, has missed time with injury. New Orleans improved its standing in his absence.

Westbrook and Davis just don’t have the monstrous numbers supporting a case to unseat Curry, or two unnamed candidates you’ll see in moments.

LeBron James is a freak. His numbers remain freakish and the Cleveland Cavaliers are turning into freaks. If Cleveland stays at No. 2 in the Eastern Conference, James is hard to ignore.

James should be hard to ignore. When Nash won his first MVP, the Suns improved 33 games in the win column (maybe I should be more lenient, that’s a big number). The Cavs are already nine better than last season with 15 to go. Isn’t the kind of improvement Cleveland is displaying this season exactly what defines James’ value?

That leaves us to our final contender, James Harden of the Houston Rockets. A loyal reader will know, I’m pro-beard, not just as a facial identifier, but as the MVP.

Harden is second in scoring at 26.8 ppg. He’s ninth in assists at 7.1, one of only two non-point guards in the top 10, although considering James is the other and he’s ahead, that doesn’t strengthen my argument. Harden has attempted 154 more free throws than anyone else. Re-read that.

If we talk about Curry’s improved defense as a plus, it’s hard to ignore Harden on that front. After YouTube videos were created to show his disinterest in that side of the ball, Harden is now sixth in defensive win shares.

What gives Harden the edge for me over Curry, sadly, has nothing really to do with Curry. The Houston Rockets have been without Dwight Howard for two huge stretches during this season. Houston is 21-11 without Howard. That’s a testament to how great Harden has been to lead this team without its other superstar.

The Rockets are a half-game behind the Portland Trail Blazers for third in the Western Conference, which has been a brutal, five-month trip to the octagon. Do you realize how easy it would have been for the Rockets to falter without Howard, who isn’t what he used to be but is still an elite center in today’s NBA?

The Warriors missed Andrew Bogut for a brief period of time, but otherwise have remained healthy. That shouldn’t be a negative against Curry, but Houston’s success without Howard is definitely a positive in Harden’s favor.

I think it’s still enough to give Harden the nod. It is an individual award, after all.


- I believe the other awards are tightening a bit as well. Coach of the Year was always a battle between Golden State’s Steve Kerr and Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer. I still go for Kerr because the changes he implemented (Green/Barnes for Iguodala/Lee) led more directly to success than Budenholzer, who got back an All-Star big man.

- Defensive Player of the Year is still Draymond Green’s in my mind, but DeAndre Jordan has backers. Jordan’s rebounding numbers stop traffic. The Clippers are 19th in opponents’ scoring and 12th in opponents’ field-goal percentage. Eh. Green’s Warriors lead in opponents’ field-goal percentage and are 14th in opponents’ scoring, and his versatility in switching and covering multiple positions made it so.

- Andrew Wiggins will be Rookie of the Year, but Nerlens Noel deserves far more attention than he’s getting. The only player in the NBA with 100-plus steals and 100-plus blocks is Noel, who is sixth in blocks and eighth in steals. Noel is emerging already as a defensive force and his scoring is up since the All-Star break. Wiggins deserves it, but I hope Noel finishes high up. Nikola Mirotic of the Chicago Bulls also has stepped up recently since most of the Bulls’ roster is injured.

- No clue on Sixth Man. It actually makes me sad thinking about it. I guess Isaiah Thomas of the Boston Celtics.

- Most Improved Player is interesting. Jimmy Butler’s numbers warrant the award, but Green is a fringe All-Star and probably the Defensive Player of the Year. And Rudy Gobert, holy Moses. He made Enes Kanter expendable and defensively might be the most dominating force in waiting.

- Speaking of the Jazz, they are 9-2 since the All-Star break. This is a group that should be winning games instead of tanking. They can gather momentum heading into next season. True, Utah needs a star, but maybe Gobert or Dante Exum becomes that.

- Sam Presti is absolutely correct about not trading Durant. You could never get fair value for him and his importance to a company is difficult to measure. Saying the city will name streets after him was a bit much.

- Starting to wonder if Kevin Love does return to the Cleveland Cavaliers. He’ll get paid if he stays or leaves, so no tears, but does Love really want to sit out fourth quarters of close games? Its an age-old debate about winning a title versus personal glory, but in this case, Love may feel he’s wasting his talent in Cleveland. Interesting story for the summer, although I’ve felt there’s a wink-wink deal for him to stay.

- I agree with Phil Jackson to an extent in his assertion that the Knicks will be rebuilt through free agency. The draft is very important. Look at the Golden State Warriors. But the Knicks have money, and not all of their draft picks, so common sense dictates free agency as the direction.

- The “smoothing” issue was never going to fly with the union. They want that salary cap to doom at once. It makes the most sense for the union and that group would not acquiesce to ownership on the color of a pumpkin at this point.

- KYRIE! Watching how Irving and James have figured out how to play together has been beautiful.

- Movie moment - Watched “Say It Isn’t So” this week. Oof. Has there been a worse, less-talented pairing in movie history than Chris Klein and Heather Graham? I can’t think of one.

- TV moment - When “Glee” leaves the television airwaves, I will have no reaction.  ~~ Jim Brighters ~~

►  Stretching the Field: Pacers dispel thoughts on demise

The Indiana Pacers were an afterthought, written off and left for dead almost two months ago.

The Pacers’ 15-30 record on January23 was proof that morbid transformation to the afterlife had come.

It’s been seven weeks since the eulogy, but the Pacers haven’t received the memo. They are the NBA’s version of Saint Lazarus and life has been restored in Indy.

Staring down a record 15 games below .500 and plodding along without star forward Paul George because of a gruesome broken leg, the Pacers never wavered in their pursuit of gaining the respect they once earned and are closing in on that 180-degree turnaround.

The Pacers have reached the Eastern Conference Finals in each of the previous two seasons and are two-time defending Central Division champions. They can kiss winning a third straight Central title goodbye because either the Cleveland Cavaliers or Chicago Bulls will capture that honor.

But that doesn’t mean the Pacers won’t make a fifth consecutive appearance in the playoffs. They’re starting to click with 15 wins in the past 19 games and, according to coach Frank Vogel, are playing with more discipline. Vogel said after Thursday’s 109-103 overtime win versus the rival Milwaukee Bucks that his team was “reckless” with fouls and needed to adjust.

Vogel’s words resonated with the Pacers (30-34), who are now riding a seven- game winning streak and have 13 victories in the past 15 contests.

The fans have been playing their role in this revival.

“I think our fans are rallying around this team this year. They’ve always been behind us, but it was kind of a struggle early on with the thought that maybe it was a down year,“ Vogel said. “I think they’re starting to realize that we got a chance to do something special, that we got a chance to be the surprise team in the second half of the season. We’re on that path, but we can’t get ahead of ourselves. We still have a lot of work to do.“

Milwaukee is only 3 1/2 games ahead of Indiana for the sixth seed in the Eastern Conference, while Miami is just a game behind the Pacers. Charlotte is 1 1/2 games in back of the Pacers for the No. 7 spot with Boston 2 1/2 games off the pace and Brooklyn trailing by 4 1/2 games.

There’s still plenty of games remaining for any of those teams to make a significant jump in the standings, and Vogel is pleased to see his team back on track.

“It’s good to have our guys back,“ a grinning Vogel said of the Pacers’ play in recent weeks. “Winning is fun. Losing is not.“

Indiana is third in opponents’ scoring at 96.1 points per game and had allowed 86 points or fewer in six straight games before needing overtime to dispatch the Central-foe Bucks. The Pacers have held the last seven opponents below 40% shooting and Milwaukee made just 38.5% from the floor.

The Pacers won despite turning the ball over 20 times (tying a season high), after going 18 straight games with 15 or fewer miscues.

“It’s the team moving better, playing with better energy, better momentum,“ Pacers forward Luis Scola said. “We’re getting more things accomplished and winning more games, moving up in the standings. A lot of good things today. Let’s see if we can keep it going.“

Riding an NBA-best 9-1 record since the All-Star break, the Pacers have been relying on guard Rodney Stuckey the past few games. Stuckey is averaging 20.1 points in his last 10 - all off the bench. He has three 30-point outbursts over that span and finished with 25 points against Milwaukee.

“He was great again. I hope he keeps it going,“ Vogel said. “Maybe this is me getting greedy, but I thought he was having a poor shooting night and I look up he’s got 25 points on 8-for-17 shooting. So that’s pretty good.“

Stuckey is averaging a team-best 13.1 points for the Pacers as they await the return of George. George is taking his time to get back on the floor and Vogel recently touched on the pending season debut of the All-Star.

“Honestly, we’re not even thinking about Paul right now,“ Vogel said. “How effective is he going to be having not played in a year? This is a serious injury. He still has a lot of hurdles to pass before he even gets back on the court. We’re trying to become the best possible team we can be without him and if he gets back, that’s just going to be a bonus.“

The Pacers are hoping George’s return doesn’t spoil what’s going on. But how can that happen? George transformed himself into one of the NBA’s elite and his presence will only benefit the Pacers.

Indiana is 2-0 on a four-game home stand and has prevailed in each of its last seven games at Bankers Life Fieldhouse. The venue should be nearing full capacity for how well the home team has been playing.

Reaching the playoffs again is a strong possibility for the Pacers, but not a priority at the moment. It’s a game-to-game approach.

“Right now the basketball we’re playing is so free and so fun and trusting we don’t need to put that type of pressure on it,“ Pacers swingman C.J. Miles said. “The biggest thing we have right now is you see everybody playing hard, and for each other and the smiles and the bench jumping up and down ... understanding time and score, but at the same time being able to play with confidence.“

All that winning is enough to ignite spirits.

►  NBA Game Results

(Friday, March 13)

Final Score: Charlotte 101, Chicago 91

Gerald Henderson scored 20 points and was part of a huge third-quarter run that propelled the Charlotte Hornets to a 101-91 victory over the Chicago Bulls. The Hornets overcame a 60-52 halftime deficit by outscoring Chicago by a 23-5 margin to begin the third quarter, a period in which the injury-plagued Bulls went a woeful 3-of-17 from the field and turned it over seven times en route to a fourth loss in five games.

Final Score: Philadelphia 114, Sacramento 107

Robert Covington scored 24 points to lead the Philadelphia 76ers to a 114-107 win over the Sacramento Kings on Friday. Nerlens Noel had 16 points and 12 rebounds and Jerami Grant chipped in 13 points for Philadelphia, which has won two of its last three since a four-game losing skid. DeMarcus Cousins had an outstanding performance in defeat, tying a season high of 39 points with a career-high 24 rebounds, also becoming the first player in the NBA this season to record a 30- point, 20-rebound game. Cousins had 22 points and 15 rebounds in the opening half, but the Kings fell for the fifth time in their last six games.

Final Score: Boston 95, Orlando 88

Evan Turner scored 16 of his 30 points in the fourth quarter, and he provided the go-ahead bucket with 1:54 remaining in Boston’s 95-88 win over the Orlando Magic. Phil Pressey added 10 points and 10 rebounds for Boston. Kelly Olynyk scored 13 and Avery Bradley had 10 for the Celtics, who tied a season-high with their third straight win. They’ve also captured eight of their last nine home games. Elfrid Payton scored 20 with nine assists for Orlando, which suffered a third consecutive defeat. The Magic’s last win came against the Celtics on Sunday. Tobias Harris and Nik Vucevic each had 16 points with Vucevic adding 11 boards.

Final Score: Toronto 102, Miami 92

Kyle Lowry’s 19 points, eight assists and seven steals enabled the Toronto Raptors to finally get a win over the Miami Heat, a 102-92 decision that halted a 16-game series losing streak. DeMar DeRozan added 18 points and Lou Williams contributed 14 off the bench in Toronto’s first victory over the Heat since Jan. 27, 2010, when Miami star Chris Bosh’s was in his final season as a member of the Raptors. Toronto snapped another large slide with Friday’s result, as the current Atlantic Division leaders had dropped four in a row and nine of their last 10 coming in.

Final Score: Oklahoma City 113, Minnesota 99

Another game, another triple-double for Russell Westbrook. Westbrook recorded his eighth triple-double of the season with 29 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds to help the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 113-99 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday night. Westbrook supplied his third triple-double of the month in five games as he continues his lights out play while Kevin Durant is sidelined with a foot injury.

Final Score: Dallas 129, LA Clippers 99

Chandler Parsons led seven Dallas players in double figures with 22 points, and the Mavericks pounded the Los Angeles Clippers, 129-99, at American Airlines Center. Parsons went 5-of-6 from 3- point range, part of a 16-for-28 performance for the Mavs from long distance. Charlie Villanueva added 19 points, while Devin Harris and J.J. Barea each scored 15. Dirk Nowitzki, Tyson Chandler and Monta Ellis each provided 14 points for the Mavericks, who bounced back from a 33-point home loss to Cleveland Tuesday. They are in sixth place in the Western Conference, a half-game ahead of San Antonio and a half-game behind the Clippers. Chandler added 12 rebounds.

Final Score: Denver 114, Golden State 103

Randy Foye scored 11 of his 20 points in the final quarter and had eight assists to rally the Denver Nuggets to a 114-103 win over the short-handed Golden State Warriors. Kenneth Faried added 24 points and 17 rebounds for the Nuggets, who ended the contest on a 20-4 run. Danilo Gallinari also scored 24, while Jameer Nelson chipped in 17 points and seven assists in Denver’s third straight win. Justin Holiday had a career- high 23 points for the Warriors, who rested Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Bogut and Andre Iguodala. The NBA-leading Warriors were also without forward Marreese Speights, who was suspended one game after he pleaded no contest to a reckless driving charge in Florida.

Final Score: Atlanta 96, Phoenix 87

Paul Millsap supplied 23 points, nine rebounds and three assists as the Atlanta Hawks got back on track with a 96-87 win over the Phoenix Suns on Friday night. Kyle Korver posted 14 points and Al Horford contributed 12 points with seven rebounds for Atlanta, which had an unexpected 115-102 loss at Denver on Wednesday to open a six-game road trip. Markieff Morris led the Suns with 22 points and Eric Bledsoe notched 21 points and six assists in the loss.

Final Score: Portland 118, Detroit 99

Damian Lillard had 28 points and nine assists, and LaMarcus Aldridge scored 22 in Portland’s 118-99 rout of the Detroit Pistons. Arron Afflalo and Meyers Leonard each had 15 points, and Chris Kaman scored 14 for the Trail Blazers, who won for the fifth time in six games. Greg Monroe had 19 points, and Andre Drummond tallied 16 points and 17 rebounds for the Pistons, who lost their ninth in a row.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Rounding Third: Injuries again dominating MLB camps

We are almost a month into spring training and just like last year, the prevailing story has been the rash of injuries, especially among big-time pitchers.

Texas ace Yu Darvish has a torn elbow ligament and will likely need season- ending surgery, while Philadelphia left-hander Cliff Lee has a torn flexor tendon in his elbow and will try everything he can to put off surgery, which he says could end his career.

Just as devastating as those two, but a little more under the radar is the elbow injury to Kansas City lefty Tim Collins, who was a vital part of the Royals’ vaunted bullpen a year ago that carried them to a American League pennant.

Like the Rangers and Phillies, the Royals are seeking out every option they can to avoid surgery, but, of course, are bracing themselves for the worst.

And there will sure to be more to come before the first pitch of the season is thrown by Jon Lester on Easter Sunday in Chicago.

The most disheartening injury, though, may have come Tuesday, as Toronto righty Marcus Stroman tore his ACL in his left knee while taking pitchers’ fielding practice on the back fields. He went to cover first base on a bunt, felt a pop in his knee and later underwent an MRI, which revealed the damage.

Although the Jays haven’t said how long he’ll be out, the belief is Stroman will miss the entire 2015 season.

“Beyond devastated. Not being able to compete with my brothers each and every day is extremely disappointing,“ the 23-year-old Stroman wrote Tuesday on Twitter. “Still can’t believe it.“

Stroman was expected to be a key piece to Toronto’s starting rotation this season after a strong rookie campaign. He was 11-6 with a 3.65 ERA and 111 strikeouts over 130 2/3 innings in 26 games, including 20 starts, in 2014.

After struggling at the outset, though, the former first-round pick added a sinker to his arsenal and was a completely different pitcher from that point on.

If you were looking for a breakout star in the American League this season, Stroman certainly would have been on a short list.

Now the Blue Jays are left scrambling heading into a season they thought would end with their first postseason appearance since 1993. It seems as if we say this every year about the Blue Jays, but with the AL East as wide open as it’s been in recent memory, you certainly could have stated a case for them.

And you still may. Hear me out here.

Even before Stroman went down, the Blue Jays probably could have used another starting pitcher or two. The last time I checked, the New York Mets not only have an abundance of good, young arms, which, of course, is not a problem unless you have other holes.

And the Mets do, particularly at shortstop, preferably one who can leadoff.

Perhaps I am still out of my mind from the news that Darrelle Revis is coming back to New York, but why wouldn’t the Mets offer up one of those pitchers for Jose Reyes?

The sticking point for the Mets could be that Reyes is owed $22 million a season over the next three years. The Jays would move him, though. For Reyes’ own sake, he needs to get out of Toronto. That turf is taking a toll on those precious knees.

It’s probably a longshot, but these are two teams who have done business in the past. And given the flurry of activity in the NFL this past week, why not throw some crazy MLB trade proposals out there.

Let’s be honest, it’s still better than talking about spring training games.  ~~  Chris Ruddick ~~

►  Red Sox officially sign Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada

The Boston Red Sox announced they signed Cuban prospect Yoan Moncada to a minor league contract, a deal that was reported three weeks ago.

Moncada recently passed a physical and was working out in Fort Myers with the team on Thursday.

According to previous reports on, the 19-year-old shortstop has agreed to a contract for about $30 million.

However, the deal would then actually cost the Red Sox a total of $60 million because the team will be penalized for exceeding Major League Baseball’s bonus pool for international signings.

Boston had already surpassed the bonus limit before the agreement with Moncada, thus incurring a penalty of a 100-percent tax.

Moncada reportedly worked out for numerous teams over the offseason. He began playing for Cienfuegos of Cuba’s Serie Nacional team at age 17 and hit .277 over parts of two seasons.

The Red Sox will introduce Moncada in a press conference with general manager Ben Cherington on Friday.

►  Rangers’ Darvish to have Tommy John surgery

Texas Rangers starter Yu Darvish will have Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow, the team said Friday, meaning the ace right-hander will miss the upcoming season.

The reconstructive surgery on the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow will be performed Tuesday in Pensacola, Florida, by Dr. James Andrews, Rangers spokesman John Blake said.

The team revealed last week that Darvish, 28, had a sprained UCL that might require the season-ending surgery so common these days.

Darvish underwent an MRI exam last Friday after pitching just one inning in his spring debut.

He missed the final seven weeks last season due to mild inflammation in his right elbow.

The star right-hander was 10-7 with a 3.06 ERA in 22 starts before the injury last season and owns a career mark of 39-25 with a 3.27 ERA in 83 starts over three seasons with the Rangers. He has 680 strikeouts and 218 walks in 545 1/3 career innings.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NHL Game Results

(Friday, March 13)

Final Score: Ottawa 2, NY Islanders 1

Andrew Hammond made 34 saves to backstop the surging Ottawa Senators to a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders on Friday. Kyle Turris and Matt Puempel had second-period goals for Ottawa, which improved to 12-2-2 in its last 16 games and moved to within five points of Boston for the Eastern Conference’s final wild-card spot. Jaroslav Halak stopped 26 shots for the Islanders, who have dropped five of seven and remain one point back of the Rangers for first in the Metropolitan Division.

Final Score: Dallas 4, Washington 2

Vernon Fiddler tallied a goal and an assist and the Dallas Stars continued their dominance of the Washington Capitals with a 4-2 win on Friday. Shawn Horcoff, Colton Sceviour and Tyler Seguin all scored, while Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves for the Stars, who have won three straight and five of their last six games. Curtis Glencross and Evgeny Kuznetsov each lit the lamp for Washington, while Braden Holtby gave up all four goals on 22 shots. Justin Peters stopped all nine shots he faced in relief. The Capitals have lost their last seven games against the Stars and last won in the series on Oct. 25, 2008.

Final Score: Columbus 5, Edmonton 4 (SO)

Alexander Wennberg recorded the lone goal of the shootout, giving Columbus a 5-4 victory over Edmonton at Nationwide Arena. Marko Dano, Cam Atkinson, Artem Anisimov and Scott Hartnell tallied in regulation for the Blue Jackets, who have won three in a row and four of five. Sergei Bobrovsky made 31 saves for the win. Jordan Eberle, Derek Roy, Andrew Ference and Nail Yakupov scored for the Oilers, who haven’t won in their last seven games (0-5-2). Ben Scrivens took the loss despite 27 stops.

Final Score: Anaheim 2, Minnesota 1

John Gibson outdueled Devan Dubnyk, and Jakob Silfverberg netted the deciding score late in the second period as Anaheim clipped Minnesota by a 2-1 count at Xcel Energy Center. Gibson’s 32 saves upstaged Dubnyk’s 22 stops, as the latter lost for just the fifth time in regulation since arriving in the Twin Cities back in mid-January. Francois Beauchemin recorded the other goal and Ryan Kesler assisted on both for the Ducks, who put a three-game slide to rest. Zach Parise netted the lone marker for the Wild, who have lost two of three since winning five straight.

Final Score: Calgary 6, Toronto 3

Sean Monahan finished with two goals and an assist to lead the Calgary Flames in a 6-3 rout of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday. Johnny Gaudreau and Jiri Hudler each posted a goal and two assists, while Drew Shore and Mikael Backlund also scored for the Flames, who have won five of their last six games. Jonas Hiller backed up his offense with 25 saves. David Booth lit the lamp twice and Richard Panik also scored for the Maple Leafs, who saw James Reimer give up six goals on 28 shots in the club’s fourth defeat in five outings.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Harrison battles past Fish at Indian Wells

American Ryan Harrison fought past compatriot Mardy Fish as the men’s portion of the BNP Paribas Open commenced Thursday in the California desert.

Harrison defeated Fish, who played in his first ATP-level tennis event since August 2013 due to heart and anxiety issues, 6-4, 4-6, 7-6 (7-3) on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

The former world No. 7 Fish was the 2008 Indian Wells runner-up to Novak Djokovic.

Australian James Duckworth beat Dominic Thiem of Austria 7-6 (7-5), 6-1; Jarkko Nieminen downed Thiemo de Bakker 7-6 (7-3), 6-4; Edouard Roger-Vasselin defeated Marinko Matosevic 5-7, 6-4, 6-3; and Daniel Gimeno-Traver battled past Sam Groth 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (8-6).

American Tim Smyczek bounced German Benjamin Becker 6-3, 7-6 (7-4), while last week’s Canadian Davis Cup hero Vasek Pospisil was leading Mikhail Kukushkin 6-4, 4-2 when the Kazakhstanian player retired. Pospisil will encounter fourth seed Andy Murray in his next outing.

Meanwhile, Argentine Juan Monaco snuck past Russian Teymuraz Gabashvili 6-2, 3-6, 6-3 and Croat Ivan Dodig topped Portuguese Joao Sousa 6-3, 7-5.

Additional winners on Thursday included Adrian Mannarino, Borna Coric, Thanasi Kokkinakis, Federico Delbonis, Jurgen Melzer, Albert Ramos-Vinolas and Marcos Baghdatis.

This week’s top seeds are the “Big Four”—Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal and Murray. The three-time champion Djokovic beat the four- time titlist Federer in last year’s marquee final. Nadal, like Djokovic, also owns three Indian Wells titles.

The winner of this $5 million event will collect $900,400.

►  Hantuchova, Zvonareva ousted at Indian Wells

Former champions Vera Zvonareva and Daniela Hantuchova were both first-round losers Thursday at the $5 million BNP Paribas Open.

Hantuchova, who titled here in 2002 and 2007, rallied to force a third set against Klara Koukalova but wound up on the losing end of a 6-4, 1-6, 6-3, decision.

Slovenian Polona Hercog drilled Zvonareva—a two-time Grand Slam runner-up—6-1, 6-1 on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden. An on-the- mend Zvonareva captured the Indian Wells title back in 2009.

Taylor Townsend took out Bethanie Mattek-Sands 6-4, 5-7, 7-5 in a matchup of American wildcards in the California desert.

Another American, Lauren Davis, downed Slovak Anna Schmiedlova 6-2, 6-2, while Belgian Yanina Wickmayer defeated Italian Karin Knapp 6-1, 7-5 and Tunisian Ons Jabeur doused Estonian Kaia Kanepi 7-5, 6-2. Wickmayer’s second-round opponent will be former world No. 1 Maria Sharapova, while Jabeur will take on former top-ranked star and last week’s Kuala Lumpur champ Caroline Wozniacki.

Meanwhile, Chinese Lin Zhu overcame former French Open champion Francesca Schiavone, of Italy, 0-6, 6-3, 6-3 and Italian Roberta Vinci fought back to beat Aussie Jarmila Gajdosova 4-6, 6-1, 6-2.

Also on Day 2, Kazakhstan’s Sesil Karatantcheva beat Bulgarian Tsvetana Pironkova 7-5, 6-1; Serb Bojana Jovanovski handled Dutchwoman Kiki Bertens 6-3, 6-4; Russian Yulia Putintseva erased Czech Tereza Smitkova 6-4, 6-4; Ukrainian Lesia Tsurenko dismissed German Annika Beck 6-1, 6-3; and Belgian Kirsten Flipkens bested American Shelby Rogers 6-2, 6-4.

Other first-round winners included: Czech Lucie Hradecka and Americans Christina McHale and Madison Brengle—all advancing in straight sets.

The top seeds here are world No. 1 Australian and U.S. Open champion Serena Williams, the French Open titlist and Aussie Open runner-up Sharapova, French Open runner-up Simona Halep, and the U.S. Open runner-up Wozniacki. Sharapova is a two-time winner at Indian Wells, while her fellow former No. 1 Wozniacki captured the title in 2011.

The 2001 Indian Wells champ Williams will end her self-imposed exile from this tournament and play here for the first time in 14 years.

At the 2001 BNP Paribas Open, Serena and her older sister Venus were booed by fans who accused them of match fixing when Venus withdrew from a scheduled semifinal match.

The 19-time major titlist Serena will open her stay against Romanian Monica Niculescu.

Flavia Pennetta was last year’s surprise Indian Wells champion, after upsetting Agnieszka Radwanska in the final.

The 2015 titlist will earn $900,400.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Razorback Handicap offers solid field of seven

Tapiture, second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, is the 5-2 morning line favorite versus six for Saturday’s $250,000 Razorback Handicap at Oaklawn Park.

Trained by Steve Asmussen, Tapiture will leave from the rail post in the 1 1/16-mile stakes with Ricardo Santana Jr. assuming the mount after the retirement of the colt’s regular rider Rosie Napravnik.

“He is coming into the race extremely well and I feel good about where he is. Saturday is a big day for him,“ Asmussen said about Tapiture’s 2015 debut race.

Tapiture, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, won last year’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn and was second in the Rebel before finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby.

The 4-year-old came out of a 15th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby with consecutive wins in the Matt Winn Stakes at Churchill Downs and West Virginia Derby at Mountaineer. He then finished second to Bayern in the Pennsylvania Derby before the Breeders’ Cup. Tapiture has earned $1,388,060 with four wins and four seconds in 12 starts.

Carve and Ride On Curlin, the 3-1 co-second picks, will leave from the two far outside posts in the 1 1/16-mile Razorback with Jesus Castanon and Jon Court in the corresponding saddles.

Carve, owned by Michael Langford, is coming off a win in Oaklawn’s Fifth Season Stakes on January 16. The 5-year-old gelding posted wins last season in the Cornhusker Handicap at Prairie Meadows and West Virginia Governor’s Stakes at Mountaineer. Carve has earned $772,415 with seven wins from 19 starts.

“I’m very pleased with him and how he’s doing right now,“ said trainer Brad Cox. “Looking at the race, there’s a little bit of speed in there and I think there will be a couple of horses in front of him. The ideal set-up would be him sitting off them up front and him making his run. He’s doing awesome, couldn’t ask for anything more.“

Ride on Curlin, trained by “Bronco” Billy Gowan, has had success at Oaklawn with third-place finishes in last year’s Southwest and Rebel Stakes followed by a second in the Arkansas Derby. The colt, owned by Daniel Dougherty, was second in Oaklawn’s Essex Handicap last month after claiming an allowance race at the track in January.

“People really like this horse a lot, and they like to come out to see him,“ said Gowan. “He’s almost a local legend and he’s an Oaklawn Park horse, that’s for sure. He’s got a lot of loyal fans and it’s fun. People are also nice to me at the same time, so I really enjoy it.

“He’s good, real good. Now it’s just keeping him happy until Saturday,“

Ride on Curlin has three wins, four seconds and four thirds from 14 lifetime starts for $771,287. In six starts at Oaklawn, he has banked $380,200 with two wins, two seconds and two thirds.

Here is the field for the Razorback in post position order: Tapiture, Ricardo Santana Jr., 5-2; Golden Ticket, Chris Landeros, 12-1; Midnight Hawk, Victor Espinoza, 6-1; I Got It All, Channing Hill, 20-1; Race Day, John Velazquez, 7-2; Carve, Jesus Castanon, 3-1 and Ride on Curlin, Jon Court, 3-1.

Post time for the Razorback Handicap will be approximately 5:57 PM ET.

►  ‘Chrome’ registers workout ahead of Dubai World Cup

Champion colt California Chrome had another Friday morning workout at Los Alamitos Racecourse as he prepares for the $10 million Dubai World Cup on March 28.

Trained by Art Sherman, “Chrome” covered seven furlongs in 1:23.80 after going six furlongs in 1:10.

Owned by Steve Coburn and Perry Martin, “Chrome” has just one start his year, a second-place finish to Shared Belief in the $500,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita on February 07. The 2014 Horse of the Year and champion 3-year-old is scheduled to leave for Dubai on Tuesday with Sherman to follow five days later.

Last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness champ has nine wins from 17 starts for $4,322,650.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Davis takes early lead at Valspar Championship

Brian Davis fired a 6-under 65 in Thursday’s first round and the Englishman holds a 1-shot lead over Sean O’Hair and Ricky Barnes at the Valspar Championship.

Davis, a two-time winner on the European Tour, is looking for his first victory on the PGA Tour. Davis last won at the ANZ Championship in 2004, with his other win coming at the Open de Espana in 2000.

“My form has been great lately so to get out there and shoot a low number is always a good thing,“ said Davis. “It’s probably about as easy as you’re going to see this course so you got to try and make some birdies today.“

O’Hair held the clubhouse lead for a while as a member of the early pairings before he was caught and surpassed by Davis. O’Hair and Barnes both finished the first round on the Copperhead Course at Innisbrook Golf & Spa Resort at 5- under 66.

World No. 3 Henrik Stenson and last week’s Puerto Rico Open champion Alex Cejka headline a group of six players tied for fourth at 4-under 67. They are joined there by rookie Justin Thomas, Derek Ernst, Brendon de Jonge and Nicholas Thompson.

Defending champion John Senden carded a 3-over 74 in the first round and he is tied for 114th.

Davis, playing the back nine first on Thursday, had a huge start to his round, which put him in contention right away.

The 40-year-old from England jumped out to a very hot start when he made four birdies in a five-hole stretch from No. 11. After sinking putts of five and nine feet on 11 and 12, Davis poured in an 18-foot putt on 14 and followed that up with a monstrous 49-foot birdie conversion on the par-3 15th.

Following a pair of pars on 16 and 17, Davis converted a 16-foot birdie effort on No. 18 and made the turn at 5-under.

Things began to slow down a bit for Davis as he rattled off four straight pars from No. 1.

Davis then drained back-to-back birdies on five and six, giving him the outright lead at minus-7. That did not last, however, as he tripped to two straight bogeys on seven and eight, dropping Davis back to minus-5.

It appeared as if Davis was going to end the day deadlocked with O’Hair and Barnes, but he chipped in from the rough on the par-4 ninth for birdie to take the outright advantage heading into the second round.

“The wind was down this afternoon and obviously the fairways are soft so it makes them obviously larger,“ Davis said. “I was able to go at some pins and you know I obviously took advantage of that today.“

O’Hair, also playing the back nine first, did not get off to an ideal start with a bogey on 10. He steadied the ship for the rest of his opening nine with birdies on 13, 15 and 18.

O’Hair made it three straight birdies from 18 with two more gains on one and two before tripping to his second bogey on three. O’Hair responded with another gain on four, but gave that shot back with a bogey on five.

The 32-year-old finished strong as he drained birdies on seven and eight to end at minus-5.

Barnes started off well with back-to-back birdies on four and five. He then ran off four straight birdies from No. 9, giving Barnes the outright lead at minus-6 at the time.

Barnes cruised for a bit with four straight pars from 13, but a bogey on 17 dropped him back a shot to 5-under. He finished with a par at the last.

NOTES: Davis has not won on the PGA Tour in 319 events ... O’Hair earned his second career victory at this event back in 2008. He has four wins on the PGA Tour now ... O’Hair’s last win was at the 2011 Canadian Open ... Barnes is still seeking his first career win ... Stenson is the top-ranked player in the world at this event with Rory McIlroy and Bubba Watson not playing this week.

►  Woods will not play at Palmer Invitational

Tiger Woods announced on his website Friday that he will not play at next week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational, a tournament he has won eight times.

Woods, who last won the event at Bay Hill in 2013, has not played since withdrawing from the Farmers Insurance Open in early February. Woods has taken an indefinite leave from the PGA Tour while he works on improving his game.

“I spoke to Arnold today and told him that I will not play in his tournament this year. I’m sorry I won’t be in Orlando next week, but I know it will be a really successful event,“ Woods said on his website. “I’ve put in a lot of time and work on my game and I’m making strides, but like I’ve said, I won’t return to the PGA Tour until my game is tournament ready and I can compete at the highest level.“

There has been much speculation as to whether or not Woods will be ready for the Masters on April 9. The four-time Masters champion addressed that on Friday as well.

“I hope to be ready for the Masters, and I will continue to work hard preparing for Augusta,“ said Woods. “I want to thank everyone again for their support.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  F1: Kicking off the 2015 season in Australia

After months of preparation and testing, 10 teams and 20 drivers are ready to get the 2015 Formula One season underway with this weekend’s Australian Grand Prix.

Lewis Hamilton and Mercedes are also set to begin their driver and constructors’ title defenses. This season will feature a record-tying 20-race calendar, which will conclude November 29 in Abu Dhabi.

Last year, Hamilton won 11 of the 19 races and finished the season 67 points ahead of his Mercedes teammate and championship rival Nico Rosberg. It was the second F1 world championship for Hamilton. Mercedes clinched its first constructors’ title when Hamilton won the Russian Grand Prix, as three races remained in the season.

Mercedes won 16 grand prix during the 2014 season, beginning with Nico Rosberg’s victory in Australia. Rosberg went on to score four more wins last year.

Rosberg’s attempt to win a second straight Australian GP got off to a good start on Friday, as he led the way in the two practice sessions. The German’s quickest lap around the Albert Park Circuit during P1 was clocked in 1 minute, 29.557 seconds. His time of 1:27.697 topped the charts in P2.

“It was great to be back in the car at this awesome track,“ Rosberg said. “Today, we have the evidence that our Silver Arrow is quick again, and it was a great start for the team. I was very happy with my long run, but on one lap, I still need to work on the pace, as I had a lot of oversteer in the car.“

Hamilton had the second fastest lap in each of the two practices. He was only 0.029 seconds behind Rosberg in P1 and just 0.1 seconds in back of his teammate in P2. Hamilton has yet to win the Australian GP. He claimed the pole for last year’s race here, but after completing only two laps, he was forced to retire due to engine failure.

“It feels great to be back on track and back into a race weekend,“ Hamilton said. “I’m not 100% comfortable with the car, but that’s to be expected on the first day. (Friday) seemed to confirm that we have pretty good pace. But there are still other quick cars out there, and we can’t go into (Saturday’s final practice and qualifying) sessions not thinking that they will be close.“

While Hamilton and Rosberg were in a league of their own last year, it could be a different story for the Mercedes duo this season. Sebastian Vettel, the four-time F1 world champion, is now with Ferrari, teaming up with Kimi Raikkonen. Vettel had a disappointing season in ‘14, his last with Red Bull. He failed to win a race and placed fifth in the world championship point standings.

Vettel, making his competition debut with Ferrari this weekend in Melbourne, had the fifth fastest time in the first practice (1:31.029) and the third quickest lap in P2 (1:28.412).

“It was a good day with no problems on the car,“ Vettel said. It looks like the hard work done during the winter, both on track and at the factory at Maranello (Italy), is paying off.“

Ferrari has not won a race since the May 2013 Spanish Grand Prix, with driver Fernando Alonso, and Vettel’s last victory in a grand prix occurred in the ‘13 season-finale in Brazil.

Alonso returned to McLaren for this season after driving for that team in 2007. He will miss the Australian GP due to a concussion he suffered during an accident in preseason testing last month in Barcelona. He is expected to return for the Malaysian Grand Prix the last weekend in March. Kevin Magnussen, the test and reserve driver for McLaren, will fill-in for Alonso in Australia.

Series: Formula One. Date: Sunday, March 15. Race: Australian Grand Prix. Site: Albert Park Circuit. Track: 3.3-mile (5.303-kilometer), 16-turn temporary street circuit. Start Time: 1 AM ET. Laps: 58. Miles: 191.110 (307.574 km). 2014 Winner: Nico Rosberg. Television: NBC Sports Network.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Houston, OCSC meet after thrilling openers

A pair of clubs coming off of thrilling results to open the season will return to action at BBVA Compass Stadium on Friday as the Houston Dynamo will play host to Orlando City SC.

Orlando marked its first MLS contest with a point, but the club looked likely to come away from its clash with fellow expansion side New York City FC empty- handed after Mix Diskerud handed the visitors the lead at the Citrus Bowl.

Kaka, however, put his stamp on his MLS debut by converting a last-minute free kick that took a massive deflection on its way past Josh Saunders, salvaging a point for Orlando in a 1-1 draw.

“I am absolutely delighted with the final score because it would have been a travesty if we hadn’t taken something out of the game,“ OCSC head coach Adrian Heath said. “It was too good a day to end like that. It was the least the players deserved. ... But I am just so proud of everybody connected with the club for the way we fought back and got a point.“

It was a rather peculiar debut outing for Orlando as the club received three cautions for simulation.

“Making decisions is hard within a split second but then having to think ‘Did he try to dive? Did he not?‘ We’re in danger of over-complicating things. I’d hope we can have some common sense on some of these decisions,“ said Heath. “I know the league is keen to eradicate this sort of thing but I’d also hope we don’t get players immediately signaling for cards when a player goes down as that doesn’t help the referee either.“

Orlando will also be without star defender Aurelien Collin, who picked up a straight red card for a rash challenge against NYCFC.

Houston, specifically Giles Barnes, will hope to take advantage of that absence.

Barnes capped a memorable opening fixture last time out by striking in the 66th minute to give the Dynamo a 1-0 victory over Columbus Crew SC.

It was the fourth consecutive season in which Houston opened the campaign with a shutout victory, and with a win already under his belt, MLS newcomer Owen Coyle will be eager to build upon the result.

“I don’t think we could have asked for any more than what we got,“ the new Dynamo boss said after the match. “I think there was really a lot of quality on the ball at times, I still think there’s room for improvement in that area. But there’s no doubt we scored a wonderful goal, a goal fit to any game.

“The lads defended really well against a really good side - a side that in the second half of last season was probably as good as anybody in the league, made the playoffs. And they play very exciting. I thought the game was end-to-end, I think anyone that watched the game as a neutral watched a lovely game.“

The Gilmer Free Press

►  FIFA to choose 2022 World Cup dates, start 2026 bid talks

Choosing the playing dates for the 2022 World Cup is at the top of the FIFA executive committee’s agenda next week, with the 2026 hosting contest also under discussion.

FIFA says it will start talks at its March 19-20 meeting on a timeline for 2026 bidders, which are expected to include Canada and the United States.

Still, the most important item on the agenda is confirming that the 2022 tournament in Qatar will be played in November-December to avoid the heat of June-July.

The exact playing dates must be decided, with FIFA suggesting a 28-day tournament instead of the usual 32 days.

FIFA President Sepp Blatter says he wants the final on Sunday, December 18 — Qatar’s national day — over UEFA’s wish for Friday, December 23.

►  Chelsea hopes to rebound against Southampton

With its European quest coming to an abrupt halt, Chelsea will turn its attention to the Premier League with a home fixture against Southampton on Sunday.

The Blues were ousted from the Champions League on Wednesday, suffering a 2-2 draw with Paris Saint-Germain at Stamford Bridge to see the French side through on away goals.

The draw was made even more disappointing given that Chelsea enjoyed a man advantage for the majority of the proceedings as Zlatan Ibrahimovic was issued a straight red card midway through the opening period.

And though Chelsea twice went in front, PSG battled back to eliminate Jose Mourinho’s men in extra time and ruin their chances of the coveted “treble”.

Bowing out of Europe may turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Chelsea as it allows the club to focus solely on its pursuit of a Premier League title.

The Blues enter the weekend on 63 points, five points better than second-place Manchester City. The London club does hold a game in hand, meaning that there is certainly some breathing room for Mourinho’s side.

Southampton, meanwhile, has slowly dropped in the table.

The Saints once occupied third place in the English top flight, but a run of one point in three matches has dropped them down to seventh place with 49 points.

While Southampton boasts the best defense in the Premier League (20 goals conceded in 28 games), the well has dried up at the other end. The Saints have scored just one goal in their last four league outings with the lone strike coming in a 1-0 defeat of Crystal Palace, a tally that snapped a run of four games without a win.

The race for Champions League football next season remains camptivating as all five teams vying for third and foruth place earned wins last time out.

Arsenal, entering the weekend in third place, has won four straight in league play and is fresh off of its FA Cup defeat of Manchester United on Monday. The Gunners will attempt to keep rolling on Saturday when they welcome West Ham United to the Emirates.

Manchester United, meanwhile, will hope to bounce back from Monday’s disappointing defeat and salvage the season with a top-four finish, starting with three points against sixth-place Tottenham at Old Trafford on Sunday.

Liverpool, sitting atop the form table with 13 points from its last five league games, is also seeking a return to the Champions League and will aim to maintain its rich vein of form on Monday when it travels to the Liberty Stadium to face Swansea City.

Manchester City is chasing Chelsea and will hope to remain in the title hunt with a victory at Burnley on Saturday.

Rounding out Saturday’s slate, Crystal Palace will play host to QPR at Selhurst Park, lowly Leicester City will welcome Hull City to the KP Stadium, Aston Villa will attempt to keep rolling at Sunderland and West Bromwich Albion will aim to close the gap on Stoke City.

And on Sunday, Everton and Newcastle United will meet at Goodison Park with both sides hoping to inch closer to the top half of the table.

►  Oxlade-Chamberlain out a month with hamstring problem

Arsenal winger Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain is set to miss the next month after suffering a hamstring injury against Manchester United in the FA Cup on Monday.

Oxlade-Chamberlain was taken off shortly after halftime in the Gunners 2-1 win, and the injury will prevent him from taking part in Arsenal’s league matches with West Ham, Newcastle and Liverpool as well as next week’s Champions League fixture against Monaco.

The 21-year-old has started 17 Premier League games for Arsene Wenger’s team this season, scoring one goal with one assist.

Wenger also said on Friday that midfielder Mikel Arteta, who has been out since November with an ankle injury, should be fit enough to return to action by the end of March.

►  West Ham’s Tomkins sustains dislocated shoulder

West Ham defender James Tomkins could miss the rest of the season after suffering a dislocated shoulder in training on Thursday.

The club has confirmed that Tomkins received treatment at the hospital for the injury, although West Ham has yet to put a timetable on his return.

West Ham manager Sam Allardyce is already without center back Winston Reid for Saturday’s trip to Arsenal, so the injury to Tomkins comes as a further blow to the 10th-placed side.

The 25-year-old Tomkins has been a regular in Allardyce’s team, starting 20 Premier League games and scoring one goal with three assists.

►  Juve expecting tough Palermo test

Palermo will hope to continue its strong form at home when the club welcomes Serie A leaders Juventus to the Stadio Renzo Barbera on Saturday.

A 10-match unbeaten streak at home will give Giuseppe Iachini’s confidence ahead of the clash, with a 3-1 win over Napoli last month providing further evidence of the team’s strong home form.

Juventus has a huge showdown with Borussia Dortmund in the Champions League on Wednesday in Germany, but first Massimiliano Allegri’s side must tangle with mid-table Palermo as the Old Lady attempts to extend its 11-point lead over second-place Roma.

Allegri’s men have looked a bit shaky recently with a loss to Fiorentina in the Coppa Italia and a narrow 1-0 victory against bottom-half Sassuolo on a goal from Paul Pogba in the 82nd minute.

Pogba will take no part in Saturday’s match as he is out through suspension, while fellow midfielder Andrea Pirlo is struggling with a calf problem.

Juventus has drawn its last three away matches, but the club will hope to continue its run of success against Palermo as Juve has won the last five meetings between the teams, including a 2-0 win in Turin earlier this season through goals from Arturo Vidal and Fernando Llorente.

Roma has drawn its last four games in Serie A and the club aims to snap that streak and get back into the win column at home against Sampdoria on Monday.

Lazio has used a four-game winning streak to climb to third place in the table and the capital club will try to keep that momentum going with another three points at Torino, while fourth-place Napoli owns just one victory in its last four league outings and travels to Hellas Verona.

Fiorentina is four points out of a Champions League place and hosts 10th-place AC Milan on Monday, Cagliari is four points from safety and entertains Empoli, Udinese invades Atalanta, Genoa hosts Chievo, Parma travels to Sassuolo and Inter Milan plays host to second-from-the-bottom Cesena.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Jury: NFL breached Super Bowl tickets contract, but no fraud

A federal jury on Thursday ordered the NFL to pay nearly $76,000 to fans affected by the 2011 Super Bowl seating mess in Texas, wrapping up a trial that included testimony from Commissioner Roger Goodell and Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.

The eight-member jury in Dallas concluded that the NFL breached its contracts with seven holders of tickets to the game at the Dallas Cowboys’ stadium in Arlington. However, the jury concluded the league did not defraud the fans.

The NFL must pay the money to the seven fans. Five said they ended up with no seats and two said they had obstructed views at the $1.2 billion stadium for the game in which Green Bay won the championship over Pittsburgh. The jury ordered compensation ranging from $5,670 to $22,000.

About 1,250 temporary seats were deemed unsafe hours before kickoff. That forced about 850 ticket holders to move to new seats and 400 others to standing-room areas. The NFL has said it fully compensated displaced fans.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Michael Avenatti asked U.S. District Judge Barbara Lynn to withhold her final judgment until he can take a sworn statement from Scott Suprina, the contractor hired to install the 1,200 temporary seats. Lynn said she would alert Avenatti in advance of any judgment finalizing the jury verdict.

Avenatti had filed an emergency motion on Wednesday, claiming the NFL had influenced Suprina’s testimony in its favor during a video deposition played for the jury. Suprina told The Dallas Morning News he testified truthfully and crafted his statements in the league’s favor only in public statements.

Despite the split verdict, Avenatti hailed the jury’s decision.

“One of the most powerful, wealthiest organizations in the world was found by a jury here in Dallas to have cheated its fans and to have not kept its end of the bargain,” he told reporters afterward.

However, NFL defense attorney Thad Behrens said the jury verdict achieves what the league had been willing to do all along.

“The NFL has always accepted responsibility for the problems that were experienced by some of its fans at Super Bowl XLV and has attempted from the beginning to compensate them for their genuinely received losses and inconvenience,” Behrens said. Reading from a prepared statement, Behrens told reporters that the league was gratified that jurors agreed that it had not defrauded those fans.

In videotaped testimony, Goodell said the league was responsible for the problems.

“I’m not blaming others. I’m blaming ourselves. I’m accepting responsibility,” Goodell said in the deposition, which was recorded in 2013. “It is our event. It is our responsibility to produce it in a positive way and make sure we deliver on our promise.”

During his testimony, Jones denied suggestions the seating problems might have stemmed from his desire to set a Super Bowl attendance record.

►  Dolphins add TE Cameron

The Miami Dolphins signed free agent tight end Jordan Cameron to a two-year contract, the team announced Thursday.

Cameron spent the first four years of his career in Cleveland after the Browns selected him in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of USC. He broke out during the 2013 season with 80 catches, 917 yards and seven touchdowns and was selected to the Pro Bowl.

“He is a young, proven Pro Bowl performer with playmaking ability that will positively impact our team,“ Dolphins general manager Dennis Hickey said.

Cameron dealt with injuries last season and was limited to 24 catches for 424 yards and two scores.

►  Bills sign DT Kyle Williams to extension

The Buffalo Bills have signed Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kyle Williams to a contract extension, the team announced Friday.

Williams, 31, will enter his 10th NFL season as the longest-tenured Bills player, having been drafted by the team in 2006.

He earned his fourth Pro Bowl nod, and second in a row, after posting 5 1/2 sacks, 41 tackles and his first career interception in 15 games last season. He missed a game for the first time since 2011 because of a knee injury.

Williams has 34 1/2 sacks—the most ever by a Bills tackle—and 456 tackles in 130 career games, including 125 starts.

►  Report: Cowboys agree to terms with McFadden

The Dallas Cowboys have reportedly agreed to terms on a two-year deal with veteran running back Darren McFadden.

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, citing an unidentified source, reported the deal. McFadden must pass a physical for the deal to become official, the paper said.

The news came one day after the Cowboys lost NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, who signed with NFC East-rival Philadelphia

In seven years with the Oakland Raiders, McFadden played in just 83 of a possible 112 regular season games, rushing for 4,247 and 25 touchdowns.

In 16 games last season, he ran for 534 yards and two scores. It marked the first time in his career he played in every regular season game.

His best season came in 2010 when he played in 13 games and ran for a career- best 1,157 yards with seven TDs.

►  Chiefs acquire Grubbs from Saints

The Kansas City Chiefs acquired offensive lineman Ben Grubbs from the New Orleans Saints for an undisclosed draft pick on Friday.

Grubbs has played in 122 games (118 starts) in eight NFL seasons with the Saints (2012-14) and Baltimore Ravens (2007-11), serving primarily as a left guard. He is a two-time Pro Bowler, earning his first selection in 2011 and his most recent in 2013.

“We acquired a very good football player via trade with the New Orleans Saints today,“ Chiefs general manager John Dorsey said. “Ben is a talented veteran that has played a key role on a number of productive NFL offenses. He’s smart, physical, and we believe he will be a good addition to our offensive line.“

Grubbs originally entered the NFL as a first-round draft pick (29th overall) of the Ravens in 2007 out of Auburn.

►  Redskins sign former 49ers CB Culliver

The Washington Redskins signed free-agent cornerback Chris Culliver on Friday to an undisclosed contract.

Culliver, 26, had a career-high four interceptions in 14 games for the San Francisco 49ers last season in a bounce-back performance after he missed all of 2013 with a torn ACL.

He had 127 tackles and seven interceptions in 46 games for 49ers, who selected him in the third round of the 2011 draft.

►  Rams sign former Lions DL Fairley

The St. Louis Rams continued their busy week on Friday, signing defensive lineman Nick Fairley to an undisclosed contract.

Fairley spent the first four seasons of his career with the Detroit Lions, appearing in 46 of a possible 64 games and recording 13 1/2 sacks and 98 combined tackles.

His best season came in 2013 when he appeared in 15 games and recorded six sacks and 35 tackles. Last year, he played in just eight games and had one sack.

The Rams traded for quarterback Nick Foles earlier this week and signed linebacker Akeem Ayers on Thursday.

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

Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Tampa Bay vs. Baltimore, 1:05 PM - MASN
Minnesota vs. St. Louis, 1:05 PM - FS-Midwest
Detroit vs. NY Yankees, 1:05 PM - YES
NY Yankees vs. Toronto, 1:07 PM - SNET
Washington vs. NY Mets, 1:10 PM - WPIX, MLB Network
LA Angels vs. Kansas City, 4:05 PM - FS-West
Cleveland vs. Los Angeles, 4:05 PM - SportsNet LA
Chicago Cubs vs. Milwaukee, 4:05 PM - FS-Wisconsin
Texas vs. San Diego, 4:05 PM - FS-San Diego, MLB Network
National Basketball Association
Boston at Indiana, 7:00 PM - CSN-New England, FS-Indiana, DSS
Sacramento at Washington, 7:00 PM - CSN-California, DC, NBA TV, DSS
Brooklyn at Philadelphia, 7:30 PM - YES, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Milwaukee at Memphis, 8:00 PM - FS-Wisconsin, SportSouth, DSS
Detroit at Utah, 9:00 PM - FS-Detroit, ROOT-Northwest, DSS
New York at Golden State, 10:30 PM - MSG, CSN-Bay, DSS
National Hockey League
Detroit at Philadelphia, 1:00 PM - FS-Detroit, CSN-Philadelphia, DSS
Boston at Pittsburgh, 1:00 PM - NESN, ROOT-Pittsburgh, NHL Network, DSS
Chicago at San Jose, 4:00 PM - WGN, CSN-California, NHL Network, DSS
Montreal at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - NBCSN
Toronto at Vancouver, 7:00 PM - CBC, DSS
Winnipeg at Tampa Bay, 7:00 PM - SNET, SunSports, DSS
NY Rangers at Buffalo, 7:00 PM - MSG, MSG-Buffalo, DSS
Florida at Carolina, 7:00 PM - FS-Florida, Carolina, DSS
Minnesota at St. Louis, 8:00 PM - FS-North, Midwest, DSS
New Jersey at Arizona, 9:00 PM - MSG+2, FS-Arizona, DSS
Calgary at Colorado, 10:00 PM - CBC, Altitude, DSS
Nashville at Los Angeles, 10:00 PM - FS-Tennessee, West, DSS
College Basketball
Stony Brook at Albany, 11:00 AM - ESPN 2
SEC Tournament, 1:00 PM - ESPN
Big Ten Tournament, 1:00 PM - CBS
MEAC Championship, 1:00 PM - ESPN2
Atlantic 10 Tournament, 1:30 PM - CBSSN
Sun Belt Tournament, 2:00 PM -
AAC Tournament, 3:00 PM - ESPN 2
Big Ten Tournament, 3:25 PM - CBS
SEC Tournament, 3:30 PM - ESPN
Conference USA Championship, 3:30 PM - FS1
Yale vs. Harvard, 4:00 PM - ASN,
Atlantic 10 Tournament, 4:00 PM - CBSSN
Sun Belt Tournament, 4:30 PM -
AAC Tournament, 5:00 PM - ESPN 2
Big 12 Championship, 6:00 PM - ESPN
Mountain West Championship, 6:00 PM - CBS
SWAC Championship, 6:30 PM - ESPN U
MAC Championship, 7:30 PM - ESPN 2
Big East Championship, 8:00 PM - FS1
ACC Championship, 8:30 PM - ACC Network, ESPN
Big Sky Championship, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Southland Championship, 9:30 PM - ESPN 2
WAC Championship, 11:00 PM - ESPN U
Pac-12 Championship, 11:05 PM - ESPN
Big West Championship, 11:30 PM - ESPN 2
Women’s College Basketball
Colonial Tournament, 1:00 PM - CSN-MA, New England, Chicago+, TCN-Phil, SNY
MAC Championship, 1:00 PM - Time Warner Cable Sportschannel, BCSN,
Southland Tournament, 2:00 PM -
MVC Tournament, 2:35 PM -
Colonial Tournament, 3:00 PM - CSN-MA, New England, Chicago+, TCN-Phil, SNY
SWAC Championship, 3:00 PM -
MEAC Championship, 3:30 PM -
WAC Championship, 4:00 PM - ESPN U
Big Sky Championship, 4:00 PM -
Southland Tournament, 4:30 PM -
MVC Tournament, 5:05 PM -
Lehigh at American, 6:00 PM - CBSSN
Big West Championship, 6:00 PM - FS-Prime Ticket
Conference USA Championship, 8:00 PM - CBSSN
Sun Belt Championship, 8:00 PM -
College Hockey
Michigan State at Michigan, 5:00 PM - FS-Detroit
Air Force at RIT, 7:00 PM - Time Warner Cable
Ohio State at Wisconsin, 7:00 PM - Big Ten Network
Penn State at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-North+
Major League Soccer
Vancouver FC at Chicago, 6:00 PM - TSN, CSN-Chicago, DSS
Toronto FC at Columbus, 7:30 PM - TSN2, Time Warner Cable-OH, DSS
Sporting Kansas City at FC Dallas, 8:30 PM - TXA21, KMCI, DSS
Philadelphia at Real Salt Lake, 9:30 PM - TCN-Philadelphia, KMYU, DSS
San Jose at Seattle, 10:00 PM - CSN-California, Q13, DSS
International Soccer
Middlesbrough FC vs. Ipswich Town FC, 8:10 AM - beIN Sports
Crystal Palace vs. Queens Park, 8:45 AM - NBCSN
Norwich City FC vs. Derby County FC, 10:55 AM - beIN Sports
Arsenal vs. West Ham, 11:00 AM - NBCSN
SD Eibar vs. FC Barcelona, 12:55 PM - beIN Sports
Burnley vs. Manchester City, 1:30 PM - NBCSN
EUROPEAN - Tshwane Open, 6:30 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Valspar Championship, 1:00 PM - Golf Channel
PGA - Valspar Championship, 3:00 PM - NBC
Auto Racing
FORMULA ONE - Australian Grand Prix practice, 12:30 AM - NBCSN
FORMULA ONE - Australian Grand Prix qualifying, 2:00 AM - NBCSN
SPRINT CUP - practice, 11:30 AM - FS1
XFINITY - qualifying, 12:30 PM - FS1
SPRINT CUP - practice, 2:30 PM - FS1
XFINITY - Axalta Faster Tougher Brighter 200, 3:30 PM - FOX
Horse Racing
Rebel Stakes, 6:30 PM - TVG
Sergey Kovalev vs. Jean Pascal (light heavyweight title fight), 9:45 PM - HBO

Sports News   150313

The Gilmer Free Press

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Area High Schools Boys Basketball Regional Game Results

(Thursday,  March 12)

Charleston Catholic 54     #7 Gilmer County 39

#10 Tucker County 62     Moorefield 53

#8 Notre Dame 84     Pocahontas County 62

►  Area High Schools Girls Basketball State quarter Finals Game Results

(Thursday,  March 12)

(6)Lincoln 59     (3)North Marion 55

(2)Fairmont Senior 66     (7)Bridgeport 60 (F/OT)

►  Sissonville moves into the Class A semifinals with a win over Clay County/font>

Class AA No. 4 Sissonville wrapped up quarterfinal action from the girls basketball state tournament on Thursday night, beating No. 5 Clay County 44-32.

The win avenges two earlier season losses for the Indians to Clay County.

“This week our kids were really focused in practice and we went back to things that we normally do in November,” said Sissonville coach Rich Skeen. “We did box-out drills and that was the difference in the game today — rebounding. Also, our pressure really forced them into some shots that they normally don’t take. I think we earned it – they worked hard for it.”

Sissonville Indians’ junior Karli Pinkerton scored 26 of Sissonville’s 44 points on the night, while McKinzie Barker led Clay County with 17 points.

“They all rely on each other,” Skeen said. “I thought Karli did really well tonight of playing a lot of minutes with two fouls in the first half and not getting that third foul. It made her play smart – she did attack the rim, but at other times she didn’t because of the fouls. She drew some fouls too and that was big.”

“I just went out and played hard and did whatever I could to help the team,” Pinkerton said.

The two teams were tied at the break, 16-16, following a Barker three pointer just as the buzzer went off. A Mikayla Long three with 5:18 to go gave the Indians a 34-25 lead – giving Sissonville enough cushion to close out the win down the stretch.

Sissonville moves on to face No. 1 Wyoming East on Friday night at 7:15 in the Class A semifinals as the Indians try to get back to the state championship game for the second straight year.

“They’re obviously very talented and coming into the game with only one loss on the year,” Skeen said. “You can almost compare them to where we were last year. We were sophomores, but the run that we made, no one expected. We’ve got to do some things defensively, because they attack the basket really well. It’ll be a challenge.”

►  South Charleston moves into the semifinals with a three point win over Greenbrier East/font>

Class AAA No. 3 South Charleston scrapped and clawed its way to a 52-49 win over No. 6 Greenbrier East, overcoming a significant size disadvantage the Spartans present for almost any opponent inside.

“We knew that we had to stay in front of (6-foot-5) Sydney Nunley,” said South Charleston coach Gary Greene. “If she gets us on the backside, she’ll just wear us out shooting layups. (We) did a great job of trying to fight in front of her. We didn’t get there every time, but we were battling and she had to work for a lot of shots.”

Nunley finished the game with 12 points and 18 rebounds for the Spartans. But it was Katie Wilmer’s four early three’s that gave Greenbrier East (19-4) the initial upper hand in the game, jumping out to a 21-9 lead after the first quarter and 27-19 halftime lead.

South Charleston (21-4) chipped away at that lead throughout the second half before eventually taking it themselves — and for good — late in the fourth. The Black Eagles used their defensive pressure to force 20 turnovers and take control of the game’s pace.

“Our pressure defense did a lot for us,” Greene said. “They’re not going to quit playing – someone’s going to have to really outplay us for 32 minutes to give us a loss. (Our team) is going to go down fighting – and most people saw that tonight. There were times where we could have folded and we just refused to lay down.”

A switch to man defense for South Charleston limited Wilmer’s open looks at the basket in the second half, but the sophomore did have a potential game-tying three from the corner fall just off the mark as time expired.

“I thought it had a chance (to go in), I really did,” Wilmer said. “There’s not much you can do about it if it doesn’t go in.”

Taliah Cashwell led South Charleston with 14 points in the win, while Wilmer finished with 15 for Greenbrier East. Aaliyah Dunham, Rhea Smith and Bri Moore combined for 13 of South Charleston’s 15 steals on the night. Dunham added 11 points with seven assists, while Smith scored 10 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, to go along with Moore’s eight point effort for the Black Eagles.

“Give them their due – they put a lot of pressure on our back-court,” said Greenbrier East coach Jim Justice. “Our back-court is not strong and we’ve worked on it all year long. We have a lot of inexperience back there.”

South Charleston moves on to face Parkersburg South in the semifinals Friday night at 9:00 PM.

“We’re going to do the best we can to be prepared,” Greene said. “We split with them in the regular season, but when we played them on their court they pretty much man-handled us and destroyed us inside. It’s a matter of us matching up Friday and playing solid defense. It’s going to be a super challenge, but we’ll be here to play 32 minutes.”

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Big 12 Conference Tournament Recaps

(Thursday, March 12)

Final Score: (9) Kansas 64, TCU 59

Kelly Oubre Jr. scored a career-high 25 points as ninth-ranked Kansas grinded out a 64-59 win over TCU in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament.

Landen Lucas had 13 points, seven rebounds and three blocks for the top-seeded Jayhawks (25-7), who advanced to the semifinals without the services of leading scorer Perry Ellis. He missed a second straight game because of a sprained right knee.

Kansas will face 16th-ranked Baylor on Friday.

Trey Zeigler had 20 points to lead the Horned Frogs (18-15) but accounted for eight of their 15 turnovers. Chris Washburn posted 10 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three blocks for TCU, which beat Kansas State in the opening round on Wednesday.

Kyan Anderson, the Horned Frogs’ leading scorer, was limited to 24 minutes because of foul trouble and finished with only three points.

Frank Mason III hit a long jumper at the end of the first half to put Kansas up 33-26. TCU hung around throughout the second half but it never grabbed the lead.

The Horned Frogs tied the game on three occasions, the last when two Zeigler free throws knotted the score at 51 with 6:42 remaining.

Kansas led by five down the stretch, but TCU trimmed it to 59-57 on a Washburn layup with 1:37 left. Oubre followed with a dunk and Lucas added a slam on a lob from Mason after a turnover by Zeigler.

Game Notes

The Jayhawks committed 17 turnovers, one shy of their season high ... Kansas scored 42 points in the paint ... The teams were a combined 1-for-14 from 3- point range. Kansas failed to convert any of its eight attempts from beyond the arc ... The game featured 13 lead changes.

Final Score: (16) Baylor 80, (18) West Virginia 70

Taurean Prince provided a spark off the bench with 18 points, helping No. 16 Baylor beat No. 18 West Virginia 80-70 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Tournament at Sprint Center.

Royce O’Neale finished with 16 points, five rebounds and five assists for the fourth-seeded Bears (24-8), will play ninth-ranked Kansas in the semifinals on Friday.

Rico Gathers had 15 points and nine rebounds as Baylor continued its domination of West Virginia. The Bears improved to 7-1 in the series.

West Virginia (23-9) played its fourth straight game without leading scorer Juwan Staten (knee), but Jaysean Paige helped pick up the slack with a season- high 18 points.

“Builds a lot of confidence coming in, hitting a few shots and things I work on every day,“ Paige said about his performance. “But the win is the most important and we didn’t come up with a win.“

Devin Williams also scored 18 points for the fifth-seeded Mountaineers, who have yet to win a tournament game since joining the league in 2012.

A Prince layup put Baylor up 55-49 with 13:22 left, but West Virginia responded with an 11-2 run. Williams capped it with a layup for a 60-57 Mountaineers lead with 9:13 remaining.

The Bears moved ahead 64-62 when Prince hit a 3-pointer with about seven minutes to go, and they later capitalized on consecutive West Virginia turnovers to stretch their lead to five. Gathers then made two free throws to give Baylor a 73-66 lead with 2:22 remaining.

“We knew coming in that any game you play was going to be a war and playing on one or two possession games and you’ve got to operate late and I thought our guys did a great job operating down the stretch,“ said Baylor coach Scott Drew.

Baylor used a 13-5 run to close the first half and grab a 38-36 lead. Each team shot 48 percent from the floor, but West Virginia made six 3-pointers compared to only one for Baylor.

Game Notes

Baylor lost in two of the previous three Big 12 championship games ... The Bears extended a school record with a seventh win against a ranked opponent this season ... Gathers has 371 rebounds this season, four shy of tying Charles McKinney’s school record set in 1973-74 ... West Virginia’s Gary Browne missed a third straight game with an ankle sprain.

Final Score: (13) Iowa State 69, Texas 67

Monte Morris made a jumper at the buzzer to lift the 13th-ranked Iowa State Cyclones over the Texas Longhorns, 69-67, in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference Tournament on Thursday night.

The Cyclones, who trailed by 16 late in the first half, scored the final 12 points of the game to claim victory. Morris’ buzzer-beating shot was Iowa State’s only lead of the game.

Morris ended with 24 points for the second-seeded Cyclones (23-8), who beat Baylor in last year’s Big 12 title game. Georges Niang added 22 points and six assists.

Iowa State will play 15th-ranked Oklahoma in the semifinals on Friday.

Jonathan Holmes tallied 15 points, nine rebounds and three blocks for the seventh-seeded Longhorns (20-13). Isaiah Taylor contributed 13 points and five assists.

“We played our hearts out,“ said Taylor. “I just want to commend all my teammates, my coaches. Our coaching staff put us in a great position to win a game, and unfortunately we couldn’t pull it out.“

Trailing 67-57 with 3:56 remaining, Morris made two free throws to spark Iowa State’s 12-0 run. Dustin Hogue and Morris made consecutive 3-pointers around a 10-second violation on Texas to make it 67-67.

The teams swapped empty possessions before Texas got the ball back with 38 seconds left. Taylor missed a jumper and Javan Felix misfired on a long 3- pointer.

Hogue came down with the defensive rebound and called timeout with 5.8 seconds left. The ball went to Morris in the corner and he rose up over Demarcus Holland for the game-winning shot.

“At the time you are just hoping and prayin’ it goes in,“ said Morris. “I got a great look at it and got the ball in for us and we was able to walk off the court with a victory.“

Ahead 15-14, Texas created some distance with a 17-2 run. Felix tallied eight points during the burst that Myles Turner capped with a 3-pointer for a 32-16 edge.

The Cyclones closed out the first half on a 9-4 spurt to get within 36-25.

Game Notes

The Cyclones’ four-game win streak against Texas is a school-best ... Each team went 10-of-22 from beyond the arc ... The Longhorns turned the ball over 13 times ... Felix had 10 points.

Final Score: (15) Oklahoma 64, Oklahoma State 49

Buddy Hield scored 22 points and the 15th-ranked Oklahoma Sooners used a strong second half to beat the Oklahoma State Cowboys 64-49 in the quarterfinals of the Big 12 Conference Tournament.

TaShawn Thomas added 17 points and 10 rebounds for the third-seeded Sooners (22-9), who will face 13th-ranked Iowa State in Friday’s semifinals. Jordan Woodard and Isaiah Cousins tallied 11 and 10 points, respectively.

Oklahoma outscored Oklahoma State by a 43-23 margin in the second half.

Le’Bryan Nash ended with 27 points and 12 rebounds for the sixth-seeded Cowboys (18-13). Jeff Newberry contributed 10 points.

Trailing 21-19, Oklahoma State went on an 11-0 run that bridged the first and second halves. Nash went 6-of-6 from the foul line during the surge to give the Cowboys a 30-21 lead with 18:37 to play.

But the Sooners responded with an 18-5 run to take the lead for good. Hield tallied 10 points during the burst to make it 39-35 with 13:02 to play.

The score was 43-43 when Thomas threw down a dunk to spark an 18-3 Oklahoma run. Thomas and Cousins each scored six points during the game-clinching surge, which ended on two Hield free throws with 1:42 remaining.

Game Notes

The Cowboys have lost six of their last seven ... Hield went 9-of-9 from the foul line ... The Sooners did not get any points from their bench ... Oklahoma committed just six turnovers ... Oklahoma State went 3-of-21 from beyond the arc.


Wednesday, March 11
#8 Kansas State vs. #9 TCU 6:00 PM
✔  TCU 65-67
#7 Texas vs. #10 Texas Tech 8:00 PM
✔  Texas 65-53
Thursday, March 12
#4 Baylor vs. #5 West Virginia 11:30 AM
✔  Baylor 80-70
#1 Kansas vs. TCU 1:30 PM
✔  Kansas 64-59
#2 Iowa State vs. Texas 6:00 PM
✔  Iowa State 69-67
#3 Oklahoma vs. #6 Oklahoma State 8:00 PM
✔  Oklahoma 64-49
Friday, March 13
G3 Winner vs. G4 Winner 6:00 PM
G5 Winner vs. G6 Winner 8:00 PM
Saturday, March 14
G7 Winner vs. G8 Winner 5:00 PM
All times Central. Times / network lineups are subject to change
The second game of each session begins 30 minutes after the conclusion of the first game
All games also available via WatchESPN

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NBA Game Results

(Thursday, March 12)

Final Score: Indiana 109, Milwaukee 103 (OT)

Rodney Stuckey contributed 25 points in the Indiana Pacers’ 109-103 overtime win against the Milwaukee Bucks on Thursday night. Luis Scola and George Hill each tallied 17 points in Indiana’s seventh straight win, with Scola grabbing a season-high 15 rebounds. C.J. Miles added 14 points and Ian Mahinmi grabbed 10 boards in place of Roy Hibbert, who missed the contest with a sore left elbow. Michael Carter- Williams had his best offensive output since being acquired by the Bucks, scoring 28 points with eight rebounds and four assists.

Final Score: Washington 107, Memphis 87

The Washington Wizards took advantage of the depleted Memphis Grizzlies to win back-to-back games for the first time in over a month. Marcin Gortat had 22 points and nine rebounds as the Wizards routed the Grizzlies 107-87 on Thursday night. John Wall added 21 points, seven rebounds and six assists for the Wizards, who have won three of their last four games on the heels of a 1-7 stretch. Paul Pierce netted 17 points. Washington hadn’t won consecutive contests since February 07-09.

Final Score: Utah 109, Houston 91

Rudy Gobert had another monster outing to help the Utah Jazz rout the Houston Rockets, 109-91, on Thursday night. Gobert, who grabbed a career-high 24 rebounds in a win at Memphis on March 3, contributed a career-high 19 points and 22 rebounds against the Rockets. Gordon Hayward paced Utah with 29 points and Rodney Hood had a career-high 20 points. The Jazz won their season-high fourth straight game and seventh in their last eight.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  A-Rod homers in Yanks’ spring training loss

Alex Rodriguez hit his first home run since returning from a year-long suspension during the New York Yankees’ 10-6 spring-training loss to the Boston Red Sox on Wednesday.

Rodriguez belted a 3-1 pitch from Brandon Workman over the left-center field wall to lead off the bottom of the fourth inning, part of a 1-for-2 day at the plate for the controversial three-time American League MVP.

The 39-year-old superstar is now hitting .455 (5-for-11) with a pair of walks in five games this spring. Rodriguez was forced to sit out the entire 2014 season after being suspended by Major League Baseball for his role in the Biogenesis PED scandal.

Rodriguez, who is expected to serve primarily as a designated hitter this season, also saw action at third base for the second time since his reinstatement.

►  Rays sign Venters to minor league deal

The Tampa Bay Rays signed veteran left- handed reliever Jonny Venters to a two-year minor league deal on Wednesday.

Venters, who turns 30 later this month, has undergone Tommy John surgery three times in his professional career, including twice since he last pitched in the majors in 2012.

In three seasons with Atlanta, Venters made 230 appearances out of the Braves bullpen and was named an All-Star in 2011, when he led all pitchers with 85 games. He owns a 2.23 ERA and 258 strikeouts in 229 2/3 innings.

Venters is not expected to pitch in 2015.

►  D-Backs C Hernandez out 4-6 weeks

Diamondbacks catcher Oscar Hernandez is expected to miss 4-6 weeks after breaking the hamate bone in his left hand.

Hernandez initially felt soreness in his hand on Monday, but felt a sharp pain after fouling a pitch off on Tuesday.

He will undergo surgery to remove the bone on Thursday.

Because he was selected from the Tampa Bay Rays with the first overall pick of the Rule 5 draft, Hernandez has to remain on the major league roster all season or be offered back to Tampa Bay. However, he can be placed on the disabled list and go on a rehab assignment with the Diamondbacks.

Hernandez, 21, played last season with Class A Bowling Green of the Midwest League, posting a .249 batting average and .301 on-base percentage and throwing out 41% of attempted base-stealers.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Stephens advances at Indian Wells

American Sloane Stephens was a straight set winner as the $5 million BNP Paribas Open commenced Wednesday in the California desert.

Stephens had her troubles with Chanelle Scheepers, but ultimately won 7-5, 7-5 to advance on the hardcourts at the Indian Wells Tennis Garden.

Britain’s Heather Watson held off German Julia Goerges 6-4, 5-7, 6-3, while Romanian Monica Niculescu whipped Serb Aleksandra Krunic 6-2, 6-1,Croat Donna Vekic dismissed American Louisa Chirico 6-4, 6-3 and German Mona Barthel outlasted France’s Kristina Mladenovic 6-3, 5-7, 6-4.

Also on Day 1, Russian Elena Vesnina drilled Ukrainian Kateryna Kozlova 6-3, 6-3 and Russia’s Daria Gavrilova doused Silvia Soler-Espinosa 6-3, 6-4. Gavrilova should have her hands full with second-seeded Simona Halep in the round of 64.

Additional first-round wins came for Katerina Siniakova, Alison Van Uytvanck, Marina Erakovic, Sachia Vickery, Irina Falconi, Lara Arruabarrena, Monica Puig, Anastasia Pavlyuchenkova and Alison Riske.

The top seeds here are world No. 1 Australian and U.S. Open champion Serena Williams, French Open titlist and Aussie Open runner-up Maria Sharapova, the French Open runner-up Halep, and U.S. Open runner-up Caroline Wozniacki. Sharapova is a two-time winner at Indian Wells, while her fellow former No. 1 Wozniacki captured the title in 2011.

The 2001 Indian Wells champ Williams will end her self-imposed exile from this tournament and play here for the first time in 14 years.

At the 2001 BNP Paribas Open, Serena and her older sister Venus were booed by fans who accused them of match fixing when Venus withdrew from a scheduled semifinal match.

The 19-time major titlist Serena will open her stay against the aforementioned Niculescu.

Flavia Pennetta was last year’s surprise champion, after upsetting Agnieszka Radwanska in the final.

The 2015 Indian Wells champion will earn $900,400.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Take Charge Brandi to have surgery Thursday

Champion filly Take Charge Brandi will undergo surgery Thursday at Rood & Riddle Clinic in Lexington to repair a non-displaced bone chip in her right knee.

Take Charge Brandi, owned by Willis Horton and trained by D. Wayne Lukas, will miss Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

“She’s only going to be out for 60 days. The prognosis is 100% for her to come back, so we’re looking at May 15,“ said Lukas. “She’s been as clean as a hound’s tooth, up to now. She’s been an unbelievably maintenance free racehorse in every way, and I think this little setback will let her mature and grow a bit. I’m looking at it positively.“

Lukas discovered the chip Tuesday morning following training Monday. He said Take Charge Brandi was “a little tender” Tuesday morning and he first thought it might be an issue with a foot.

In her seasonal debut, Take Charge Brandi won the Martha Washington Stakes at Oaklawn. The filly, winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, has won five of nine starts for $1,680,126.

►  American Pharoah to smoke short field in Rebel

American Pharoah, last year’s 2-year- old champion, hits the starting gate for the first time this year in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. Unfortunately, not much will be gained except Kentucky Derby points.

Only six other colts are entered in the Grade 2 event and not one of them has ever been on the lead in the early stages of a race at six furlongs or more. That means American Pharoah will be loose on the lead for the third consecutive race.

It has been a long time since the Kentucky Derby was won gate-to-wire. War Emblem was the last to do so 13 years ago. Ironically, he was trained by Bob Baffert, American Pharoah’s conditioner.

Prior to that year, it hadn’t been accomplished since 1988, when the filly Winning Colors hit the winner’s circle.

Can American Pharoah make it just three gate-to-wire Derby champions in the last 27 years? Based on his 2-year-old form, I would not be surprised. However, there are a few question marks that could make it unlikely.

American Pharoah lost his first start by 9 1/4 lengths. It is not often a horse breaks his maiden in a stakes race, but that is exactly what happened when Baffert took the blinkers off for American Pharoah’s second start. The bay colt won the Del Mar Futurity by 4 3/4 lengths, stopping the teletimer in a magnificent 1:21 1/5 for the seven-furlong event.

After going off at 3-1 odds in the Del Mar Futurity, the public was all over American Pharoah in his first dirt try - the Frontrunner Stakes. The 1-2 favorite made the most of it on the front end, carrying his speed to a 3 1/4- length score. He stopped the clock at 1:41 4/5 - the fastest time in the race formerly known as the Norfolk Stakes in over a decade.

Unfortunately, the son of Pioneerof the Nile got hurt and had to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

We shall see if American Pharoah has improved with the time off. If workouts are any indication, the answer will be a resounding yes. The $300,000 weanling purchase has lit up the Santa Anita surface in the mornings with a pair of blistering bullet works over six and seven furlongs, respectively, his last two times on the track.

The sky is the limit for American Pharoah in the Rebel, but how it will transcend into April and May is a different story. Unless the layoff adversely affects him, it is doubtful he will get much out of this race due to the lack of meaningful competition. That means he will have just one key race in over a seven-month span prior to the first Saturday in May.

Furthermore, his pedigree is not suited to win at 1 1/4 miles. Pioneerof the Nile did not sire a top-notch distance horse in 2011 - his first season at stud. Social Inclusion, Cairo Prince and Vinceremos all were part of the Triple Crown trail last year and all three were best up to 1 1/16 miles.

Another key aspect of his pedigree is the Storm Cat angle. As mentioned back in January, Storm Cat first hit the breeding shed in 1988 and none of his descendents have ever won the Kentucky Derby. Many have run second (Menifee, Lion Heart, Bluegrass Cat, Ice Box, Bodemeister and, most recently, Commanding Curve), but none have won the Run for the Roses.

Finally, American Pharoah is one of those rare horses that does not have Turn- To anywhere in his pedigree. All of the last 12 Kentucky Derby winners have been a descendant of Turn-To.

American Pharoah may be the best 3-year-old by the end of the year, but I am not convinced he will win the main prize.


The Truth Or Else is the most accomplished Rebel runner outside of American Pharoah. He has three third-place graded stakes finishes, including one in his last start, the Southwest Stakes.

That race was run in the slop and a week after it was originally scheduled. The Truth Or Else made a menacing outside move from last place to gain the lead with a furlong to run. Far Right got the best of him down the lane to win by three-quarters of a length, but the Southwest was The Truth Or Else’s first start since running sixth in the Remsen in late November.

It is doubtful The Truth Or Else will have a quick pace to close into this time around and his three third-place stakes finishes all have come on off tracks. Rain is in the forecast for Thursday and Friday, but the track should dry out come Saturday afternoon.

The two other possibilities are Madefromlucky and Bold Conquest.

Madefromlucky is Todd Pletcher’s sixth-string horse after the colt won first- time-out for him in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on February 4. If any horse is going to challenge American Pharoah for the early lead, it will be him.

He has won his last two starts - both around two turns. However, the first win was helped by a couple of fallen horses, which allowed Madefromlucky to sit third behind the two speeds. The latest win was in a five-horse field and the pace was extremely slow.

Madefromlucky has a bad habit of bearing in once he hits the stretch. That and the fact he will be used up chasing American Pharoah are two reasons to find another horse.

Bold Conquest was highly regarded by trainer Steve Asmussen as a 2-year-old. After breaking his maiden at Saratoga, the colt ran second by a neck in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. He followed that effort up with a troubled third in the Breeders’ Futurity as Rosie Napravnik had to steady the colt twice prior to the far turn.

Asmussen had trained Bold Conquest hard for his 3-year-old debut in the Southwest Stakes. The son of Curlin posted two bullet five-furlong works, which is rare for an Asmussen-trained colt.

The week-long postponement and the sloppy track might have affected Bold Conquest as he seemed disinterested the first half of the race. He picked it up inside the final furlong and only lost by 3 1/2 lengths after being about eight lengths behind the leaders around the final turn.

It was a tough trip once again as Bold Conquest was bothered at the start and then went about six-wide into the stretch. Asmussen got two workouts into him since the race and the colt should be a much-improved second off the layoff.

Rebel Stakes - 1) American Pharoah 2) Bold Conquest 3) The Truth Or Else


1) Prospect Park - Has the look of a tremendous 1 1/4-mile prospect

2) Dortmund - Undefeated star keeps on motoring after San Felipe

3) Carpe Diem - Returned in the pink with dominant win in Tampa

4) American Pharoah - Will he get enough out of the Rebel Stakes?

5) Firing Line - On way to Sunland Derby to guarantee Ky Derby points

6) Upstart - Florida’s finest must bounce back from “average” FOY

7) Far From Over - Gets only one more race before Run for the Roses

8) Itsaknockout - Slightly overlooked due to DQ win in the FOY

9) Maftool - Should get best of Mubtaahij once again in UAE Derby

10) El Kabeir - Will get another crack at Far From Over in the Wood

11) Metaboss - Flattered by Bolo’s solid effort in San Felipe Stakes

12-T) War Story - How good can he be with a decent break from gate?

12-T) International Star - A win next time out makes it a Louisiana sweep

►  Up the Backstretch: Rankings offer early look at 2015 season

The initial National Thoroughbred Racing Association polls have been released with Shared Belief and Dortmund atop the rankings.

Shared Belief received all 47 first-place votes in the National Poll after his dominating victory in last Saturday’s Santa Anita Handicap. The 4-year-old gelding, trained and co-owned by Hall of Fame member Jerry Hollendorfer, is perfect in his two starts this season, including a season opening win over 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome, third in the rankings, in the San Antonio Invitational.

“It’s something that you don’t expect,“ the trainer said about Shared Belief’s consistency. “Horses get ups and downs and he just stays the same and he does whatever we ask him to do and he seems very happy and enthusiastic about it.“

Shared Belief has now put himself well in front of all other thoroughbreds this year and appears suited for the long grind of the racing season leading to the Breeders’ Cup Classic on October 31 at Keeneland.

“It’s an amazing thing. It’s like he shows up every single time,“ co-owner Jim Rome said, “he always runs big, is always tough, and just has a lot of grit, a lot of heart. It’s an absolute dream to be involved with a horse like this. He never disappoints. I couldn’t be more proud. I love the horse.“

Breeders’ Cup Turf champ Main Sequence is second after beginning his campaign by claiming last month’s Mac Diarmida at Gulfstream Park. The next target for the two-time Eclipse Award winner is the $6 million Dubai Sheema Classic on March 28 in Dubai.

“As long as he does well in the next three weeks, that’s the plan, but he looks super this morning,“ said trainer Graham Motion after the grass win.

Following California Chrome in the poll are Constitution, Honor Code, Bayern, Lea, leading 3-year-old Dortmund, champion filly Untapable and former two-time Horse of the Year Wise Dan.

Dortmund, trained by Bob Baffert, pulled in 34 of 47 top votes based on his victory in the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita to lead the 3-year-old rankings.

“It looks easy because he’s such a good horse and when you have a horse that’s good, he makes it look easy,“ said the colt’s jockey, Martin Garcia. “I’m always confident because I know how good he is. I don’t think there will be any difference for him when we add more distance; he can go any distance. It won’t be a problem for him.“

The 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby on April 4 will be Dortmund’s last start before the Kentucky Derby on May 02.

Carpe Diem began his season with a win in the Tampa Bay Derby and sits second in the poll followed by Upstart, Eclipse Award winner American Pharoah, El Kabeir, International Star, Far From Over, Itsaknockout, Firing Line and Texas Red.

The 3-year-old poll will certainly go through various changes as the season progresses, culminating with the final rankings after the Belmont Stakes on the first Saturday in June.

►  American Pharoah odds-on to win Rebel Stakes

Eclipse Award winner American Pharoah has been made the overwhelming 1-2 morning line favorite for his 2015 debut in Saturday’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park.

The 1 1/16-mile Rebel is the final local prep for the $1 million Arkansas Derby on April 11. A win is worth 50 points toward a place in this year’s Kentucky Derby.

American Pharoah, last year’s champion 2-year-old male, will start from post 4 in the seven-horse field as he begins his 2015 racing season. Trained by Bob Baffert, American Pharoah will be ridden by Victor Espinoza who retains the mount.

“He knows the horse,“ Baffert said about Espinoza. “He’s a fast horse, but he puts him in a place where he’s comfortable. He’s not a speed freak and he’s not rank. He still needs to break well and get around there. A lot is expected of this horse, but he hasn’t run in a while, although we feel confident he’s going to run well.“

American Pharoah, owned by Zayat Stables, has not started since winning the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita last September 27. He missed the last three months of 2014 with a suspensory-related injury.

As a 2-year-old, American Pharoah won the Del Mar Futurity on September 3 after finishing fifth in his debut race last August. American Pharoah has earned $361,500

Bob Baffert won last year’s Rebel with Hoppertunity and previously won with Secret Circle (2012), The Factor (2011) and Lookin At Lucky (2010).

The Truth Or Else, second in Oaklawn’s Southwest Stakes, is the 4-1 second pick and has drawn the rail post with Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel again riding. The chestnut colt is owned by Harold Lerner and trained by Ken McPeek.

The Truth Or Else came from well off the pace to get second behind Far Right in the Southwest on February 22.

“If we can get a little bit cleaner inside trip than we had last time, I think we’ll be fine,“ McPeek said.

The 3-year-old was third in last year’s Champagne and Nashua Stakes and sixth in the Remsen Stakes on November 29 at Aqueduct. The Truth Or Else has earned $197,950 in eight starts.

Champion filly Take Charge Brandi will not start the Rebel after an injury was discovered Tuesday morning. The 2014 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies winner has a non-displaced chip in her right knee and will miss 60 days.

Here is the field for the Rebel in post position order: The Truth Or Else, Calvin Borel, 4-1: Madefromlucky, John Velazquez, 6-1: Tizwonderfulcreek, Belen Quinonez, 30-1; American Pharoah, Victor Espinoza, 1-2; Bold Conquest, Ricardo Santana Jr., 8-1; Paid Admission, Shaun Bridgmohan, 15-1 and Sakima, Ramon Vazquez, 20-1.

The Rebel Stakes has an approximate post time of 7:06 PM ET.

►  Untapable commences season with Azeri Stakes

Eclipse Award winner Untapable has been installed as the 1-2 morning line favorite versus five rivals for Saturday’s $300,000 Azeri Stakes at Oaklawn Park she makes her 2015 debut.

Untapable, trained by Steve Asmussen, will leave from the inside post in the 1 1/16-mile stakes with Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez taking over the mount from the retired Rosie Napravnik.

“She is doing extremely well and this race will be a good starting point to her 4-year-old campaign,“ said AsmusSenator

Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds, Untapable has earned nearly $3 million with eight wins from 11 lifetime starts. The 4-year-old reeled off consecutive wins last year in the Rachel Alexandra, Fair Grounds Oaks, Kentucky Oaks and Mother Goose Stakes.

The filly took on the boys in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park but finished fifth as the 7-5 favorite to eventual Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Bayern. However, she came back to win the Cotillion at Parx Racing and the Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Untapable was a unanimous selection as 2014 champion 3-year-old filly, receiving all 265 votes.

Here is the field for the Azeri from the rail out: Untapable, John Velazquez, 1-2; Diva’s Diamond, Cliff Berry, 30-1; Sugar Shock, Channing Hill, 10-1; Gold Medal Dancer, Luis Quinonez, 10-1; Mufajaah, Emmanuel Esquivel, 4-1 and Flashy American, Chris Landeros, 5-1.

Th Azeri has an approximate post time of 5:21 PM ET.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  NASCAR reinstates Kurt Busch; grants him waiver for Chase

Kurt Busch was cleared Wednesday to get back in his race car and attempt to rebuild a career that was halted two days before the Daytona 500 when NASCAR suspended him for allegedly assaulting his ex-girlfriend.

“It’s been torture sitting out of the car,” Busch said in a conference call. He called the allegations against him “a complete fabrication.”

“I never did anything of the things I was accused of,” he added. “I never wavered in this whole process because of the confidence in the truth.”

Busch missed the season’s first three races during the suspension, the third of his career. In reinstating the 2004 champion, NASCAR ruled he will be eligible for the title-deciding Chase should he qualify. He will return to competition this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway in the No. 41 Chevrolet for Stewart-Haas Racing.

He said he will replace his longtime nickname “The Outlaw” with his signature above the door of his car.

Busch remains on indefinite probation.

“We have made it very clear to Kurt Busch our expectations for him moving forward, which includes participation in a treatment program and full compliance with all judicial requirements as a result of his off-track behavior,” NASCAR executive vice president Steve O’Donnell said.

Busch was suspended February 20 when a Delaware judge ruled he likely assaulted ex-girlfriend Patricia Driscoll in his motorhome in September at Dover International Speedway. He lost two rounds of appeals on the eve of the season-opening Daytona 500.

Last week, the Delaware attorney general declined to charge Busch for the incident with Driscoll — a move O’Donnell said “removed a significant impediment” to reinstatement.

Busch said he had been led to believe that criminal charges would be the determining factor in NASCAR taking action, and was surprised when he was suspended before the attorney general made its decision.

“The way that NASCAR reacted, it was different than what we had been told,” Busch said. “They were more focused on the criminal side, as were we. But the commissioner’s ruling was not necessarily what was the important factor here. The important factor is that what I was accused of was a complete fabrication.”

Busch has also complied with NASCAR’s reinstatement requirements, the terms of which have not been disclosed. O’Donnell said a health care expert recommended Busch’s immediate return.

Driscoll questioned NASCAR’s decision to make Busch championship-eligible this season.

“I’m deeply concerned about the message NASCAR is sending by letting him compete for the championship after he was found by a judge to have committed an act of domestic violence,” Driscoll said in a statement. “But I am gratified, at least, that NASCAR’s decision comes with the mandatory condition that he follow through on the treatment he so clearly needs.”

Busch did not reveal what he did to satisfy NASCAR, but indicated he wished he had participated in such a program earlier in his career. He also said he had been encouraged by NASCAR chairman Brian France, who urged him not to change as a driver.

“It’s a road map that they laid out that I am respecting, and it’s created such a good foundation to utilize that I wish I had done it sooner,” Busch said. “Talking with Brian France and going through this road, he told me, ‘Don’t change. Don’t be the person that is different in the car. Be a person that’s different outside the car.’

“So Brian said, ‘Go be yourself in that car, that’s what we really love. We love Kurt Busch behind the wheel.’ That’s my focus, to be humble throughout this whole process and let actions speak louder than words.”

Busch’s return was also cleared by Chevrolet, which had suspended its relationship with Busch. SHR is a Chevrolet team.

The new Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format introduced last season gives drivers an automatic berth into the 16-driver field with a victory during the regular season. But, a driver must be ranked inside the top 30 in points to use that automatic berth.

Busch currently has no points in the No. 41 Chevrolet, a car Haas pays for out of pocket specifically for Busch.

It was Haas who gave Busch the opportunity to resurrect his career as one of the most talented drivers in NASCAR. The 36-year-old has a history of blowups on and off the track that date back to his rookie season. He was suspended in 2012 by NASCAR for threatening a reporter, and parked for the final two races of the 2005 season by Roush-Fenway Racing after he was pulled over by police in Arizona.

Haas, wanting a driver who could take his machine tool manufacturing company to victory lane, offered Busch a ride in a new fourth car at SHR when Busch found himself driving for low-budget teams. Busch was fired at the end of 2011 by Roger Penske for a series of on- and off-track incidents, and he spent two seasons driving for low-budget teams before Haas extended the olive branch.

Busch has 25 career wins, but only one since 2011. It came last year, his first season with SHR, and qualified him for the Chase. Driscoll alleged the assault occurred two days before the third Chase race, when Busch was in danger of being eliminated from the field. He was indeed knocked out of the Chase that weekend.

Busch still must comply with guidelines set by Family Court Commissioner David Jones, who granted the no-contact order for Driscoll that led to his February 20 suspension, two days before the season-opening race at Daytona. Jones wrote in his opinion that he believed Busch could lash out again and has a propensity to lose control in response to disappointing or frustrating situations involving racing.

Jones ordered Busch to be evaluated to see if there is a “treatable mental health condition.” He also said Busch must follow any suggested treatment plans. Busch is appealing Jones’ ruling.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  U.S. women top France to win Algarve Cup

Christen Press and Julie Johnston scored first-half goals on Wednesday as the United States women’s national team knocked off France, 2-0, at the Algarve Stadium to win the 2015 Algarve Cup.

After a disappointing seventh-place finish in last year’s Algarve Cup and a 2-0 loss to France in the friendly earlier this year, Jill Ellis’ side certainly entered Wednesday’s title match with redemption on their minds.

The U.S. opened the scoring after just eight minutes as Lauren Holiday swung an excellent free kick into the box where defender Johnston got her head to it and nodded it past French goalkeeper Sarah Bouhaddi.

The Americans doubled the advantage in the 44th minute as Press did well to run straight through the French defense and rip one with pace into the bottom right corner.

France had an opportunity to pull one back eight minutes from time as Meghan Klingenberg pulled down Marie-Laure Delie in the box, resulting in a penalty kick.

Amandine Henry stepped to the spot and hit it toward the left side netting, but U.S. goalkeeper Hope Solo came up with an excellent diving save.

The U.S. women’s will be back in action against New Zealand in St. Louis on April 04.

►  Real Madrid survives Schalke scare

Schalke claimed a 4-3 win at the Bernabeu on Tuesday, but Real Madrid advanced to the Champions League quarterfinals for the fifth straight year with a 5-4 aggregate score.

After a comprehensive 2-0 victory in the opening leg, Real Madrid started the replay in the driver’s seat, but Schalke put some fear into the Spanish giants by opening the scoring in the 20th minute as Christian Fuchs collected a cross from the right flank and hammered a left-footed strike past Iker Casillas at the near post.

The hosts, though, managed to respond within five minutes as Cristiano Ronaldo nodded home a corner kick in the 25th.

Schalke maintained the pressure and nearly went back in front five minutes before the break when Klaas Jan Huntelaar rattled the crossbar with a right- footed shot from outside the box.

The Dutchman made no mistake moments later when pounced on a rebound conceded by Casillas to steer the go-ahead goal into the back of the net from close range.

It looked as if the German club would carry the lead into the interval, but Ronaldo struck again on the stroke of halftime by heading a superb cross from Fabio Coentrao into the upper corner at the back post.

Karim Benzema thought he had put the tie to rest within eight minutes of the restart as the Frenchman collected a through ball and drifted across the face of goal before firing home Madrid’s third of the match.

Schalke, however, did not go down without a fight as Leroy Sane answered four minutes later with a stunning left-footed strike that deceived Casillas on its way into the back of the net.

Huntelaar kept Schalke’s hopes alive five minutes from time with a brilliant run through the Madrid defense and an equally impressive shot off the underside of the crossbar and into the back of the net.

Casillas then produced a crucial save two minutes later, punching Sane’s dipping shot to safety to keep Madrid in front on aggregate.

Madrid staved off some late pressure to clinch a spot in the next round, but the crowd at the Bernabeu was quite dissatisfied with the performance, jeering the home side following the final whistle.

FC Porto qualified for the quarterfinals with relative ease on Tuesday, cruising past FC Basel in a 4-0 home win in the second leg.

Porto took the lead in impressive fashion in the 14th minute when Vacine Brahimi curled an inch-perfect free kick over the wall and just under the crossbar.

The hosts were two goals to the good in just the second minute of the second half thanks to Hector Herrera, and Casemiro made it three in the 56th minute with a superb free kick into the upper corner.

Vincent Aboubakar finished off the impressive outing with a goal in the 76th minute, sealing Porto’s spot in the next round by making the aggregate score 5-1 in favor of the Portuguese side.

Basel’s miserable outing was capped off in the final minutes with defender Walter Samuel receiving his marching orders by way of a second caution of the match.

The Gilmer Free Press

►  Bears sign Rolle to 3-year deal

The Chicago Bears announced late Wednesday that they signed free agent safety Antrel Rolle to a three-year contract.

Rolle is a three-time Pro Bowl selection who has missed just one game in the last nine seasons.

The 32-year-old Miami-Florida product spent the last five seasons with the New York Giants, and was part of the club’s Super Bowl victory following the 2011 season. Rolle totaled 87 tackles and three interceptions over 16 games last year for Big Blue.

Since breaking into the NFL with the Cardinals in 2005, Rolle has racked up almost 800 tackles, 26 interceptions (four returned for TDs) along with four sacks in 148 appearances.

►  Panthers keep Dickson with three-year deal

The Carolina Panthers re-signed tight end Ed Dickson on Thursday.

Financial terms of the three-year deal were not disclosed.

Dickson joined the Panthers last spring as a free agent after spending his first four seasons in Baltimore. He appeared in 16 games last year, starting 10, and finished with 10 catches for 115 yards with a touchdown.

“I’m heavily rooted in my immediate family and being here felt like family,“ said Dickson in a statement Thursday. “I’m excited to continue to work with the guys in the tight end room on and off the field. I feel honored to play with those guys again and have (tight ends coach) Pete Hoener coaching us.“

In addition to tight end, Dickson also spent time last season as a blocking back for injured fullback Mike Tolbert. He also started both postseason games for the NFC South champs, catching three passes for 67 yards.

“Down the stretch, Ed played a very valuable role for us,“ said Panthers coach Ron Rivera. “Ed brings us that second tight end threat. He’s a guy that can both block and catch effectively. He and Greg Olsen give us a very good tandem.“

Dickson, selected by Baltimore in the third round of the 2010 draft, won a Super Bowl title with the Ravens after the 2012 season. He has 121 receptions for 1,293 yards with eight touchdowns in 76 regular-season games, adding 13 catches for 196 yards in 10 playoff games.

►  Bucs sign S Conte, DT Melton to 1-year deals

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed safety Chris Conte and defensive tackle Henry Melton to one-year contracts on Thursday.

Current Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith coached both players when he was at the helm of the Chicago Bears.

Conte, 26, played four seasons for the Bears, who selected him in the third round of the 2011 draft. He had 43 tackles and three interceptions in 12 games last season after getting a career-high 90 tackles and three picks in 16 games in 2013.

The 6-foot-2, 203-pound safety appeared in 57 games for Chicago, making 52 starts.

Melton played for the Bears for four seasons between 2010-13 before spending last year with the Dallas Cowboys. He had 15 tackles and five sacks in 16 games for Dallas, including three starts. The 6-foot-3, 290-pound lineman has 20 1/2 sacks in 64 career games, including 35 starts.

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

FRIDAY, MARCH 13, 2015
Major League Baseball - Spring Training
Tampa Bay vs. Philadelphia, 1:05 PM - TCN-Philadelphia
St. Louis vs. Miami, 1:05 PM - FS-Midwest, Florida
Baltimore vs. Toronto, 1:07 PM - SNET, MLB Network
Atlanta vs. NY Mets, 1:10 PM - SNY
Milwaukee vs. Seattle, 4:05 PM - MLB Network
San Diego vs. LA Angels, 4:10 PM - FS-Prime Ticket
NY Yankees vs. Boston, 7:05 PM - NESN, MLB Network
Cincinnati vs. Los Angeles, 10:05 PM - SportsNet LA
National Basketball Association
Sacramento at Philadelphia, 7:00 PM - CSN-California, Philadelphia, DSS
Chicago at Charlotte, 7:00 PM - WPWR, SportSouth, DSS
Orlando at Boston, 7:30 PM - FS-Florida, CSN-New England, DSS
Miami at Toronto, 7:30 PM - SunSports, SNET-One, DSS
Minnesota at Oklahoma City, 8:00 PM - FS-North+, Oklahoma, DSS
LA Clippers at Dallas, 8:30 PM - FS-Prime Ticket, Southwest, NBA TV, DSS
Golden State at Denver, 9:00 PM - CSN-Bay, Altitude, DSS
Atlanta at Phoenix, 10:00 PM - SportSouth, FS-Arizona, DSS
Detroit at Portland, 10:00 PM - FS-Detroit, CSN-Northwest, DSS
National Hockey League
Ottawa at NY Islanders, 7:00 PM - RDS, TSN5, MSG+, DSS
Dallas at Washington, 7:00 PM - FS-Southwest+, CSN-DC, DSS
Edmonton at Columbus, 7:00 PM - SNET-Oilers, FS-Ohio, DSS
Toronto at Calgary, 8:00 PM - TSN4, SNET-West, DSS
Anaheim at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - FS-West, North, DSS
College Basketball
Atlantic 10 Tournament, 12:00 PM - NBCSN
AAC Tournament, 12:00 PM - ESPN 2
Big Ten Tournament, 12:00 PM - ESPN
SEC Tournament, 1:00 PM - SEC Network
Memphis vs. Temple, 2:00 PM - ESPN 2
Big Ten Tournament, 2:25 PM - ESPN
Atlantic 10 Tournament, 2:30 PM - NBCSN
SEC Tournament, 3:30 PM - SEC Network
Conference USA Tournament, 4:00 PM - CBSSN
Sun Belt Tournament, 6:00 PM -
Southland Tournament, 6:00 PM -
Atlantic 10 Tournament, 6:30 PM - NBCSN
Big Ten Tournament, 6:30 PM - Big Ten Network
Conference USA Tournament, 6:30 PM - CBSSN
SEC Tournament, 7:00 PM - SEC Network
ACC Tournament, 7:00 PM - ACC Network, ESPN
Big East Tournament, 7:00 PM - FS1
Big 12 Tournament, 7:00 PM - ESPN 2
AAC Tournament, 7:00 PM - ESPN U
MEAC Tournament, 8:00 PM -
Southland Tournament, 8:30 PM -
Sun Belt Tournament, 8:30 PM -
Big Ten Tournament, 8:55 PM - Big Ten Network
AAC Tournament, 9:00 PM - ESPN U
Atlantic 10 Tournament, 9:00 PM - NBCSN
ACC Tournament, 9:00 PM - ACC Network, ESPN
Big 12 Tournament, 9:00 PM - ESPN 2
Mountain West Tournament, 9:00 PM - CBSSN
Pac-12 Tournament, 9:10 PM - Pac-12 Network
SEC Tournament, 9:30 PM - SEC Network
Big East Tournament, 9:30 PM - FS1
Big West Tournament, 9:30 PM -
Mountain West Tournament, 11:30 PM - CBSSN
Pac-12 Tournament, 11:45 PM - ESPN
Big West Tournament, 11:59 PM - ESPN U
Women’s College Basketball
Conference USA Tournament, 11:00 AM - CBSSN
MEAC Tournament, 12:00 PM -
Sun Belt Tournament, 12:30 PM -
MVC Tournament, 1:05 PM -
Conference USA Tournament, 1:30 PM - CBSSN
MEAC Tournament, 2:30 PM -
Sun Belt Tournament, 3:00 PM -
Big West Tournament, 3:00 PM -
Mountain West Championship, 3:00 PM - Mountain West Network
Southern Illinois vs. Northern Iowa, 3:35 PM -
Hartford at Albany, 4:30 PM - ESPN U
Horizon League Tournament, 5:00 PM -
Big West Tournament, 5:30 PM -
MVC Tournament, 7:05 PM -
Horizon League Tournament, 7:30 PM -
Indiana State vs. Missouri State, 9:35 PM -
College Hockey
Michigan at Michigan State, 7:00 PM - FS-Detroit
Air Force at RIT, 7:00 PM - Time Warner Sports
Penn State at Minnesota, 8:00 PM - American Sports Network
Major League Soccer
Orlando City at Houston, 7:00 PM - UniMas
International Soccer
AS Monaco FC vs. SC Bastia, 3:25 PM - beIN Sports
National Lacrosse League
Toronto at Buffalo, 7:30 PM -
EUROPEAN - Tshwane Open, 8:30 AM - Golf Channel
PGA - Valspar Championship, 3:00 PM - Golf Channel
Auto Racing
Xfinity - practice, 4:30 PM - FS1

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