Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hesmer, Crew open with shutout

The Columbus Crew kicked off their Major League Soccer season with a 2-0 defeat of Toronto FC and Wilson native William Hesmer was in goal for the shutout.

The Crew held a 1-0 lead when Hesmer punched away a penalty kick in the 44th minute and defender Adam Moffat booted it away.

Moffat scored the first goal for Columbus, also the first goal of the MLS season.

Hesmer, a Hunt High School graduate, was invited to the U.S. National Men's Team training camp in January but was not selected to play in either of the international friendly matches the U.S. played prior to Olympic qualifying.

I'll try to keep up with Will as much as possible here this season, so stay tuned.

Congratuations to Winona State

Yes, that Winona State; the same one that Barton College defeated for the NCAA Division II men's basketball championship last March.

The Warriors from Winona, Minnesota, didn't let a seven-point lead slip away in the final seconds this year as they overcame a 16-point deficit in the second half to defeat Augusta State 87-76 today in the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass.

Winona wrapped up its second Div. II crown in three years as it won its Div. II-record 38th game against one loss. The Warriors compiled a three-year mark of 105-6. The most famous of those losses, of course, came to Barton last year in the finals.

Winona defeated the Bulldogs in overtime in the first round of the 2006 Elite Eight, then upset defending champion Virginia Union 76-61 in the championship. In the 2007 final, Winona had a 57-game winning streak and a seven-point lead with 45 seconds to go and this happened.

Today, Winona made its mark in Div. II history by storming back in the second half. Jonte Flowers had 25 of his 30 points in the second half and was named tournament most valuable player.

Winona is where Barton head coach Ron Lievense, a Minnesota native, spent a season as a graduate assistant.

So congratulations to the Warriors for a nice run.

By the way, there was a nice clip of Anthony Atkinson on the CBS broadcast of the championship game today.

Monday, March 24, 2008

A year later, those 45 seconds are still magical

Three hundred sixty-six days later this clip still gives me goose bumps.

I watch the NCAA Tournament now — the Division I tournament, that is — and exciting as some of the games are, none come close to this. Maybe none will ever come close to this.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Scene in the RBC right out of 'Gladiator'

Before Friday night's first-round game in the NCAA Tournament East Regional in Raleigh, my seat on press row was on the end of the court where No. 1 seed North Carolina was doing warm-up drills.

The Tar Heels seemed relaxed, even at home in the RBC Center, N.C. State's home floor where Carolina is seldom cheered. But on this night, many UNC fans tinted the arena light blue. The Heels should have been at ease considering that no top seed had ever lost to a No. 16 seed in the NCAA Tournament and their opponent, Mount St. Mary's, probably wasn't going to be the first.

After the teams finished their shootaround and player introductions were done, Mount St. Mary's came back to its bench for a few last words from head coach Milan Brown and his staff before the opening tip. I was seated about 10 feet away and the contrast between the Mount's players and the Tar Heels was striking.

Several of MSM's reserves had physical builds more commonly seen on NCAA Division II rosters. In fact, the Mount's dynamic star guard Jeremy Goode — at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds — bore resemblance to a certain former Barton College star point guard.

But more obviously was the difference in temperament between the teams. The MSM assistant coaches fidgeted with papers in their hands as their eyes flit nervously about the arena as they waited for Brown to return to the huddle. The players seemed taken aback by the sheer size of the stage as thousands of Carolina blue-clad fans roared their desire for the Heels to take it to the Mount.

The RBC Center suddenly seemed like a modern-day Roman Colosseum without the blood and gore.

However, UNC's 113-74 victory was probably gory enough for the MSM players, who no doubt are now content to be able to tell their future grandkids someday they played the No. 1 team in the country in the NCAA Tournament.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Winslow, Wilkerson part of first RailHawks Women roster

The Carolina RailHawks, a professional soccer club based in Cary, have announced plans for a women's team this spring. The roster will consist of players with college, W-League and National team experience and two of them have very local ties.

Sarah Winslow, a sophomore at Wake Forest University and a 2006 Fike High School graduate, and Allie Wilkerson, a senior at Barton College, are part of the 20-woman roster.

Wilkerson is the only non-NCAA Division I player on the team, which also includes such prominent names as Casey Nogueira of North Carolina, Kelly Attayek of UNC Greensboro and Molly Baird of Tennessee.

The RailHawks begin the season May 10 in Greensboro against the Carolina Dynamo and will play their home opener at WakeMed Soccer Park on Friday, May 16, at 7:30 p.m.

The Carolina RailHawks Football Club plays in the United Soccer League First Division, which will have 11 men's teams this spring. The RailHawks Women will play in the USL W-League which will have 41 teams this spring, including the Greensboro-based Dynamo and the Charlotte Lady Eagles.

The Brittany info — corrected

OK, I know math wasn't my best subject in high school but I should have done a little better in my previous post.

There will be 56, not 21, different teams at The Brittany Willis Memorial Scholarship Soccer Showcase on March 28 and 29.

Mike Petty, one of the original members of the organizing committee, gave me the heads up.

Mike tells me the teams participating for the first time in the girls showcase are:

Raleigh Millbrook
Greenville Rose
Halifax Academy
Charlotte Latin
D. H. Conley
South Brunswick
West Carteret
Edenton Holmes
Hope Mills South View
Jacksonville Northside
East Lincoln

Rose, Pasquotank, Whiteville, and South View have participated in The Brittany for the Boys.

The field looks as strong as ever and features some of the top girls teams in the state, including 15 ranked squads.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

The Brittany IV pairings up

It's only two weeks away and pairings for fourth annual Brittany Willis Memorial Soccer Scholarship Showcase have been announced on the event's Web site.

There will be 12 games on Friday, March 28 and 24 on Saturday, March 29 at Gillette Athletic Complex.

By my count, there looks to be 21 different teams in the event. Many of played before but I believe some of the newcomers to be Charlotte Latin, Cary Panther Creek, Pasquotank, East Lincoln and Jacksonville Northside. Of course, if this is incorrect, please chime in and let me know.

The event continues to be one of — if not the — finest high school soccer showcase in the state and possibly the Southeast.

The Brittany IV schedule

Hunt girls ranked 14th in NCSCA 3-A poll

Somebody must be listening.

The new 3-A girls soccer poll conducted by the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association was released and Hunt is now ranked. The Lady Warriors, winners of eight straight, are No. 14, one ahead of Jacksonville in the final spot. The Lady Cardinals were 4-0 and ranked No. 7 until losing 2-0 to 4-A Wilmington New Hanover and tying Fike 2-2 on Friday night.

White Oak fell to fourth and Lake Norman took over the top spot.

In the 1-A rankings, North Johnston dropped out after its first loss in the Brassfield Commercial Shamrock Classic on Friday.

NCSCA 3-A girls poll

NCSCA 1-A girls poll

Congratulations to Kinston

While Beddingfield was denied its second N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A girls basketball championship Saturday, it wasn't all doom and gloom for the Eastern Carolina Conference.

Following the Lady Bruins' 77-62 loss to Concord in Chapel Hill, Kinston nipped Trinity 60-58 to win their first state title since 1965. Senior Bo Ingram was named championship MVP for the Vikings, who lost in the finals to Concord last year. Congratulations to Wells Gulledge and his players for an outstanding season.

The rest of the scores from Championship Saturday:

1-A Girls: Bishop McGuiness 56, Pender County 43 — It is the third straight championship for Bishop McGuiness (27-6).

1-A Boys: Winston-Salem Prep 73, Pamlico County 42 — It's the first championship for Winston-Salem Prep (29-6) whose Reggie Johnson set a championship record with 23 rebounds.

2-A Girls: East Davidson 62, Graham 59 — The Lady Golden Eagles (27-4) won their first state title.

2-A Boys: West Bladen 65, Pisgah 50 — It's West Bladen's (30-2) first state championship in any sport.

4-A Girls: Fayetteville Westover 58, West Charlotte 53 — It's the first state crown for the Lady Wolverines (30-2), whose coach, Gene Arrington, played for the Virginia high school football team featured in the movie "Remember the Titans."

4-A Boys: East Mecklenburg 73, Apex 62 — The Eagles (25-8) ended the storybook run of Apex, which threatened to be the first NCHSAA champion with 11 losses.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Give the Lady Warriors some respect!

I don't have a vote in the North Carolina high school girls soccer poll and it's probably a good thing. I can tell you about the teams in The Wilson Daily Times coverage area and a few others but my perspective is hardly statewide.

But I'm going to say that I know enough to know that Hunt should be in the top 15 of the 3-A poll. The Lady Warriors are 7-0 and own a victory over one top 10 (at least when they played) team in Fike. It was Hunt's first win against Fike since 2002 and sent the Lady Golden Demons out of the rankings after opening the season No. 7.

Hunt has a very young team under head coach Drew Nick. There are nine freshman on the squad, including Alex Hall, a Greenfield transfer who was one of the top scorers for the Lady Knights last season. Veteran players like Katie Wilson, Brittany Winstead, Alison Ellis and Whitney Hesmer, not to forget goalkeeper Monica Campbell give Hunt a scrappy character.

I remember the Lady Warriors' run at the end of last season and thinking that they were going to have a good team in the future. Of course, losing top scorer Alex Calvert hurt but young players like sophomore Brittany Raper (who practically grew up at Hunt watching her dad, Randy, coach the football team) and sophomore Lizzie Pittman have shown the same promise that Calvert flashed when she was an underclassmen.

Hopefully, Hunt and Fike will meet again. The rematch at Fike last Friday was washed out and there are no immediate plans to reschedule. Of course, there is always the playoffs.

High school girls soccer 3-A poll

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Lady Bruins win 3-A Eastern Regional

Congratulations to the Beddingfield girls basketball team for their second N.C. High School Athletic Association 3-A Eastern Regional championship in the past three seasons.

Minutes ago, the Lady Bruins, the 2006 3-A champion, defeated previously unbeaten South Central 62-46 in Greenville to advance to the state final against Concord, a 70-66 winner against previously undefeated Gastonia Forestview in the Western final.

They're going back to the 'ship!

Moore, MOC ladies upset Anderson, Barton's NCAA hopes

The flagging hopes of the Barton College women's basketball team to reach the NCAA Division II East Regional were dealt a serious setback Saturday afternoon.

Mount Olive, the No. 3 seed, upset top-seeded and nationally 12th-ranked Anderson 73-63 in the Conference Carolinas Tournament championship. That means the Lady Trojans, who were sparked by North Johnston High product Helen Moore's 20 points, get the conference's automatic bid.

Unlike in men's basketball, Conference Carolinas does not fetch that much respect in women's basketball. With just eight regional spots — and three handed to conference tournament winners — Barton's hopes for an at-large bid grew more distant with MOC's upset. The Lady Bulldogs, who entered the conference tournament as the No. 10 team in the regional rankings, lost in the semifinals to unranked MOC after the teams split their regular-season meetings.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Beddingfield's Best lands on elite all-star team

Congratulations to Beddingfield senior Jean Best who was chosen to play for the North Carolina side against South Carolina in the 2008 Carolina Classic All-Star Game in Charlotte's Bobcats Arena on April 5.

Best, a 6-foot-4 center who has signed with East Carolina University, will be joined on the N.C. team by her 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference nemesis Brittani Billups from Eastern Wayne. The pair, along with Wake Forest-Rolesville's Terrica Jones, are the only girls from schools east of Raleigh on the team.

The N.C. head coach is Marty Stanley of Kernersville Glenn while Rocky Mount's Pam Gainey is the assistant coach. Fike head coach George Drawhorn will serve as an assistant to the N.C. boys head coach Butch Blalock of Gastonia Highland Tech.

Thanks to Charles Alston of northcarolina.ihigh.com for posting this information.

2008 Carolina Classic rosters announced

Bulldogs' backs are to the wall

Despite a big win Saturday against Mount Olive and an opening-round triumph against Belmont Abbey, the NCAA Division II national champions are on the ropes.

The Barton College men's basketball dropped out of the NCAA Div. East Region rankings this week, leaving the Bulldogs no choice but to win the Conference Carolinas Tournament to get back in the Div. II tournament. Barton, the league's No. 4 seed, is at No. 1 Mount Olive on Thursday night in the tourney semifinals.

I can't foresee a situation whereby the Bulldogs could get one of the five at-large berths allotted the East Regional tournament. Not when three Conference Carolinas teams (No. 5 Mount Olive, No. 9 Pfeiffer and No. 10 Queens) are ahead of them.

Alderson-Broaddus, which lost to Barton in the 2006 East Regional in Wilson Gym and to West Virginia State here in 2007, is the East's No. 1-ranked team. Other teams from the 2007 East Regional in the top 10 are California (Pa.) at No. 3, Mount Olive, Millersville (Pa.) at No. 6 and West Liberty (W.Va.) State at No. 8.

I stand corrected in my earlier posting that Barton hasn't cracked the women's East Region top 10 rankings.Apparently my post came before the poll had been updated. The Lady Bulldogs are indeed No. 10 in this week's poll, putting them in good position to earn a regional berth if they can reach the conference tournament final. While Conference Carolinas has typically received less respect than the other East conferences in women's basketball, I'd be surprised if the only CC team to get a bid is Anderson. If Barton loses the tourney championship to Anderson, I can't see anyway the Lady Bulldogs wouldn't get a bid, but you never know.

NCAA Division II East Region men's basketball poll

NCAA Division II East Region women's basketball poll

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Atkinson a perfect fit with the Globetrotters

Former Bulldog great Ricky Melendez, left, and wife Becky, right, pose with Anthony Atkinson
Alex Melendez, bottom, and T.J. Melendez, left, with Anthony Atkinson at St. Petersburg Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., recently.
A couple of Bulldog basketball legends got together recently at the St. Petersburg Times Forum in Tampa, Fla., where the Harlem Globetrotters performed recently.

There was current Globetrotter Anthony Atkinson, who led Barton to the NCAA Division II men's basketball championship last spring, and Barton Athletic Hall-of-Famer Ricky Melendez, who led the Atlantic Christian Bulldogs to the NAIA Tournament in 1987.

Ricky and his wife, Becky, brought their sons Alex and T.J. as part of a group of 12 folks to see the Globetrotters, with Ant providing the tickets. Becky worked with Anthony's mother, Vivian, for many years before the family moved to Florida.

Ant took the Melendezes behind the scenes to meet several of his Globetrotters teammates and then brought nine-year-old Alex onto the floor during the game for a skit in which Alex got to shoot the ball. Alex made the basket and got an autographed jersey after the game.

Becky had this to say about Anthony: "Anthony Atkinson is a perfect fit with the Harlem Globetrotters! He is entertaining, hasmagnificent skills and just has the perfect smile and pizzazz for what he is doing. He absolutely loves it and the kids love him!!! We had a fantastic evening with him and wanted to share with his fans and family in Wilson."

The Globetrotters are headed to North Carolina this month with games in Asheville (March 19, Asheville Civic Center), Winston-Salem (March 21, Lawrence Joel Coliseum) and Charlotte (March 22. Bobcats Arena).

I spoke with Ant on the telephone this morning and he assured me he's been keeping up with Barton basketball as the Bulldogs make a push to get back in the NCAA Tournament.

"Yeah, I think they'll be all right," he said.

After all, they are still unbeaten on national television!

Saturday, March 1, 2008

NCHSAA releases regional pairings

The N.C. High School Athletic Association unveiled the brackets for its boys and girls basketball regional championships, which begin Tuesday in Greenville and Winston-Salem.

From the looks of things, the Beddingfield girls caught a break in the 3-A East Regional semifinals pairings. Rather than play unbeaten South Central, the top seed from the Coastal Conference, or perennial power Greensboro Dudley, which has ended Beddingfield's season two of the past three years, the Lady Bruins get Eastern Alamance, the No. 2 seed from the Mid-State Conference.

Now, I'm not saying Eastern Alamance will be a pushover for the Lady Bruins, but the Lady Eagles (20-7) are clearly a step behind the other three teams in the regional. This situation reminds me of 2006 when Beddingfield drew No. 2 Nash Central in the regional semis and edged Dudley in the East final on the way to the state title.

The West favorite has to be Gastonia Forestview (28-0) which spent all season second in the NCPreps.com poll, looking up at top-ranked Beddingfield. If the Lady Jaguars win the West, they can look to their second-round defeat of previously unbeaten Hickory, ranked No. 3 in the final 3-A poll, as the major hurdle. Or maybe it was Forestview's sectional championship triumph against Asheville T.C. Roberson, which had won 27 of 28 games prior to Friday and was ranked fifth for much of the year.

Forestview gets No. 7 Statesville (25-2) in the West semifinal while No. 8 Concord (28-2) and Franklin (23-6) tangle in the other semifinal.

The NCHSAA has made the 3-A girls regionals the last to be played this week and Beddingfield won't take the court at J.H. Rose High School until Friday night at 8:30. The regional championships for East and West are slated for 7 p.m. Saturday.

NCHSAA basketball regional pairings