Tuesday, August 25, 2009

ACC hoops schedules are out

The Atlantic Coast Conference has released its 2009-10 men's basketball schedules.

Defending national champion North Carolina starts off with Florida International in Chapel Hill on Nov. 9 in the first round of the 2K Sports Coaches vs. Cancer Classic. Although that opponent now seems to be up for review.

The Tar Heels will get a rematch with national runner-up Michigan State in the Smith Center on Dec. 1 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge and four days later visit revamped Kentucky in Rupp Arena. Two weeks later, Carolina plays Texas in the new Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.

Duke, which has 17 home games, begins the season Nov. 13 against UNC Greensboro in Cameron Indoor Stadium. The Blue Devils visit Wisconsin Dec. 2 in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge. Duke is also in the NIT Season Tip-Off and in a non-conference affair, meet Gonzaga in Madison Square Garden on Dec. 19.

N.C. State will open at home against Georgia State but the date is not final, either Nov. 12, 14 or 16. The Wolfpack will play in the Glenn Wilkes Classic in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Nov. 20-22 and host Northwestern in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge on Dec. 1. State visits Marquette on Dec. 5 and Arizona on Dec. 23.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Humbling first week in the Football Forecast

Well, since it's all high school games this week, the results from the first Football Forecast of the season is in and what a disaster it was for me.

I should have known not to pick against Fike since the Demons stymied me nearly every week in the first part of last season. At least, if I'm going to be wrong, I should go with the home team, right? Oh well, give the Demons credit for the 14-8 victory at D.H. Conley.

Also surprising to me was Charles B. Aycock beating Bunn. Not that I think poorly of the Golden Falcons but Bunn has just been so tough in recent years. Aycock was able to squeeze out a 39-38 win.

North Johnston let me down since I took the Panthers mostly because they were at home but Clinton Union made itself at home in Kenly with a 41-12 win.

Greene Central at home against South Central was a tough call, too, but the Rams couldn't utilize the homefield advantage in their 10-6 loss to South Central, a result that came in so late it didn't make the print edition of The Wilson Times.

But kudos to guest picker Scott Jones for sizzling to a 10-2 week, followed closely by newbie Natalie Sayewich with a sparkling 9-3 mark. She can thank me for steering her away from taking Elizabeth City Northeastern to beat SouthWest Edgecombe. In this case, southwest trumped northeast.

Good ol' Frank Artis, who finished last in 2008, had a strong night as well, going 8-4. In typically Frank fashion, he accurately calls Fike and CBA wins as well as those by Southern Durham over Greenville Rose and South Central over Greene Central but inexplicably takes Nash Central over Tarboro, which won 39-0. Frank also had Northeastern, a 42-6 loser to SWE.

Tied for fourth with me at 7-5 is The Senior Staff Writer. He had a bad week, too, changing his mind on the North Johnston-Union game and it cost him.

Finally, there's Michael Lindsay who'd better get on the ball if he doesn't want to be ridiculed for being the cellar-dweller after his 6-6 start.

I think we need to find some rookie guest pickers. I can't have people off the street humbling us like Scott did this week. If you're interested in sitting in for a week, shoot me an e-mail at paul@wilsontimes.com

Friday, August 21, 2009

Bruins loss is Rose's gain

Although it sustained a huge loss earlier this summer, the Beddingfield varsity volleyball game served notice it will still be a force. The Bruins stopped Hunt in four games – 27-29, 25-21, 25-20, 25-22 — on the Warriors home court on Thursday.

It was a small measure of revenge for Beddingfield which lost two of three matches to Hunt last season, including the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference tournament. The squads split the regular-season title in each's last campaign in the ECC.

Now the Bruins are the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference and Hunt has joined the 3-A Big East Conference, which is why they were playing so early in the season, instead of at the end. Hunt lost three key perfomers to graduation – Morgan Ballance, Caroline Moody and Alison Ellis — while the Bruins bid farewell to 2008 seniors Mallory Glover and Shaniqua Clay. But Beddingfield also is without its star player from a year ago, junior Jamie DeRatt. The 2008 ECC Player of the Year will attend Greenville Rose this year, leaving not only Beddingfield volleyball coach Jeremy Howard but also Bruins girls basketball coach Debra Pegram and girl soccer coach Glenn Griffin without a key starter.

Reasons for the move are personal and best to leave it at that. However, I feel a pang of wistfulness considering how much the DeRatt family has meant to athletics in that part of the county over the years. Jamie's older sisters, Barbara and Lindsey, were both standout volleyball and soccer players at Beddingfield.

Their father, Jimmy, was a two-time All-Atlantic Coast Conference linebacker at North Carolina in the early 1970s.

Their uncle, Monte, and father lettered in baseball at UNC. Both were star football and baseball players at the old Saratoga Central High School, whose students went to Beddingfield following merger in 1978. Their grandfather was the football coach at Stantonsburg High, which merged with Saratoga to form Saratoga Central.

The DeRatts have long been part of Wilson sports lore and Jamie was writing her own chapter. We're sorry to see her leave but wish her all the best in Greenville. Rose has gotten itself a rose!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Demons, Rams already in midseason form

I haven't watered this blog in a week and I apologize to it and any loyal readers I might still have. A hectic schedule is no excuse for not spending a few minutes a day here.

I spent an hour or so at the Fike High School tennis courts Monday afternoon watching the season-opening match between a pair of teams that might be in Burlington by season's end. The Golden Demons, of course, made the trip last year as they reached the state 3-A dual-team final and Greene Central has won both its 2-A crowns in the past five years.

Fike won Monday's matchup 5-4 against a Rams squad that returns all six starters from last season. Making the Demons' win more impressive was that they did it without No. 1 singles player Mary-Katherine Prince, a three-time 3-A East Regional champion, and junior No. 4 Sarah Flinn.

I've seen Fike play so many tough matches the past two seasons but those usually come when the air is brisk, the leaves are falling and there are pumpkins on every porch. It was kind of strange seeing that intensity when everyone looked like they had either just come back from the beach or were getting ready to go. It was also spooky watching Fike play without Prince, who was out of town. She has been such a constant for the Demons since she arrived on the scene in the fall of 2006.

And Flinn, who was nursing a sore shoulder, has become a mainstay in the second half of the Fike lineup. Lee Matthews' lineup has been nearly written in stone for the past two seasons so it took a moment to adjust to the revamped order for Monday's match.

But one thing was familiar — the sight of senior Connor Allegood alone on the court as Fike's last singles player. I give Connor a hard time about making a habit of going to third-set tiebreakers whenever I cover a Fike match but she was in midseason form after taking the first set from Greene Central's Samantha Taylor, who has tennis in her blood, and then losing the second. But Connor determinedly won the tiebreaker, one of three on the day for Fike, and it proved to be a good omen.

Fike will have a likely tougher road in the 3-A East this year with traditional 2-A power Raleigh Cardinal Gibbons moving up a classification. But the Demons have experience in big matches and could well find themselves back in Burlington. Don't count out Donald Clark's Rams who certainly will benefit from Cardinal Gibbons' move as well.

Before you know it, October will be here and these teams will be playing some really exciting matches, if Monday was any indication.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

A hectic week brings no change to sports department

It's been a hectic and sad week here at the Times with 15 co-workers being laid off for economic reasons. However, I should point out that none of those layoffs came in the sports department so we will be able to continue to bring the best sports coverage we can possibly bring to our readers.

I have been asked to serve as interim co-editor with Lisa Batts and if I can handle the double-duty the way Tom Ham handles his multiple fantasy league baseball teams, we'll be in good shape.

The 2009 high school football preview will be out Thursday, Aug. 20, a day before area teams kick off the regular season. With NCHSAA realignment now a reality, there will be lots to discuss in the preview. We are planning on providing the same coverage of high school football (as well as other sports) that we have in the past — redesign or a.m. delivery notwithstanding. That means Between High School Football Fridays and our weekly game previews and Football Forecast (The Hammer knows I'm coming for him this year!)

Can you believe the season will start in just two weeks?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tom's OK and thanks

Just a word of thanks on behalf of Tom Ham and his family to the folks who looked out for him Tuesday when he took ill at the Wilson County Junior Golf Championship at Happy Valley Country Club.

Tom, of course, built the Wilson Daily Times sports department into the finest in the state and I'm just privileged to be carrying on that tradition. While he is considered a "part-time" or "semi-retired" staff member these days, he is far from that. Unfortunately, his dedication to his career gets him in hot water at times and scares the heck out of me.

He suffered a dizzy spell in the heat Tuesday and needed some medical attention but seems to be fine now. He might have to be sidelined for a few days but hopefully will be back to his usual self within no time.

Many, many thanks to Robert Wells, Frank Pridgen, Jim Boykin Jr. and many others who made sure Tom got prompt medical attention.

Wilson's Barnes aiming for dunk title but he needs your help

Check it out, you can help a Wilsonian make it to the first Sprite Slam Dunk Showdown at the 2010 NBA All-Star Weekend in Dallas.

Willie Barnes, who attended Fike High and played for Charis Prep in 2007, is one of 10 semifinalists that are competing for four spots in Dallas.

Sprite, NBA superstar LeBron James, NBA Nation and Kia Motors are the sponsors of this cross-country search to find America's top amateur dunker. Barnes drove to Washington, D.C., to get into the regional competition as a walk-on. He said he waited in line for eight hours for the open call and, when no one else showed up, he got his chance and made the most of it by defeating 13 other contestants.

You can watch Willie AKA "Flyte" strut his stuff and vote for him. The top four will go to Dallas and the winner there will take home a $10,000 grand prize and be a guest at the NBA Sprite Slam Dunk contest during NBA All-Star Saturday Night on Feb. 13.

I had the pleasure of talking to Willie following Charis Prep's season-ending National Prep Tournament championship in 2007 and was as impressed with him as a person as I was with his basketball skills. I think it's really cool that he has a chance to earn some fame so let's help him out with some online votes!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Brittany for the Boys V isn't far off

The high school football season kicks off in less than three weeks with all three Wilson County teams in action Friday, Aug. 21. But that's not all the kicking that will go on that night as The Brittany for the Boys V cranks up at Gillette Soccer Complex with 12 games that night.

There will be another 18 games the next day, Saturday, Aug. 22, with 30 games total, five fewer than the previous Brittany for the Boys last August. It appears as though there will be 54 teams involved, with six, including Fike, playing two games. Again, four fewer than last year's total.

With school budgets being trimmed, it's not surprising The Brittany contracted a wee bit but it's still the biggest and best high school soccer showcase in the state, as the N.C. Soccer Coaches Association proclaimed last May.

Here's the schedule for The Brittany for the Boys V.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Home again, home again to a busy week

After a relaxing two weeks in the San Francisco Bay Area, I'm back at my desk ready for the fall sports season to begin. But first, there's still some unfinished business from summer, most of which is happening this week.

First off, the Wilson Tobs are on the verge of capturing the second-half championship in the Coastal Plain League's South Division. If the Tobs win at Florence (S.C.) on Monday night, they'll do just that and pretty much assure themselves of not only hosting the first-round playoff game Thursday night in Fleming Stadium, but also the best-of-3 semifinals series if they advance. After years of playing the Petitt Cup tournament at a single site, never in Wilson, it'll be fun to see the Tobs host a playoff game — or three.

The Wilson County Junior Golf Association is holding its annual championship tournament, beginning Monday at Wilson Country Club with round two slated for Tuesday at Happy Valley Country Club and the final round to be held Wednesday at Wedgewood. This is the 31st annual tournament, named the Larry Pittman Memorial many years ago after one of Wilson junior golf's central figures. I think it's pretty cool this tournament is still going strong after all these years. There are lots of folks, even many as old as me or (gulp!) even older, who grew up playing in this tournament.

Finally, the Babe Ruth World Series is back as the Wilson County Youth Athletic Association hosts the 12U Softball World Series at The Hole diamond at Rock Ridge Elementary School, beginning Thursday. If I had a nickel for every drop of sweat coming off WCYAA Athletic Director Mickey Davis' forehead this week, I could retire!

Go out and check out these young ladies, many of whom will be playing collegiate softball in a few years. Don't worry about the heat, it's still summer!