Saturday, March 21, 2009

Fike, Hunt, North Johnston maintain Wachovia Cup leads

The N.C. High School Athletic Association has released Wachovia Cup conference standings following the winter sports season and Fike, Hunt and North Johnston maintain their leads atop their respective conferences.

Fike won the girls swimming championship in the 3-A NEW 6 and leads Nash Central by five points and Rocky Mount by six points as we head into spring. Conference Standings:Fike 114, Nash Central 109, Rocky Mount 108.5, Northern Nash 96.5, Southern Nash 82, Southwest Edgecombe 68.

Hunt tied for first in the 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference in wrestling, girls basketball and girls and boys swimming and holds a seven-point edge over Eastern Wayne while Beddingfield is third, 18 points behind Hunt. Conference Standings: Hunt 120, Eastern Wayne 113, Beddingfield 102, Southern Wayne 99.5, C.B. Aycock 97, Kinston 48.5.

North Johnston claimed 1-A Carolina Conference crowns in wrestling and girls basketball to move 13.5 points ahead of Spring Creek. Conference Standings: North Johnston 41.5, Spring Creek 28, Princeton 27, Ayden Grifton 25, Rosewood 19.5, North Duplin 9.

Greene Central sits in fourth place in the 2-A Eastern Plains Conference. Conference Standings: North Pitt 36, Farmville Central 35.5, Tarboro 34.5, Greene Central 29.5, Goldsboro 26.5, North Lenoir 25

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Cooper finally getting his due as UNC history-maker

Thanks to Dave Fulton of Charlotte who alerted me to this outstanding story by David Scott in Sunday's Charlotte Observer on Willie Cooper of Elm City.

Most people, myself included, think Charlie Scott was the first African-American basketball player at the University of North Carolina but Scott was only the first black member of the UNC varsity. Cooper actually integrated UNC basketball in 1964, two years before Scott arrived, after a standout career at Elm City's Frederick Douglass High School under head coach Harvey Reid Jr.

Cooper only played one season of freshman basketball then decided to concentrate on his academics, opening the way for Scott to make his historical entrance on the Tar Heels varsity squad.

The article by David Scott mentions that the Douglass High team's bus driver was a history teacher at the school named Phil Ford Sr., whose 8-year-old son would accompany the team to games. The elder Ford later taught at Fike High School and the younger Ford, well, he made a name for himself as the starting shortstop on Rocky Mount Senior High's 1973 4-A state championship baseball team as well as doing some things in basketball of note.

Anyway, thanks to Dave Fulton for the tip on an outstanding and historical read!

East outshined in NCHSAA finals this year

Only two teams from the East won N.C. High School Athletic Association basketball championships Saturday and both of those — the Greensboro Dudley girls and Northern Guilford boys in 3-A — aren't really from the eastern part of the state.

I still wonder why teams from Guilford County are in the 3-A eastern region and I think the real answer is that there are no 3-A teams in Wake County and hardly any in Cumberland County. You go from Wilson and Harnett County all the way to Asheboro and Burlington before you run into another 3-A school.

Here are Saturday's final scores from the NCHSAA Web site:

lass 1-A women
Bishop McGuinness 64, East Bladen 33

Class 1-A men
Bishop McGuinness 72, Weldon 56

Class 2-A women
Salisbury 56, Graham 41

Class 2-A men
Shelby 62, Northwood 50

Class 3-A women
Dudley 60, Forestview 58

Class 3-A men
Northern Guilford 66, Forestview 54

Class 4-A women
West Charlotte 78, Hillside 60

Class 4-A men
Mount Tabor 60, Terry Sanford 55

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Strickland breathes rare air with big day at the plate

When Hunt junior Sam Strickland lit up Southern Nash for nine runs batted in during the Warriors' 17-2 win Monday, he came mighty close to the state record for RBIs in a game.

The N.C. High School Athletic Association record book lists Shawn Gallagher of Wilmington New Hanover and Hope Mills South View's Jason Huffman as the co-holders of the mark with 11 each.

Here is the list from the NCHSAA Web site:

11- Shawn Gallagher (New Hanover), April 28, 1995 (New Hanover 16, Southern Wayne 4)
11- Jason Huffman (South View), March 24, 1999 (South View 23, E.E. Smith 4)
11- Sam Simpson (Croatan), March 2, 2006 (Croatan 31, Jones 0)
10- Tony Lee (Garner) vs. Athens Drive,1983
10- Blake Adams (Four Oaks) vs. Meadow, 1964
10- Ricky Howard (Southern Nash) vs. Louisburg, March 15, 2002

Sam was 3 for 4 and I don't think there was anyone on base when he grounded out in the third inning so he pretty much maximized his RBI chances in the game. It might have helped if it was a five-inning affair but that's the way it goes.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that Strickland's nine RBIs are almost certainly a school record and could be a county record as well as a 3-A Eastern Carolina Conference record.

ECU announces 2009 football schedule

East Carolina University released its 2009 football schedule Wednesday and the Pirates will face seven bowl participants, including Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech in a Thursday night game in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

ECU also meets West Virginia, North Carolina and Appalachian State as part of its non-conference schedule. The Pirates also have a Tuesday night game and a Sunday night game. Half their 12 games are in Greenville.

Here is the complete schedule with everything but game times which aren't announced until a week before the games in most cases.

Sept. 12 - at West Virginia
Sept. 19 - at North Carolina
Sept. 26 - *UCF
Oct. 3 - *at Marshall
Oct. 10 - *at SMU
Oct. 17 - *RICE
Oct. 27 - *at Memphis (ESPN/Tue.)
Nov. 5 - VIRGINIA TECH (ESPN/Thurs.)
Nov. 15 - *at Tulsa (ESPN/Sun.)
Nov. 21 - *UAB
Dec. 5 - C-USA Championship Game (ESPN)

*Conference USA game

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Brown blowing up as NFL Draft nears

Former Florida State and Beddingfield High School defensive end Everette Brown's stock is rising as the 2009 NFL Draft approaches.

I've seen the 2005 Wilson Daily Times Ironman of the Year projected to go in the top five overall which would be something else. I knew Everette was a special player but had no idea his stock would rise this quickly.

Here's a great interview Everette did last week on ESPN, conducted by Jay Crawford. He talks about what position he would like to play as some teams are pondering using him as a linebacker in their 3-4 defensive formations as well as mentions the questions he's been asked by NFL teams, such as "What is the most childish thing you've done recently?"

Given the current off-field problems NFL teams have had to endure with some players in recent years, Everette's response indicates one reason he's become so attractive to future employers.

Monday, March 9, 2009

NCHSAA releases championship pairings

The N.C. High School Athletic Association has released the pairings for its girls and boys basketball championships this weekend. For the first time since 2004, there are no teams from The Wilson Daily Times coverage area playing for a title.

This year two schools — Kernersville Bishop McGuiness in 1-A and Gastonia Forestview in 3-A — are playing for the boys and girls titles.

NCHSAA basketball championships

At Chapel Hill
Dean E. Smith Center

2-A girls
Graham (28-3) vs. Salisbury (28-3), noon

2-A boys
Pittsboro Northwood (20-5) vs. Shelby (28-2), 2:30 p.m.

4-A girls
Durham Hillside (26-5) vs. West Charlotte (27-3), 5 p.m.

4-A boys
Fayetteville Terry Sanford (28-3) vs. Winston-Salem Mount Tabor (30-1), 7:30 p.m.

At Raleigh
Reynolds Coliseum
1-A girls
East Bladen (26-2) vs. Kernersville Bishop McGuiness (28-4), noon

1-A boys
Weldon (26-1) vs. Kernersville Bishop McGuiness (30-2), 2:30 p.m.

3-A girls
Greensboro Dudley (29-3) vs. Gastonia Forestview (27-4), 5 p.m.

4-A boys
Northern Guilford (29-3) vs. Gastonia Forestview (25-6), 7:30 p.m.

Note: the Eastern champion is designated as the home team and will wear the light colored uniform in these NCHSAA championship games.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Bulldogs in; Lady Bulldogs denied NCAA bid

The NCAA released its Division II men's and women's basketball tournament pairings Sunday night and the announcement was greeted with joy and sorrow at Barton College.

The Bulldogs, who won the Conference Carolinas tournament crown Saturday night, are back in the NCAA tournament as the No. 5 seed in the Southeast Regional while the Lady Bulldogs, regular-season queens of Conference Carolinas, were shut out for the second straight season.

The Barton men open against No. 4 seed Georgia College and State University at Augusta (Ga.) State University on Saturday. Tip-off times have yet to be determined.

As I pointed out down the page earlier today, the Barton women's hopes of making the NCAA Division II tournament rested with the results of the Peach Belt Conference tournament. Unfortunately for the Lady Bulldogs, Lander University, unranked in the Southeast Region, completed its upset run by spilling USC-Aiken in the championship game to get the PBC's automatic bid.

That was bad news for the Lady Bulldogs, who were ranked No. 7, going into the conference tournaments. But with Anderson University knocking off Barton on the way to the Conference Carolinas tourney crown and Lander winning, that meant two automatic bids went to unranked teams. So it came down to Barton (22-6) and Carson-Newman (19-10), the fourth-place team in South Atlantic Conference which also lost in the conference tournament semifinals.

I'd love to see Carson-Newman play because I might then be able to understand how it could have been invited ahead of Barton, which got no respect at all as the regular-season champion.

Yes, I know, Barton could have avoided this gross wrongdoing by not losing in the semifinals but it's a travesty that a team with 10 losses and a fourth-place finish could get the bid ahead of the Lady Bulldogs.

The Div. II women's brackets can be viewed here and the men's brackets can be seen here.

It's tournament (and Thin Mints) time!

This is my favorite time of the year and it really hit home Saturday. Basking in the 70-plus degree weather, the snowfall Sunday and Monday seemed months away. It went from winter to nearly summer in three days.

The grass is starting to get a little greener. The Bradford pear tree in my neighbor's yard is about to explode with white blossoms. I've got a box of Thin Mints from the Girl Scouts in my freezer. Baseball season is just around the corner (except the colleges and high schools which have already started) and , best of all, it's almost tournament time.

The NCAA Division I regular season ends Sunday. The Atlantic Coast Conference tournament starts Thursday. We're a week away from Selection Sunday. If you're a college basketball fan, this is what you've been waiting for. No matter what happened at the NIT Tip-Off or the Maui Invitational or the Great Alaska Shootout or January or February, the next few weeks is how the 2008-09 season will be defined.

Then, on a local note, there's the Div. II selections to be made Sunday night and both Barton College teams will find out what's next.

It's a dream scenario, one I have lived in bliss each March since I was about 10 years old. The birds are chirping, the gentle sunshine warms the earth, you can watch tournament basketball all day (while flipping to spring training games during commercials) and don't forget the Thin Mints. I like mine frozen.

Life is good!

Lady Bulldogs need to be Lady Pacers fans Sunday

OK, so here's how I see the Barton College women's basketball team's chances to reach the NCAA Division II tournament. The Lady Bulldogs need to root, root, root like crazy for USC-Aiken in Sunday's Peach Belt Conference tournament championship against Lander University.

You see, the Lady Bulldogs are currently ranked No. 7 in the Southeast Region, which consists of Barton's Conference Carolinas, the Peach Belt and the South Atlantic Conference. USC-Aiken is ranked No. 3 in the region and the SAC final pits No. 1 (and likely regional host) Lenoir-Rhyne against No. 4 Tusculum College. No. 2 Clayton State and No. 3 Francis Marion both lost in the PBC semis today.

The only way Lander is getting in (or should get in, considering it is 19-10) is by winning the PBC title Sunday and getting the automatic bid. If that happens, Conference Carolinas will probably only get the automatic bid — the winner of Sunday's tournament final between host Mount Olive and Anderson, which beat Barton in Friday night's semis.

Carson-Newman, which is ranked No. 6 in the Southeast Region, also lost in the semifinals of the SAC tourney, as did No. 8 Wingate. If Mount Olive, currently ranked No. 10, defeats Anderson, I like Barton's chances to get an at-large bid and bump Wingate out of the regional.

But that's only if Lander loses to USC-Aiken and the seeding committee doesn't completely disrespect Conference Carolinas by allotting just the automatic bid.

We will find out Sunday night at 9 p.m.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Girls soccer polls are out

The N.C. Soccer Coaches Association polls are out and in the 3-A poll, Hunt is No. 10 while Fike is 14th. North Johnston is 11th in the 1-A poll.

And remember, we're only three weeks away from The Brittany V!

Greenfield pair invited to elite Carolina Challenge showcase

Greenfield's Brian Richardson and Jeremy Jeffers have been invited to Dave Telep's Carolina Challenge, one of the top high school basketball showcases in the state.

The Knights duo are part of 80 invited players to the one-day academy, to be held March 28 at Cary Academy. In short, these are the best freshmen, sophmores and juniors in North Carolina.

Telep, if you don't know, is considered one of the top college basketball recruiting gurus.

It's good to see Richardson and Jeffers get the nod which is the first step in what should be huge senior seasons for these talented players, both of whom have attracted several NCAA Division I offers.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Log on to see if Barton teams will dance

In anticipation of both Barton College basketball teams landing bids to their respective NCAA Division II tournaments, the selection shows can be seen live Sunday night via webcast at the NCAA's Web site. There will be a link on the main page as well as the men's and women's basketball pages.

The women's announcement will start at 9 p.m. and the men's announcement will follow immediately thereafter.

One word of caution, however. If you do not log in by 9 p.m., you will have to wait until both women's and men's announcements are completed to see the show, which will then be archived.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Big Jean lands on C-USA All-Freshman team

Jean Best of East Carolina University was named to Conference USA's All-Freshman women's basketball team Tuesday.

Best, a 6-foot-5 freshman center out of Beddingfield High School, leads C-USA in field-goal percentage with .618 (94 of 152), which would be the highest single season accuracy mark in Lady Pirates history. Best also leads the league in blocked shots with 42 and is third in scoring at ECU with an 8.4 points per-game average.

The Lady Pirates finished the regular season 8-8 in C-USA play and 17-12 overall. ECU, the No. 8 seed, will meet No. 9 UAB at 1 p.m. Thursday in the first round of the conference tournament at Tulane University in New Orleans.