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Archive for March 2007

Shock opens season with easy win

SHOCK

Isn’t af2 football supposed to be an offensive show?

Not Saturday. At least not against the Spokane defense. That defense, paced by Rob Keefe’s two interceptions, allowed the Adam Shackleford era to open on a positive note, 51-35 against the Stockton Lightning before a sellout crowd at the Arena.

There was little electricity for Stockton’s offense, as the Shock led 20-0 early in the second quarter, 30-14 at the half and 37-14 at the end of three quarters. Stockton didn’t score in the second half until there was 6:41 left, on Kenyatte Morgan’s 34-yard touchdown reception. Morgan finished with three touchdowns.

But that was matched by the three scoring tosses of Andrico Hines, making his first start at quarterback for Spokane. Hines not only threw for the three scores, but also ran for two more. He was 20 of 30 passing for nearly 200 yards.

Busy day and busy award season for Bjorklund

PREPS

Another busy day on the prep sports scene and we offer this roundup of Washington action and this one with an Idaho lead.

• U-Hi’s Angie Bjorklund and GU-recruit Steven Gray of Bainbridge were the Associated Press players of the year in Washington. This Times’ story lists all the classification winners and the all-state players.

Bjorklund has won almost every award in the state, and was named a first-team All-American by Parade Magazine this week.

If you got a chance to watch the McDonald’s All-American game you got to see why Bjorklund is so prized by Tennessee coach Pat Summitt. In a game dominated by one-on-one moves, Angie was the only player on the West team who looked to pass first and score second. Of course, that’s not a skill in high regard at all-star games.

Shock open af2 defense tonight in Arena

SHOCK

The season opens tonight and we’ll try to get a final score up as soon as the game (5 p.m.; KHQ-6; 105.7-FM) with Stockton is over.

But we had this advance from Jim Meehan, and a couple of posts on the Shock blog for you to peruse.

• There is also this af2 season advance from Everett (which calls the Shock the Force in the lead) and this piece on the Hawks’ opener.

• The af2 has expanded into Tri-Cities and Boise, with the Boise Burn defeating Lousiville on Friday night in the franchise’s first game. And the Tri-City Herald has an advance about the Fever’s season, which starts tonight.

Chiefs drop game five 5-1

CHIEFS

The Chiefs come home for Sunday’s game in a must-win situation. And then they must win in Everett in game seven as well if they want to advance.

All that because they were routed 5-1 in Everett on Friday night.

For more on the Chiefs’ playoff efforts, check Jeff Bunch’s blog.

• Here’s the game story from the Everett Herald along with a column from John Sleeper

• Seattle came within a breath of ending the other U.S. Division series, but Tri-City survived in overtime, 5-4. The Americans blew a 4-1 second-period lead. Seattle heads home leading the series 3-2.

• Here are the Times’ stories on the Tips’ win and the T-Birds’ loss.

Bennett named nation’s coach of the year by AP

COLLEGE NEWS

Tony Bennett was named the Associated Press college basketball coach of the year today, an honor he deserved.

There is more on Glenn Kasses’ blog if you are interested.

••••••••••

The West Coast Conference baseball season opens this weekend, with GU hosting 20th-ranked USD today at Washington Trust Field. It’s such a beautiful day, there can’t be many better ways to spend an afternoon.

Why will UCLA win?

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

With the Final Four this weekend, we ran a fun little group of stories based on “Why Team A will win.”

So if you want to know why your favorite team out of the four is going to win read these: Ohio State, Georgetown, Florida and UCLA. We also ran a feature on Georgetown’s Jeff Green.

• West Virginia did win the NIT last night, so there’s no more argument there.

• Bud Withers has an interesting piece about the 3-point shot which includes facts I didn’t even know.

• If you are still trying to decide who to root for this weekend, this National Review story might make the taxpayer in you want to support Georgetown. Or not.

• Getting a ticket to the games in Atlanta isn’t easy – though I know someone who is going and he didn’t ask me – according to this Don Ruiz story in the News Tribune.

• Former Seattle Storm player and current South Carolina assistant coach Michelle Marciniak has thrown here name into the UW coaching search with force, according to Bob Condotta’s story in the Times. The story lists all the potential candidates for the head spot, and a couple at the end that may come to UW as assistants. One name listed in the latter category is Karen Deden Westwater, who is coaching at Sentinel High in Missoula.

Who knows what will happen over the next few days

CHIEFS

I read somewhere once that, in a seven-game series tied at 2-2, the team that wins game five goes on to win the series 107 percent of the time. I also read that the team that loses game five wins the series just 105 percent of the time.

Of course I just made those numbers up. I wanted a way to say I don’t believe much in stats and probability, especially in sports that utilize high-school age boys, like Western Hockey League play does.

Heck, I don’t think there are any stats or probabilities worth a damn about high-school age boys at all, though I am a big believer that 93.4 percent of them will sleep past 9 a.m. during spring break. Or that 100 percent of them will sleep past 9 a.m. during spring break 93.4 percent of the time, or something like that.

Which is a roundabout way of saying … who really know who will win this series with the Tips? The first-round playoff series continues tonight with game five in Everett (7:35 p.m.; 790-AM) and then returns to the Arena on Sunday night (6; 790-AM).

Jeff Bunch has his advance here and a question for you on the Chiefs’ blog.

• There is this story from the Everett Herald.

• The Tri-City Americans, trailing Seattle 3-1, try to extend the series tonight in Kennewick. There’s this advance from the Tri-City Herald. The Seattle Times ran its WHL notebook today.

There are blowouts and then there is rubbing it in

PREPS

There has been a lot of discussion concerning softball – and, in my mind, baseball as well – blowouts here, though it has turned more toward a discussion of Shadle Park’s softball program, which isn’t what I wanted.

But that’s the way you decided to go, and I read every comment. It didn’t get libelous, so I let it continue on. Now it seems to be become a little repetitious, so I’m wondering if it is time to move on.

Let’s agree on this: It doesn’t do anyone on either team any good for a softball or baseball game to finish 20-0, 30-0, 40-0 or 64-0. The winning team rarely learns anything that will help them later in the season and the losing team’s players don’t do anything but exercise their legs on defense, chasing down balls caroming off the fences.

But let’s also agree on this: As long as high school sports has been around, there have been blowouts. Some schools are great in some sports, others aren’t. Ferris’ boys basketball team may defeat U-Hi by 30, the softball score could be turned around (and was). It’s a fact of athletic life.

So what should, and shouldn’t, happen?

• There doesn’t need to be any more rules. That’s the typical irrational response to a rational problem. “There was a travesty of a game,” someone says, “so we have to make a rule to ensure it will never happen again.” Let’s not go down that road.

• In high school, coaches are the first line of defense. At the college level and beyond, if a baseball or softball game gets out of hand and someone on the “winning” team does something that violates the unwritten etiquette of the game – for example, bunting for a base hit leading by 15 runs – the players take care of it among themselves. But at the high school level, hitting someone with a pitch in retaliation isn’t condoned. It’s up to the coaches, the adults, to control things.

• A 10-run lead in fastpitch softball is probably safe (especially if the leading team has an outstanding pitcher), so a coach can rein in his or her charges pretty early. If a team is putting together a 10, 15, 20-run inning, it is OK for the offensive coach to tell a hitter to swing and miss three times, then give them a sacrifice in the scorebook. Why not? They made an out for the good of the game, for the good of the team, which is the definition of a sacrifice.

• There is a difference between winning big and rubbing it in, and winning big. The average fan, reading a score, probably can’t realize that, but players know. If the players aren’t upset, no one else should be either. Before any of us start screaming about a score, we need to make sure whether it was a rout or a rub-your-nose-in-it rout.

When a game is decided no matter how many innings are left, coaches need to utilize whatever they have in their arsenal to keep from running it up. If they do that, they’ve honored their responsibility to the players and the game. If they don’t, they deserve to be grilled on why not.

Spring football in full bloom

COLLEGE FOOTBALL

With the University of Idaho opening spring football Friday, the Idaho Statesman had this piece on new coach Robb Akey.

• Idaho State also has a new coach, former Central Washington coach John Zamberlin. The Twin Falls Times-News asked him 10 questions.

• The Salem paper had this preview of Oregon State’s spring practice.

Chiefs get healthy at home

CHIEFS

It seems like the post-game fight Saturday night was just what the Chiefs needed. Either that, or some home cooking.

Whatever it was, Spokane has tied the first-round playoff series with Everett at two games apiece after the 3-1 win Wednesday night at the Arena.

Jeff Bunch has more on his blog.

• The Tips, which came into the series with the best regular-season record in the WHL, haven’t been happy with the officiating.

There was some whining after the loss in the first Spokane game concerning a too-late goal at the end of the first period. And now, as this Everett Herald story relates, there was a lot of crying after the game about the Chiefs’ first goal.

According to the Tips – led by head coach Kevin Constantine – the goal should have been disallowed due to goalie interference.

• There is also this small story in the Times.

• The other U.S. Division series is now 3-1 in Seattle’s favor after the Thunderbirds’ win on Wednesday. Tri-City came into the series as a slight favorite.

It’s time to move on to track season - and field too

PREPS

The morning has been full already. It took almost an hour to wade through the e-mail and comments. But that’s behind me – somewhat, because later today I’m going to weigh in with my thoughts about softball and baseball routs and what can be done about them. And that will be the end of the issue on this site – and now I can move on to the news.

On the Washington side of the border, Dave Trimmer previewed Greater Spokane League track today on the Prep Page, with a feature on East Valley’s Eleaya Schuerch and quick facts concerning the girls and the boys. Dave also covered the opening day of GSL track.

Mike Vlahovich rounded out the Washington Prep Page by weighing in on the Spokane Schools’ plan to eliminate ninth-grade athletics in a cost-cutting move. I gave you my thoughts at this link if you would like to refresh your memory. We also had the Quick Hits and a roundup of Wednesday’s action.

In Idaho, the main feature concerned fastpitch softball and led with Coeur d’Alene High pitcher Jenna DeLong. There is also this preview of North Idaho’s prep softball leagues and this story of Cd’A’s extra-inning win over Lake City. We also had a roundup of other Idaho prep action. There is also this story on St. Maries’ pitcher Dalton Baker.

• The McDonald’s All-American games were last night in Louisville, and U-Hi’s Angie Bjorklund scored 13 points for the West girl’s team.

• One of the best softball programs in Washington resides at Prairie, and, according to this Columbian story, the Falcons are going to be tough again. The Columbian has previews of every sport in the Vancouver area here.

Minor league game had a major league attraction

MARINERS

It’s not often a minor league game on a back field has most of the Mariners’ brain trust in attendance, but that’s what happened Tuesday in Peoria.

The reason was simple: J.J. Putz was throwing an inning in competition. And the M’s closer came through with flying colors. Now everyone can breath a little easier, safe in the knowledge the team’s closer will be ready to close when the season opens.

Today’s hot list …

• The Times’ Geoff Baker has a long story on minor league infielder Chris Minaker, who wrote a paper at Stanford about performance-enhancing drugs in sports. Baker calls the paper groundbreaking. After reading what it was missing, i.e. input from the football team, I’d call it a B-plus.

• It looks like Jamie Burke is going to catch on as the backup catcher. But he’ll have to wait until Saturday night to find out. That’s when Frank Mattox and the rest of the Mariners’ brass must end the dream for some budding major league players.

• Ever been down to Peoria? If it’s been a while, as in my case, you remember a baseball facility that was in the middle of nowhere. But now, as John McGrath tells it, the area has grown with the M’s over the years.

• Want to gamble on the Mariners? Now you can legally, as the state lottery commission is about ready toissue M’s scratch tickets.

And our question for the day …

• If Putz has to miss time during the season, who should the M’s use to close games? Should it be one guy or should they just play it by ear?

New rules may be on their way

PREPS

You knew this would happen.

Following Woodinville’s 64-0 rout of Franklin last week, Seattle’s Metro league is contemplating adding another level of scoring to its “mercy rule.” The league already has the 10-run after five innings rule in effect, but now is talking about a 15-run after three innings rule.

The Woodinville coach is falling on his sword in this Times’ story, saying he’s been thinking about what he could have done different for the past few days.

There are a couple of paragraphs in this story I really agree with, and they come from the Franklin principal:

“Franklin principal Jennifer Wiley said her school’s softball team will have to learn how to define success for itself, apart from the scoreboard.

” ‘Our program is about taking kids where they are and growing them from game to game,’ Wiley said. ‘We’re not measuring success by wins and losses. … Sometimes that puts us at the top of the heap, and sometimes it does not. There’s so much more to athletics than winning, and we need to make sure we’re cultivating all those things.’ ”

Wiley goes on to point out it would be hypocritical of Franklin to ask for special favors, as their boys’ basketball team routed quite a few schools this season.

At least no one is currently contemplating a rule like in Connecticut football, where a coach can be suspended for a lopsided score, but my guess is that’s the next step.

If you want to comment on how to control such situations, click this link and join the conversation.

••••••••••

There was little on-the-field action in our area Tuesday, thanks to the weather. But what there was is covered here.

GU ready to open WCC baseball

COLLEGE SPORTS UPDATED: 8:40 A.M.

Gonzaga opens West Coast Conference baseball play this weekend hosting the University of San Diego at Washington Trust Field. Do you think Bill Grier will be there rooting for USD?

All this and more from the local college baseball scene can be found in Steve Bergum’s notebook.

••••••••••

WSU’s spring football practice was postponed yesterday (Glenn Kasses talked about it on his blog), though that didn’t stop the Times’ Craig Smith from running this story on Alex Brink.

• UPDATE: Ivory Clark waited until the season was over, then he let loose in this Daily Evergreen story. Read it, and see if your feelings about Clark, coach Tony Bennett and/or the season, have changed.

• In the same vein, last fall, Kerry Maddox was seen as a future star in the WSU defensive backfield. Then he transfered to Txas State. In this story he gives his reasons why, and he’s not all that kind to the coaching staff.

••••••••••

Two former Greater Spokane League golfers, the University of Washington’s Alex Prugh (Ferris) and Washington State’s Amy Eneroth (Mead) finished first in their respective sides of the Oregon Duck Invitational.

••••••••••

The University of Washington women’s basketball coaching search is heating up, with athletic director headed to the Final Four. He is expected to talk with a few candidates in Cleveland.

••••••••••

Speaking of women’s basketball, North Carolina’s 12-point win over Purdue in the Dallas Regional on Tuesday was the tightest of the four regional final games.

Tennessee routed Mississippi by 36 pointsTuesday, following Rutgers’ 19-point defeat of Arizona State and LSU’s 23-point blowout of Connecticut on Monday.

The men’s Elite Eight games were all tight, but the women … not so much. So why is that? Heck, Connecticut and LSU played earlier this year in Louisiana and it was a one-point game. But with a Final Four berth on the line it’s a rout.

••••••••••

The News Tribune has this story on Eastern Washington’s tennis program.

For more on EWU, check Dave Trimmer’s blog.

••••••••••

West Virginia, which defeated UCLA this season, will face Clemson in the finals of the NIT after both survived one-point semifinal games.

Morrow proves he’s human

MARINERS

Dang it. I thought Brandon Morrow was perfect. He’s not. The Rangers scored a run on him yesterday. That’s it. The season’s over.

OK, now that I got that out of my system, I can be a little more intelligent. A little.

Though Morrow did give up a run to the Rangers, his place on the squad might have even been enhanced, because he worked out of a one-out, bases-loaded jam. And he wasn’t hit as hard as Miguel Batista or Eric O’Flaherty.

Which just reinforces the notion the pitching staff is in for trouble. And without an improved staff, it will be tough to improve on last year’s record.

But Morrow could be a part of any improvement, as this John McGrath column points out.

Today’s hot list …

• The best story of the day, and of the week, comes from the Times. It relates the relationship between M’s catcher Kenji Johjima and Japan’s greatest hitter of all time, Sadaharu Oh. It’s worth spending a little time with.

• One way for the M’s to improve the offense is to draw more walks. That has been a point of emphasis for the team this spring, and it seems to be working – a little.

• You know spring training is really winding downwhen the players start shipping their cars north.

• The Sports Network sees only one team able to duplicate the Tigers rise from the cellar to the Series this year, and that’s the Mariners. The note well down in this story.

• This is tough to pass on, but Bill the Beerman died recently.

And our question for the day …

• Now that it looks like Morrow is going to make the team, how much of an impact do you think he will have? It seems that if you are going to keep him on the big club, you better pitch him. My guess is, first starter to falter (ie. Jeff Weaver), then Morrow steps in. What is your take?

Collins’ role won’t diminish this year

COUGARS

With spring football in full swing, Glenn Kasses caught up with one of the Cougars’ most valuable returning players, H-back Jed Collins.

Collins has big shoes to fill (Cody Boyd’s) at tight end, but will continue to play the multi-dimensional role in the upcoming season as well.

There is always more on Glenn’s blog too.

Game three will go on tonight without four players

CHIEFS

As we reported yesterday, the WHL has handed down its suspensions from Spokane’s fight with the Everett Silvertips, a fight you can watch on Jeff Bunch’s blog.

Jeff also had this story in today’s paper, with comment from everyone in Spokane connected to the incident.

The Chiefs now have to get ready for tonight’s game three of the best-of-seven series. They are down 0-2. The game at the Arena starts at 7 p.m. (790-AM).

• From Everett, there is this story on the suspensions. It is interesting to read to two different perspectives on what happened.

• There is another U.S. Division playoff series going on, albeit with a lot less rancor, and Seattle is tied with Tri-City at one game apiece. The series moves to Seattle tonight, with this advance in the Times.

Grier takes the reins in San Diego

BULLDOGS

It is official. Billy Grier is the head basketball coach at the University of San Diego.

If you want to hear what he had to say – and count how many times he referred to Gonzaga as “we” – you can do it by clicking this link. It’s the audio file of Grier’s introductory press conference supplied by the USD sports information office. The file is about 30 minutes long, so it might take a while to load.

There is only one time when Grier’s voice is raised a little and that’s when he’s asked a question about GU’s graduation rates and admission standards.

As you listen to this, it is obvious the microphone was near Grier, so the questions can be faint, but I left them in to give context to the answers.

Would you ever talk to a pitcher throwing a no-hitter?

MARINERS

Baseball is in my blood. So are baseball superstitions.

I always pick up pennies – they are hits after all – and hairpins – ditto. I never liked to step on the baseline headed to the field, and if there was a catcher’s box, forget about it, it had to go.

Graveyards? Crossed fingers. Railroad tracks? Lift the feet off the bus floor. Hard-throwing right-hander on the mound? I’ll just sit this one out, thank you. Well, that last one was not a superstition, just kind of a rule I have to keep my average up.

But it’s good to know guys in the bigs still have the same quirks. This Geoff Baker story in the Times goes over a few of the M’s superstitions and foibles.

Why does baseball have so many? It’s simple. Baseball is the most unfair of games. You could get to the plate, nail a 96-mile-per-hour fastball on the nose and line out to left-centerfield thanks to a diving catch by the left-fielder and you’re 0 for 1. I could follow, get fooled on a changeup, reach out one handed and dunk the ball 127 feet down the right-field line for a double. It ain’t fair, but that’s the way baseball is. So you figure one guy is lucky and the other not. Viola, you start following superstitions.

Today’s hot list …

• Thus far this spring, the M’s say, just about everything is going according to plan.

• As the spring winds down, with a week until opening day, the battle for available roster spots heats up.

• One guy who expects to be ready opening day is closer J.J. Putz, who felt no pain after throwing in the bullpen Sunday.

• Jeff Weaver is the highest-paid fifth starter in baseball (thank you Bill Bavasi), but that doesn’t seem to bother him. The right-hander is working on a changeup to throw to lefties. How about a fastball that actually stays in the park?

• The M’s won Sunday, but Mike Hargrove wasn’t happy about the way they played.

And our question for the day …

• What is the funniest baseball superstition you either had, saw or heard about?

Scoring rises in local softball

PREPS

If you click on this post, you can answer a question I posed about high scores in baseball and softball.

Interestingly, the abundance of scoring in Greater Spokane League softball is the lead to Mike Vlahovich’s prep notebook today.

There is a fastpitch game Tuesday that I guarantee won’t be a 35-0 rout: Shadle Park at North Central. With Sam Skillingstad and Kelcie Vallies pitching, 35 runs are not a possibility.

• The Kitsap Sun did its area fastpitch preview today.

Grier news and a question about softball routs

THE EVENING NEWS

Had to get this up. Steve Bergum has some news about Billy Grier and the USD head coaching position on his Zags blog.

But what I really wanted to get to tonight is this question:

There was a 64-0 rout in prep fastpitch softball over in the Seattle area, and the Times has this story. We’ve had a couple of routs over here recently, and I was wondering what your thoughts are about it. What is the proper way a softball or baseball coach should try to limit scoring?

I’ve been involved with both for a lot of years, and have been on both ends of lopsided games - and, I’ll admit, when I was playing did some things I’m not too proud of when I felt the other team was rubbing it in - and have thought often about what to do. I’m not saying or implying any of the coaches involved in the recent games was doing anything improper, I just want to know what you think concerning lopsided games.

I can remember once playing at UNLV when our coach sent two hitters to the plate with orders to strike out swinging because he wanted the game over (we were way ahead), but I’m not sure that’s the right way either. So what do you think?

WSU have experience with new assistants

COUGAR FOOTBALL

One quick link to Glenn Kasses’ story on the new assistants working this spring with the football team.

Glenn also has more information about football and basketball on his blog.

More on Grier’s departure

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The Billy Grier-to-San-Diego news you read first on the S-R’s website last night has been amplified a little bit with Steve Bergum’s story in today’s paper.

• The Times’ Bud Withers also has a story on Grier moving to the Toreros, and the San Diego paper has just this little note.

• Also, here is the ESPN report which appeared on its website about three hours after Bergum’s report.

••••••••••

• Dave Trimmer examines the state of Eastern Washington’s basketball program, and coach Mike Burns, in today’s S-R. A former EWU employee passed on this piece of information yesterday: Athletic director Darren Hamilton said he had decided to fire Burns days before Hamilton was in fact let go by the University. With Hamilton gone, such thoughts seemed to have disappeared.

••••••••••

• Ohio State’s victory and UCLA’s win Saturday were a big deal, but the most exciting finish came in the NCAA Division II title game between formerly undefeated Winona State and Barton College. You can watch video of the exciting ending here.

• The Arizona State women have traveled further in the NCAA tournament then they every have, and now Rutgers awaits in the Elite Eight. The opponent is ironically sad, because the Scarlet Knights were the scheduled opponent that night last November when the game was cancelled following Jordan Johnson’s death in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Whether Briann January plays Monday – she didn’t against Bowling Green on Saturday due to the concussion she suffered last week – is still to be determined.

Grier headed to San Diego

BULLDOGS

Billy Grier just couldn’t wait any longer.

The long-time Gonzaga assistant coach, who has been promised the top spot if Mark Few ever left, has decided to become the head coach at the University of San Diego instead. You can read Steve Bergum’s story here.

The Toreros’ former coach, Brad Holland, was let go at the end of the season, and he was quick to cite Gonzaga’s winning tradition as part of the reason for his being replaced. Now the Toreros have reached into the Gonzaga program for the replacement.

You can also check out Steve’s blog for more.

Silvertips start fast, stop Chiefs

CHIEFS

The one thing the Spokane Chiefs didn’t need Friday night in their WHL playoff opener was to have Everett get off to a quick start.

But that’s what happened, and the Chiefs ended up losing 4-2. You can read all about it in Jeff Bunch’s story and you can find more on his blog.

The teams meet again tonight (7; 790-AM) in game two, also in Everett.

• Here’s the Everett Herald game story.

Baseball is something to share with the family

MARINERS

Got together last night with our group of guys who own Mariners’ season tickets together. Eight of us buy two seats, ensuring each get 10 games in a decent spot – we sit behind the hand-operated scoreboard in left.

Three of the group live in the Puget Sound area, and they either participate in our draft by phone or through a representative – sadly that rep is an honest man, so the Seattle people don’t get stuck with all Tampa Bay and Cleveland games.

So last night we picked our games. We choose lots, pick two dates at a time and go up and down the list until all the games are gone. The first three to disappear were the Yankees – did I tell you the honest man was a Yankee fan? Seems almost impossible to believe, doesn’t it? – and then such dates as opening day and the last week of the season.

Me? I went for the weekend Junior is in town – knock on wood – with the Reds, along with the accompanying Monday night date with the Red Sox. Our plan is to have our 22-year-old son fly up from Southern California to see his childhood hero in action one more time.

Is there anything better than that? And is there anything else that better illustrates the hold baseball can have on fathers and sons? We’ll sit in the bleachers, grab a dog and a beer (for him, my waistline won’t allow it) and tell embellished stories about games gone by.

I can’t wait.

Today’s hot list …

• Raul Ibanez tells John Hickey of the P-I he always felt he was a cleanup hitter, even when he struggled to get playing time the first time around with the M’s.

• Without a catcher at home, M’s coach John McLaren sometimes has to get creative to get ready for spring training.

• The makeup of the bullpen is still the topic of conversation around camp, with George Sherrill’s fate a key aspect of that.

• Another topic that won’t die: the future of Ben Broussard.

And our question for the day …

• If you could pick one ex-Mariner who is still playing and have him rejoin the team, who would it be and why? As much as I love Junior, I guess my choice would have to be Freddy Garcia, because the M’s could use the pitching.

Confident Chiefs travel to Everett

CHIEFS

The playoffs open tonight (7:30; 790-AM) in Everett, and the Chiefs say they have no fear of the Silvertips.

OK. Yes, Spokane was 4-4 against the winners of the U.S. Division, with Everett’s goal difference in those eight games (plus four) all coming in the final contest, a 6-2 Tip win. And yes, no one else in the WHL played Everett any tougher.

But a team that scored a WHL-best 111 points deserves respect. You don’t have to fear them, but keep your mouth shut. Talk them up, make them think you’re a little intimidated, let them sleep. That way they’ll be back on their heels instead of coming out ready to play. And, when you smash them around a little early, they won’t be as quick to respond.

By saying things like “… we’re ready to play them and we’re thrilled to be playing them in the first round,” as David Rutherford did, just reeks of no respect. That kind of stuff can backfire.

• The series is previewed by the Everett Herald in this match-ups piece.

Everett also has a story on the Tips’ goalie, Leland Irving, along with a story about two players making the All-WHL team (the Tri-City Herald lists the entire teams; there are no Chiefs) and this quick look at all the playoff series.

• The Times has a feature on Everett’s Zach Hamill and a story on the Thunderbirds, who play Tri-City in the first round.

Cougars try to build depth in the spring

COUGARS

The first day of spring football had some changes, highlighted in Glenn Kasses’ story.

But the most important aspect of spring – building depth – is the same as it is every year. Only the positions in the most need have been altered. Last year, it was the defensive line. This season, cornerbacks.

For more, check out Glenn’s blog.

• Bud Withers takes a look at the future of Cougar basketball – and how the past season affected it – in this story.

• The baseball team hosts Washington for a three-game Pac-10-opening series, starting today and Steve Bergum has a short advance.

• Former WSU quarterback Samoa Samoa will be inducted into the Long Beach City College Hall of Fame tonight.

Putz would rather face Bonds than a couple of dirty diapers

MARINERS

When it comes to baseball writing, the guy I enjoy reading the most in the Seattle market is Tacoma’s Larry LaRue. Today’s J.J. Putz story just reinforces that feeling.

LaRue not only covers baseball in an intelligent way … it’s time for a break in the action:

Once, back in the early ‘80s, while covering a Dodger game, the writer next to me, the baseball writer for the Los Angeles Times, one of the largest newspapers in the nation, a guy who had been on the beat for more than a year, posed the stupidest question I had ever heard. With a runner on third and one out, the Dodger hitter grounded out to shortstop. The runner scored. The writer turned to me and asked “Does he get an RBI for that?”

Now back to the action … he also writes some of the more interesting features. And, at its core, is what good baseball writing is: feature writing with a little play-by-play worked in.

Today’s hot list …

• This P-I story affects Spokane readers more than any other. The M’s and Fox Sports Northwest are close to adding 10 more years on their TV contract. The deal would be lucrative for the team, and money can translate into … higher ticket prices? No dummy, better players. Or a richer Ichiro.

• Are spring training numbers important? This Seattle Times story examines the eternal – OK, 50-year – debate.

• More from LaRue, this on Wednesday’s game, and other notes.

• J.J. Putz and Arthur Rhodes both three yesterday.

• Reliever Sean White is making it tough for M’s to keep him – not on the roster, but away from the Atlanta Braves. White’s future is just one of the questions the team has to answer soon.

• It looks like Ben Broussard has secured a reserve spot.

• From the minor league beat, the P-I has this piece on 28-year-old minor league outfielder Jason Grove.

And our question for the day …

• You are Mike Hargrove. Make either or both of these tough calls: Rene Rivera or Jamie Burke as your backup catcher, and pick one of the young relievers to round out your bullpen, either White, Brandon Morrow or Jon Huber. Give your reasons.

Spring kicks off with football in the Palouse

COUGAR FOOTBALL UPDATED 4:20 P.M.

OK, I know it’s hard to believe but WSU spring football starts today.

And coach Bill Doba is adding responsibilities.

As Glenn Kasses’ story relates, Doba is taking over the defensive coordinator’s role now that Robb Akey is in Moscow. And Doba will be working with the linebackers, all roles he had when Mike Price was head coach.

Glenn will have more on the spring practices – and Doba’s multi-faceted roles – on his blog.

• The opening of spring drills brings a Craig Smith story from the Times (on the Cougs still dealing with injuries), a Todd Milles piece from the News Tribune (on Doba’s new jobs) and this wire story that ran in the P-I. UPDATE: The Vancouver Columbian has this on the spring practices.

• After reading Glenn’s story on Doba’s new roles, what do you think of his new roles? Do you believe it was the right thing to do? Will it be an improvement for the team overall? Click the comment bar and let us know.

Spokane ready for all the Tips have

CHIEFS, WHL

The playoff series with Everett begins on the West Side Friday, and Jeff Bunch previews Spokane’s readiness in today’s S-R.

Owner Bobby Brett and general manager Tim Speltz think this year’s team is building a foundation for future success. The numbers may back them up. After two 58 point seasons, the Chiefs had 80 this year, despite having a core group of younger players.

Still, Everett is going to be tough to upset in the first round (the Silvertips ran away with the U.S. Division), especially with starting goaltender Kevin Armstrong doubtful for this weekend. The Silvertips scored 111 points (best in the WHL), but Spokane was 4-4 in the season series.

• The Chiefs may have been 31 points behind the Tips, but they are confident going into the series, thanks to their success with Everett this season.

• The Tips have two up for major WHL awards.

Everett gets Mueller back for playoffs

CHIEFS, WHL

Jeff Bunch is promising Chiefs’ coverage on his blog today, so don’t forget to check there.

But before you do, here’s a story about playoff opponent Everett from the Herald.

If you’re a Chiefs’ fan, the piece (along with this Times’ story) doesn’t hold good news. It seems the Silvertips are getting healthy and expect to be at full strength this weekend.

Bobcats needed a big basket and Morrison delivered

MORRISON WATCH

Haven’t had one of these in a while, but when Adam Morrison nails a gutsy 3-pointer like he did Tuesday night, helping Charlotte snap the Cavs’ eight-game winning streak, we have a Morrison Watch post.

With the game tied at 96 and 2:15 left in overtime, Morrison, who hadn’t had his best shooting night of the season, rose up and nailed a 3-pointer to give Charlotte a lead it would never lose. It’s the type of shot the Bobcats need the third pick in last year’s draft to make.

Here’s the story from the Charlotte Observer. Funny thing. It’s the same one we ran.

• The Oregonian’s John Canzano examines the Blazers’ draft strategy last year in this column.

Freshman Lambert stars in Cougar win

COUGAR, BULLDOG BASEBALL

Midweek college baseball games – the non-conference variety – are usually high scoring affairs. The top arms are saved for the weekend games, and sometimes the Tuesday or Wednesday game turns into a glorified pitching audition.

If that was the case Tuesday afternoon at Gonzaga’s new field, then the Cougars may have found a star.

Freshman right-hander Connor Lambert pitched into the eighth inning, gave up just six hits and two runs, as WSU ended Gonzaga’s four-game winning streak – including three straight to open Patterson Baseball Complex and Washington Trust Field – with a 13-2 rout in Spokane.

You can read Steve Bergum’s game story from Wednesday’s S-R here and my story from Tuesday evening on the read full entry link.

This is the place for M’s coverage

MARINERS

With basketball season over – pretty much, thanks to my bracket being wiped out by Wisconsin’s second-round loss – SportsLink needs to glom on to something new.

Something exciting.

How about them M’s?

There are new (the two Joses, Guillen and Vidro, that Ramirez guy and Jeff “I had a great Series” Weaver). They are hot (hell, Mike Hargrove already has the red ass from sitting on the hot seat all spring). And they just might win the A.L. West (check out this story from Larry Stone).

So let’s make SportsLink the place to stop for M’s coverage this spring and summer.

I’ll make you a deal: Every day I post, I’ll put something up on the M’s, links, comments and answers to questions. You just read it and comment whenever you feel like it. I know if you’re a Mariner fan who surfs the net, you have favorite sites you visit. Let me know, and I’ll surf them for you, giving you the heads up when something’s worth reading or looking at. And when it isn’t.

Today’s hot list …

• Art Thiel talking with new voice Dave Sims. What do you think of Sims’ work thus far? I’ve heard varied responses, ranging from hate to love (if I can use those terms really loosely).

• Ten questions about the M’s. And yes, the answers are included.

• Ben Broussard and his “dream” of being a nurse.

• The M’s bullpen looking a little sick right now.

• Which brings up a point that can’t be made often enough: Pitchers are a fragile species that need to be babied.

• But J.J. Putz seems to be bouncing back pretty quickly.

And our question for the day …

• Will rookie Brandon Morrow make the opening day roster? Click the comment line and let us know what you think.

Looking ahead to spring and back at All-State basketball

PREPS

Spring is a fun time for prep athletics – there are as many spring sports as there are in fall and winter combined – and part of the “fun” is the havoc weather plays on the schedule.

Take Monday. U-Hi and Shadle Park were scheduled to play a softball game Friday until the poor weather killed that idea. So they played yesterday. Probably in front of a limited crowd, thanks to the short notice.

Anyhow, the Highlanders won, behind the pitching of Sam Skillingstad.

• The Seattle Times and the News Tribune picked their state basketball players of the year (and all-state teams and coaches) today and I have to disagree with a couple of the selections.

Gonzaga’s chances slip away; so did Daugherty’s

COLLEGE WOMEN

The Gonzaga women’s loss at the hands of Middle Tennessee State was foreseen by many of us who had watched the GU team this year, though the margin was surprisingly wide.

The Bulldogs had trouble all season against teams with quickness, and MTSU was just another in a long line of those teams. The matchup for the Zags was about as bad as it could get. Despite the finish, this was the best year in Gonzaga women’s basketball history, with the WCC title, the league’s tournament title and the first NCAA berth in school history.

But let’s add a piece of news about the future. GU freshman-to-be Courtney Vandersloot showed once again she is one of the better players in the state, leading the West 4A/3A all-star team to a victory over the East. Only two Greater Spokane League girls played, Shadle Park’s Lexi Bishop and Mead’s Kelli Valentine.

••••••••••

We talked a little in a post below about job security among coaches. UW’s June Daugherty knows a little about that now, after being let go by UW yesterday. (The Times’ Steve Kelley’s column today concerns the decision.)

Daugherty’s firing brings up a point that’s been a rock in my show for years: How the NCAA’s student-athletes – and in this case, student-athletes-to-be – are just pawns in the organization’s rules.

Lewis and Clark’s Katelan Redmon signed a letter-of-intent to attend UW last fall, one of six players Daugherty recruited for next season. Now that Daugherty is gone, the players are still bound by their letter, which is signed with the institution, not the coach.

But don’t kid yourself. Elite athletes have so many offers from such a diverse number of colleges, a big part of their choice revolves around the coach they will be playing for. Then that coach is gone, either fired or off to greener pastures. And the players a stuck, even if the new coach is the exact opposite of what they wanted in a mentor.

Over the years I’ve called for a period of amnesty, a 10- to 20-week period where college athletes can transfer with no penalty, with the possible exception of their former coach’s new school, if that’s part of the change. After that period, the student athletes are locked in, facing the same transfer rules and penalties any other transfer faces.

The same should apply to incoming athletes who have signed letters. Let them have a period of freedom. The school they signed with could even have an exclusive re-recruiting period. But the athlete would have some choices.

One-site shopping for Spokane’s NCAA stories

NCAA BASKETBALL

If you are interested in reading all our stories from Spokane – and there are a lot, ranging from game stories of Oregon and USC’s wins to a piece on George Raveling – you can find them at our tournament web site, NCAA 2007.

The S-R’s Ryan Pitts, one of our web crew, did a great job on this site, which is filled with pictures, stories, multi-media presentations and a blog.

Kim picked me up at the airport yesterday and we went immediately to the Arena, paid our $5 to park, pulled out the tickets we sent for on the very first day they went on sale, passed through the doors, ran into Sean Mallon, and plopped ourselves into our seats – where we couldn’t see much.

Yes, after spending hundreds of dollars for seats, after following the guidelines set down by the NCAA and the Arena, we received seats right behind and even with the east basket. Much of the game was a mystery.

When Kim asked last Wednesday if we could exchange these obstructed view seats – which most facilities charge an appropriately reduced price – for tickets returned from the participating schools, she was told, “sorry, no exchanges.” Wasn’t that nice?

We support the community’s bid to entice the NCAA to continue holding events here by buying our tickets early and we get crappy, can’t-see-much-of-the-game seats. Others swoop in late and get a better vantage point. And, when we ask to just let us have those better seats, and sell the late-comers the obstructed-view seats we were given (and, to be fair, they should be sold at a lesser price), Kim is treated like dirt.

What’s wrong with this picture?

•••••••••••

By the way, the Pac-10 showed its strength yesterday, with Oregon gliding past Winthrop and USC proving once again quickness is more important than size (though both combined is the best attribute).

Of all the interesting stories I read over the past week, I liked this one the most. It’s from the Seattle Times’ Jerry Brewer and it was written before the Ducks’ game with Winthrop. And it catches perfectly a generation’s obessession with branding.

• Here’s Brewer’s column from this morning.

You can find the story of the Cougars’ loss here

SACRAMENTO

Before I start writing my thoughts on the season-ending loss, here’s the link to the game story. We’ll be back soon after reading your comments here and on Glenn Kasses’ blog.

Eastern in the market for an AD

EAGLES

The firing of short-time athletic director Darren Hamilton was met with muted comment Friday, as Dave Trimmer’s story shows.

Hamilton’s tenure at EWU lasted less than a year.

The Eagles will begin searching for a replacement immediately.

If you want to read everything about Vandy, check here

SACRAMENTO

All the NCAA tournament stories in the S-R from Spokane are available at NCAA 2007’s story site, so we’ll just link that and go on.

So are the ones from here, which makes my life so much easier. Check out that link for the pieces. And check out the NCAA 2007 blog from my links to other stories.

We’ll be back before the Cougar game with our thoughts.

Want to read, see and talk about Cougars’ win?

SACRAMENTO

For links to our stories on the Cougar victory, click over to Glenn Kasses’ blog. Then head to NCAA 2007 for links to other stories.

If you want to read all our stories coming out of the Spokane subregional, click on NCAA 2007 and follow the links. There are also pictures and video presentations of the Spokane practices and Sacramento games.

Pitching dominates open day of GSL

PREPS

Recently we received a question concerning which schools would be favored in the Greater Spokane League this season.

The response we posted revolved around the teams with the best pitching, teams like Mt. Spokane, Ferris, U-Hi and CV. All four of those teams started Thursday with wins, all but Ferris with shutouts. You can read about it in our prep roundup.

The Idaho roundup is here, with softball leading off.

• The Seattle Times has a story on a couple of high school all-star games coming. No word here, though, on local attendees.

GU can’t shoot; can’t win

 SACRAMENTO

The good news in Gonzaga hit three of its last four shots. The terrible news is that only brought the Zags to 34 percent from the floor. And only closed the final score to 70-57, Indiana.

You can read the whole sordid story here.

We’ll be back later with some thoughts.

WSU wins and moves on

COUGARS

It’s been a while, but Washington State earned its first NCAA win in more than 20 years Thursday with a 70-54 victory over Oral Roberts in Sacramento. For the game story, click here.

We will be back soon.

It’s time for kids to reap rewards

PREPS

The winter of content is over in the Inland Northwest, with the Lake City girls, the Lewis and Clark girls and the Ferris boys all winning basketball titles in their respective state’s largest classifications.

So is it little wonder then those teams have all-league members?

That’s what this Thursday is for, listing the all-leaguers around the area, and I’ll tell you, from personal experience, organizing the endeavor isn’t easy.

So here we go. The Washington all-league teams are here, the all-North Idaho teams are here.

There is also a column from Mike Vlahovich on how playing one sport well can help in another sport, and Greg Lee’s column looking back in wonder at North Idaho’s prep winter. We also have Quick Hits in Washington

You can find more on Mike’s blog and Greg’s blog.

We’ll be back soon with posts on the NCAA tournament here in Sacramento, along with the Gonzaga women and what’s going on in Spokane. If you want, check out NCAA 2007, along with Glenn Kasses’ WSU blog and Steve Bergum’s GU blog.

Skillingstad in midseason form

PREPS

Spring sports began in the Greater Spokane League with softball and Samantha Skillingstad began where she left off last year, with a two-hit, nine strike out performance.

There was also baseball in the Idaho roundup.

For more check out Mike Vlahovich’s blog and Greg Lee’s blog.

New baseball field at GU a true diamond

GONZAGA BASEBALL

In the middle of a crazy basketball week, I took time Monday to tour Gonzaga’s new baseball field.

Calling it a field does the Washington Trust Field at the Patterson Baseball Complex a disservice.

If you remember the old postal annex that was on the corner of Trent and Cincinnati, what the land has turned into will shock you. This baseball facility is as nice as it comes at the college level.

And it is the crowning achievement of Steve Hertz’s career.

Full disclosure here. I met Steve when he was the baseball coach at UC Irvine in 1979 and 1980, and I, a recent graduate, worked in the sports information office. Baseball was my responsibility, and I came to know coach Hertz well enough to wish I had redshirted a year so I could have played for him.

But I took the tour yesterday not with Gonzaga’s baseball coach, which Hertz was for 23 years, but with Gonzaga’s Director of Athletic Relations, which Hertz is know, and the driving force behind the new facility. (If you want to see how the field was built and what it looks like now, click on this link for a photo gallery.)

Hertz is proud of the facility and well he should be. The playing surface is state of the art and as good as the Indians’ and Whitworth’s, which have been the gold standard around here. And it will get better as the grass matures and thickens.

One signature feature is the entrance plaza, which Hertz envisions as an area to honor great Zag players and teams sometime in the near future. There are also two grassy berms, one down each line, where fans can spread out and watch the game without sitting in the stands. The stands are brick faced, feature individual seats and are covered to keep rain away which, in Spokane, is important until about July.

The home team clubhouse and lounge is comfortable enough that I would have slept there in college because it’s a lot nicer then some of the places I lived. Hell, it has hot water. There is also a big screen TV, couches, sturdy lockers, a mud room for shoes, and a dugout with a rubberized floor that may even repel sunflower seeds.

Plus, left and right fields are backed up by a 50-foot high monster fence, designed to keep home run balls from going into Cincinnati or Trent – or whatever they are calling it now. But the school found the fences weren’t high enough, as GU’s power hitters were launching shots over them occasionally in batting practice.

So there is work to be done – the screens will have 20 feet added and the light poles won’t be installed until April sometime – but the games are about to begin.

The Bulldogs, who entered Tuesday’s game at Utah at 10-10, will host Rider University on Thursday at 2 p.m., which means Hertz won’t be at the first game on the field he’s sweated over. He’ll be with the GU basketball team in Sacramento, but his heart will be somewhere in the first-place dugout.

Looking for WSU or GU news?

COUGARS, BULLDOGS

If you are looking for news, comments and links for the NCAA-bound Cougars and Zags, you need to click over to our NCAA 2007 blog.

All my NCAA-themed posts will be there as long as the WSU and/or Gonzaga men remain in the tournament.

Of course, if you are looking for other information, like links to Shock news or Gonzaga’s women, it will be here. But for posts on the Zags, Spokane games or Cougs, click on our NCAA 2007 blog.

Stunned seems to be the favorite word around UW

HUSKIES

The lack of an NCAA bid didn’t surprise anyone. Washington just didn’t earn it. But just about everyone expected UW to be headed to the NIT. People were just debating if the Huskies would get a home game.

They didn’t. Or an away game for that matter.

Snubbed by the NIT? Now that’s got to hurt.

It does, as this Times story, this one in the News Tribune, this Everett story and the P-I’s piece all show. There is also an Art Thiel column about the passing over.

• Lost in the hoopla about Washington’s debacle was the news Santa Clara didn’t receive an NIT invite either. That means Dick Davey’s career at SC is over.

Indiana wants revenge for last year’s loss to GU

BULLDOGS

As close to home as you might expect. Check. A first-round game against a guy’s team who snubbed you in the past and players you know. Check. An easy draw. Can’t check that one.

The Zags got some things they wanted Sunday when the NCAA draw came out, but the matchups, not so much. First-round foe, seventh-seed Indiana, is a tough one for the 10th-seeded Bulldogs, though the GU staff has an idea what a Kelvin Sampson-coached team will want to do.

Even with a win, UCLA looms in the second round, the same team, pretty much, that ended GU’s season last year.

We have all this covered in today’s S-R on-line, with Steve Bergum’s blog, his story, Steve’s bracket analysis, John Blanchette’s column on the chance for a great road trip and this team capsule on Indiana.

• There is also a lot to be found on our NCAA 2007 blog, which is the best place for links and information concerning the sub-regional in Spokane.

The stories from Indiana center around the revenge theme. The Hoosiers weren’t real happy to be knocked out of the tournament last year in the second round by GU, so they consider Thursday payback time. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette (Henry Blake’s home town newspaper) had this on the revenge factor, the Indianapolis Star has this story and Bob Kravitz’s column, which predicts a GU win, sort of. In the Star story about GU, there is this note: • IU can take advantage of: Watching Gonzaga’s games against San Diego. Raivio scored only five, seven and 14 points, respectively, in three games against the Toreros. I wouldn’t rate that advice too highly. Gonzaga won all three of those games.

From Sacramento, there is this story on how different these teams are this year. The Austin American-Statesman covers college basketball in depth, and has this preview of the West Region.

On the West Side, there is this Seattle Times story (along with a first look at the game) and the P-I has this piece.

Finally, the L.A. Times has a short note on Derek Raivio.

• By the way, the Gonzaga women will find out their NCAA spot today at 5 p.m. We’ll have something up.

The Zags know what’s ahead

BULLDOGS

Sunday was nothing new for Gonzaga, as the Zags are in the NCAA tournament for the ninth consecutive year.

So it will come as no surprise coach Mark Few and his players seemed well versed in getting ready for Thursday.

By the way, the Cougars will tip off at 11:40 a.m. Thursday against Oral Roberts. Gonzaga will play Indiana around 6:45 p.m. that night.

Here are a few things Few, Jeremy Pargo (pictured; S-R photo by Holly Pickett) and newcomer Micah Downs had to say concerning the day and the upcoming week. Please be aware, the recordings took place in McCarthey, so there are some basketball bouncing in the background and a lot of laughter (the Zags are loose).

Few on the Zags’ seed, being in Sacramento, the whole NCAA experience …

Pargo on not caring who they are playing …

Downs just happy to be in the tournament …

We’ll back in the morning with links to all the stories concerning the Cougs, the Zags, Spokane’s teams and Washington not getting to the postseason (if you want more on that right now, check Glenn Kasses’ blog). For more on the Zags, click on Steve Bergum’s blog.

Cougs and Zags both headed to Sacramento

NCAA TOURNAMENT

The Cougars are headed to Sacramento as the third seed in the East Region. Gonzaga is the 10th seed in the West regional and are also headed to Sacramento.

Does this shock you? Or was it about what you suspected. Do you think the Cougars or Zags deserved better or worse? How about Spokane? Did we get a good enough group of teams?

Click the comment link and let us know.

Here’s a link to our story (which will be updated throughout the night). We’ll be back with some more comment on the selection committee’s choices, including the teams headed to Spokane. Until then, pop in with your opinions.

There’s something new on the way … we hope

SATURDAY MORNING NEWS UPDATED: 11:45 A.M.

One post today – it is Saturday after all – and a preview of what will be available tomorrow, that holiest of college basketball days, Selection Sunday.

We’re going to have links to sound files. Yes, SportsLink is finally entering the 21st Century – hey, we’re only seven years late, so quit bitching.

Yes, tomorrow I’ll try – emphasis on try – to have links to sound bites from teleconferences and interviews, maybe even one with a S-R staff member.

But that’s Sunday. Today, I’ve got links to Glenn Kasses’ Cougar game story (and a link to the best Cougar blog around), John Blanchette’s excellent column – the best thing about John is, he’s not only a brilliant writer but a first-rate reporter as well – and Bob Condotta’s story in the Times. OK, more. Here’s the L.A. Times story and Don Ruiz’s piece from Tacoma. UPDATE: There is also this column from the Times’ Steve Kelley which all Cougar fans should read.

• North Central’s attempt to win a 3A boys State title disappeared soon after Mike Vlahovich got to Seattle, but here’s Mike’s story about the loss to Bainbridge. The Indians face Southridge today for third. You can find more on Mike’s blog. East Valley’s girls also lost, ending their season. UPDATE: GU-bound Steven Gray moved into third place on Washington’s all-time scoring list, and is now the leading big-school (4A or 3A) scorer.

• The Chiefs won, keeping the pressure on Friday’s victim Tri-City and Seattle. Another tough foe, Kootenay, comes to town tonight (7; 790-AM).

• That’s it. I’m going to get the lawn mower up and running, then run out to at least one, maybe two, spring sports jamborees to see what’s cooking with the preps.

• But don’t forget. Tomorrow is a big day. And, as some readers have mentioned, Joe Lunardi, the king of bracketologists, has Gonzaga headed to Spokane. Wouldn’t that be something? I’ve posted a comment about Spokane’s place in the NCAA’s world on the post below, if you are interested.

Attack the rim or end up on the short end of the score

TROJANS, 53-44

This is one game the Cougars are going to have to win on the offensive end. Low and Weaver have to start taking the ball to the rim more, or they won’t.

You can hear the WSU bench yelling to be more aggressive and the Cougs aren’t listening. If they don’t start, there will be some extra rest before the NCAA tourney.

We’ll be back at the end of the game with a link to the game story.

Trojan bombs can’t last, can it?

TROJANS, 21-14

The Trojans hit five of the first eight 3-pointers they took, which is why they have a seven-point lead halfway through the first half.

The biggest problem the Cougars are facing is it isn’t just one guy that’s nailed the long-range jumpers. It’s Pruitt, Stewart, Young, just about everyone USC has put on the floor.

The next biggest problem for WSU? Foul trouble. The Trojans will shoot the next Cougar foul, while it’s going to be a while before WSU gets to the line (USC has two fouls).

Rochestie has two, Clark has two. The USC quickness is causing the Cougs to reach and foul.

Everett loses a scorer

CHIEFS, WHL

Not much with the Chiefs, but Everett lost one of its best scorers for the rest of the season. Ondrej Fiala has decided to return to the Czech Republic for knee surgery, and will not be around to help the Tips pursue the Memorial Cup. The Herald also has notes on the Silvertips.

• The Times has its WHL notebook.

• The Tri-City Americans are ready for stretch run.

March Madness even hits San Diego

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

There’s so much going on this week – it is March Madness time after all – that I thought I would devote a whole post to just college basketball stuff – other than the stories we’ve already covered.

• As we get closer to Selection Sunday – and yes, it should be on the liturgical calendar – one group of people become part of our national consciousness: the selection committee. And no, they don’t have an easy job.

We ran this story in some editions this morning, and it’s an interesting look behind the scenes of the committee.

• Everybody has their field projection today, with bracketology this and bracketology that. But this projection from USA Today sort of got my blood up. Why? Spokane is given two 4-5 pods, which means no No. 1, No. 2 or No. 3 seed in the Northwest. When a projection has Lexington, Ky. with a 1 and a 2, and Sacramento with a 1 and a 3 (WSU), that’s not right.

• Speaking of bracketology, this post has WSU as a three, GU as a 10 and Stanford in the tournament. The most respected bracketologist, ESPN’s Joe Lunardi, still has Gonzaga listed as Gonzaga/WCC (didn’t the Zags win the WCC tournament title about a month ago?) and as a 12 seed in Buffalo.

• There is more on Brad Holland’s firing at USD, with this story and column from the Union-Tribune and this story from the North County Times.

Here is Holland’s reason why he’s out, taken from Tim Sullivan’s column in the Union Tribune: “There’s a monster up in the Pacific Northwest that wins our league every year and that’s been hard for all of us to overcome,” Holland said. “Gonzaga winning year-in and year-out – that’s just been tough for everybody in our league.”

• Arron Affalo had a poor game Thursday in UCLA’s loss to Cal, and L.A. Times columnist Helene Elliott had this piece on how it could affect the rest of the Bruins’ season.

From the final spot to the final four

PREPS

Like a good underdog story? Like it when a team that is been down all year rises up at the end? Like it when the local league not only has the undefeated champion in one classification, but its last-place team makes it to the semifinals of another classification?

Then you’ll love what’s going on with North Central right now. The Indians stifled Mount Vernon 58-44 Thursday night and, by winning, moved in the State 3A boys tournament’s semifinals. Tonight at 9 they’ll face the top-ranked team, Bainbridge, led by Gonzaga University-bound Steven Gray.

So how is a team that had the third-best record among the three Greater Spokane League 3A teams this season – and wouldn’t be in the playoffs if the GSL had decided to only have two teams move on, as will be the case next year – now in the State final four?

With defense. The Indians limited Mount Vernon to 31 percent shooting last night, allowing the seventh-ranked Bulldogs only three 3-point baskets.

Add in Nick Rijon’s 28 points and the Indians moved on.

You can read our story here, along with the Times’ piece and the P-I’s notebook.

• The East Valley girls stayed alive for a trophy with a 48-47 victory over Kennedy in a loser-out game.

• All of the Great Northern League teams were eliminated at the 2A tournament, with the boys’ story here and the girls’ story here.

• The Seattle Times’ prep basketball coverage is here, the News Tribune’s coverage is here and the P-I’s here.

WSU runs past the Huskies

COUGARS, 74-64

The second half was once again the property of WSU. And the landlord was Taylor Rochestie.

The left-handed guard, who made only his third start of the season, exploded down the stretch, including exploding into the passing lane with 5:43 left, stealing Jon Brockman’s lazy pass and, after being fouled by Justin Dentmon, hitting two free throws to break a tie at 56 and give WSU a lead it would never surrender.

You can read the game story here, and you can find more on Glenn Kasses’ blog.

This was a battle, with the Huskies playing like they didn’t want their season to end in the NIT. But this is the best Cougar team ever, no matter if there were others with better records. None had to compete in a conference as tough as the Pac-10 is this year.

No matter what happens the rest of the way, this Cougar team has earned respect, with an emphasis on earned. And, I guess, a lot of emphasis on team.

Look who has led the way offensively the past two games: Against USC it was Aron Baynes. Against UW it was Rochestie. Not the Cougs’ two all-league guys, Derrick Low and Kyle Weaver (pictured; AP photo). Friday night it could be Daven Harmeling and Ivory Clark. Or maybe Mac Hopson off the bench.

It doesn’t matter. This is a team that has to out-work its opponents to win, and it does it almost every night. It’s the best team WSU has ever had.

Well-rested Weaver and Baynes need to make a second-half impression

HUSKIES, 36-32

Well, Kyle Weaver and Aron Baynes will be well rested.

Both sat extended minutes in the first half with two fouls. Both of Baynes were of the “why-did-he-do-that?” variety, as both weren’t necessary, one coming on the offensive glass when Baynes had no chance for an offensive rebound, the other on a tough shot by Artem Wallace.

Weaver is matched up with Quincy Pondexter, who not only had a hot hand, but was active on the offensive end as well. He’s a tough guard tonight, and Weaver picked up his first foul trying to contain him. The second was an iffy offensive foul call.

Both are going to have to contribute in the second half – though Ivory Clark stepped up, scored four points and had a big block – if the Cougars want to move on to face USC tomorrow.

UW will play like there is no tomorrow - because there isn’t

COUGARS PREGAME

I guess I wasn’t clear enough earlier, because someone didn’t understand how Cal’s win bodes ill for WSU. So I’ll go over it again.

Earlier today I talked about the power of emotion, of how college teams that need to win have an edge on teams that want to win.

And then Cal went out and proved me right. The Bears aren’t the team UCLA is, no one will argue that. But Cal knows the only way it gets to the NCAA tournament is to win the Pac-10 tourney. UCLA knew it was in, no matter what.

So Cal played with more emotion, with an urgency that proved impossible for the Bruins to overcome.

Again, I ask: sound familiar?

There’s no doubt WSU is a better team than Washington. The season’s results have proved that, not just the two games they’ve played. No, the Cougars have been better over 30 games. But tonight is just one game. And it is one game the Huskies HAVE to win if they want to play in the NCAAs.

So expect UW to play with effort, intensity, hustle, desire … all that stuff that WSU has displayed all season – and the Huskies have not shown in a lot of games. And, when it comes down to it, UW will have that motivation headed down the stretch.

Will it make the difference? I can’t say. But it can’t hurt the Huskies. And anything that doesn’t hurt the Huskies isn’t a help for the Cougs.

• We’ll be back if this USC/Stanford game ever ends.

Proposed cuts another step toward eliminating all athletics

PREPS

When the Spokane School District announced it faced a $10 million shortfall next year, did anyone think athletics would be spared from the cuts?

The district had already eliminated elementary school sports and talked last year of dropping some varsity sports, before changing gears.

But this year’s proposal cuts to the core of high school sports.

Only North Central’s boys post a win on first day

PREPS

I’ll be back some time today with my thoughts on the Spokane Schools’ proposed budget cuts and how they will affect sports and kids.

But, because the State 3A and 2A basketball tournaments are in full swing, I wanted to get some stories up.

You can never discount the importance of experience, and the North Central Indians showed why Wednesday. Though NC has only a few veterans of last year’s state team, those guys came through big in the Indians’ 42-39 win over Hudson’s Bay. North Central was the only local school in either 2A or 3A to win on the first day.

East Valley’s girls lost to Hudson’s Bay, coached by former Ferris mentor Art Rojas, scoring just eight second-half points; both Cheney and Clarkston girls were defeated in 2A play, as were Clarkston and West Valley’s boys.

• The Seattle Times’ prep basketball coverage is here, the News Tribune’s coverage is here and the P-I’s here.

News and notes from around the Northwest

COLLEGE NEWS

A couple of things that really didn’t fit in any of the previous posts, but I thought you might be interested in …

• GU assistant Bill Grier’s name keeps coming up in the Santa Clara head coach sweepstakes, and it did again – along with Dan Monson’s – in this San Jose Mercury News’ story, but you have to delve almost to the bottom.

• When running back Michael Houston transfered to UW from Texas, everyone wrote about his talent on the field and his ability to get into trouble off the field. The latter has finally caused the Husky football team to cut ties with Houston.

• This has already been reported in the S-R, but the Idaho Statesman has a story on the Vandals filling out their football schedule for the fall.

Final two basketball tournaments start today

PREPS

The 3A and 2A basketball tournaments are almost underway – 9 a.m. is the first game start time – in Seattle and Yakima, respectively.

Mike Vlahovich has a story on the East Valley girls’ first trip to State and how they got there. For more, check Mike’s blog.

The Times has in-depth coverage here of the 3A tournament in Seattle, including power rankings of the boys (North Central is last) and girls (East Valley is 10th).

As for the 2A in Tacoma, most of the Tacoma-area teams are in Seattle, so the News Tribune has features on them here, with a little coverage on the 2A tournament.

• Forget this earlier and meant to get it in, but Glenn Nelson of HoopGurlz.com has his Elite 11 rankings for Washington here. Three of the top five teams are from the GSL. By the way, he considers Mead one of the favorites for next year. He also has an advance of the 3A tournament and the 2A.

Tips make sure Spokane doesn’t win season series

CHIEFS, WHL

If there is one team in the U.S. Division the Spokane Chiefs has caused trouble for – besides last-place Portland of course – it is the Everett Silvertips.

Until Tuesday night.

The first-place Tips invaded the Arena and plundered the Chiefs 6-2, attacking and defeating goalie Kevin Armstrong with impunity. You can read Jeff Bunch’s account of the defeat here, and get more from Jeff’s blog.

• You can read the Everett Herald story here and the short Times’ report here.

Next up for fourth-place Spokane is second-place Tri-City, which comes to town Friday (7 p.m.; 790-AM).

••••••••••

The Americans host third-place Seattle, winners of 10 consecutive games, tonight.

Harter dives into Pac-10’s Hall

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The Eugene Register-Guard has a story about Dick Harter’s reign as basketball coach at the University of Oregon.

Harter will be inducted into the Pac-10’s Hall of Honor this week, so it seems like an appropriate time to look back at the career of the guy who coach UO’s “Kamikaze Kids.”

My memory of Harter isn’t as pleasant. Two good friends from Southern California went to Oregon to play for Harter in the mid-70s and left, burnt out by the early morning phone calls and the 5 a.m. practices. They didn’t have much good to say about the legendary coach.

••••••••••

The University of Idaho will try to end the season on an up note in the Western Athletic Conference tournament, starting tonight (6:30) when the Vandals meet San Jose State in Las Cruces, N.M.

Jim Meehan advances the game in today’s paper, and has more on his blog.

• Dave Trimmer has this piece on the Vandal women and their postseason hopes.

••••••••••

The Huskies’ Lorenzo Romar has fond memories to draw from this week as he tries to guide his Huskies to the Pac-10 tournament title and an NCAA berth.

• But that’s OK, because optimism might be Romar’s middle name (if it is he should be really pissed at his parents).

• For the Huskies to win the tourney, UW’s Artem Wallace has to improve his free-throw shooting.

• Everyone knows UW has multiple offensive threats, but to be successful this week, the defense needs to pick up.

The first real sign of spring is GU headed to the NCAAs

BULLDOGS UPDATED: 10:35 A.M.; 2 P.M.

Another March, another march to the NCAA tournament. There are elementary school kids who think the Zags have always gone to the Big Dance and for those kids, it’s reality.

Just think what happens in their homes the year the Zags don’t make it. There will be crying, and whining and rending of garments I’m guessing.

But, thanks to Derek Raivio and a bunch of work-their-butts-off type of guys, that year is not this year.

Raivio and crew assured GU an NCAA berth with last night’s 77-68 victory over Santa Clara in the West Coast Conference tournament final.

Besides Steve Bergum’s game story, there is more on his blog, and John Blanchette has a column on how this is a group of Zags worth admiring.

My favorite part last night? When Gonzaga was struggling to stop the Broncos, who were once again shooting the lights out, they extended the defense and forced Santa Clara to put the ball on the floor. When the Broncos did, the Bulldogs took three charges.

Those turnovers changed the flow of the game. They gave GU three more possessions and made SC tentative on offense. All of a sudden the shots weren’t falling as easy. All because three guys were willing to put their body on the line for their team. That’s a big part of why I love basketball.

• The Seattle Times’ Bud Withers was in Portland and filed this column. It shows how much guts Raivio played with. You’ll get what I mean when you read it.

• Dave Boling of the News Tribune also had a column centered around Raivio.

• And finally this game story from the Oregonian.

UPDATE: • The P-I’s Greg Johns had this game story from Portland.

UPDATE NO. 2: • The Vancouver Columbian’s stories are available now, with Greg Jayne’s column about Raivio’s legacy and Nick Daschel’s game story.

So what will their seed be?

BULLDOGS, 77-68

So all the arguments are moot.

Or as Joey used to say, a moo point … you know, like a cow’s opinion, no one cares.

Just about every sports fan in Spokane cares about the Zags’ NCAA chances and for the past few weeks that’s about all the town was talking about – after the Cougs punched their ticket of course.

How would the NCAA selection comittee rate their schedule? The Virginia blowout? What about the Heytvelt incident? The Loyola loss?

Who cares now, besides a few cows? The Zags are in, and you can read how they did it in this story.

Now everyone can start wondering what their seed will be, where they will go and who they’ll play. That should hold us until Sunday, when the bracket is revealed.

Let’s hope they are in the same pod as WSU. Wouldn’t that be fun?

Raivio steals momentum away from Santa Clara

BULLDOGS, 40-35

Well, that was an interesting finish to the first half.

Raivio’s steal and 3-pointer is the type of play that can switch the momentum of a game. The Broncos will not shoot as well in the second half as they did in the first, and the end of the half lull dropped them below 50 percent from the floor for the half.

The GU offense is playing no better than average (hitting 47 percent from the floor), so there’s no reason not to think it will improve after halftime.

More turnovers, more misses

BRONCOS, 15-14

Let’s see, Santa Clara is shooting 50 percent from the field, has hit two of its three 3-pointers and leads by one.

It looks from here that GU is playing pretty decent defense but the Broncos are making what their shots, hand in a face or not. The Zags have to force them to take them tougher shots or they have to turn them over more often.

Let’s hope Leaf’s next job is up to par

COUGARS

Well, actually an ex-Cougar.

Jason Sobel of ESPN.com has an interview with who he calls, “already … the most famous college golf coach in the nation.” He’s talking about former Cougar quarterback Ryan Leaf.

Leaf is the golf coach at Division II West Texas A&M and Sobel has him on the on-line magazine’s Hot Seat, an interview about Leaf’s love of golf.

Our Steve Bergum, who was the Cougar beat writer in Leaf’s freshman year at Washington State, would talk about how often that next summer he saw the Cougar quarterback on the golf courses in the area. He couldn’t figure out how he was improving his football talents on the course. He wasn’t. He was prepping for his next career.

Spokane’s calling, so we have to be quick

MONDAY MORNING REPORT

Finally headed back to Spokane this morning, but before I set out for Sea-Tac, here are a couple links.

Gonzaga won handily in the WCC semifinals last night, and here’s Steve Bergum’s game story and John Blanchette’s column. The Zags will be playing Santa Clara for the WCC title – and NCAA berth – tonight and we’ll be on line. The women also earned an NCAA berth.

For more, keep in touch with Steve’s blog.

The Pac-10 basketball awards will be handed out today, and Glenn Kasses tries to predict which Cougars will be honored. He also has a feature on former Coug Josh Akognon.

There’s more on Glenn’s blog.

Here’s a link to my Adam Morrison story (and Art Thiel’s column in the P-I), one to Mike Vlahovich’s recap of last week’s prep action, the story on the 2A basketball draw and one on the 3A draw.

Got to get to the airport, so I’ll see you later.

GU women headed to the NCAA

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The Gonzaga women defeated Loyola 64-47 on Sunday and are headed to their first NCAA tournament.

We’ll have more in tomorrow’s paper.

Cougars, Zags have tournaments to win

SUNDAY MORNING NEWS

Now on to the college basketball coverage, what with WSU winning in double overtime and Gonzaga starting the West Coast Conference tournament …

Cougars: What can I say? It was an incredible game that had just about everything. You can read Glenn Kasses’ account here and you can get more on his blog.

Glenn also has a sidebar on the Cougs’ tournament road and this piece on the women’s program.

Bulldogs: The Zags open the WCC tourney today against USF, and Steve Bergum has this advance. There is more on Steve’s blog. And there is more in the paper, with this John Blanchette column.

The Gonzaga women moved into today’s WCC finals, where a win means the program’s first-ever NCAA berth, with a victory over USF.

• If I get a chance sometime today between hotel rooms and driving the Seattle freeways, I’ll try to link other stories on the Cougs and Zags. But tonight I’ll be at Key Arena to cover Adam Morrison’s one trip to Seattle this year for the paper. Until then …

Saxons win title to cap undefeated season

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

I know everyone has been waiting for this; so have I. In double overtime Ferris wins its second State 4A boys’ basketball title, defeating Kentridge 68-61.

The game story is here. I’ll be back in the morning with some thoughts on the game.

But I will say this, it was an incredible game and this group of Saxons was as tough as they’ve ever had.

Ferris trails by three at the half

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The first half ended with Shawn Stockton nailing a 3-pointer as the clock expired, pulling Ferris within three, 28-25.

When the Saxon guards break down the Kentridge defense, the Charger bigs are rotating to help. And no one is helping on DeAngelo Casto. The Saxons have to look to dish, because there were at least three opportunities to feed Casto for momentum-building dunks in the opening 20 minutes, and none were taken.

The Chargers are attacking the match-up from the high post, and have hit three of four shots they’ve taken from there. But otherwise, they are not shooting well and have had trouble taking care of the ball, with five turnovers.

But they do get back well, and Ferris hasn’t been able to consistently get out and run. It needs to.

• One quick first-half stat: Kentridge has out-rebounded the Saxons 18-10, with five offensive rebounds. If Ferris wants to run, it will have to rebound better.

One more time for Lewis and Clark

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The Lewis and Clark Tigers got the one spurt they needed, nine quick points midway through the fourth quarter and they rode it to a 39-34 State 4A girls championship game win over U-Hi.

You can read the game story here.

The Tigers’ Katelan Redmon carried LC on both ends, scoring 18 points and harassing Angie Bjorklund into her lowest scoring total of the year – six points.

Lewis and Clark continues the Greater Spokane League’s dominance of the past 20 years of 4A basketball in the state, posting the league’s 10th title in the past 20 years.

This year the GSL took 1, 2 and 4 in the state’s large-school division.

And think about this, with Lake City and Coeur d’Alene finishing 1-2 in the large schools in Idaho, the four best teams in two states are all within 20 miles of Spokane Valley’s downtown, wherever you decide that is.

When it comes to girls basketball in the Northwest, forget Oregon City. The Spokane area is where the stars shine the brightest.

Stars aren’t the only ones shining

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Before the girls State 4A championship game started I thought about everything, thought about it again and picked Lewis and Clark to defend its title.

When two teams know each other so well, the stars are usually not the ones that shine the brightest.

It is the supporting casts that oftentimes make the difference.

In this one, players like Kiki January who had five first-half points. Or Kasey Jurich, who had six.

The Tigers’ 17 points are split between three players: January, Katelan Redmon and Lyndi Seidensticker. The Titans’ 18 points are spread out, with Angie Bjorklund having two. Yes, two.

Cougars grab second in the Pac-10

COUGARS

Washington State is No. … well they are second. And that’s pretty darn impressive.

You can read the game story here.

The game was so tightly contested that, according to the radio, the two coaches had some things to say to each other. I’m sure Glenn Kasses will have something to say about it – and other stuff - on his blog.

Trojans streak into halftime

TROJANS, 40-35

One thing you can say about USC, the Trojans can score in a hurry. And they did just that late in the first half, breaking from a tie at 31 with seven points in less than a minute.

And most of those points came via Lodrick Stewart forcing turnovers from Kyle Weaver.

The Cougars only have three turnovers in the half, but the two late allowed USC to get some separation.

Aron Baynes is once again making his presence known with eight points, tied for second on the Cougs with Weaver behind Derrick Low’s 10.

Second all alone is better than sharing it

 COUGARS

WSU will be playing for the second seed in the Pac-10 tournament when they host USC in about five minutes, so this game means something.

The winner, however, will probably play UW in the tournament, and the Huskies shocked everyone with a 10-point win over UCLA today. But then again, the Pac-10 tourney is not in Hec Ed, so UW may not be as tough.

For more on today’s game, check Glenn Kasses’ blog.

We’ll be back throughout the WSU game with comment and a postgame link to the game story. Then we’ll head back to the Dome for tonight’s boys and girls finals.

Mead has eight minutes before picking up fourth-place trophy

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

At the end of three quarters, Mead leads 45-20 and is ready to pick up their fourth-place trophy.

We’ll be back at the end of the game with a link to the game story. See you then.

Mead leads but have yet to play its best

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

This isn’t the same Mead team we saw the first three days in Tacoma. The players are the same, but the energy hasn’t been at the same level.

Still, at the end of the first quarter, the Panthers are ahead by three, 14-11.

That’s with the somewhat lethargic play and two early fouls on freshman Alexis Olgard. But two other freshmen, Jazmine Redmon, who should make the all-tournament team, and Kristina Puthoff, have supplied the oomph the Panthers needed.

But if the Panthers want to take home the fourth-place trophy, they will need to play with more intensity on the defensive end.

WSU needs to defeat USC to ensure two seed

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

One post before I head to the Tacoma Dome for a full day of watching the prep basketball. Well, I am coming back to the hotel to watch and blog on the WSU game with USC (you can read Glenn Kasses’ advance of that game, his feature on Ivory Clark and you can get more from Glenn’s blog).

The Cougars will finish at least second in the Pac-10, but if USC wins and ties the Cougs, the Trojans will earn the second seed.

••••••••••

The Whitworth Pirates won their first NCAA Division III playoff game ever Fridaay, thanks to Bryan Williams’ 3-pointer as time ran out in overtime, defeating DePauw 62-59 in St. Louis. The Pirates will play host Washington U. tonight at 5 (1230-AM) in the second round.

••••••••••

Gonzaga University’s women play USF today at noon in the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament. Here’s a story about GU’s woes at the tournament recently.

No matter what, the Zags have found their point guard for the next four years in Kentwood’s Courtney Vandersloot, the second-best player at the State 4A girls tournament. I predict she will start the first game of her freshman year.

••••••••••

The WCC mens’ tournament is going on as well and both USD and USF won their games.

••••••••••

Former EWU coach Ray Giacoletti is done after three years at Utah.

Titans headed to their first final

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The U-Hi Titans will play for their first State 4A girls title Saturday night. They can thank No. 12 for a big part of it.

Angie Bjorklund scored 34 points, grabbed eight rebounds, had six assists … she did it all in leading the Titans past Prairie, 56-47, Friday night.

You can read the game story here. The Titans will meet a familiar foe in Lewis and Clark.

The Ferris Saxons will also be in the boys final after defeating Franklin, which means three of the four finalists are from the Greater Spokane League.

As I didn’t see the Saxons play – I was covering the U-Hi game – I really can’t comment or add a story.

Lewis and Clark will play for second consecutive title

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

Lewis and Clark built a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter, saw it all slip away under Kentwood pressure, but still won 60-57 when Lyndi Seidensticker nailed a 3-pointer with 5 seconds left.

You can read the game story here.

We have to cover the U-Hi game so we won’t be back until later.

Tigers up eight at halftime but in foul trouble

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

One thing a fan never wants to hear in the first half: “That’s her third foul.”

Lewis and Clark fans heard it twice in this one, and the announcer was talking about the Tigers two disruptive guards: Ula Taula and Brittany Kennedy.

All of the fouls were legitimate and deserved, but there was one illegitimate travel call on Redmon that turned into three points for Kentwood.

Redmon was rebounding a miss when Jessica Rodgers grabbed her arms from behind. The tangle caused the ball to jar loose and Redmon came down with it. A travel was called and the ball given to Kentwood.

Vandersloot hit a 3 on the ensuing possession and killed some LC momentum.

It’s call like that which hurt the game. Still, the Tigers led 29-21 at the half. But it should have been 29-18.

LC puts heat on Kentwood guards

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The first part of Lewis and Clark’s semifinal game with Kentwood answered a question I had: Would LC play its usual in-your-face full-court pressure defense or would the Tigers back off because Kentwood’s excellent guards?

The answer is yes to the former, no to the latter.

In the first 4 minutes and 11 seconds, Kentwood had seven turnovers. And LC had nine points.

Make room for a trophy in the Mead case

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

A sound game plan and some superb guard play combined to lift Mead into the hardware round Saturday, as the Panthers hammered overrated Roosevelt, 71-56, Friday.

You can read how the Panthers did it in this story.

The Panthers played 21 minutes of near-perfect basketball, then held on despite some ill-advised offensive and defensive possessions. The star? It was freshman Jazmine Redmon, who had 21 points, seven rebounds, three assists and just three turnovers.

Now Mead will bring home a trophy no matter what, but fourth place seems likely against either Snohomish or Bothell.

Mead has to play big to win big

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

A tall order awaits Mead and I mean that literally.

Roosevelt’s Mackenzie Argens, the Riders’ 6-foot-3 senior center who is headed to the University of Washington, anchors the middle.

If the Panthers are to win, and play for fourth place Saturday at 1:30 p.m., freshman Alexis Olgard has to play like a veteran.

Lewis and Clark handed the Riders their first loss of the season Thursday night by disrupting their guards, causing turnovers and limiting Argens’ touches. As good as the Panthers’ guards have played this week, stopping penetrates hasn’t been their strong suit.

Jackson’s Kristi Kingma had an impressive 31 points on Wednesday, Kentwood’s Courtney Vandersloot topped that with 35 last night. For the Panthers to have a chance today, they have to keep Ariel Evans in front of them.

If they do that, Argens will have to earn her points with post moves, given Olgard and Kelli Valentine a chance to contest her shots.

If that happens, the Panthers have a shot at fourth place, because whichever team wins this game will defeat the Snohomish/Bothell winner.

For sure we’ll be back after the game with a link to the game story and we’ll post if events warrant it.

Tonight, we’ll go full bore on the Lewis and Clark girls’ semifinal with Kentwood, but, because we are covering the U-Hi game for the morning paper, the posts will be limited on that game and the Ferris boys’ game.

Pirates makes second NCAA appearance tonight

COLLEGE BASKETBALL, FOOTBALL

The Whitworth Pirates open NCAA Division III championship play this afternoon (4; 1230-AM) with a game in St. Louis against DePauw University.

If the Pirates win, they’ll face the winner of the Washington U./ Fontbonne College game Saturday.

••••••••••

The Idaho Vandals lost in Hawaii late Thursday night. For more details, check Jim Meehan’s blog.

• The Vandals have finalized their 2007 non-conference football schedule, picking up Northern Illinois for a late-September game.

••••••••••

The Gonzaga women moved into the semifinals of the West Coast Conference tournament with a 68-55 victory over host Portland. The Zags, top seed in the tourney, will face USF, the seventh seed who upset No. 2 San Diego on Thursday.

••••••••••

The Huskies helped the Cougars. Yes, that’s what I just wrote. The Huskies helped the Cougars – and themselves – by defeating USC on Thursday night.

Still though, the WSU/USC game tomorrow will be for second place in the Pac-10 (as Glenn Kasses explains in his blog), with the winner now probably getting the Huskies in the Pac-10 tourney’s second round.

Glenn also has links to Husky stories on his blog.

It’s easy to forget when you’re old

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

I realized when I got up this morning I never linked the U-Hi girls’ story from late last night.

I meant to, but good intentions and the road to … all that stuff.

Anyhow, here’s the link to Mike Vlahovich’s story on all the girls’ games from Thursday.

And here’s the link to my story – if you are wondering what happened to the posts during the Ferris game, I was covering it for the paper, so logistics at the Dome made it impossible for me to post – about the Saxons’ tough win.

We’ll have more on today’s games before they get going, but I’ll share one thing: There are no more easy games for anyone. Kentwood, Prairie and Franklin all are solid, tough basketball teams. If any of the three Greater Spokane League teams gain finals berths, they’ve earned them.

• The Seattle Times’ prep basketball coverage is here, the News Tribune’s coverage is here and the P-I’s here.

Next up for Ferris: A semifinal date with Franklin

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

I posted this earlier but it never showed up, so I’m posting it again.

The Ferris Saxons received one of their sternest tests of the season from a hot-shooting, disciplined Redmond team that sported just a 14-12 record.

But the Saxons played a disciplined fourth quarter and that proved to be enough.

You can read the game story here and I’ll have more later.

Guard play is fun to watch

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The Kentwood guards – Courtney Vandersloot (who has 12 points at the half), Lindsey Moore and Jessica Rogers – are a good bunch, effective on both ends of the court.

But the Panthers’ trio of Kami Clark, Alysha Green and Jazmine Redmon are holding their own, which is why the Panthers are leading 32-29 at the half. Redmon has eight points, Green six.

That and Kelli Valentine started grabbing every rebound she can get her hands on.

The Panthers have some foul trouble, with Clark having three fouls, but so does Kentwood. The second half will be interesting.

Tigers claw their way back to semifinals

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The Lewis and Clark Tigers are at it again.

Thursday they met one of the West Side’s highly touted teams and turned up the pressure. It worked. The Roosevelt Rough Riders could ride out wave after wave of LC ball hawking.

Because of that, the Tigers are moving on into the semifinals against the winner of the game about to start, the Mead vs. Kentwood quarterfinal. The Conquerers, like Roosevelt was, are undefeated.

You can read how Lewis and Clark ended the Rough Riders’ streak here.

As good as LC’s defense has been, the Tigers need to value the basketball more and shoot better if they want to repeat as the State 4A titlists.

But if the defense can continue to play with the same intensity, the offense just may take care of itself.

Roosevelt wilting under LC pressure

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

To combat pressure, you have to be a good passing team. The Roosevelt Rough Riders are not a good passing team. Ergo, the Lewis and Clark pressure is getting to them.

The undefeated Rough Riders haven’t been tested that much this season and probably haven’t been behind nine points in the first quarter. But that’s where they find themselves, all because they couldn’t handle LC’s pressure.

That pressure not only forced turnovers, it caused poor decisions, especially by Roosevelt point guard Ariel Evans, who picked up two quick fouls. She’s playing, but must not pick up her third or Roosevelt is in trouble.

Rubber Chicken will get a facelift next season

STATE 4A BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT

The Greater Spokane League schools haven’t taken the court yet, but there was some news from here in Tacoma.

Ferris and Lewis and Clark have agreed to change the format of the Rubber Chicken game slightly next year, moving the main performances from the halftimes of the games to between the girls’ and boys’ contests. This should help make the basketball games better and allow more freedom for the performers.

• Mount Tahoma’s girls were one of the pre-tournament favorites before losing 56-48 to Snohomish in the first round. The Thunderbirds weren’t crushed, however, as they turned around and crushed Bellarmine Prep 69-52. The win wasn’t as noteworthy as the performance of 5-foot-11 Shauneice Samms.

The junior scored 16 points and grabbed a tournament-record 23 rebounds, including eight on the offensive side.

• We’ll be back with the Lewis and Clark game.

Vandals long season winds to an end

COLLEGE BASKETBALL

The Idaho Vandals finish up the season this weekend with games at Hawaii and San Jose State (you can see the Week Ahead here).

The WAC tournament is next week (WAC notes are here) and Idaho will open with San Jose.

For more, check Jim Meehan’s blog.

••••••••••

The Whitworth Pirates (23-3) open the NCAA Division III playoffs Friday with a game against DePauw, which boasts a 22-5 record and plays a lot like the Whits.

Jason Shoot has an advance of the game.

••••••••••

The Eastern Eagles’ season is finished, but the awards keep coming. The Big Sky announces its awards today, but Rodney Stuckey has already been named an academic All-American. Maybe if the school names him valedictorian-to-be, he’ll stay another year.

Also, the Big Sky tournament will be held at Weber State for the sixth time.

For more on the Eagles, check Dave Trimmer’s blog.

Check out this site, then the 2B one …

PREPS

First a pat on the back to the on-line folks at The Spokesman-Review (hey, that’s us) for the fine work on the State 2B website. If you are a fan of the small school tournament, there’s very little you could ask for that’s not available at the site – except for one of the German sausages.

The games are all covered there, but here are the links to the newspaper’s coverage in print, with the boys’ action here (along with the recap of every game) and the girls’ games here (along with the recap of every game).

• There is only one local school at the 1A tournament, and you can find the Colfax girls story here. The Bulldogs routed Seattle Christian and will face Naches Valley at 7:30 tonight.

• Of course there are the stories Mike Vlahovich wrote out of here (and by here, I mean at the 4A basketball tournament in Tacoma), with the Ferris’ boys winning easily and all three Greater Spokane League girls’ teams doing the same.

Here is the schedule for today, with all games on 790-AM in Spokane: The Lewis and Clark girls (23-3) kick off the day with a 3:30 p.m. showdown with undefeated Roosevelt (24-0). Mead (22-6) follows at 5 against another undefeated team, Kentwood (26-0). The Ferris boys (26-0) face Redmond (14-12) at 7, and U-Hi (24-2) ends the night against Bothell (16-8) at 8:30.

• The Seattle Times’ prep basketball coverage is here, the News Tribune’s coverage is here and the P-I’s here.

• In 2A action Wednesday, the Clarkston girls handed Pullman its first loss of the season in the District 7 2A championship game at EWU.

• In Idaho boys’ state tournament action, Coeur d’Alene Charter won its first 1A game, defeating Murtaugh 72-65 to advance to the quarterfinals.

For more, check Greg Lee’s Idaho Prep Sports blog.

Bruins invade Beasley tonight

COUGARS

Tonight’s the night, the night the Bruins come to Pullman.

Glenn Kasses has a preview of tonight’s showdown (7:30; FSN; 920-AM) in Pullman between the No. 2 Bruins and the No. 13 Cougars. But that’s just the start of today’s coverage. First, check out Glenn’s blog. There is something there for everyone.

Glenn follows up with a story about the Cougs’ use of the bench and how it has continued to evolve all year. There is also the weekly look around the Pac-10 and the Week Ahead (the Cougs are the third school).

• The Seattle Times’ Bud Withers has his take on the game and has a great quote from Tony Bennett on how focused his team is: “They’ve eaten dirt for a few years. They know how hard it is.” Expect the Cougars to play with intensity.

• Todd Milles of the News Tribune lists how important tonight’s game is to WSU. He also points out how far the Cougs have come.

• Mac Hopson has re-emerged from the Cougar bench and the P-I has this feature.

• The L.A. Times has a piece on the Bruins’ Lorenzo Mata’s new hook shot. Maybe he could use it from the free-throw line. Mata is one of the Pac-10’s poorest free throw shooters.

• Love it here in Tacoma, but honestly, I wish I could be in Pullman tonight.

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Jim Allen (@srjimallen) Sports reporter Jim Allen's primary coverage areas are Eastern Washington University football and men's basketball, and college and high school soccer. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Jim Meehan (@srjimm) Jim Meehan's coverage areas include Gonzaga University men's basketball, Spokane Shock football, golf and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Chris Derrick Chris Derrick is a sports reporter. His primary coverage areas are the Spokane Chiefs, Spokane Indians, women's basketball and high school softball and volleyball. He also contributes to the SportsLink Blog.

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Vince Grippi is the online producer for SportsLink, a product of The Spokesman-Review.

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