Category Archives: Basketball

Summer sports wrap-up

By J.D. McKay

That was fast. 

As an athlete, it went even faster. Strength and conditioning coach Donnie Gumble trained athletes hard this summer. The cross country teams went to a week-long camp to run, with some athletes putting in more than 40 miles. Plus, the basketball teams played in summer leagues against other top teams. With the work Gumble put in with our athletes and the rest of the work they put in this off season, it should be a very good year in FC sports. 

There was plenty of action outside of Floyd County, though. Most of it was a surprise, too. I expected the Warriors win in five games, then sign another big name free agent like Kyrie Irving or Kawhi Leonard. Serena Williams and Roger Federer would win women’s and men’s at Wimbledon. The Yankees would be the best team in the MLB at the all-star break, and a veteran would win the homerun derby. Romeo Langford would be a first round pick but not a Lottery Pick. Finally, our local summer sports team, the Louisville Bats, would be the worst team in Triple A baseball. 

If you follow sports very closely you know that only none of those statements are totally true. The Warriors lost in six games. Then, balance in the NBA was restored for the first time since 2014. Anthony Davis joined Lebron in LA. Then, a few weeks later, the Clippers formed the second super team in LA with Leonard and Paul George. The East Coast was not just watching this happen. The Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant and Irving to form their own super team. Houston traded for Russell Westbrook to go with James Harden and get a pair of their own. Plus, Golden State still has Steph Curry and Klay Thompson. The other NBA statement I made was only partly true. Langford was a first round pick; however, he was a Lottery Pick and will be playing basketball for the Boston Celtics and ex-Butler coach Brad Stevens. 

Neither Federer or Williams took home titles at Wimbledon. They were won by Novak Djokovic in the mens’ and Simona Halep in the ladies’. There was some other craziness around the tournament. Fifteen-year-old Cori Gauff qualified for the tournament and upset Venus Williams in the first round. She stuck around until the fourth round before losing and all of her matches were the most watch of the day in America. 

My baseball predictions were the most accurate. The Yankees were the best team in the American League and second best in baseball. The Bats are not quite the worst team in Triple A baseball, but they are the second worst. The only completely false statement was the veteran winning the Homerun Derby. That was dominated by two rookies, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Pete Alonso. Guerrero had the greatest Homerun Derby of all time. He hit 91 homers in 13.5 minutes. That was spaced out over two hours, but that many dingers is impressive regardless. Even with that many homers, he still lost in the finals to Alonso, who hit 23 to beat Guerrero’s 22. 

Finally, I did not have much of a prediction for the Stanley Cup Finals, but the St. Louis Blues finally took home the Cup for the first time after 50 years. They played seven and the final game was won by goalie Jordan Binnington. Who had perhaps the greatest most clutch performance I will ever see in hockey. He gave up one goal on 33 shots and as a hockey fan, I was amazed, because most of the shots he blocked were shots that are almost always goals. 

This summer was crazy in sports. That feels weird to say but it really was. Hopefully the rest of the school year is as crazy as the summer was. Or maybe not, I do not know if we can handle that for 10 more months. 

 

FC wraps up successful sports year

By J.D. McKay

It is my last column of this school year, so it is time for an end of the year wrap up. All in all, we have had a great year. Unfortunately, we have come up short in a few sectionals, but we have also had success against New Albany.

Girls’ cross country was very good. They won their regional and got second at semi-state by two points. Junior Sydney Liddle followed in her dad’s footsteps and became FC’s first second generation all-state athlete. Next year, the girls have a very real chance of winning team state and Liddle could win individual state. The boys’ cross country also won regionals. They were led by junior Luke Heinemann, who finished sixth there and could win regionals next year if he stays healthy. They only graduated two guys, so they could win semi-state next year.

Football had a pretty good year, too. They beat New Albany, Jeff, and Providence. It was their first year with new head coach James Bragg. The conference was very tough this year and their 5-5 record was pretty good for the level of competition. Next year, the sectional is winnable for all the teams in it, the first time FC has been in a winnable sectional in three years.

Girls’ volleyball had a good year. They beat New Albany and Jeff. They have a tough sectional and came up short against Providence in the sectional championship. The boys’ had a terrific fifth season. They were ranked in the top four for most of the season. They also beat Trinity. They lost in the state semifinals to eventual champion Roncalli.

Girls’ soccer had another good season. They won sectionals against Seymour 2-1. Junior Katie Yankey was all-state. They could be very good next year. They lost a few seniors, but they have a lot of talented returning juniors. Boys’ soccer also won sectionals 1-0 over Jeff. They had a big senior class, so they might have a tough year next year. However, junior Xander Ochsner is very good and could lead them to a successful year and sectional championship.

If you asked one of the players on our boys’ basketball team, they would probably call the season a disappointment. However, they had a very good year. They beat New Albany in the regular season and tied Jeff for first in the conference. Unfortunately, they lost to New Albany, who overcame some adversity and injuries to play a great game. Their head coach, Jim Shannon, also ran a tough triangle and two defense that made senior Cobie Barnes and sophomore Jake Heidbreder less of a threat. Barnes was all-state.

The girls’ season was pretty good. They went in with mixed expectations. They were hit with the injury bug again but still managed to beat New Albany and Providence. They have a lot of underclassmen so if they stay healthy they could be good next year.

Boys’ and girls’ swimming both had a pretty typical year by their standards. Both went undefeated during the regular season. Both won conference and sectionals. Both teams have pretty good senior classes, but they also have lots of underclassmen talent, so they should continue their success.

Wrestling had a decent season. They beat New Albany in sectionals. Unfortunately, they did not win sectionals. However, they had two all-state wrestlers, junior Jonathan Kervin and sophomore Gavinn Alstott. Freshman J Conway also went to state. Those three alone make the future of FC wrestling bright.

Boys’ golf dominated like it always does. They will easily win sectionals next week. They may even have two finishers in the top three. The girls’ also dominated like they usually do. Freshman Sophie Cook won, sophomore Zoe Hoehn got second, and junior Francesca Hartlage got third.

Baseball had a better year than many were expecting. They beat New Albany as well as Castle who was ranked very highly at the time. Ultimately, they lost in their sectional which is very tough, boasting New Albany and Jeff.

Softball had kind of a weird season. They started the year playing below their talent level. But as the season progressed, they improved. That led to beating Seymour in sectionals after losing to them in the regular season. Unfortunately, they lost to Jennings County 2-4 after being up 2-0 going into the last inning. Next year, they will be led by junior Taryn Weddle, who will be going to Louisville after she graduates.

Girls’ track had a successful season. They won sectionals and conference. They have two freshmen, Annalise Zeinemann and Reece Davis, who are going to state as pole vaulters. The 4 by 800 meter relay advanced to state as well as the 4 by 400 meter relay. Junior Sydney Liddle and Chloe Loftus is going to state for the 2 mile. The boys’ season was disappointing. They lost sectionals for the first time in 17 years after going into the season with a chance at winning regionals. However, senior Cam Sturgeon is going to state for discus, senior Devon Montgomery for pole vault, and senior Jon Gunn for the 100-yard dash. The 4 by 800 meter relay also is going to state.

Girls’ tennis has had a successful year. They won sectionals over Eastern Pekin in straight sets. Boys’ tennis had probably the best season of any team. They advanced all the way to state before losing to eventual state champion Carmel. They are only losing one senior, all-state Lucas Sakamaki. They should be very good next year.

The last sports are the unified sports, track and football. This was the first year for unified football. It was not a great season competitively, but that is not the main goal of unified sports like it is for some other sports. It is a fun chance for impaired students to compete with their classmates. Some schools should probably put more focus into this aspect than the competitive aspect. Unified track also did not have an outstanding competitive season, but once again, that is not the main goal. The main goal is to try new things and give all types of kids a chance to be on an FC team.

This has been a pretty good year for FC, but the future looks even brighter. This talented senior class will be hard to replace but there is a lot of talent below it. Be sure to stay connected with FC sports by reading my column next school year. My first column will be on July 31.

Flawed officiating must be fixed on the biggest stage

By J.D. McKay

On Saturday night, Virginia and 2016 Indiana Mr. Basketball Kyle Guy beat this year’s Cinderella, Auburn. Guy sank three straight free throws after a foul with 1.5 seconds left. For some weird reason, I was feeling like a particularly passionate Auburn fan, so I was shocked by the outcome.

After I pulled myself together, CBS officiating analyst Gene Steratore said that the officials missed a double dribble on Virginia that would have given Auburn the ball with about 2.5 seconds left, up two. It is worth mentioning that both my dad and I noticed this missed call live. Had the double dribble been called, the Tigers would have inbounded a pass and been fouled, forcing a one-and-one. Now, Auburn may have missed the first, and Virginia may have hit the half-court buzzer beater to go to the National Championship, but they also might not have. Auburn also may have hit both going up four with about 1.5 seconds left, sending them to the National Championship.

So minutes after the Final Four game I wrote down my thoughts, and I realized, this is not the first of the Major Six (NFL, NBA, NHL, MLB, NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball) championships to have a tainted pair of teams.

The Super Bowl featured the Rams, who probably should not have been in. After the two-minute warning, the Saints had a chance to score a touchdown that probably would have sent them to the Super Bowl. But after a missed pass interference call, the Saints kicked a field goal with enough time left for the Rams to kick a field goal of their own and send the game to OT, eventually winning. Once again, the outcome could have been the same had the Saints missed the field goal, still forcing overtime and eventually a loss, but we will never know because the call was missed.

There are missed calls in every game, so any call could have been missed and the outcome of the game been changed, but these are memorable because they are on the biggest stages at the biggest moments. It does not help the officials, either, that these missed calls can be replayed in super slow-mo.

There is not one easy fix to this problem. Humans will always make errors, but we have developed better technology, so why not use that to fix our errors? As I said above, these games are played in super slow-mo for fans, so why not have a group of officials either at the game or in a neutral place like New York? They could call in any missed call that is objectively wrong, like for instance, a double dribble. However, if that was instituted for the whole game, they might never end. To resolve this, the “New York Official” would only make calls within the last two minutes.

The NCAA could also resolve it the way the NFL did: challenges. However, this slows the game down significantly and would be weird for basketball. They would have to wait until after the play ended then asked the officials to look at the play. They could either have two for the whole game or just one at the end of each half.

Officiating may not be getting worse. It may be the same quality as always; however, with high def replays, we can always see when they are wrong. This technology cannot just be ignored for the improvement of the game. Several years ago, the MLB allowed for coaches’ challenges. This league that seemed like it would forever be stuck in the past came forward and made use of technology. That made some baseball fans mad, but all together was better for the game. Basketball and football have developed some strategies to make use of the technology and improve the game.

However, it seems to me that some small things can be done to get the correct calls, not lengthen the games, and, in the playoffs, give fans and players the champions as they probably should be.

 

Previewing March Madness

By J.D. McKay

We are finally into possibly the most exciting and wildest time of the year: March Madness. I will be previewing the tournament and giving you the answers to fill out the first perfect bracket ever

East: The East has the most hyped one-seed in the tournament in Duke. Led by Zion Williamson, who can only be described as a freak athlete, they have been one of the most interesting teams to watch this year. However, when their outside shots are not falling, they are very beatable. With that being said, I do not think we are going to see the first overall seed fall in the first round for the second year in a row. But I would not be surprised if they lost to the four-seed Virginia Tech in the Sweet 16 or the two- seed Michigan State in the Elite 8. In the South bracket I expect Michigan State, who is hot, to go to the Final Four.

West: The West seems to me to be the easiest bracket. The one-seed and two-seed are both good, but Gonzaga and Michigan finished the season with a loss in their conference championships. With that being said, there is not really any other team that separates themselves from the other 14 teams. Murray State has the most hyped non-Power Six player in Ja Morant. FSU is decent but not very consistent. But, I’m picking the Zags to get rolling and play Michigan State in the Final Four.

South: I get a sense of deja vu from this bracket, seeing Virginia, who lost to the 16-seed for the first time last year. I expect they do, too, and will come out prepared to beat the 16-seed Gardner-Webb University and play deep into the tournament. They also have Tennessee in their bracket, who has been solid this whole year. They lost to Kentucky once but have since beat them in their conference tournament. They have a lot of momentum and I expect them to ride that into the Final Four after beating Virginia in the Elite 8.

Midwest: This bracket has three of the most historic college basketball teams, Kansas, Kentucky, and North Carolina. I expect all three of these teams to make it to the Round of 32, but then I expect Kansas to fall to Auburn, who just beat Tennessee in the SEC Conference Championship and LSU earlier in the SEC Tournament. However, I expect North Carolina to beat UK in the Elite 8, in a rematch from the 2017 Elite 8. I distinctly remember that game because I watched in on ESPN in Guatemala with Spanish-speaking commentators. Plus, there was a huge shot made by then sophomore Luke Maye, who now leads the Tar Heels. I again expect UNC to beat UK and play Tennessee in the Final Four.

Potential Cinderella team: I do not expect any repeats of the Loyola Chicago run to the Final Four saw last year, but there are some teams that could bust some brackets this March. First off is Syracuse. The Orange are always good. They have one of the best head coaches in the country: Jim Boeheim. They are an eight-seed and could cause some problems. Another Cinderella team is Murray State. As I said above, they have Ja Morant, who is insanely athletic. He could prove to be problematic for some teams. The one other team I could see being a Cinderella team is St. Mary’s. They are coming off a conference championship against Gonzaga, where they upset the Zags.

Final Four: I picked Michigan State to play the Zags and Tennessee to play North Carolina, both of which are one vs two matchups. Michigan State will probably beat Gonzaga because they are very hot right now and are willing to be scrappy when needed as seen against Michigan in the Big Ten Championship game. North Carolina will beat Tennessee because they are experienced. In the championship game they will beat Michigan State. Two years ago, they were National Champions. Some of those players have gone pro or graduated, but other, like Maye have stuck around. Again, experience will be the factor that helps them bring the title to North Carolina.

While I was listening to this I listened to various versions of “One Shining Moment” on Youtube. It is fun to watch the best moments from the tournament on these videos, but more fun to watch the history and upsets live. Do not miss your chance to watch something you will one day tell your grandkids you saw live.

Four things to do or watch over Spring Break

By J.D. McKay

Typically I write my last or second-to-last column before break about five things to do or watch over the upcoming break. However, besides for March Madness, there just are not very many interesting upcoming events. Hopefully we sports fans will be able to survive the pre-March Madness lull and get into the tournament and then baseball season immediately after.

1- MLB Opening Day

There are a variety of options that sports fan can use to enjoy the March 28, the first day of the MLB season. The Cincinnati Reds are in town and play the Pirates. That will be the Reds’ first chance to show off their new toy, Yasiel Puig, in a meaningful game. It should also be a win because the Reds always win the first game of the season. A cheaper option is just to stay at home and watch the games on TV. Yankees fans such as myself will get to watch the pinstripes play the Orioles on ESPN. The Dodger play following the Yankees game and the Red Sox play following the Dodger game.

2- Sweet 16 and Elite 8 at KFC Yum Center

Usually, when I suggest sports events to go to, I try to suggest cheaper options to make games more affordable for my fellow broke students. For this, however, I do not really have an idea on price of tickets. Currently, the three game package is $250 dollars on Ticketmaster. After watching these games for several years and seeing low attendance because the teams are not playing close to home, I have wanted to go and expected them to be cheap. This year I am planning on going and unless U of L, UK, Duke, Purdue, or IU plays at the KFC Yum Center, I expect tickets will be affordable. Hopefully, a Cinderella team will make their way through the South Regional to add some excitement to the games.

3- Watch March Madness

If I really have to tell you this, you should start paying more attention to sports. It is the time of year when average basketball fans like myself pay lots of attention to games that I would not normally care about at all. It creates fans for the lower-seeded teams. Often, this fandom only lasts until the end of the game, but some Cinderella stories keep those fans deep into the tournament. Ultimately, the three-week period probably has the highest concentration of buzzer beaters and upsets of any time during the basketball season.

4- Fill out a bracket

The next part of this is potentially more fun, filling out a bracket. This might not sound fun to non-sports fans but will actually be worth your time. If you are an expert college basketball watcher, feel free to make educated guesses each game and have a terrible bracket. But if you are an ill-educated basketball fan, you can make some predictions based on other things. These uneducated brackets are often some of the best brackets. For example, one classic bracket idea is, if these teams mascots were to fight, who would win? Or, you could just pick the winning teams based on best mascot or best color scheme. Any bracket strategy is only crazy if it does not work.