Friday, February 28, 2014

Thumbs up for home sites in early round basketball tournament games

The sectional semifinal and sectional final rounds for area boys and girls basketball are being played at the higher seed's gym this year, a departure from playing at the district site.

The new format has a couple notable advantages:

-- It reduces travel for at least one of the teams, both in many cases. A good example is the girls Division III North Ridgeville District. The sectional final round featured Gilmour hosting Richmond Heights and Beachwood visiting Kirtland. Previously, those games would have been at North Ridgeville, which is 35 miles from Gates Mills and 44 from Kirtland.

-- More fans means more revenue.

It's not perfect, of course. If you're a gym rat, the old sectional doubleheaders are gone. Also, if you're in favor of a tournament atmosphere for all postseason games, you'll have to wait until the district semifinal round.

That's not necessarily bad, though. Often, the so-called tournament atmosphere includes the echo of the ball bouncing in a nearly empty gym. Those 6:15 p.m. openers, especially in the smaller divisions, are friends-and-family affairs.

I would imagine coaches who felt their teams were under-seeded -- you never know how the voting at those meetings is going to go -- are probably upset about having to play a road game. But I'd like to think the process works well enough that teams end up where they should be, or close to it.

The next step would be blending the district meetings for Divisions II, III and IV. Exhibit A: The Garfield Heights Divsion III boys district.

-- Howard Primer

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Ron Jaworski's rants about Johnny Manziel ridiculous

ESPN NFL analyst Ron Jaworski might watch more film than anyone at the network, but his bashing of QB draft prospect Johnny Manziel borders on ridiculous.

Jaworski recently proclaimed Manzil of Texas A&M and the Heisman winner two seasons ago should not be drafted in the first three rounds of the May draft. That's interesting since many project as a sure-fire first-round pick. Jaworski said Manziel's game doesn't translate well to the NFL.

Then, Jaworski reportedly fired off this on Jan. 27: He told ESPN's Dan LeBatard on his daily TV show anyone who drafts Manziel No. 1 overall should be fired.

For Jaworski's sake and reputation, he better have purchased a crystal ball that tells the future. His criticism of Manziel is well within his right, but that rant begs this question: If Manziel pans out and is a success in the NFL, should Jaworski be fired? Just saying.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Northeast Lakes all-district girls basketball team is loaded with talent

The Northeast Lakes all-district boys and girls teams were picked today here at The News-Herald.
There were representatives from The News Herald, our sister paper, The Morning Journal, The Plain Dealer and The Star Beacon.
The meeting took a few hours and there was lots of discussion on which players should be placed on first, second or third team along with honorable mention.
The bonus with having so many people picking the teams is all of the views and opinions everyone brings to the table.
When deciding on which athlete deserves to go on what team, we look at all of their stats. We consider team records and strength of schedule. We talk about how important the player was to their specific team.
In the end, I am confident we came up with the best teams we could possibly assemble.
If you are on the team, congratulations.
If you didn't make the team, please don't feel bad.
Our district covers the west and east sides of Cleveland. There are hundreds of athletes to chose from.
To make the teams more prestigious, players were limited (including on the honorable mention list). That's the trend we've gone with for the past few years.
The teams will officially be announced next week.
Thank you to all of the area coaches who took the time to nominate their players. We all appreciate your time and effort.
Good luck to the players who are still alive in the postseason.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Sunday, February 16, 2014

Don't ever mess up a high school sports qualifiers list

On Sunday, my Twitter followers were probably not too happy with me.

I was attempting to post a JPG version of our area state swimming and diving qualifiers list, after adding at-large berths that were announced Sunday by the OHSAA.

After the first attempt, I noticed a typo. After the second attempt, I noticed a typo.

Finally, on the third try, the list was posted, thankfully (hopefully) with everyone from our coverage area on it who qualified for Canton.

If there's one thing you never want to mess up, it's a district/regional/state qualifiers list. It's a list of names, but people take it very seriously.

One story that I'll never forget came in 2007, when I first took over as the swimming writer in addition to hockey during the winter. I wanted to try something different, so I posted a district swimming qualifiers list - but only of those competitors seeded in the top 20 due to space constraints in print. Unfortunately, the message about it being top-20 only was not conveyed particularly well, and the response was interesting. One email from a "concerned parent" - and don't we all just love "concerned parent" - stated, "Selective omission is a lie."

There was also an incident one year with state track and field qualifiers during which a 4x400 relay was omitted because they had finished fourth and not fifth as a result of a late disqualification at their regional meet. The coach, and the relay members, were not happy after the fact. They had a right to be, but it was an honest, and embarrassing, mistake.

So if you ever see a list of postseason qualifiers online or in print, just know it's gone over several times to ensure its totality and accuracy - even if it means annoying Twitter followers in the process.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Geting to know T.J. Oshie

If you had never heard of U.S. men's Olymic hockey player T.J. Oshie before Saturday, don't worry. You're not alone.

That's likely not the case after Oshie's heart-pounding performance on Saturday. Oshie put himself in select U.S. Olympic hockey company with the likes of Herb Brooks and Mike Eruzione after his coming-out party early Saturday in Team USA's 3-2 shootout win over Russia at the Sochi Games.

Oshie scored four times on six attempts, the last five-hole on Russia and Columbus Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky to clinch the dramatic victory. The game wasn't for the gold medal- it was a preliminary game - but it will go down in history nonetheless, as will Oshie.

So let's get to know Oshie, who is playing in his first ever Olympics:

Born: Dec. 23, 1986 in Everett, Wash.

Age: 27

Height, weight: 5-11, 194

NHL team, drafted: St. Louis Blues, No. 24 overall in 2005.

Positions: Center/right wing

Amateur career: Won two state titles in Minnesota for Warroad High School. As a senior, he scored 100 points in 31 games. ... Played three seasons at North Dakota, scoring 142 points.

NHL career: Signed with the Blues on Oct. 22, 2008, after forgoing his final season at North Dakota, and scored 39 points in his rookie season. ... Had a career-high 19 goals for the Blues in 2011-12.

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Friday, February 14, 2014

Olympic hockey history: U.S. vs. Russia

For the seventh time since the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, the United State and Russia will play on the ice.

Game No. 7 occurs Saturday morning in a preliminary contest
at the Sochi Games. It should be a good one again.

Since the U.S.' stunning upset of the then-Soviet Union, 4-3, en route to winning the gold medal, whenever the two countries face off on the frozen pond, it's must-watch.

Here's a breakdown of Olympic hockey results between the two countries since 1980:

1980 at Lake Placid, N.Y.: U.S. 4, Russia 3 (medal round)

1988 at Calgary, Canada: Soviet Union 7, U.S. 2 (preliminary round)

1992 at Albertville, France: Unified Team 5, U.S. 2

2002 at Salt Lake City: U.S. 2, Russia 2 (preliminary round), U.S. 3, Russia 2 (semifinal)

2006 at Turin, Italy: Russia 5, U.S. 4 (preliminary round)

- Mark Podolski | @mpodo

Where would a combined Berkshire-Newbury fit in?

With the Berkshire and Newbury school districts discussing the possibility of consolidating, let's look at what it could mean for the new school's OHSAA enrollment figure.

The OHSAA takes the number of students in grades 9 through 11 every two years to get each school's figure. The most recent count was in October 2012.

Berkshire: 149 boys, 125 girls

Newbury: 82 boys, 95 girls

A consolidated school would have 231 boys. For football, it would be in the middle of Division IV. Here's where it would fit in with the other area D-IV schools:

Chagrin Falls 221
Berkshire-Newbury 231
NDCL 248
Perry 256
Benedictine 260

For girls, the combined number would be 220.

Conveniently, Berkshire-Newbury would be in Division II in all other sports, regardless of how many divisions the sport has.

Another issue to settle would be what conference the school would join. Newbury is leaving the Chagrin Valley Conference for the Northeast Athletic Conference in 2014-15. Berkshire is part of a group of schools splitting from the CVC for a league to be named.

-- Howard Primer

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wickliffe junior post Mariah Porter is making her mark

Wickliffe junior post Mariah Porter is proof of how much one individual can make a major impact on a team.
A 9-12 record may not be impressive to some, but it's a big improvement for Wickliffe which has equaled their win total for the last three seasons combined.
Porter is a big reason for the turnaround.
In Wickliffe's recent 47-36 win over Riverside on Tuesday, Porter had a double-double with game-highs of 19 points and 18 rebounds. 
The 18 rebounds gave Porter 329 for the season which is a new school record. The previous record of 321 was set by Latrissa Johnson during the 1987-88 season.
It was the third rebound record Porter broke this season. In a game against Hawken, she totaled 31 boards. The previous record of 27 was set by Mary Sivak during the 1976-77 season. Twenty one of the 31 boards were defensive which was also a record. The previous record of 17 was held by Sandy Bungo (1977-78) and Mary Seifert (1980-81).
Porter should be proud of the records she has set. It will give her even more motivation during this offseason to come out even stronger her senior year.
Wickliffe coach Vince Granito has done a great job with helping mold Porter into a major team player. She has taken on the role as a team leader and stepped up in a big way. It's been a long road with very few team wins, but Porter is benefiting from all of the hard work and effort she puts into the game.
It's exciting to watch a talented player like her develop over the years.

-Theresa Neuhoff Audia


Sunday, February 2, 2014

What dares to run against the Super Bowl, third edition

While a significant portion of the country is watching the Super Bowl on Sunday, other channels can't just close up shop. They have to offer something.

What's always been mildly comical about alternative programming to the Super Bowl, though, are those channels which dare to run sports opposite the Super Bowl.

It's, with all due respect, like running a karaoke contest at a local bar against "American Idol" in its prime. Yet they do it anyway.

For the third consecutive year, it's time to take a look in this space at what other channels are running against the Super Bowl.

ESPN: "30 for 30" (No Mas)
ESPN2: 2013 World Series of Poker main event
Fox Sports 1: UFC Ultimate 100 Knockouts (Nos. 70-41)
SportsTime Ohio: Maryland at Syracuse women's college basketball
Big Ten Network: B1G Classic - Ohio State at Wisconsin men's college basketball (tape delay from Saturday)
Golf Channel: European PGA Tour (Dubai Desert Classic, final round)
NBC Sports Network: U.S. Olympic Trials (long track speed skating - men's and women's 1,500)
MLB Network: "Cobb" (1994 Ty Cobb biopic starring Tommy Lee Jones)
Universal Sports: World Cup - women's slalom
PAC 12 Network: California at UCLA women's college swimming
ESPNU: Nine for IX - "Pat XO"
ESPNews: "SportsCenter"
ESPN Classic: Nine for IX - "Runner"
TVG: 2013 horse racing year in review
NBATV: Euroleague
Fox Sports 2: "Fantastic Finishes"
Tennis Channel: Davis Cup first round - Great Britain vs. USA

To those programming executives who have to make such choices, good luck.

- Chris Lillstrung | @CLillstrungNH