Alter three-peat D-II state title completes historic run

Published: Saturday, March 18, 2017 @ 11:01 AM
Updated: Saturday, March 18, 2017 @ 12:39 PM


            Alter’s six seniors hoist the D-II championship trophy. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF
Alter’s six seniors hoist the D-II championship trophy. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Braxtin Miller, a prized centerpiece of Alter’s girls basketball success the last four seasons, was clueless as to what the Knights accomplished Saturday afternoon. That’s for record keepers.

“I really don’t know much about the history of all of this, so this might be big,” Miller shrugged while accepting congratulations following a 58-41 defeat of Shaker Heights Hathaway Brown that secured Alter’s third straight Division II girls high school basketball state championship. “I don’t know. It’s cool that we might have an opportunity to really have an impact on history.”

It was fitting that Alter’s talented six-player senior class made its finest – and last – effort on the grandest stage at Ohio State University’s Schottenstein Center. That enabled Alter (28-2) to wrap up an unprecedented four-year program run of 115 wins and just five losses. Besides the three-peat D-II state championships, Alter also was a D-II state runner-up in 2014 when these seniors were freshmen.

According to Ohio High School Athletic Association records, no other boys or girls teams have won that many games in four seasons. Alter joins Fairmont (2010-13) as the only area girls program to play in four straight final fours. No other area girls team has played in four straight state title games.

Hathaway Brown (18-11) had no answer for Alter’s talented backcourt duo of Miller and Libby Bazelak. Miller, an Oklahoma State signee, bottomed three 3-pointers for a game-high 23 points, and added eight rebounds and three assists. Bazelak (Duquesne) was just as good, going for 21 points (two 3-pointers), eight rebounds, six assists and five steals.

Brown’s Kaydan Lawson had 11 points and her 6-foot-2 sister Dani Lawson (Purdue) 10 points, 12 rebounds and four blocks. Alter led by nine after the first quarter and Hathaway Brown closed to within five at the break, but Alter reasserted itself in the second half.

“We wanted it our senior year,” Bazelak said. “We have such a great senior class and we’ve had great leadership every year, which is really important. Going along with talent you also need to really love the game of basketball and we had that all four years.”

Emily Long, a senior move-in from Michigan, added six points and Lauren Lush and Nicole Hoeflinger four apiece to complete Alter’s scoring. All are seniors, as is Olivia Gillis, who added five rebounds.

Co-coach Kendel Peck sensed the Knights had something going following a 7 a.m. Saturday shoot-around at the high school.

“We were laughing and joking when we got off the bus,” he said. “We play better when we’re having fun and not so serious. It’s hard for a coach to let go of that but I had a good feeling (Saturday).”

Chris Hart, Alter’s other head coach, blinked back tears when addressing what this team and four-season run means to her.

“I don’t know how you adequately put into words what those six kids mean to us, to our program and to Alter High School,” she said. “What they’ve done is simply amazing. We’re very blessed to have had them go through our school for the last four years.”

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LeBron James sends Cavaliers to Game 3 in matching suits

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 5:54 AM

LeBron James gave his teammates new suits before Game 3 of the Cavaliers' playoff series against Indiana, but didn't help as the Pacers won 92-90.
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
LeBron James gave his teammates new suits before Game 3 of the Cavaliers' playoff series against Indiana, but didn't help as the Pacers won 92-90.(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

Basketball superstar LeBron James has made a habit of buying his teammates gifts during the NBA playoffs.

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Previous gifts have included Beats by Dre headphones, Apple watches, Samsung Edge phones and even personalized shields. This year, James wanted his teammates to look sharp when they arrived for Game 3 of the Cavaliers’ first-round series, which shifted to Indianapolis on Friday. So, he bought matching suits for all 15 players, ESPN reported.

The Cavaliers arrived at Bankers Life Fieldhouse wearing gray suits, a white oxford shirt, a gray tie and a gray cashmere cardigan sweater, ESPN reported. Players also received black leather boots, overcoats and bags.

The Cavs looked good before the tip-off, but Indiana’s players were not impressed. The Pacers won 92-90, sending Cleveland to a 2-1 deficit in the series.

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1952 Topps Mickey Mantle baseball card fetches record  $2.88 million at auction

Published: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 12:01 AM
Updated: Saturday, April 21, 2018 @ 12:01 AM

A 1952 Topps baseball card of Mickey Mantle sold for $2.88 million in an online auction that ended Thursday night.
Professional Sports Authenticator
A 1952 Topps baseball card of Mickey Mantle sold for $2.88 million in an online auction that ended Thursday night.(Professional Sports Authenticator)

Mickey Mantle baseball cards are coveted by collectors, and the 1952 Topps card of the New York Yankees’ Hall of Fame outfielder remains the gold standard for post-World War II collectibles.

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The bar was raised even higher Thursday night, as a ’52 Mantle in mint condition -- graded PSA 9 by Professional Sports Authenticator -- sold for $2,880,000 in an online event hosted by Heritage Auctions. That price, which includes the buyer’s premium, is the most ever paid for a post-World War II trading card and the second-highest for any trading card, Sports Collectors Daily reported. 

The highest amount was $3.12 million for a T206 Honus Wagner card sold in October 2016 by Goldin Auctions.

“The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle is more than just a baseball card,” PSA President Joe Orlando said in a news release. “It is pop culture art and the symbol of the card collecting hobby itself.”

There were 21 bids cast for the Mantle card, which was part of Heritage Auctions’ Spring Sports Card Catalog Auction. The previous record for a 1952 Mantle graded PSA 9 was set in 2006, when Memory Lane Auction sold one for $282,588, PSA said in its release. The previous record for a Mantle card, regardless of grade, was a PSA 8.5 that sold in 2016 for $1.13 million.

The card that was sold Thursday night was owned by former NFL offensive lineman Evan Mathis, who played for six teams during his professional career. Wednesday night, Mathis spoke with with ESPN’s Bob Ley about the card and his love for collecting. Mathis said he sold the card to finance a new home in Tennessee, Sports Collectors Daily reported.

Mantle’s 1952 card is not the slugger’s true rookie card, but it is the first card that Topps issued. The 1951 Bowman card of the Mick is considered his rookie card, and one graded PSA 9 sold during this week’s Heritage Auctions sale for $750,000.

“The 1952 Topps Mickey Mantle card captures the attention of baseball fans, serious collectors, and investors alike and this auction made it one of the most valuable sports collectibles in existence,” Chris Ivy, Director of Sports Auctions at Heritage Auctions, told Sports Collectors Daily. “It’s a phenomenal price, a world record, but it’s also the natural progression of a trend we’ve seen building for years.”

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Transfer from Vanderbilt joining Dayton women’s basketball program

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 12:49 PM

Dayton huddles with coach Shauna Green after practice on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.
Staff Writer
Dayton huddles with coach Shauna Green after practice on Thursday, March 15, 2018, at the KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Ky.(Staff Writer)

Erin Whalen, a 6-foot-1 guard/forward from Charlotte, N.C., is transferring from Vanderbilt to the Dayton Flyers women’s basketball program.

Whalen said she told Dayton coach Shauna Green of her decision on Thursday. Dayton has not officially announced the news.

“I am super excited about the opportunity,” Whalen told the Dayton Daily News on Friday.

» RELATED: Green excited about Dayton’s future

Whalen will have to sit out the 2018-19 season. She has two seasons of eligibility remaining. She averaged 7.4 points and 1.8 rebounds last season at Vanderbilt. As a freshman, she averaged 9.1 points and 2.8 rebounds per game and made the All-SEC freshman team.

Whalen started 10 games as a freshman and two as a sophomore. Vanderbilt finished 7-24 last season and 14-16 in Whalen’s freshman season.

» PHOTOS: Dayton vs. Marquette in NCAA tournament

Whalen was a five-star recruit in 2016, according to the ESPN HoopGurlz rankings. She ranked 46th overall in the class. She was the North Carolina Gatorade Player of the Year as a senior at the Providence Day School.

Whalen is the third player from a power-five conference to transfer to Dayton in the past 12 months. Julia Chandler (Syracuse) and Araion Bradshaw (South Carolina) transferred to Dayton last season and sat out the season. They will make their Dayton debuts in the 2018-19 season.

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Sports Today: Sorting out reactions to the Reds’ firing Bryan Price

Published: Friday, April 20, 2018 @ 11:09 AM

CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 06: Homer Bailey #34 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts as he is taken out of the game by manager Bryan Price in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on August 6, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images
CINCINNATI, OH - AUGUST 06: Homer Bailey #34 of the Cincinnati Reds reacts as he is taken out of the game by manager Bryan Price in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals at Great American Ball Park on August 6, 2017 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)(Joe Robbins/Getty Images)

For the second day in a row, we had some breaking news first thing in the morning. Here is my tribute to Earle Bruce, who passed away this morning after 87 years of filling the world with passion and energy for football and Ohio State. 

Here’s what else is going on… 

Cincinnati Reds general manager Dick Williams said pretty much exactly what I wanted to hear in regards to the firing of Bryan Price. 

“We’re very focused on creating a sense of urgency for these guys to perform now,” Williams said yesterday. “We talk about rebuilding, and there’s things going on away from the field and in the farm system and investments in the franchise that are part of that rebuilding process, but when guys show up to work every day, they need to have a sense of urgency to win that day. They need to take care of the details on the field. They need to play hard. They need to play smart. They need to play it right. That we can control, and we need to get this team playing that way because we know they have the ability to do it. That is the short-team immediate focus.”

Beyond that, I have seen the argument made that firing Price was pointless because the team wasn’t really good enough to win. 

That’s a pretty dumb way to look at it. 

For one thing, it ignores just how terrible the Reds have been since the start of the season. 

It’s not as if we’re talking about a squad that is a few games under .500. 

They have not been below average. 

They have been dreadful — historically bad. 

Cincinnati’s record is 3-15, and there’s no reason to think the Reds should have many, if any, more wins the way they have played… except if like me you think Price botched a handful of chances to win games with head-scratching late-game decisions. 

I’ve also seen it suggested the whole organization is rotten and they need to start over. 

This isn’t completely out of the question, but it’s a pretty big overreaction at this point. 

Yes multiple people — players, managers, management, ownership, etc — had to make mistakes for the team to be in this predicament, but many of them are already gone. 

Walt Jocketty blew the end of the last era of good times with help from Dusty Baker, his scouting department and at least some on the development side. 

Several years of terrible drafts and an inability to find cheap options to fill out the bench and the bullpen at the major-league level were major issues, and Baker’s attempts to maximize a flawed roster were generally inept. 

RELATED: Barry Larkin on deck?

Jocketty badly misplayed the start of the rebuild, perhaps because ownership wouldn’t let hims start it as soon as he needed to. 

Whatever the reason, the Reds waited too long to start the rebuild at the major-league level. 

That prevented them from maximizing the return on players like Johnny Cueto, Aroldis Chapman and Jay Bruce and exacerbated the effect of those bad drafts. 

(They were able to sell high on Todd Frazier and got surprisingly good returns on some other players who weren’t as high-profile, like Mike Leake, Alfredo Simon and Dan Straily.) 

More recently, they seem to have figured out a few things in the draft. The past two efforts have been rated very highly. 

Help is on the way, and there are good pieces in place already. 

Health remains an issue, of course. Figuring out if anything can be done about that is not easy. 

Williams has only been in the big chair for about a year and a half, and I’m willing to see how his early moves play out. 

Waiting on young pitchers to develop can be maddening, but it is also pretty clearly their best option given their market and the ballpark. 

They talked about accountability when Baker was fired. 

Price never answered that bell. 

As he was shown the door, a need to create a winning culture was identified. 

Will anything change? 

We’ll see. 

It couldn’t have gotten much worse… 

Meanwhile, the firing of Price yesterday morning obscured a few other noteworthy items. 

Chief among them was Hunter Greene’s second start

Watching this talented young guy develop is already fascinating. 

The South Bend Cubs were clearly sitting on his fastball, and they hit it hard a few times. 

He didn’t hesitate to go to his secondary pitches, working curves and changes to varying degrees of success. 

Having to pitch through a pretty hard rain for 10 minutes or so seemed to frustrate him, but that’s understandable. 

He still hung in there and showed his competitiveness. 

It was less than three innings, but it was encouraging to see his mental makeup and tools despite his inexperience… 

Dragons pitcher Hunter Greene went 2.1 innings in a rain-delayed second start, a 4-1 defeat of the visiting South Bend Cubs at Fifth Third Field in Dayton on Wed., April 18, 2018. MARC PENDLETON / STAFF

Ohio State held spring exit interviews with its assistant coaches Wednesday, and the most noteworthy local development regarded Josh Myers

Coach Greg Studrawa revealed the Miamisburg product overcame some struggles early in the spring to turn in a strong final two weeks as he learns to play center. 

He might have to settle for the backup job to fifth-year senior Brady Taylor, but that’s not a bad place to be for an offensive lineman still only a year out of high school. 

Defensive line coach Larry Johnson also had great things to say about Wayne grad Robert Landers, a tackle who has shown a lot of growth as a leader...

Ohio State offensive line coach Greg Studrawa breaks down the competition between Brady Taylor and Miamisburg grad Josh Myers to be the starting center this fall.

Finally we have the Cincinnati Bengals schedule

This slate looks tougher to me than the NFL’s calculation of last year’s winning percentages indicates it should be. 

Maybe that’s just a function of being unsure of how good the Bengals will actually be. 

 

The Browns and Colts are rebuilding, but those AFC West teams and the Dolphins all have the potential to be playoff contenders with the right moves so there is a high potential for variance. 

Of course, last season I was incorrectly optimistic about the Bengals based in large part because I thought their schedule was pretty easy. 

That’s not exactly how it worked out. 

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