Friday, January 15, 2010

Connecticut: Ridgefield girls basketball claws to top of FCIAC standings

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. — When the Ridgefield Tigers lost top scorer Kristin Anda and starting point guard Melanie Andrea to graduation last spring, questions swirled around how the girls basketball team would fare during the 2009-10 season.

File photo by Gretchen McMahon
Kathryn Cholko, Ridgefield
Eight games into the schedule, head coach Katie Smith’s Tigers have answered loud and clear that they are one of the frontrunners for this winter’s FCIAC championship.Ridgefield knocked off Brien McMahon and Westhill last week to improve to 7-1 overall and a perfect 6-0 in conference play, records that include a 55-45 win over title contender St. Joseph.The lone loss was a 56-48 defeat at the hands of the McMahon Senators in Masuk’s Christmas Tournament, but the Tigers got immediate revenge when they trounced the Senators, 65-47, one week later. The latter game was the official conference game, allowing Ridgefield to remain atop the FCIAC standings as the league’s last unbeaten.The Tigers have been led by their core of three returning starters, a trio which includes one junior and two sophomores. The sophomores, center Michelle Gibbons and guard Emily Favorite, a sharpshooter from outside, have been the leading scorers, while junior Kathryn Cholko is back at guard.Junior Molly Welch moved into a starting forward role and is also a big weapon, while senior captain Abby Searfoss and sophomore Lauren Eckstein have also been keys.In the victory over McMahon last week, three players hit double digits in scoring as Gibbons and Welch scored 16 points apiece and Favorite hit for a dozen. Gibbons also had 13 rebounds for a double-double.On Friday, Ridgefield made it six straight FCIAC wins with a 35-28 decision over the Westhill Vikings. The game was a struggle offensively on both sides, as Ridgefield led 15-14 at halftime despite scoring just three points in the second quarter.The Tigers again scored just three points in the third frame as Westhill jumped ahead, 22-18, but Ridgefield dug deep and pulled out an 18-6 fourth quarter to get the victory. Cholko led the Tigers with 11 points, while Gibbons had 10 and Welch had seven.Ridgefield leads the FCIAC by one half game, as Staples checks in at 6-1 in the league. Danbury, Stamford and St. Joe’s are tied for third at 5-1, with Trumbull and New Canaan next at 5-2. The Tigers play at Fairfield-Warde on Tuesday and will host Truumbull on Friday. 2. Former Tiger in charge for D.C. United: Former Ridgefield soccer star Curt Onalfo was tabbed as the new head coach of the D.C. United last week. Onalfo, who played for D.C. United in 1998 and 1999, was officially introduced as the team’s coach at a press conference at RFK Stadium on Jan. 5. He becomes the sixth head coach in franchise history and replaces Tom Soehn. D.C. United has reached the MLS finals only once in the past 10 years after winning three championships in the league’s first four years.Onalfo is a graduate of Ridgefield High School and played alongside his brother Cliff on the Tigers’ 1983 and 1984 Connecticut state champion teams. In college, he played for the University of Virginia.Onalfo was a member of the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team, which played in Barcelona, Spain, and was on the U-20 and full U.S. National Teams. He played for three teams in the MLS, starting out with the Los Angelas Galaxy before joining the San Jose Clash and then D.C.After retiring as a player, Onalfo was D.C. United’s Director of Youth Development and an assistant coach from 2000 to 2002. He then became the head coach of the Kansas City Wizards, where he compiled a 27-29-2 record and led the team to two playoff berths.3. Rams ring Notre Dame's bell twice: The New Canaan Rams ice hockey team and head coach Bo Hickey have never ducked any opponent, no matter how daunting their schedule may become in December and January.Sometimes, the early gauntlet creates a gigantic hole, such as the year the Rams lost their first eight games before climbing back to the .500 mark.This winter, New Canaan has survived the early run and looks like a live contender for both the FCIAC and state Division I championships. Armed with a 5-2 record, the Rams will begin the conference part of the schedule as the team to beat in the FCIAC.New Canaan scored a pair of huge victories last week when they toppled the Notre Dame-West Haven Green Knights and Notre Dame-Fairfield Lancers in back-to-back games.On Jan. 2, the Rams squared off with the Knights and avenged a season-opening loss with a 4-2 decision. New Canaan outshot NDWH, 50-18, and led 4-1 in the third period before the Knights netted a goal in the final minute.Senior co-captain Bo McGinniss, sophomore Ryan Begoon, senior Tim Robustelli and junior Jimmy Joe Granito all scored goals, while freshman goalie Tim Nowacki, who has looked impressive thus far, collected 16 saves. The game would have been an even bigger rout if not for the play of Knight goalie Michael Federico, who amassed 46 saves.Notre Dame also played much of the game without senior co-captain Alex Stevens, who was hit with a game misconduct penalty for a hard hit from behind that drove Rams’ co-captain Kris Nugent into the boards. Stevens was ejected, resulting in an automatic suspension from Notre Dame’s next game, a 6-0 loss to Fairfield Prep, the state’s top-ranked team.Two days later, Nugent scored with 14 seconds remaining in overtime as New Canaan defeated Notre Dame-Fairfield, 3-2, at the Milford Ice Pavillion. The goal was Nugent’s second of the game, while Granito added one. Nowacki was again stellar with 22 saves.4. Central rallies past St. Joseph: Bridgeport Central kept its boys basketball record spotless with a come-from-behind 68-62 home win over the St. Joseph Cadets last week. Central trailed 42-33 at the halftime break, but outscored the Cadets 34-20 in the second half en route to the victory.The Hilltoppers, who also beat Brien McMahon on Friday, are undefeated at 5-0, a mark that includes a 58-point win over perennial FCIAC power Trinity Catholic. St. Joe’s beat Fairfield-Warde on Friday and is 4-2 overall and 2-2 in league play.Central was led by seniors Jerome Parkins and Jerry Washington, who combined for 38 points. Parkins had 20 and Washington hit double digits with 18. Senior Clarke Orayne scored nine and Diontay Washington had eight. For St. Joe’s, Greg Lanston (18 points) and Oscar Assie (16) led the way.Central plays Cheney Tech in a nonconference game on Tuesday before hosting Fairfield-Warde (5-2) on Friday. St. Joseph faces Brien McMahon and Westhill, both 3-4, this week.5. Trinity’s woes continue: Trinity Catholic lost a pair of games last week, extending a short losing streak to three games and dropping then Crusaders below the .500 mark at 3-4 overall and 2-3 in the FCIAC.The Crusaders, who lost to St. Joseph in a holiday tournament two weeks ago, lost their second straight when they were beaten by the Fairfield-Warde Mustangs, 61-54, last week. The Mustangs received a 20-point performance from Tyler Bisack and an 18-point game from Mersin Markovic. Ryan Swedburg also delivered double-digit scoring with 13 points.Jonathan Boykin had a team-high 21 points for Trinity, while Mike Scaturchio had 12 and Aaron Spence had 11. On Friday, the Golden Eagles of Trumbull beat Trinity Catholic for the first time in 20 years when they scored a 49-39 victory at THS. The Eagles led 28-18 at halftime and boosted that to 17 points by the end of the third quarter en route to the win.Max Coleman led Trumbull with 16 points and Julian Sanders had 13, while Boykin again led Trinity with 15 points.Trinity will host Westhill (3-4) and Bassick (6-1) this week.

Big MLK hoops weekend begins today

The Indianapolis 500 is held every year over Memorial Day weekend. Alabama’s football rivalry with Tennessee made “The Third Saturday in October” famous. The first week in April typically features not only the Final Four, but also baseball’s opening day.
Certain sports or sporting events share their identity with specific dates on the calendar. The third Monday of each January means Martin Luther King Jr. Day and quality high school basketball – much of it played to honor King’s activist efforts and civil rights achievements.
One of the biggest annual MLK events is held in Chicago, where nearly 70 boys and girls teams will play over three days at Whitney Young High School.
Seattle’s King Holiday Hoopfest is held every year on the holiday at the Bank of America Arena on the University of Washington campus. The event drew over 8,000 fans last year for a showdown between city powers Garfield and Franklin. This year’s highlight is a matchup between Jefferson of Portland, Ore., and Federal Way. Both teams are ranked No. 1 within their respective classification.

Luke Walton finally plays

Luke Walton’s long wait to play ended Tuesday night.
He peeled off his sweats and entered the Lakers’ game against the San Antonio Spurs with 5.1 seconds left in the first half, his first appearance in two months.
OK, so it wasn’t exactly a significant one. He didn’t handle the ball as the Lakers misfired on a last-second play before halftime. But it marked his return to action after an extended absence because of a back injury.
Walton also played 5 minutes, 55 seconds in the fourth quarter, scoring four points on 2-for-4 shooting in the Lakers’ 105-85 defeat.
With Pau Gasol sidelined for a fifth consecutive game because of a strained left hamstring and backup small forward Adam Morrison suffering from an illness, Lakers coach Phil Jackson turned to Walton for help up front.

Trail Blazers re-assign Patrick Mills to D-League

Portland Trail Blazers guard Patrick Mills was re-assigned to the Idaho Stampede, Portland’s NBA D-League affiliate, it was announced today. Mills’ assignment is the 12th to an NBA D-League affiliate this season.
During his first assignment to the Stampede earlier this month, Mills appeared in two games, averaging 30.0 points, shooting 21-of-37 from the field, to go with 7.5 assists in 34.0 minutes. He scored a team-high 38 points against the Reno Bighorns on Jan. 1.
Originally selected by Portland with the 55th overall pick in the 2009 NBA Draft, Mills has appeared in one game for the Trail Blazers this season, recording two assists in five minutes on Jan. 4 at the Los Angeles Clippers.
A two-year contributor at St. Mary’s (Calif.), Mills twice earned First Team All-West Coast Conference. Named West Coast Conference Newcomer of the Year as a freshman, Mills was also selected to the Naismith Trophy Award Mid-Season Top-30 list during his sophomore season.
Mills averaged a team-high 14.2 points to go with 2.2 rebounds, 2.0 assists and 1.7 steals in 23 minutes for his native Australia at the Beijing Olympics becoming the youngest player in Australian history to compete in the Olympic Games in basketball.

Blake Griffin to undergo season-ending surgery

After experiencing some discomfort during his recently-accelerated rehabilitation program, Clippers’ forward Blake Griffin was examined Tuesday afternoon by Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles.
As a result of that examination, it has been determined that the healing in his left patella area has not improved to the expected required level. Griffin will undergo a surgical procedure in the near future, with a recovery prognosis of four to six months. Team personnel will be made available to the media. Further details will be made available as events develop.
Previously on December 23rd, after undergoing a CT Scan and MRI Griffin had been cleared to increase his rehabilitation workload.
Griffin, the first overall selection in the 2009 NBA Draft, suffered a non-displaced stress fracture of his left patella during the Clippers’ last preseason game vs. the New Orleans Hornets on Friday, October 23rd.
He has not played in the 2009-10 NBA regular season at all.

NBA All-Star Friday Dunk-in will determine a participant in All-Star Saturday Dunk contest

For the first time the NBA will hold a nationally televised slam dunk competition - the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk-In - to determine one of the participants in the Slam Dunk contest, the NBA announced today. This one-round slam dunk-in competition will be held during halftime of the Rookie Challenge game on Friday, Feb. 12, and fans will determine the winner by voting via SMS text message and at NBA.com.
The NBA All-Star Slam Dunk-In will air live on TNT, which will televise the Rookie Challenge (9 p.m. ET) from American Airlines Center in Dallas.
TNT will announce the participants in the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk-In on-air during NBA Tip-Off on Thurs., Jan 14, at 8 p.m. ET.
TNT’s coverage of All-Star Weekend will continue Saturday from American Airlines Center in Dallas with All-Star Saturday Night (8 p.m. ET), including the Slam Dunk contest, and will conclude Sunday from Cowboys Stadium with the 59th NBA All-Star Game (8 p.m. ET).
The participants will have two dunks each, with a two-minute time limit to complete each dunk.
Fans will determine the winner of the NBA All-Star Slam Dunk-In by voting via SMS Text message or on NBA.com during the Rookie Challenge game. Voting polls will open at the beginning of the event and close two minutes after the final dunk. The player with a higher percentage of overall votes will advance to participate in the Slam Dunk contest on All-Star Saturday Night. The other three contestants in the Slam Dunk will be announced on Monday, Jan. 18.