Saturday, December 25, 2010

The best (and only) Christmas present I can give each of you

And, no, it isn't that I'm ceasing and desisting from this blog. Nope, I'm finally back with another update, nearly two weeks since I last hit you up with news of my favorite hoops teams in the world. I've been dealing with a kidney stone -- and will be for at least a few more days -- and as many people who have experienced this type of ailment have told me, it ain't been fun.

Enough about me. Merry Christmas to everyone out there and thanks for checking back in. I've got a lot to get to, so the game updates likely won't be as long as normal, but I wanted to get everyone caught up as we head toward the New Year.

Let's start with Olivet Nazarene, ranked 25th in the NAIA women's poll and coming off perhaps its most impressive pair of victories of the season. Out in Hawaii for the Hoop N Surf Classic, the Tigers dismanted both the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology (117-88) and Morningside College (113-67). Morningside is ranked No. 3 in the NAIA Division II poll and has been good for years; coach Jamie Sale has led the Mustangs to three national championships, including consecutive ones in 2004-05 and then again in 2009.

Wow, right? Huge victory for coach Doug Porter and ONU. As most of you know, the Tigers had been struggling somewhat this season from behind the 3-point line, but Lexie Heinold finally might have broken that drought for good with her performance against Morningside. The 5-foot-7 junior from Washington, Ill., finished 9-of-13 on 3s in that one and finished with 27 points, while Liz Bart (3-for-4), Miranda Geever (3-for-6), Stephanie Denius (3-for-10) and Jaimie Buckman (3-for-11) each made at least three treys.

Overall, ONU was 24-for-58 beyond the arc, its best effort of the season.

Hopefully, the pair of Ws in the islands helped take the sting off one of the Tigers' few losses lately. They lost to Wisconsin-Parkside 102-79 just before heading to Hawaii, so it was nice to see them bounce back in fine fashion. Headed into the break, ONU is 11-4, with five victories in its past six games.

Next up on the schedule is a home matchup with Lindenwood University-Belleville on Jan. 8, with game time set for 3 p.m. EST.

Also in college women's action, the NCAA Division II Glenville State Pioneers continued to roll for coach Bunky Harkleroad, winning their final game before the Holiday Break 130-95 over West Virginia State on Dec. 18 in the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference. Glenville State also was solid on 3s, going 22-for-44 against the Yellow Jackets (3-8, 1-4 WVIAC).

Autumn Davis made seven of those and finished with 21 points, and conference player of the week Tenisha Wilson led the way with 27 points, six rebounds, three assists (no turnovers) and five steals.

The Pioneers (8-3, 6-0) remains one of three unbeaten teams in the conference and have at least two more victories than either of the others. They are averaging 116.6 points during their five-game winning streak, and they are off until traveling to WVIAC foe Shepherd on Jan. 8. Tip is scheduled for 6 p.m. EST.

The Galesburg (Ill.) HS Silver Streaks continue to, well, streak as they head into a Christmas tournament next week in Charleston, Ill., with three of the four games played at Eastern Illinois University. Galesburg won three more games during my little hiatus, capped by Jessica Howard's school-record performance in an 83-61 road victory over Washington on Dec. 21.

The senior guard made 11 3-pointers (yes, you read that correctly) and scored 37 points. Her long-range effort came up one short of tying the state record, but still led to the home crowd at Washington cheering for her when she made her final shot, as coach Evan Massey pointed out on his blog.

The Streaks traveled to Chicago to upset Maine South 67-60 on Dec. 18 and added a Western Big 6 Conference victory over Alleman by the score of 68-38 on Dec. 16. That leaves Galesburg at 10-3 heading into the tournament this coming week, which begins Monday at noon EST against Effingham. There will be four games in three days, including one at 9:30 a.m. EST on Tuesday. Ouch.

The boys' team at Eishenhower HS in Blue Island, Ill., recently completed a stretch of six games in seven days, which is unheard of even for an NBA team. And the Cardinals, coached by first-year System user Mike Curta, have another Holiday tournament coming up this week. Amazing.

Eisenhower won four of the six games to improve its record to 7-7, and I can tell from our e-mail exchanges that Coach Curta feels his team is starting to turn the corner with this new style. Here is a breakdown, in chronological order, of how his week progressed, along with any highlights gleamed from his notes:

Friday, Dec. 17 - An 89-65 victory over conference opponent Oak Forest. First time his team was far enough ahead that Coach Curta felt he had to "call off the dogs" a bit down the stretch.

Saturday, Dec. 18 - A 102-86 victory over Chicago Perspectives, in a jamboree type setting at Moraine Valley Community College. Eisenhower led 58-39 at the half in what Coach Curta called its best two quarters of play this season.

Monday, Dec. 19 - An 81-73 loss to Aurora Central Catholic in the Waubonsie Valley HS tournament. The Cardinals finished with only 79 shots, the first time this season they have failed to reach The Formula goal of 80.

Tuesday, Dec. 21 - A 94-93 victory over Glenbard North in the Waubonsie Valley HS tournament. Junior Dustan Lewis made two free throws with 4 seconds left to secure the victory for Eisenhower.

Wednesday, Dec. 22 - A 96-77 loss to the host school in the Waubonsie Valley HS tournament. The Cardinals forced 15 turnovers in the first quarter but struggled shooting, and Coach Curta believes this allowed the overall effort to deflate a bit.

Thursday, Dec. 23 - A 106-65 victory over Immaculate Conception (no, not this). With the game a bit out of hand, Coach Curta allowed a special-needs player to stay in for the entire fourth quarter. Here's his report on that: "He must have taken 12-15 shots as our kids do a great job of screening and trying to get him a basket when he is in the game. He ended up with four points and again it was like we won the lottery with all of the cheering for him. Really neat that our kids look to do that for him. I know that it will make his Christmas that much nicer being able to share his experience with his family."

On top of that, as Coach Curta was leaving the gym, a random fan stopped him to say: "You guys sure do give me my $4 worth!" What a way to cap the tournament.

Eisenhower plays in its second Christmas tournament beginning Tuesday, with another game the following day.

At Monroe (Mich.) HS, the boys' team coached by Dave Arnold completed its pre-Christmas schedule with a 2-1 record, with an 84-76 victory over Fordson and a 72-52 loss to Roosevelt. Coach Arnold and his team are back in action Jan. 4 at Rogers, and I hope they got in some good work over the break.

Coach Glen Irvin and the girls' team at Wabasha-Kellogg HS in Minnesota lost a couple of games in their final week before the Holiday. Caledonia beat the Falcons 77-45 and Dover Eyota won 90-73; however, in the second loss, W-K met four of the give goals, with 100 shots attempted, 47 3-pointers attempted, 40 percent offensive rebounding totals and 22 more shots than Dover Eyota.

Best of luck to Coach Irvin and his team when they get back at it.

The women's team at Jackson (Mich.) Community College won its fourth consecutive game, beating Lakeland (Ohio) Community College 89-86 on Dec. 21. DaJana’e Wilson hit a pair of free throws with 50 seconds to play to give the the Jets (5-7) the lead for good, despite making only 28 of 118 shots from the field, including 11-for-55 on 3-pointers. They had scored at least 100 points in five games in a row, but I'm sure coach Andy Hoaglin will take the W.

In the game before that one, Jackson CC beat Edison State 106-100, avenging that loss from a couple of weeks prior that proved to be the highest-scoring game in the history of Division II of the National Junior College Athletic Association. Remember that one? It was 133-131 in double overtime.

he Jets are off until Jan. 5, when they open conference play at Muskegon Community College.

Finally, the girls' team at North Shore HS in Glen Head, N.Y., went into its break on a winning note, winning its first conference game 60-39 on the road at Manhasset. The best I can tell, the Vikings travel to West Hempstead on Jan. 4 for their next game. I'll keep you up to date.

Whew, that should about cover all I can think I owed you. Merry Christmas to everyone, and please check back soon for an update.

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