LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY – June 19, 2015 – BRENDON D. MILLER, Midwest News and Sports
The Lexington Legends brought home an exciting 6-5, extra inning victory over the Rome Braves last Friday evening at Whitaker Bank Park on Michael Hill’s walk off homer in the bottom of the 10th inning. The game was delayed over 50 minutes from the scheduled 7:10 first pitch due to heavy rain during the afternoon. The delayed first pitch came at 8:05 pm and the delay seemed to affect Legends starting pitcher Scott Blewett, the Royals 2nd round pick (56th overall) in the 2014 amateur draft, as he struggled in the 1st inning.
Rome jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first as the first five Braves reached base. Ozzie Albies, Omar Obregon, and Erison Mendez each singled, to load the bases for Rome clean-up hitter Tanner Krietemeier. Krietemeier hit what was originally ruled a Grand Slam into the Pepsi Party Deck in right field, however, the umpires correctly ruled that a fan in the party deck had reached over the fence and caught the ball and the call was corrected to a ground rule double, scoring Albies and Obregon. Mendez scored on a passed ball and Kreitemeier scored on an infield grounder by beating the throw to home.
The Legends finally scratched the score column in the third inning on a triple by Samir Duenez and a fielder’s choice grounder by Logan Davis, and then tied the game in the bottom of the fifth. Duenez and Davis both reached on walks and Corey Toups was hit bay a Caleb Beech pitch, loading the bases. Legends catcher Chad Johnson singled scoring Duenez. Beech then continued his wildness by walking Eller Hernandez, forcing in Davis to make the score 4-3 Braves. Eventual Legends Hero, Michael Hill then struck out, but a wild pitch on the third strike allowed Hill to reach first and score Toups to knot the score at 4-4.
The score remained 4-4 until the top of the eighth inning when the Braves were able to take the lead following a lead off single by Braxton Davidson. Davidson was caught in a run down during an attempt to steal second, and was awarded third base from an errant throw that ended up in the Legends dugout. Wigberto Nevarez scored Davidson on a sacrifice fly putting the Braves ahead 5-4.
The Legends immediately responded in the bottom of the eighth with a single by Chase Vallott, who moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Brandon Downes and then scored on a pinch-hit single by Humberto Arteaga, tying the score 5-5.
Hill ended the night with a lead off home run that just cleared the left field fence just inside the foul pole to set off a wild celebration at home plate by the Legends, and giving them the win the opener of the three game series.
Legends lefty Emilio Ogando, worked five and two-thirds inning of one-run baseball for the win, after starter Blewett dealt the first four and one-third. Braves pitcher Sean Furney took the loss after taking over for starter Beech in the fifth inning.
Official attendance was 4,168 with over 350 of those fans being players and their parents from the baseball/softball leagues of the Jackson Department of Parks and Recreation. The game was followed by the Ford Fireworks display, which culminated just as another rain storm moved over the ballpark. The evening was a great treat for the young men and ladies to see some professional baseball in a fun and entertaining atmosphere.
BRENDON D. MILLER – CAMEN MEDIA – MARCH 21, 2015 – LOUISVILLE
Perfection. Vince Lombardi once said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch
excellence.” Excellence is what the CATS exhibited today in the Derby City to end the University of Cincinnati’s season at 23 and 11, and advance to the Sweet Sixteen. The win moves the CATS to 36 and 0, the first time in the HISTORY of the NCAA that a team has reach such heights. Perfection for the CATS, this game was not. The CATS again, as has become the norm, started slowly, actually very slowly, hitting on only 3 of their first 15 shots, on the way to shooting only 34.5% (10 – 29) in the first half. The Bearcats came out with a great defensive effort, and the CATS matched the intensity with a great defensive stand to force a shot clock violation at 18:15 with Cincy not getting off a shot. Points were at a premium with the score being 4 to 4 at the 15:48 media timeout and 9 to 6 at the 12:34 media timeout, following a Jermaine Sanders three for Cincy. The CATS finally got off the three point “0fer” at 9:24 on a three from Aaron Harrison to tie the score at 13, which seemed to jump start the CATS on offense. The CATS led 17 to 16 at the 7:34 media timeout, but Cincy again pulled ahead 22 to 21 on a jumper by Farad Cobb to force Cal to call a timeout at 4:46. Cincy then took its last lead at 3:42 at 24 to 21 with a steal by Troy Caupin and dunk by Shaq Thomas. The CATS then turned it to finish the half on a 10 – 0 run, highlighted by, another monster slam by Willie Cauley-Stein, destined to be a SportsCenter top 10, that whipped the Big Blue Nation in the KFC Yum Center into a frenzy. Aaron Harrison capped the run with a three from the right wing at :42 to set the halftime score of 31 to 24. As the Bearcats walked off the floor you could see the disappointment in their body language, as they knew that they had played as well as they could play and executed their game plan perfectly, but were still down 7.
The CATS were led in scoring the first half by Karl-Anthony Towns with 8 points. Trey Lyles posted 6 points and 6 rebounds and Tyler Ulis had 4 points and 3 assists with no turnovers. Cincinnati was led by Coreontae DeBerry with 6 hard earned points in the paint. Cincy shot an excellent 42.3% (11- 26) in the half, but the difference was the free throw line where Kentucky shot 9 for 11, while the Bearcats did not reach the line, as the CATS only committed 4 fouls in the half. The score was tied 5 times with 7 lead changes.
The second half began with Cincinnati again bringing the intensity and cutting the CATS lead to 3 twice. The first was at 33-30 at the 16:54 mark on two Troy Caupain free throws following a questionable Technical Foul on Aaron Harrison for a confrontation with Octavious Ellis, and the second at 35-32 on a jumper by Ellis at 15:40. As has been the case all year, the CATS superior talent and numbers began to come for the fore during the last ten minutes which is winning time. Seth Davis tweeted, “Cats know their opponent will be dog tired the last 10 minutes, and especially the last 5. Fresh legs + long arms = winning time.” Not a Seth Davis fan, but true words, very true. The Line of Demarcation for the CATS to turn it on in games has been the 10:00 mark, and that is when Andrew Harrison, a non-factor in the first half, took over with a drive and layup at 9:32 to put the CATS up for the first time by double figures at 46-35, and another driving layup at 8:32 to put the CATS up 48-37 and conversion of the “and 1” made it 49-37, and the margin would not ever be below double figures again.
The lead climbed to 19 at the 1:43 mark, and the final margin was 13 at 64-51.
As the tournament plays out, it is clear that Tyler Ulis is the heartbeat of this team. I made the comment to those around me during the game that several other CATS may have better NBA prospects, but you see, now that we are in the tournament, who is playing the most minutes. Tyler played 15 minutes in the first half and 19 minutes in the second half for a total of 34 for the game, no other CAT played over 29 minutes. Tyler had 9 points, 5 assists and 3 steals, but most importantly 0 turnovers against Cincy’s steady pressure. Cal said in post game that Tyler and Andrew love playing together, and want to be in the game together, and this has made the lineup of having Tyler, Andrew, Aaron, Trey and either Karl-Anthony and/or Willie in the game together a winner. Aaron Harrison led the scoring with 13, and Trey Lyles, playing more in the power forward role, put up a double-double posting 11 and 11.
The CATS blocked 9 shots and ruled the foul line by going 20 for 28 while the Bearcats shot 9 for 14, an advantage of 11 points. Perfection that game was not, however, the record is, and it is simply awesome to see the Excellence the CATS are catching in the Pursuit of that Perfection.
As performances go, Kentucky today was really something special. Calipari attributed the Cats performance to the fact that his team was so excited to go home for Christmas that it showed on the court. Wow, if that is what the Christmas season brings, Cal may either want to move the players families into Wildcat Coal Lodge the rest of the season, or simply stop the clock and leave the tree and decorations up for the next four months. That excitement produced an 83-44 clinic that was an annihilation of one of college basketball’s other blue bloods, storied UCLA. For Brantley Gilbert fans, the CATS today didn’t lay down a Small Town Throwdown on the Bruins, but a Big Town Beatdown in the Windy City.
The Cats really seem to show up in big time, big promotion games, and take it to another level when the lights are the brightest. Today was just an example of what this team can be when they put it all together. Defensively, this team is simply, phenomenal. Just like the whip job they put on Kansas a few weeks ago in the Champions Classic in Indianapolis, the defensive numbers today were again historic. 24-0 to begin the game, 41-7 at the half, and a field goal percentage of 8.1 % in the first half against an admittedly not great UCLA team, but a good team that was capable of putting some points on the board. As what has now become the norm, it was difficult for UCLA to get a good shot, and when they did, it was contested, or ended up being one of 13 blocks. The Cats defense is going be a constant from game to game, as UCLA Coach Steve Alford put it, ““I think this is a team (Kentucky) that if they were to shoot only 20% and only score 50 points, they will still hold you to 35 points and beat you. They are just that good.”
When the Cats are clicking offensively, this is the result. Shooting 50% from the field and 46.2% from 3Land means any opponent is in trouble. UCLA tried to pack in a zone to start the game, but after Aaron Harrison hit a three just 15 seconds into the game and a second three minutes later it was 16-0 at the first timeout. Devin Booker then went on an 8-0 run by himself with two threes and a dunk in less than a minute, nearly half of his team high 19, and the score was 24-0, at the 12:40 mark. The result was decided. Alford summed it up, “In my 24 years of coaching, this is the best team I’ve coached against. This is a really, really, really good team. If they continue to play at that level defensively, they have a chance to run this thing out.”
The challenge will be how Cal is able to keep this team “excited” for the balance of the season after next week’s showdown with Louisville. The average margin of victory is now 29.1 points a game. Devin Booker was asked the teams mentality when it dominates a team and get a lead on them like today, to which he stated the “We have to keep playing against ourselves. Coach always stresses to us we’re not playing against the other team; we’re playing against ourselves.” If Cal can continue to keep this group “excited” by “playing against themselves”, Cats fans will be the ones excited in April.
INDIANAPOLIS – The Wildcats lit up the Champions Classic and a bitterly cold 15 degree night on the plains of Indiana by sending the fifth-ranked Kansas Jayhawks to a 72 to 40, 32 point demolition, the fourth-worst loss in the program’s storied history. For clarity, this is University of Kansas, the second most winningest program in college basketball history, not Fort Valley State. This was John Calipari’s milestone 600th win, and it will be remembered by the Big Blue Nation as an epic performance and bell weather that this edition of the Cats can be truly and historically special. Calipari entered the post-game press conference and spontaneously began, “No, we’re not that good”, before taking his seat. Thing is, this performance may have been the best defensive display seen by the BBN, in many a moon, if not ever.
No one in Banker’s Life Field House was left questioning the feasibility of Cal’s platoon system on this night as the continuous rotation of long, tall and talented Wildcats constantly turned up the defensive pressure on the Jayhawks. “We kind of bum-rushed them a little bit”, Calipari said. “And every time they looked, there were more tanks coming over the hill.” Tanks? More like bulldozers.
The defensive numbers tell the dominant story. 11 blocks and numerous other altered shots around the rim led by Karl-Anthony Towns and Marcus Lee with four each. This is tempered by at least four more blocks that were taken away by questionable foul calls. When the Jayhawks did get a shot up at the rim, very few were converted. Kansas shot 8 for 33 (24.2%) in the first and 3 for 23 (13.0%) in the second half for a total of 11 for 56 (19.6%) for the game. That is THREE field goals in the second half. THREE! Inclusive of going 0 for 7 from three point land. As great as those numbers are, the most telling stat of the night was Kansas going 3 for 21 (14.2%) from inside three feet. That is 14.2% on layups and shots at the rim, by major college, 5 star talents. No shot went uncontested by the Cats. Kansas had to earn 15 of its 40 points (37.5%) from the foul line due on those contested shots. The pressure was withering, and it was evident in the Kansas players. Those of us in the arena could see and feel the intimidation. Interestingly enough, Cal noted that he did intend to play some zone in the game, but “when I saw the way we defended, I said Nope, not playing any zone today.” No need.
The result could have been so much more lop sided if the Cats would have played better offensively. A major detractor of the platoon system is that it does not allow the players to get in an offensive flow during the game and affects consistent shooting. Kentucky, by no means, played their best offensive game, shooting 25 for 58 (43.1%) and only 6 for 18 (33.3%) from three point land, with most of those 12 missed threes in the first half being open looks. A few of those go down and the game was done by the 4:00 time out of the first half. Despite the shooting numbers, the offensive effort was impressive in the balance of the contribution of each of the players. All 10 of the platooners played between 17 and 21 minutes, each scored in both the first and second half, each scored between 11 and four points, led by Dakari Johnson’s 11, and each had at least 1 rebound, let by Willie Cauley-Stein’s 10. That is Balance.
Are Cal’s Cats as good as they looked on Tuesday Night? The hype this is now going to escalate to astronomic levels. The talk of an undefeated season will only mushroom and there is now evidence that it is entirely possible. The Cats will likely lose a game, or maybe two, somewhere during the grueling and pressure packed season to come. However, if they put on such a dominant defensive display and balanced offensive performance as they did here Tuesday night, they will not lose their last game of the season on April 6th, just down the street at Lucas Oil Stadium, back here in the plains of Indiana.
Arlington, Texas – April 5, 2014 – Brendon D. Miller, East Kentucky Media –
Kentucky overcame Wisconsin 74 to 73 in the second national semi-final on Saturday night before a crowd of 79,444, the largest crowd ever to see a Division 1 college basketball game, in an electric AT&T Stadium. In its fourth “instant classic” in a row these young “tweaked” Wildcats did what they hadn’t done at any point during this season prior to the SEC tournament, but has now become common place, be clutch when it is time to be clutch on the grandest of stages. “Aaron’s been doing that all tournament” said Wisconsin’s Sam Decker afterward, “He’s got that clutch gene. And props to him for hitting that shot. . . He came through big for his team and put them ahead.”
Aaron Harrison is not alone. The “Clutch Gene” is present in each of these young CATS and they have now developed that gene and have come of age and are now young men who have nerves of steel and have become Stone Cold Killers in a strictly basketball sense. Succeed and Proceed is the rule of this group and they are doing things that we have not seen in Big Blue Nation before. Of Kentucky’s 74 points, 66 were scored by freshmen, the most in a Final Four game since the Fab Five in 1992 who had 61. The Fab Five were only that – five, these CATS played seven freshmen in an eight man rotation on Saturday night, with all seven playing double digit minutes. For teenagers, that is CLUTCH.
The usual suspects were there with the five starters. Mr. Big Shot, Aaron Harrison with is third game winning dagger from deep to get the CATS into Monday night’s Championship Game will be the highlight we all will remember, but his 36 turnover free minutes were huge. Julius Randle going for 16 points and five rebounds in 27 minutes and two huge free throws with 3:48 left, all after rolling his ankle earlier in the game. James Young putting up 17 points and five rebounds, and after being turnover prone during the season, committing only one turnover in 37 minutes. Dakari Johnson posting 10 p0ints and 7 rebounds in 18 minutes while helping hold Frank Kaminsky to eight points. Andrew Harrison with a steady nine points, four assists, and only two turnovers, with the biggest assist getting his brother the ball for the game winner. All CLUTCH.
The CATS’ path to Monday’s National Final has been laid by their bench. Without Willie Cauley- Stein, the performances of Marcus Lee and Dominque Hawkins during this run have been outstanding. Lee followed up his breakout performance in the Midwest Regional Final with two dunks in 10 minutes while also helping defensively on Kaminsky. Hawkins, the only Kentucky native playing significant minutes, followed up this defensive displays in regional games with zero turnovers in 11 minutes. For two guys who got limited minutes throughout the year, simply CLUTCH.
The one non-freshman has taken time to develop his gene, but it has arrived. Alex Poythress played 29 crucial minutes highlighted by two sequences in the final 5:00. With Wisconsin ahead 67 – 65 Poythress was called for goal tending after menacingly swatting away a Frank Kaminsky shot in the lane, putting the CATS down 69–65. The next possession, Poythress drove the lane with 4:45 and finished with an aggressive, emphatic two-handed slam that sent the crowd into a frenzy and brought momentum back to the CATS side. Then with 2:34 left, and the score tied at 69 and Wisconsin in possession, Ben Brust fumbled the ball in the lane and Poythress saved the ball back in to Randle while falling out of bounds. Poythress then ran the floor and was able to make a difficult, athletic layup to put the CATS up 71-69. Calipari said in his Thursday Press conference that if the CATS were to do something special this weekend, it would be with Poythress making a difference. Stepping up when you get called out, CLUTCH.
After the game this reporter shook Andrew Harrison, Sr.’s hand, the man who, along with Ms. Marian Harrison, is the source of the clutch gene for Aaron and Andrew, and he held up his index finger and said “One More”. Dad is clutch too. Lets hope Monday Night the “Clutch Gene” present in these CATS, will bring the Bluegrass State “One More” which will be National Championship number Nine.