Monthly Archives: January 2004

colleges

Shooting has GCC men on a roll

by Jason Stone

Shooters can be streaky. But nobody has to tell that to the Glendale Community College men’s basketball team.
GCC turned sizzling shooting into a seven-game winning streak that ended with a loss to Cochise College last week.
Sophomores Eric Bloom, Ryan Nelson and Andrew Ellsworth are three of the best 3-point shooters in the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference, and their exploits have helped GCC not only become the league’s top 3-point shooting team (.418), but have led the Gauchos to a big five-game lead in the ACCAC among Division 2 teams.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust about the only thing the Gauchos’ talented trio is missing is a nickname.
But that is just fine to Bloom, Nelson and Ellsworth. They way they look at it, they have more to shoot for n literally.
“I think we can win the whole conference,” said Bloom, the team’s leading scorer at 19.1 points per game. “I can’t wait to play Yavapai (College).”
While GCC’s big lead among Division 2 teams makes the Gauchos a virtual lock to wrap up the division for the second straight year, GCC is trying to do something it has never done n win the whole conference.
Yavapai, a Division 1 team, is undefeated in the conference at 12-0, which is three games better than GCC.
But the Gauchos said this week that they think it’s still possible to catch Yavapai with 10 games remaining on the schedule and a crucial game in Prescott against Yavapai tomorrow night.
For GCC to catch Yavapai, the Gauchos know it will be shooting that will have to continue to get the job done.
Coach Howard Brown has given his team the green light to fire up 3-pointers whenever they are open.
GCC has taken the third most treys in the conference, but has made 19 more than the next best team.
Like at Northern Arizona University under coach Ben Howland in the late 1990s — when the Lumberjacks featured the NCAA’s best 3-point shooting team three years in a row n GCC has had a philosophy the last two years of “recruit to shoot.”
“On a night when we’re shooting well, we’re pretty difficult to stop on the perimeter,” Brown said.
Nelson has the team’s best 3-point percentage, having made 37 of 74 (50 percent), good enough for second in the ACCAC.
Ellsworth has made 45.5 percent of his treys (35 of 77), while Bloom has thrown up 123 3-pointers and made 55 of them (44.7 percent).
Additionally, reserves Cole Stoneman and Richard Davis, former prep stars at Mountain Ridge and Independence, respectively, are around 40 percent.
Stoneman is shooting 42 percent, while Davis is at 39 percent.
“In essence, we have five guys shooting 40 percent or better from 3,” Brown said. “That’s like shooting 60 percent in 2-pointers.”
There have not been too many games in which the Gauchos have gone cold from outside.
Last week’s streak-busting loss against Cochise was one of them, however.
GCC shot only 7 of 27 from 3-point land and suffered a puzzling 103-68 loss, which ended the win streak at seven.
“It’s a rare evening when everybody is off,” Brown said. “That’s about as close to bad as we get. That’s by far the worse shooting night we’ve had.”
The Gauchos rebounded nicely three nights later in a big 62-59 road win at Eastern Arizona.
“It’s a lot tougher to defend three guys instead of one,” said Bloom, who has regained his shooting form after missing last season because of a broken wrist.
Ellsworth, who has improved his shot since last season, said confidence is the key with his game.
“Ryan has been giving me a lot of confidence,” Ellsworth said about the Gauchos’ point guard. “If I get it (an open shot), I shoot it.”
Nelson is champing at the bit to play Yavapai again this week. In the first meeting, Nelson, a transfer guard from St. Mary’s College in California, shot only 4 of 15 and went 0 of 6 from 3-point land, his worst shooting night of the year.
“If you’re playing us, you have to hope we’re off,” Nelson said. “We’re comfortable playing with each other.”

Published at glendalestar.com • Jan. 28, 2004

lacrosse

Gait stings Arizona in overtime 14-13

by Jason Stone

Say this about the Arizona Sting: When they lose, they’re close.
The Sting lost their second game of the season last week at Colorado as “Mr. Lacrosse” Gary Gait scored an overtime goal to hand Arizona a 14-13 loss at the Pepsi Center at Denver.
That makes two losses for the Sting — both to Colorado by one point.
Arizona actually led 12-9 late in the third when Cory Bomberry scored a shorthanded goal. But Gait, who was held scoreless in the teams’ first meeting in Glendale, scored the third of his five goals and Nick Carlson scored on a Shawn Cable assist to cut the deficit to 12-11.
Gewas Schindler gave Arizona a cushion goal from 30 feet out with 8:46 left, but two Colorado goals in the final four minutes sent the game to overtime.
It did not take long for Gait to score the game-winner, as Arizona (2-2) fell to third place in the Western Conference — 1½ games behind the Mammoth.
Now, Arizona plays back-to-back nights this weekend, including a return home to Glendale Arena tomorrow night.
The Sting will host San Jose (3-1) at 7:30 p.m. with a chance to move into a tie for second. Like Arizona, San Jose is a franchise that moved from the east coast during the offseason and has had success early on.
After the game, Arizona will travel to Calgary, making it the second time the Sting has played back-to-back games with the second of the two on the road.
The first time that happened, the Sting fared well, beating Anaheim in triple overtime.
Schindler hot in Sting offense
Schindler scored four goals in the loss to Colorado to lead the Sting.
Arizona’s top two goal scorers for the season — Pat Maddalena and Kasey Beirnes — were held to only three between them.
The Sting continue to lead the NLL in scoring, however, averaging 14.75 goals a game.
San Jose and Calgary, this weekend’s opponents, are the bottom two teams in the league in scoring. Each is under 11 per game.

Published at glendalestar.com • Jan. 28, 2004

lacrosse

Arizona Sting ready to battle Colorado crowd

by Jason Stone

The first time the Arizona Sting faced the Colorado Mammoth at Glendale Arena earlier this month, the Sting had to contend with “Mr. Lacrosse,” Gary Gait.
The mission was accomplished as the Sting held Gait to no points, just one game after Gait scored six in the Mammoth’s opener.
The Sting now travel to Colorado Sunday for a rematch on the road, but this time Arizona has to contend with more than just Gait.
The Sting has to fight off the rabid Denver fans, who have turned into some of the most vocal and loyal in the National Lacrosse League in just a year in town.
“It’s just a great sports town here,” Mammoth coach Jamie Batley said.
The team has averaged about 17,000 fans since moving to Colorado before last season. In fact, NLL commissioner Jim Jennings has pointed to the success of the Mammoth as the spark that led the move of Eastern U.S. teams to San Jose, Anaheim and Glendale before the season.
Sunday’s game at the Pepsi Center in Denver is actually a battle for first place in the six-team Western Conference.
Colorado is coming off a 13-12 overtime home win over Vancouver, while the Sting had a Week 3 bye after playing back-to-back games the previous week.
The Sting can certainly use the rest as they will play three games between Sunday and Jan. 31. After Colorado, the Sting will host San Jose (Jan. 30) before traveling to Calgary the following night.
Arizona’s Pat Maddalena and Kasey Beirnes continue to light up the scoreboard. Maddalena (17 points) is second on the team in goals (10), while Beirnes has the team lead in goals (11) and has 15 points total.
Arizona leads the league in goals as a team with 15.33 per game.

Published at glendalestar.com • Jan. 23, 2004

high schools

Deer Valley underclassmen playing like seniors

by Jason Stone

To many coaches, the term “senior leadership” is a redundant, but necessary ingredient to win a high school or college sports championship.
But Deer Valley boys basketball coach John Fellens does not need seniors on his team to have leadership.
After playing on varsity since their freshman seasons, the Skyhawks’ big four of Lawrence Hill, Eli Davis, Jeremy Brooks and Christian Polk are simply “experienced.”
Yes, even Jimi Hendrix would be proud of the experienced Skyhawks, who have started the season 16-2, undefeated in the Northwest Region and have a shot at winning a 5A state championship without a true senior leader.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Last year we were fighting with a lot of inexperience,” said Fellens, who took over last year as head coach after the tumultuous departure of former coach Dave Hodges, now an assistant at Glendale Community College. “Especially down the stretch of games, we were relying just on our athletic ability to carry us through games.
“We’ve been hearing how young we are for 100 years now. This year, we have no excuse.”
Hill, at 6-foot-8, one of the most dominating big men in the state, is averaging nearly 20 points a game as a junior.
Juniors Davis and Brooks are averaging 11 and nine points, respectively, while sophomore Polk has lit up teams for 17 points a game.
While there is no way to check that statistic, Fellens said it might be the highest scoring average for any sophomore in the state.
“Last year, we were young,” Polk said. “Now, our main goal is to win the region and make a good run at state.”
Deer Valley’s run in the regular season has been almost flawless.
The Skyhawks dispatched Trevor Browne, the state’s No. 1 team to start the season, by 14 points in the first region meeting last month.
Deer Valley also topped Mountain Ridge Jan. 9 in the teams’ first region meeting this year. That victory erased a four-point loss in a tournament earlier this season and ended a seven-game losing streak overall to the Mountain Lions dating over three seasons.
The Skyhawks have been doing it all with teams gunning for them and scouts from high-profile colleges watching every move each game.
“We just try to block it out and play our game,” said Davis, a 6-3 forward.
Recruiters are already staking their claims for the Skyhawk stars’ future services as UCLA, USC, Iowa and Stanford have made frequent trips to campus.
With the Deer Valley foursome playing together for a while now, it has improved team cohesion, especially when defenses try to stop Hill and force other Skyhawks to beat them.
But it was not always that way. The foursome all went to separate junior highs and middle schools and originally had planned to go to different high schools.
While the players knew each other from summer league play, none of them made a decision to attend Deer Valley together.
It just happened to be Fellens’ fortune that it worked out that they ended up on 51st Avenue.
They’ve now made the future bright just two years after the school was mired in fighting between coaches, parents and players.
“Our (junior varsity) team has only lost three games, and (the foursome) will be back,” Fellens said. “We’re excited about next year, too.”
For Deer Valley to go far at the state playoffs this year, however, the Skyhawks know they have work to do. Desert Vista exposed that problem last week in a 54-47 win when Hill was effective, but the other three had an off game.
“Sometimes you can get into a funk, so it’ll be good to get out of it,” Fellens said about his team returning to Northwest Region play this week.
And Tuesday comes the anticipated rematch against Trevor Browne.
“Losing (to Desert Vista) brought us back to reality,” Polk said. “We know we can’t let our heads get too big.”

Published at glendalestar.com • Jan. 23, 2004

Boucher sets record with scoreless streak

by Jason Stone


A relieved Brian Boucher sat down in front of the microphone, took a deep breath and let out all of the emotions from the past two weeks.

“It’s been a long time since I gave up a goal,” said Boucher, whose streak of 332 minutes and 1 second without being scored upon ended Sunday at Glendale Arena. “It was taking a toll on the guys. I’m glad it’s over.”

For a little more than five games, Boucher was more perfect than any goalie in the modern history of professional hockey.

And it could not have come at a better time for the Coyotes’ management, which is trying to build a new image and fan base with the December move to Glendale Arena.

In the first four games at the arena through Sunday, the Coyotes have sold out each one, including groups of standing-room-only tickets for each game.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABoucher’s streak was mostly accomplished on the road as the 27-year-old goalie — who is not even the team’s starter — shut out four straight teams away from Glendale Arena.

But when the Coyotes returned home against the Thrashers Sunday, it was obvious Boucher has become the team’s new fan favorite.

Throughout the night, the crowd screamed “BOOOOOOSH” anytime a puck came near the same zip code of the hot goalie.

When Boucher finally gave up a goal on a power play just minutes into the game, the crowd stood and cheered, teammates skated out to congratulate the goalie and play was stopped for a video presentation that highlighted the feat.

“Everybody on the team is excited for him,” said right wing Shane Doan, the team’s captain. “It’s something we’ll never experience again. It ranks right up there with the great accomplishments in any sport.”

It is a story no Hollywood writer could have come up with. Boucher was not even dressing out for games when the year started as he sat behind All-Star Sean Burke and up-and-coming prospect Zac Bierk.

But the 6-foot-2, 200-pound Boucher, who was once a first-round draft pick of Philadelphia in 1995, made the most of his chances.

“We’re all relieved it’s over,” joked coach Bob Francis. “We’re tired of press conferences.”

Boucher’s streak became a national story last week, giving Glendale its first glimpse of the big time nationally — something the city will get used to with NFL football, the Fiesta Bowl and the Super Bowl all coming in the future.

The streak began innocently enough on New Year’s Eve, when fighting was the highlight of the Coyotes’ 4-0 win over the Los Angeles Kings.

Francis elected to keep Boucher in goal two nights later when the Coyotes began a four-game road trip at division-rival Dallas.

The Coyotes walloped the Stars 6-0 as Boucher turned away 35 shots to extend his personal unbeaten streak to six games at that time.

Riding the hot hand, Boucher was in goal again Jan. 4 when Phoenix traveled to Carolina. Boucher tied the club record with his third straight shutout in the 3-0 win and broke Nikolai Khabibulin’s franchise mark of 204 straight scoreless minutes.

With the nation’s attention finally grabbed, Boucher was back in goal Jan. 7 in the nation’s captial.

Boucher saved 27 shots as the Coyotes beat the Washington Capitals 3-0, giving the goalie a tie of the record, which was originally set by Montreal’s Bill Burnam in the 1948-49 season.

Two nights later, NHL history was made.

On a chilly night in Minnesota, Boucher stopped 21 shots to become the first goalie in NHL’s modern era n which began in 1943-44 with the addition of the red center line n to record five straight shutouts.

The Coyotes won 2-0 and came back home with all eyes on Glendale.

Members of the national media made the trip into the Valley to cover the historic event, giving the city a chance to show off its new facility.

Boucher’s hot streak has made him one of the top goalies in the league n at least statistically. He is second in the league in goals-against average (1.58) and first in the league in save percentage (.944).

Yet, Boucher knows his days as the team’s starting goalie are numbered with Burke, the 37-year-old team leader, still hanging around the lockerroom.

“Sean’s the starting goaltender and everybody knows that,” Boucher said.

After grasping what the streak means, a reporter asked Boucher if he thinks the record will ever be broken.

Boucher paused to think, and said, “Let’s put it this way: If I can do it, anybody can do it.”

Coyotes rising in West Conference race

Lost in all of Boucher’s success has been the rise of the Coyotes as a team. Entering the streak the Coyotes were 13th in the Western Conference standings.

But the run of five wins and tie against Atlanta in the streak-buster game has vaulted the Coyotes into eighth in the conference entering the week, which would be good enough to get Phoenix into the eight-team playoffs.

“It’s been all about the team all along,” Francis said. “It’s been real easy to coach this team lately. I just have to roll the puck out there.”

Boucher was named NHL’s Defensive Player of the Week for two consecutive weeks and the Coyotes have outscored opponents 19-1 since losing to the New York Rangers in the second game at Glendale Arena in the last week in December.

Coyotes unbeaten in last nine home games

The Coyotes are attempting to extend a noteworthy streak tonight at Nashville and tomorrow at Detroit.

The team is unbeaten in its last nine road games (5-0-4-0) and has not lost away from Glendale Arena or America West Arena — the team’s previous home — since Dec. 7.

Burke still searching for his 300th victory

Boucher’s scoreless streak has stopped Burke’s run at winning his 300th game.

Burke is stuck on 298, which is fourth among active goaltenders.

Ed Belfour has the current highest among active netminders with 419. Curtis Joseph has 390 wins, while Martin Brodeur has 385.

Burke is 20th on the all-time list, trailing Mike Richter by three victories.


Published at glendalestar.com • Jan. 15, 2004