The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas on March 30, 1998 · Page 9
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The Salina Journal from Salina, Kansas · Page 9

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Salina, Kansas
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Monday, March 30, 1998
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Page 9
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THE sAiJNA JOURNAL Sports TENNIS / B2 COLLEGE BASKETBALL / B3 BASEBALL/B4 B T THE BOTTOM LINE BOB DAVIDSON The Salina Journal Royals appear headed for AL Central cellar The cover of the 1998 Kansas City Royals media guide says it best, without saying anything. The Royals' logo is at the top with the slogan "This ... Is Hardball." The background is five weather-faded wooden boards, giving the impression of an aging fence. "Kansas City Royals 1998 Media Guide" is printed at the bottom in blue letters, giving the illusion of faded paint. The symbolism is overwhelming. The 1998 Royals belong behind a fence. A big, tall solid barrier around the entire field that prohibits and protects fans from viewing the proceedings. Once a proud and successful franchise, the Royals have faded into near oblivion. Fans don't show up to cheer, fans don't show up to boo. They don't show up, period. The Royals are a lost and wandering franchise. No owner, no direction, little money, no discernible plan (Terry Pendleton and Lee Smith?). . Kevin Appier, their best pitcher, might miss half the season. Shortstop Felix Martinez makes fans and mascots nervous any time he throws the ball. Jermaine Dye is in the minor leagues — again.. Jose Rosado, their lone all-star selection, is in the bullpen after being the team's top starter the first half of last season. The Royals qualified for postseason play seven times in the 10-year period from 1976-1985. But it has been 12 years since they have played beyond the regular season. The Royals have finished fifth in the A.L. West the past two seasons. A third fifth-place finish is just six months and 162 games away. • Expectedly, fan interest has Waned. The Royals' average attendance the last four seasons is just under 1.4 million compared to 2.23 million from 1978-1991. Simply stated, the Chiefs own Kansas City while the Royals merely pay rent. Perhaps some enterprising Salina station would consider picking up the Colorado Rockies' broadcasts and rescue us from the audio agony that is "The Royals on radio." Please. AMERICAN LEAGUE East — 1. New York, 2. Baltimore, 3. Boston, 4. Toronto, 5. Tampa Bay. ;-JThe Orioles' age coupled with the loss of reliever Randy Myers opens the door for the Yankees. If New York stumbles, it will be because of its fragile starting pitching. Baltimore gets the wild card. Central — 1. Cleveland, 2. Detroit, 3. Chicago, 4. Minnesota, 5. Kansas City. The Indians win in a walk in a weak division. Chicago could be a factor, if Frank Thomas and Albert Belle catch fire. Detroit will do well after moving over from the tougher East. . West — 1. Seattle, 2. Anaheim, 3. Texas, 4. Oakland. .. Randy Johnson is the key in Seattle. He is baseball's best pitcher^but is unhappy with his contract and wants traded. If he is, Anaheim will move in. Ken Griffey Jr. could surpass Roger Marls' home run mark, if he stays healthy. ALCS — New York over Seattle. NATIONAL LEAGUE East — 1. Atlanta, 2. New York, 3. Philadelphia, 4. Montreal, 5. Florida. The Braves' reserves would win the East. New York is improved, ,but isn't in Atlanta's league. Florida purged half of its World Series roster and goes from first to worst. Central — 1. St. Louis, 2. Houston, 3. Chicago, 4. Milwaukee, 5. Pittsburgh, 6. Cincinnati. The Cardinals will be involved in two chases this summer — an NL pennant and Mark McGwire's pursuit of Marls' home run record. Both are within reach. West — 1. Los Angeles, 2. Colorado, 3. San Diego, 4. San Francisco, 5. Arizona. Any of four teams could win the West. And Arizona won't be a bad expansion entry. The Dodgers have the most overall talent, but Colorado and San Diego are improved, The second-place finisher gets the wild card. NLCS — Braves over Dodgers. World Series — Braves over Yankees. NCAA WOMEN'S TOURNAMENT Tennessee caps perfect season Lady Vols finish season 39-0 with unprecedented third consecutive national title By CHUCK SCHOFFNER The Associated Press KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Three straight national championships, six in 12 years, and all but one player coming back next season. Tennessee is no longer a very good women's basketball program. It's an out- ' '-.IWwHH: •w^wWi^H : >"TENNESSEE 93 LA, TECH 75 right dynasty. The Lady Vols capped a perfect season by playing the nearly perfect game Sunday night, rolling past Louisiana Tech 93-75 and making history as the first women's team to win three consecutive NCAA titles. "The best team doesn't always win, but tonight, I thought the best team won a championship that they deserved," said Tennessee coach Pat Summitt, who has guided the Lady Vols to all of their titles. "I am so happy for this team. They came out in the opening minutes clearly ready to play." Did they ever. Tennessee jumped to a 13-point lead 5Va 1998 NCAA minutes into the game and simply overwhelmed Louisiana Tech with a masterful, dominating display of running, shooting, passing and rebounding. The Lady Vols' 45th straight win dating back to last season left them 39-0 — the most victories ever for a women's team in NCAA play — and added further backing Tennessee's Kellle Jolly (right) defends Louisiana Tech's Tamlcha Jackson during Sunday's title game. — Associated Press to the claim that this Tennessee team might be the best of all time. And there's not likely to be any letup next season because there's only one senior. So is it the best team ever? "You know what, next year's team will be the best ever," said Chamique Holdsclaw, the two-time first-team All-Ameri- • Holdsclaw keys Lady Vols / Page B3 can who keyed Tennessee's fast start. Louisiana Tech (31-4) also brought a rich tradition to the championship game, as well as a quick, talented starting five that looked to be good enough to challenge the Lady Vols. Not on this night, though, not on a night when Tennessee was at the top of its game. "Tennessee, whatever they needed at the time they needed (it), they got it done," Louisiana Tech coach Leon Barmore said. The Lady Vols came at Barmore's quick but overmatched team from all directions. Holdsclaw pulled up for jump shots, drove to the basket, passed off to teammates for easy buckets when she was double teamed and did pretty much what she wanted in scoring 25 points. Freshmen Tamika Catchings and Seme- ka Randall keyed the Lady Vols' smothering defense that forced the shorter Lady Techsters to take tough shots and rarely gave them a second try. Catchings scored 27 points, mostly by slashing to the basket or getting offensive rebounds. Randall flew down the court time and time again on Tennessee's devastating fast break and finished with 10 points. NCAA MEN'S FINAL FOUR After losing to Kentucky in the NCAA tournament each of the past two seasons, Utah is hoping the Third time is the charm KENTUCKY (34-4) vs. UTAH (30-3) Tlpoff: Today, 8:12 p.m. Television: CBS (Salina cable 5,12). By JIM O'CONNELL The Associated Press S AN ANTONIO — For Utah, payback time has arrived against Kentucky in the national championship game. The Wildcats' plan: ending the Utes' season with a loss for the third straight year. Utah and Kentucky have played each other in the NCAA tournament the last two seasons, with the Wildcats winning both times. The stakes have grown each year and tonight they will be as big as they get in college basketball. The championship game pits a Utah team that pulled off two of the tournament's biggest upsets against a Kentucky team that used two thrilling comebacks to advance to the title game for the third straight year, this time under new coach Tubby Smith. Two years ago, Kentucky crushed Utah 101-70 in the second round on the way to its sixth national championship. Last season, the Wildcats beat the Utes 72-59 in the regional semifinal and went on to lose in the title game to Arizona. "The main thing I remember about those two games is that we lost. That's about all you need to know," Utah senior center Michael Doleac said of the recent postseason history with Kentucky. "Sophomore year it was more like we were just watching Kentucky play instead of being in the game.... Last year it was a lot different. We could play with those guys and we did play with them until they had that spurt at the end when we fouled. "It's always a bad memory getting knocked out of the tournament. This year we are a different team and a lot better defensively and a great rebounding team." As the Utes prepared for the Wildcats, they also had to deal with some controversy from their 65-59 upset of top- ranked North Carolina on Saturday. The Tar Heels' Makhtar Ndiaye ac- Photos by The Associated Press Tonight's championship game features the Inside play of Utah's Michael Doleac (left) and Kentucky's Nazr Mohammed. Doleac See KENTUCKY, Page B3 loads the Utes In scoring and rebounding, while Mohammed Is the team's top rebounder and second-leading scorer. KENTUCKY VS. UTAH: TONIGHT'S MATCHUP Point guard Kentucky's Wayne Turner (6-2, Jr.) hit only two of eight shots against Stanford but his ability to break down opposing defenses remains a key factor for the Wildcats. If Kentucky gets behind, the Wildcats look to Turner to fuel a rally. Utah's Andre Miller (6-2, Jr.) was unstoppable against North Carolina with 16 points, 14 rebounds, and seven assists. Miller has taken on two of the nation's backcourts-Arlzona and North Carolina-arid dominated them both. In this tournament Miller has set career records for points (28), rebounds (14), and assists (13). Advantage: Utah. Shooting guard Kentucky's Jeff Sheppard (6-3, Sr.) played one of the best overall games of his career against Stanford with 27 points, six rebounds, an four assists. He continues to lead the Wildcats In scoring during the NCAA Tournament with a 16.6 average. He has scored In double figures in 16 of his last 18 games. Utah's Drew Hansen (6-5, Sr.) Is the ultimate role player. He took only one shot against North Carollna--a three-pointer and he made it. But he also had six rebounds and two assists. A Rhodes Scholar finalist, he does a lot of the little things to help the Utes win. Advantage: Kentucky. Center Kentucky's Nazr Mohammed (6-10, Jr.) scored 17 of his 18 points in the second half In the win over Stanford. He Is the Wildcats' second leading scorer (14.0 ppg) and first in rebounding (6.2 rpg) In the NCAA Tournament. He has Improved his strength and stamina significantly from a year ago. Utah's Michael Doleac (6-11, Sr.) had 16 points and five rebounds against North Carolina and gave the Tar Heels problems with his ability to come outside and shoot. He leads the Utes in both scoring (16.2 ppg), and rebounding (7.1 rpg). He Is strong and unusually quick for his size. The was a first-team AII-WAC performer. Advantage: Utah. Small forward Kentucky's Allen Edwards (6-5, Sr.) scored 11 points against Stanford and comes into the championship game shooting 62.1 percent from the field In the NCAA Tournament. He has hit 21 of his last 26 free throws and has scored In double figures In six straight games. Utah's Alex Jensen (6-7 So.) Is the team's most versatile defensive player who can guard any position on the floor. He can pass on the perimeter and bang Inside for loose balls. He had seven points and five rebounds against North Carolina. He Is second on the team in re- bounding and assists. Advantage: Kentucky. Power forward Kentucky's Scott Padgett (6-9, Jr.) struggled against Stanford, hitting only two of eight shots from the field. Still, he is capable of giving teams problems with his ability to move out on the perimeter and take the three-point shot. He has scored In double figures in 10 of his last 11 games. Utah's Hanno Mottola (6-10, So.), a second team AII-WAC player, hit only two of nine shots and scored nine points against North Carolina. Runs the floor extremely well for his size. Is averaging 10.3 points In the NCAA Tournament. Advantage: Kentucky. Bench Kentucky: Heshlmu Evans (6-6, Jr.) hit only two of seven shots against Stanford but Is still an athletic force on the floor. Center Jamaal Magllore (6-10, So.) gave Kentucky some needed inside help against Sanford and has 15 blocks In four tournament games. Guard Cameron Mills (6-3, Sr.) Is a deadly three- point shooter and can hit the big shot. Guard Saul Smith (6-2, Fr.) played 14 minutes against Stanford as a backup to Turner. Utah: Guard David Jackson (6-3, So.) has had some Impressive moments this season, like when he came off the bench to score 10 points against Arizona. Jordle McTavleh (6-0, So.) saw limited play against North Carolina but normally gets 10 minutes a game. Swing- man Trace Caton (6-4, Fr.) was shoots 44 percent from three-point range. Forward Britton Johnsen (6-9, Fr.) has come back from an Injury and Is playing 17 minutes per game In the NCAA Tournament. Advantage: Kentucky. Coaching This Is the first national championship game for both Kentucky's Tubby Smith and Utah's Rick Majerus. Majerus was an assistant to Al McGuIre when Marquette won the national title. Both get high marks as motivators and game tacticians. Smith has taken a collection of good, but not great players, and taught them how to win under pressure. Majerus has shown a knack for coming up with the right thing for each game. Advantage: Even Bottom line Utah is playing yyiih a great deal of confidence. Kentucky, however, Is a team where the total Is greater than the sum of Its parts THE WINNER: KENTUCKY78, SUGGESTIONS? CALL BOB DAVIDSON, SPORTS EDITOR, AT (78$) 823-6363 OR 1-800-827-6363 OR E-MAIL AT 8Jbdavid8on@8aliournal.com vl- • t

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