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When it came time for the Susquehanna Sabers and Montrose Lady Meteors basketball teams to pin down first-half Lackawanna League Division III championships, neither team left any room for doubt.
Susquehanna opened up leads of nine points after one quarter and 21 at halftime before coasting home with a 61-46 victory over Elk Lake to clinch the boys' championship.
Montrose racked up an ever bigger final margin when it handled Lackawanna Trail, 65-41, in a girls' game between teams that made it to the final night of the half with perfect league records.
Susquehanna continued its recovery from a winless 2002-2003 season and a 5-21 record last season. The Sabers have won five straight league games and have doubled last season's total for league wins by going 6-1 in the half to improve to 8-6 overall.
Kevin Lee and Sean Wolf led the championship effort by scoring 14 points each.
The Sabers outscored the Warriors, 14-2, in the second quarter to take a 34-13 lead.
Montrose remained unbeaten with its 13th straight win overall.
Christine Brown scored all 12 of her points in the first half, including 10 in the first quarter, to get the Lady Meteors started.
Kate LaBarbera then scored 16 of her game-high 20 points in the third quarter as Montrose blew out to a 29-point lead.
Chelsey Parvin had 10 rebounds and five steals.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Despite being outshot, 36-20, at the Broome County Arena Friday night, the Binghamton Senators remained one of the hottest teams in the American Hockey League while the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins continued their recent struggles.
Jesse Fibiger's goal at 1:35 of overtime spoiled a Wilkes-Barre/Scranton comeback and gave the second-place Senators a 4-3 victory in the East Division matchup.
The loss was a season-high fifth straight for the Penguins.
Ramzi Abid gave the Penguins an early lead, but AHL scoring leader Jason Spezza tied it before the first period was over.
Brandon Bochenski and Brian McGrattan gave the Senators a 3-1 lead in the third period.
Rob Scuderi and Ramzi Abid, who scored with less than two seconds left, scored to force overtime.
Spezza, Bochenski and Denis Hamel had two points each for Binghamton. Abid and Lupaschuk had two for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.
In professional baseball, both regional minor-league teams made management moves this week.
The New York Mets organization promoted its successful Capital City staff to take over the Binghamton Mets.
Jack Lind will serve as manager while Blaine Beatty will be pitching coach and Dave Hollins will be hitting coach. That combination put Capital City 42 games above .500 and into the South Atlantic League championship series.
Lind has a 546-506 record and three championships as a minor-league manager. He won Eastern League titles in 1984 and 1985 for the Vermont Reds.
The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons made Jeremy Ruby, a Valley View graduate and the son of long-time professional coach Gary Ruby, their new general manager.
In boys' basketball, Montrose finished second in the first-half standings by beating Lackawanna Trail, 57-54, in the final game behind Kyle Adriance's 27 points.
Mountain View tied Lackawanna Trail for third at 4-3. Blue Ridge went 3-4.
In girls' basketball, Montrose's perfect record was ruined Friday night in non-league play against North Pocono. The Lady Trojans, who are ranked among the best Class AAA teams in the state, won the meeting of unbeatens, 57-35.
Parvin's seven points were the most any Lady Meteor could manage.
Elk Lake was 3-3 with one make-up game left in the half, giving the Lady Warriors a chance to join Montrose and Lackawanna Trail as the only teams with winning marks for the half.
Katherine Lucenti scored 12 points to help Elk Lake defeat Susquehanna, 38-28.
Susquehanna, Forest City and Blue Ridge finished the half at 3-4. Mountain View was 2-4 with a game left.
In wrestling, Montrose opened the league season with two matches Thursday night and picked up a pair of wins to move to the top of the Lackawanna League Division II standings.
Jeff Snyder had first-period pins in both matches as the Meteors downed Bishop O'Hara, 54-6, and Valley View, 45-29.
Dominick Lucenti also had a first-period pin against Bishop O'Hara. Anthony Sellitto and Adam Poodiak had the other first-period pins and Bud Roszel added a pin against Valley View.
Nicole Zapolski, a senior women's basketball player from Mountain View, was the Keystone College Female Athlete of the Month for the second straight month when she took December honors.
Zapolski averaged 15.3 points and 12 rebounds while Keystone went 4-2 in December. She posted double figures in both points and rebounds in five of six games and was named to the All-Tournament team at the Hilton-Keystone Holiday Classic.
THE WEEK AHEAD
It should not take long to get an idea how the second-half Lackawanna League Division III boys' basketball race will develop.
Mountain View, which recovered from losing its first two games to finish tied for third in the first half, gets a shot at the top two teams to start the half. The Eagles are home against Susquehanna Friday then at Montrose January 25.
After facing Mountain View, Susquehanna is home January 25 against Blue Ridge, the only team it lost to in the first half.
In girls' basketball, Montrose opens the half at home Thursday against Elk Lake, which could be its top threat before the season finale against Lackawanna Trail.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
NASCAR Announces Starting Lineup Changes
Daytona Beach, FL – NASCAR officially announced long-expected changes to its qualifying procedures that guarantee the top 35 teams in the Nextel Cup car owners' points standings a starting spot in 2005 Cup races.
The changes will also be in effect for the Busch and Truck series, with the top-30 teams in those standings guaranteed starting spots.
The new procedures replace provisionals, which were awarded to teams that failed to make the cutoff based on qualifying speeds for individual races.
For the first five Cup races of 2005, the top 35 teams in the final 2004 car owners' standings will be assured a starting spot provided they file an entry for each race by NASCAR's deadline and make a qualifying attempt.
That leaves seven spots per race available to teams not in that top 35. Those spots would be awarded to the cars that post the fastest speeds among those not in the top 35.
The 43rd starting spot would go a past Cup champion whose current team is not in the top 35 and who did not earn a starting spot based on qualifying speed. If no past champion needs the 43rd spot, it goes the next team in line based on qualifying speed.
Guaranteeing starting spots for the top teams, ones committed to run the full 36-race schedule, protects them from being bumped from a 43-car field by teams not running every week who could show up, put a car in special qualifying trim and make a race without regard for how they'd run in the event itself.
"They certainly complement each other," NASCAR president Mike Helton said of the changes. "It certainly makes the top 35 more confident with the impound. If the rest of the world felt like they could come in an go extremes for qualifying and accomplish what they're out to do, it would encourage that to happen.
NASCAR CEO Mike Helton and Michael Waltrip.
"If you analyze it closely, a new team would be racing actually against eight other new teams," Helton said. "So your chances are actually better than the old way. That's one of the things we were anxious not to do was to create a barrier.
"And after the first five races, it evolves week to week. So it also encourages the competition side of it to be up in that area to where you don't have to worry about it."
NASCAR Sets Sights On New Engine – A new engine and power plant is on the horizon for the Nextel Cup Series. One that will be more generic than the present three different engines.
NASCAR has initiated discussions with the three manufacturers currently participating in its Nextel Cup Series – Ford, General Motors and Dodge – regarding the design and introduction of new engines, perhaps as early as the 2007 season.
"We’re looking ahead to the future," Cup Series Director John Darby said. "We don’t necessarily have an engine problem now. We’re not doing this to fix something.
"We’re doing this as a cooperative effort between NASCAR and the manufacturers to get everyone lined up on the same page."
What NASCAR is saying is that they want to have one basic engine design with interchangeable parts for all three types of cars.
But even more, it might be to accommodate Toyota, which has said they plan to have a Cup entry as early as 2007. Toyota doesn’t have a Cup engine at the present, so by introducing a brand new engine for everyone, it would level the playing field.
While the types of cars used in NASCAR have changed significantly since its inception in 1949, the engines used in its premiere series are still based on the 358-cubic inch "small block" V-8 design first produced in the 1950s.
The small block V-8 design has become the cornerstone of NASCAR’s methods to maintain parity among manufacturers and limit the use of modern technology, which is more difficult to police.
Darby, as well as manufacturer officials, say the time is right to begin looking at a new direction in regards to engine development.
"What we’re looking for is a spot out in here in the future where we can, with the help and suggestions from the manufacturers, take all the basic design specifications and give all of the manufacturers the ability to … design a new engine with the same specs," he said.
The bottom line of all this is, that NASCAR has a timetable, and it’s my bet that there will have one engine and one body design—with all interchangeable parts–before too many years from now.
Will it make for good racing? Competitive yes – but good racing – no.
DALE JARRETT Talks About Rusty And Terry – Both Rusty Wallace and Terry Labonte will hang up their driving helmets after the 2005 season. Rusty has said he might continue to run a couple Busch or truck races, while Terry will only run a partial 2005 schedule.
"Both of those guys have had great careers,” said Jarrett. “They've meant a lot to this sport. The only thing aside from losing two good friends out here that are my age and we have things in common to talk about would be the questions that come at me now about when I'm gonna retire because we're basically the same age. My answer to that is I started later than they did, so I'm gonna try to drive a little longer than what they are, but I wish them both the best in their last year.
“When you see that happening to two good guys, and obviously Terry is cutting back too. Those people have meant a lot to this sport and you'd like to see them have a lot of success here to go out on a good note."
Racing Trivia Question: Which Cup team will Carl Edwards be driving for in 2005?
Last Week’s Question: What city does Ryan Newman’s consider his hometown? Answer. South Bend, Indiana.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. You can read additional racing stories by Hodges at www.race500.com.
Blue Ridge used a talented collection of athletes to produce Susquehanna County's first Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association girls' state championship team.
Brooke Hinkley, Heather Franks, Brittany Welch, Devin Glezen and Brittany Pavelski were all Susquehanna County Transcript Athletes of the Month at some point in their athletic careers.
No player in softball, however, has the opportunity to be as dominant as a pitcher and Blue Ridge benefited from having one of the best in the state.
Pavelski's efforts on the mound led the way to the state championship and made her the Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Year for the second time in her three-year high school career.
After leading the Lady Raiders to a second-place finish in the state as a freshman in 2002, Pavelski went one inning further in 2004. Her six shutout innings were not enough in a 1-0 loss two years earlier, but Pavelski threw a three-hit shutout against Sto-Rox in a 2-0 victory in the 2004 Class A final.
Pavelski threw a one-hitter in the state quarterfinals. She capped a season in which she allowed about one run every two games by striking out seven. She consistently avoided walks by trusting a talented defense and throwing strikes.
Blue Ridge returned half of the lineup from its previous trip to the state final and was intent on making up for a playoff upset loss in 2003.
"Deep down inside, everyone kind of knew it was our year," Pavelski said. "We had the group of five seniors from when we took second place, and me and a couple of others who played as freshmen.
"We knew all along. We just had to keep working at it."
Blue Ridge went 25-2 overall, including a perfect record in Lackawanna League action and the District 2 and state playoffs.
Now that the senior class from the championship team moved on, Pavelski is preparing to do her best to keep Blue Ridge on top.
"Right now, I'm working out three times a week and pitching two times a week," Pavelski said. "I'm just getting back into hitting my location. I'll get that down first then starting working on my curveball.
"Then, I'll work on my riser and drop more."
Pavelski, a senior, plans to continue her softball career on the NCAA Division III level. She plans to major in physical or elementary education, most likely at Marywood or Wilkes.
Brittany, the daughter of Bob and Susan Pavelski of Jackson, is coached by her father at Blue Ridge and in the summer with the Firestyx.
For Kurt Busch, the difference between competing for a Budweiser Shootout purse of more than $1 million and watching the race on his own television was merely two-thousandths of a second. Two-thousandths of a second slower on his Bud Pole Qualifying run last November at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and the 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona would have been without the series champion.
But on a weekend in which he claimed the inaugural Chase for the Nextel Cup title, Busch also earned his first Bud Pole Award of the season by beating teammate Greg Biffle’s qualifying time by the smallest of margins. As a result, he will be one of 20 drivers eligible to compete in the 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, a “non-points” race that consists of all Bud Pole Award winners from the previous season as well as former Shootout champions.
"I had been joking in the pre-qualifying interview (at Homestead) that we needed a pole to get into the Shootout,” Busch said. "Miami ended up being a storybook ending for us, and to start that last race weekend off by picking up a Bud Pole Award and an invite to the Budweiser Shootout made it even sweeter."
For a driver known for his ability to string together strong finishes when points count the most, he’ll now be thrown into an event where points mean nothing. The Shootout is a race of 70 green-flag laps totaling 175 miles. It is divided into two segments. The first segment will be 20 laps, followed by a 10-minute intermission. The second segment will be 50 laps and must end in a green-white-checkered finish.
This will be Busch’s third time competing in the Budweiser Shootout. His first two attempts resulted in finishes of 14th (2002) and 11th (in 2003). But Busch has proven he can run with the best in restrictor-plate races. He recorded a pair of top-five finishes in the four plate races last season, including a fourth-place finish in the Pepsi 400 at Daytona. In 2003, he finished runner-up in the rain-shortened Daytona 500 to Michael Waltrip.
“I’m really proud of the restrictor-plate effort by the Roush Racing organization,” Busch said. “It seemed at one time that we were the little boy in town with not being able to put the power down and hang with a lot of those guys, but last year we really had set-ups that would run. I’m looking forward to getting to Daytona.”
The 27th Budweiser Shootout is scheduled for Saturday, February 12 at 8 p.m. ET. The 2005 Daytona 500 will be held one week later, February 20.
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