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When Susquehanna finished up the Lackawanna Trail Duals January 15 with three straight wins, including the school's first ever wrestling victory over the host Lions, it was easy for Rob Presley to define the biggest win in his three-year coaching career.
Less than a week later, the answer was not as easy.
The Sabers followed up their strong tournament effort by declaring themselves a contender for the first regular-season title in the program's 33-year history.
With a dramatic finish, the Sabers beat defending Lackawanna League Division II champion Scranton Prep on a tiebreaker.
The Cavaliers came into the match as the preseason favorite and tied for the division lead at 2-0.
The Sabers, who were wrestling their league opener, came out on top on the sixth tiebreaking criteria after the teams wrestled to a 42-42 tie.
Susquehanna won by pin in the final three bouts to erase a 42-24 deficit. The Sabers added another pin in the previous bout to be decided on the mat, giving Presley the feeling that his team was in position to overcome three forfeits.
Presley acknowledged he was not certain, but he thought the Sabers would come out on top of the tiebreaker. First, Chris Cavanaugh (275), Scott Meagley (103) and Travis Cordner (112) had to produce those pins in the final three bouts.
"I thought we were going to win, but I wasn't exactly sure until we got down to it," Presley said. "I thought that once our 171-pounder (Joe Truskolaski) pinned, I knew we could get three more wins."
Presley was not as confident when the match started Friday night.
"It was a surprise because we only had 11 and they filled their lineup," Presley said. "We gave them 18 points.
"Everything had to be perfect and it was."
Big finishes are becoming the norm for Sabers.
After falling into the consolation bracket at Lackawanna Trail, Susquehanna won three straight matches, including the 36-33 victory over the Lions, to finish ninth out of 16 teams at the event.
"Lackawanna Trail was the biggest then," Presley said. "But this match (against Scranton Prep) was extremely exciting."
The win was so exciting that it changed the outlook of Susquehanna's season. At 6-3 overall, the Sabers have to be considered a serious threat to win a division that features several teams of nearly equal strength.
"Knocking them off makes us a contender," Presley said. "We have tough matches coming up and it's going to be tough.
"It's going to be close.
"We haven't won a championship. It will be tough to get through, but this gives us a chance."
Susquehanna's win, which was produced because the Sabers had the first takedown in six bouts compared to the Cavaliers' five, leaves Montrose alone in first place.
Meagley is 7-2 with a team-high seven pins.
Cordner (10-6) and Cavanaugh (10-4) lead the team in wins.
Others with a winning record are: Truskolaski, 9-6; Nate Huyck, 7-4 at 130; and Brant Thomas, 8-7 at 125.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Mountain View knocked off first-half champion Susquehanna, 58-54, in the second-half opener of Lackawanna League Division III boys' basketball.
Forest City and Montrose also won second-half openers Friday.
Matt Pisarcik hit six 3-pointers while scoring 29 points and Dave Shollock added 23 points as Forest City downed Blue Ridge, 68-55.
Nate Pease and Azim Griffin scored 13 each for Blue Ridge.
Kyle Adriance went 9-for-11 from the line while scoring 19 points and blocking seven shots as Montrose defeated Elk Lake, 59-55.
Kirk Lunger led Elk Lake with 23 points.
In girls' basketball, Beth Kubus scored on a layup with two seconds left in overtime to lift Susquehanna over Mountain View, 44-42, in the second-half Division III opener.
Bridgette Stone led the Lady Sabers with 14 points and Kubus added 12.
Lee Faramelli scored 15 points and Whitney Williams added 12 for Mountain View.
Before the second half opened, county teams generally had trouble in a round of crossover play.
The Montrose girls, however, were able to recover from their first loss of the season to defeat Old Forge, 43-36, behind 13 points by Chelsey Parvin and 12 by Kate LaBarbera.
In professional sports, the Binghamton Senators moved into first place in the American Hockey League East Division by running their winning streak to seven games Saturday night.
The Senators defeated the St. John's Maple Leafs, 4-3, before a crowd of 14,210 at the Corel Centre in Ottawa. The game was played at the home of the parent Ottawa Senators, who are currently dormant because of the National Hockey League lockout.
Jason Spezza scored two goals and Josh Langfeld added a goal and two assists for the Senators, who took a 4-1 lead into the final two minutes.
Spezza has scored in all seven games of the winning streak. He has 16 points in that stretch and 35 in the last 20 games to push his league-leading total to 65 points in 44 games.
Teammate Brandon Bochenski leads all rookie scorers in the AHL.
Courtney Parvin, a 5-foot-10 junior forward from Montrose, is the leading scorer at Springfield College in Massachusetts.
Springfield, a Division III program that often is a threat on the national level, improved to 11-4 with three wins last week. In the last eight games, the Pride have won six and lost two overtime games.
Parvin was hitting 42.9 percent from the floor, 22.9 percent on 3-pointers and 73.8 percent from the line while averaging 12.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.5 steals.
Parvin was an all-tournament selection in the Holiday Inn-Naismith Classic when Springfield returned to action after the holidays by reaching the tournament final before losing in overtime, 82-76, to Marymount (Va.).
Parvin had 17 points in a 64-47 semifinal victory over Plattsburgh State, then had eight points and 11 rebounds in the final.
During last week's run, Parvin improved all of her shooting percentages by going 19-for-36 from the floor, 3-for-7 on 3-pointers and 6-for-6 from the line while scoring 47 points.
THE WEEK AHEAD
The Zurn-Bush Wrestling Duals at Elk Lake have been rescheduled for Saturday. Blue Ridge and Susquehanna are also among the eight teams in the field.
Blue Ridge is at Susquehanna Wednesday in wrestling. John Ciotoli, the coach at Susquehanna during the most successful previous seasons in the program's 33-year history, returns as an opposing coach for the first time.
In boys' basketball, Montrose is at Susquehanna Thursday in a game between the top two teams in the first half of Lackawanna League Division III play. The Meteors finished second to the Sabers.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
JEFF BURTON, BOBBY LABONTE Hoping For Better Year
Daytona Beach, FL – Jeff Burton and Bobby Labonte were two drivers that struggled last season. Labonte, the 2000 Winston Cup champion had just five top-fives and missed the Chase For the Championship.
Burton’s highest points finish was third in 2000.
With a season of change behind them, Burton (No. 31 Cingular Chevrolet) and Labonte (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) are ready for a season of fine-tuning.
Both drivers experienced team changes in 2004 – Burton departing Roush Racing to join Richard Childress Racing, and Labonte adjusting to a new crew chief at midseason. And both finished below where they’re accustomed in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings – Burton in 18th place and Labonte in 12th place.
So for 2005, regaining Top 10 status is a primary goal.
Burton and Labonte discussed their situations last week, during a break in the annual preseason test sessions.
“I feel good about where my team's headed,” said Burton, who joined RCR last August. “I think our pit crew will be as good as anybody on pit road. (Crew chief) Kevin (Hamlin) and I are getting along extremely well. We have very progressive engineering and shock programs. I feel good about it. But I've gone into most years feeling good about those years, too. All in all I'm confident. We do have a lot of questions that need to be answered.
“We knew coming down here that we weren’t going to be blistering fast in qualifying trim. We feel really good about how our cars are going to draft and the way they’re going to race. And we feel good about qualifying, too. We have a lot of things going on between now and when we come back. Our goal was to be 18th, 19th-fastest this week. I know that sounds stupid, but we think we can do that when we come back and be in great shape.”
For Burton, it’s been a busy off-season. Two week’s ago, he participated in a road-course test at Mexico City’s Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez; the test was in advance of the Mexico 200 on March 6, the first NASCAR Busch Series points event to be held outside the United States.
“The facility is public, so during the day when there's not an event, there are people bicycling and running,” Burton said. “It's really cool with soccer fields and basketball fields. There are thousands of people out there.”
He’s also jumped headlong into a leadership role at RCR, hoping to buoy teammates Kevin Harvick (No. 29 Goodwrench Chevrolet), who’s beginning his fifth season at RCR and new addition Dave Blaney (No. 07). His mandate is to return RCR to a perennial Top 10 finisher.
“The timing is good because we've got Dave Blaney who wants to prove a point,” Burton said. “A lot of people ask why he (Childress) hired Blaney. I think you're going to find out why Richard Childress hired Dave Blaney. You've got me, who is used to running in the front and who hasn't for the last few years. I want to prove a point. Kevin Harvick did not have the year he wanted to have last year. He wants to prove a point. Richard has a lot to prove too. I think that's going to prove really good for everybody.”
Perhaps Labonte’s primary question has been answered: He begins 2005 with a new crew chief, Steve Addington. Last year’s crew chief switch in midseason was a change that resonated with the No. 18 team for some time and stability remains a priority.
“That was the biggest thing that happened to us,” said Labonte. “If we don’t do that again, we’ll be better off and that’s what we plan on not doing. We also have to know we have to be more competitive. We have to finish races better than we have been and than we did last year to be in the top 10 in points.
“Hopefully we can improve throughout the week and go home and pull out the rest of the stops that we have left that we didn’t bring here, and then come back and be faster that we are here today.”
KAHNE Ready For Sophomore Season – It’s hard to improve on a rookie year that included Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors, but Kasey Kahne finished 13th in the final point standings, and was among the drivers who contended for a spot in the inaugural “Chase.” He also had several oh-so-close finishes that nearly became his first Cup Series win, and the first step toward that goal is the season-opening Daytona 500 on Feb. 20.
Plus, there’s research to do on the Dodge Charger, which returns to the track this season, and the desire to erase last year’s Daytona 500; Kahne finished 41st thanks to engine trouble.
“The track is great, and I think our new Dodge Charger is a lot better than what we had last year,” Kahne said. “I don’t know if it is for everybody, but that was probably our weakest point at Evernham Motorsports.”
Racing Trivia Question: How many Cup teams does Ray Evernham have?
Last Week’s Question: Which Cup team will Carl Edwards be driving for in 2005? Answer. He will be driving Roush Racing’s No. 99.
Gerald Hodges/the Racing Reporter is a syndicated NASCAR columnist. You can read additional racing stories by Hodges at www.race500.com.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. has got to be one of the favorites to win this year’s Bud Shootout.
There are two things Dale Jr. has grown accustomed to when it comes to the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona: starting towards the back and finishing towards the front.
In four Shootout starts, Earnhardt’s average starting position is 16th, and he has never taken the green flag higher than 10th. All the while he has never finished worse than sixth, with two runner-up finishes (2002 and 2004) and a win in 2003. His victory was a lot like his runner-up finish last year to Dale Jarrett in that he started dead last (19th) both times.
Drivers earn their eligibility into this season-opening race by winning a Bud Pole Award the previous year or – as in Junior’s case – being a past Shootout champion. However the starting grid is determined somewhat unconventionally – drawing numbers out of a box.
“I don’t know, I guess I’m a better qualifier when I’m pulling on a steering wheel than when I’m pulling out a number,” Earnhardt joked.
No driver has ever won from as far back as Dale Jr. did in 2003, and he became only the third driver ever to win the Shootout after starting in last place. The others were Dale Jarrett, who drove from 15th to first in 2000, and Dale Earnhardt Sr., who came from 14th in 1991 and 13th in 1993 to earn two of his record six Shootout titles.
“I’ve pretty much warmed up to the fact that whatever I pull out is probably going to have double digits on it,” Dale Jr. said. “But with only 19 or 20 cars in the race, it’s more fun than it is difficult to start in the back. I’m not saying I’d prefer it, but if I end up drawing the last position for the third year in a row, it’ll probably be good for a few laughs at the Draw Party, and then we’ll just hope the car is good enough to cut through traffic on race day.”
Sixteen of the 20 drivers eligible for the 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona have past Shootout experience, but nobody has an average finish quite like Earnhardt’s. In four starts his average finish is 2.75. Only Tony Stewart, who has two victories in five starts, comes close with an average of 5.6.
“As much as I enjoy going to Daytona, I think this time will be even better because I won’t have as much pressure on me,” he said. “I won’t have to answer the questions on if I can win the Daytona 500. I can just go there and race like hell, which is what you’re supposed to do.”
The 27th running of the Budweiser Shootout is scheduled for Sat., February 12 at 8 p.m. ET. The 2005 Daytona 500 is February 20.
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