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Scranton – Susquehanna County's truly special basketball teams have done more than just win league games while pursuing division titles.
The best have consistently gone into the Scranton or Binghamton areas and taken out city schools, which are generally assumed to be too much for a team from a small-school league.
After finishing the 2005 portion of the season undefeated, Mountain View began 2006 with an impressive 76-70 win over Bishop Hannan of Scranton.
The Eagles opened the New Year by scoring the first 13 points. Their defensive intensity overwhelmed the Golden Lancers, who won one state title and played for two others in the Gerry McNamara era that ended in 2002.
"That was the difference in the game," Mountain View coach Pat Heaton said. "We've been outscoring our opponents in the first four minutes of the game."
Mountain View forced turnovers on six of Bishop Hannan's first seven possessions. Until Nico Fricchione hit two free throws with 3:19 left in the corner, the Lancers were 0-for-6 from the floor with six turnovers.
Chris White hit a 3-pointer, then blocked a shot to complete the opening surge.
Robbie Johnson had five points, two offensive rebounds and two assists in the outburst.
Johnson had scored his previous season-high of 25 in another impressive win in Lackawanna County, 65-54, at Abington Heights. He topped that by going 10-for-14 from the floor and 5-for-6 from the line while scoring 27 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing out five assists.
White finished with 15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks. The 6-foot-8 forward was 3-for-4 on 3-pointers.
Tim Bennett played less than five minutes of the first half because of foul trouble and eventually fouled out. He scored seven points in the first five minutes of the second half and finished with 10.
Chad Lasher had nine points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals to lead a bench effort that allowed the Eagles to overcome other foul trouble.
"We pride ourselves on going 12 deep," Heaton said. "We've got guys who didn't even get in who can get the job done."
Bishop Hannan got as close as six in the first quarter and four twice early in the second quarter, but Mountain View generally kept a comfortable lead.
Johnson had the last eight points of a 13-2 run to a 34-19 lead midway through the second quarter. The lead peaked at 57-41 with 1:03 left in the third.
"By far, this was the best team we've played against," Heaton said. "We were prepared. (The players) knew it was the best team we've faced.
"We're confident that we can play with just about anybody."
As the Lackawanna League's last team in any division to preserve an unbeaten overall record, the Eagles are proving that point.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Elk Lake reached the finals of its own Zurn-Bush Wrestling Tournament, which was in its second season in a dual-meet format.
The Warriors defeated Blue Ridge, Williamson, Nanticoke and Perkiomen Valley to finish 4-0 and win their pool. They then fell to Lackawanna Trail, 48-21, in the championship match.
John Brooks, who wrestled at 119 and 125 pounds, and Rich Harvey, who competed at 145 and 152, each went 5-0 on the day for Elk Lake.
Blue Ridge defeated Susquehanna in the match to determine seventh and eighth place in the 10-team event. Both teams went 1-3 in the pool competition to start the tournament.
Elk Lake improved to 2-0 in the Lackawanna League earlier in the week with a 54-14 victory over Mountain View. Blue Ridge and Montrose also improved to 2-0 in the league.
In boys' basketball, Mountain View easily remained unbeaten with a 66-36 romp over Forest City in the rematch of a competitive game in the Forest City Rotary Tournament final just a week earlier.
In girls' basketball, Amanda Lass scored 18 of her 20 points in the first half when Montrose rolled over Blue Ridge, 58-20.
Lass also had 10 rebounds and five blocked shots. She helped the Lady Meteors to leads of 14-3 after one quarter, 28-10 at halftime and 47-14 after three quarters.
Chelsey Parvin added 12 points and five assists.
In professional football, the New York Giants and Montrose graduate Chris Snee had their season come to an end with a 23-0 loss to the Carolina Panthers Sunday in the National Football Conference playoffs.
The game was played on Snee's 24th birthday. Snee started all 16 regular-season games for the Giants this season and made his National Football League playoff debut in Sunday's game.
Ethan Kilmer's football career nearly ended after one season when the walk-on from Wyalusing walked away from 2004 satisfied with having had a chance to contribute heavily on special teams.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno had different ideas, however, and convinced Kilmer, who has family in Oakland, to come back for one more season on scholarship.
Kilmer ended up having the best offensive game of his career in the biggest setting when he caught six passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in Penn State's 26-23 triple overtime victory over Florida State in the Orange Bowl. Kilmer's previous highs had been two catches and 64 yards.
Kilmer caught a 24-yard touchdown pass with six seconds left in the half, then caught another pass to set up the only Penn State touchdown of the three overtime sessions.
"It's amazing, you know what I mean?" Kilmer told reporters after the game, according to the Orange Bowl Web site. "I am happy for my teammates, for the coaching staff, for the fans and just from where we have come.
"We have come from such a long way, on such a hard road that it is unbelievable."
THE WEEK AHEAD
The two county teams with the best girls' basketball records will meet in a Lackawanna League Division III game Thursday when Forest City plays at Montrose.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
Testing Begins As Teams Prepare For Daytona – The winter vacation for NASCAR teams is over.
It’s time to head south for the season’s first testing schedule, which begins this week.
Three drivers that will be making their last Daytona run are Terry Labonte, Bill Elliott, and Mark Martin.
Terry Labonte will be making his final Daytona 500 start this season.
Two-time champion Terry Labonte will appear in 10 races during his final year of his NASCAR Nextel Cup Series competition.
Labonte will again campaign its No. 44 Chevrolets with primary sponsorship from Kellogg Company, GMAC and CARQUEST Auto Parts. Kellogg’s will continue its 12-year relationship with Labonte as primary sponsor in half of the planned events.
“This is an opportunity for me to have a little more fun,” said Labonte, 49, who has 22 career Cup victories and two series championships (1984 and 1996) to his credit. “I’ve been fortunate to do this for nearly three decades and I’m excited to go back to some of the places that have meant so much to me, my team and my family over the years.”
Labonte, who began racing at the Cup level in 1978, will appear at six different venues during his 2006 Hendrick Motorsports “Shifting Gears – Lone Star Style” schedule, including multiple races at Texas Motor Speedway, Lowe’s Motor Speedway and Pocono Raceway.
A Corpus Christi, Texas, native, Labonte will compete April 9 at Texas Motor Speedway, followed by dates at Darlington (SC) Raceway, Lowe’s Motor Speedway, Pocono Raceway and Chicagoland Speedway.
The final race of Labonte’s storied career will come Nov. 5 at Texas Motor Speedway.
MB2 Motorsports announced that its No. 36 entry for the Daytona 500 (Feb. 19) will be driven by Bill Elliott, a two-time winner of NASCAR’s biggest race.
Elliott will also drive the MB2-built No. 36 Chevrolet in the Feb. 11th Budweiser Shootout at Daytona, an invitational race for 2005 pole winners and former Shootout champions. Elliott earned his automatic berth as a result of winning the Shootout in 1987.
Frank Stoddard will serve as Elliott's crew chief for both races and also oversee Elliott’s Daytona test session next week (Jan. 9-11).
"MB2 has a top-notch superspeedway program and I am looking forward to being part of it," said Elliott, who will team with MB2's full-time drivers Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek at Daytona. "Both Sterling and Joe are good on the big tracks and having them as teammates gives us added potential.”
Elliott, the 1988 NASCAR Cup champion, has run a limited schedule the past two years. His last Daytona 500 appearance was in 2003.
"Daytona is a special place and the 500 is a special race," noted Elliott. "I haven't reached the point where I am content to watch this race on television. I would rather be part of the action – it’s the big show."
A 16-time winner of NASCAR’s most popular driver award, Elliott has competed in 25 Daytona 500 races. Along with his two wins from the pole in 1985 and 1987, his Daytona 500 record includes nine top fives, 14 top 10s and four poles. He shares the record for most Daytona 500 poles with Buddy Baker and Cale Yarborough.
All Eyes Will Be On DALE JR. – Following last year’s pre-season personnel switch with then-teammate, Michael Waltrip, Dale Earnhardt Jr. endured two crew chief changes and the worst finish (19th) of his five-year Nextel Cup career.
He reunited with former crew chief and Cousin Tony Eury, Jr. at the end of 2005, and the pair will begin 2006 together.
Earnhardt’s new teammate, Martin Truex, Jr., will drive the No. 1 Chevrolet and compete for Rookie of the Year honors. Truex Jr. won consecutive Busch Series titles, and their friendship should foster a good working relationship.
NASCAR Testing To Be Curtailed – Testing has always played a pivotal role in the development of new drivers in the Nextel Cup series, but that will change with the 2006 season.
NASCAR has made the decision to restrict testing at tracks to just a handful of dates in 2006, so track time will become a precious commodity.
For instance, after teams report to Daytona International Speedway on Monday for their three-day test, they will be unable to test at the track at any other point during the season.
The Cup series has six tests scheduled this season – at Daytona, Las Vegas, Charlotte, Richmond, VA, and Homestead, FL. The Busch Series has four – Daytona, Las Vegas, Charlotte and Richmond.
In 2005, teams were limited to five two-day tests and four one-day tests, with rookies getting seven two-day tests and five one-day tests. Tests at tracks not used in the series did not count against the limit, a policy that remains unchanged.
However, the biggest impact could land on the shoulders of the circuit's rookies.
"I think (the new policy) is definitely a disadvantage to a rookie. Any of the guys that are running for rookie of the year that haven't run more than seven races I feel should get more opportunities to test," said Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick. "You want to bring fresh blood in and sponsors want to do well. It's not really fair to see a young guy whose first year in the Cup series be limited to those six tests."
Truck Champ MUSGRAVE Out Of A Ride – Ultra Motorsports, the team Ted Musgrave, the 2005 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series drove for closed its doors Friday.
And just like an Alaskan polar bear, Musgrave is out in the cold.
"Very reluctantly, Ultra Motorsports and Jim Smith have decided not to race this year due to insufficient sponsorship funds," said a brief statement from the organization.
Ultra Motorsports, owned by Smith, has fielded teams in the series since its inception in 1995, but Musgrave's title was the first for the team.
At the end of the 2005 season, Smith announced he had re-signed the primary sponsor for Musgrave's No. 1 Dodge and the team was planning to switch from Dodge to Ford.
It is reported that Musgrave has been talking with other truck teams about a ride for the 2006 season.
Racing Trivia Question: How do you get the big bucks necessary to buy choice tickets to the Daytona 500, that go from $1,000-$1,500?
Last Week’s Question: Who was the driver of the No. 7 Nextel Cup Chevrolet in 2005? Answer. Robby Gordon.
You may read additional stories by the Racing Reporter at www.race500.com. His e-mail address is: email@example.com.
Robbie Johnson would be one of the Lackawanna League's most valuable basketball players if he only used the ball handling and passing skills he has exhibited while helping Mountain View to an unbeaten first month of the season.
The junior point guard, however, provides so much more for the Eagles.
Johnson averaged more than 18 points per game while helping the Eagles go 9-0 during December while earning the latest Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month award.
"He's a special player," Mountain View coach Pat Heaton said. "He can score, pass, shoot, rebound.
"He's very modest. He plays within himself."
Johnson won Most Valuable Player honors in both of Mountain View's tournaments during the month. He scored 20 points in the championship game of the Bill McLaughlin Classic, a 56-44 victory over Mid Valley. He then scored 23 in the finals of the Forest City Rotary Tournament, during a 59-45 victory over the Foresters.
The Bill McLaughlin Classic, named after the former Mountain View coach, came on the Eagles' home floor in the first two games of the year. After handling Bishop O'Hara, 64-46, in the opener, Mountain View pulled away from Mid Valley late in the final.
The Eagles completed the month by running off 11 straight points late in the win over Forest City.
"(Forest City) played very well defensively," Johnson said. "They played a match-up zone that confused us. Once we got better ball movement, we were OK."
Johnson scored in double figures in every game and had at least 16 in all but the team's two biggest blowouts, a pair of wins by 30 or more points. He can distribute the ball to the rest of the balanced, experienced lineup or lead the team in scoring.
"It just depends on whatever the other team throws at us," Johnson said. "If I have an open shot, I'll take it."
Johnson has started since the beginning of his freshman season. He has also started at midfield for the last season and a half on Mountain View's two-time District 2 Class A champion soccer team.
Robbie is the son of Robert and Christine Johnson of Jackson.
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