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Kirk Fallon's shooting touch seemed to abandon him just as the Susquehanna Sabers were getting ready to begin Lackawanna League play.
Fallon rediscovered it in time to be nearly unstoppable while leading the Sabers to the championship of the Susquehanna Community Basketball Tournament on their home court.
Fallon matched a season-high with 31 points in the championship game, a 67-62 victory over Elk Lake, one of the teams Susquehanna will need to be able to deal with to contend for a division title.
"I finally just started finding my stroke," Fallon said. "I don't know what I was doing wrong.
"I got in the gym, just trying to find it. I hope it's back for good."
Fallon had 55 points – nearly half of Susquehanna's 115 – and was selected Most Valuable Player of the two-game tournament, which is sponsored by the Susquehanna Community Foundation.
After averaging 25 points in the first three games, Fallon slipped to an average of 13 over the next six games. The 5-foot-11 junior guard came out of the tournament with a 18.9 scoring average to help the Sabers to an 8-3 start that included two overtime losses by a total of three points.
"He's shooting the ball very well again," Susquehanna coach Scott Glidden said.
Fallon was 9-for-13 from the floor, including 5-for-8 on 3-pointer, while going 8-for-8 from the line. He helped the Sabers take control of the game late in the first and early in the second quarter, then kept Susquehanna in front.
Elk Lake, which entered the tournament final with just one loss in nine games, led for the first 7 1/2 minutes, then never had the lead again.
The Warriors were in front, 13-10, before Brandon Stone set up a Brent Keyes basket in transition with 40 seconds left in the quarter.
Fallon then hit two free throws with 28.7 seconds left for the game's only lead change. He then hit a 19-footer at the buzzer, while sliding to his left, for a 16-13 lead.
When a 17-4 run to a 27-17 lead was over midway through the second quarter, Fallon had produced 13 of the points. He connected on three straight 3-point attempts in a span of 1:39, hitting from each corner before draining a shot while again moving to his left out on the left wing.
The Warriors closed within, 38-36, with three minutes left in the third quarter. Fallon scored on a steal and a drive with 2:53 left and, seconds later, Jeff Madrak was hit with a technical foul, igniting what became a streak of nine points in 40 seconds to regain command.
Madrak, Elk Lake's leading scorer with 24.7 per game coming in, sat out the rest of the game and fell short of the 20-point mark for the first time all season with 11.
Fallon made the two free throws off the technical foul and Craig Soden hit a 3-pointer from the right corner on the ensuing possession. Cody Scepaniak came up with a steal then ran the floor to rebound and score on a missed 3-point attempt that he set up for Fallon.
The quick burst gave the Sabers their largest lead at 47-36, but the Warriors rallied again.
After outscoring Susquehanna, 7-4, to close the third quarter, Elk Lake opened with a 7-2 run in the fourth. A.J. Lunger did all the scoring for the Warriors in the 7-2 run, offsetting a jump hook by Keyes and bringing Elk Lake within, 53-50, with 5:11 to play.
Soden and Fallon each hit 3-pointers to keep the Sabers in front before Fallon went 4-for-4 from the line in the final 28 seconds.
"I was confident we were going to win the whole time, but it was a good game," Fallon said. "They never gave up, even with their best player on the bench."
Soden made both of his 3-point attempts while helping the Sabers to an 11-for-17 shooting effort from long range. He finished with 10 points and a team-high five assists.
"To win a tournament we're hosting is pretty special," Glidden said. "Elk Lake beat us three times last year. They were all tough losses."
Lunger led four Elk Lake players in double figures with 16 points. Payton Baltzley matched Madrak's 11 points and also had 11 rebounds and four assists. Sean Morahan came off the bench to go 4-for-5, including a pair of 3-pointers, while scoring 10 points.
Mike Greenwood had seven rebounds to help Elk Lake to a 27-23 advantage on the boards.
WEEK IN REVIEW
Susquehanna returned to league action and knocked defending champion Mountain View out of a share of the Lackawanna League Division 3 lead in its first game back.
Fallon hit at least one 3-pointer in each quarter and added a second one during the third quarter while scoring 17 points in a 61-45 victory.
Keyes added 13 points and Soden had 11, including six in the fourth quarter, for the Sabers.
Jeff Williams came off the bench to score six of his eight points in the first half. The Sabers then pulled away from a 27-26 halftime lead.
Patrick Lambert had 11 of his 13 points in the first half to lead Mountain View. David Corbin added 10 points.
Chris Nebzydoski had 14 points while Jesse Walsh and Andrew Delabar added 11 each as Forest City rallied to defeat Montrose, 52-49.
The Meteors led, 22-16, at halftime.
Alan Charles scored 14 points and Jeff Liddick added 11 to lead Montrose.
In girls' basketball, Monica Turner pulled down 18 rebounds as Montrose maintained a share of first place in the division with a 41-27 victory over Forest City.
Chelsea Lunger scored 14 points and dished out five assists while Julia Koloski had 10 points and seven steals in the win.
In high school wrestling, Elk Lake successfully defended the championship of its own Zurn-Bush Memorial Duals.
Elk Lake won three straight to reach the final where it defeated Lackawanna Trail, 42-34.
Eliott Sutter (130), Derek Green (140), Brent Salsman (160) and Derek Noldy (171-189) all went 4-0 on the day for the Warriors.
Susquehanna finished third in the nine-team event by beating Nanticoke, 36-33, in its final match. Josh Jenkins went 4-0 at 215 for the Sabers.
Mike Pipitone (130) and Nick Decker (135) each went 5-0 for Blue Ridge, which finished seventh.
Mountain View finished ninth.
In professional football, the New York Giants advanced to the National Football Conference semifinals with a 24-14 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in a Sunday playoff game.
Montrose graduate Chris Snee, the starting right guard, was part of an offensive line that helped the Giants control the ball for more than seven minutes longer than the Buccaneers in the game.
In professional hockey, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton fell to the Toronto Marlies, 4-1, Friday night, bringing an end to a nine-game winning streak.
The streak, which improved the Penguins to 21-12-0-1, matched the longest in the history of the American Hockey League franchise. The Penguins also won nine straight in October of 2005.
The winning streak included a 5-2 victory over the Binghamton Senators December 29 in which Tim Brent had two goals and an assist.
Kalen Kropa, who lived in Susquehanna County before moving to North Carolina, led the Patriot League in assists last season while playing for the Navy women's basketball team.
Kropa, a 5-foot-6 junior guard, leads Navy in assists again this season with an average of 3.4 per game. She also averages 4.5 points and 3.4 rebounds through 14 games, 13 of which she started. Navy is 4-10.
Kalen is the daughter of former Elk Lake basketball coach Ron Kropa and Susquehanna native Kiki (Nataline) Kropa. She was a two-time, all-state basketball player and an all-state selection in cross country at Rockingham County High School in North Carolina.
THE WEEK AHEAD
Midway through last week, each of the three winter sports divisions involving county teams had two teams tied for the top with 2-0 records.
Those top two teams go head-to-head this week in each sport.
Blue Ridge is at Elk Lake Wednesday in a Lackawanna League Division 2 wrestling match.
Montrose is at Carbondale Wednesday in a Lackawanna Division 3 girls' basketball game.
Mountain View is at Elk Lake Friday in a Lackawanna Division 3 boys' basketball game.
In professional football, the New York Giants travel to Dallas Sunday to face the Cowboys in a 4:30 game that will be televised by Fox.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com.
The Racing Reporter
2008 NASCAR TESTING BEGINS AT DAYTONA, DAYTONA BEACH, FL – Decorations have been packed away, New Year’s resolutions decided, and the calendar flipped. This week the Sprint (formerly Nextel) Cup teams begin on-track preparations for the 2008 season.
And while team members may still swap how-I-spent-my-holiday-vacation stories, it’s time to re-fire the engines.
Juan Pablo Montoya in 2007 at Dover.
Monday, January 7 marks the start of NASCAR Preseason Thunder – the sport’s annual January test sessions. First Up: The Sprint Cup Series, which kicks off its 2008 preparations at Daytona International Speedway.
This year’s Daytona tests precede two NASCAR milestones – the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, February 17, and the first race for NASCAR’s new car on Daytona’s historic, 2.5- mile surface.
Cup teams will test in two sessions. All teams that were in odd-number positions in the car owner standings as of July 17, 2007 are scheduled to test from Monday, January 7 through Wednesday, January 9. The following week, teams in even-number positions in the car owner standings as of July 17, 2007 are scheduled to test from Monday, January 14 through Wednesday, January 16.
“We’re feeling pretty good about it,” said Chad Knaus, crew chief for reigning and two-time series champion Jimmie Johnson. “We’ve got a couple of good cars we’re bringing. It’s going to be fun to have this car at Daytona and we’re looking forward to getting back to the track.”
Although on-track competition ceases each November with the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, race shops continue to hum. This testing offers the first barometer of all the work done over the winter.
“A lot of people think when they wave the green flag at Homestead, we all leave and go to the beach,” Knaus continued. “That’s not what happens. We’ve been in here working five and six days a week and haven’t really taken that much time off. Contrary to what people think, we really have been working hard, but our guys are now looking forward to going to the race track.”
Eight of 12 drivers who competed in the 2007 Chase will test next week; Johnson, series runner-up Jeff Gordon, third-place finisher Clint Bowyer, fourth-place finisher Matt Kenseth, fifth-place finisher Kyle Busch, seventh-place finisher Kurt Busch, ninth-place finisher Carl Edwards and 11th-place finisher Martin Truex, Jr.
Also testing next week will be Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year.
Montoya has completed his first full year of racing in NASCAR. He had two wins, one in the Sprint Cup Series and one in the Busch Series.
He kicked off 2007 by winning the Rolex 24 At Daytona for Chip Ganassi's Grand American team. Then, in his third Busch Series race in 2007, Montoya took the checkered flag in Mexico City to earn his first win in a stock car. He proved he was a top road course racer at Infineon Raceway when he captured his first Sprint Cup victory after qualifying 32nd, the deepest starting spot ever for a winner at Infineon Raceway. It was just his 17th start in the Sprint Cup Series as he scored the first Cup win for Ganassi since 2002. Montoya and his No. 42 crew, under the guidance of veteran Crew Chief Donnie Wingo, went on to three top-five and six top-10 finishes during the 2007 season.
“I really couldn't be more proud of Juan's first season in NASCAR, but what makes me even more excited is that I know that he has only scratched the surface of what he is going to be able to do in stock car,” said car owner Chip Ganassi. “He is a talent like few others, and I can't wait for 2008 to begin.”
NASCAR Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series teams will split into two Daytona sessions later this month. Teams in odd-number positions in the car owner standings as of July 17, 2007 will test from Friday, January 18 through Sunday, January 20. Teams in even-number positions will test from Sunday, January 20 through Tuesday, January 22. The NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series tests from Friday, January 11 through Sunday, January 13.
TEN THINGS ABOUT THE DAYTONA 500 – Every race fan knows the Daytona 500 is NASCAR’s biggest, richest and most prestigious race. The upcoming 50th running of “The Great American Race” is one of the most anticipated events in motor sports history. But here are ten things you probably didn’t know about the race.
These are courtesy of Harlow Reynolds of Lynchburg, VA. Reynolds is not only a racing historian, but he owns and drives a restored David Pearson race car on the street.
1. In 1959, the inaugural Daytona 500 was run caution-free.
2. The 1967 Daytona 500 was the only NASCAR win for racing superstar Mario Andretti.
3. Tiny Lund won the 1963 Daytona 500 on one set of tires. His pit crew, the famous Wood Brothers, known for their lightning-fast pit stops, did not have to change a single tire all day.
4. Paul Bass drove an Edsel convertible in the inaugural Daytona 500. It was the only appearance of an Edsel in NASCAR competition.
5. The 1974 Daytona 500 was actually the “Daytona 450”. NASCAR cut the distance of their races by 10 per cent in the early part of the season due to America’s energy crisis.
6. In 1989 Darrell Waltrip finally won the Daytona 500 in his 17th attempt. He drove car number 17 that day and pitted in pit stall number 17.
7. Upon seeing the mammoth Daytona International Speedway for the first time, in preparation for the first Daytona 500, driver Jimmy Thompson said, “There have been other tracks that separated the men from the boys. This is the track that will separate the brave from the weak after the boys are gone.”
8. Curtis Turner’s 1967 Daytona 500 pole speed of 180.831 mph was the first time a NASCAR stock car had qualified at over 180 mph.
9. Jimmie Johnson, Loy Allen, Jr. and Mike Skinner all won the pole for the Daytona 500 in their rookie seasons.
10. A total of six drivers have scored their first NASCAR Cup win in the Daytona 500. They are; Tiny Lund (1963), Mario Andretti (1967), Pete Hamilton (1970), Derrike Cope (1990), Sterling Marlin (1994) and Michael Waltrip (2001).
Racing Trivia Question: Who won the 2007 Daytona 500?
Last Week’s Question: Which race is considered NASCAR’s biggest event? Answer: The Daytona 500.
You may contact the Racing Reporter at: email@example.com.
When the Susquehanna County Basketball Tournament reached its second season, the Elk Lake girls' team became the first to get a shot at defending a title in the event.
"We wanted it back," Elk Lake sophomore Karley Caines said. "We wanted to take that trophy home again."
Caines made sure the Lady Warriors did just that. She led the team in scoring in both rounds of the tournament as Elk Lake repeated its title by winning the Susquehanna Community Foundation-sponsored event at Mountain View.
After scoring 16 points in a 63-52 win over Blue Ridge in the semifinal, Caines had 19 during a come-from-behind, 57-46 victory over Susquehanna in the final.
For her efforts, Caines has been named Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month for December.
The Lady Warriors faced a 15-point deficit in the first half of the final, but made a defensive adjustment to cool off Susquehanna's Christy Glidden and turned the game around.
"She had most of their points when they got ahead, so we tried to shut her down," Caines said. "We had great teamwork on defense."
Offensively, Elk Lake kept finding Caines as the 5-foot-6 forward cut back and forth from the high post to the low post.
"We really just moved the ball very well," Caines said. "I got most of my points inside."
Caines is used to being a big part of the sports teams at Elk Lake. She is already a three-sport starter and one of the team leaders in each sport. Caines plays volleyball in the fall and is the shortstop on the softball team in the spring.
Karley is the daughter of Victor and Michelle Caines of Meshoppen.
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