Susquehanna graduate Brent Keyes is the head coach and athletic director at Wyalusing, which hosted the Susquehanna-Bradford County Challenge this weekend. With his father, former Sabers coach Bob Keyes, looking on, Brent instructs his Wyalusing players during Sunday's win over Blue Ridge. (Tom Robinson Photo)
WYALUSING – Adam Rockwell followed up a dramatic game-winner in Friday night's season opener by steadily leading a comeback Sunday to help Susquehanna win a pair of games in the fourth annual Susquehanna-Bradford County Challenge at Wyalusing Valley High School.
Although the event is not played in a tournament format, the Sabers emerged as its top team by being the only one to go 2-0.
Rockwell was a big part of that result.
The senior hit a 3-pointer from deep in the left corner off an in-bounds play with 0.8 seconds left Friday night to lift Susquehanna over Wyalusing, 48-47. Rockwell followed that up with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in the second half while the Sabers were rallying past Sayre, 68-61, Sunday.
"Hat's off to Sayre for bringing their best game," Rockwell said, "but all we had to do was execute and I feel like we did a great job of that in the second half."
Blue Ridge went 1-1, beating Sayre, 58-38, Friday before falling to Wyalusing, 51-44, Sunday.
The season opened Friday night with Blue Ridge's victory over Sayre.
Sam Cosmello scored 23 points in the win, including seven in the fourth quarter when the Raiders outscored the Redskins, 20-4.
Blue Ridge went 9-for-13 from the line in the fourth quarter while breaking the game open.
Calvin Scheideler added 14 points in the win.
Susquehanna was still behind in the nightcap when it set up an in-bounds play with less than four seconds remaining.
Rockwell came off a back screen from Bryce Baldwin, took in a C.J. Stone pass and got off the winning shot under pressure.
"In my opinion, he fouled me, but the ball went in and I'll take it," Rockwell said.
The winning shot gave Rockwell a game-high 19 points.
Bryce Baldwin added 14 in the win.
Baldwin was the top scorer with 19 points when Susquehanna opened the Sunday afternoon doubleheader by beating Sayre.
C.J. Stone added 17 points.
Rockwell, who sat out part of the first half with foul trouble, wound up with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 7 assists.
Mason Deakin contributed 14 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.
The Sabers saw Sayre play Blue Ridge Friday night and not hit a single 3-pointer.
Zach Moore fired in six Sunday while scoring 19 points and the Redskins went 11-for-19 from long distance.
"We talked at halftime about closing out better on their entire team and thought we did a better job of that in the second half," Sabers coach Lawrence Tompkins said. "In the game, I thought both teams shot incredibly well.
"It was a game that had a really good flow to it and both teams got into that flow."
Susquehanna hit half of its dozen 3-point attempts and shot 51.9 percent (27-for-52) from the floor.
Blue Ridge rallied from 14 down in the tournament finale, but Wyalusing emerged with the victory.
Shane Fuhrey had 16 points and 4 assists to lead the Rams, who are coached by Susquehanna graduate Brent Keyes.
Keyes is in his fifth season as head basketball coach and third as athletic director. He guided Wyalusing, a school where winter attention traditionally is on one of the state's top wrestling programs, to a 19-3 regular season a year ago, but graduated 11 seniors from that team.
Caleb Folk led Blue Ridge with 13 points. Scheideler had 12 points and led the Raiders to a 43-33 rebounding advantage by grabbing 9.
"I think this weekend we saw both ends of the spectrum of what our team could be," Blue Ridge coach Casey Jenkins said.
CARBONDALE – Pat Durkin made a steal and converted it into two free throws with 7.3 seconds left Friday night to lift Carbondale over Elk Lake, 35-33, in the 42nd annual Mike "Red" Wallace Memorial Scholarship Game.
Nate Preston was chosen as Elk Lake's Most Valuable Player in the game after scoring 12 points.
Durkin, Carbondale's MVP, took the ball away from Preston as he began to take off in the lane on a drive to the basket late in a tie game.
Elk Lake held Carbondale to 10-for-53 (18.9 percent) shooting.
Mike Zazzera had 12 points and Ray Ofner grabbed 10 rebounds for Carbondale.
The Warriors overcame an early 7:03 scoreless streak by putting together a 12-1 run to end the first half and start the second half, then a 9-0 streak to end the third quarter and start the fourth.
The teams traded the lead four times and were tied three times in the fourth quarter when they were never separated by more than three points.
"For the last 25 years, since I played, every year on Opening Night, they show up and it's the physicality and mental toughness with the way their kids play that makes you work against them," Carbondale coach Landon Gabriel said of Elk Lake.
The game honors the memory of Wallace, who played at Fell Township, which is now part of the Carbondale Area School District, and coached at Elk Lake. He led the Warriors to two state championships, the second of which came less than four months before his death from cancer in 1977.
Susquehanna had the only win by a Susquehanna County team in the opening weekend of the girls' basketball season, beating visiting Wyoming Area, 55-36.
The win came in Kirk Fallon's debut as coach of the Lady Sabers.
Susquehanna opened leads of 14-6 after one quarter and 26-15 at halftime with Mackenzie Steele scoring 10 of her 14 points in the first half.
Taylor Huyck kept the Lady Sabers in front, scoring 13 of her game-high 20 points in the second half.
Mackenzie Heath hit three 3-pointers while adding nine points.
Lakeland beat Forest City, 30-17, Saturday in Joe Ferguson's debut as Lady Foresters coach.
Ferguson replaced Mike Courtright, who moved to Blue Ridge where the Lady Raiders started 0-2 with two losses at the Towanda Tip-Off Tournament.
Blue Ridge lost to Towanda, 74-37, and Sayre, 63-22.
In wrestling, Blue Ridge and Montrose each went 3-2 in the season-opening Gary Woodruff Memorial Duals Saturday at Wyalusing.
Elk Lake went 0-5.
Blue Ridge's Gavin Crawford and Adam Roe and Montrose's Marc Avila and Joseph Hester all went 5-0 for the day.
In football, Christian Lewis ran for 215 yards and 5 touchdowns to lead Farrell to a 55-20 rout of Lackawanna Trail in the Pennsylvania Interscholastic Athletic Association Class A state football championship game at Hershey Thursday.
Ray Melnikoff recovered a fumble and scored a touchdown in the first minute to put the Lions ahead, 7-0.
Farrell then took a 42-7 lead at halftime.
The District 2 champion Lions finished the most successful season in school history with a 14-2 record.
Susquehanna senior Mason Deakin was a two-way, first-team selection on the Lackawanna Football Conference Division 4 all-star team, as selected by NEPAFootball.com.
Deakin was one of four Sabers selected on the first-team defense.
Linemen Adam Roe, a senior, and Gavin Baker, a sophomore, were joined by senior linebacker Sam Cosmello on the team.
Roe was also an honorable mention selection on offense as a fullback.
Offensive linemen Ryan Carmody and Tim Sweeney and offensive athlete Jahmarea "Peanut" Wansley also received honorable mention for the Sabers.
Montrose had two players receive honorable mention – wide receiver Chucky Rohan and linebacker Michael Brennan.
Kyle Streich, a freshman from Mountain View, is a member of the Penn State-Scranton men's basketball team.
Streich has played 51 minutes in 6 games. He has 8 points, 8 rebounds, 3 steals and 2 assists.
The defending champion Susquehanna basketball teams will test themselves against some of the best teams in District 2 in the week ahead.
In boys' basketball, Susquehanna is at Wyoming Seminary Friday.
Wyoming Seminary is the defending Wyoming Valley Conference Division 3 and District 2 Class 3A champion. The Blue Knights opened the season by winning twice to claim the championship of the Joseph Nespoli Tournament at Berwick.
The Blue Knights are the top-ranked Small School in the NEPABasketball.com Super Six for District 2 teams. The Sabers are ranked fifth.
In girls' basketball, Susquehanna is home Friday against Nanticoke, the second-ranked Big School in the website's Super Six. The Lady Sabers are also ranked fifth among Small Schools in the Super Six.
Nanticoke opened its season by winning at North Schuylkill in a meeting of state tournament teams from a year ago. The Trojanettes were 15-2 in the WVC last season and lost to Holy Redeemer in a playoff for the division championship.
In high school wrestling, the Lackawanna League Division 2 season opens Wednesday.
Lackawanna Trail is at Elk Lake, Blue Ridge is at Mountain View and Montrose Is at defending champion Western Wayne.
The Lackawanna League Tournament is scheduled for Saturday, beginning at 9 a.m. at Wallenpaupack.
In high school football, our predictions on games involving Lackawanna Football Conference teams are done for the year.
We were 1-0 last week to finish 27-5 (84.4 percent) during the playoffs and 122-28 (81.3) for the season as a whole.
TOM ROBINSON writes a weekly local sports column for the Susquehanna County Transcript. He can be reached online at RobbyTR@aol.com or followed on Twitter at @tomjrobinson.
Rumors have abounded for several months that Kurt Busch would leave Stewart Haas Racing at the end of the 2018 season. Busch refused to discuss his future plans during the NASCAR banquet in Las Vegas, but last week, both Tony Stewart and Busch confirmed his departure.
SHR tweeted the following message..."It's amazing how fast five years goes by... especially when Kurt Busch is at the wheel. Your dedication and desire are hard to match. Know the next chapter of your career will be great. From all of us, thank you."
The 2004 Cup Series champion is leaving SHR after compiling six victories there, including the 2017 Daytona 500. Busch will move to the No. 1 Chevrolet at Chip Ganassi Racing, which has been filled by Jamie McMurray.
McMurray has been offered a management position with the team and a ride in the 2019 Daytona 500.
Busch is a 19-year veteran of the sport who has 30 wins on NASCAR's highest level. He qualified for the playoffs in all five seasons while at SHR. His latest victory came in the Bristol Night Race earlier this year.
Before SHR, Busch drove for Furniture Row Racing full time in 2013 and for part of the 2012 season. Busch began his premier series career driving for Jack Roush, and he was driving for Roush during his championship season in 2004.
Busch said, "It's not in the cards for me to stay. I'm looking forward to the future and new opportunities ahead."
Busch might also be considered a man of many racing talents. Not only has he won a race on every type of track that the series competes on, (superspeedway, intermediate, short-track and road course), he has also claimed a pole on each type of track, in addition to being named the 2018 Busch Pole Award winner for the most pole awards on the season, at five.
Daniel Suarez, who was recently released from Joe Gibbs Racing, will replace Busch at SHR to complete the organization's four-car team in the Cup Series.
Suarez said he and his previous JGR team saw little progress from a rocky start in his rookie season and never developed the consistency needed to become a contender for wins.
"I didn't feel that in two years we improved, I felt worse. By the end of the first year we were much better than a year later. I, as a driver, always looked for the best, and the results were no better. I felt it was time for change," he said.
Suarez is optimistic that his new Cup ride SHR will provide more opportunities for success.
"What I can say is we will be in the NASCAR Cup with a good team," he continued. "We're working on the last few details, but we'll be fine. I hope to be in a position to win races next year."
Baseball ranks number one in the country in almost every cable market, but ESPN reported that while a few teams saw an increase, there were many teams that experienced large drops in viewership.
The Baltimore Orioles had a 56 per cent drop, while there was a 42 per cent decrease for the Detroit Tigers on FOX Sports in Detroit.
The Chicago White Sox experienced a 23 per cent loss.
NASCAR joined major league baseball, basketball, and hockey as sports that are continuing to lose television viewers.
NASCAR's top series had another record low for TV viewership this season. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series averaged 3.3 million viewers across 33 races on NBC, Fox, NBCSN and FS1 this season (excluding rainouts at Martinsville, Bristol and Indianapolis). That figure is down from 4.1 million viewers last year, and down from 4.5 million viewers in '16.
Of the 33 weekend race telecasts this year, more than two-thirds likely had record low viewership, including the Daytona 500 and championship race from Homestead-Miami Speedway. A positive note came with the new Roval event on Sept. 30. The telecast drew just over 3.2 million viewers.
Meanwhile, of the 12 Cup races that NBCSN had this year (excluding Indy), seven of those were the most-viewed sports event on cable TV during their respective weekends. Looking at the average digital audience across all 36 race days this season, NASCAR saw content consumption rise 29 per cent compared to '17, while total page views were up 13 per cent and total video views were up 49 per cent.
The big question is, why are big time sports losing fans?
Fans stop attending games or races for several reasons, notably a flagging economy, which might lower the disposable income of a fan base and prevent them from shelling out for season tickets.
Teams that have performed poorly in recent seasons, and some have not seen consistent success in well over a decade. Most of the teams on this list that have been losing for some time also happen to have large debt. This is also a vicious cycle: a lack of attendance results in a lack of revenue, which means teams struggle to afford a team that can compete.
This is the case with the National Hockey League's (NHL) Florida Panthers, a team that has been to the playoffs just once in 15 seasons. The Panthers recently recorded the lowest attendance in franchise history, filling about 1,700 seats at the roughly 17,000 seat stadium.
Overwhelmingly in team sports, it is the team's record — teams that fail to win games also often fail to fill seats. People want to see their team win, not lose.
In the case of NASCAR, it could be the lack of excitement. Where's the drama? Just like in baseball or basketball, fans want something to cheer about, to get their adrenalin going.
Every week, 36-plus cars show up for a NASCAR Cup Series race, but it's usually a two or three-car race, no matter the venue. This past season, there was more speculation about who would be be in the final-4, instead of the 16 drivers that make the 10-race playoffs. To me, that says, "The playoffs won't even matter because those two or three drivers are too good."
Could it be that the fans are getting bored of the same old story?
Yes, I think that's why NASCAR continues to lose viewers.
Racing Joke: Matt buys a lie detector robot that slaps people when they lie.
He decides to test it out at dinner one night.
Matt asks his oldest son what he did that afternoon.
The son says, "I did some homework."
The robot slaps the son.
The son says, "Ok, Ok, I was at a friend's house watching movies."
Matt asks, "What movie did you watch?"
Son says, "Toy Story."
The robot slaps the son.
Son says, "Ok, Ok, we were watching X-rated movies."
Matt says, "What? At your age I didn't even know what an X-rated movie was."
The robot slaps Matt.
Mom laughs and says, "Well, he certainly is your son."
The robot slaps the mother.
Racing Trivia Question: Which NASCAR Series will Noah Gragson run in 2019?
Last Week's Question: The first officially-sanctioned NASCAR race was the 1948 Daytona Beach road course. Who was the winner? Answer. Red Byron.
Gerald Hodges is a syndicated NASCAR photojournalist and author. You may contact him by e-mail at: email@example.com.
District 2 girls volleyball championships are just about becoming routine at Blue Ridge and Hunter Heeman helped keep it that way
Heeman's 16 kills and 3 blocks helped Blue Ridge defeat MMI Prep in four sets in this year's District 2 Class A championship match at North Pocono, earning the Lady Raiders their fifth straight district title.
For her efforts, Heeman has been selected as the Susquehanna County Transcript Athlete of the Month for November.
Heeman gives much of the credit for the long-term success and the excitement surrounding the program to coach Lori Zick, who also has the school's boys program in contention for titles most seasons.
"She makes all the players on the team feel like family and we seem to bring out the most fans," Heeman said. "Students, staff and parents seem to love watching us succeed in our season."
Heeman was a big part of that success continuing this season.
The 5-foot-11 sophomore middle hitter/blocker had 161 kills, more than any other two Blue Ridge players combined. She also had 53 digs, 26 aces and 25 blocks on the season.
The district championship sent Blue Ridge back to the state tournament where it was eliminated in the first round despite nine more kills from Heeman.
"Winning the district is a feeling like no other," Heeman said.
Heeman played youth basketball and softball, but now concentrates strictly on volleyball in school.
"My family was big into volleyball so I started playing recreational volleyball at 12 and started playing AAU in eighth grade," she said.
Heeman's training concentrates on increasing her vertical jump and she has worked on developing her form on the court so she can help the team from the back row, when needed, as well as often dominating play at the net.
Hunter lives in New Milford with her mother, Michele Heeman, and stepfather, Randy Fekette.