Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Bruce, Reds beat Halladay, take series from Phillies, 4-3

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

CINCINNATI – With a series against the Phillies on the line, the Reds had been hitting Philadelphia ace Roy Halladay well all afternoon but trailed 3-2 with six outs left.

Jay Bruce finally broke through, taking Halladay deep for a two-RBI homer to win the game and put Cincinnati back on top in the NL Central.

Bruce’s eighth-inning home run pushed the Reds past the Phillies 4-3 in the rubber game of a three-game set Wednesday afternoon.

Combined with the Cardinals’
4-2 home loss to the Diamondbacks, Cincinnati (44-35) regained a half-game lead over St. Louis in the Central.

The Phillies (41-35) dropped to three games back of Atlanta in the East, remaining in third place. The Braves host Washington Wednesday night.

The Reds offense touched Halladay, who threw a perfect game at Florida May 29, for 13 hits but left nine men on base, leaving Cincinnati behind 3-2 headed into the eighth inning.

Bruce took care of that. He drilled a shot to deep right, scoring Jonny Gomes, who led off with a single to left, to take the lead.

Closer Francisco Cordero came on and got the save, pitching around pinch hitter Ross Gload’s one-out single and stolen base and retiring Shane Victorino on a groundout to end the game.

Philadelphia is having some injury troubles, with starters Chase Utley, Placido Polanco and Carlos Ruiz all on the disabled list, but one of the Phils’ replacements gave them a fourth-inning lead. Jayson Werth and backup second baseman Wilson Valdez singled ahead of third catcher Dane Sardinha, who hit a homer that carried over the left-field wall for a 3-0 edge.

Cincinnati began its climb back in the sixth, when Joey Votto hit a leadoff homer to right. One inning later, Orlando Cabrera singled home Ramon Hernandez, who had singled himself, to cut the Reds’ deficit to one.

One game after seeing his record-tying 33-game scoreless streak come to an end, Reds reliever Arthur Rhodes (3-2) worked a perfect inning with two strikeouts to become the pitcher of record. Cordero earned his 21st save.

Cincinnati starter Aaron Harang worked 6 1-3 innings, allowing three runs on eight hits with a walk and five strikeouts.

Hernandez went 3-for-4 to lead the Reds at the plate. Gomes, Bruce and Brandon Phillips each had two hits.

Victorino and Valdez recorded two hits apiece for the Phillies.

Halladay (9-7) took the loss in an eight-inning complete game, with 10 strikeouts and no walks.

NOTES: The Phillies lost for just the fifth time in their last 14 games. … It was the Reds’ 25th comeback win of the season. … Cincinnati embarks on an 11-game road trip leading into the All-Star break, heading to Chicago for four games with the Cubs. Travis Wood will get the start Thursday afternoon. Philadelphia will go to Pittsburgh for a four-game series, with Cole Hamels on the mound Thursday night.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Jay Bruce (32) rounds the bases after his game-winning eighth-inning home run. (Gary Landers/Cincinnati Enquirer)

Gamecocks walk off with first title, beat UCLA 2-1

2010 COLLEGE BASEBALL POSTSEASON SPECIAL COVERAGE – NCAA TOURNAMENT COLLEGE WORLD SERIES FINALS GAME 2

An often-mentioned fact coming into the College World Series finals was that UCLA, owner of 106 NCAA team national championships, was seeking its first in baseball.

So was South Carolina. And after winning, the Gamecocks claimed not just their first baseball title – but their first in any NCAA men’s sport.

Junior Whit Merrifield knocked in Scott Wingo with the winning run in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Gamecocks a 2-1 victory over the Bruins in Omaha, Neb., Tuesday.

Closer Matt Price pitched 2 2-3 innings, working out of a bases-loaded jam in the top of the ninth inning, to get the win and outduel UCLA closer Dan Klein.

Forced into the loser’s bracket after dropping their first game of the College World Series, South Carolina (54-16) became the first team to win six straight games in a CWS and the third team to win six total in a series.

South Carolina’s Jackie Bradley Jr. was named the tournament’s most outstanding player, despite going 0-for-5, ending his 22-game hitting streak.

With the score tied at 1 in the 11th, the Gamecocks put together the rally that won them their first national title. Wingo reached on a leadoff free pass, moved to second base on a passed ball on UCLA catcher Steve Rodriguez and took third on Evan Marzilli’s excellent bunt.

Merrifield did the rest from there, lacing Klein’s 2-0 offering into right field to easily score Wingo.

Facing elimination after dropping Game 1 7-1 Monday, the Bruins (51-17) drew first blood in the fifth inning. Freshman Trevor Brown led off with an infield single, Rodriguez bunted him to second and Niko Gallego singled to left-center to drive Brown in.

South Carolina got a little help from the UCLA defense to tie the game in the eighth. After pinch hitter Brady Thomas singled and Robert Beary came on to pinch run, Bobby Haney’s grounder to the right side got through Bruins first baseman Dean Espy’s glove, allowing Beary to score.

Gamecocks starter Michael Roth worked five innings, allowing one run. UCLA’s Rob Rasmussen held Carolina scoreless over six frames.

Price (5-1) allowed one hit and one walk.

Haney and Marzilli each went 2-for-5.

Brown, Beau Amaral and Brett Krill had two-hit nights for UCLA.

Klein (6-1) allowed one hit and one run, with two walks and four strikeouts over 3 1-3 innings.

It was the last CWS game at Rosenblatt Stadium. Next year’s series will be held at the new TD Ameritrade Park in Omaha.

NOTES: South Carolina’s only other team national title came in women’s track and field in 2002. … Oregon State in 2006 and Holy Cross in 1952 also won six games at the CWS. … After committing his eighth-inning error, Espy punched the wooden dugout bench in frustration and then left the game, later icing his right hand. No word was immediately available on the extent of his presumed injury. … This series marked the fifth time since 1970 two teams seeking their first title were playing in the final game. The last time was in 2006, when Oregon State defeated North Carolina. … The Gamecocks are the first national champion to lose their first CWS game since the Beavers in 2006. … Rodriguez drew a ninth-inning walk – the South Carolina staff’s first free pass in 18 innings.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: South Carolina's Whit Merrifield (5) celebrates his game-winning single Tuesday night. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)


Video credit – ESPN

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Cubs end skid, White Sox winning streak, 8-6

MAJOR LEAGUE BASEBALL

The Chicago Cubs finally broke out of their offensive slumber and, in so doing, ended their cross-town rival’s long winning streak.

Tyler Colvin drove in four runs and Ryan Dempster struck out eight White Sox as the Cubs avoided a sweep on the South Side with an 8-6 win in Chicago on Sunday.

The Sox’ 11-game winning streak – their longest since 1961 and tied for the longest in the majors this season – came to a halt. They hadn’t lost since falling 1-0 at the Cubs’ hands on Ted Lilly’s near no-hitter at Wrigley Field June 13.

The North Siders’ eight runs are more than they scored in their last five games – four of which they lost – combined.

Trailing 2-0, the Cubs (33-42) took the lead for the first time in the series in the top of the third inning. Colvin’s one-out homer to left field plated Geovany Soto and Starlin Castro, who had each singled.

Derrek Lee, serving as the designated hitter at U.S. Cellular Field, pulled a two-run double down the left-field line two innings later, scoring Colvin and Marlon Byrd, who each singled and moved up a base on Sox starter John Danks’ wild pitch, to go up 5-2.

Soto’s double in the sixth brought home Alfonso Soriano, who had drawn a free pass, for another run before the South Siders’ Paul Konerko led off the bottom of the frame with a shot to left, cutting the Sox deficit to 6-3.

The Cubs got that run back and one more for good measure in the eighth. Soriano hit a high leadoff homer to left and Colvin singled home Castro, who had doubled to the wall with two away, for an 8-3 edge.

Of course, nothing has come easily for the Cubs in this series – which began with pitcher Carlos Zambrano being sent home after a dugout fit during the first inning of Friday’s series opener – and securing this win was no different.

Closer Carlos Marmol was handed a five-run lead at the beginning of the ninth and proceeded to yield three quick runs. Mark Kotsay and A.J. Pierzynski drew one-out bases on balls, Gordon Beckham doubled home Kotsay and Juan Pierre’s single to right scored Pierzynski and Beckham to cut the home team’s deficit to 8-6.

Pierre then took second on defensive indifference and pinch hitter Andruw Jones walked to bring the winning run to the plate in the form of Alex Rios. But Marmol struck out Rios swinging to escape his self-created jam.

Dempster (6-6) had gotten into trouble early, falling behind by two runs in the first inning on Carlos Quentin’s two-out single up the middle to score Omar Vizquel and Rios, who both singled before Rios stole second.

But Dempster settled down, scattering nine hits – all singles except Konerko’s homer – and three runs over seven innings, with eight punchouts and a walk.

Soto finished 3-for-4, Colvin went 3-for-5, Castro was 2-for-4 and Lee was 2-for-5 with two RBI.

Danks (7-6), characteristically strong against the National League and the Cubs in particular, allowed six runs on seven hits in five innings. He struck out five Cubs and walked two.

Vizquel, Rios and Alexei Ramirez all had two-hit afternoons.

The White Sox (39-35), who were presented with a trophy after last night’s 3-2 win, took the regular-season series 4-2.

NOTES: A win would have tied the White Sox for their fourth-longest winning streak in team history after reeling off 12 straight victories in June 1961. … The Cubs had lost 16 of their last 24 games. … Danks had been 5-1 in his last six interleague starts and 2-0 against the Cubs. … The White Sox lead the all-time series, 41-37. … The Sox finish interleague play 15-3. … After Lee’s effort today, Cubs designated hitters finish interleague play 6-for-39. Lee, Soto, Byrd, Soriano, Aramis Ramirez and Xavier Nady all got at-bats in the DH slot in the Cubs’ interleague games in American League parks. … At press time, the Cubs stood in fourth place in the NL Central, 8.5 games behind Cincinnati. The Sox are 1.5 games back of Minnesota in third in the AL Central. … The Cubs return to the North Side for a three-game series with Pittsburgh. Randy Wells will pitch the opener Monday night. The White Sox next head to Kansas City for three, with Mark Buehrle set to work Monday.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Tyler Colvin (21) and Geovany Soto (18) high-five after Colvin's home run Sunday. (Jim Prisching/AP)


Video credit – WGN

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Ghana knocks out Americans 2-1 in extra time

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SPECIAL COVERAGE – KNOCKOUT STAGE

Landon Donovan's second-half penalty-kick goal gave the United States all the momentum in its World Cup knockout stage game with Ghana.

But the Yanks couldn't capitalize, falling out of the tournament for the second straight time at the Black Stars' hands.

Asamoah Gyan scored in the 93rd minute as Ghana outlasted the U.S. 2-1 in Rustenburg, South Africa, Saturday to advance to the World Cup quarterfinals.

Ghana also eliminated the U.S. in the 2006 Cup, downing the Americans 2-1 in the group stage in Germany on Stephen Appiah's controversial penalty kick. It will advance to face Uruguay on Friday.

This time, though, Ghana needed no controversial play to win -- just extra time after Donovan's 62nd-minute penalty kick. He beat Ghana goalkeeper Richard Kingson from inside the box -- Kingson dove to his right, while Donovan knocked it in off the opposite post to tie the game 1-1.

The score remained that way through regulation time, but Gyan wasted no time in extra play. He beat U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra badly into the box, then split Bocanegra and Jay DeMerit before finishing with a left-footed laser past keeper Tim Howard three minutes into the extra session.

After that, the U.S. couldn't get much of anything going offensively. Clint Dempsey and Maurice Edu missed headers wide and substitute Herculez Gomez missed a shot wide left near the end of the extra time. Ghana managed to hold the ball in the U.S. half for most of stoppage time before time expired on the Yanks.

The U.S. fell behind early for the third time in this tournament when Kevin Prince Boateng stripped the ball from Ricardo Clark and tapped the ball past Howard in the fifth minute.

NOTES: The game marked the United States' third straight loss by one goal in the World Cup knockout stage after falling in 2002 and 1994. ... Uruguay beat South Korea 2-1 earlier Saturday to advance. ... Ghana is the only side left from the host continent, Africa.

Photo above: Ghana's Asamoah Gyan celebrates his game-winning goal Saturday. (Matt Dunham/AP)

Video credit -- ESPN on ABC

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bradley, Thomas, Gamecocks eliminate Oklahoma in 12

2010 COLLEGE BASEBALL POSTSEASON SPECIAL COVERAGE – NCAA TOURNAMENT COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

With sophomore outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. at the plate in the bottom of the 12th inning, the South Carolina Gamecocks were down to their final strike of the season.

Bradley kept his personal hitting streak alive long enough to knock in the game-tying run, then came home on Brady Thomas’ base hit to win.

Bradley’s and Thomas’ first hits of the game helped South Carolina come back from a 2-1 12th-inning deficit to beat Oklahoma 3-2 in a College World Series elimination game in Omaha, Neb., Thursday.

The Gamecocks (50-16) survive to face archrival Clemson on Friday. South Carolina must beat the Tigers twice to go to the CWS championship series.

Oklahoma (50-18) had taken the lead in the top of the 12th on Tyler Ogle’s leadoff homer.

The Gamecocks started off the bottom of the inning when Robert Beary drew a leadoff walk from Sooners reliever Ryan Duke. Beary then stole second to set the stage for Bradley, who came up with two down.

Bradley worked the count to 3-2 before pulling a pitch past diving first baseman Cameron Seitzer, scoring Beary to tie the game at 2 and extending his hitting streak to 19 games in the process.

But South Carolina wasn’t done. Jeffery Jones walked before Thomas singled up the middle to plate Bradley to set off a pinstriped mob at the plate.

In the second, Ogle scored Oklahoma’s only other run, when he led off with a single and scored on Caleb Bushyhead’s single to center.

That score held up until the eighth inning, when Evan Marzilli led off with a double, took third on Whit Merrifield’s bunt and scored on Christian Walker’s one-out single.

Reliever Tyler Webb (3-2) was the winning pitcher for the Gamecocks, but the real hero on the mound was starter Blake Cooper, who threw 97 pitches on three days’ rest.

Walker went 3-for-5 for South Carolina, and Marzilli was 2-for-6.

Sooners starter Zach Neal also twirled a gem, working seven innings in his first start in 11 days.

Duke (3-2) was the pitcher of record for Oklahoma.

Ogle went 2-for-3 to lead the Sooners at the dish.

NOTES: This was the teams’ second meeting in five days. Oklahoma beat South Carolina 4-3 Sunday. … The Gamecocks are 1-2 against the Tigers this season – winning the middle game of a three-game set in March.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: South Carolina's Jackie Bradley Jr. (19) scores the winning run Thursday. (Dave Weaver/AP)

Video credit – ESPN2

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Cole, Bruins knock off Horned Frogs 6-3

2010 COLLEGE BASEBALL POSTSEASON SPECIAL COVERAGE – NCAA TOURNAMENT COLLEGE WORLD SERIES

One game after its first-ever College World Series victory, UCLA is all of a sudden just one win from reaching the CWS championship series.

Bruins ace Gerrit Cole one-hit TCU over the first six innings and recorded 13 strikeouts as the Bruins beat the Horned Frogs 6-3 in Omaha, Neb., Monday.

The Horned Frogs will take on Florida State Wednesday night in an elimination game. The winner of that contest faces UCLA on Friday.

UCLA, which scored in eight of its nine at-bats against Florida on Saturday, kept its momentum rolling and took a big lead early. In the first inning, Blair Dunlap singled up the middle under Frogs second baseman Jerome Pena’s glove to score Beau Amaral, who had walked.

Amaral doubled the Bruins’ lead in the second, singling between TCU starter Kyle Winkler’s legs with two down to plate Dean Espy, who led off with a single.

One inning later, UCLA (50-14) used a couple of long balls to score all the runs Cole needed. Cody Regis lifted an opposite-field shot beyond the left-field wall, scoring Justin Uribe with one down. Freshman Jeff Gelalich then hit just the second homer of his career, going deep to right for a 5-0 edge.

TCU (52-13) finally got to Cole in the seventh to cut its deficit to two. Taylor Featherston laced a two-out, bases-loaded, full-count triple over a diving Amaral to the wall to clear the bases – scoring Jason Coats, Matt Curry and Jantzen Witte, who had all singled.

The Bruins bought some insurance with a run in the bottom of the frame. Amaral hit a leadoff ground-rule double to left, took third on a passed ball on the Frogs’ Bryan Holaday and came home Niko Gallego’s sacrifice fly to go up 6-3.

UCLA reliever Dan Klein pitched around a Joe Weik single in the ninth to earn his 10th save of the year.

Cole (11-3) yielded three runs on five hits over eight innings, with 13 strikeouts and two walks.

Amaral led UCLA at the plate, going 3-for-3. Regis knocked in two runs.

Winkler (12-2) lasted 2 2-3 frames, allowing five runs on six hits. He walked three and struck out two.

Curry was 2-for-4 for TCU. Featherston drove in three runs.

NOTES: TCU has won 32 of 38 since it last lost consecutive games. … When the Bruins scored in the first three innings Monday, they had scored in 14 out of 15 frames, dating back to their super regional-clinching victory over Cal State Fullerton. … This was TCU and UCLA’s first-ever meeting. … Florida State sent home rival Florida 8-5 in the CWS’ first elimination game Monday.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: UCLA's Gerrit Cole pitches Monday. (Nati Harnik/AP)

Video credit – ESPN2

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Fabiano, Brazil take down Ivory Coast 3-1 to advance

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SPECIAL COVERAGE – GROUP STAGE

After a lackluster performance in a win over North Korea to begin the World Cup, Brazil broke through against Ivory Coast to take a stranglehold on the Group of Death.

Striker Luis Fabiano scored twice to lead Brazil past Ivory Coast 3-1 in Johannesburg, South Africa on Sunday, advancing his side to the World Cup semifinals.

The Selecao picked up theirsixth point to lead Group G. Ivory Coast remains tied with Portugal for second with one point apiece.

Ivory Coast’s Didier Drogba made his first start since breaking his right arm against Japan June 4 and scored in the 79th minute for his side’s lone goal – the first ever scored by an African team against Brazil in a World Cup.

Kaka became the first player with two assists in one match before receiving a second yellow card on a late dubious decision. He will miss Brazil’s next match against Portugal on Friday.

With the Elephants’ loss, African nations fell to 1-7-4 during the tournament. Ghana possesses the lone win.

Brazil took control in the 25th minute when Fabiano took Kaka’s feed and drilled a shot from the right side of the 6-yard box out of Ivorian keeper Boubacar Barry’s reach into the roof of the net – very similar in nature to American Landon Donovan’s strike in the United States’ draw with Slovenia.

Fabiano struck again for the Verde-Amarela in the 50th minute, gathering a loose ball in the box and tapping it over Didier Zokora’s and Yaya Toure’s heads – though appearing to bump the ball twice with his forearm and upper arm – before finishing with his left foot.

The Brazilians turned it into a rout in the 62nd with its trademark beautiful passing game. Kaka found Elano cutting unmarked to the left across the box, and Elano went inside the back post for a three-goal lead.

Drogba scored for the Elephants in the 79th minute, heading a ball from Toure inside the near post past flatfooted Brazilian goalie Julio Cesar.

With the game out of hand late, play began to get a little chippy. Three minutes after Elano’s goal, Ivory Coast’s Ismael Tiote took him out with a boot to the shin. Elano was carried off on a stretcher.

Then, in the 87th minute, Kaka bumped Kader Keita in the chest with an elbow. But Keita went down, holding his face and inciting a small riot, with several of his teammates chasing Kaka back up the pitch. Kaka was then shown yellow for the second time and sent off.

The Ivorians were whistled for 22 fouls overall and three yellow cards, while Brazil was called for 17 fouls and Kaka’s double-yellow.

Ivory Coast returns to action Friday against North Korea in what now amounts to a must-win for the Ivorians to survive – their goal differential dropped to -2 with Sunday’s loss, while Portugal has yet to play its second match.

NOTES: This was Brazil’s and Ivory Coast’s first-ever meeting. … The Brazilians have won seven straight matches.

Photo above: Brazil's Luis Fabiano scores his first goal Sunday. (Kai Pfaffenbach/Reuters)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Friday, June 18, 2010

Americans come from 2-0 hole to draw Slovenia

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SPECIAL COVERAGE – GROUP STAGE

In desperate need of at least a draw to keep their hopes alive to advance out of Group C play, the United States clawed back from a 2-0 second-half deficit to Slovenia to secure just that.

But the Americans must be unsatisfied after coming so close to securing the three points a win would have given them.

Landon Donovan and Michael Bradley tallied second-half goals to forge a 2-2 draw with Slovenia in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday evening.

However, the Yanks’ Maurice Edu’s 85th-minute tiebreaking goal was disallowed by Mali referee Koman Coulibaly – due, according to FIFA, to a foul, which was not readily apparent on replay.

Each side gets one point for the draw, leaving the Slovenes on top of Group C with four points after their win over Algeria. The U.S. has two points, having drawn England.

England and Algeria face off Friday night. If the English win as expected, the U.S. will have to win its final group game Wednesday with Algeria and hope for some help to have any shot to advance to the knockout stage.

As has become the norm, the Americans conceded early to put themselves in trouble. Slovenia’s Valter Birsa, unmarked, hit a long left-footed screamer from the back line of the box that U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard apparently couldn't see and didn’t even try to stop, putting the Green Dragons on top 1-0 in the 13th minute.

Then, just when the Americans were beginning to find some scoring chances, an unmarked Zlatan Ljubijankic scored in the box past Howard, who was diving out to stop the ball, putting the Yanks in serious trouble.

Donovan got the Americans back in the game early in the second half. He slipped past defender Bostjan Cesar and over Marko Suler in the 48th minute and hit a laser from a tight angle right over Slovene keeper Samir Handanovic to cut the U.S. deficit in half.

Thirty-four minutes later, Steve Cherundolo sent a long kick forward and Jozy Altidore headed it on to Bradley, who finished in the net for the equalizer.

The Americans thought they had the match won in the 85th minute, when Edu scored in the box off Donovan’s free kick. But Coulibaly waved the goal off.

Howard then saved a couple of scoring chances to preserve the draw. He stopped Milivoje Novakovic’s 88th-minute header and dove to knock away a long Aleksandar Radosavljevic effort one minute later.

Herculez Gomez got off one final scoring try for the U.S. in the first minute of stoppage time, but missed high.

Slovenia faces England Wednesday. The English won the sides’ last matchup 2-1 in a September friendly in London.

NOTES: Slovenia is the least populous nation represented at the World Cup, while the U.S. is the highest. … The Green Dragons are 7-1-1 in their last nine matches. … The U.S. is 1-30-3 all-time when going down by two goals. The lone win came in a 1995 friendly against Saudi Arabia. … The U.S.' Robbie Findley was yellow-carded for the second straight game and will miss the match with Algeria. ... Donovan becomes the third American to score at two different World Cups, joining Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey, who accomplished the feat against England last week. Donovan scored against Poland and Mexico in the 2002 World Cup.

First image: The U.S.' Michael Bradley (4) celebrates with Herculez Gomez (9) after his game-tying goal Friday. (Luca Bruno/AP)

Second image: Slovenia's Valter Birsa (10) celebrates after his goal Friday. (Luca Bruno/AP)


Video credit – ESPN

Lakers down Celtics 83-79 to repeat with 16th NBA title

2010 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 7

With the NBA championship at stake in Game 7 of the NBA finals, the Los Angeles Lakers shot just 32.5 percent from the field, 20 percent from 3-point range and 67.6 percent from the free throw line.

Turned out not to matter. Finals MVP Kobe Bryant and Co. played excellent defense, dominated Boston on the boards and made all the big shots down the stretch.

Bryant scored 23 points with 15 rebounds, the previously frigid Ron Artest scored 20 and the Lakers won their second straight title and avenged a 2008 finals loss to Boston with an 83-79 win in Los Angeles Thursday night.

The Lakers brought home their 16th title and second straight, denying the Celtics their 18th. It’s Bryant's and Derek Fisher’s fifth championship with the franchise.

Paul Pierce led five Celtics in double figures with 18 points in addition to 10 rebounds.

Like most of the series, it wasn’t a pretty game offensively. But the Lakers outrebounded Boston 53-40 and brought down 23 offensive boards, capitalizing on the absence of Boston center Kendrick Perkins, who was out after tearing two knee ligaments in Game 6.

Down 49-36 in the third quarter, the Lakers scored nine of the next 11 points, with Kobe Bryant scoring the first three points and Lamar Odom hitting a putback to cut Los Angeles’ deficit to 51-45.

Then, after the Celtics opened a nine-point lead back up, Bryant made a layup, Pau Gasol sank two free throws and Odom made another putback to close the third period. Gasol’s jumper to open the final frame brought the Lakers to within 57-55.

From that point, L.A. outscored Boston 30-22 in the fourth quarter, to the delight of the home Staples Center crowd. Gasol and Boston’s Kevin Garnett traded baskets before Bryant hit three free throws. After an Allen runner, Ron Artest made a three-point play to tie the game 61-all with 7:30 left.

Allen missed his first free throw of the finals but then canned three straight from the line, but Fisher retied the game with a 3. Bryant then hit two freebies and a jumper and Gasol netted a pair of free throws to go up 70-64 with 4:30 to go.

A Pierce jumper and a Garnett slam sandwiched around a Bryant free throw then cut the Celtics’ deficit to 71-68 before three Gasol free throws. Pierce drained two from the line, but Gasol got the roll on a shot down low for a six-point edge with 1:30 remaining.

Boston’s Rasheed Wallace drilled a crazy 3 and Artest answered with a trey before Allen sank a 3 of his own in the corner. With less than a minute to go, Bryant missed his own try from beyond the arc, but Gasol pulled down the offensive board and found Bryant, who was fouled and sank two free throws for an 81-76 lead with 25.7 seconds left.

On the ensuing possession, Rondo grabbed an offensive rebound and hit a desperation 3 with 16.2 seconds to go to cut the Celtics’ deficit to two. Boston then fouled Sasha Vujacic, who canned two from the line to open up a two-possession lead.

Rondo then threw up another 3 which found nothing but air. Odom threw the ball high downcourt as time expired to seal the Laker victory.

Despite getting pounded on the boards early with Perkins’ absence, Boston took care of business on offense with a 13-3 run to close the first quarter. Ray Allen sank a 3-pointer in the corner, Rajon Rondo found Garnett for an alley-oop, Glen Davis made a reverse layup, Paul Pierce drained a jumper and Davis scored and hit two more free throws for a 23-14 lead.

But L.A. scored the first 11 points of the half while forcing eight straight Boston misses from the field to retake the lead. Bryant hit a J in the lane, Odom made a free throw, Artest sank a putback and Gasol scored down low. Artest then made a steal, outran a lackadaisical Allen for a transition layup and followed that with another putback to go up 25-23.

With the score 29-all, the Celtics put together a 9-2 spurt to lead at halftime. Allen made two from the charity stripe, Pierce hit two more, Wallace sank a jumper and Pierce canned a 3 for a seven-point lead. Pierce’s free throws to close the half gave Boston a 40-34 edge at the break.

The Celtics picked up where they left off with a 9-2 run in the opening minutes of the third quarter. Garnett scored down low and made a three-point play before Rondo hit a scoop shot in the lane and a putback for a 49-36 edge.

Gasol scored 19 points with 18 boards. Fisher added 10.

Garnett netted 17 points. Rondo scored 14 with 10 assists, Allen added 13 and Wallace, starting for Perkins, scored 11.

NOTES: This was the longtime rivals’ 12th meeting in the finals. Boston has won nine of those series. … Allen hit his first 21 free throws of the series. … Fisher was 0-for-8 on 3s coming in but his both he tried in Game 7. … The Lakers hadn’t won a title at home since dispatching Indiana in 2000. … No visiting team has won a finals Game 7 since the Washington Bullets did so in 1978.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant drives past Boston's Ray Allen in Game 7. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Switzerland stuns Spain 1-0, matches shutout record

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SPECIAL COVERAGE – GROUP STAGE

It was clear early on Switzerland would need a spectacular defensive effort to beat European champion Spain in their World Cup Group H opener.

In tying the World Cup record for most consecutive shutouts, the Swiss provided just that – and as a result beat the Spaniards for the first time ever.

Goalkeeper Diego Benaglio turned away the Spaniards time and again and midfielder Gelson Fernandes scored in the 52nd minute as Switzerland shocked Spain 1-0 in Durban, South Africa, Wednesday.

Benaglio’s effort was the fifth straight Swiss World Cup shutout, tying the record Italy set in 1990. But more importantly, it was the first victory for the Schweizer Nati over Spain in 19 matches and ties Switzerland with Chile, which it faces Monday, atop Group H.

Spain, the second-ranked team in the world, fell for just the second time in its last 50 matches – La Furia last lost to the United States in a 2-0 stunner at last summer’s Confederations Cup in South Africa. The Spaniards saw their 12-game winning streak snapped.

The Spaniards dominated offensive play even without Fernando Torres starting – they controlled possession 74 percent of the game and outshot Switzerland 25-9. In the first half, Benaglio gathered in Andres Iniesta’s 21st-minute shot after Fernandes deflected it, and came out to stifle an open Gerard Pique in the box three minutes later.

David Villa saw his 31st-minute free kick from the top of the box get blocked and then chipped a ball past an open goal from in close in the 45th minute, leading to a scoreless tie at halftime.

A bit of chaotic play in the 52nd minute gave the Swiss the lead. Eren Derdiyok took a long goal kick upfield, passed off and got a return ball. Approaching the goal inside the box, he was taken out feet-first by Spanish keeper Iker Casillas. But Casillas and Pique couldn’t corral the loose ball, and Fernandes finished into what was basically an open net.

The trailing Spaniards then brought in Torres and began to pepper the Swiss side, looking for the equalizer. Sergio Ramos’s 60th-minute header off a Xavi cross was just high and Benaglio stonewalled Villa near the top of the box one minute later.

Iniesta pulled a shot wide right in the 63rd minute, Torres hooked a shot harmlessly high and away to the right in the 68th and Alonso struck the crossbar on a long line-drive strike in the 70th minute for perhaps Spain’s closest near-miss.

Two minutes later, Benaglio stopped Jesus Navas in the box before Switzerland nearly doubled its lead, but Derdiyok, who had beaten three men into the center of the box, tapped his shot squarely off the near post in the 74th minute.

Navas missed off the left post in the 77th minute and Torres headed a ball over the bar n the 85th. Finally, near the end of five minutes of stoppage time, Xavi airmailed a last-ditch effort, sealing Spain’s fate.

Spain, which entered the tournament as a favorite, now faces an uphill battle in its quest for its first world title. La Roja takes on Honduras Monday. Chile beat Honduras 1-0 Wednesday – its first World Cup win in 48 years – in other Group H action.

NOTES: The side that scores first is 10-0-4 in this World Cup. … Switzerland was 0-2-1 in its last three matches coming in. … Spain had won seven straight group matches, dating back to a 0-0 draw with Uruguay in the 1998 World Cup. … Torres, Iniesta and Cesc Fabregas were all limited with right leg injuries. Iniesta left after tumbling on a tackle in the 77th minute and Fabregas did not play. … The Swiss were without captain and all-time goal leader Alexander Frei and Valon Behrami, due to ankle and thigh injuries, respectively.

Photo above: Switzerland's Gelson Fernandes moves past Spain's Xavi (8) during their match Wednesday. (Julie Jacobson/AP)

Video credit – ESPN

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Lakers beat down Boston 89-67 to force Game 7

2010 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 6

Playing in their first elimination game of these playoffs, the Los Angeles Lakers pummeled Boston, setting up a winner-take-all Game 7 to determine the NBA champion.

Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 26 points and Pau Gasol had his fourth double-double of the finals as the Lakers defeated Boston 89-67 in Game 6 in Los Angeles Tuesday night.

The rivals will face off Thursday in Los Angeles in Game 7, with the Larry O’Brien Trophy at stake.

L.A., which stood by and watched Boston’s bench put together a breakout performance in Game 4, outscored the Celtic reserves 25-13. The Lakers also out-rebounded Boston 52-39.

The Celtics were thoroughly dominated from the second quarter on, scoring the second fewest points in a finals game. And their case wasn’t helped by the first-quarter injury of center Kendrick Perkins, who sustained a knee sprain and did not return after the 5:30 mark of the first period.

The Lakers took their first double-digit lead after scoring seven of the last nine points of the first quarter – on a Ron Artest jumper and 3-pointer and a Gasol basket down low – and never came close to trailing again.

They were making all the hustle plays Boston made in the last two games, highlighted by backup Jordan Farmar sliding at midcourt ahead of the Celtics’ Rajon Rondo to shovel a loose ball ahead to Bryant, who would sink two free throws on the possession.

That play was part of a 19-6 second-quarter run, which included four Lamar Odom points, a Farmar layup in the lane, a Gasol putback out of nowhere, Sasha Vujacic’s 3-pointer, Farmar’s contested slam in transition and a long Artest J. Bryant’s layup gave Los Angeles a 49-27 lead, and the Lakers were up 51-31 at the break.

The second half was mostly organized chaos, showcasing more strong play from the L.A. bench – notably, two thunderous Shannon Brown dunks, the second a one-handed alley-oop finish off Gasol’s pass.

Gasol scored 17 points with 13 rebounds – finishing one assist shy of a triple-double – and Bryant hauled down 11 boards. Artest poured in 15 and Odom grabbed 10 rebounds.

Ray Allen led Boston with 19 points, his highest point total since his record-setting Game 2 performance. Paul Pierce scored 13, Kevin Garnett totaled 12 and Rondo netted 10.

NOTES: The Lakers are 10-1 at home this postseason and have won 30 of their last 34 home playoff contests. … Boston is 3-4 this season in potential close-out games and 0-3 away from home. … Perkins, who went down going up for an offensive rebound, will be re-evaluated Wednesday. … The team leading after the first quarter has won every game in the series. … The Lakers haven’t lost consecutive home playoff games since 2000, when they fell twice to Portland. … Thursday’s game will be just the third finals Game 7 in the last 21 years. … The lowest point output in a finals game was Utah’s 54-point effort in a loss to Chicago in the 1998 finals.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Los Angeles' Pau Gasol (16) moves down low against Boston's Rasheed Wallace, left, during Game 6. (Wally Skalij/Los Angeles Times)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Celtics hold off Bryant, L.A. 92-86, go up 3-2 in finals

2010 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 5

It was bound to happen eventually. Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant finally broke out in a big way, scoring 38 points in Game 5 of the NBA finals.

But Boston held down the rest of the Lakers all night and is now in control of the series, up 3-2 headed back to L.A.

Paul Pierce led four Celtics in double digits with 27 points, his highest total of the series, as the C’s withstood Bryant’s barrage to win 92-86 in Boston Sunday night.

Bryant scored 23 straight Lakers points from late in the second quarter until the 2:16 mark of the third quarter. But only Pau Gasol joined him in double figures, with 12 points, and Los Angeles couldn’t complete its comeback from a 13-point third-quarter deficit and trails in a series for the first time this postseason.

The Lakers did manage to cut their deficit to 87-82 with 1:30 left after hitting seven straight free throws, five from Bryant. Ron Artest then went to the line with 43 seconds left, but missed two, and Pierce outwrestled Bryant for the rebound.

On the ensuing possession, Rajon Rondo took a nice cross-court pass from Pierce and sank a layup on a breakaway. L.A.’s Lamar Odom answered with a putback, but Ray Allen drained a pair of free throws with 18.4 ticks to go for a 91-84 edge.

The Celtics took over late in the second quarter and never trailed again. Trailing 37-36 after an Artest 3-pointer and a Bryant J, Boston scored 16 of the next 20 points, with Pierce drilling two 3s, for a 52-41 lead early in the third quarter.

Meanwhile, Bryant was in the midst of scoring the Lakers’ first 19 points of the third stanza, including three treys and a ridiculous tip-in off a Derek Fisher assist. But Los Angeles got no closer during the run because it couldn’t hold the Celtics either – Boston took its biggest lead, 71-58, after Allen hit a pair of jumpers.

Boston’s Kevin Garnett put up a double-double, scoring 18 points with 10 boards. Rondo added 18 and Allen scored 12.

Gasol hauled down 12 rebounds for the Lakers.

Game 6 is in Los Angeles Tuesday night.

NOTES: Los Angeles’ Andrew Bynum played 32 minutes after having fluid drained from his right knee after Game 4, when he only played 12 minutes. Bynum partially tore his meniscus in the Lakers’ first-round series against Oklahoma City. … Of the 25 finals series that have been tied at two games apiece, the winner of Game 5 went on to win 19 of those series. … Los Angeles shot 26 free throws to Boston’s 13. … Allen has missed all 18 3-pointers he’s tried since Game 2, when he set a finals single-game record with eight 3s. He has sunk all 16 free throws he’s attempted this series. … With Bryant at the line with 1:30 remaining, a fan threw an object on the floor, drawing a reprimand from the public-address announcer.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Boston's Rajon Rondo (9) directs the Celtics' offense in Game 5. (Adam Hunger/Reuters)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Dempsey scores fortunate goal, U.S. draws England 1-1

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SPECIAL COVERAGE – GROUP STAGE

For some reason, the United States soccer team seems to get better results against England in the World Cup than in other matches.

This time, the U.S. side combined one terrible England mistake with solid goalkeeping to salvage a tie in their Group C opener.

Clint Dempsey’s 40th-minute shot somehow made it through English keeper Robert Green and American goalie Tim Howard was strong after allowing an early goal as the U.S. drew England 1-1 in Rustenburg, South Africa, Saturday.

The Three Lions went on top in the fourth minute, when England captain Steven Gerrard took a cross from Emile Heskey, got past Yanks midfielder Ricardo Clark in the box and finished to a soon-to-be-irate Howard’s right.

But the U.S. took advantage of Green’s error in the 40th minute to tie the match. Dempsey’s left-footed shot from about 25 yards out hit Green’s gloves and dribbled right behind him and out of his desperate reach across the goal line.

The play came 11 minutes after Howard was injured when Heskey slid boot-first into Howard’s chest chasing a ball in the keeper’s box. Howard stayed down for a moment and grimaced for several more moments but stayed in the game.

Both sides had some excellent scoring chances in the second half, but could not convert. Howard stopped a 52nd-minute effort from Heskey and Lampard’s 63rd-minute shot before snuffing out two scoring chances in the same minute – slapping away Shaun Wright-Phillips’ breakaway shot away and, seconds later, grabbing Wayne Rooney’s flick in the 76th minute.

Stars and Stripes captain Carlos Bocanegra headed a ball wide left on Landon Donovan’s set piece in the 62nd minute before Jozy Altidore wasted a golden chance, breaking away down the left side and hitting Green’s hand and the near post from inside the 6-yard box.

Donovan’s 89th-minute strike was high over the net in the last legitimate chance to break the draw.

The Yanks return to action Friday against Algeria, while England faces Slovenia, which it beat 2-1 Sept. 5 at Wembley Stadium in London.

NOTES: England now leads the all-time series 7-2-1, winning three straight against the U.S. since the Americans’ last win, 2-0 in a June 9, 1993 friendly in Foxborough, Mass. … The Yanks still lead the Three Lions in World Cup play, 1-0-1, after stunning the English 1-0 in 1950 in Brazil. … Gerrard’s goal was the seventh the U.S. has allowed in the first 15 minutes of matches in World Cups since 1990. … Oguchi Onyewu played a full 90 minutes for the U.S. for the first time since tearing his left patellar tendon in an Oct. 14 qualifying match against Costa Rica, while Altidore played until the 86th minute despite spraining his ankle during pre-Cup training.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: The U.S.' Clint Dempsey (8) celebrates his goal with Michael Bradley (4) and Jozy Altidore (17) Saturday. (Timothy A. Clary / AFP -- Getty Images)


Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Friday, June 11, 2010

Host South Africa draw Mexico 1-1 to open World Cup

2010 FIFA WORLD CUP SPECIAL COVERAGE – GROUP STAGE

On paper, South Africa, the 83rd-ranked team in the world by FIFA, shouldn’t have had much of a chance against No. 17 Mexico.

Then again, this match was hardly played in a normal situation, and Bafana Bafana nearly pulled off a monumental upset in the World Cup opener.

Midfielder Siphiwe Tshabalala gave host South Africa a lead in the 55th minute, which held up until Mexico’s Rafael Marquez answered in the 79th, producing a 1-1 draw in Johannesburg, South Africa, Friday.

El Tri possessed the ball 65 percent of the game but were unable to capitalize on numerous first-half chances, leaving the door open for South Africa, the first African nation to host a World Cup.

After an exciting first half with no goals, Tshabalala sent the vuvuzela-blowing partisans into a frenzy in the 55th minute. He ran down the left side and hit a left-footed scorcher from the box past Mexican goalkeeper Oscar Perez and defender Ricardo Osorio.

Twenty-four minutes later, the patient El Tri attack finally yielded a goal. Marquez took Andres Guardado’s cross and drilled a shot over South African keeper Itumeleng Khune for the equalizer.

Mexico dominated first-half play, coming very close to several goals and even having one disallowed. Giovani Dos Santos had a near miss in the second minute, an unmarked Guillermo Franco headed a 15th-minute corner over the crossbar and Dos Santos missed just wide left again in the 19th minute.

Marquez missed a free kick high in the 28th minute, Khune stonewalled Franco with a forearm save in the box in 32nd minute and Carlos Vela’s 34th-minute cross missed wide left before Dos Santos’ shot on frame in the 37th minute was blocked.

Bafana Bafana narrowly averted disaster one minute later, when Vela’s goal off a corner was disallowed due to offsides – a close call at best.

Franco then again headed the Jabulani, an adidas-made ball, over the bar again from the box in the 41st minute.

But South Africa later missed out on a couple of big second-half chances themselves. Teko Modise went on a 70th-minute run into the box but was tripped up by Mexican defender Francisco Rodriguez before Perez cleared his dribbler.

Then, with the score even at 1 in the 90th minute, striker Katlego Mphela took a goal kick and broke free down the right side, but his shot hit the left post from just outside the box.

South Africa resume Group A play Wednesday against Uruguay, while Mexico face France Thursday.

NOTES: With the draw, host nations are 14-0-6 in World Cup openers all-time. … South Africa are the lowest-ranked host team ever. … Bafana Bafana are now unbeaten in their last 13 matches, dating back to an Oct. 13 1-0 loss to Iceland in a friendly in Reykjavik. … El Tri are winless in three meetings against African sides in World Cup play. They lost to Tunisia 3-1 in 1978 and drew Angola 0-0 in 2006. … The Mexicans are 8-2-3 in their last 13 games.

Photo above: Mexico's Gerado Torrado (6) and South Africa's Teko Modise (11) battle for the ball Friday. (Chris Brunskill/UPI)


Video credit – ESPN

Boston bench gives Celtics 96-89 win in Game 4

2010 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 4

With Boston’s biggest stars still not on track much of the night, the Celtics’ bench carried them to an NBA Finals-tying victory.

Glen Davis scored 18 points and Nate Robinson added 12 as the Celtics beat the Lakers 96-89 in a physical affair in Game 4 in Boston Thursday night.

Paul Pierce paced Boston with 19 points, while Los Angeles’ Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 33.

The game saw more heated reactions and interactions than any games in the series to date. Boston’s Rasheed Wallace and Robinson each drew technical fouls, Bryant and Boston’s Kendrick Perkins had a heated conversation, the Celtics’ Ray Allen and L.A.’s Derek Fisher had a staring contest and Robinson and Bryant engaged in a little shoving for positioning before a free throw.

With the Celtics down 64-62, Boston’s bench players gave their team a lead their starters couldn’t lose. With four reserves – Davis, Robinson, Wallace and Tony Allen on the floor with Ray Allen – the C’s went on a 12-2 run, with Davis and Tony Allen each making 3-point plays and Ray Allen adding two field goals.

Then, leading 76-70, Wallace, fresh off his technical whistle for his reaction after a foul call, drilled a 3 to extend his team’s lead to nine.

Boston starters Pierce and Rajon Rondo got in on the fun down the stretch. Rondo grabbed a deflection defensively and gave the ball to Pierce, who ran down the shot clock and made an and-1. Rondo then tipped away a Bryant pass, ran the ball down and made a layup with 31.4 seconds left.

Bryant hit a trey to cut the Lakers’ deficit to 94-89 with 11 seconds left, but Pierce canned two free throws with 9.5 seconds to go to end it.

Cold shooting plagued both teams during the first half. Robinson’s open 3 gave Boston a 19-16 lead at the end of the first period.

Los Angeles finally got a little something going offensively in the second stanza. Down 29-28, Bryant drained back-to-back 3s to spur the Lakers to a 43-35 edge. But Boston’s Kevin Garnett snagged a loose ball and hit a jumper at the first-half buzzer to cut the Celtics’ halftime deficit to 45-42.

Garnett scored 13 points and Rondo scored 10. Ray Allen followed a 0-for-13 shooting effort in Game 3 with 12 points.

Gasol poured in 21 points and Lamar Odom added 10 for Los Angeles.

Game 5 is Sunday night in Boston.

NOTES: Fisher missed his first free throw of the series in Game 4 when his technical free throw after Robinson was teed up didn’t go down. He had been 9-for-9. … Boston outscored L.A. 54-34 in the paint and 15-2 on fast breaks.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Boston's Glen Davis (11) and Nate Robinson celebrate during the Celtics' win in Game 4. (Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)


Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Kane, Hawks beat Flyers in OT for first Cup in 49 years

2010 NHL STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 6

After waiting 49 years to hoist the Stanley Cup, what’s a few more minutes?

Chicago star Patrick Kane found the net four minutes into overtime to give the Blackhawks a 4-3 win over the Flyers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals in Philadelphia Wednesday night.

The Blackhawks’ title – their first since 1961 – broke the NHL’s longest active championship drought. Jonathan Toews, who had an assist, received the Conn Smythe playoff MVP trophy.

The host Flyers, who needed a shootout win over the New York Rangers in the regular-season finale just to reach the playoffs as the East’s No. 7 seed, finally lost in their sixth win-or-go-home game since then.

But, as usual, Philadelphia didn’t go down without a fight. Trailing 3-2 with 3:59 left in regulation, Scott Hartnell scored his second goal of the game and eighth of the playoffs, tipping the puck past Blackhawks goaltender Antti Niemi after it bounced off Chicago’s Brent Seabrook’s stick and Marian Hossa’s skate. Ville Leino and Danny Briere were credited with assists.

The unfazed Blackhawks went back into attack mode for the victory. With 4:06 gone in the extra session, Kane took Brian Campbell’s pass and slid the puck past Flyers tender Michael Leighton. The goal came with less fanfare than usual – the light did not immediately go off and the referee made no immediate signal, but replays showed the puck did slide across the goal line, handing Chicago the title.

The ‘Hawks broke through first in the opening period. Dustin Byfuglien scored on a power play at 16:49, with Jonathan Toews and Kane assisting, for his 11th goal of the postseason.

Philadelphia evened the count at the end of the first frame. With 26.5 seconds left in the period, Hartnell tipped in a rebound off a Briere power-play shot, with Chris Pronger also receiving an assist on the play.

The Flyers took the lead in the second period. Briere converted a tic-tac-toe goal on a 2-on-0 break, his team-leading 12th of the playoffs. Leino and Lukas Krajicek got helpers on the play at 8:00.

Two minutes later, Chicago’s Patrick Sharp beat Leighton with assistance from Dave Bolland and Duncan Keith to tie the score.

Then, at the 17:43 mark of the second, the Blackhawks’ Andrew Ladd deflected home a Niklas Hjalmarsson slap shot, with Kane also receiving an assist, for a 3-2 lead heading into the final frame.

Niemi stopped 21 shots for the Blackhawks, while Philadelphia’s Leighton made 37 saves.

Chicago outshot the Flyers 41-24 and 27-13 in the first two periods.

NOTES: Game 6 marked the first win by a road team in the series. … Hossa, playing in his third straight Stanley Cup finals, finally won. He lost in 2008 with the Penguins and 2009 with the Red Wings. … The Blackhawks finished the playoffs 11-1 when leading after the second period. … Philadelphia ends the postseason 9-2 at home. Game 6 was their first loss in their last eight home games. … This was Chicago’s first win at Philadelphia in their last 11, dating back to 1996.

BOX SCORE


Photo above: Chicago's Andrew Ladd celebrates after scoring a second-period goal during Game 6. (Brian Cassella/Chicago Tribune)

Video credit – NBC

Fisher steps up late, Lakers regain Finals lead in Boston

2010 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 3

As usual, Kobe Bryant led the Lakers offensively in Game 3 of the NBA finals. But it was veteran Derek Fisher who stepped up in the fourth period to keep Los Angeles on top.

Bryant scored 29 points, Fisher scored 11 of his 16 in the fourth quarter and the Lakers beat the Celtics 91-84 in Boston Tuesday night.

Kevin Garnett was the Celtics’ lone offensive bright spot, scoring 25 points – more than he had in Games 1 and 2 combined. But one game after hitting a finals-record eight 3-pointers, Ray Allen scored just 2 points, going 0-for-13 from the field, and Paul Pierce was again unspectacular, shooting 5-for-12 and pouring in 15.

Los Angeles was in control most of the night, but Boston made things interesting in the fourth period. Down six to begin the final frame, Glen Davis scored twice for the Celtics after a free throw by L.A.’s Pau Gasol, and Game 2 hero Rajon Rondo made a layup to cut Boston’s deficit to 68-67 with 9:45 left.

But the Celtics couldn’t quite come all the way back. Fisher answered with a drive in the lane, Lamar Odom scored on a putback and Fisher scored three straight Lakers baskets to go up 78-73.

Boston cut the L.A. lead back down to two points with a Pierce 3 and two Garnett baskets, but Bryant sank a jumper and Fisher completed an and-1 in transition to open up a seven-point lead. Pierce made a layup, but Sasha Vujacic and Bryant canned two each from the line to secure the win.

Boston went up early 12-5 with three baskets apiece from Garnett and Rondo, but the Lakers took control with a 21-5 run to close the first quarter. Bryant scored seven points during the run, Odom banked home a 3-pointer and added an and-1 in transition, and Gasol scored four. Even Luke Walton and Shannon Brown scored to get in on the fun, and Los Angeles led 26-17 at the end of the first.

L.A. kept the heat on to begin the second period, opening up a 17-point advantage. Bryant made an old-fashioned 3-point play, Brown sank a jumper, Andrew Bynum hit a turnaround and Jordan Farmar and Odom made layups to go on top 37-20. The Lakers held a 52-40 lead at the break.

Bryant didn’t especially well from the field, hitting 10 of 29 field goals. But Odom had by far his best game of the series, totaling 12 points. Gasol had his customary double-double, scoring 13 points with 13 rebounds. Bynum pulled down 10 boards as well.

Davis scored 12 points and Rondo added 11 for the Celtics.

Game 4 is Thursday night in Boston.

NOTES: Garnett hit just two field goals in Game 2 but scored Boston’s first three from the field Tuesday. … Allen was one missed field goal shy of the worst shooting performance in finals history.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Los Angeles' Derek Fisher, right, shoots over Boston's Rasheed Wallace during Game 3 Tuesday. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Monday, June 7, 2010

Chanticleers advance with 11-10 win in 10 over Cougars

2010 COLLEGE BASEBALL POSTSEASON SPECIAL COVERAGE – NCAA TOURNAMENT MYRTLE BEACH REGIONAL

It took a couple of wild victories in the Myrtle Beach Regional for Coastal Carolina to break College of Charleston’s spell.

The second one sets up a Chanticleer showdown with in-state foe South Carolina in the super regionals.

Rich Witten hit a key grand slam and scored the winning run on a 10th-inning wild pitch, Cody Wheeler threw three relief innings to get the win and host Coastal Carolina won 11-10 to advance in Myrtle Beach, S.C., Monday afternoon.

Coastal’s victory, its third in two days, comes on the heels of its 8-7 walk-off win over the Cougars Sunday night to force Monday’s game. College of Charleston put the Chanticleers behind the eight-ball with a 16-6 win Saturday night, its third straight win this season in the series, but couldn’t finish off the Chants with a trip to the super regionals at stake.

The No. 4 national seed Chanticleers (55-8) will host the Gamecocks, who won their home regional, this weekend.

Before Coastal could rally to win in the 10th, it first had to survive the Cougars’ (44-19) bid in the bottom of the ninth. With the score tied at 10, Wheeler struck out the first two batters he faced, but Justin Brewer singled and his pinch runner, Thomas Brittle, took second base on a Jose Iglesias passed ball and moved to third on a Wheeler wild pitch. Baker Knox drew an intentional pass before Wheeler struck out Jamie Holler, but his wild pitch in the dirt got past Iglesias, allowing Holler to reach and load the bases.

But Coastal shortstop Taylor Motter bailed Wheeler out, taking Joey Bergman’s lightly hit grounder behind the mound after Wheeler deflected it and just beat Bergman to first with the throw. The call sent Cougars first base coach Chris Morris into histrionics – he spiked his helmet and was immediately ejected, then had to be restrained by police and escorted off the field – but the Chanticleers had escaped the jam.

Witten then began the 10th with a double to left. Adam Rice bunted him to third and Cougars reliever Heath Hembree’s pitch high over catcher Rob Kral’s glove let Witten score easily for the winning run.

Wheeler averted danger again in the bottom of the frame, allowing a Cole Rakar leadoff single and walking Matt Leeds before inducing a loud flyout to the warning track from Jose Rodriguez and striking out Greg Blake swinging to end the game and spark a teal-colored mob on the mound.

The Chanticleers drew first blood in the first inning. Sunday night hero Rico Noel hit a one-out triple off Rakar’s glove and scored on Tommy LaStella’s groundout. Iglesias then laced a two-out homer to left-center for a 2-0 edge.

Charleston wasted no time responding. Chants pitcher Matt Laney hit Bergman with his first pitch of the game and Rakar homered to left to even the score.

Coastal answered back in the third. Noel led off with an infield single off Bergman’s glove, stole second and scored on Iglesias’ single. Motter doubled with two down to plate Iglesias.

The Cougars took their first and only lead in the bottom of the inning, scoring four runs and sending 10 batters to the plate. Rakar’s double down the left-field line scored Holler, who had singled, and Bergman, who doubled to center. Rodriguez’s sac fly plated Rakar and pinch-hitter Brewer singled to right to score Kral, who walked, putting Charleston up 6-4.

Witten stepped up big-time in the sixth. After Chance Gilmore and Motter drew free passes, Daniel Bowman reached on a bunt single and Witten took Cougars reliever Matt Pegler deep for a grand slam and an 8-6 advantage.

The back-and-forth continued one inning later, when Charleston’s Rakar and Kral lifted back-to-back jacks to tie the game.

Coastal took a tenuous lead once more in the eighth, when Rice reached on a hit-by-pitch, Scott Woodward got on when Bergman committed an error and LaStella doubled into the left-center gap to score them both. But the Cougars came back – a Bergman groundout plated Knox, who had singled, and Rakar’s sac fly to left scored Holler, who had doubled, ahead of Gilmore’s throw to knot the score at 10.

Wheeler (12-0), who worked a complete-game victory over Stony Brook in the Chanticleers’ regional opener Friday night, pitched three scoreless innings to get the win in his first career relief appearance. He allowed three hits and two walks but pitched out of two big jams, with four strikeouts. Noel went 3-for-6 and Iglesias and Witten were both 2-for-5.

Rakar went 4-for-5 with six RBI to lead Charleston. Knox went 2-for-2, Brewer was 2-for-4 and Kral and Holler were 2-for-5. Hembree (5-3) took the loss, pitching 2 1-3 innings.

NOTES: Morris was the third Cougar ejected during the regional. Head coach Monte Lee was not present, serving a one-game Southern Conference suspension after being ejected from Sunday night’s game arguing a call. Freshman Dre Watts missed Sunday’s game after being ejected during the Cougars’ win over Coastal Saturday night.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Rich Witten (21) and his Coastal Carolina teammates celebrate after beating College of Charleston 11-10 to advance in the NCAA tournament Monday. (Willis Glassgow/AP)


Video credit – CBSsports.com; Audio credit – Chanticleer Sports Network

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Allen sets Finals 3 record, Boston wins Game 2, 103-94

2010 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 2

Boston coach Doc Rivers said before Game 2 of the NBA Finals his team needed to get Ray Allen the ball.

His star guard responded in a big way, and Rajon Rondo and the Celtics held off a Lakers comeback to even the finals.

Allen set a finals single-game record with eight 3-pointers and scored 32 points, Rondo put up a triple-double and Boston closed with a 16-4 run to hold off the Lakers 103-94 in Los Angeles Sunday night.

Boston won despite seeing little contribution from the other two members of its so-called “Big Four.” Paul Pierce scored just 10 points, and Kevin Garnett battled foul trouble much of the night, totaling six points.

But one game after shooting just 1-for-10 on 3s in Game 1, Allen and the Celtics sank 11 of 16. Both teams shot over 40 percent from the field overall.

The Celtics, who were badly outmuscled on both ends of the floor in Game 1, fared much better Sunday. They won the rebounding battle 44-39, outscored Los Angeles 36-26 in the paint and held the Lakers under 100 points for the first time in their last 12 games.

L.A., which set a finals record for blocks in a game with 14, lost for the first time at home this postseason. The Lakers trailed by 14 at one point late in the first half but came all the way back to take a fourth-quarter lead before faltering down the stretch.

Down 90-87 with five minutes to go, Rondo led his team on a late spurt to reclaim the victory that had once seemed secure. Rondo scored twice in succession, Garnett finally got a shot to stay down and Rondo sank an open jumper for a 95-90 lead.

One possession later, Rivers ran onto the floor to call a timeout to avoid an eight-second violation, and was rewarded with Kendrick Perkins’ up-and-under basket. Perkins, Rondo and Garnett combined for six free throws, yielding just an open Kobe Bryant 3 and a Pau Gasol free throw, the rest of the way.

Despite Allen’s hot first half, when he hit seven consecutive treys, the Lakers trailed by only six at halftime after scoring seven straight to close the second quarter. Ron Artest sank a free throw, Gasol dunked for an and-1 and Bryant stole a bad Shelden Williams pass and hit a 3 to draw Los Angeles to within 54-48 at the break.

The Lakers then began the third period with a four-point play, when Andrew Bynum made a free throw before Gasol rebounded his second miss and Artest hit a 3-pointer in the corner. Artest then made a steal and sank one free throw to bring L.A. to within 54-53.

Then, after a Perkins dunk, Bryant made a layup and Gasol hit a jumper to give the Lakers the lead. Neither team led by more than four the rest of the way until Boston’s game-ending run.

The Celtics put together the first significant run of the game to close the first quarter and forced 10 straight Lakers misses in the process. Down 21-20, Boston’s Rasheed Wallace made a 3, Pierce hit four free throws and Wallace cashed in another long jumper. Tony Allen made two free throws.

Then, after Jordan Farmar broke L.A.’s drought with a dunk, Rondo deked Bynum into flying past him and scored down low and Allen hit four straight 3s to put Boston up big.

Rondo scored 19 points, dished 10 assists and snagged 12 rebounds. Perkins scored 12 for Boston.

Gasol scored 25 to lead Los Angeles. Bryant and Bynum each chipped in 21. Bynum blocked seven shots and Gasol turned away six.

Game 3 is Tuesday night in Boston.

NOTES: Allen surpassed the old finals record of seven 3-pointers in a game. He accomplished the feat in Game 6 of the 2008 finals against Los Angeles, Houston’s Kenny Smith did it in Game 1 in 1995 against Orlando and Chicago’s Scottie Pippen sank seven against Utah in Game 3 in 1997. … This game broke Bryant’s string of four straight 30-point finals games, dating back to last year’s series with the Magic.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Boston's Ray Allen (20) shoots a 3-pointer over Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant during Game 2 Sunday. (Mark J. Terrill/AP)

Video credit – ESPN on ABC

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cardinals take down Billikens 11-2 to open tournament

2010 COLLEGE BASEBALL SPECIAL COVERAGE – NCAA TOURNAMENT LOUISVILLE REGIONAL

The No. 7 national seed Louisville Cardinals opened their home NCAA tournament regional with an 11-2 victory over Saint Louis in Louisville, Ky., Friday night.

Louisville advances to face Vanderbilt Saturday afternoon, while the Billikens take on Illinois State in an elimination game. The Commodores beat the Redbirds 8-7 in 13 innings Friday.

The Cardinals went on top for good with a three-run fourth inning. Trailing 2-1, Josh Richmond hit a sacrifice fly to score Phil Wunderlich, who was hit by a pitch. Zak Wasserman’s double to right plated Stewart Ijames, who had singled, and Jeff Arnold singled with two down to score Drew Haynes, who had doubled, for a 4-2 edge.

From there, Louisville (49-12) began to pile on. Ijames’ sac fly scored Adam Duvall, who was hit by a pitch, and Richmond doubled home Ryan Wright, who had reached on an infield single, for two more runs in the fifth.

Two innings later, the Cardinals’ Andrew Clark led off with a single ahead of Wright, who homered to left-center. Ijames then doubled to right-center, stole third base and came home on Saint Louis reliever Jim Foster’s balk.

Louisville mercifully scored just two more runs in the eighth. Clark hit a one-out, two-run dinger to right, plating Arnold, who had walked. The homer closed the scorebook at 11-2.

The Cardinals scored first in the third inning. Wasserman singled and scored on Clark’s sac fly.

The Atlantic-10 champion Billikens (33-28) answered for their only lead in the next frame. Danny Brock and Jon Myers led off with back-to-back jacks to go up 2-1.

Clark led the Louisville offensive attack, going 3-for-4 with three RBI. Wasserman went 2-for-3, Arnold and Ijames were each 2-for-4 and Wright was 2-for-5.

Reliever Tony Zych (5-2) was the pitcher of record for the Cardinals, working 3 1-3 innings of scoreless ball, allowing three hits with no walks and five strikeouts. Derek Self started and lasted just four-plus innings.

J.D. Dunn went 3-for-4 for Saint Louis at the dish. Bryant Cotton (9-5) took the loss, allowing eight runs on 12 hits over six innings, with one walk and four punchouts.

NOTES: Cardinals coach Dan McDonnell was not present and is serving a three-game suspension after using foul language and making physical contact with umpires during a loss to St. John’s in the Big East tournament. Hitting coach Chris Lemonis and pitching coach Roger Williams will lead the team during McDonnell’s absence. … With Brock’s fourth-inning home run, he tied Jason Wood for the single-season Saint Louis runs record with 64. Wood accomplished the feat in 1999. … Louisville secured a national top-eight seed for the first time. … The Cardinals have won nine of their last 11 games, while the Billikens’ seven-game winning streak was snapped. … Louisville leads the all-time series between the former Conference USA mates, 31-17.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Louisville's Drew Haynes slides safely into second base for a double under Saint Louis' Michael Levine's tag. (John Sommers II/Louisville Courier-Journal)

Video credit – CBSsports.com; Audio credit – KOOL-AM, Clarksville, Ind.

Bryant, Gasol push Lakers past C’s in Game 1, 102-89

2010 NBA PLAYOFFS SPECIAL COVERAGE – FINALS GAME 1

The last time the Lakers and the Celtics met in an NBA finals game, Boston embarrassed L.A. to clinch its 17th NBA title in Game 6 in 2008.

Yes, it was only Game 1, but on Thursday night, the defending champion Lakers returned the favor.

Kobe Bryant led all scorers with 30 points and Pau Gasol scored 28 in a double-double as the Lakers took Game 1 102-89 in Los Angeles.

The Celtics never led after Rajon Rondo scored the first points of the game, and the Lakers bullied Boston down low, outscoring the Celtics 48-30 in the paint and winning the rebound battle 42-31.

The Lakers – who are 9-0 at home during the playoffs – and Celtics are each seeking their second title in three years. Boston downed Los Angeles in six games in 2008, and the Lakers returned to the finals last season, defeating Orlando in five games.

L.A. was dominant most of the night, culminating with a 12-2 third-quarter run to open up a 20-point lead. Bryant slammed home an alley-oop feed from Derek Fisher, the Lakers hit eight of nine free throws and Ron Artest nailed a 3-pointer to put Los Angeles on top 84-64 heading into the fourth quarter.

Late in the second period, the Lakers had turned a two-point edge into nine when Gasol canned a jumper and Artest nailed a 3 and scored in transition to go up 44-35. Los Angeles led 50-41 at halftime after Rondo’s fadeaway jumper at the buzzer.

Artest scored 15 points for the Lakers, while Andrew Bynum added 10. Gasol pulled down 14 rebounds.

Paul Pierce scored 24 to lead Boston. Kevin Garnett scored 16, Rondo added 13 and Ray Allen netted 12.

Game 2 is Sunday night in Los Angeles.

NOTES: The Lakers are now 29-3 in the last three seasons in home playoff games. … Boston has won nine of the teams’ 11 finals series. … This is the fourth time the last two champions have met in the finals.

BOX SCORE

Photo above: Los Angeles' Kobe Bryant, right, drives on Boston's Tony Allen Thursday night. (Mike Blake/Reuters)


Video credit – ESPN on ABC