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49ers Beaten 20-17 by New York; Crushed Hearts in San Francisco

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By Jon D. Gaede, BVN Staff –

SAN FRANCISCO - Just a month ago, the New York Giants were an aging 6-6 football team. Today, they are NFC Champions and headed back to the Superbowl.

The old, but iconic Candlestick Park had served the 49ers well this season, as the club posted an impressive 13-3 record against the league.

Under coach Jim Harbaugh, these 49ers have established a defensive reputation, worthy of respect. During the regular season, they held their opponents to a mere 14.3 points per game, second in the NFL.

It is safe to say that a solid defense may be a requirement to reach a Superbowl, however, don’t forget that some teams get healthy, gain momentum and peak in January. Unfortunately for San Francisco, that team is the New York Giants.

The stage at Candlestick was everything the 49ers would want. Windy, cold and wet. The 70,000 home team faithful had not hosted a playoff game since 2002. Quite a dry spell for one of the NFL’s storied franchises.

The roar of the crowd was constant, as fans waved white towels that read, “Rock the Stick”. They didn’t need to wait very long to cheer, as their phenomenal tight end, Vernon Davis caught an Alex Smith pass for 73-yards, at the seven minute mark for the games’ initial touchdown.

The Giants answered early into the 2nd quarter toss from Eli Manning to Bear Pascoe for a 7-7 tie. Ten minute later, after stalled 49er drives, the Giants’ Lawrence Tynes kicked the first of two 31 yard field goals, this one to put New York ahead 10-7 at the half.

The San Francisco defensive line found a way to hurry and eventually sack Eli Manning in the second half. At the 5:16 mark of the third quarter, a scrambling Alex Smith, once again found his go to tight end, Vernon Davis for 28 yards and a go ahead score, 14-10.

As the rain continued to fall and blow sideways over the gridiron, so did the 49ers. Punt returner Kyle Williams had two miscues on the day.

Influence by miserable weather, nevertheless, the mistakes put the Giants into scoring positions and they cashed in.

The national television audience was watching an NFL classic. Manning then hit Mario Manningham for a 16 yard score, putting the Giants ahead 17-14.

San Francisco running back Frank Gore was able to carve a few mud runs and helped set up 49er kicker David Akers for a 25 yard field goal that put the game into overtime 17-17.

After stopping the Giants and forcing them to punt, the NFC championship game would turn on one play. Filling in for the injured Ted Ginn Jr., 49er punt returner. Kyle Williams was stripped of the ball and recovered by New York.

Five plays later, a sure footed Lawrence Tynes, put the ball through the uprights and into the Superbowl. The resurgent 49ers have a long time to ponder what could have been. For New York, they crush San Francisco hearts and earn a rematch against Tom Brady’s New England Patriots.

J.W. North Lady Huskies Back in the Mix

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The Lady Huskies have turned their fortune around in only one year

By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –

Riverside – Basketball and Hip Hop are forever linked at every level no matter how much the older generation dislikes the connection.

Whether in the heart of the ‘Hood’ or in the most exclusive suburbs, high school gymnasiums throughout America all blast the latest rap tunes during their team’s warm-ups and intermissions.

J.W. North is no different, with what sounds like thirty fast food drive-thru speakers blasting from its ceiling, the Lady Huskies used the latest Hip Hop tunes to fire themselves up for battle. I would respectfully suggest that they break from the new-school tradition at least once before each game and have the DJ throw on the old Diana Washington ballad “What a difference a day Makes” with one minor deviation.

In North’s case the words would be “What a difference a year Makes”.

Last season on February 12, the Lady Huskies record was 4-12 and they would go on to finish the season with those same 4 wins and end up last in the Big VIII behind lowly Corona, something that had not happened to the Ladies program in nearly 20 years.

J.W. North Ladies basketball program was at its lowest point since the early days of its existence. The program had gone through three coaching changes since the 2007 season and the days of ruling the league had long since faded. North’s 4 win season was nearly unbearable but the final and ultimate humiliation came with a loss to neighborhood arch rival Riverside Poly, a program not known for its basketball prowess since the days of Cheryl Miller.

It has been 11 years since the Lady Huskies won their one and only CIF Title in 2000. That team’s roster included 5 division I prospects and a coach, John Reinhold with a take no prisoners attitude. The Huskies rolled over Fullerton Troy to secure their first and only CIF Title reaching the apex of success for the program.

Yet, a single CIF banner fails to tell the story of the Lady Huskies dominance over the past decade. During the latter half of the nineties leading up to their championship year, the Lady Huskies owned the now defunct Ivy League posting 8 consecutive league championships.

Rienholds, retired after winning his CIF title but the aftermath of his success would yield good teams for several years afterward.

Although competitive and highly respected, none of North’s later teams could duplicate the 2000 team’s level of success. And the evitable began to take its toll, the talent began to wane and they began a slow decent toward mediocrity.

First, it went from league champions to league runner up in the old Ivy League. Then, dropping from annual seeded playoff participants to wildcard entrants and then to non-participation. And lastly, throw in a league re-alignment in 2009 pitting North against larger schools, some with nearly 1000 more students. Add it all up and a slow decent became a rocket to the bottom.

Then, in comes Leonard De Coud, hired as the fourth head coach in six seasons and as they say the rest is becoming history. In a single season, De Coud has taken a last place team that was 1-13 in league play and 4-20 overall and turned it completely around.

The Lady Huskies are currently 15–3 with one overtime loss to defending league champion Corona Santiago. De Coud says his formula is simple and deflects most of the credit for the incredible turnaround. “These girls are motivated and dedicated to the task at hand. We work hard, what we do in practice is what we do during the game. Our goal is to win this league and a CIF Title and these girls are focused on that,” said head coach Leonard De Coud.

The Huskies are certainly an energized group. They took on league opponents Roosevelt, Santiago and King last week emerging with two wins and an overtime loss to Santiago the defending League champions. After going down by 10 late in the fourth quarter, the Lady Huskies fought back to tie the game, eventually losing to the much bigger Sharks team and setting up the final league rematch on February 3rd at Santiago.

Much of the Huskies strength comes from senior Forward Brittany Crain. “I try to be a leader out there. I try and talk to the girls to keep them in the game especially when we’re down, to get our flow back,” said Crain. Brittany is averaging a league leading 19.1 points per game and along with guard Simone De Coud who is averaging 11.6 points per game sets the tone and winning attitude for the team.

The Huskies turnaround from a 4-20 last season is already miraculous on its own but if coach De Coud can dial up a formula for his team to take down Santiago in their final meeting and take a share of the league title, he will easily be collecting ‘coach of the year’ honors too.

G. Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com.

Humana Challenge Begins New Era

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La Quinta - As the Humana Challenge embarks on a new chapter in the history of one of the PGA Tour’s most storied golf tournaments, the 144-player professional field provides a rich blend of golf’s present and future stars, and many names that have enriched the history of the sport and the Coachella Valley’s annual PGA Tour event.

The Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation begins next week with plenty of added intrigue. San Diego native Phil Mickelson, the 2002 and 2004 tournament champion and four-time major championship winner, makes his 2012 season debut along with Dustin Johnson, the field’s highest-ranked player at No. 8 in the world. Defending FedExCup champion Bill Haas returns to the site of his first PGA TOUR win, in 2010.

La Quinta High School product Anthony Kim plays his home tournament for the first time since tying for third in 2008. World Golf Hall of Famer, former World No. 1, and 1986 and 1993 British Open champion Greg Norman makes his second appearance in the event (first since 1986) and first stateside start in a PGA TOUR event since the 2009 Masters.

Other leading players in the field include World No. 11 Matt Kuchar, who won the PGA TOUR’s money title, was the FedExCup Playoffs’ runner-up, and was a tournament runner-up in 2010, 2001 PGA champion David Toms, 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson, 2008 Masters champ Trevor Immelman and defending champion Jhonattan Vegas.

The event’s star-studded celebrity field is headlined by musicians Smokey Robinson, Alice Cooper and Michael Bolton; actors Morgan Freeman, Don Cheadle, Craig T. Nelson, Billy Crudup and Lucas Black; and basketball Hall of Famer Julius Erving.

“We are delighted and privileged to host such an accomplished field of players and personalities this year,” Humana Challenge Tournament Chairman Larry Thiel said. “The format changes have certainly sparked interest among the PGA TOUR players and our spectators are in for a real treat. The event and the player field is much stronger than it’s been in recent years, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to provide for the Eisenhower Medical Center and many of the Coachella Valley ’s foremost charities.”

Mickelson, Haas and Vegas are three of 13 champions of the event formerly known as the Bob Hope Classic who are in the field. They are joined by Pat Perez (2009 champ), D.J. Trahan (2008), Charley Hoffman (2007), Chad Campbell (2006), Justin Leonard (2005), Joe Durant (2001), David Duval (1999), Mark Brooks (1996), Steve Jones (1989) and Keith Fergus (1983), the oldest player in the field at 57.

The field contains five 2011 U.S. Presidents Cup players (Johnson, Kuchar, Mickelson, Haas and Toms), 12 major champions, 12 of the top 43 players in the Official World Golf Rankings, 13 of the top 30 on last year’s money list, and 12 golfers who finished in the top 30 in last year’s FedExCup Playoffs and played in the TOUR Championship. Collectively, the field has won 300 PGA TOUR titles and 17 major championships, and includes 19 golfers who won on the PGA TOUR in 2011.

Humana Challenge tickets, beginning at $25, can be purchased online at www.humanachallenge.com, by calling 1-888-672-4673, by visiting Lumpy’s (the “Official Golf Retail Partner” for the Humana Challenge) in La Quinta and Rancho Mirage, or by visiting Albertson’s grocery stores in the Coachella Valley.

Calm Before the Storm at Lakers' Camp

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By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –

El Segundo – There was an air of uncertainty hanging over the Lakers media day on Sunday morning. The extended lockout and the new collective bargaining agreement seemingly have combined to create a tumultuous situation.

Unlike previous media day events where players are giddy with excitement about the upcoming season ahead and filled with anticipation, this year there is an uneasy cautiousness that seems to be gripping everyone in the room.

Normally, the trades have been completed and rosters are generally set. The focus is on how the new pieces will fit together and which of the new guys will actually make the team. This season’s start is completely different since all of those things are still in progress and the final outcome of trades and acquisitions is unknown.

Throw in a few ill-advised tweets and you have a crazy start to the 2011 NBA season. It is quite a unique situation. After Lamar Odom’s departure to Dallas, the questions all centered around trade talks and not much focus on what the team would look like. Everyone is looking over their shoulders, knowing that the organization is looking to make more changes.

Pau Gasoil, the center or target if you prefer of those changes had little to say. “I can’t do anything about that. I’m here and I am going to do what I am here to do. It’s a business, you know that coming in”. As always Pau was calm and stately but you can see that the uncertainty is annoying.

Looking beyond all of those things that fans can’t control, you will find that the Lakers have some things to be excited about. First, signing sharpshooter Jason Kapono will likely payoff. Kapono is one of the best three point shooters in the game, something the Lakers always need and seldom have.

Rookie point guard Darius Morris could make the team and if he can bring his college game, he could leap frog over Steve Blake and be Fishers eventual replacement. “I think I can bring speed and strength at the point position. I like to attack the basket and I expect that to help me make the team,” said Morris.

Zach Andrew, a 6’8” forward from Bradley could also find a niche with the 2011 Lakers. “I think I can be a kind of Dennis Rodman. I like to rebound and get after the ball. That was my strength when I played overseas and I think I can bring that here,” said Andrews.

The Lakers have 19 players in camp now and the opportunities to land either of the big names they have been pursuing seems to have faded.

They will likely have to work with what they have and unlike the masses I like what they have right now.

G. Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com.

Vista Murrieta Wins Inland Division Title

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Third time proves to be a charm as Broncos finally take down Huskies

By Gary Montgomery, BVN Staff –

Murrieta – Last Friday evening’s Inland Division Championship game featured two very familiar rivals, the perennial powerhouse Corona Centennial and the steadily advancing Vista Murrieta Broncos.

The two teams met last season at the same time seeking the same prize. Corona Centennial (12-2) outlasted the Broncos (45-21) and walked away with the 2010 Inland Division title and IE bragging rights.

As the old adage goes “you can’t keep a good man down”. Obviously that age old saying must also apply to football teams too. The unbeaten (officially 9-5) Broncos refused to go away and came storming back this season to make their third consecutive appearance in title game and second shot at the Huskies.

Also appearing in the 2009 championship game, their season ended with a 13-7 loss to Chaparral. Well, the third time must truly be a charm because this year’s version of the Broncos had complete confidence in their ability to win, a great game plan and near flawless execution. The Broncos were forced to forfeit its first five wins because of a clerical error associated with one of its players but went on to slice through their regular season schedule and the playoff rounds with little difficulty.

Centennial’s only loss came at the very first game of the season dropping a 29-27 loss at the hands of St. Bonaventure. After losing that game the Huskies ran the table making their way back to the title game.

The Broncos scored on their first two possessions and jumped out to a 10-0 lead. It looked like this one would be over early. The Huskies’ huge offensive line couldn’t create any running room for their super running back Romello Goodman and the Huskies continued to flounder.

Finally, on their fourth possession of the first half Goodman dashed off tackle to score Centennials first touchdown. After a 14-7 halftime lead, the Broncos pushed their lead to 27-14 late in the third quarter and the overflow crowd started to ease into pre-celebration mode.

Suddenly lightning struck when Goodman found running room and broke away for a 57-yard touchdown run. Centennial’s defense held getting the ball back. On the following possession, Huskies’ quarter Hayden Gavett saved the drive with 14-yard scamper on a fourth down. Gavett finished off the drive with a 21-yard touchdown pass to Guy-Williams to go ahead of the Broncos 28-27 with 3.29 left to play.

Facing a third consecutive finals loss staring them in the face, the Bronco signal caller Nicholas Stevens lead his team to the Huskies’ 30-yard line added by two huge penalties on 4th down. With only 26 seconds, Stevens faked a handoff to running back Aaron Piecukonis and then turned into Tim Tebow running off left tackle and picking his way through defenders until he reached end zone. Stevens’s 30-yard scamper sealed Vista Murrieta first Inland Division title after three tries.

G. Montgomery can be reached at sports@blackvoicenews.com

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BVN National News Wire