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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and delcotimes.com. He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

PHILLIES DROP FIRST GAME OF DH

By Jack McCaffery
PHILADELPHIA >> The Phillies continued to project a familiar feel in their post-Ryne Sandberg era Sunday when they lost, 3-2, to the Washington Nationals in the first game of a Citizens Bank Park doubleheader.
Despite a Jeff Francoeur home run and a capable start by Kevin Correia, the Phillies ran their losing streak to three games, two under interim manager Pete Mackanin, who replaced Sandberg Friday.
Correia struck out three in 5 1-3 innings, surrendering seven hits but just one earned run. His record fell to 0-2. The Nats' Stephen Strasburg struck out nine in seven innings, allowing four hits and two runs, to improve to 5-5.
The loss dropped the Phils 16.5 games behind Washington in the N.L. East.
Francoeur hit a second-inning home run deep to left, his fifth of the season, to give the Phils a 1-0 lead. His fifth-inning error, however, helped Washington tie the game.
Denard Span laced a double into the right field corner, which Francoeur bobbled twice. Span took third on the error and scored on a sacrifice fly to left by Danny Espinosa.
Correia walked Clint Robinson to open the sixth, and Dan Uggla followed with a single. After Ian Desmond skied to center, Robinson scored on Michael Taylor's double to left, giving Washington the lead and chasing Correia.
But Mackanin allowed Jeanmar Gomez to face only Strasburg, who would ground to second, then called for Jake Diekman. Diekman walked Span, then threw a wild pitch, allowing Uggla to score for a 3-1 Nationals lead.
The Phils pulled within 3-2 on Francoeur's single to center in the bottom of the inning after a Maikel Franco single and a walk to Ryan Howard.
With Cesar Hernandez on second after a single and a stolen base, David Carpenter struck out Howard to end an eighth-inning Phillies threat.
Drew Storen handled the Phils in the ninth for his 23rd save.
Before the game, the Phillies activated Severino Gonzalez (2-2, 8.69 ERA), who was to face the Nationals' Tanner Roark (2-2, 3.25) in the second game of the doubleheader.




TWO THUMBS UP

n Stephen Strasburg was in control.
n Denard Span was everywhere.

TWO THUMBS DOWN

n Jake Diekman provided no relief.
n Cody Asche is not showing a corner-outfielder's bat.


Friday, June 12, 2015

COACHES HAVE SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT NEW COLLEGE HOOP SHOT CLOCK

By Jack McCaffery
The 35-second shot clock in men's college basketball has expired, timed out, come and gone, sounded the buzzer. By next season, teams will have 30 seconds to launch a shot, and not a tenth of a tick longer.
More scoring is one possibility. A faster-paced game is another.
Excitement?
“To be honest with you,” Phil Martelli said, “it's much ado about nothing.”
The coach at Saint Joseph's may be correct, that five fewer seconds per possession will not necessarily have the desired effect, which is to increase scoring, which was down five points a game during the last college basketball season.
If so, he has company.
“I'm a guy that likes to try certain things and see how it works,” Temple coach Fran Dunphy said. “So I am fine with it. I don't think it changes very much. Those people who were pushing it thought there would automatically be much more scoring involved. I don't see it as that.”
Dunphy might know more than many about a 14-percent reduction in the amount of time a team will have to shoot. That's because his Owls played four games last season in the NIT, where the rule was tested. Temple averaged 74.25 points in the NIT, after scoring 64.8 points in its first 33 games. There could be reasons for that, everything from conference teams having a better familiarity with what the Owls might have been doing to deeper player rotations in games without one-and-done stakes. And no four-game sample space is sufficient for a conclusion.
But Dunphy is certain that the 30-second clock did not provide a jolting change in the pace of play, the style of coaching or the results of the games.
“It wasn't a drastic change, to be honest with you,” he said. “That's not how I saw it. We got down to a couple of less last-second shot-clock situations, but it just didn't change anything drastically. I think kids and coaches and referees over the years have been able to adjust to any new rules that we have.
“But again I don't see it as this great way of helping our game get better. I don't see it as that. If we want change, it's going to have to come from how we are demanding the game be officiated.”
The 30-second clock was just one new rule approved this week for the 2015-2016 season, most designed to improve the aesthetics of the college game, where timeouts, particularly late in games, have become unpopular, where fouling, particularly underneath, has gone largely un-policed, and where game times have increased by up to five minutes per game, never a popular trend.
For that, the NCAA has sanctioned these major changes:
n The arc underneath the basket will be lengthened from three feet to four, theoretically reducing hard contact.
n The “closely guarded” rule will be eliminated, meaning that players will not be penalized for dribbling for more than five seconds while being defended.
n Coaches may call three second-half timeouts, down from four. And if a timeout is called within 30 seconds of a scheduled media timeout, it will be counted as a media timeout.
Also approved, in an attempt to increase the fan experience, is that coaches will no longer be able to call timeouts while the ball is in play, dunking will be decriminalized during warmups and coaches will have 15 seconds instead of 20 to make a substitution after a player fouls out. Also, officials will be ordered to hustle the teams onto the court in a timelier fashion after timeouts.
Oddly enough, some exit polling shows that coaches are in favor of having fewer timeouts, even late in games.
“I like that,” Villanova coach Jay Wright said. “I think with getting four television timeouts a half, we have plenty of stoppages. I would even be in favor of giving up another timeout in the first half. Because I do think at the end of the game, we save a lot of timeouts because we get so many stoppages. With the television timeouts, I think we have plenty. I am in favor of this rule and I would be in favor of cutting another one in the first half.”
As for Martelli, he sounded almost ready to unfurl crimson streamers in celebration of the new timeout rule.
“Tremendous,” he said. “Tremendous. I think it puts more emphasis, to be honest with you, on practice. Now, you've got to get your guys in position with situational practices. I think there will be a better flow to the game.
“I think we make our game look foolish when we call an allowable timeout and then two plays later we take a media timeout. I think we should better coordinate the stoppages in play. I think we can play a crisper game.
“We have to understand that as much as it is a competition, the game also has to be an enjoyable experience for fans and sponsors and players. And I am all for anything that helps the flow of the game.”
The 30-second clock could have that effect. Or not. While it is guaranteed to lead to more possessions, it does not guarantee better positions. Might there be more rushed shots? And if there is, will there be more long rebounds? But if there are, won't that invite more run-outs, fast breaks and open-floor play that fans enjoy?
How about late in a game? Will coaches be more likely to wait-out a 30-second possession than a 35, choosing not to foul to stop the clock, one stain on the college game that has made it “uglier than ugly,” according to one widely publicized rant from Mark Cuban?
“I actually don't think that the 30-second shot clock is going to make that much of a difference,” Wright said. “I really don't. But I think it's going to get people comfortable with shorter shot clocks and that is going to get us to 24. I look at this simply as a move to get us to 24. I don't think it's going to impact the game as much right now. But I think it is going to set up the move to 24.
“In the NBA, you don't see a lot of the fouling down the stretch like you do in college. I definitely think that will be a result, that there will probably a little bit less of that.”
As he will do, Wright was looking a play or two ahead, predicting that the clock will be reduced again, making the college game less distinguishable from the NBA.
The more immediate test, though, will be whether the 30-second limit so changes how the college game is played that different teams, with different philosophies, with different coaching styles will be more likely to succeed. Dunphy, for one, is a doubter.
“I think everybody makes adjustments to any new situation that comes along,” he said. “But I still think the best teams are going to win the games for the most part. There will be some games that will be managed better than others. But for the most part, the best players are typically going to win the games that are out there.
“We have succumbed to the pressure of many others, probably on TV, that said we have to change our game. I don't think we needed to change it in terms of the shot clock, but I am willing to do that. I have no problem with that. And if we decided to go to 24 seconds, then we would have to change in that regard and make adjustments.”
If there is an early consensus, it is that college basketball has become so rugged that only more stringent officiating will help.
“The only way to get scoring up is by changing the way that we officiate the game and call many more fouls for a while so that the kids make the adjustment, like the NBA did a couple of years back, where if you breathed on somebody it was a foul,” Dunphy said. “And then it loosens the game up and allows kids to get to the basket a little bit more. But I don't think it has anything do to with the shot clock.”
Martelli agrees.
“Until we get to the point where the referees call a foul every time there is a foul, we are not going to change this downward spiral in scoring,” the Hawks' coach said. “It's not going to be because of a shot clock that we change it. They've got to let people play.”
On one level, at least, they will not only let that happen, but mandate it, for at its core, the five-second shot-clock reduction is a message: Shoot.
“Truthfully, I like that the college game is different from any other game, personally,” Wright said. “That's because I am a coach. And as a coach I like that you can play against different styles and that coaches have the opportunity to play different styles. But as a guardian of the game, thinking about the popularity of the game and the popularity of the game internationally, I feel the pressure and know that everybody wants to speed the game up with more offense. And I think that we will eventually get to the 24-second clock because of that.
“Do I like it as a coach? No. Do I think it's probably best for the popularity of the game? Yes.”

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Utley hits every right note after Asche demotion

After falling,' 4-3, to Pittsburgh Monday, the Phillies chased Cody Asche to the minors, ordering him to learn to play left field.

That inspired a strong blast of leadership from Chase Utley, who made certain to drape his arm around Asche, who said every professionally correct thing, yet clearly was shaken by the move.

With Jeff Francoeur and Darin Ruf, Utley stayed with Asche for a long time, quietly giving him professional counsel and friendship.

This is what Utley, whose locker coincidentally is next to Asche's, said afterward:

“He's a good kid. He's a hard worker. I think he understands the situation and is going to go down there and have a positive outlook and try to be the best left fielder he can be.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he is going to work at it and be a good left fielder. Obviously, we all know that his bat plays at this level. He's still learning, and that's what I like about him. He doesn't think he has it all figured out. He wants to continue to learn and get better.

“So obviously, we are all disappointed that he's not going to be around. And we will see him pretty soon.”

Asked if such leadership is central to his role with the Phillies, Utley said:

"“When you are in the moment, when you are in a situation like that, it can be difficult to see the big picture. As you play this game and be around long enough you can, at some point, see the big picture. So he is a teammate and a good friend. We are locker-mates. I will be disappointed not to see him for a little while, but like I said, he will be OK.”

Friday, May 8, 2015

Where to fight in Delaware County

Want to fight?
Here are three, open-to-the-public gyms in Delaware County where just such behavior is encouraged:

n Delco Boxing Academy, 38 S. MacDade Blvd., Glenolden.
Fee: $30 per month. Hours: 24 hours, with key access; trainers available after 4 p.m.
Owner Jason Rodden: “We have been open since January. Taking over a gym that had a few heavy bags in it and loading it up with boxing equipment and having 90 members in a matter of a few months, I would say, yeah, it has been very successful.”

n Must Fight Boxing Club, 504 Edgmont Ave., Chester
Fee: $50 per month. Hours: 4:30-8 p.m., Monday through Friday; Saturday, 11 a.m.-3 p.m.

Owner, Dan Mullarkey Sr.: “You come in, pay the membership fee. It's not rocket science. There can be 100 people in the gym, and two or three of them fight. There is nothing normal about being punched in the face. I have a lot of different people, from all groups. I've got one guy in here, he's 71 years old. I've got seven, eight guys who are 46, 48 years old, or in their 50s. And I have guys 13, 14, 15. I have about 30 members. It depends on the season, kids going down the shore, kids getting out of school. Some guys get a job, or go off to college.”

The Must Fight gym recently was used in the filming of the movie “Creed” the latest in the Rocky series.

n Winners Boxing Club, 2003 W. Third Street, Second Floor, Chester.

Fee: Free. Hours: Monday, Wednesday and Thursday, 6 p.m.-8:30 p.m.

Coach Patrick Pernsley: “You don't have to be from Chester. If you are willing to come down there, we will work with you. From 8 to 18, it's free form.”

All three gyms are available for male and female fighters.
    JACK McCAFFERY   

Some Delco fighters to keep an eye on

A strong group of amateurs have been making some noise in Delaware County boxing rings.
According to area trainers, these are some of the up-and-comers to watch:
 
n Steve Barnabei, 29, 160 pounds, Glenolden, Delco Boxing Academy
n Terrell Carroll, 19, Heavyweight, Sharon Hill, Delco Boxing Academy
n Steve Clarke, 24, Darby, 152, Delco Boxing Academy
n Steve Costello, 29, 178 pounds, Havertown, Delco Boxing Academy
n Malik Lee, 23, 140 pounds, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Frankie Lynn, 23, Heavyweight, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Dan Mullarkey Jr., 20, 141, Ridley, Must Fight Boxing Club
n Andrew McCoy, 23, 165 pounds, Upper Chichester, Must Fight Boxing Club
n Rasheed Pernsley, 20, 140, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Jamail Turner, 18, 163, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
n Jeffrey Turner, 18, 185, Chester, Winners Boxing Club
- JACK McCAFFERY

Monday, April 6, 2015

Noel a gamer, other Sixers notes

NEW YORK >> Injured late in his only college season at Kentucky then unavailable for his entire NBA rookie year, Nerlens Noel entered this season with a reputation to correct. Sunday at Madison Square Garden, he made one more substantial stride in that direction.
A night after suffering a swollen eye and reporting blurred vision after a collision in Charlotte with Noah Vonleh, Noel was cleared to play for the Sixers against the Knicks … and, as usual, answered the call.
“I'm feeling good,” Noel said before the game. “I'm going to go out here and play hard and do what I've got to do.”
So there Noel was, reporting no deficient vision and playing his 74th game of the season, his 70th as a starter. He has missed just four games and none since an upper respiratory infection cost him a Jan. 21 appearance against the Knicks.
“He had blurred vision but we iced it,” Brett Brown said. “He went overboard getting treatment so he could play. And we are excited to have him back.”
With the troubles at Kentucky, then with his redshirt rookie season, there would be a burden on Noel to prove he was not brittle.
As the Sixers entered their final five games, that was no longer an issue.
“The candid conversation that we have with our players daily is that there are no healthy players in the NBA,” Brown said. “And there especially are no healthy players in the NBA in April. So the sports science and the accumulation of effort that people put into their bodies through the course of the season enables them to play in April at a high standard, and then May and, we can dream, June.
“So the education has been for our 20-year-olds to be able to navigate through an NBA season and to keep on track with your body. And for Nerlens at 214, 216 pounds to play the quantity of games at the position he plays, that's a statement about durability first. And I also think it's a toughness that has enabled him to do that. Because he, too, like everybody, has been injured. And he could have shut it down and he didn't.”
l l l
Jason Richardson (left knee) did not play in Charlotte, but was available Sunday.
“I'm good to go,” Richardson said. “I can't go two games in a row. They wanted me to sit out yesterday and play today.
“I could play two games in a row. But just to be safe it isn't really worth the risk of doing that.”
Richardson, 34, had not played since 2013 before rejoining the Sixers in February. Entering the game Sunday, he had played 16 games, starting 14.
“Since I have been back, I think I have only had three or four practices,” the 14th-year veteran said. “We haven't really practiced that much. So it doesn't make sense to even try to attempt it.”
l l l
Knicks coach Derek Fisher said he watched the NCAA's Final Four casually, even mixing in a workout during the games, missing key parts, keeping perspective, insisting that it is difficult to project how any college player will translate to the pros.
Brown will watch the NCAA Final Monday a different way.
“Through business eyes,” the Sixers' coach said. “I love the sport. I get as much a kick out of watching my son's 10-year-old team, and I'm serious, this may sound sad, as I do coaching here. I just love watching my kid play. You watch basketball at all levels. You watch that game (Monday) and you think ahead. You are going to think about what might happen with some of the players on the court who could be a part of our team. Who knows?”
NBA rules prohibit Brown from discussing college players by name.
“At this stage of my coaching career, it is more than saying, 'This is a great game,'” Brown said. “I don't see it predominately through that lens as much anymore. I am guessing and dreaming and projecting out.”
l l l
NOTES: Luc Mbah a Moute was not scheduled to play Sunday. “We wanted to give his shoulder a rest,” Brown said, “and his body a rest.” … Thomas Robinson (knee) was also unavailable, Brown said … Isaiah Canaan (sprained right foot) did not dress … The Sixers' next game will be Wednesday against the visiting Washington Wizards.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Top 10 Big 5 NCAA Tournament games in history

By JACK McCAFFERY


Two national championships. Four championship-game appearances. Ten Final Fours. Such has been the NCAA Tournament haul for Philadelphiaa's Big 5 programs.
That success suggests multiple NCAA Tournament achievements, in early rounds and late, in modern and not-so-modern times.
Here, though, is one for the Top 10 NCAA Tournament games involving Big 5 teams. Let the critical rollouts unravel:
1. Villanova 66, Georgetown 64, April 1, 1985: The Wildcats shot 22-for-28 from the floor, 22-for-27 from the line and stunned the No. 1-seeded Hoyas for the national championship in Louisville, Kentucky.
With no three-point shot or shot clock at the time, Rollie Massimino concocted what is widely considered the most effective single-game plan in NCAA Tournament history, controlling the pace and keeping the game close enough to steal, even though the Wildcats had entered the tournament with 10 losses.
Dwayne McClain led the Wildcats with 17 points, but it was the 5-for-5 shooting of Harold Jensen that defined the moment.

2. La Salle 92, Bradley 76, March 20, 1954: Trailing, 43-42, at halftime, the Explorers dominated the second half to win Philadelphia's first NCAA championship in Kansas City. All-American Tom Gola was named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, scoring 19 points in the final. But Frank Blatcher and Charles Singley scored 23 points apiece in the championship game.

3. St. Joseph's 49, DePaul 48, March 14, 1981: John Smith scored a layup with three seconds left, on a pass from Lonnie McFarlan on the baseline, and the Hawks stunned the top-seeded Blue Demons in a second-round game in Dayton.
Skip Dillard, renowned as a good free-throw shooter, had missed a front-end of a one-and-one, the Hawks pushed the ball and created the winning play.
The Hawks defeated Boston College in their next game, but fell to Indiana, leaving them short of the Final Four. But with the NCAA Tournament gaining televised popularity at the time, their upset was an earlier definition of what has become known as March Madness.

4. UCLA 68, Villanova 62, March 27, 1971: With a chance to catch UCLA in between the Lew Alcindor (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and Bill Walton eras, the Wildcats fell just short when center Steve Patterson went for 29 points and the Bruins won a fifth consecutive championship in Houston.
Howard Porter bagged 25 points --- and the Most Outstanding Player designation --- for the Cats.

5. San Francisco 77, La Salle 63, March 19, 1955: Trying to defend their national championship, the Explorers were stung by 24 points from K.C. Jones and 23 from Bill Russell in the NCAA Final in Kansas City. Singley scored 20 and Gola, the tournament's Most Outstanding Player, added 16 for La Salle.

6. Penn 72, North Carolina 71, March 11, 1979: Though the Quakers would win twice more, their second-round victory over the Tar Heels in Raleigh, N.C., signified their march to the Final Four.
Tony Price provided 25 points --- that, and a defensive rebound and long outlet pass to James Salters, who scored, was fouled and completed a three-point play for a four-point lead late.

7. Temple 60, Canisius 58, March 17, 1956: At the Palestra, the Owls rolled into the Final Four when Guy Rodgers scored 22 points.

8. Temple 69, Dartmouth 50, March 15, 1958: In Charlotte, N.C., Rodgers scored 17 points and the Owls reached the Final Four for the second time in three years.

9. St. Joseph's 96, Wake Forest 86, March 18, 1961: Also in Charlotte, Bill Hoy scored 20 and the Hawks advanced to their only Final Four.

10. Villanova 78, Pitt 79, March 28, 2009: In Boston, Scottie Reynolds' jump shot with two seconds left sent the Wildcats to the Final Four. Dwayne Anderson led the Cats with 17.