Thursday, March 21, 2013

Mid-Am Boys Notebook: Jr. Ice break barriers for Indiana hockey in bittersweet final season

Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 by

By Clyde Hughes
INDIANAPOLIS — Fred Knipscheer admitted it was bittersweet watching his Indiana Jr. Ice team win the Tier I 14-and-Under district title at the Mid-American tournament Sunday, advancing them to the USA Hockey National Championship tournament April 3-7 in Pittsburgh.

The Indiana Jr. Ice scored six points in pool play, tying them with the Cleveland Barons, but the Jr. Ice beat the Barons 5-4 during pool play to take the crown.

Knipscheer has been coaching his team since they were Midgets. Two years ago, the same group of players won the Tier II national title as the Indianapolis Racers. However, the players will be going separate ways after this season.

“It’s kind of sad to see it all come to an end,” Knipscheer said. “I watched these kids from the time when they could barely skate to where they are now. This has really been special.”

It’s the first time an Indiana-based team has reached the Tier I national tournament in about 20 years, officials said Sunday. Knipscheer said he believes his team will have an advantage because his group has been together for so long. Twelve of the 18 players are from the Indianapolis area.

“It’s rare to keep a core group of kids like this together for so long,” Knipscheer said. “Even our out-of-town kids have played with us for the last four to five years. It helps when you play against teams that have been just thrown together.”

Jr. Ice left winger Justin Whited said they hope to bring back a national title like they did two years ago.

“Because of what we did then, I think we’re going to play with a lot of confidence,” Whited said. “We know we’re going to have work really hard and not give up. We have a lot of chemistry on this team and we’ll have to carry that chemistry into nationals and let it work for us.”

Barons capture dramatic 18U title

The Cleveland Barons and Culver Academy battled it out in the 18U final game of the day in The Forum at Fishers.

After losing the lead within the final minute in regulation, the Barons returned the favor, scoring in the first minute of overtime to capture the 18U title 4-3 and advance to the USA Hockey National Championships in April.

Culver’s Yannick Vedel punched in a goal with 24.3 seconds left in the third period to tie the contest at 3-3. Culver had led 1-0 and 2-1 early in the contest only to see the Barons rally back and tie the game. But Trey Bradley only needed a slap shot 23 seconds into the overtime to give Cleveland the victory.

“We just came out of regulation with a lot of intensity,” said Bradley, the son of former Tampa Bay Lightning player Brian Bradley. “It just went on my stick and I shot it. I didn’t know that it went in and then everyone started jumping on me. I figured I must have done something right.”

Both teams combined for 26 goals going into the championship game, but defense ruled most of the contest. Cleveland coach Tim Alexander said he told his team that patience would be the key to victory.

“Our team has always scored a lot of goals, and I told them to keep doing what we do,” Alexander said. “I told them to keep fore-checking and the goals will come. Getting the lead in the third period was huge and it gave us the momentum. Everything shifted, though, after they got the tying goal.”

Culver Academy knocking at the door

While Culver Academy lost its championship games in the 16U and 18U divisions, it looked like the program might only be a year away of breaking through to the Tier I national tournament.

The overtime loss to the veteran Cleveland Barons team in the 18U title game showed just how close Culver is. The military academy from northern Indiana played some of the district tournament’s most impressive hockey during pool play.

“I think our senior class is a pretty special class. They have been with the team for three and four years,” said Culver 18U coach Ryan Miller. “They’ve built a good, solid foundation in the locker room. I think our juniors will take the baton.

“We have a lot of good kids who will be moving up from the U-16 teams. This gives them a taste of what it’s like to come up a little bit short. We can use that as motivation for next year.”

Culver Academy goalies gave up two goals between the 16U and 18U teams during pool play. Miller said the 18U team’s effort to tie that game within the final minute to force overtime showed their resiliency.

“We were down 3-2 for most of the third and we didn’t give up,” Miller said. “I’m happy with the character of our kids and the ability to overcome adversity. The fact is that we didn’t quit and had a chance until the very end. That will carry over to next season.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Mid-Am Boys Feature: 16U Cleveland Barons shut door against opposing offenses

Published: Tuesday, March 19, 2013 on USA Hockey website

By Clyde Hughes

INDIANAPOLIS — Few expected the Cleveland Barons 16-and-Under team to capture the Mid-American Tier I district title over the weekend, but there they were Sunday celebrating at center ice after four games inside The Forum at Fishers.

The Barons’ 3-1 victory over Culver Academy concluded a dominating weekend sparked by its defense and solid goaltending led by Jim Thomas. Cleveland gave up just two goals in the tournament, the second coming with a minute left in the third period of the championship game.

Not getting the third shutout of the tournament was about the only disappointment for Thomas and his team.

“Man, I thought I had it but it just slipped in right by the post,” Thomas said of Culver’s goal with 1:02 left in the game, cutting the Barons’ lead to 2-1.

The Barons, though, scored an empty-net goal about 30 seconds later to seal the victory.
“All I was thinking about the whole time was making it to nationals,” Thomas said. “I was just trying to do everything I could to get us there.”

The win clinched a berth into the USA Hockey National Championships on April 3-7 in Pittsburgh.

The Cleveland Barons 16U team had reached the national championships for the past two years, but they started this season with a new squad. Captain Gordie Myer was the only leftover from those district title teams, and the inexperience showed early as the Baron struggled to win games.

“This championship is really satisfying because of what we had to overcome,” said Myer, who scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period. “Our team hasn’t been as strong as it has been in the past two years so we really had to work hard to get here. We had to really come together as a team.”

Myer had offers to play with other teams this season but decided to stick it out with the Barons. He said Cleveland coach Brett Harkins and his staff really made the difference for him.

“I really like the coaches and the team,” Myer said. “I had played with them for this long, so I wanted to come back for one more year and see what we could do.”

Harkins said his team is playing its best hockey of the season going into nationals. He said the Barons’ defense has been at its best. Culver Academy scored 21 goals going into the finals against Cleveland before the Barons nearly shut them out.

Defense and goaltending was critical in the second period. Culver turned up the heat offensively and peppered Thomas with numerous shots on goal, only to see them all rejected, allowing the Barons to hang on to the lead.

“Culver dominated us in the second period and I thought Jim kept us in the game,” Harkins said. “They were all over us, but Jim kept making big saves and he’s been solid for us all season. At the end of the second period, I told the team that Jimmy kept us in it now let’s go and get it.”

Myer said the Barons’ defense has been solid all year long, but overcoming the second period gave them the momentum to finish off the game.

“With this team, we play defense first and concentrate on getting the puck out of the zone,” Myer said. “I think that creates good offense for us. We take a lot of pride in working hard on the defensive end and winning all of the personal battles. That’s what wins games for us. It helped us beat Culver.”

Harkins said the district title has forced him to change his vacation plans.

“I was on my way to Marco Island, Fla.,” Harkins said with a laugh. “I guess I will be spending my time in Pittsburgh. It’ll still be a good vacation.”

The Barons have found some success in nationals, but they have not been able to come up with the coveted title. Last year, Cleveland lost in the quarterfinals and in 2011 it was the semifinals, both times to the eventual national champions.

“We know whoever beats us will probably win nationals,” Harkins said. “We will have to work hard over the next two weeks. Guys just want to go on and win a national championship. My goal is to move them on to the next level so they can be successful.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Mid-Am District Tournament Champions

Youth Tier I
14U: Indiana Jr. Ice
16U: Cleveland Barons
18U: Cleveland Barons

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

A reminder that black history is U.S. history

Published February 4, 2013 by Lafayette Journal & Courier

As director of Purdue University’s Black Cultural Center, Renee Thomas has a bird’s eye view on the importance of Black History Month, as she sees how revelations and information of past events affects current students of all races.

But Black History Month, created in 1926 as Negro History Week to bring attention to the accomplishments of blacks, seems to be in trouble. In an era where the U.S. just re-elected its first African-American president, a growing number of people — including some prominent blacks — are questioning the need of such an annual recognition.
None of those people, though, sits where Thomas does.

“When individuals understand their history and culture it empowers them to fulfill their potential and contribute to society,” Thomas said of the need for Black History Month. “We must take a look at how we are preparing our current student body to be successful Purdue alumni. We must prepare all students to succeed in an increasingly global economy.”

Still, the Black History Month boo-birds persist. The problem with Black History Month is that some see it as passé, amounting to little more than ethnic cheerleading. Nearly every Black History Month detractor has already retreaded Morgan Freeman’s 2005 interview with the late Mike Wallace of “60 Minutes,” where he seemed to blast the concept. In the interview, Freeman called Black History Month “ridiculous” when responding to Wallace’s question, and added: “You’re going to relegate my history to one month? I don’t want Black History Month. Black history is American history.”

Charles C.W. Cooke, of the conservative National Review Online, says Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month and similar recognitions, do nothing more than build the wall of separation rather than bring people together.

“But a profusion of multi-culti months doesn’t improve things any more than a profusion of wrongs make a right. In a country that is supposed to be a melting pot, are we truly supposed to take comfort in having our complex history cut up into little slices and distributed with varying emphasis to students throughout the year?”

Looking at the largest point, Freeman is right. It is ridiculous to think anyone can contain the contributions of African-Americans to one month. He is right when he says black history is American history.

Where he is wrong is that Black History Month doesn’t “relegate” black history to one month. From the very day Carter G. Woodson birthed the original concept, it was never meant to separate black history from American history. Actually, it was designed to do just the opposite.

Woodson’s creation was in response to the shameful dispensing of black contributions in America society and sounding out about the critical role blacks played throughout history around the world. Black History Month makes sure black contributions are part of the conversation about American history.

When you really think about it, adding up the roughly 250 years of legal slavery in North America, followed by “separate but equal” laws in the South after the Civil War, while many in the North practiced something akin to Jim Crow-lite, the relative freedom African-American enjoy in the U.S. today is still something rather new. Through that time, black history was often ignored, dismissed and deemed unimportant.

Noted educator Ravi Perry, assistant professor of political science and Stennis Scholar for Municipal Governance at Mississippi State University, said incorporating black history into all facets into American history remains a work in progress — one that won’t end anytime soon.

“We need Black History Month because the ‘social revolution’ taking place that defined and continues to define the agenda of blacks in American history and to the present, continues,” Perry says. “The country’s election and re-election of the first black president is not an indication of racial progress meriting the end of the study of black history. If anything, the president’s election and re-election creates an opportunity to re-engage black history and remember that black history is, in fact, American history.”

Would it be nice to think one day that the accomplishments of blacks were so apart of American history that Black History Month would be obsolete? You bet. But we are not even close to that point yet. Now, that’s ridiculous.
Hughes is a member of the Greater Lafayette Commerce’s Diversity Roundtable.

Cincinnati beats Alabama on buzzer-beater

Published December 1, 2012 by Tuscaloosa News
By Clyde Hughes
Special to The Tuscaloosa News
Published: Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 8:24 p.m. 
CINCINNATI | It was Cashmere Wright's 12-foot fall-away jumper at the buzzer that gave No. 17 Cincinnati a 58-56 win over Alabama on Saturday in the SEC/Big East Challenge at Fifth Third Arena, but it was the missed chances by the Crimson Tide that stung.

Alabama held a two-point lead on four occasions with a chance to stretch it in the second half, only to be turned back by the Bearcat defense. That allowed Cincinnati to hang around on its home floor.

It was the Crimson Tide's first loss of the season in its first true road test. Alabama (6-1) fell to 0-3 in SEC/Big East Challenge.

Wright's off-balance game-winner came after the Crimson Tide erased a double-digit deficit in the first half and turned the game into a hard-fought contest in which both teams gave up little defensively.

"They're the best defensive team in the country," Alabama coach Anthony Grant said. "They did a great job defensively creating turnovers. They're very aggressive, rebound the ball extremely well. We knew we had to rebound the ball well and defend."

Alabama went up 56-54 on a Trevor Releford layup with 48 seconds left, but Sean Kilpatrick matched it six seconds later and was fouled. After a timeout, Kilpatrick missed the free throw.

Looking for the go-ahead basket, Releford was blocked in the paint by 6-foot-8 forward Justin Jackson, and Ge'Lawn Guyn grabbed the rebound to set up the game-winning shot.

"We called a flat ball screen and we were just looking to make a play there," Grant said. "Releford thought he could make around the corner, but Jackson is a great defender and made a heck of a play and kept it in bounds."

With 6 seconds left, Wright took the ball in the backcourt, raced to the left corner and launched an arching shot over Moussa Gueye that found the net as the buzzer sounded.
"I didn't see the shot go in," Wright said. "They started grabbing me after the shot, and that's when I thought 'Well, it must have gone in.' "

Grant said he thought his team did everything right on the final sequence and it was a matter of Wright making the big play.

"They went with four guards and a forward," Grant said. "I thought we contested the shot, but he's a hell of a player and won the game for them."

Before the final minute drama, Alabama had a chance to put some distance between itself and Cincinnati (7-0).

A Nick Jacobs basket gave the Crimson Tide at 52-50 lead with 5:39 left, and after making stops on the defensive end, Alabama had four chances to stretch the lead to two possessions, only to be turned back by the Bearcats on each possession.

"I thought that was critical," Grant said. "We had good looks, but I think they altered or blocked shots in that stretch. We had a couple of opportunities but just turned it over. We had a two-on-one and threw it away. Credit their defense. They have great length and were able to make up for mistakes with their athleticism."

Trevor Lacey led the Crimson Tide with 16 points, followed by Releford's 12. JaQuon Parker and Kilpatrick topped Cincinnati scorers with 13.

"Alabama has a very good team and their guards are better than advertised," Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said. "They can stack up against anybody we'll play this season. They did a good job of keeping us off the fast break. We can't let teams take that away from us. Everything that happened to us, they had a lot to do with it."

Saints stall in second half

INDIANAPOLIS — The Siena Saints, with a two-point lead in the second half and Butler’s big man Matt Howard in foul trouble, looked poised to pull an upset over the No. 18 Bulldogs in front of 9,111 partisan fans in Hinkle Fieldhouse Saturday afternoon.

But it was Howard’s absence that helped spark an 18-5 Butler run as the Bulldogs beat Siena (22-6) going away 70-53 in a nationally-televised ESPN BracketBuster game. It was the Saints worse loss this season since an 82-65 road defeat to Northern Iowa on Dec. 12.

It was Butler’s 17th consecutive victory as both teams head into the final week of its regular season schedule.

“They’re different than some of the teams we’ve played,” Siena coach Fran McCaffery said of Butler (25-4). “They very well may be the best in the sense that they really don’t make mistakes. If you’re going to beat them, you’ll have to play the perfect game.”
McCaffery pointed to the stretch of the game when Howard picked up his fourth foul with 16:29 left and sat, as an example of how Butler found a way to turn his absence into their advantage.

Siena led 34-32 at the time, but Shelvin Mack hit a jumper and Gordon Hayward converted a three-point play on consecutive possessions to put the Bulldogs back up.

Backup guard Zach Hahn was inserted when Howard left the game and connected on back-to-back 3-point shots that turned on the boisterous Hinkle crowd and sapped much of any momentum Siena had left.

“That opened up the game for them,” said Siena’s Ryan Rossiter, who scored 10 points and grabbed nine rebounds. “It was a three-point game and a couple seconds later it was a nine-point game and we never recovered from that.”

Butler coach Brad Stevens said the move to go with Hahn and a smaller lineup was out of necessity with Howard’s foul trouble, but admitted that the change turned the tide.

“What it did was put us in a situation where we could stay big or go small and make an adjustment” Stevens said. “Small ended up being good for us because Zach came in and hits some big three’s for us. Shelvin and Zach hit three’s and that changed the landscape of the game.”
Before that point, Siena seemed up to the task of handling Butler.

The Saints overcame an early first-half deficit behind the scoring of Clarence Jackson to take a 31-28 lead into halftime. Jackson scored 14 of the Saints’ first 16 points.

Jackson finished with a game-high 24 points, one off his season-high 25 points against UAlbany back on Dec. 5.

In the second half, though, Butler began to pack the paint and dared the Saints to beat them with jumpers. Siena finished the game shooting 33.9 percent from the field (20-59) and just 23.3 percent in the second half (7-30).

“Clarence was the reason why we were up at halftime,” McCaffery said. “He made some shots and they started guarding him differently, which gave everyone else a little more space. In the second half, they packed it in and we were ineffective. Their team has great help defense so (Jackson’s) decisions on when to go and when to jump stop were really good.

Mack led Butler with 23 points followed by Hayward’s 15 points and 12 rebounds.

Siena’s leading scorer Alex Franklin struggled with Butler’s sagging defense in the middle and scored just seven, almost 10 points off his 16.3 points per game average.

“Any loss is a missed opportunity,” Franklin said. “It would have been a great win for us, but we fell short. We needed to drive the ball more but any time a team packs it in as much as they did it’s going to be hard.”

Siena wraps up its regular season with two games next week, Friday at Rider and Sunday at home against Marist.

4th-and-1, Mids can't get it done: Offense stalls late in game defense can't stop QB Davis

Published on September 06, 2008 by Baltimore Sun
|By Clyde Hughes | Clyde Hughes,Special to The Baltimore Sun
MUNCIE, Ind. - It was the little things that always seemed to get in Navy's way during its game against Ball State last night, and the little things cost the Midshipmen dearly.

Navy's 35-23 loss came down to the Midshipmen's inability to consistently stop Cardinals quarterback Nate Davis and failure to capitalize on fourth-and-one on the Ball State 3-yard line.

“The thing that was frustrating for me was that we were making our own mistakes," Navy first-year coach Ken Niumatalolo said. "We were moving the football, but when we got into the red zone, we seemed to self-destruct. They're a good football team, and we didn't need to help them. We were making mental mistakes and couldn't finish drives."

Trailing 21-16 at halftime, the Midshipmen seemed to find their offense at the start of the second half and scored on their opening possession. After Shun White's 71-yard run, Navy took the lead for the first time on a 1-yard run by quarterback Jarod Bryant.

The Cardinals matched the Mids' touchdown on an 11-play drive, capped by an 8-yard touchdown catch by Dante Love, who tormented Navy's secondary for most of the night.

That set up the turning point of the game, as Navy, with its running game in gear, pushed the ball from its 30 to the Ball State 3. On fourth-and-one, the Midshipmen needed 1 yard for the first down, but Bryant was stuffed by Ball State defensive lineman Drew Duffin on a keeper behind fullback Eric Kettani, a play that had worked well most of the night.

"We had our chances, and we didn't capitalize," Bryant said. "It looked like they just dove at our legs. ... I wished I would have gotten behind my pads a little more and gotten it. We've got to convert those."

The Cardinals drove nearly the length of the field and went up by two scores on Davis' 35-yard touchdown pass to Darius Hill at the 12:46 mark of the fourth quarter. Navy never threatened again.

"[The fourth-down play] gave them the momentum," said White, who rushed for 128 yards on 13 carries, 101 of those yards in the second half. "We couldn't get that 1 yard, and they took the momentum and just ran with it. We just made too many mistakes as team. They were jumping around, but we knew what defense they were going to run."

Navy rushed for 346 yards and averaged 5.9 yards per carry but left points on the table on its first three scoring opportunities when drives fizzled. The Mids settled for field goals by Matt Harmon of 49, 29 and 28 yards. Harmon's 49-yarder on Navy's first drive at the 9:17 mark of the first quarter was the longest of his career.

While Navy was kicking field goals, Ball State was scoring touchdowns, as Davis lit up the Mids' secondary for 326 yards and four touchdown passes. Two of those touchdowns went to Love, who caught nine passes for 165 yards. Love scored on a 6-yard run in the first quarter, as well.

On the second play of the game, Davis found Love open down the right sideline for a 61-yard reception, giving the Cardinals a 7-0 lead.

After Harmon's 49-yard field goal, Davis drove Ball State down the field again, and Love scored his second touchdown by taking an inside handoff from Davis for a 6-yard run to put Ball State up 14-3.

Navy continued to move the ball into Ball State's territory but settled for two more field goals by Harmon, the latter set up by Blake Carter's interception.

After a fumbled kickoff put the Cardinals in their worse field position of the night, Ball State marched 92 yards, culminating in Briggs Orsbon's 30-yard touchdown catch from Davis.

On Navy's next possession, Kettani broke free for a 45-yard run up the middle to give the Midshipmen another scoring chance. That set up Bryant's 14-yard touchdown run over left tackle to get Navy within five points again, 21-16, just before halftime.

The Education of Skylar Diggins: It's always been about more than basketball for South Bend's own All-American

Published by Michiana Reads, February 1, 2013

Of all the cheers and applause that has accompanied Skylar Diggins through her stellar high school basketball career to her All-American play at Notre Dame, her best ovation may have come from students at the Tarkington Traditional Primary Center in South Bend.

Her sophomore year at Washington High School, Diggins found herself in front of kindergarten through fourth graders in an assembly. Instead of talking about what people knew her for – basketball – she engaged students on academics, being good students and good citizens.
“Skylar spoke to those young people, encouraging them to stay in school, get an education and follow their parent’s rules,” said George McCullough, principal at Washington.  “After her speech, those young children gave her a standing ovation. You tell me how many kindergarteners and fourth graders even know about a standing ovation, but they gave her one.
“When she came back and sat next to me, I told her for those young people to give her a standing ovation you are very special person in their lives. I knew she had something special going for her.”
McCullough said the Tarkington speech was one of his favorite stories he likes to tell about Diggins, but it drove home a point that seems to repeat itself whenever the Notre Dame star talks about her life, or when anyone else describes her – it’s not just about basketball.
For the record, the reigning Big East Player of the Year and Associated Press Preseason All-American is passionate about basketball. After leading the Irish to two straight national championship games, one of her highest priorities is closing the deal and capturing a national crown this year. She plans on having a successful career in the WNBA and overseas.
But under the roof of her parents, Maurice and Renee Scott, it was about having a successful future off the court as well, using basketball, grades and being a role model – and not necessarily in that order.
“I take being a role model seriously,” Diggins told Michiana Reads recently. “I have a great, strong circle and my family played such a big part of who I am. The values that my parents instilled in me early were ones of integrity, possibility and humility. I carry that around with me every day. I’m just being myself.”
Maurice Scott, who coaches the Washington girls’ basketball team, said his daughter had to deal with being in the spotlight since her freshman year in high school, when she led the Panthers to the first of four straight appearances in the girls’ state championship game, winning the title in 2007.
“We knew everyone was watching, not necessarily to judge but watching to learn,” Scott said. “My wife and I would say whatever your actions are, you are teaching somebody else. She learned very early that she could live by being an example for others.”
Even though her decision between colleges came down between Notre Dame and Stanford, the quality of her education played a huge factor in her decision. What she had in her backyard, was a world-class university with a national-ranked women’s basketball team.
“I got lucky being from South Bend because Notre Dame was right here,” Diggins said. “I understand that when you get a degree from here, you can do whatever you want to do. When you say you graduated from Notre Dame, people look at you differently but in a good way. I knew this was a special place that would shape me into a woman.”
Scott said his daughter’s education will benefit her long after her basketball playing days are over. Along with the countless hours in the gymnasium, there were countless hours studying, away from cheering crowds and pep rallies.
“We set the bar extremely high for her,” Scott said. “We would say if you didn’t have homework or didn’t have to study, you must be getting straight A’s. Therefore, there was no room for a B in the house unless you were always studying. She brought home straight A’s pretty much though high school except one time when she had a B-plus one semester.”
Diggins said her mother never had a problem pointing out the B’s on the report card.
“My mom is a disciplinarian and took education very seriously,” she said. “If I came home with all A’s and one B, she’d say ‘that’s okay but what happened in this class?’ That comes from our competitive drive and wanting to be the best we can be.”
She took another step toward her future this summer when she completed an internship at ESPNW in Bristol, Conn. There, Diggins got a taste of sports journalism in front of and behind the camera.
“My internship was with ESPNW but I had the flexibility to float between all the different departments at ESPN,” Diggins said. “I connected with people from Notre Dame at ESPN. I met a lot of people for future opportunities down the road. I think I would want to do something in front of the camera.”
No one knows how bright the future is for Diggins better than her coach Muffet McGraw. McGraw has coached countless All-Americans and outstanding students at Notre Dame. She said Diggins has earned the praise.
Skylar is an exceptional young woman, both on and off the court, and she has been a tremendous ambassador for not only our women's basketball program, but also the University of Notre Dame as a whole,” McGraw said. “She implicitly understands the responsibilities and challenges that come with being a high-profile student-athlete at an elite university, let alone one in her own hometown, and she has embraced that role with passion, grace, dignity and maturity.”
Diggins said, though, she still feels at home at a Washington High School game, hanging out with friends that she’s grown up with.
“Whenever I go back to Washington, it’s like I never left,” Diggins said. “My best friends today are the friends I went to high school with.”
McCullough, who Diggins called “just the coolest guy to be a principal,” said his former star pupil was influenced by the positive energy at the high school and is an example of how public schools continue to play a role in shaping students to becoming great citizens.
“Skylar sets the standard for being a role model and mentor for others,” McCullough said. “She has taken on not only representing her school and family, but the whole community. I tell people all the time Skylar Diggins didn’t make Washington High School. Washington High School made Skylar Diggins. I told her that and she laughed and said ‘you’re right.’ ”
Diggins said she’s been fortunate to have grown up in South Bend public school and having the chance to chase her collegiate dreams at Notre Dame. She said over that time, she’s had a lot of local girls who want to know about her success and how can they follow in her footsteps. She said her advice is always the same – just be you.
“Some tell me I want to be like you, but I tell them to be better than me,” Diggins said. “I think about my process and how I had to blaze my own trail, I had a lot of mentors and positive people in my life that helped me along the way. I wouldn’t be able to be sitting here without my parents.
“The importance of mentors and positive influences in your life can’t be overstated. It’s okay to have people you want to model your game and life after, but that individuality is so important to bring something different to the table. It’s okay to be you.”

Diggins has done quite well so far by just being herself.

Purdue shuts down EKU 48-6 in opener

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Purdue stymied Eastern Kentucky's offense, particularly its running game, for four quarters Saturday as the Colonels failed to score five times after Boilermakers turnovers in a 48-6 loss at Ross-Ade Stadium.

It was the Colonels' 12th straight season-opening loss and its worst defeat since falling to North Carolina State 54-10 in 2005. Danny Hope was coaching Eastern Kentucky then, the same man leading Purdue against the Colonels on Saturday.

Hope said he had mixed emotions about the game but he was pleased his team took the challenge against Eastern Kentucky seriously.

"I love Eastern Kentucky and I know the kids that play there," Hope said. "This game was about the Boilermakers."

EKU struggled offensively, failing to get its running game going against Purdue's bigger front line, led by All-America candidate Kawaan Short. Matt Denham, who averaged 130 yards per game for the Colonels last year, was limited to 47 yards on 12 carries, 30 coming on Eastern Kentucky's lone touchdown in the second quarter.

"(Short) was a monster and we really didn't have an answer for him in the middle," Denham said.

Eastern Kentucky first-string quarterback T.J. Pryor did not play because of a hamstring injury, leaving the duties to sophomore Jared McClain. McClain was intercepted twice in the first half, the second setting up Purdue's last first-half touchdown.

He finished 8-for-22 passing for 85 yards while rushing for another 33 yards.

"Purdue played a great defense today," McClain said. "I came out here and did the best that I could."

Eastern Kentucky Coach Dean Hood said Pryor will be ready to practice full speed next week but declined to say who will start in the home opener against Morehead State.

The game had all the hiccups of a season opener with the teams combining for eight turnovers, a blocked punt, a blocked field goal, and a blocked and missed extra point.

Purdue quarterback Rob Marve threw touchdown passes to three different receivers and maintained possession with quick, short passes in Purdue's hurry-up offense.

The Colonels surrendered 547 yards in total offense, 372 of that through the air.

"The coaches put us in position to make good plays but we just came up a little short," said free safety Brooklyn Fox, who picked off two Purdue passes and recovered a fumble to lead EKU's defensive effort.

EKU's best chance for turnover points came when Fox intercepted Purdue second-string quarterback Rob Henry and returned it to the Boilermakers 24 at the 9:20 mark of the second quarter.

The Colonels could only advance the ball 3 yards before Luke Pray had his 38-yard field goal blocked by Short. It was the second time Short got his paw on a Pray kick. He also blocked Pray's extra-point attempt after EKU's touchdown.

EKU stopped Purdue's first drive when Fox intercepted Marve at the Colonels 36. After Eastern Kentucky failed to the move the ball, Purdue made its second possession count, going 87 yards on a quick six plays, concluding on Marve's 4-yard TD pass to Gary Bush.
Purdue built a 20-0 lead before EKU broke through.

Denham slipped off left tackle for a 30-yard TD with 11:17 left in the first half, putting EKU back in the game.

The Boilers squashed the Colonels' momentum with two more TDs before the half.

Toledo downs McNeese in BracketBuster game

Published Saturday, February 23, 2013 in Lake Charles (La.) American Press

By Clyde Hughes / Special to the American Press
TOLEDO, Ohio — The McNeese State basketball team could not overcome a sluggish first half and a 24-point deficit as Toledo beat the Cowboys for the second time, 79-66 in the last BracketBuster game at Savage Arena on Saturday.

Toledo, which ended the Cowboys’ season last year in the Tournament, took advantage of 14 turnovers in the first half to build a double-digit halftime lead.

McNeese rallied late in the second half, shooting 51.6 percent over the final 20 minutes, but made 11 of 21 free throws for the game. Those were the two statistics that seemed to bother Cowboys head coach Dave Simmons the most.

“The last game we didn’t have 14 turnovers in the game and we had 14 turnovers in a half today,” Simmons said. “Toledo wasn’t pressing us, so that tells you that the turnovers were self-inflicted. We shot free throws well our last two games. When you’re on the road, free throw shooting is what keeps you in the game and allows you to make runs. We needed those free throws today.”

The loss ended a two-game win streak.

Jeremie Mitchell, who fouled out without scoring against Southeastern Louisiana on Tuesday, led the Cowboys with a season-high 18 points, including a 6-for-9 performance from the 3-point arch. Mitchell said the loss had more to do with how they played than what Toledo did.

“It was disappointing because we know we’re a way better team than this,” he said. “We shouldn’t have ever let them get us down like that. They didn’t do anything spectacular. They hit some shots when we were in a scoring slump. At the end of the day, all you can do is go back, watch the film and try to learn from it for the next game.”

The Rockets defense seemed to latch on to Cowboys leading scorer Dontae Cannon. Cannon, averaging 12.1 points a game, was held scoreless, getting off three shots in 33 minutes of play. Forward Desharick Guidry was also held under his average (11.9 ppg), with seven points.

“Dontae didn’t score probably for the first time in his career,” Simmons said. “Jeremie made some shots he doesn’t normally hit. Late in the game, we’ve got to have those guys show up for us. We need both of them.”

The Rockets went on a 19-6 run over the last 7 minutes of the first half to take control, going into halftime with a 35-22 edge.

Toledo, behind the aggressive play of guard Rian Pearson, increased its lead to 66-42 with 8:43 left in the game.

That’s when McNeese seemed to find a second gear, going on a 19-6 run of its own. A Mitchell 3-point shot started the comeback with 8:11 left in regulation. Another Mitchell’s 3-pointer at the 4:23 mark cut the Rockets advantage to 72-61.

Simmons said he was pleased with the Cowboys’ determination, but the effort came too late to make a difference in the outcome.

“We needed that in the first half,” Simmons said. “At that time in the second half we had a sense of urgency. Everybody has got to have a sense of urgency at the beginning of the ballgame.”

Mitchell agreed, saying that the second-half performance should have been good enough to win.

“We need to put two halves together,” Mitchell said. “The same intensity we play with when we’re down by 10 or 15 points, we need to play the same way when we’re up by 10 or 15 points. If we can do that and put two halves together, we’ll be all right.”

Pearson snuffed out McNeese’s last rally with consecutive baskets, the first on a three-point play, to secure Toledo’s double-digit lead the rest of the game.
Simmons said forward Pete Kpan was a bright point for McNeese. Kpan, playing extended minutes as Simmons looked for an effective combination, scored a career-high 10 points and grabbed six rebounds, another career high, all in the second half.

“Peter stepped up knowing he’s going to make a difference,” Simmons said. “He got some confidence this game and teammates got some confidence in him. We have four conference games left and every one of them means a lot. We got to see some guys I think can help us.”

Panthers roll past Tigers: Western girls set up date with TL Friday in sectional semifinal

Published in Kokomo Tribune, February 7, 2013

By Clyde Hughes
For the Kokomo Tribune

Oxford — Western’s girls basketball team, ranked No. 8 in Class 3A, made sure it punched its ticket for Friday’s sectional semifinals with a 12-2 third quarter run that sealed a 54-31 victory over Howard County rival Northwestern in the last night Benton Central sectional opener for both teams.

Western (18-4), the defending sectional champions, now takes on Twin Lakes (12-10) in the second game of sectional semis Friday night. Twin Lakes edged Maconaquah 47-46 in the first game last night. No. 3-ranked Benton Central (18-3) will face West Lafayette (17-5) in the first semifinal at 6 p.m. Friday.

After handily beating Northwestern the first two times they played them, Western’s coach Chris Keisling said knew the Tigers would come out and play with something to prove. The Panthers defense, though, proved too much for the Tigers.

Western jumped ahead early with an aggressive defense that created 15 Northwestern turnovers in the first half, allowing the Panthers to race out to a 29-18 lead by intermission, and setting up the clinching effort in the third quarter.

“They know us well, know what they’ve got to and where all of our weaknesses are,” Keisling said. “It’s like playing your brother in a backyard game. Fortunately we were able to win against an up-and-coming team. Coach Kathie Layden is doing a great job there and they’ve progressed all year long, but we just had too much for them.”

After a slow moving first quarter that saw both teams stuck on a 2-2 score for the opening five minutes, Carley O’Neal broke the ice with a 3-pointer with 2:46 left. Jessica Givens followed with another trey and O’Neal piled one more on to push Western’s lead to 11-6.

In the second quarter, a Kiersten Durbin 3-pointer gave the Panthers their first double-digit lead (18-8) with 6:42 left. Western would lead by as many as 13 points at two different points in the quarter.

A Marie Hunkeler jumper with 2:35 left got Northwestern back to nine, 27-16, but that would be the closest the Tigers could get before halftime.

Despite losing by 27 and 18 points the first two times Northwestern played Western this season, Layden said she felt confident about the game. In the end, Western hit enough big shots to turn the tide.

“We had a winning season,” Layden said. “I didn’t feel like we came into this game thinking we were going to get beat. Obviously we came in with a game plan and we tried to execute it. They knocked down some shots and that’s going to win you the ball game.”

The Panthers held Northwestern to 1 of 8 shooting in the third quarter. By the time Kaitlynd Lear hit a 12-foot jumper with 30 seconds left in the period, Western had built a 41-20 advantage. The Tigers finished the game with 27 turnovers in all.

“Once we got the lead we tried to limit their possessions,” Keisling said. “We knew that Northwestern would be hungry to come in and play a good game. In the third quarter focused on one particular defense.

“We thought the pressure really made the difference. We changed a lot the first half but third quarter we went more with our three-quarter court backed with our 23 and just stayed with that. Then we patched up any little errors we made in the first half. We have a lot of three and four-year starters so that makes a difference.”

Carley O’Neal led the Panthers with 12 point while senior Allison Lindley added 10 more.

“This is the third time we’ve played them so we knew how they were going to play us,” Lindley said. “We just wanted to keep the pressure up and not let them back in the game.”

Tipton tops Delphi 60-48 in regional semifinals

Published Lafayette Journal & Courier Sunday, March 10, 2013

TIPTON — For three quarters in the Class 2A regional semifinals Saturday morning, the Delphi Oracles were every bit as good as No. 2 Tipton.

But the Oracles could not overcome poor shooting and foul trouble as the Blue Devils opened the fourth quarter with a 15-0 run to seal a 60-48 victory over their Hoosier Conference foe.

It was the second time this season that Delphi put a scare into Tipton, only to see the contest slip away in the second half. The Oracles lost to the Blue Devils in December, 57-55.

After trailing 30-26 at halftime, the Oracles went into fourth quarter tied 38-all before the wheels fell off offensively. Delphi turned the ball over five times, missed two shots and a one-and-one opportunity while Tipton raced out to a 53-38 lead to all but ice the contest.

“We came into the fourth quarter right where we wanted to be,” said Delphi’s Cole Murray, who led the Oracles with 13 points. “All we wanted was a chance. We kind of ran out of gas. We thought we had a good shot, but they showed why they’re No. 2 in the state and were able to put us away.”

Mike Crawford led the Blue Devils with 27 points, but 15 of those points came from the free throw line. Crawford struggled to find room against Delphi’s defense.

“He’s difficult for us to cover, because he’s really big and strong and has great mobility,” Delphi coach Michael Lewis said. “He can find gaps and shove his way through. Then, when you send him to the free throw line, he converts. The challenge against Tipton is that you’ve got to play well against them for 32 minutes.”

At times, Delphi looked like a team destined to threaten Tipton on its home court, as 
Ricky Windell (10 points) barreled through open lanes in the paint for layups and Blake Walters knocked down three 3-point shots in the first half.

But the Oracles struggled to close out quarters, leaving the door open for Tipton to regain its footing. Delphi failed to score over the last 1:50 of the first quarter, missing its last three shots and allowing Tipton to cut a five-point deficit to 15-13.

In the second quarter, Delphi failed to score over the final 3:10 and the Blue Devils went on an 8-0 run to grab a 30-26 lead.

Then, with Tipton struggling to score against Delphi’s defense, the Oracles were blanked over the final 3:11 of the third period after they rallied to take the lead. A Luke Shively jumper tied the game at 38-all for Tipton to set up the fourth quarter.

“Every possession is extremely important in a game of this magnitude,” Lewis said. “I thought we had opportunities to extend leads and didn’t take advantage of them. Against the No. 2 team in the state on their home floor, you’ve got to convert when you’ve got those opportunities. Unfortunately for us, it just didn’t happen.”

The Oracles took their best shot to open the third quarter, scoring the first eight points. Sparked by a Murray layup and a Brent Hawn 3-pointer, Delphi took a 34-30 lead.

“We knew he had to come out strong, because that’s where they killed us the first time we played them,” Murray said. “We had other guys step up and play well today. It’s not just me.”

Tipton coach Brad Dickey said Delphi’s third-quarter run got the Blue Devils’ attention.

“They just improved so much, and Delphi is just a good program under coach Lewis,” Dickey said. “He did such a good job at preparing their dribblers and shooters against us that it made for a very tough challenge for us today.”

Dickey said he relied on two of his tallest players, 6-foot-4 Nate Friend and 6-foot-5 Crawford, to body Murray on the outside and limit him to one 3-point field goal. Dickey said he sent a guard after Murray when he put the ball on the floor to look for room.

“I think our depth helped us, because we were able to use a lot of guards to balance the workload and the fouls,” Dickey said. “We played 12 guys today, so that’s a credit to the entire program.”

In defense of our voting rights

Printing in Lafayette Journal & Courier, Monday, March 11, 2013

It is hard to imagine in a country built on the idea of democracy and one person/one vote, that there would be such a debate today over voting rights. Yet, here we are in 2013, and there is a debate over the rules of the voting game that has the potential of curtailing those rights.

It seemed too ironic that we celebrated the 100th anniversary of a historic Washington, D.C., march for women’s suffrage on March 3, when days before the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments on stripping the 1965 Voting Rights Act of a key provision that protects minority representation in much of the South.

The National Women Suffrage Parade was held in 1913, the day before the inauguration of President Woodrow Wilson, in an effort to bring attention to the issue. It would take seven years before the 19th Amendment would pass, guaranteeing women the right to vote.

The ties between minority and women voting rights goes back a long way. Black abolitionist Frederick Douglass was one of a handful of men who participated in the first women suffrage convention in Seneca Falls, N.Y., in 1848. African-American activists Sojourner Truth and Ida B. Wells publicly fought for women suffrage.

The 1913 march recreated the one of the first acts of Delta Sigma Theta, an African-American sorority that had recently formed at Howard University. Today, Delta Sigma Theta is one of the largest black sororities, with more than 300,000 women.

Ironically, after the 19th Amendment was passed in 1920, it would take 45 years for the Voting Rights Acts to take down the last voting barriers for many blacks.

In the past four years, there have been a number of laws aimed at who should be allowed to vote and how those voters should be identified, regardless of sex and race. Those rules seemed to target certain groups.

Supporters for voter identification laws say these rules are needed so Americans can have confidence in the election system by making sure only eligible voters are casting ballots. For now, let’s take them at their word, even though it’s just a little suspicious that the bulk of these laws were proposed or passed after Barack Obama was elected president in 2008.

Voter ID laws should not come at the expense of voter disenfranchisement. Laws that don’t sufficiently address that concern are playing politics with voting. Yes, you can have voter ID laws and have maximum voter participation. One is not exclusive of the other.

It would take using current and new social media technology to make that happen. It would take possibly expanding motor voter laws and more. Yes, it could cost states a little more in the budget.

But if we treasure the right to vote as much as we say, then the cost of securing the vote and not limiting eligible voters are worth it. If state officials crow about efforts to secure the vote then cry about limiting, say, early voting dates and times because of budget concerns, they are trying to game the system. That hurts women, minorities and, frankly, everyone.

As we celebrate women’s suffrage during Women History Month, this should be a perfect time to remind citizens how things were and why the clock should never be turned back to those times for even one second.

Hughes is a member of the Greater Lafayette Commerce's Diversity Roundtable.