Wed04232014

Sports

More than sports in the lesson plan at Orange Mound Community Center

trophy-1-600Children's smiles, fidgets and careful steps greeted me last Sunday (May 26) at the Orange Mound Community Center (OMCC) Athletic Appreciation Banquet.

A number of children and their families walked into the ballroom at the Holiday Inn-University of Memphis full of anticipation. They came to celebrate the theme, "Hard Work Pays Off".

The children (ages five to 16) had worked hard, on and off the court. Extended family and surrogate mothers and fathers were all in the mix ready for the celebration. The pride was evident.

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Do we really believe or is it just bluff?

IGrizz-The-Fans-600For the past month or so, Memphis, and perhaps the entire Mid-South has been on a fantastic ride called the Grizzlies 2013 Playoff run! It was as thrilling as any carnival ride ever brought to the Delta or Mid-South fairs, wrought with ups, downs, twists and turns. There were comebacks from two games down, overtime victories, overtime losses, dagger threes and powerfully throw down dunks, thrilling victories and disappointing defeats.

Through it all something great happened.

Born was something more exciting, more potentially impactful and certainly more important – this community came together, embraced its identity and stood proudly on the world stage exclaiming, "We Believe!" and "We Don't Bluff" as we "Whooped" every "Trick" the opposition threw at us (at least until the San Antonio series, where the Spurs opened up a can of whoop trick on us.)

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Best Ever!: Grizzlies 2013 Season in Review

Grizz-1-600"It's painful to watch," said Memphis Grizzlies center Marc Gasol.

"It's an awful situation that we're in," Grizz guard Tony Allen said.

Those were responses after Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals against the San Antonio Spurs, which marked the ninth playoff ever for the Grizzlies. The team was hoping to make history. They wanted to defeat the Spurs in Game 4 to keep the run going. They wanted to win Games 5 and 6 and 7 to move on to battle for a championship.

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No miracle ending for the Grizz as Spurs sweep

Grizz-Tony-Parker-600There will be no miracle on Beale Street. At least not the one that Memphis Grizzlies faithful had hoped – even if ever so faintly – would begin Monday night with a Game 4 victory over the San Antonio Spurs at the FedExForum.

Teams that have led 3-0 in a seven-game series in the NBA Playoffs have never lost (107-0). Grit and grind loyalists believed. But it was just wishful thinking.

The Western Conference Finals victory – a well-earned one – went to the San Antonio Spurs 93-86, who now advance to the 2013 Finals against the winner of the Eastern Conference Finals between the defending champion Miami Heat and the Indiana Pacers. The win secured San Antonio's fifth Western Conference title and their second sweep of the 2013 Playoffs.

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Shaq Goodwin gets Team USA shot

Shaq-Goodwin-600University of Memphis rising sophomore Shaq Goodwin has accepted an invitation to attend the 2013 USA Basketball Men's U19 World Championship Team training camp June 14-19 at the U.S. Olympic Training Center (USOTC), the USA Basketball Men's Junior National Team Committee announced Wednesday.

Players selected after training camp will represent the United States at FIBA U19 World Championship June 27-July 7 in Prague, Czech Republic.

If Goodwin is selected, it would be the fifth-straight year a Tiger played on a Team USA squad. Goodwin played for the U18 team in 2012 and joined Joe Jackson (U19, 2011) and Adonis Thomas (U17, 2010; U16, 2009) in representing the U.S. in international competition.

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Grizz sizzle gives way to fizzle

ZachRandolph-600The Memphis Grizzlies have accomplished much this NBA season, having survived the in-season loss of their superstar to another team and being rebuilt, reformed and reborn as a team.

They ended the season with their highest seed for the playoffs. They defeated one of the hottest teams in the West (Los Angeles Clippers). They defeated last year's Western Conference Champion and favorite to repeat this year (Oklahoma City Thunder). And they defeated both of these teams without having home court advantage.

They made it to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history. They have successfully gone from the "laughing stock" of the league to most NBA analysts giving them a legitimate chance to make the NBA Finals.

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Spanked by Spurs, Grizz look to regroup

Grizz Spurs-600They beat the Los Angeles Clippers. They sent the Oklahoma City Thunder home packing. But after a Game 1 meltdown in the Western Conference Finals, it appears the Memphis Grizzlies may have big-time problems with the championship-savvy San Antonio Spurs.

The Spurs came out firing against Memphis, setting a quick pace en route to a 105-83 romp at the AT&T center. Attacking the rim and making shot after shot from the outside, the Spurs kept an unbreakable grip on the lead throughout the entire game.

San Antonio raced to a 17-point lead in the first quarter. An although the Grizzlies cut the lead down to six during a stretch of the second half, there just wasn't enough consistency to derail the Spurs' juggernaut.

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Grizz movin’ on to Western Finals

Grizz-WIN-600Big Boy: street ball terminology meaning a person (or persons) who can completely and totally dominate a game in the paint.

In one of his biggest games of the playoffs, Zach Randolph put up "big boy" numbers, with 28 points, 14 rebounds, 2 assists and 2 steals as the Memphis Grizzlies defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 88-84 to win the NBA Western Conference best of seven, second round series 4-1.

A bandwagon of NBA analysts agrees that very few teams have the size to play the slow, methodical, half-court offense/defense that the Grizzlies claim as their own.

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Grizz comeback sealed with win in overtime

Grizz-Celebrate-1775-600Kevin Durant walked down the court at the FedExForum with both hands covering his face. He sensed that the one thing he and the rest of his Oklahoma City Thunder teammates set out to do in Memphis was about to become an unfulfilled goal.

They'd set out to retrieve at least one win in Memphis. That didn't happen.

In an overtime win on Monday, the Grizzlies defeated the Thunder 103-97, taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series.

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‘Whoomp! (There It Is) Grizz win!

Mike-Conley-600At the end of any Memphis Grizzlies win at the FedExForum, this familiar song can be heard blaring loudly across the sound system: "Whoomp! (There it is)."

The song, made popular by rap artist Tag Team, relates precisely to what the Grizzlies did in their 87-81 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Saturday to take a 2-1 series lead in this Western Conference Semifinal.

The Grizzlies used every form of "tag teaming" possible in the win.

Consider these examples:

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Hustle … hustle … hustle … GRIZZ!

Grizz-1-600Grit ... grind ... thou name is the Memphis Grizzlies!

After a heart-breaking loss in Game 1 that easily could (and probably should) have the Thunder down 2-0, the Grizzlies responded with an impressive 99-93 victory to even the best of seven series at 1-1.

Led by the steady hand of Mike Conley, who was one assist away from a triple-double with an impressive stat line of 26 points, 10 rebounds and 9 assists, the Grizz were determined not to let another late lead disappear. Marc Gasol added 24 points and provided a major presence in the paint that Oklahoma City just could not match.

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Coach Jerry M. Johnson takes well-earned retirement bow

Johnson-retirement-600The pool of retired and revered coaches recently made room for one more – Coach Jerry M. Johnson Sr.

Former students, players, family and friends gathered at the Marriott East Hotel on April 27 for a retirement dinner and gala in Coach Johnson's honor. The celebration noted his 42 years of service in education and coaching in Memphis City Schools and Shelby County Schools.

Coach Johnson started his coaching career at Wooddale Junior High, coaching football and track. His teams won championships in both sports.

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Close … but no free throws

Griz-600Grizz Nation was in full effect Sunday evening in Oklahoma City and although an unlikely victory in the home of last year's Western Conference champs was well within reach, a few critical errors and some home court luck, gave the Thunder the win. Kevin Durant made a critical jumper with 11.1 seconds remaining in the 4th quarter Sunday to give the Thunder the lead, which unfortunately for Grizz Nation, they never relinquished. It was Durant's 4th game-tying or go-ahead shot in the final 24 seconds of a playoff game in the last five postseasons, tied for the most in the league.

Game 2 is Tuesday night in Oklahoma City.

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