SPORTS DIGEST: Warriors jumped off to 2-0 start last year, too

For those of you thinking the NBA Finals are over with the Golden State Warriors up 2-0 against the Cleveland Cavaliers, think back to a year ago.

The Warriors got off to 2-0 lead then, also. Cleveland then won four of the next five games and walked away with the championship. (This is being written Wednesday morning, eight hours before game three starts.)

That’s not saying the Cavaliers are about to stage another comeback. Judging by how the Cavaliers have played in their first two games, I’m not sure they are capable of winning a game against Golden State right now, let alone two or three, but stranger things have happened in the NBA Finals.

After two games, though, it is easy to see that the Cavaliers can’t keep up with the Warriors. If they are to win a game they will have to slow down the Warriors.

That means passing the ball around and looking for a good shot while using as much of the 24-second clock as possible. Then the Cavaliers have to make that shot.

So far, only LeBron James and Kevin Love have been able to put the ball in the net consistently.

J.R. Smith, the Cavs, shooting guard, made the first basket of the series. He hasn’t scored since.

Point guard Kyrie Irving has made only 40 percent of his shots and has had only nine assists in two games.

Backup point guard Deron Williams hasn’t scored yet in the series and Kyle Korver has scored only eight points, all in game two.

Starting center Tristan Thompson has scored only eight points and added eight rebounds in the two games.

Steph Curry, the smallest player in the Warriors lineup, has more rebounds than Thompson.

The Cavaliers have tried to run with the Warriors in the first two games and lasted until early in the third quarter. If they are going to win more than a game they have to slow the tempo, which means not turning the ball over, and taking (and making) high percentage shots.

The Warriors have four all-star starters: Curry, Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. The Cavaliers have three in James, Love and Irving.

The Cavaliers big three have scored 144 of the team’s 204 points so far. They need more help.

Curry and Durant have picked apart the Cavaliers defense in the first two games. After a nearly flawless first game when they only turned the ball over four times all night, the Warriors kicked it around a bit in game two, turning it over 20 times.

It didn’t matter.

Durant had 33 points, Curry added 32, Thompson had 22, Green had 12 and reserves Shaun Livingston and Ian Clark each added 10.

The Warriors have more depth and they’ve used it to full advantage in the first two games.

After setting an NBA record for most wins in a season last year, the Warriors are trying to make amends for losing the last three games of last year’s finals.

They also are chasing history again. They are the first team to win 14 consecutive playoff games in one year.

The Lakers in 2000-01 went 11-0 in sweeping the first three series to get to the finals. In game one of the finals against the Philadelphia 76ers, the Lakers, led by Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant, were feeling a little full of themselves and let Alan Iverson go off for 48 points and the Lakers lost in overtime.

That woke Shaq and Kobe up and the Lakers swept the rest of the series for a 15-1 post-season record, the best postseason ever.

The Warriors can surpass that mark with a sweep of the Cavaliers, who have much more firepower than that Sixers team had.

That could be all the suspense we have left. Or the Cavaliers can get their act together and make this a rubber match worth watching.

The Dodgers unveiled this statue of Jackie Robinson during ceremonies in April. The Rose Bowl has announced it will unveil its own Jackie Robinson statue, this time in a football uniform, some time this fall. Robinson played football at the Rose Bowl during his junior college days at Pasadena City College. (Photo by Nick Koza)

ODDS AND ENDS: The Rose Bowl is finally joining the party and will start placing statues outside the stadium. The first selection is a natural for the Pasadena landmark: hometown hero Jackie Robinson.

Robinson was recently featured in the first statue unveiled at Dodger Stadium. That statue had him sliding into home plate.

The one outside the Rose Bowl will have Jackie in a football uniform. It will be installed right outside the Rose Bowl’s main gate and will be ready for unveiling some time this fall.

Robinson played at the Rose Bowl in 1937 and 1938 when he played at Pasadena City College. He then completed his football career at UCLA, which played in the Coliseum in those days.

Funds for the statue were donated by the Tull Family Foundation to Legacy Connections, the private nonprofit fundraising arm of the Rose Bowl. Thomas Tull was a producer of the 2013 film biography of Robinson, “42.”

Speaking of Jackie Robinson, UCLA has announced the creation of the Jackie R. Robinson Centennial Scholars Endowed Scholarships that will support students participating in the four sports Robinson played while attending the school.

The $1 million scholarship fund will offer support scholarships to students involved in men’s baseball, track-and-field, football and basketball.

The scholarship fund was created through donations by “local philanthropists” and funds from the UCLA Chancellor’s Centennial Scholars Match.

“Jackie Robinson was a difference-maker on so many levels, and he continues to inspire and touch the lives of generations to come,” UCLA Athletic Director Dan Guerrero said. “His famous quote — `A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives’ — could not ring more true, and these generous gifts are proof of that. To be able to honor his legacy while supporting the education of student-athletes its truly remarkable, and we are grateful to all those involved who made this happen.”

Robinson was a four-sport athlete at UCLA from 1939-41 before breaking the Major League Baseball color barrier in 1947.

Tennis star Serena Williams is one of six athletes nominated for the best women athlete in the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports awards, which will be presented in July. Williams is also nominated in two other categories, queen of swag and best cannon. (Courtesy photo)

Who are today’s favorite athletes among kids? According to nominations for the Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports awards to be presented in July at UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion, the favorite male athletes are soccer star Cristiano Ronaldo, NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chicago Cubs standout Kris Bryant, Cleveland Cavaliers star LeBron James, Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry and Super Bowl champion quarterback Tom Brady of the New England Patriots.

The most popular women athletes are tennis star Serena Williams, swimmer Katie Ledecky, soccer star Alex Morgan, skier Mikaela Shiffrin, gymnast Simone Biles and Los Angeles Sparks basketball star Nneka Ogwumike.

Online voting for the awards is at www.Nick.com. All told there are 14 voting categories.

Race driver Darrell Wallace Jr. makes his debut in the NASCAR Cup Series this week in Pocono, Pennsylvania. Wallace will drive the famed number 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR.com)

There will be an unusual sight at the NASCAR race at Pocono, Pennsylvania, this weekend. The race will feature a black racer, Darrell Wallace Jr., only the eighth black driver to race in NASCAR’s top cup series.

Wallace is replacing the injured Aric Almirola

Wallace has been racing in the NASCAR Xfinity Series for car owner Jack Roush.

Wallace has five years of experience in the Xfinity and Camping World Truck Series, and has five wins and 20 top-five finishes.

The son of a white father and black mother, Wallace has been supported by his father, who owns a cleaning business, through most of his career.

He began driving for Joe Gibbs’ racing team in 2012.

At the Pocono track, he will be driving for Richard Petty Motosports, driving the familiar numer 43 car once driven by Petty himself.

ELAC basketball teams advance in state playoffs

East Los Angeles College’s men’s and women’s basketball teams have both advanced to the California Community College Athletic Association state championships with wins last weekend.

The men’s team held off second seed El Camino Compton Center, 83-80 in the third round of the Southern California Regional Playoffs March 4  to advance to the CCCAA State Championships for the second time in three years.

The Huskies (23-6), who are also in the Elite Eight for the third consecutive season, are the third seed from Southern California and play Feather River College (25-3), the North two seed, at 3 p.m. March 9 at Las Positas College in Livermore.

The women defeated Pasadena City College, 70-64 in overtime, March 4 to advance to the state championships.

ELAC plays College of the Siskiyous (29-1) at 3 p.m. March 10. Siskiyous has won 27 straight since losing to Sierra nearly four months ago.

The women used a 9-0 run to break open a tight game with Pasadena in the third meeting between the SCC North rivals this season. Monica Garcia’s layup gave the Huskies a 49-38 lead with 6:50 left in the fourth quarter.

But the Lancers, who were overwhelmed in the fourth quarter of their previous game with the Huskies (a 78-49 loss), chipped away and tied it, 53-53, with 1:11 left on two free throws by Jolene Robinson.

With 20 seconds remaining, Robinson fought through the paint and laid it off the glass but her shot attempt spun off the front of the rim and the game went to overtime.

In overtime, Pasadena briefly took the lead on a free throw by Kandace Payne, 54-53. From that point on, it was the Huskies’ Gomez who sank three jumpers and was 8-for-9 from the line that turned things back to ELAC’s favor. Gomez finished with a game-high 27 points.

Garcia finished the game with 15 points and 10 rebounds. Farrah Castillo scored eight points and had four assists, and Wuanyei Ah-Hing had eight points. Gloria Ortiz came off the bench to handle eight rebounds and add four points. Garcia and Ah-Hing did not start the game.

In the men’s game, Compton (27-5) led early and built an 18-9 lead. ELAC got its first lead, 36-35, with 13 seconds left in the half. Compton’s Jayvon Brown scored a three-pointer10 seconds later, and the Tartars led 38-36 at the break.

With the score tied, 48-48 five minutes into the second half, ELAC went on a 16-4 run and led 62-52 five minutes later, ending with a dunk from Roderick Williams, the Huskies’ University of Texas at El Paso-bound forward.

Compton chipped away at the lead and pulled to within 73-72, with 2:22 left in the game on free throws by Alonzo Taylor. ELAC answered with a 5-0 run and led 78-72 with 1:06 remaining.

But Compton which leads, or is ranked No. 2, in the state in seven categories, including points per game (94.5), wasn’t finished. The Tartars used an 8-3 run to reduce their deficit to 81-80, with seven seconds left.

ELAC’s Frank Bertz swished two free throws to extend the lead to the final margin of victory with five seconds left and Brown missed a 3-pointer that would have tied it at the buzzer.

Fans and cheerleaders stormed the court in celebration. Williams tried to hold back tears.

Williams scored a team-high 25 points that included three dunks, Bertz scored 18 and Sequan added 15.

 

ELAC basketball teams stay alive in state playoff action

Two of the hottest teams in the community college ranks will square off at 7 p.m. March 4 when East Los Angeles College visits El Camino Compton Center in the third round of the state Southern California playoffs.

Compton, the second seed, defeated Ventura, 96-80 Feb. 25 to raise its record to 27-4. The Tartars have won five straight.

ELAC scored a stunning 79-77 victory at Mt. San Jacinto Feb. 24 to advance. The 10th seeded Huskies (22-6) take a seven-game winning streak into the contest.

It will be the first meeting of the season between Compton and ELAC, which are both in the South Coast Conference, but are grouped in separate divisions. Compton won the South title and ELAC captured the North.

A tip in by Zeno Lake with two seconds left in the game lifted ELAC to the 79-77 win at Mt. San Jacinto. Lake, a sophomore from Compton High School, scored off a missed shot by Sequan Walker. He finished the game with 15 points and seven rebounds.

A three-pointer by Mt. San Jacinto’s Mat Bradshaw had tied the score with 16 seconds left after free throws by Jesus Zesati had given the Huskies a 77-74 lead.

Walker finished with a team-high 18 points to lead ELAC, which led by 14 at halftime. He also had three rebounds, three assists and four steals. Roderick Williams scored 14 points, grabbed five rebounds, dished off two assists and got two steals. Frank Bertz added 10 points and Chima Wami put in nine points and five rebounds

Mt. San Jacinto finished its season 22-11.

Compton was led by Jayvon Brown with 26 points and four assists in its victory over Ventura. The Tartars were down 48-46 at the half, but Anthony Fitzpatrick helped lead a second half rally. He scored 14 of his 22 points and had six of his eight rebounds in the second half.

Dajion Henderson scored 11 points and had 10 rebounds, Kyvonte Davis had 10 points and 11 rebounds and Michael Chavers added 12 points to also lead Compton.

Ventura, the 18th seed had defeated Irvine Valley in the first round. It finished the season 18-13.

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The ELAC women’s team faces an all-too-familiar opponent in Pasadena March 4 in a third round SoCal regional. The second seeded Huskies (27-2) will play its South Coast Conference North rival for the third time this season. ELAC won the two previous meetings.

The Huskies beat Santa Ana, 88-74 Feb. 25 in the second round behind sophomore guard Allissa Gomez. The Roosevelt High product had 21 points, four assists and three steals.

She was one of five Huskies to score in double figures. Tiffani Martinez scored 17 points and Katrina Reeves had 16. Anastasia Tsybaeva scored 13 points and had eight rebounds and Gloria Ortiz added 10 points, 12 rebounds and three steals.

Point guard Farrah Castillo dished off nine assists, had three rebounds and a steal to go with five points.

Pasadena (21-9), the 10th seed, scored an impressive 72-65 win at No. 7 Saddleback (22-10) to earn another shot at the Huskies.