A good time for 25 things

The first day of February marks a time when the things in sports converge.

The Super Bowl, big conference basketball matchups, wrestling tournaments and even Spring Training are on the horizon.

Sounds like a good time for 25 things.

1. In nine years in Tiffin, I’ve never seen a winter like this one. It’s been a tough season, something that becomes even clearer when people start comparing it to the famous blizzard of 1978. I’m not sure we’ve ever had this many basketball game cancellations in a winter, and the season still has a month to go.

2. The Old Fort-Clyde boys game, played this Tuesday, was the most exciting basketball game I’ve covered this season. It was a contest between to really good teams, and two really good players – Old Fort’s Hunter Perry and Clyde’s Derek Gray.

3. Gray, who scored 34 points and hit the game-winner in the Fliers’ 69-67 win over the Stockaders, is a college prospect, and not just in basketball. He had an outstanding season as a receiver on Clyde’s football team this fall, and was selected to play in the North-South game this summer. Ryan Carter, Clyde’s football and basketball coach, said after Tuesday’s game that Gray has the ability to play basketball, football and baseball at the college level. And baseball’s his best sport.

4. Former Heidelberg point guard Dane Givner was at HU’s game with Capital this past Wednesday. He said that often, a player chooses his or her favorite sport to play in college, not the one they are best at.

5. As for Perry, he does plenty of good things on the court, but what may be the most impressive thing is his ability to get good shots off under defensive pressure. He hit a number of deep 3s with a man in his face Tuesday night. On the last play of the game, he fought through a double team to get a leaning open shot at the basket that would have tied the game. The ball barely missed.

6. Meanwhile, Carey’s boys team is making a case as not only the best team in the Midland Athletic League, but one of the best teams in the area. Carey has three players – Zach Boes, Bryan Powers and Jared Wentling – who have double-double ability every time out. Wentling is particularly impressive, as he turns normal offensive possessions into transition opportunities on a regular basis. Good speed and ability to finish.

7. Friday’s girls game between Carey and Old Fort had an Division III Ohio Athletic Conference college feel to it. Not only did the matchup – between the MAL’s last remaining undefeated teams – have a big crowd, it also had a pair of former OAC players on the respective benches. Jennifer Miller, a Heidelberg graduate and four-year starter there, is Old Fort’s coach, while Paige Watson – who played for Chari Harrer at Baldwin Wallace – is an assistant for Carey head coach Phil Vaughn.

8. I’m writing this the Friday night before the Northern Ohio League wrestling tournament, and I’m looking forward to Tony Maluso’s story about the event (which can be read on 1B). Columbian wrestling coach Chad Long might be the most blunt coach we have in the area. He always says exactly what he thinks, and it usually leads to some really interesting reading.

9. I still wish the Browns had called former Mount Union head coach Larry Kehres for their vacancy. One of the most successful coaches there is, and he has area ties. The Browns should have been bold. After all, things couldn’t possibly get worse.

10. That last sentence should prove I’ve learned nothing over the past 15 years.

11. The Indians are building a statue at Progressive Field for Jim Thome. Look, I know Thome’s a great guy who hit more than 600 homers (though not all with the Tribe), but the franchise really needs to build a statue for Larry Doby. Doby, the first black player to play in the American League, is a Hall of Famer and a hero. While Jackie Robinson (deservedly) gets many of the accolades, Doby started his career a mere weeks after Robinson, and did it when there was no interleague play. He also led the Indians to their last World Series championship, in 1948. The man deserves a statue as much – if not more – than any player in franchise history.

12. Kyrie Irving wants out of Cleveland? Wake me when his contract is almost up. He has two more years on it after this one.

13. In fact, wake me up when the Cavs start winning. I really like coach Mike Brown, and I always have. And Brown and Chris Grant are getting a ton of criticism for this season, much of which is warranted. But at the end of the day, Brown and Grant can’t make shots for the players and they can’t play defense.

14. The Indians start Spring Training later this month. From what I can see, the team hasn’t done much to improve itself from last season, and has lost pitchers Scott Kazmir, Joe Smith, and likely will lose Ubaldo Jimenez. Now, normally, this is where I get negative, but not this time. I have faith in manager Terry Francona. As long as he’s there, I’ll believe.

15. And, yes, I realize he can’t field or hit, which is the excuse I gave the Cavs’ brass a few paragraphs ago. I guess after last season I believe Francona is capable of baseball magic. Hey, it’s easier to believe in than Carlos Santana playing third base.

16. Is it OK to admit the Winter Olympics aren’t that big of a deal to me? I kinda stopped caring about them after Dan Jansen won a medal in the ’94 games. Now that was a great story.

17. Hope everyone enjoyed Gary Puckett’s show at The Ritz Theatre Saturday night. He performed at Disney World in 1999, the same time my school choir was visiting there. He said during the show that people always asked him why his songs were about “unrequited” love. He, in turn, would ask what “unrequited” meant. “Lady Willpower” is a favorite song of mine, so I’m a little jealous of everyone who went to Saturday’s show.

18. Karli Mast hit a game-winning 3 at Ashland Saturday. She made seven 3-pointers in TU’s 83-80 win over the Eagles. You have to feel good for the senior, who missed almost all of last season due to injury. In her career, she’s made a habit of hitting 3s with the game on the line, and certainly, beating Ashland in Ashland should be a nice boost for her and the Dragons.

19. St. Wendelin’s Kamryn Troike already is playing like a league MVP. I’d be surprised if the sophomore, who came into this week averaging more than 18 points and 13 rebounds a game, doesn’t dominate the fledgling Sandusky River League in its first two season. And those averages likely will be up a bit after this week.

20. Tonight’s Super Bowl figures to be an entertaining game. My guess is Denver will win, but that’s just because I said it last week on Seneca County Radio and don’t want to be accused of flip-flopping.

21. The thing that amazes me most about recent Super Bowls? How competitive they’ve been. You have to go back to 2007, when the Colts won reasonably easily over the Bears.

22. Young people may not remember this, but Super Bowls were – in the ’80s and ’90s – usually ridiculously boring and lopsided. In some years, the “Bud Bowl,” which had beer bottles playing football in a series of Budweiser commercials, was far more entertaining.

23. The Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees were announced Saturday. I’m always surprised how little support former Browns’ linebacker Clay Matthews gets. The man had 69 1/2 career sacks in a career that spanned from 1978-96, and was a four-time Pro Bowler. His brother, Bruce, is in the Hall, and his son, Clay Jr., is in the middle of a brilliant career with the Packers. Not that his family tree means anything in this argument. In a 1993 game against the Steelers, broadcaster Cris Collinsworth called Matthews a “sure-fire” Hall of Famer. Keep in mind he played for three more seasons.

24. Columbian graduate Jill Stein is averaging about seven points and nine rebounds a game for Bowling Green, while getting more than 30 minutes a game. It’s been her best collegiate season, and the Falcons are 17-3, 7-1 in the Mid-American Conference.

25. I considered just writing one sentence and then re-writing it 24 times in honor of Groundhog day, but decided the joke would get old fast.

Zach Baker is the sports editor for The Advertiser-Tribune.

Contact him at:

zbaker@ or on Twitter @Zachthewriter