The Chattanooga Rail Runners slipped into a tie for first place with Middle Tennessee this past Friday night as the Bowling Green Hornets outscored the Rail Runners in the fourth quarter, 34-18, en route to a 122-109 win in Kentucky.
With less than two weeks until the North Georgia Athletic Conference track championships, the LaFayette girls and Lakeview boys flexed their muscles by winning the Gordon Lee Invitational on Thursday night.
Golfers interested in participating in the Ridgeland High School football's team second annual golf tournament still have time to sign-up.
Already home to the successful Chattanooga Football Club, the Scenic City will have another soccer team to cheer for this year.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Ben Revere's RBI single with two outs in the eighth inning lifted the Philadelphia Phillies to a 1-0 victory over the Atlanta Braves on Thursday afternoon.
MIAMI (AP) — Finally, the NBA playoffs are set.
It took the entire season to fill out those brackets.
Overtime thrillers in Memphis and Charlotte, a go-ahead dunk in Oklahoma City to win a game and cap another scoring title for Kevin Durant, plus some good old-fashioned disinterest by Brooklyn ... all that, and more, on the final night of the season was needed before the eight conference-quarterfinal matchups in this season's NBA playoffs could be decided.
In the Western Conference, San Antonio — the league's best team this season, and a club that had the NBA title slip from its fingers a year ago — opens with Dallas. Oklahoma City gets Memphis, the Los Angeles Clippers face Golden State and Houston squares off with Portland. In the East, it's Indiana against Atlanta, Miami against Charlotte, Toronto facing Brooklyn and Chicago meeting Washington.
And for the third straight year, it's the same question entering the playoffs: Can anyone beat the Heat?
By late June, we'll have an answer.
"Now it's time," Houston's Chandler Parsons said, "for the real fun."
If what's occurred in the season's first 170 nights wasn't the real fun, then these playoffs could be epic.
More points were scored in the NBA than ever before this year, more 3-pointers were both shot and made in league history, the Spurs won 62 games — including 19 straight — and Durant scored at least 25 points in 41 consecutive games, a stretch of offensive brilliance that spanned exactly half of the season. Durant wound up winning his fourth scoring crown, making him the overwhelming favorite to deny LeBron James a third straight MVP award.
James has taken the high road, lauding Durant's season and saying he would be a worthy MVP.
Really, though, it's obvious that the trophy James is most concerned with is the one that'll be handed out at season's end. The Heat won the last two championships of David Stern's era as commissioner, and would enjoy nothing more than being the first team to accept the Larry O'Brien Trophy from new Commissioner Adam Silver.
"What's coming over the next couple months, we know that's how we'll be judged," Heat forward Shane Battier said.
The 16 teams heading to the playoffs were known before Wednesday, but it wasn't until the final night before nine of the seeds were secured and six of the eight first-round matchups were finalized.
Memphis held off Dallas 106-105 in overtime, giving the Grizzlies the No. 7 seed and a shot at the Thunder. Monta Ellis' missed 20-foot jumper at the buzzer for the Mavericks meant they would be heading to San Antonio to open up the playoffs this weekend — and Dallas has lost nine straight times to the Spurs.
"Eventually," Dallas star Dirk Nowitzki said, "we will win one."
Losing nine straight to one opponent, that's not good.
Losing 15 straight, even worse. That's what Charlotte has to overcome against the Heat — who are 15-0 against the Bobcats since James and Chris Bosh arrived to team with Dwyane Wade in Miami.
Charlotte went 7-59 two seasons ago. It went 43-39 this season, clearly having undergone a brilliant turnaround.
Alas, 43 wins wouldn't have come close to being enough out West.
Phoenix's title hopes were doomed by perhaps geography more than anything else. The Suns won 48 games and are done. Toronto won 48 games and earned both a No. 3 seed in the East and a division title.
"Very disappointing," Suns guard Archie Goodwin said.
The East was a mess entering the season's final night with five seeds still up for grabs. Chicago lost to Charlotte in overtime, meaning Toronto finished third and the Bulls got No. 4. But the last three seeds needed a bit longer to be settled, and even though the Bobcats won, they couldn't pass a Washington team that wound up overtaking the Nets for fifth place before the night was over.
Nets coach Jason Kidd rested all five of his starters, plus some backups, even though his club could have finished No. 5.
"I like right where we are," Kidd said.
Kidd probably had a good idea going into Wednesday night that Washington would beat Boston, so it's clear that he didn't mind dropping down a spot in the East bracket. Brooklyn would likely face Miami — a team it swept — in the second round now. Had Brooklyn been the fifth seed and won an opening series, it would have likely faced Indiana, which topped the Nets in all four of their meetings.
Fitting, then, that talk of tanking — a ploy teams who are looking to rebuild through the draft are often accused of — permeated the season's final night as well.
"You've got to be careful what you wish for," Toronto coach Dwane Casey said. "I've been in both situations. You think you want to play a certain team now and then once you start preparing for them you say 'Whoa, that team's pretty good.' and then all at once you've got a dogfight. So I think the best way to approach it is let the basketball gods decide."
There's no more tanking now.
For the 16 teams left standing, it's title or nothing. And the journey starts Saturday.
LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — Just one tiny misstep at mile 15 of the Boston Marathon last spring ruined any chance of amputee runner Jeff Glasbrenner breaking four hours.
He stumbled over a pothole, opening a cut where his running blade attached below his right knee. Glasbrenner cursed his luck as he stopped every mile to clean the wound.
That bump in the road just may have kept the 41-year-old from being in the midst of the chaos. He was three blocks from the finish when the marathon was halted by the two bomb explosions.
"A pothole," Glasbrenner said, "just may have saved me."
This year, he's one of 4,781 runners taking the iconic race up on its offer to return — an opportunity to settle some unfinished business when they line up at the start again.
For many, it's a chance to finally make good on their months of training — dozens of workouts and hundreds of miles logged — and achieve that finish line. For Glasbrenner, his journey back to Boston became much more than simply finishing.
He's bringing some company as he trained right-leg amputees Andre Slay and Chris Madison, both whom had never even imagined running a marathon before.
"This is going to be a day filled with lots of joy and tears," said Glasbrenner, a motivational speaker and three-time Paralympian in wheelchair basketball. "But we're going to get to that finish line together."
Glasbrenner has always been a "bucket list" sort of athlete — finish one adventure and move on to the next. He has completed 13 marathons and 22 Ironman triathlons.
So Glasbrenner just had to go back to Boston, to conclude this quest. For himself and for those injured when the twin pressure cooker bombs exploded, killing three and injuring 260. At least 16 people lost a limb or limbs. He could understand the devastation, having lost part of his leg in a farming accident when he was 8 years old.
"I had a hard time watching the news for a few days after Boston," said Glasbrenner, who was at 25.9 miles — according to his GPS tracker — when police stopped runners. "I'm not going to let a couple of bad guys steal my finish line."
He talked Slay and Madison into joining him at the starting line. It wasn't easy: Neither had even run as much as a 5-kilometer race. And first, they had to run a qualifying event (to get into the field for Boston, a mobility-impaired participant has to finish a marathon in less than eight hours).
The trio began training together late last June on paths around Little Rock. At least once a week, they met for a run. On those other days, Glasbrenner gave them a training schedule to follow. He was always a phone call or text away for questions, too.
Slay, 32, and Madison, 39, had plenty: How many socks to wear on their stump? How often to stop and clean the sweat from their prosthetic leg?
And the biggest one: Could they really run a marathon?
"Sure, I had doubt," Slay said, laughing.
Slay worked at an airline ticket counter when he met Glasbrenner, who frequently travels to give lectures and check items off his sports bucket list. Slay was 24 and finishing flight school when he lost part of his right leg in a motorcycle accident.
First, Glasbrenner attempted to steer Slay toward wheelchair basketball.
How about a marathon then?
"Jeff's like, 'I didn't finish Boston. Come back with me,'" Slay recounted. "I was thinking, 'Well, I guess I can hand you water.'"
"He's like, 'No, run with me.'"
The offer came at a good time. Slay was around 240 pounds and suffering from high blood pressure, which put his commercial pilot's license at risk. This could improve his health.
One slight obstacle: Slay didn't have a running blade, which costs around $25,000 and isn't covered by insurance.
No trouble. Glasbrenner had an extra one he could use.
So that's how Slay found himself at a marathon in Colorado Springs last September, on a borrowed running blade, with only 10 miles of training under his belt, trying to qualify for Boston.
He didn't stop that day until mile eight, when he felt a blister where the blade attached. One blister soon turned into many more with each step he took.
"My leg looked like bubble wrap," said Slay, who finished in seven hours. "It was the most excruciating run of my life."
Those blisters eventually popped and became infected. For six weeks, he couldn't work, let alone run.
As he recuperated, he received a letter that bolstered his spirits — his acceptance into the Boston Marathon. Then, a prosthetic company donated a custom-made running blade.
"That starting line is going to be so emotional," Slay said.
Madison feels the same way. At the urging of a friend, he met Glasbrenner for lunch last spring. Madison simply wanted to get some training tips to complete a triathlon.
How about a marathon, Glasbrenner suggested.
"Thought it was a cool idea and fit in with my wanting to do something," said Madison, who lost his part of his leg when a boat ran into him while he was riding a jet-ski when he was 10. "I didn't realize the magnitude of what I was getting into."
Madison attempted to qualify for Boston by running a marathon in Tupelo, Miss., in early September. On a steamy day, with his prosthetic leg just not fitting right, Madison reached mile 25 in 5 hours, 45 minutes. Told the cutoff time was six hours, he decided to call it an afternoon.
Turns out, there was no cutoff time.
"Jeff was so mad. He's like, 'I told you to finish,'" chuckled Madison, a former police officer who's now an attorney.
A month later, Madison ran a marathon in St. Louis and crossed the line in 5:43 to earn his spot at the start line for Boston.
"What I learned is I'm the only one who can prevent me from achieving things," Madison said. "I've achieved the goal of getting to Boston. The next goal is crossing the finish line."
With Glasbrenner leading the way, of course, eager to finish what he started.
AP Sports Writer Pat Graham reported from Denver.
The Chattanooga Mocs captured their fifth consecutive Southern Conference women’s golf championship in Hilton Head, S.C. on Tuesday, while sophomore Emily McLennan (Queensland, Australia) made it the fourth consecutive sweep as she took low medalist honors.
ATLANTA (AP) — Major League Soccer and Falcons owner Arthur Blank are planning a "major announcement" Wednesday on a proposed expansion team to play in Atlanta's new downtown stadium.
Blank has long coveted a top-level soccer team for the city, and negotiations with the MLS intensified after he reached a deal on building a new $1 billion retractable roof stadium next to the Georgia Dome. Site preparation has already started, and the facility is expected to open in 2017.
Both the MLS and a top official from Blank's organization acknowledged last week that the two sides were close to a deal. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the new team would be announced Wednesday.
Blank, MLS Commissioner Don Garber and Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed are scheduled to attend the news conference.
Michael Phelps is coming out of retirement, the first step toward possibly swimming at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The 22-time Olympic medalist will compete for the first time since the 2012 London Games at a meet in Mesa, Ariz., on April 24-26.
Bob Bowman, the swimmer's longtime coach, told The Associated Press on Monday that Phelps is entered in three events — the 50- and 100-meter freestyles and the 100 butterfly.
"I think he's just going to test the waters a little bit and see how it goes," Bowman said by phone from Baltimore. "I wouldn't say it's a full-fledged comeback."
Phelps returned to training last fall and re-entered the U.S. drug-testing program. He has completed his six-month waiting period by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency to be eligible for competition.
Bowman said Phelps is "pretty far" from being back in top form. He's been training Monday through Friday with Bowman's team at the North Baltimore Aquatic Club.
"He's gotten back into good shape since September," the coach said. "He can give a good effort and certainly not be embarrassed. He's in enough shape to swim competitively."
Besides Phelps, USA Swimming said Olympians Ryan Lochte and Katie Ledecky are among those expected to swim in the Arena Grand Prix at Skyline Aquatic Center.
Phelps turns 29 in June and is the winningest and most decorated athlete in Olympic history. He captured 18 gold medals and 22 medals overall at the last three Summer Games. He broke Mark Spitz's record for a single Olympics by winning eight gold medals at Beijing in 2008.
Phelps had vowed that he wouldn't swim into his 30s. His camp is being low key about the comeback.
"I think he's just really enjoying it," Bowman said. "He enjoys the training and being physically fit. He just kind of wants to see where he's at. It's more really for fun. It's been nice for me to see him swim just for the joy of it really."
In Mesa, Phelps will swim 100 free and 100 fly preliminaries on the first day. Then, if he qualifies, he'll decide which race to swim for the evening finals, Bowman said. He'll swim the 50 free on the second day and might swim the 50 fly "just for fun," the coach added.
Phelps will stick to the shorter races and some relays rather than the grueling individual medleys he swam during the height of his career.
"He's really doing this because he wants to — there's no outside pressure at all," Bowman said.
Phelps has already entered the remaining Grand Prix meets in Charlotte, N.C., in May and Santa Clara, Calif., in June, although Bowman said no decision has been made on whether he will compete.
Depending on his early results, Phelps could compete in the U.S. National Championships in August in Irvine, Calif., where teams will be selected for the 2015 world championships.
"I wouldn't say it's 100 percent on the radar," Bowman said. "After Mesa, we're going to sit down and talk about it."
ATLANTA (AP) — Turner Entertainment Networks president Steve Koonin is joining the Atlanta Hawks ownership group, which hopes he can raise the profile of an NBA team that has struggled to draw fans or lure big-name free agents.
The Hawks announced late Sunday that Koonin would take an ownership stake, serve as chief executive officer, oversee all business operations and represent the ownership at league functions.
Koonin comes to the Hawks after 14 years with Turner Entertainment Networks, where in his most recent role he led the division that included TNT, TBS, TruTV and Turner Classic Movies. He previously spent more than a decade as a marketing executive at Coca-Cola.
"Steve Koonin's reputation as a game changer in both marketing and media makes him the ideal leader to usher the Atlanta Hawks into a new era," said Bruce Levenson, the team's majority owner. "He has created a legacy as an expert in sports marketing, television, branding and digital media."
The Hawks clinched their seventh straight playoff appearance this past weekend but perennially rank among the worst teams in attendance.
The team is hoping Koonin can change that after his stint at Turner, where he was involved in programming and media rights acquisition with both the NBA and the NCAA. At Coca-Cola, he served as vice president of sports and entertainment marketing.
Koonin is a lifelong resident of Atlanta, headquarters of Turner and Coca-Cola.
"My family has been a part of this city for nearly a century," Koonin said in a statement. "We have a lot of work to do, but I believe my professional experience, my passion for this team and the NBA, as well as the Hawks' great existing executive talent ... make this organization's future very bright."
Under general manager Danny Ferry and first-year coach Mike Budenholzer, the Hawks are in the midst of a major rebuilding effort. Only two players, center Al Horford and point guard Jeff Teague, have been with the team longer than two years — and Horford missed most of this season with an injury.
Koonin's focus will be off the court. Heading into its final home game Monday night, the Hawks were averaging crowds of 14,400 a game — 28th out of 30 NBA teams. The actual turnouts are generally much lower, with thousands of empty seats a trademark of games at Philips Arena, where capacity was actually reduced by curtaining a section of seats at the top of the upper deck. Over the past decade, the team has never ranked higher than 18th in attendance and is largely overlooked in a market that also has the NFL, Major League Baseball and a passion for college football.
"I have known Steve for more than two decades and based both on firsthand experience and his stellar record of accomplishments," NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. "He is one of the very best executives and creative minds in the entertainment industry."
Bubba Watson has managed to get back to six-under par and now holds a one-stroke lead over Matt Kuchar and Thomas Bjorn. Five other golfer remain within three strokes of the lead and the ageless Fred Couples is at two-under par.
The Rossville Middle School boys' track team finished in second place during a four-team meet at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School on Thursday.
Gage Smith fired a 39 to take boys' medalist honors and the LaFayette Ramblers claimed another golf win on Thursday, defeating Lakeview and Heritage in a match at the LaFayette Golf Course.
The LaFayette Middle School soccer teams traveled down the road to LaFayette High School on Thursday and claimed a pair of "road" victories over first-year program Saddle Ridge.
Chattanooga Valley Middle School's soccer teams took one more step toward capturing North Georgia Athletic Conference West Division titles with a pair of shutouts against Rossville Thursday afternoon in Flintstone.
ATLANTA (AP) — Georgia officials are preparing to spend more than $30 million to buy land and build parking for the new stadium that would be home to the Atlanta Falcons.
Gov. Nathan Deal is expected to approve a budget this month that includes a $17 million parking deck, a project made public days before the legislative session ended.
Records obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution show that state officials also could spend $16.3 million on land for the site.
Critics say the stadium project has many hidden costs, and they object to the way public funds are being used to build the stadium.
Public officials and team executives say the project will enhance the state-owned Georgia World Congress Center nearby, and the parking deck will be used for other events as well.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com
I had originally planned to write about a sports-related topic in this space this week, but sometimes you just have write what you're led to write.
AUGUSTA, Ga. — With rare exception, no other major championship inflicts as much emotional pain as Augusta National. The perks of winning include a lifetime exemption to the Masters and a spot in the most exclusive locker room in golf.
AUGUSTA — Jordan Spieth speaks with reverence when hanging out with the greats of the game at Augusta National.