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Thursday 01/22/2015
Jeff Gordon to retire as full-time driver after 2015 season
Updated: January 23, 2015 - 12:40 am

Jeff Gordon, the charismatic four-time NASCAR champion who became the face of the stock car racing as the sport exploded in popularity a generation ago, will retire as a full-time driver after the 2015 season.

JSU SOFTBALL: Gamecocks second in OVC Preseason Softball Poll
Posted: January 22, 2015

BRENTWOOD, Tenn. - The Jacksonville State softball team has been picked to finish second in the 2015 Ohio Valley Conference race, according to a vote by the league's head coaches and Sports Information Directors.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Most area teams hold steady in latest ASWA rankings
Posted: January 22, 2015

Not much changed this week for area basketball teams in the latest Alabama Sportswriters Association rankings. The latest poll was released late Wednesday evening.

Wednesday 01/21/2015
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Spring Garden girls finish area play undefeated
Posted: January 21, 2015

SPRING GARDEN – Savannah Dempsey rang for 20 points to lead Class 1A, No. 4 Spring Garden to a 67-8 girls basketball victory over visiting Coosa Christian on Tuesday.

NFL investigation into deflated footballs ongoing
Updated: January 21, 2015 - 9:37 am

The NFL says its investigation into whether the New England Patriots used under-inflated footballs in the AFC championship game is ongoing after a report Tuesday night claimed the league found 11 balls were not properly inflated.

Troy Vincent, the NFL's executive vice president for football operations, told The Associated Press that the "investigation is currently underway and we're still awaiting findings."

Vincent was responding to an ESPN report that cited anonymous league sources saying 11 of the Patriots' 12 allotted game footballs were under-inflated by 2 pounds per square inch of air. ESPN did not say how that occurred.

Vincent said earlier Tuesday he expected the probe to be concluded by the end of the week. The last thing the NFL wants after a difficult season off the field is a potential cheating scandal that disrupts Super Bowl week. New England faces Seattle on Feb. 1 in Glendale, Arizona.

The Patriots, who beat Indianapolis 45-7 for the AFC title, said they were cooperating with the league, and a Seahawks spokesman said the team would defer to the league on the matter.

The NFL began looking into the issue not only because doctoring the footballs could provide a competitive advantage, but because it would compromise the integrity of the game.

Deflating a football can change the way it's gripped by a player or the way it travels through the air. Under NFL rules, each team provides balls each game for use when its offense is on the field. The balls are inspected before the game by the officiating crew, then handled during the game by personnel provided by the home team.

Social media responses were quick late Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.

"11 of 12 balls under-inflated can anyone spell cheating!!! #Just Saying" was the tweet from Hall of Fame receiver Jerry Rice.

"So we get to play the game again or nah? ??" tweeted Colts cornerback Darius Butler.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said on ESPN radio in Milwaukee that he didn't like how referees who inspected balls before games take air out of the game balls.

"I have a major problem with the way it goes down, to be honest with you," Rodgers said. "The majority of the time, they take air out of the football. I think that, for me, is a disadvantage."

Rodgers said referees have a set range in which they "like to set game balls," and that he always liked the higher end of the range because of his grip.

"I just have a hard time throwing a flat football," Rodgers said. He thought a slight majority of quarterbacks like footballs on the flatter side.

"My belief is that there should be a minimum air-pressure requirement but not a maximum," Rodgers said. "There's no advantage, in my opinion. We're not kicking the football. There's no advantage in having a pumped-up football."

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said the investigation is the least of his worries. And tight end Rob Gronkowski tweeted a photo of himself spiking the ball with the words: "WARNING GRONKING MAY CAUSE DEFLATION."

Patriots coach Bill Belichick on Tuesday deferred questions about the investigation, saying reporters should ask league officials. Belichick earlier said he wasn't aware there was an issue until Monday morning and promised to "cooperate fully with whatever the league wants us to, whatever questions they ask."

Belichick, of course, was fined $500,000 in 2007 for having an assistant spy on the New York Jets' defensive signals.

Special teams captain Matthew Slater said the Patriots "try to do things the right way. We work hard at our jobs, our professions, to be successful and it's unfortunate that things like this come up, but that's life, that's the world we live in."

Colts coach Chuck Pagano said he did not notice issues with the football and didn't specify when asked whether the Colts had reported the issue to officials.

"We talk just like they talk to officials (before the game)," he said. "We have an opportunity to talk to the officials about a lot of things."

Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman said the balls didn't feel different than usual.

And defensive tackle Vince Wilfork seemed amused by the matter and didn't shed any light on it.

"I don't know anything about that," he said. "I don't touch footballs. I tackle people."


AP Sports Writers Howard Ulman, Tim Booth and Genaro C. Armas contributed to this report.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and AP NFL Twitter feed: http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Tuesday 01/20/2015
HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Third-quarter surge lifts top-ranked Warriors past Cedar Bluff
Posted: January 20, 2015

CENTRE – Coming of their second straight Cherokee County Tournament championship, the Cherokee County Warriors didn’t suffer a letdown on Monday night in their first game on the court since their latest title.

Monday 01/19/2015
SHANNON FAGAN: Spring Garden girls, Cherokee County boys add to hoops history
Posted: January 19, 2015

Another Cherokee County Basketball Tournament is in the books.

Chilean golfer fulfills Masters dream with rare chance
Posted: January 19, 2015

Matias Dominguez was like most kids who fall in love with golf and dream of one day playing in the Masters.

Not many others faced such long odds. For starters, Dominguez grew up in Santiago, Chile, a country where golf is an afterthought and only one Chilean had ever competed at Augusta National. That was Enrique Orellana, who missed the cut 51 years ago.

Until recently, Dominguez, 22, wasn't even sure he wanted to golf for a living. He is a senior at Texas Tech, not exactly a golf powerhouse, and Dominguez is fourth in scoring average for the Red Raiders after four tournaments in the fall.

One chance was all he needed — the Latin American Amateur Championship. One week of great golf left him close to tears.

With a spot in the Masters riding on the outcome, Dominguez closed with a 1-under 71 Sunday at Pilar Golf Club in Buenos Aires, Argentina, winning the inaugural event and earning the right to be among Rory McIlroy, Tiger Woods and his golfing idol, Phil Mickelson, at Augusta in April.

"I always told to myself, 'I hope one day I can get to the Masters,'" Dominguez said in a conference call after his victory. "Hopefully, I can just share that moment with all my friends and my family, because we all grew up with that same dream. ... I just can't believe right now that dream just became true."

That was the idea behind the Latin American Amateur, which was patterned after the Asia-Pacific Amateur.

Augusta National, the Royal & Ancient Golf Club and the U.S. Golf Association founded the tournament with hopes it would inspire an entire region — South and Central America and the Caribbean. It comes with perks such as a spot in the Masters, the final stage of qualifying for the British Open and U.S. Open and a berth in the U.S. Amateur and British Amateur.

Without the Latin American Amateur, the only way for someone like Dominguez to play in the Masters would be as a top professional or to win an established amateur event open to the best in the world.

"Right before they announced this tournament, it seemed almost impossible for a Latin American to get there," Dominguez said. "And then here I am today. Just saying, 'I'm going to the Masters and play with everyone there,' it's just shocking."

Who could have imagined the road from Santiago to Magnolia Lane would lead through Lubbock, Texas?

Dominguez is in his final semester at Texas Tech, where his greatest achievement was leading them to a spot in the NCAA Championship as a sophomore. He is starting to branch out with academics and figure out where golf fits into the equation.

Asked for similarities between Santiago and the open spaces of West Texas, Dominguez broke out into laughter.

"Almost none," he said. "Probably if you want to find something that is the opposite of Chile, you would have to say Lubbock, Texas. But it's been a great journey. Lubbock has been something new, totally new people and new culture. It broadens my mind and makes me learn from other cultures and people, and it's been awesome for me. I wouldn't change it for anything."

Augusta National chairman Billy Payne has talked about using the reputation and resources of the Masters to help attract players from Asia — and now Latin America — to the game. The idea was to identify good golfers, which could create heroes for younger kids from the region.

The Asia-Pacific Amateur already has produced Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, who made the cut at Augusta both times he qualified and now is among the top players in the world. The Latin American Amateur is just getting started, but the goal is the same.

South America has produced two major champions — Roberto de Vicenzo (1967 British Open) and Angel Cabrera (2007 U.S. Open, 2009 Masters), both from Argentina. Chile's best golfer is Felipe Aguilar, who is No. 160 in the world and plays the European Tour.

Aguilar and Mickelson are Dominguez's golfing inspirations, he says, mainly because they always smile. And no one was beaming quite like Dominguez on Sunday.

"Everyone in Chile is just going crazy," he said. "It was something that for all of us, we thought it was almost impossible. ... We were waiting a few more years for the next player to get into the Masters. I think everyone is in shock right now that we got another Chilean guy playing the Masters after like 50 years.

"Hopefully, I can represent them the best I can at the Masters."

Sunday 01/18/2015
CHEROKEE COUNTY BOYS TOURNAMENT CHAMPIONSHIP: Edwards sinks six treys, leads Warriors to title
Posted: January 18, 2015

CENTRE - Cherokee County sophomore guard Colin Edwards is listed at 5-foot-6.

Posted: January 18, 2015

CENTRE - Shortly after defeating Sand Rock 50-41 on Saturday for their second straight Cherokee County Tournament title, the Spring Garden Lady Panthers shared their championship prize with some of their most dedicated fans.

Saturday 01/17/2015
Posted: January 17, 2015

CENTRE - Cherokee County's Kyle Burgess buried four 3-pointers and finished with a game-high 16 points to lead the Warrior junior varsity team to a 50-36 victory over Sand Rock in the Cherokee County Junior Varsity Boys Tournament championship on Saturday.

CHEROKEE COUNTY BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: County championship games feature rematches from last year
Posted: January 17, 2015

CENTRE – The Spring Garden Panthers gave Class 4A’s top-ranked team a run for its money in the first half of their Cherokee County Tournament semifinal game on Friday, but the Cherokee County Warriors pulled away in the second half for a 56-34 victory.

Friday 01/16/2015
JSU FOOTBALL: Gamecocks announce 2015 schedule
Posted: January 16, 2015

JACKSONVILLE - Five home games and trips to Auburn and Chattanooga highlight the 2015 Jacksonville State football schedule, which was released by interim Athletics Director Greg Seitz on Friday.

No. 1 Kentucky's back on the road vs. Alabama
Posted: January 16, 2015

A few things to watch this week in the Southeastern Conference:

GAME OF THE WEEK: No. 1 Kentucky at Alabama: The Wildcats were back to their dominant ways during a blowout victory over Missouri on Tuesday following two surprisingly close games against Mississippi and Texas A&M to open SEC play. Now Kentucky faces a more challenging test on the road against Alabama, which has a 10-0 record this season at Coleman Coliseum.

LOOKING AHEAD: Georgia is showing signs that the Bulldogs are on their way back into contention. The Bulldogs entered the SEC schedule as prime NCAA tournament contenders but opened conference play with losses to Arkansas and LSU. They bounced back Wednesday by winning at Vanderbilt for the first time since 2005-06. Now Georgia enters a crucial stretch of its schedule, with three of the next four games at home, including intriguing matchups against Florida and Mississippi. Guard Kenny Gaines has been very good for the Bulldogs in SEC play, averaging 15.3 points on 50 percent shooting from the field.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Auburn forward Cinmeon Bowers is averaging a double-double in his first season in the SEC since arriving from Chipola (Florida) College. The 6-foot-7, 278-pound forward leads the SEC in rebounding and already has 10 double-doubles and a couple of 17-rebound performances this season. Bowers had 20 points and 14 rebounds Saturday in Auburn's 85-79 victory over Missouri.

KEY STATS: Kentucky's 86-37 wipeout of Missouri on Tuesday represented the Wildcats' largest margin of victory in an SEC game since a 106-44 blowout of Vanderbilt in 2003. Missouri's 37 points were the fewest that Kentucky had allowed in an SEC game since a 50-36 triumph over Mississippi State in 1987. ... Kentucky owns a 100-5 record during John Calipari's coaching tenure when it has allowed 63 or fewer points. The Wildcats are 50-0 under Calipari when they allow 55 or fewer points. ... Mississippi State has lost 16 straight regular-season SEC games dating back to last season. Third-year MSU coach Rick Ray has a 7-32 record in regular-season SEC play.

ON THE WOMEN'S SIDE: No. 10 Kentucky must play the rest of the season without starting point guard Janee Thompson, who broke a bone in her left leg Sunday during the Wildcats' 68-60 loss to top-ranked South Carolina. Thompson had been averaging 10.1 points per game. Joining South Carolina and Kentucky in this week's Top 25 are No. 6 Tennessee, No. 11 Texas A&M, No. 15 Mississippi State and No. 18 Georgia.


Complied by AP Sports Writers Steve Megargee in Knoxville, Tennessee, and David Brandt in Jackson, Mississippi.

Thursday 01/15/2015
CHEROKEE COUNTY BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT: Cherokee County girls, Spring Garden boys advance against Gaylesville
Updated: January 16, 2015 - 9:27 am

CENTRE – All but one Cherokee County Lady Warrior scored at least one basket in a 54-23 victory over Gaylesville Thursday in the opening round of the Cherokee County Varsity Girls Basketball Tournament at the Gadsden State-Cherokee Arena.

HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL: Piedmont’s Whitten inks with Central Alabama Community College
Posted: January 15, 2015

PIEDMONT – Central Alabama Community College baseball coach Steve Lewis had seen Piedmont’s Peyton Whitten play before, but he wanted to put the senior through a true workout at the Trojans’ baseball showcase last fall.

JSU SOFTBALL: Gamecocks to hold annual Fan Day Feb. 1
Posted: January 15, 2015

JACKSONVILLE - The Jacksonville State softball team will host its annual Fan Day on Sunday, Feb. 1 at University Field. The event will begin at 2 p.m. and admission is free for all fans.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL: Cedar Bluff boys, Sand Rock girls move up in latest ASWA rankings
Posted: January 15, 2015

The Cedar Bluff Tigers (12-6) and Sand Rock Lady Wildcats (18-3) both moved up a notch in their respective classes in the latest Alabama Sportswriters Association basketball poll. The latest poll was released late Wednesday evening.

Wednesday 01/14/2015
ASWA MR. FOOTBALL AWARDS BANQUET: Cedar Bluff's Mintz among state's best in Montgomery
Posted: January 14, 2015

MONTGOMERY - Cedar Bluff senior lineman Jake Mintz joined two elite fraternities on Wednesday at the Alabama Activity Center in Montgomery.

HIGH SCHOOL BASKETBALL ROUNDUP: Fifth-ranked Sand Rock girls down No. 4 Brindlee Mountain, 50-43
Posted: January 14, 2015

SAND ROCK - An all-around performance from senior guard Courtney Rowe helped lift Class 3A, No. 5 Sand Rock to a 50-43 Area 13 girls basketball victory over visiting Brindlee Mountain on Tuesday.

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