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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    B.J. Crombeen wants to believe the NHL's latest offer will be the turning point that leads to a new collective bargaining agreement and an end to the 105-day NHL lockout.

    But the Lightning right wing, a member of the Players' Association negotiating committee, is not ready to go all in. That despite the league's 300-page proposal made Thursday in which it moved some of its positions closer to those of the union.

    "It's encouraging to see them take steps toward us. There's a sense of optimism for that," Crombeen said. "But having said that, if they're going to continue to negotiate with take it or leave it, I wouldn't be overly optimistic."

    Several reports said the league, under pressure from several owners who do not want the season canceled, hopes to start at least a 48-game season by Jan. 19. If so, a CBA would need to be agreed to by about Jan. 5 to allow about a week for paperwork to be finalized and at least a seven-day training camp.

    If that timetable isn't met, the season might be lost. Games through Jan. 14 and the Jan. 27 All-Star Game are gone.

    "If they're actually willing to talk," Crombeen said, "I think there's a deal to be done."

    Deputy commissioner Bill Daly, in a statement, said the NHL is "not prepared to discuss the details" of its "new, comprehensive proposal."

    But specifics were leaked:

    • A six-year limit on contracts, though teams can sign their own free agents for seven. The league previously offered a five-year limit. Players propose an eight-year limit.

    • Salary variability of 10 percent from year-to-year within contracts. The league previously proposed 5 percent. Players propose a 25 percent high-low range.

    • One player buyout in summer 2013 that would not count against the salary cap. The league previously resisted this because, as Daly said, it would be "money outside the system."

    There are still points of contention.

    The league wants a 10-year CBA with a re-open option after eight years. Players want an eight-year deal with a six-year re-opener.

    Because there will not be salary rollbacks, players are concerned about potentially large escrow deductions from their checks. Those are supposed to ensure that players do not receive more than the 50 percent of league revenue to which they will be entitled, down from 57 percent.

    The league also proposes realignment for 2013-14.

    Crombeen confirmed the sides likely will speak by phone today and could meet Sunday. If so, it would be their first meetings since Dec. 13.

    "By them moving on a few things, it doesn't get a deal done just like that," Crombeen said. "There are a lot of issues, but we always felt since those meetings a few weeks ago that we were fairly close and if we had a partner willing to meet with us a deal will get done.

    "We're hopeful this is a sign they're willing to do that. Only time will tell."

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    By Rick Stroud, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    Two days before the Bucs faced the Eagles at Raymond James Stadium, John Lynch stood at the end of a practice field at One Buc Place and was startled to see the team walking through plays in only shorts and jerseys.

    Lynch served as the television analyst for several Tampa Bay regular-season games as well as all of its preseason games. The former Bucs and Broncos Pro Bowl safety was aware of how tough workouts were under first-year coach Greg Schiano.

    Had the coach, wound tighter than a Swiss watch, finally loosened up?

    "Wow, he's really come around, huh? He's taken the load off these guys," Lynch said. "I was standing next to (a staff member) who said, 'Don't be fooled. If you saw what they did Wednesday and Thursday, he just killed them. He grinded them.' "

    The Bucs lost that Dec. 9 game 23-21, part of their current five-game skid.

    "It's a team that I think had a very demanding coach," Lynch said. "And I think they're out of gas both mentally and physically. In saying that, I don't necessarily think that's a bad thing. It needed to happen … a culture change. I like this coach, I really do."

    There is not a singular reason why the Bucs took a promising 6-4 start and rammed it into the rocks, falling to 6-9 heading into today's finale at Atlanta.

    The carnival ride swings have taken a toll on the entire organization, starting with Schiano, who admits to being frustrated.

    The Bucs blew an 11-point fourth-quarter lead against the Eagles. The next week, they were shellacked at New Orleans 41-0. Their fifth loss, 28-13 to the Rams, came last week, when Josh Freeman threw four interceptions.

    Schiano disputes his team is running on fumes — physically at least.

    "I think the number of reps we do are very, very selective," he said. "We've made an attempt to keep our guys fresh because I do know that is the key when you have talented guys over a long period of time. Some of them are older. But when you lose and you don't have that emotion because you've lost, that makes people emotionally tired. And when you're winning, as we were for four weeks straight, it emotionally energizes you.

    "Winning cures all."

    Why did the Bucs fold like origami? Let's examine two issues.

    The Freeman factor

    After 13 games this season, Freeman was among the top-10 rated passers in the NFL, boasting 25 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. But that was before throwing four interceptions against New Orleans and four against St. Louis.

    Miscommunications between Freeman and his receivers led to several interceptions. A tipped ball here, a bad decision there, and you have a snowball effect.

    "That's the one thing that's alarming to me. I'm a big believer in Josh, but the inconsistency is a concern," Lynch said. "I'm still a believer even if he doesn't finish well. I just think he's got everything you need, but I think it's a concern. It's nothing you want to be going into the offseason with a concern that the quarterback is really slumping."

    Freeman has admitted he tried to force passes rather than go through his progressions. Regardless, he needs a good performance today for his confidence — whether the Falcons play their backups or not.

    "I hope that he feels like, 'I'm going to go out and trust my training, and the results will take care of themselves,' " Schiano said. "I think it's so dangerous when you start thinking of all these result-oriented outcomes. If I win, then it's a better offseason. I hope his thoughts are, 'Okay, on this play, I've got to read top down.' But I can't tell you that. I can't get in there. You'd like to get in all the players' minds."


    No matter what you say about the Bucs offense, the defense has been worse. If it allows 252 passing yards today, it will surpass the record of 4,796 set by the Packers last season.

    The trade of Aqib Talib to New England and suspension of fellow cornerback Eric Wright played a role in the collapse. The Bucs also have been wafer thin on the line after a season-ending knee injury to end Adrian Clayborn.

    "If you're going to play his aggressive style (of defense), you need some serious corners," Lynch said. "I also think Michael Bennett (nine sacks, two over the past five games) faded at the end of the year because he never played this many snaps in his career and he's a lighter guy."

    • • •

    Even Schiano is at a loss to pinpoint reasons for the five straight losses.

    "I think it's a cumulative effect of things, and I can't even tell you what those things are," he said. "But without a doubt, it's been frustrating at times; especially since there's been opportunities to win games — very winnable games — and we didn't do it.

    "That goes back to the head coach. It is my job when there are winnable games for us to win them, and we didn't do that."

    Today: Bucs at Falcons

    1 p.m., Georgia Dome, Atlanta.

    TV/radio: Ch. 13; 620-AM, 103.5-FM

    Line: Falcons by 5, 45½

    Playoff glance: Standings and clinching scenarios, 4C


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    By Darek Sharp, Times Correspondent
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    TAMPA — Academy at the Lakes, the smallest school entered in the Jaguar Holiday Tournament, will challenge the event's biggest school for the championship today.

    Both AATL and Plant earned close victories in Friday's semifinals, the Wildcats beating host Academy of the Holy Names 38-33 and Plant outlasting Steinbrenner 46-43. The final is set for 7 p.m.

    Despite having just six players suited up, AATL improved to 14-0 as Taylor Polasky, a 5-foot-1 seventh-grader, sank four 3-pointers to lead the Wildcats with 14 points.

    "Lot of credit to (Holy Names) for throwing something at us we hadn't seen before; they were frustrating us," said AATL coach Karim Nohra of the Jaguars' triangle-and-two. Stepping in for starter Luz Santiago, who broke her hand in Thursday's quarterfinals, Polasky nailed a 3 for a 29-26 lead at the end of the third quarter.

    Tatiana Manuel, held to one field goal through three, made three straight to give the Wildcats a commanding 38-29 lead. Before that neither team led by more than six points. Both Manuel and Timecia Cohen scored 10 for AATL.

    Holy Names was without junior guard Ashley McWilliams (knee) and her 21 points per game. And Victoria Martinez played through both a physical injury and having two deaths in the family take place within 24 hours of the game.

    "She didn't have to play, but she wanted to. What a courageous effort," said Holy Names coach Melissa Ganther. Martinez had nine points and 13 rebounds. Caroline Kimbler led the Jaguars (9-6) with 10 points. Holy Names stayed close despite a scoreless second quarter.

    In the earlier semifinal, Steinbrenner overcame its own one-point second period to take Plant to the wire. With the game tied at 36, the Panthers (12-4) went on a 8-2 run to prevail.

    It was 16-9 Plant at the half before Bailey Hooker's five 3-pointers sparked the Warriors (15-2). She finished with 17 points.

    The Panthers' Ray Brown was a bit better though, scoring 19, including a running 15-footer that made it 40-36. Brown also had 10 rebounds.

    In other action Gulf lost 48-43 to Braden River, and Wiregrass Ranch routed St. Petersburg Catholic 49-24.

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    Times wires
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    SPOKANE, Wash. — Kevin Pangos was coming off a game in which he scored five. In fact, he hadn't scored more than 12 in a month.

    Good thing for Gonzaga that Pangos showed up Friday night.

    Pangos made seven 3-pointers and scored 31 to lead the No. 13 Bulldogs past Baylor 94-87. Pangos, who came in averaging 10 points and making 36 percent of his 3-point attempts, went 10-of-13 and finished two points shy of his career high.

    "He's fine," Gonzaga coach Mark Few said. "I never was worried about him. As long as he just keeps shooting. He puts way too much time in the gym. He makes way too many in practice to worry about it. You got a guy that works that hard at it, I don't think he was worried, or the staff was worried. It was due time for them to start going in."

    Kelly Olynyk added 21 points, Elias Harris 17 and Gary Bell Jr. 12 for the Bulldogs (12-1), who shot 52 percent from the field (31-of-59).

    "Obviously he was great," Few added. "He really helped stem a lot of their rallies. I thought we did a nice job all night of being able to withstand their rallies. We'd build up a lead and they'd come fighting back. It seems like it happened six or seven times."

    Pierre Jackson led Baylor with 26 points, Isaiah Austin had 20 and Cory Jefferson 13. The Bears also shot 52 percent but attempted 21 fewer free throws than Gonzaga.

    Gonzaga didn't hold a lead until 4:53 remained in the first half but never trailed after halftime, leading by as many as 12.

    "It was so fun," Pangos said. "High scoring. When you're a basketball player, you love that. You love defense, too, but you love a high-scoring game. It was nice. They never let us relax. Every time we got a double-digit lead, they came back and made some big plays."

    The Bulldogs drew two quick fouls on Austin — a 7-foot-1, 220-pound freshman — after halftime, and he went to the bench with three fouls. Harris' basket and free throw gave Gonzaga a 47-38 lead.

    NO. 5 INDIANA 93, JACKSONVILLE 59: Jordan Hulls scored 17 of his season-high 20 in the first half for the host Hoosiers (12-1), who will take a three-game winning streak into Big Ten play, which begins Monday at Iowa. Indiana also has won 29 straight non-league games at Assembly Hall. Indiana freshman Jeremy Hollowell missed his third straight game because of "compliance issues" with the NCAA.

    UCF 62, HOWARD 45: Tristan Spurlock had 15 points for the host Knights (8-3), who led wire-to-wire in the opening game of the UCF Holiday Tournament.

    NO. 19 MICHIGAN ST.: Sophomore guard Brandan Kearney, who is averaging 2.3 points in 16.9 minutes as a backup, has decided to transfer.


    UF 81, HOLY CROSS 50: Jennifer George had 21 points and 10 rebounds for the host Gators (11-3), who won their sixth straight game overall and 14th in a row at home heading into Thursday's SEC opener at Kentucky.

    ILLINOIS 70, NO. 6 GEORGIA 59: Karisma Penn had 27 points and 19 rebounds for the host Illini and scored 11 during a 13-5 run that gave Illinois a 65-57 lead after the Bulldogs (12-1) had tied it at 52.

    NO. 7 KENTUCKY 90, ALCORN ST. 23: Samarie Walker had 21 points and 14 rebounds for the host Wildcats (11-1), who allowed the fewest points in school history.

    NO. 8 CAL 70, GW 43: Talia Caldwell had a career-high 19 points and eight rebounds to help the host Golden Bears (10-1) continue the best start in school history.

    NO. 9 MARYLAND 76, BROWN 36: Tianna Hawkins scored 16 of her 20 in the first half for host Maryland (9-2), which won its fifth in a row in the opening round of the Terrapin Classic.

    NO. 13 TENN. 75, DAVIDSON 40: Bashaara Graves had 16 points and 10 rebounds and Cierra Burdick 10 points and 10 rebounds for the host Vols (8-3), who avoided their first three-game skid since 1986.

    NO. 14 OKLA. ST. 92, HARVARD 62: Tiffany Bias had 24 points and eight assists to lead the Cowgirls (10-0) at the San Diego Surf 'N Slam Classic in San Diego.

    NO. 16 UNC 85, ETSU 44: Tierra Ruffin-Pratt had 18 points and nine assists for the host Tar Heels (12-1), who won their fifth straight game.

    NO. 17 UCLA 77, PEPPERDINE 46: Nirra Fields had 19 points, 12 rebounds, six assists and six steals to lead the visiting Bruins (8-2).

    NO. 24 TEXAS A&M 74, PRAIRIE VIEW 52: Kelsey Bone had 18 points and nine rebounds for the host Aggies (9-4).

    NO. 25 ARKANSAS 71, COPPIN ST. 57: Sarah Watkins had 22 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks for the host Razorbacks (12-1), who have won nine games in a row.

    Associated PressAssociated Press

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  • 12/28/12--20:13: Saints, Payton have deal
  • Times wires
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS — The Saints and suspended coach Sean Payton will indeed be together again next season as the bounty scandal fades into history and the bid to win a second Super Bowl resumes.

    Payton agreed in principle to a multiyear contract extension, the Associated Press reported.

    AP reported that final details regarding the length of the contract and compensation are still being worked out.

    "Very happy it is official," Saints quarterback Drew Brees said in an email to the AP. "Never had any doubts."

    Payton was due to begin his seventh season as Saints coach in 2012 before being suspended for the season by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation. In 2011, Payton signed an extension through 2015, but Goodell objected to certain language in that deal. The language in question in the previous extension gave Payton the right to opt out early if general manager Mickey Loomis left the club for any reason.

    The new agreement, first reported by Fox Sports, also must be approved by the NFL.

    BROWN'S BAD MEMORY?: Former offensive lineman Lomas Brown, an analyst for ESPN, told CBS that he incorrectly remembered the play on which he admitted to letting a defender go so Lions quarterback Scott Mitchell would get hurt. A video was posted on Youtube (search for "1994 Lomas Brown gives up on Scott Mitchell) but the defender Brown blocked was not Sean Jones, who hit Mitchell.

    RYAN ADAMANT HE'S STAYING: Jets coach Rex Ryan vehemently defended his desire to stay, saying a published report that he wanted to leave if the offense isn't upgraded was "totally untrue" and adding: "I was as mad as a hornet." The New York Daily News cited anonymous team and league sources saying that Ryan would prefer to be fired if owner Woody Johnson did not spend money to improve the offense.

    BEARS: After finishing a full practice, running back Matt Forte said he expects to start Sunday despite an ankle injury.

    BROWNS: Injured quarterbacks Brandon Weeden and Colt McCoy are not practicing, so third-stringer Thad Lewis will make his first start in Sunday's finale at Pittsburgh.

    JAGUARS: Star running back Maurice Jones-Drew had surgery on his left foot and will be out at least until May. The operation came 10 weeks after Jones-Drew was hurt at Oakland.

    RAIDERS: Terrelle Pryor will make his first career start at quarterback in Sunday's finale at San Diego, replacing the injured Carson Palmer.

    FINES: The league fined Ravens safety Ed Reed $55,000 for his high hit on Giants receiver Victor Cruz last weekend. Reed struck Cruz in the head and neck area, and was penalized on the play. Carolina quarterback Cam Newton was fined $21,000 for abusive conduct toward a game official, and another $10,000 for kicking Oakland's Tommy Kelly after a play. Other notable penalties: Panthers defensive end Greg Hardy ($25,000) and safety Charles Godfrey ($21,000), Patriots defensive tackle Vince Wilfork ($30,000) and Texans cornerback Kareem Jackson ($21,000).

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    By Rodney Page, Times Staff Writer
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — Lakewood coach Anthony Lawrence had one final plea as his team broke the huddle to start the second half of its Northeast Christmas Invitational semifinal game Friday night against Boca Ciega: "Don't let Dallas get going."

    Dallas is Pirates guard Dallas Moore, and while the Spartans were trying their best, they could not stop him. Moore scored a game-high 31, 22 in the second half, to lead Boca Ciega to a 63-52 win over rival Lakewood.

    The Pirates (14-1) will play Tampa Prep (14-0) in the tournament final at 8:30 tonight.

    "It's a rivalry game," Moore said. "We always get up for each other. You know it's always going to be a heck of a game."

    And it was fast-paced from the beginning. Lawrence's son, also named Anthony, scored the first two baskets on layups and the Spartans managed to stay ahead the entire first half. Lawrence had nine points in the first half and ended the game with 20.

    While Boca Ciega hung around in the first half, it trailed 25-21 to start the third quarter. That deficit disappeared within a minute when Michael Clark hit an 18-footer and Moore drained a 3-pointer.

    With the score tied at 33, the Pirates went on an 8-0 run to take a 41-33 lead and led 44-37 at the end of the third quarter.

    "We just left so many points out there in the first half," Boca Ciega coach Randy Shuman said. "You can't do that in good games. We got it to where we wanted to get it, but we just couldn't score the basketball."

    Lakewood (12-2) managed to cut the lead to 46-45 midway through the fourth quarter, but Moore continued to make big baskets, including an acrobatic layup and foul for a 3-point play that made it 54-47.

    The Spartans did not get any closer. Boca Ciega scored the final six points to close it out. Aside from Moore's big night, Clark chipped in 19 points.

    "In the first half we were just not playing hard and letting them go by us," Moore said. "We just had to execute better. It's a rivalry game, so we were just rushing through everything. We had to settle down and execute."

    Shuman has played against Lakewood too many times to remember and he knows exactly what to expect against the Spartans.

    "It's always up and down against them," Shuman said. "One of us is going to force the other's hand. But this is just the first of three or four against those guys. That's what I told our team. This is just one of four."

    Tampa Prep 45, Wharton 35: The Terrapins held Wharton to its lowest point total of the season in advancing to the tournament final. Senior point guard Josh Heath led the way with 15 points while Juwan Durham added 11. Tampa Prep (14-0) jumped out to a 14-2 lead and never trailed. Wharton (12-1) was led by Chase Litton, who scored 12. Wharton will play Lakewood for third place at 7 p.m.

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    By Thomas P. Corwin, Special to the Times
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    FORT MYERS — Seffner Christian took a loss but gained a great lesson all in one game on Friday night.

    The Crusaders fell 63-55 to Plantation American Heritage in the semifinals of the Diamond Division of the Queen of the Palms tournament. But coach Greg Fawbush noted the exposure to a larger program, which plays in Class 5A, was a worthwhile lesson for Seffner Christian, which will now vie for third place in the division.

    "I'm proud of how hard we played against a very talented team," Fawbush said of his Class 3A team. "In a way, we needed this experience because it taught us how to handle adversity. To be honest, we needed the lesson because we haven't had a lot of adversity."

    Seffner plays Orlando Lake Highland Prep, a 4A program, in the third-place game at 3 p.m. today at Dunbar High. Lake Highland lost to Winter Haven in the other division semifinal.

    "The difference in the game was that American Heritage made their shots," Fawbush said. "We were prepared (Thursday), but we weren't as prepared (Friday). But still, I thought we played well.

    "As we left the court, the American Heritage players said to some of us, 'You've got a pretty good team.' It feels good to have some respect from the big boys out there."

    FREEDOM 58, PALM BEACH CENTRAL 56: The Patriots punched their ticket to the Emerald Division final by holding off a late rally by the Cardinal. Freedom meets Bartow at 8 tonight. Bartow defeated Viera in the other division semifinal.

    The Patriots got a few free throws late in the game to seal the deal.

    Faith Woodard had 32 points, and Taylor Emery had 21.

    "This was, by far, the best team we've played all year," Freedom coach Laurie Pacholke said. "I'm proud of our girls. This game was a challenge speed-wise and athletically.

    "In the end, we were able to do what we needed to to win the game."

    Pacholke called the game a "matchup of great sophomores," Emery and Palm Beach Central's Devin Gray.

    "We rely on tournaments like this to get our team playoff-ready," Pacholke said. "This kind of competition, in a way, is like nothing we face in the regular season. We've come down here ready to play, and it's working out well."

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    Times wires
    Friday, December 28, 2012

    ORLANDO — After one of its most unfulfilling seasons in recent memory, Virginia Tech avoided its first losing season since 1992.

    Cody Journell kicked a 22-yard field goal on the first possession of overtime Friday to help the Hokies beat Rutgers 13-10 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

    Virginia Tech (7-6) won its final three games.

    "Not everything in life is real smooth," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "These players worked hard and how they reacted to adversity and to disappointment and when all of them wanted to do better — they kept together."

    Rutgers (9-4) had a chance to tie it in overtime, but Nick Borgese missed a 42-yard field goal barely wide right.

    The win was the Hokies' 12th straight over their former Big East rival.

    Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas had two interceptions, but also had 192 yards passing and the only passing touchdown.

    "I can't commend the defense more," Thomas said. "The entire season that's kind of how it's been."

    INDEPENDENCE BOWL: Tyler Tettleton threw for 331 yards and two touchdowns and Beau Blankenship scored four touchdowns as Ohio cruised to a 45-14 victory in Shreveport, La. Chase Cochran caught three passes for 162 yards and a touchdown as the Bobcats (9-4) won their second straight bowl. Blankenship's four rushing touchdowns set an Independence Bowl record. Louisiana-Monroe (8-5) struggled in its first bowl after 19 seasons in Division I-A. Kolton Browning threw for 219 yards and two touchdowns, but also three first-half interceptions for the Warhawks.

    GOPHER SETS RECORD: Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire broke the NCAA record for career kickoff return yards on the opening kickoff against Texas Tech at the Meineke Car Care Bowl in Houston. Stoudermire returned the kickoff 26 yards to bring his career total to 3,530 yards, surpassing the 3,517 Houston's Tyron Carrier amassed in a career that ended in 2011. The game was not over at press time, check sports.tampabay.com for a result.

    LATE THURSDAY: Glasco Martin ran for three touchdowns and Nick Florence threw for two TDs and ran for one as Baylor overwhelmed UCLA 49-26 in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. Lache Seastrunk rushed 16 times for 138 yards and one score for Baylor, which outgained UCLA 494-362. The Bears (8-5) won their final four games and five of six. UCLA (9-5) lost its final three.

    AULT RETIRES: Chris Ault retired as Nevada's coach after 28 years with the Wolf Pack in three stints. Ault, 66, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame, won 10 conference championships and took the Wolf Pack to the postseason 16 times, including 10 bowl games in 12 Division I-A seasons. He finished with a record of 233-109-1.

    OTHER MOVES: Division III St. John's (Minn.) hired assistant Gary Fasching to replace John Gagliardi, whose 60-year tenure left him as college football's all-time victory leader. Gagliardi retired last month with a record of 489-138-11. … Former NFL defensive coordinator Dale Lindsey was named San Diego's coach.

    COACH CLEARED IN PORN CASE REASSIGNED: Minnesota- Mankato reassigned a head coach cleared of child pornography charges last month. Todd Hoffner will serve as the school's assistant athletic director for facilities development.

    OKLAHOMA: The No. 12 Sooners suspended defensive tackle Stacy McGee from the Cotton Bowl after he was arrested on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol on Christmas Eve.

    TEXAS: The Longhorns sent home backup quarterback Case McCoy and injured linebacker Jordan Hicks home before tonight's Alamo Bowl for violating team rules, AP reported.

    Getty ImagesGetty Images

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    SUNRISE — For a holiday vacation this year, Florida State junior Terrance Shannon gave himself a workout.

    Feeling fitter, Shannon scored a career-high 16 off the bench Saturday to help the Seminoles beat Tulsa 82-63 in the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

    "When I went home over the break, I spent more time running and getting in better condition," the Georgia native said. "In the second half of the season, we have to step it up, and I want to be that driving force."

    FSU (8-4) won its fourth in a row and improved to 4-0 against Tulsa (7-6).

    "We're trying to finish strong in our non-conference schedule and get some momentum going into ACC play," Shannon said. "These games are helping us know where we need to build."

    Michael Snaer scored 19 and was chosen the game's most valuable player, but it was Shannon who kept the Seminoles in the game early.

    The 6-foot-8, 240-pound Shannon was active inside. He had a game-high 10 rebounds and shot 6-of-11 in 26 minutes.

    "I feel the more energy I come out with, the better the team is as a whole," he said. "I just have to be more aggressive and energized on the court."

    Tulsa's Scott Haralson scored 17, all in the second half. Junior teammate Pat Swilling Jr. had a career-high 19 points and five assists but had only two points in the second half.

    "They were giving Pat jump shots, and Pat is a good shooter," Hurricane coach Danny Manning said. "He catches the ball in rhythm. He was knocking them down in the first half. Scottie got it going in the second half."

    Tulsa couldn't avert a blowout despite making 11 of 24 3-pointers. The Hurricane made only 11 of 32 2-pointers (34 percent), committed 17 turnovers and was outrebounded 44-32.

    FSU missed shots on its first six possessions but began getting to the rim consistently in the second half, when it shot 57 percent to finish at 47 percent.

    "We were just playing aggressive defensive and getting layups and dunks," Snaer said. "We were just executing our stuff and reversed the ball a little bit more."

    An 18-5 spurt put FSU ahead 64-49 midway through the second half.

    "I thought we were extremely impatient in the first part of the game," Seminoles coach Leonard Hamilton said. "We took our shots too quick. We didn't give ourselves a chance to get the best shot. In the second we were a bit more patient. We got some stops and easy baskets."

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    By Larry Blue, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    What's cold: Cold fronts affect fish. On their approach, they will devour whatever they find. Friday, during a brief calm between fronts, we slipped offshore. At about 55 feet, we found small breaks surrounded by a good, live, hard bottom. The water was muddy from the front that passed a couple of days earlier.

    What's hot: The grouper bite was incredible. Although we had to release a lot of short reds, we boated 15 gags. Several were well more than 28 inches, and a few pushed 34. All were released because they are out of season. There was a good mix of big grunts placed in the cooler. And a pleasant surprise was the porgies catch. There was a time when triggerfish and a box full of porgies were common. For the past couple of years, we have released them to give them a chance to recover.

    Tip: Fast-moving weather patterns are routine this time of year. Pay close attention to the weather and radar before you venture beyond the sight of land.

    Larry Blue charters the Niki Joe from Madeira Beach Marina. Call (727) 871-1058 or visit CaptainLarryBlue.com.

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS — When Florida made its last trip to the Sugar Bowl in the 2009 season, it was nothing short of pure chaos.

    The Gators were coming off an emotional 32-13 loss to Alabama in the SEC Championship Game — a loss that ended their quest for an undefeated season and their shot at a national title. Then-defensive coordinator Charlie Strong was coaching his last game before heading to his new job at Louisville. And then-head coach Urban Meyer resigned before the team's departure for New Orleans then changed his mind by the time the team arrived.

    It is an event senior DT Omar Hunter will never forget.

    "It's funny; (Meyer) did it on my birthday (Dec. 27)," Hunter said Saturday. "I remember it like it was yesterday. Happy birthday. He got in the team meeting room and he said what he had to say about it and the guys were just looking around like, 'What's going on?' And I saw everyone on their phones text messaging and calling, calling their parents. Guys were saying they wanted to transfer, they wanted to do this, they wanted to do that and then I guess a few days later, 'Oh no, I'm staying.'

    "But everybody bought back into the program at that time and hung together for the Sugar Bowl (51-24 win over Cincinnati), and after that things kind of calmed down."

    Which is why, Hunter said, many of the Gator players, particularly their seniors, are relishing this year's game. It has been low key, free of major distractions and, well, enjoyable.

    "We've been having fun and enjoying every step of the way," Hunter said.

    TICKETS REMAIN: Florida is a double-digit favorite over Louisville, but that hasn't translated into ticket sales. Florida has sold just 7,000 of its allotted 17,500 Sugar Bowl tickets. With the average ticket price at $165, those unsold tickets could cost the University Athletic Association more than $1.7 million.

    PREPARING FOR A CHALLENGE: Louisville offensive coordinator Shawn Watson said the Gators defense will pose one of the toughest challenges the Cardinals have faced this season. Florida is allowing 12.9 points per game, its fewest since 1964 (9.8). Watson said one thing jumps out when watching the Gator defense on film: talent.

    "They have great talent, all across the board, and they have depth besides talent," Watson said. "That tends to lead to success, because what they do schematically is very good. They have every piece defensively you could ever want."

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

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    By Greg Auman and Joey Knight, Times Sports Writers
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    TAMPA — South Carolina coach Steve Spurrier just wants to be fair with his two quarterbacks, both of whom have warranted Outback Bowl snaps with their 2012 performances.

    But he's leery of fair regressing into frenetic.

    Spurrier reiterated Saturday that junior Connor Shaw, starter in 10 of the first 11 games before spraining his left foot, will take the first snap Tuesday. But he added sophomore Dylan Thompson, who shined in the season finale against Clemson (310 passing yards, three TDs), also will play. After that?

    "I don't know which quarterback will play most of the game," Spurrier said.

    "I hope it doesn't turn into one of these, 'Well, you messed up, you go in. Well, you messed up, you go back in.' … But we just really believe both of these guys deserve a chance to play. … We plan on one guy playing most of the game."

    SAYONARA, SPREAD OPTION: When the career of QB Denard Robinson ends Tuesday, so will the era of the spread-option offense at Michigan, veteran offensive coordinator Al Borges indicated last week.

    Under coach Brady Hoke, the Wolverines are gravitating to a more traditional offense (i.e. run to set up play-action pass). They have continued featuring the QB as a dual threat — a staple of the Rich Rodriguez era — because it suits their current personnel.

    "We're a pro-style team," Borges said.

    "I don't think (the quarterback) can be like a statue back there. He's got to have some athleticism and be able to improv when he's got to improv and do all that. But as far as being featured as a runner like Denard was, I think those days are probably passed."

    ODDS AND ENDS: Saturday morning's inclement weather initially forced Michigan to delay its practice a couple of hours and book some time in Tropicana Field. When the skies cleared shortly before noon, the Wolverines opted to remain at Jesuit High. … Two of Spurrier's former assistants at Florida — ex-Gator QB John Reaves and current USF player personnel director Carl Franks — were among the visitors at South Carolina's practice Saturday. … Hoke said Robinson has been practicing with the return teams.

    THEY SAID IT: "Every time I see (former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez) I say, 'I'm going to do what you did. When I end up my coaching, I'm not going to get fired.' So if it starts going bad, I'll resign or something. That's one of my goals, is not to be a fired coach, and not to take money for doing nothing. When I go out, I'm going to go out." — Spurrier


    26 Tuesday's projected high in Ann Arbor, Mich., according to weather.com.

    72 Tuesday's projected high in Tampa.

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    By Antonya English, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    NEW ORLEANS — About an hour after the announcement that Florida and Louisville would meet in the Sugar Bowl, Charlie Strong was already thinking about the Gators.

    Not about what defensive schemes would work best, or how to attack Florida's stingy defense. Instead, the third-year Louisville coach was thinking about the Gator players he once recruited and coached but would now have to face on the opposite side of the field.

    "It's funny when you look at that defense, and the team, you just see so many guys that you're so familiar with," Strong said. "Omar (Hunter) and (Jelani) Jenkins, all those players, Frankie Hammond at wide receiver. And Caleb Sturgis, I thought my man was done but he's still kicking there. You look at (Jon) Bostic and how well he's played. Just looking at a lot of those players, I'm very familiar with them. It's really special to see how they've developed."

    For six years as defensive coordinator, then associate head coach/defensive coordinator, Strong was one of the most popular coaches on the Florida staff. Many of the players on Florida's roster are there because of Strong.

    "He's the main guy who recruited me to come to Florida," Bostic, a senior linebacker, said. "I've had a good relationship with him ever since high school. A lot of coaches try to sell the program when they are recruiting, but he really wanted to form a relationship with me and be more than just a coach. I knew wherever Charlie went he was going to have success. It was just a matter of time before somebody gave him a chance after all the great things he has done."

    Many players often talked with Strong after he left to take the Louisville job, but as time went on the contact lessened. The Sugar Bowl will be bittersweet, they said, because their love and respect for Strong remains, but now he stands between them and finishing out their final season with a 12-1 record.

    "He'll have his defense ready, no doubt," Hunter, a senior nose tackle, said. "But I'm looking forward to seeing him. I miss Coach Strong. He's a great guy, first and foremost, and a good coach."

    Since he arrived at Louisville, Strong, 52, has quickly made an impact, going 24-14 in three seasons. In his first two seasons he led the Cardinals to 7-6 records, consecutive bowl appearances and their first Big East title since 2006. Louisville is playing in its second BCS bowl and its first Sugar Bowl. None of Strong's Gator players are surprised.

    "The players that played with him, we all agreed that when he was here he was a winner," senior safety Josh Evans said. "And we know the way he coached and the way he would get after it with his players that he was going to push them and motivate them to be the best they can be. He was a high-energy guy, too, man. He was a funny coach, but he knew when to take it serious and push us to the next level. I'm looking forward to playing him. It will be very fun."

    No matter what happens in the Sugar Bowl, Strong said he's proud of the players he helped recruit and how they've developed.

    "I recruited a lot of those guys, and you don't ever — anyone that you've ever recruited, wherever you are, you like to watch them and just watch their success and see how well they are doing," he said. "That's why I pay so much attention to that program. Plus I was a part of it, and I know that Will (Muschamp) has done a great job of coming in and making those players better football players and not only that, just making them grow up into top quality men."

    Antonya English can be reached at english@tampabay.com.

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    By Damian Cristodero, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    Wing J.T. Brown was expected to be with the Lightning this season. But a broken collarbone sustained Friday while playing for AHL Syracuse ensured he will be sidelined if, as hoped, the NHL begins playing games by Jan. 19.

    Brown, 22, needs surgery to repair a displaced fracture and will be out six to eight weeks, Crunch coach Jon Cooper said.

    "He was just coming into his own," Cooper said Saturday. "In that regard, it's a tough injury."

    Brown, who has six goals, 17 points in 26 games, was hurt during the first period of a 4-2 victory over Norfolk when driven into the corner boards with what Cooper called a clean but hard hit from Admirals defenseman Mat Clark.

    Brown last season had one assist in five games for the Lightning after being signed as a free agent out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

    "He showed last year that he could hold his own on the NHL level, so we have no doubt that he can," Lightning assistant general manager Julien BriseBois said. "But right now he's hurt, and the focus is on getting him back as quickly as possible."

    NOTES: Tampa Bay right wing Dana Tyrell, out for four games with a sore groin, was back on the ice Friday for Slovakia's Banska Bystrica. … Syracuse center Vladislav Namestnikov, a 2011 first-round draft pick, played against Norfolk after missing 24 games because of a shoulder injury.

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    Times wires
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    SUNRISE — Kenny Boynton snapped a shooting slump Saturday with three 3-pointers in the second half, when No. 14 Florida pulled away to beat Air Force 78-61 in the second game of the Orange Bowl Basketball Classic.

    Boynton had made only 4 of 32 from 3-point range over the previous five games, but he hit three in a span of 8 minutes to break the game open. The Gators used their superior size and smothering defense to grind down the Falcons, who shot 48 percent in the first half and 32 percent in the second half.

    Florida (9-2) won for only the second time in the past four games. Air Force (8-3) fell to 2-77 against ranked teams.

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  • 12/29/12--16:44: Week 17 games
  • By Stephen F. Holder, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    Jets (6-9) at Bills (5-10)

    1 p.m.

    Bills by 3½, 39

    The best news about today is it's the last time we'll be inundated with talk about the Jets' wretched QB situation. Then again … Who are we kidding? Mark Sanchez, above, and Tim Tebow will get their share of airtime. As for stuff that matters — you know, the game — the Bills would be wise to feed C.J. Spiller against the No. 27 rush defense. He leads all backs at 6.5 yards per carry.

    Bills 26, Jets 20

    Ravens (10-5) at Bengals (9-6)

    1 p.m.

    Bengals by 2½, 41

    The Ravens have nothing to gain, being locked into the No. 4 seed. The Bengals also can't improve on their seed, No. 6, but entering the postseason with some confidence can only help a team with so many young key players. Andy Dalton, above, threw three interceptions in his playoff debut last season, a loss to the Texans. Are they better this season? We'll find out soon enough.

    Bengals 27, Ravens 23

    Bears (9-6) at Lions (4-11)

    1 p.m.

    Bears by 3, 45

    It's come to this for the Bears. Not only must they win to make the playoffs, they need help from the Packers. What happens when a team goes on a second straight late-season swoon? You lose control of a firm grip. I have no faith the Bears would win a playoff game, but they get the edge here. Lions WR Calvin Johnson, above, likely surpasses 2,000 yards, but look for Chicago to force a couple of turnovers.

    Bears 24, Lions 23

    Texans (12-3) at Colts (10-5)

    1 p.m., Ch. 10

    Texans by 7, 46½

    A win earns the Texans a bye and is the difference between going to the Pats or Broncos or playing in the comforts of their dome. Despite the sentimentality of coach Chuck Pagano's return in Indy, this is too big for the Texans to foul up. The question is if DE J.J. Watt, above, gets two sacks to tie Michael Strahan's record (221/2). Indy has given up an alarming 40 (tied for ninth most).

    Texans 28, Colts 23

    Panthers (6-9) at Saints (7-8)

    1 p.m.

    Saints by 5, 54

    As badly as 2012 has gone for the Saints, is it really tragic to finish 8-8 and with three straight wins? Amid the suspensions and last-place defense, give QB Drew Brees, above, credit for another outstanding season. He needs 209 passing yards for 5,000 for the second straight season. If the Saints address their defense — no small chore, I know — they will make noise in 2013.

    Saints 30, Panthers 27

    Browns (5-10) at Steelers (7-8)

    1 p.m.

    Steelers by 10, 34½

    The Steelers will be watching the playoffs at home for only the second time under coach Mike Tomlin. Given their early elimination and struggles this season, you might wonder how they will fare today. Then you find out someone named Thad Lewis, above, will start at QB for the Browns. The Steelers get to .500, and given all their injuries this season, they're probably not that far away from a postseason run.

    Steelers 29, Browns 13

    Eagles (4-11) at Giants (8-7)

    1 p.m.

    Giants by 7, 46

    Is this farewell for coach Andy Reid in Philly? And what about QB Michael Vick, above? It probably is. And the pair would love to go out with a road win over their division rival. However, you have to prefer the veteran Giants with slim playoff hopes over a team where everyone's got one foot out the door. The Giants, win or lose, have some serious evaluating to do during the offseason.

    Giants 27, Eagles 23

    Jaguars (2-13) at Titans (5-10)

    1 p.m.

    Titans by 7, 46½

    Well, they schedule 16 games, so I suppose those games must be played. Even this one. Consider this the final opportunity for QB Chad Henne, above, to convince the Jags brass Tim Tebow is not needed. The prevailing theory is the little-used Jets backup will end up in northern Florida. The Titans have their own QB issues, unless Jake Locker's 10 touchdown and 11 interceptions turn you on.

    Titans 23, Jaguars 20

    Chiefs (2-13) at Broncos (12-3)

    4:25 p.m.

    Broncos by 16, 42

    There's no chance the Broncos call off the dogs. They need a win to secure a bye, and hosting the Chiefs pretty much guarantees a victory. If that happens, some unlucky foe might have to face Peyton Manning, above, at home in January. The Chiefs have had a rough year, including the suicide of LB Jovan Belcher. There will be more news when coach Romeo Crennel is likely fired.

    Broncos 33, Chiefs 16

    Packers (11-4) at Vikings (9-6)

    4:25 p.m., Ch. 13

    Packers by 3½, 46

    The Vikings' Adrian Peterson, above, needs 207 yards to tie Eric Dickerson's rushing record of 2,105. Against the Packers on Dec. 2, he got 210. So he can pull this off. The bigger question: Can the Vikings win and keep their playoff hopes alive? With Green Bay playing for a bye, something says the Vikings come up a wee bit short. That said, the Packers can't slip up — even a little.

    Packers 28, Vikings 26

    Dolphins (7-8) at Patriots (11-4)

    4:25 p.m., Ch. 10

    Patriots by 10½, 46½

    The Patriots haven't looked like themselves the past two games. Beating Jacksonville by just one score after being dismantled by the 49ers (for a half) has to have gotten their attention. You know coach Bill Belichick is dialed in, meaning he'll have something up his sleeve for Dolphins QB Ryan Tannehill. It's not a tough choice to take Tom Brady, above, in a game the Pats need for a chance at a bye.

    Patriots 29, Dolphins 17

    Raiders (4-11) at Chargers (6-9)

    4:25 p.m.

    Chargers by 9½, 39½

    Here's another goodbye game, with coach Norv Turner widely presumed to be fired by San Diego. The Chargers haven't progressed and wasted prime opportunities for playoff success. But his players will put it on the line for him. Look for a big day from the defense. QB Terrelle Pryor, above, makes his first start for the Raiders. The other option, Matt Leinart, wasn't good either.

    Chargers 26, Raiders 16

    Rams (7-7-1) at Seahawks (10-5)

    4:25 p.m.

    Seahawks by 10½, 41½

    Anyone still surprised by the Seahawks' season just isn't paying attention. The infallible formula for success in the NFL is strong defense, highlighted by a fierce pass rush, and an efficient quarterback. CB Richard Sherman has seven picks and DE Chris Clemons 111/2 sacks. And the 2,868 passing yards for Russell Wilson, above, aren't staggering, but his 25 touchdowns and 10 interceptions are.

    'Hawks 24, Rams 14

    Cardinals (5-10) at 49ers (10-4-1)

    4:25 p.m.

    49ers by 16½, 39

    The 49ers have been on a roller coaster. They played, arguably, their best offensive game of the season at New England on Dec. 16 only to lay an egg in Seattle last week. Lots of things are still within reach for the 49ers, including a division title and bye. But first things first. Today, they need to play 49ers defense. Look for LB Aldon Smith, above, to add to his team-record 191/2 sacks.

    49ers 35, Cardinals 17

    Cowboys (8-7) at Redskins (9-6)

    8:20 p.m., Ch. 8

    Redskins by 3, 48½

    When the NFL pushed more division games to the final weeks, this is the kind of contest it had in mind: a winner-take-all with the NFC East crown on the line. If there's any carryover from the first meeting is arguable, but QB Robert Griffin III shredded the Cowboys on the road in that game. Here's another opportunity. The Cowboys, by the way, are 4-11 over the past 20 years when the temperature at kickoff is 40 degrees or colder, like it will be tonight. Their last win? Dec. 27, 2009 … at Washington.

    Redskins 28, Cowboys 26

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    By Joe Smith, Times Staff Writer
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    ST. PETERSBURG — Rays executive VP Andrew Friedman has often said bullpens are "volatile."

    To account for that, Tampa Bay has been able to successfully tweak its stock of relievers each of the past several seasons, a key to its success.

    But even pitching coach Jim Hickey admits it is "unreasonable" for the Rays to expect a repeat performance from last season, when the bullpen racked up a major-league-best 2.88 ERA and closer Fernando Rodney set a record for a reliever (0.60).

    "So many things have to go exactly right," Hickey said. "If I told you right now, Rodney was going to save 43 out of 49 games and have a 1.89 ERA, and that would be almost a disappointment compared to last year. They really did set the bar high.

    "But I expect them to be very good, I expect them to be playoff-caliber good, and if we get into the playoffs, to take us all the way."

    The late-inning core returns, with Rodney (a bargain at a $2.5 million option), RHP Joel Peralta and LHP Jake McGee. While RHP Wade Davis is gone to the Royals, RH sinkerballer Roberto Hernandez could step in if he doesn't crack the rotation. With free-agent LHP J.P. Howell and RHP Kyle Farnsworth still in the mix to return, RHP Burke Badenhop (traded to the Brewers) is the only one out of the picture.

    "I'm very comfortable right now where we sit," Hickey said. "I couldn't tell you that last year, or the year before. Just because the back end of the bullpen is taken care of with Rodney and Peralta and Jake McGee. You could almost say the eighth and ninth inning are covered."

    Rodney rejuvenated his career last year, improving his fastball command and delivering a historic season, which led to a fifth-place finish in the AL Cy Young voting. While Hickey said Rodney's historic stats (five earned runs in 74 2/3 innings) may not be the same, "I wouldn't be shocked if he came back out and had the same type of dominant performance."

    If Howell leaves, thanks to the growing market for lefty relievers, the Rays could turn to LHP Cesar Ramos, who is out of options but came into his own last year. Hickey said he sees Ramos, a former starter, as a multiple-inning guy who, like Howell, can face both lefties and righties.

    "I've got total confidence in this guy," Hickey said. "When he gets ahead of hitters, he puts them away with the best of them. … I think it's time for him, I think this is his little window of opportunity."

    Friedman said they're still looking for one or two relievers, and he has a track record of acquiring quality arms for the bullpen, such as RHP Dan Wheeler in 2007, Troy Percival in 2008, Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit in 2010 and Peralta and RHP Juan Cruz in 2011. If the Rays stay in-house, RHP Brandon Gomes could slide in, and whichever starter ends up out of the rotation (Hernandez, RHP Alex Cobb, RHP Chris Archer) may be an option in relief.

    "We're going to be a championship caliber (bullpen)," Hickey said. "We just don't know all the pieces."

    RAYS RUMBLINGS: Former slugger Hideki Matsui may be a legend in Japan, and a World Series MVP in New York, but he ended his career in Tampa Bay, announcing his retirement Thursday. … Manager Joe Maddon (@RaysJoeMaddon) cracked Baseball America's list of the top 50 Twitter accounts for baseball fans, with the site writing, "great tweets from one of the most intelligent, funny and media-savvy managers." … 3B Evan Longoria and expecting girlfriend Jaime Edmondson took a "Babymoon" to Napa Valley's wine country over Christmas. … Congratulations to Rays president Matt Silverman, who will get married today in a ceremony in Austin, Texas.

    Joe Smith can be reached at joesmith@tampabay.com.

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    Mike McCollum, Times Correspondent
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    TAMPA — Vontrey Hill scored 31 and Marcus Hill added 23 as Armwood pushed past host Alonso 75-59 Saturday in the championship game of the Alonso Holiday Classic.

    As was the case during the semifinal round, Armwood's size inside proved to be just too much to handle for the opponent.

    "It was definitely our game plan to get the ball inside to those guys," Armwood coach Jeff Pafunda said. "I was over on the sideline yelling at our guys to keep getting the ball inside."

    The Hawks' inside dominance wasn't just at the offensive end. Armwood (11-3) enjoyed a double-digit rebounding advantage over the Ravens (9-7) and had six blocked shots to Alonso's zero.

    The first half featured a one-on-one matchup between Vontrey Hill and Alonso's Malachi Christopher. Each player scored the first six field goals for his respective team. Vontrey Hill had 19 points at halftime while Christopher had 17 of his team-high 31 points at the break.

    Leading 28-22 at halftime, Armwood opened the second half with a 9-0 run to break the game open.

    Alonso responded with a 7-0 run of its own to cut the deficit to eight before the end of the third quarter, but that's as close as Alonso would get for the rest of the game.

    Vontrey Hill, a 6-foot-3 senior, and Marcus Hill, a 6-foot-5 senior, (no relation) took over in the fourth quarter, answering every Alonso basket with a score. The duo combined for 23 points in the final quarter alone.

    "It feels good to be named MVP, but I couldn't do it without my teammates," Vontrey Hill said. "The team needed me to be aggressive inside tonight, so that's what I tried to go out and do."

    Vontrey Hill was named tournament MVP, and both he and Marcus Hill were named to the all-tournament team. They joined Alonso's Christopher and Greg Robinson, Wesley Chapel's Eric Thomas and East Lake's Brady Grimm.

    East Lake defeated Ridgewood 70-53 for third place, and Wesley Chapel beat Gaither 84-51 for fifth place.

    0 0

    Times wires
    Saturday, December 29, 2012

    Sean Payton will make about $8 million per season, espn.com reported Saturday. That would be the most of any coach not only in the NFL, but in North American pro sports. A day after several media outlets reported Payton agreed to an extension with the Saints, the team confirmed it.

    Terms weren't disclosed. But espn.com reported it is for five years. Coaches' salaries rarely are disclosed. But the $8 million tops the $7.5 million reported for the Patriots' Bill Belichick and about $7 million for the Seahawks' Pete Carroll, Rams' Jeff Fisher and Redskins' Mike Shanahan.

    Celtics coach Doc Rivers reportedly makes about $7 million, the most among the NBA, NHL and Major League Baseball.

    Cleveland reportedly set to clean house

    The Browns will part ways with coach Pat Shurmur and general manager Tom Heckert as soon as after today's game, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported. Jimmy Haslam purchased the team in August and hired Joe Banner as CEO in October. In November, Haslam said he had candidates in mind for all positions. Soon after, Mike Holmgren stepped down as team president.

    Reid to Chargers? Andy Reid, expected to be fired by the Eagles this week, is interested in becoming the Chargers coach, profootballtalk.com reported. San Diego is expected to fire Norv Turner.

    Bucs move: Corner Eric Wright was activated. His four-game suspension for taking a performance-enhancing drug ended last week. To make room, corner LeQuan Lewis was waived. In five games, he had five tackles and an interception.

    Patriots: Tight end Rob Gron­kowski, out five games with a broken left forearm, will play in a "limited role" today, Comcast SportsNet New England reported.

    Obituary: Ex-Steelers center Chuck Cherundolo died Dec. 22 in Lakeland, his daughter said. He was 96. Mr. Cherundolo spent six of his 10 seasons, 1941-42 and 1945-48 (also serving in World War II), with the Steelers. In 2007, they named him a legend, representing their best players through 1970. Mr. Cherundolo was a Steelers assistant from 1948-61.

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  • 12/29/12--19:08: Sports in brief
  • Times wires
    Saturday, December 29, 2012


    Out of Prison, Urbina aims to Pitch in U.S. again

    CARACAS, Venezuela — Former major-league pitcher Ugueth Urbina returned to baseball Saturday after serving 7½ years in prison for the attempted murder of five workers on his family's ranch.

    Before taking the field in his native Venezuela to play for the Lions of Caracas, Urbina, 38, described himself as "more mature."

    He was released last Sunday after serving roughly half of his 14-year sentence after a dispute over a gun in 2005. Urbina was found guilty of attacking and injuring workers with a machete. Urbina, who pitched for five teams in the majors, has repeatedly said he was sleeping at the time of the attack.

    Urbina said he hopes to play pro ball in the United States again. "The first order of business is pitching in Venezuela," he said.

    Ice Hockey

    Lightning prospects lift Russia at world juniors

    Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, a Lightning prospect, posted a 41-save 7-0 victory over Germany as host Russia won its third straight game at the world junior championships at Ufa.

    Another Lightning prospect on the Russian team, Nikita Kucherov, scored a minute in and had an assist. Yaroslav Kosov scored a hat trick in the third period.

    The Russians, the Group B leaders with nine points, play group rival Canada at 9 a.m. Monday. But first, Canada plays the United States early today (replay at 8 p.m.). The Americans face Slovakia at 5 a.m. Monday.

    All three games will be broadcast on the NHL Network.

    In other Saturday games, Group A leader Sweden beat Latvia 5-1 to secure a spot in the knockout round.


    College Hockey: Jerry York became college hockey's winningest coach when Boston College beat Alabama-Huntsville 5-2 at the Mariucci Classic in Minneapolis for York's 925th win. In 41 seasons, York, 67, is 925-559-95 and moves ahead of former Michigan State coach Ron Mason.

    Cycling: Britain's first Tour de France winner became Sir Bradley Wiggins as Queen Elizabeth bestowed knighthood on him.

    Horses: Appealing Stella won her first stakes in the $50,000 Minaraet at Tampa Bay Downs in Oldsmar. Ridden by Angel Serpa for trainer Jane Cibelli, Appealing Stella clocked 6 furlongs in 1 minute, 12.57 seconds and paid $7.40. Becausei'mworthit and Nakano were next.

    Obituary: David "Salt" Walther, the former auto and hydroplane racer who was burned in a crash in the 1973 Indianapolis 500, died in Montgomery County, Ohio. He was 65. A cause of death has not yet been determined. Mr. Walther also drove briefly in NASCAR, finishing 12th in the 1976 Daytona 500.

    Speed skating: Heather Richardson set a national record in winning the 1,000 meters and wrapped up the sprint title at the U.S. Long Track Championships in Kearns, Utah. Her time of 1 minute, 13.52 seconds broke Chris Witty's mark of 1:13.83 in 2002. A day earlier, Richardson won the 500 in 37.34. Olympian Shani Davis won the men's 1,000 in 1:08.57.

    Tennis: Top-ranked Novak Djokovic retained his title at the World Tennis Championship exhibition in Abu Dhabi by rallying past 11th-ranked Nicolas Almagro 6-7 (4-7), 6-3, 6-4. … In Hopman Cup mixed team competition, host Australia beat Germany 3-0 and Spain beat South Africa 2-1.

    Don Jensen, Times correspondent; Times wires

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