Saturday, February 23, 2019

Conference Champs!!

It wasn't easy, and that's OK.

Important sports victories aren't supposed to be easy. You're supposed to have to work for them, fight for them, go after them with every ounce of energy you have.

AK's Michelle Ojo (right) battles Berry's Jordan McLaughlin.
(Photo by Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
So, so proud of our Ardrey Kell Lady Knights for doing just that -- winning 3 games in 4 days, including Friday's 44-43 triumph over Berry, for the SoMeck7 title.

Front: Riley, Kennedy, Meghan, Lucy, Trinity
Middle: Nia, Michelle, Evan, Stephanie, Grace, Emerson, Torrie
Back: Coach Nadel, Coach Buseick, Melissa (manager), Coach Queen
(Photo by Roberta Nadel)
It's AK's 6th consecutive season with either the regular-season title or conference tournament championship (usually both).

We have excellent team chemistry, we work hard, we have fun together, we have talent, everybody knows their roles, we're tough, we have heart. That's how a team wins!

Evan Miller and  Meghan Rogers
celebrate as final horn sounds.
(Photo by Jeff Siner, Charlotte Observer)
After a 1-2 start to our conference season, we finished with a 12-game winning streak in league play. We take a 22-5 record into the North Carolina 4A tourney, which starts next week. It's AK's 9th straight season with at least 20 wins.

I've only been around for the last 2 of those seasons, and I'm honored to be associated with this outstanding program, thrilled to work with these dedicated athletes and privileged to do anything I can to help Coach Jeff Buseick and our other assistant, the incredible Queen Smith.

Coaches huddle during time-out to discuss strategy
before Coach Buseick talks with team.
(Photo by Roberta Nadel)
Onward and upward ... let's see how long we can enjoy this crazy, exhilarating, wonderful ride!


Congrats also to the Ardrey Kell men's team, which also won the conference title with a dramatic, one-point victory over heavily-favored Olympic.

It was an exciting game that, like ours, came down to AK getting a defensive stop on the very last play.

Way to go, guys!

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

All basketball is fun, and winning basketball - as at Ardrey Kell and Marquette - is most fun of all

Our seniors -- from top, Steph, Riley, Nia, Kennedy and Deeya (manager) --
make a pyramid with Coach Buseick.
On Jan. 4, our Ardrey Kell Lady Knights opened the 2019 portion of our schedule with a loss to our archrivals, South Mecklenburg High. We blew a 12-point fourth-quarter lead. It was our 3rd loss in 4 games, a highly unusual stretch for a program that has been consistently ultra-successful. And it gave us a 1-2 conference record, with both losses coming at home.

We were hurtin'.

Our fine coach, Jeff Buseick, had talked about the Buster Douglas-Mike Tyson fight earlier in the season, and I decided to expound on that theme after one of our practices.

Remember how Coach talked about the Douglas-Tyson fight? Well, he was only a few years old when that took place while I watched it live, but he still did a great job talking about all of the highlights. The one thing he left out was this: Tyson actually knocked Douglas down in the 8th round. The ref was counting ... 1-2-3-4 ... if it gets to 10, Tyson wins by knockout ... 5-6-7 ... Buster is in trouble ... 8-9 ... Douglas got up at 9 and then the bell rang. He literally was saved by the bell. And then, 2 rounds later, Douglas knocked out Tyson to complete probably the greatest upset in the history of sports.

Well now, we've been knocked down. At AK, we're not used to it, but it has happened. How are we gonna respond? Six of our next 7 games are on the road, including games against the 2 teams we just lost to. What are we gonna do? Are we gonna quit, or are we gonna get up off the mat and fight? Let's get up off the mat, ladies, and show the world we're still AK!

The girls all cheered and it was a feel-good moment for us. As an assistant coach, I don't usually get to give rah-rah speeches.

Fast-forward to the present. Last night, we finished the regular season by rallying for a great win over Olympic on Senior Night. It was our 9th straight conference victory since that 1-2 start, and we're near the top of the league standings again.

I'd love to say that my speech had a single doggone thing to do with it, but I know better. These girls are tough-minded and talented, and they deserve all the credit.

Besides, given the way we've dominated the conference the last many years, one could argue that WE are Mike Tyson in this analogy!

Whatever, it's fun to be winning again.

We take a 19-5 record into next week's conference tournament. The state tourney is the week after that. This time of year is so much fun.

Go AK!

One of our players called this photo
"Ending Segregation."

And speaking of basketball ...

Huge win Saturday for my Marquette Warrior Eagles, the No. 10 team in the nation!

A few days earlier, we had lost at home (to St. John's) for the first time all season, and now we were playing the defending national champions.

We got 38 points from our star, Markus Howard, and solid contributions from several other players, and defeated No. 14 Villanova 66-65.

Getty Images
It was what we call "National Marquette Day," when folks from all over the country gather in their cities to watch the event on TV.

I was "volunteered" to run our event in the Charlotte area.

We had a nice turnout and a lot of fun!

Followed that up last night with a decisive victory against DePaul. It was fun going to a sports bar with Robbie to watch that game right after the AK girls had defeated Olympic -- a great double-header for me.

We're ready to take the Big East title and have a great run in the NCAAs.

We Are Marquette!