CANTON: Brecksville senior David Madej stood atop the podium with a smile twice on Saturday night as a Division I state champion at C.T. Branin Natatorium.

Madej, a Stanford University recruit, was one of several standouts in the 91st annual boys state swimming and diving championship meet with victories in the 50-yard freestyle in 20.33 seconds and the 100-yard butterfly in 47.48 seconds.

“I executed well,” Madej said. “That was one of the best technical 50’s I think I have had in a while. There were a lot of big dudes in that heat and there is a lot of choppy water. I just got lucky and got my hand on the wall first.”

Brecksville coach Mark Krusinski said he saw “pure determination” in Madej in the 50 freestyle, and that the 5-foot-11 standout was “in for a dogfight in that race.”

Madej then turned around and 30 minutes later won the 100 butterfly.

“My main goal was to get my heart rate down after the 50 free and really attack that 100 fly,” Madej said. “It wasn’t a perfect swim, but I raced it really hard.”

Madej also contributed to two scoring relays. The Bees’ 400 freestyle relay was second in 3:04.06 with junior Eric Chimes, junior Colin Charbonneau and sophomore Pete Krusinski; and the 200 freestyle relay was fourth in 1:23.66 with senior Brandon Deuch, senior Jack Krusinski and sophomore Pete Krusinski.

Hudson junior Jay Johnson won his first state title in the 100 freestyle in 44.69 seconds, and moments later received a hug from coach Matt Davis.

“This is a crazy feeling,” Johnson said. “I have wanted to get to this point since last year at the state meet. This is something that is very special. What I take away from this race is having my teammates and my family here to support. This is truly incredible. … Last year I lost my grandfather [Thomas Johnson] right before the state meet. Like three days before the state meet, so this year I wanted to come out and swim these races for him and make my family proud.”

Johnson was also second in the 200 freestyle in 1:37.52. Cincinnati Sycamore sophomore Carson Foster set a state record in the event with a time of 1:34.19.

Johnson’s evening ended with a third in the 400 freestyle relay. Johnson, sophomore Liam Clarke, senior Jacob Tuckerman and sophomore Caleb Tuckerman clocked a 3:06.20.

North Canton Hoover senior Nathaniel Mullens was fourth in the 50 freestyle (20.50) and sixth in the 100 freestyle (46.23).

Hoover also took third in the 200 freestyle relay with junior Vincent Stevens, junior William Schneider, freshman Karl Helmuth and Mullens combining to post a 1:23.57.

Walsh Jesuit sophomore Kaden Smesko placed third in the 100 backstroke (49.44).

North Royalton senior Colton Phelps was fifth in the 200 IM (1:51.89) and sixth in the 100 butterfly (50.08).

Lyle Yost of Shaker Heights won the 1-meter diving competition with 602.4 points. The best area diver was Jacob Stephens of Firestone (13th, 418.95 points).

Cincinnati St. Xavier scored 413 points and won its 39th state team title. Brecksville (150 points), Cincinnati Sycamore (122), Hoover (121), Toledo St. Francis DeSales (100) and Hudson (96) rounded out the top six.

“This was our goal all year long — to try to get runner-up at the state meet,” Brecksville coach Mark Krusinski said. “To do that with seven boys in this meet is just phenomenal.”

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or [email protected]. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at Follow him on Twitter at

CANTON: North Canton Hoover’s Amanda Palutsis concluded her senior season in the pool with three Division I state titles on Saturday night at C.T. Branin Natatorium.

Palutsis, an Ohio State University recruit, joined Brecksville junior Hannah Bach and Brunswick junior Felicia Pasadyn as area individuals who placed first in an event in the 42nd annual girls state swimming and diving championship meet.

“This was awesome,” Palutsis said. “I am happy with everything. … I am thankful for my teammates’ help in letting me end my high school career with some gold medals.”

Palutsis joined juniors Kate Lochridge, Caroline Ehlers and Parker Timken to set a state and pool record in the 200-yard freestyle relay with a time of 1:32.35.

“Behind the blocks we talk and joke, and we are all ready,” Lochridge said. “There is a quote that I found that says ‘She believed it, so she did it.’ And that is what we did.”

The 1:32.35 topped Hoover’s prelim time (1:33.28) on Friday, which was a state record. Ehlers said she and her friends “get more and more excited to get in the water and race.”

“These girls were focused on being the very best in the state in every [200 free relay] race,” Hoover coach Rick Morrison said. “I think with that time, we will be one of the best in the country.”

Palutsis and Timken went 1-2 in the 50-yard freestyle with Palutsis touching the wall first in 22.96 seconds and Timken taking second in 23.06.

“I am happy to come out with a gold medal and I am thrilled to be able to do it alongside a teammate, which is obviously a rarity when you are competing against the entire state,” Palutsis said.

Timken (49.96) and Palutsis (50.23) also went 2-3 in the 100 freestyle.

“We all push each other every single day in practice and it is crazy the things that we have done,” Timken said. “I saw that 200 free relay time and I was ecstatic.”

Palutsis, Ehlers and Timken ended the meet on the victorious 400 freestyle relay (3:24.69) with freshman Reagan St. Clair.

“We only lose one [Palutsis] from our state team,” Morrison said. “The rest are underclassmen. We have freshmen and eighth-graders that want to be part of this.”

Bach won the 100 breaststroke in a state and pool record (1:00.75). Bach entered Saturday as the state record holder with a 1:01.24 from last week.

“I came out and was like ‘Whoa, you are going so fast,’” Bach said. “My goal was to set the record again and take first.”

Brecksville coach Mark Krusinski said “when the stakes were really high, Hannah was having fun, she was a great teammate and she was very loose.”

Pasadyn won the 100 backstroke title in 54.28 and was third in the 200 individual medley in 2:00.78. Her sister Cassandra won the 100 backstroke state title last year as a senior, and is now swimming at Harvard.

“It really is amazing feeling because coming into this season I had no idea I would end up being a state champion,” Pasadyn said. “It is really cool just to see this because she [Cassandra] was my inspiration.”

Pasadyn is the younger sister of Selena, Vanessa and Cassandra Pasadyn. Selena and Vanessa were multi-sport athletes who were named ABJ Scholar-Athletes this decade.

Highland senior Ashley Mennenga was fifth in the 100 backstroke in 55.78 after undergoing a scapulothoracic bursitis surgery three months ago.

Hudson finished second in the 200-yard medley relay in a time of 1:43.26. The four Explorers were sophomore Giovanna Cappabianca, sophomore Paige McCormick, junior Maddie Hannan and freshman Mackenzie DeWitt, and they just missed first with Cincinnati Ursuline Academy winning in a time of 1:43.02.

McCormick was third in the 500 freestyle (4:55.15), and tied Mason’s Lauren Thomas for fourth in the 200 IM (2:02.35). Cappabianca was sixth in the 200 IM (2:03.16).

Hannan placed fifth in the 200 freestyle (1:50.50) and sixth in the 100 freestyle (51.73).

Other notable performances were done by — DeWitt (fourth, 50 freestyle, 23.19); North Royalton senior Anna Martin (fourth, 100 breaststroke, 1:02.79), Firestone sophomore Madeline Dyer (fifth, 100 breaststroke, 1:02.99) and Firestone senior Molly Chelovitz (tied for sixth with Mason’s Harna Minezawa, 50 freestyle, 23.66).

Teagan Moravek of Mount Notre Dame won the 1-meter diving competition with 479.85 points. The best area diver was Libby Lambert of Strongsville (14th, 396.95 points).

Mason scored 236 points and won its first state team title. Hoover (190½ points), Hudson (164½), Cincinnati St. Ursula (155), Cincinnati Ursuline Academy (146) and Dublin Coffman (145) rounded out the top six.

“Our girls’ best finish coming into this state meet was sixth,” Hudson coach Matt Davis said. “Of the eight girls that we have here today competing, we only have one senior.”

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or [email protected]. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at Follow him on Twitter at

Stow: When junior Evan Bainbridge threw down a one-handed dunk with three minutes left in the third quarter of Stow’s Suburban League game against Brecksville on Friday night, it sent James G. Tyree Gymnasium into a frenzy.

Bainbridge flexed after landing in front of the Bulldogs’ student section. Coryon Rice pumped his fist, celebrating the slick behind-the-back pass he had given to set up the dunk. The reserves jumped up and screamed, adding more noise to an already boisterous gym.

Bainbridge finished with a team-high 20 points to lead the Bulldogs (19-3, 12-2) to a 78-41 victory over Brecksville (14-8, 7-7) on Senior Night to clinch the Suburban League National Conference title.

“We’re all competitors and you always want to win a conference championship,” Stow coach David Close said. “When I interviewed back here 30 years ago, they asked me about goals, and I said that a conference championship is a thing that you do on the way to the playoffs. You’re trying to be at your peak at playoff time.”

Bulldogs senior and Ohio University commit Mason McMurray complemented Bainbridge with a double-double (10 points and 12 rebounds) and Bryce Harvey chipped in three 3-pointers and 15 points.

Mike Rose scored 21 points for Brecksville, which trailed 25-6 after the first quarter after a 20-0 run by the Bulldogs.

“We’re playing well and sharing the ball well,” Close said. “Early in the year, we were kind of a three-man team. Now we’re sharing the ball and everyone’s contributing offensively.”

The length of the Bulldogs gave Brecksville trouble all night, as the 6-foot-9 Bainbridge and the 6-8 McMurray made a habit of forcing issues on the perimeter, leading Brecksville to force some shots.

“They’re versatile,” Close said. “They both can shoot and dribble. They’re a force. We’re proud of them. They’ve worked hard, [and] they’re a tough matchup for people.”

Kenny Ganley chipped in eight points for the Bees, who had trouble finding their range from deep all night and finished with just four 3-pointers. By comparison, 14 of Stow’s 28 made field goals were 3-pointers, with Bainbridge making a team-high five.

Senior Ethan Fertag finished with 14 points, four 3s and a team-leading five assists for Stow.

Close said ball movement is one of the Bulldogs’ offensive keys.

“[I liked] our team play,” he said. “Guys moved and shared the ball, which helped us get great shots. One of our team goals is to function as one body, and I think we’re doing that as well now as we have all season.”

The Bulldogs, now on a seven-game winning streak, will host Wadsworth or Firestone in a first-round Division I tournament game at 7 p.m. March 3. As far as Close is concerned, there’s still a lot more basketball left to be played this season.

“You want to win the league — it’s there for a reason,” he said. “We’re not done. We didn’t cut any nets down today.”

NEW YORK: Bank records and other expense reports that are part of a federal probe into college basketball list a wide range of impermissible payments from agents to at least two dozen players or their relatives, according to documents obtained by Yahoo Sports.

Yahoo said Friday that the documents obtained in discovery during the investigation link current players including Michigan State’s Miles Bridges, Duke’s Wendell Carter and Alabama’s Collin Sexton to potential benefits that would be violations of NCAA rules. According to the report, players over the past several years and family members allegedly received cash, entertainment and travel expenses from former NBA agent Andy Miller and his agency ASM Sports.

NCAA president Mark Emmert said in a statement Friday the allegations “if true, point to systematic failures that must be fixed and fixed now if we want college sports in America.”

A balance sheet from December 2015 lists several payments under “Loan to Players,” including $43,500 to Dallas Mavericks guard Dennis Smith, who played one season at North Carolina State in 2016-17. Another document says Smith received a total of $73,500 in loans, and indicated options to recoup the money after Smith didn’t sign with ASM.

N.C. State athletic director Debbie Yow said the school disassociated itself from Miller in 2012, saying the agent’s close work with a youth coach created a vulnerability for the school “that we cannot tolerate.” Yow said the school will fully cooperate with any investigations.

Isaiah Whitehead, a guard for the Brooklyn Nets, received $26,136 while a freshman at Seton Hall, according to the documents. He received $37,657 and was setting up a payment plan, according to another document. Whitehead signed with ASM but later left the agency.

The story says several families of players or handlers received more than $1,000 in payments from ASM Sports before turning professional.

Apple Jones, the mother of former Kansas player Josh Jackson, received $2,700, and current Southern California player Bennie Boatwright or his father Bennie Sr., received at least $2,000, according to documents.

The story says the mother of Bridges is among those receiving hundreds of dollars in advances. Current Kentucky player Kevin Knox, Carter and Sexton are listed among players or families meeting or having meals with former ASM Sports associate Christian Dawkins.

Kentucky coach John Calipari said neither he nor his staff used Miller or any other agent to provide financial benefits to student athletes. He said the school will conduct an internal review and cooperate with authorities.

Emmert said the NCAA Board of Governors and recently formed independent Commission on College Basketball is committed to “making transformational changes” and will cooperate with the federal prosecutors to “identify and punish the unscrupulous parties seeking to exploit the system through criminal acts.”


For more AP college basketball coverage: and—Top25

DOYLESTOWN: Russ Coney, the longtime coach of the Chippewa High School boys soccer team, has resigned, the Wooster Daily Record reports.

“I have had the opportunity to coach some wonderful kids, enjoyed the support of amazing parents and they have been the key to our success here,” he told the newspaper. “I am going to miss them all, it’s truly been fun.”

He was head coach for 21 years and finishes with a record of 136-41-27.

Read the full Daily Record report here.

Notes, quotes and observations after the Cavs fell 110-103 to the Washington Wizards Thursday night at Quicken Loans Arena.

1. Either LeBron James had already fired the stat sheet into the garbage or he was looking at the big picture when he said he thought the Cavs played well even though they saw their four-game winning streak snapped.

2. They hit 8 of 35 (23 percent) from 3-point range, were outrebounded 43-36 (despite holding a 12-6 edge at 3:36 in the first quarter) and hit just 11 of 19 from the free throw line. Three players had double-digit negative plus/minus ratings (including James at -10) and only four (Cedi Osman, Kyle Korver, Jeff Green and George Hill) of the 10 who saw action were on the plus side or at zero. Second-year guard Tomas Satoransky of the Czech Republic, replacing rehabbing All-Star John Wall, scored 17 points (hitting 6 of 7 shots) with four rebounds and eight assists.

3. “I hate losing, obviously, but I think the way we played, the way we shared the ball, defensively, we were flying around as well,” James said. “Those guys, they just played better than us tonight. I like the start, I like direction we’re headed.”

4. After losing in their home debut, the four new Cavs acquired at the Feb. 8 trade deadline — Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. — fell to 2-1.

5. Perhaps James was thinking back to the old, slow, pre-deadline Cavs and how the Wizards would have scored more than four points off the Cavs’ 13 turnovers (four by James, three by Hill). Perhaps James realized that those Cavs would not have held Bradley Beal to 8 of 19 shooting, with Hood guarding him most of the time down the stretch. James saw that the energy that the newcomers displayed in victories at Boston and at Oklahoma City was still there, just their shooting eye was off.

6. Hill had several shots go in and out as he made just 2 of 10, 0 for 4 beyond the arc.

7. “It’s very frustrating, especially when I’m used to making them. My teammates kept telling me to fire away because they know it doesn’t happen that often,” Hill said. “Just couldn’t buy one tonight. The good thing is we play again tomorrow (at Memphis).”

8. At least Hill, who had shot .400 from the field and .375 on 3s in his first two games with the Cavs, could take comfort in that he wasn’t alone.

9. Clarkson and Green were 0 for 3 from long range, Osman 0 for 2, James 1 for 4, Korver 2 for 6, J.R. Smith 3 for 8. Most attributed it to the fact that they’d had eight days off for the All-Star break.

10. “We missed shots, we made mistakes defensively. They just capitalized tonight,” Clarkson said. “All-Star break kinda didn’t help us after being in a groove with everybody defensively and offensively. We’ll find it. It just shows we’ve still got a long way to go. We’ll keep getting it together.”

11. Hill also saw the effects of the break.

12. “I think that was one of the worst things we’ve had to deal with, finding that rhythm and then taking that 10 days off,” Hill said. “But we can’t make excuses. We missed some great looks tonight normally that we’ve been making.”

13. Hood had one of the worst attempts, clanging a wide-open look off the side of the backboard with 2:41 to go.

14. “Didn’t really have it in my hands,” Hood said. “I shot it with my palms and it hit the side of the backboard.”

15. But Hood saw some of the same things James saw.

16. “I thought we did a good job of just getting the open shots,” Hood said. “We’ll work some of the rust off and we’ll be better next game and the next game after that.”

17. James scored just three points in nine third-quarter minutes, but put the Cavs on his back in the fourth. He scored 14 of his game-high 32 points in the final period, hitting 6 of 9 field goals, with three rebounds, but went 2 for 4 from the free throw line.

18. “(LeBron) got into the paint and made the right play,” Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. “We missed some open 3s. I mean, shooting 8-for-35, it’s going to be tough to beat a lot of teams. We had some good looks and good shots, they just didn’t fall for us. Him attacking in the fourth quarter, getting downhill, getting to the paint and kicking out for shots was good for us. We just didn’t make our shots and we didn’t make free throws, either.”

19. Lue said the Cavs did a good job on Beal and noted that Satoransky’s 17 points hurt them.

20. “But I thought the biggest spark was Oubre,” Lue said of Kelly Oubre Jr., who scored 17 points with five rebounds, two assists and two steals. He had the game’s best plus/minus at plus 15. “I thought he really hurt us off the bench. That’s what kind of like changed the game for them.”

21. In a strange moment, the Cavs video board caught Oubre untying Hood’s shoes during a dead ball with the Wizards leading 66-64 in the third quarter.

22. “I didn’t recognize it until I took off running,” Hood said.

23. There were no harsh words exchanged. “No. We know each other so he was doing it in a joking way,” Hood said.

24. Asked if the referee noticed, Hood said, “Yeah, he said he looked at it at halftime and he gave them a delay of game or something like that.”

25. Another factor in the Cavs blowing a 12-point second quarter lead was the Wizards going small, which enabled them to take a 57-54 halftime lead.

26. “They went small and put (Markieff) Morris at the 5 and it really gave us problems,” Lue said. “I thought it really had us in scramble mode. We had Tristan (Thompson) on the floor, so we had a big on the floor, and defensively it really put us in some bad situations.”

27. All know there is much to grasp, including how to play together.

28. “We’re still learning each other, still learning the defensive schemes and the offensive schemes,” Hill said. “We still have to learn the plays. Coach gave us a small playbook so far, but we still got a lot of other plays we need to learn. When we’re out there in different situations the ball is not moving as much as we would like it to. But we’ve got to take it one step at a time.”

29. James knows what lies ahead.

30. “It’s going to be very challenging, but I accept the challenge and I think the guys are excited about just trying to learn every day,” James said. “The good thing about it is, now we’re going to get to a point where we’re playing every other day, so we can learn on the floor. When we have our film sessions and we have our walk-throughs, we got to continue to keep our minds sharp because that’s all we have. We have to lean on that.

31. “We’re not like Washington. We’re not like Toronto. Obviously, Boston has some new guys, they’re figuring it out as well. We’re not like a lot of the teams where we can just hang our hats on our chemistry and how long we’ve been together.”

32. James did take issue with the notion that the trades changed him. He pointed to the Cavs’ 140-138 overtime victory over Minnesota the night before the deadline that started the four-game winning streak. He recorded his ninth of 10 triple-doubles this season against the Timberwolves (37-10-15).

33. “I don’t agree with that,” he said. “Before the deadline happened, before the trades happened, I re-focused myself to understand that I’m the leader of this team and I have to be mentally sharp and mentally strong throughout anything. Even before the trade, I planned on us having that team for the rest of the season. That was just my mindset and you saw that in the Minnesota game. We hadn’t made the trades then and in the Minnesota game, I just started to change my mindset. That’s just who I am.

34. “Where I am now, I think we can be really good. We got (25) games left to try to figure it out. I think if we can do that, we continue what we’re on now, then we’ll be OK.”

35. Not making the trip to Memphis and I don’t post beyond the arc for afternoon games like Sunday’s against San Antonio when there are quotes in the game stories, so check back after Tuesday’s home game vs. Brooklyn.

Larry Nance Jr.’s lifelong dream of wearing his father’s retired No. 22 in the NBA will become reality next week.

When Nance was traded to the Cavaliers from the Los Angeles Lakers on Feb. 8, he mentioned how much he would like to play in his father Larry Sr.’s number, which was retired by the Cavs on Jan. 30, 1995. But Nance, 25, maintained that he didn’t want his father’s banner to come down from the rafters in Quicken Loans Arena for it to happen.

After several phone calls with the league office and Nike, the Cavs received the go-ahead before Thursday night’s game against the Washington Wizards at the Q. It will be Nance Jr.’s third game as a Cav and his first at home.

“I’m thrilled,” Nance said before the game. “I’ve been wearing 22 my whole life and to get to wear it for the Cleveland Cavaliers is beyond a dream come true.”

Tad Carper, the Cavs’ senior vice president for communications and broadcasting, said it’s likely the jersey production will delay the number switch until the Feb. 27 home game against the Brooklyn Nets, although it could happen sooner.

Carper said those who have already bought Nance No. 24 jerseys can exchange them, although they could become collector’s items since Nance Jr. will wear it only briefly.

INDEPENDENCE: Tyronn Lue’s fears were well-founded.

After the last game before the All-Star break in Oklahoma City, the Cavaliers coach worried that the team’s four new players wouldn’t remember much when they returned.

“Just like how I suspected, they forgot the plays,” he said after the four’s first practice Wednesday at Cleveland Clinic Courts. “So we grabbed them early, tried it, and then we’re going to grab them again after shooting and just continue to keep going through the plays and a couple defensive coverages.”

Ex-Lakers guard Jordan Clarkson didn’t agree that he had such a short memory.

“Nah, nah. It was a good refresher, though,” he said.

With 26 games — including 17 in the next 32 days — before the regular season concludes, Lue said shoot-arounds will be used for installation. Practice sessions will be longer, although the Cavs veterans will be rested in some of those.

“We got to sit the old guys out every now and then,” Lue said. “We talked about it, [and] it’s going to be a process and basically like a training camp all over again.”

For Thursday’s nationally televised home game against the Washington Wizards, Lue said he will keep the same starting lineup — LeBron James and rookie Cedi Osman at forward, Tristan Thompson at center and J.R. Smith and newcomer George Hill at guard. Fellow trade acquisitions Larry Nance Jr., Clarkson and Rodney Hood will come off the bench as the team tries to extend its four-game winning streak.

Lue said he has plotted out how to install all the Cavs need, but acknowledged “it never works.”

“I’m trying to keep it as simple as possible, but we have to start adding. Especially when the playoffs come, we don’t want to be a predictable team,” Lue said.

Former Laker Nance said it’s an adjustment for him with more emphasis on mental reps than physical exertion.

“It’s less pressure on your bodies, not going up and down, not playing live too much because a veteran group is locked in,” Nance said. “For me, it was very different. I kind of switched over to that after talking to a couple guys and asking questions like, ‘Hey, why aren’t we … we’re not playing live?’ ”

James liked what he saw of the four in victories at Boston and Oklahoma City, but said, “We got a long way to go.”

“Four new guys that’s in a top-eight, top-nine rotation, so we got a long way to go,” he said.

The Cavs seemingly have been searching for an identity, but James said it hasn’t changed despite the drastic trade-deadline makeover that sent out six players.

“It’s the same,” he said. “We want to build championship habits every day. We want to be very good defensively. We want to share the ball and move the ball offensively where everybody feels like they’re in a good rhythm. Obviously, we weren’t able to do that for a majority of the season, but that’s what we want to do for the rest of the season.”

To get to that point James feels the pressure of time, just like Lue.

“It’s almost March, so we don’t have that much time,” he said. “We’re looking forward to the journey.”

Marla Ridenour can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Cavs blog at Follow her on Twitter at

The Cleveland Browns go into next week’s NFL Scouting Combine with more salary cap space and draft picks than any team in the league.

That can lead to some fascinating storylines developing in Indianapolis. On this week’s Akron Beacon Journal and podcast with Browns beat writer Nate Ulrich we look ahead to the combine and the some of the storylines to follow.

MORE: Mel Kiper Jr. discusses Saquon Barkley vs. Minkah Fitzpatrick at No. 4 overall

Chief among them is left tackle Joe Thomas. As free agency gets ready to start, maybe the Browns will finally know what the future holds for their Hall of Fame blocker.

Also on this week’s podcast we covered these topics:

– Why UCLA’s Josh Rosen in the quarterback prospect we want to hear from the most.

– What concern can be found out about Southern California quarterback Sam Darnold next week.

– How the Browns could approach the free agency market at quarterback. That means whether they could be in on Kirk Cousins or target AJ McCarron.

– Whether or not this is a bad year in the draft to need a franchise quarterback.

– What we want to hear from General Manager John Dorsey.

LOS ANGELES: Fergie tried something different with her national anthem at the NBA All-Star Game, and not everybody was cheering.

The Black Eyed Peas singer’s slow, bluesy rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” on Sunday night wasn’t particularly well received at Staples Center or on social media before the 67th edition of the NBA’s annual showcase.

A low chuckle rumbled through the sold-out arena after Fergie finished the first line of the song with a throaty growl on “the dawn’s early light.”

Fans throughout the star-studded crowd reacted with varying levels of bemusement and enthusiasm while her languid, 2 ½-minute version of the song continued. Although Fergie was on pitch, her tempo, musical accompaniment and sexy delivery were not exactly typical for a sporting event or a patriotic song.

Golden State All-Star Draymond Green captured the mood — and became an instant GIF — when he was shown open-mouthed on the scoreboard and the television broadcast in apparent confusion over the unique vocal stylings. Green then chuckled to himself after realizing he was on TV.

After a forceful finish, Fergie finally got big cheers when she shouted, “Let’s play some basketball!”

The Grammy Award-winning singer, born Stacy Ann Ferguson, is from nearby Hacienda Heights, California.

Famed basketball commentator Charles Barkley joked that he “needed a cigarette” after Fergie’s performance during the TNT halftime show.

Former Lakers star Shaquille O’Neal leaped to Fergie’s defense, saying: “Fergie, I love you. It was different. It was sexy. I liked it. Leave her alone.”

Others on social media weren’t as kind, with criticism of the performance outpacing the positive reviews.

The Forum in nearby Inglewood, California, was the site of arguably the most famous national anthem in sports history during another NBA All-Star Game 35 years ago.

Marvin Gaye’s touching rhythm-and-blues version of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 1983 game was initially criticized, but has since gained widespread acceptance as a groundbreaking musical performance.

Instead, Fergie is more likely to join the long list of curious versions of the anthem, even though she showed far more impressive vocal chops than the likes of Roseanne Barr or Carl Lewis.


More AP basketball:

CLEVELAND: Brecksville made the short trek to Cleveland State University’s Busbey Natatorium on Saturday and won five of the 11 boys swimming events in the Division I district meet.

And for good measure, the Bees set three meet records.

“I am very impressed with how our guys swam,” Brecksville coach Mark Krusinski said. “All three relays were top 3 in the district, which is what we were hoping for. Everybody came together as a team and they were really excited going into this meet.”

The top two in each event automatically advanced to the state meet this week at Canton’s C.T. Branin Natatorium.

Brecksville finished atop the team standings with 282 points. Hudson (248), North Canton Hoover (221), Boardman (196), Jackson (172), Solon (161), Walsh Jesuit (143), and North Royalton (124) rounded out the top eight teams.

Brecksville opened and closed the meet with a meet record, winning the 200-yard medley relay in a time of 1:33.29 and the 400 freestyle relay in a time of 3:05.36. The 200 medley featured junior Eric Widenhofer, senior Jack Krusinski, senior David Madej and junior Eric Chimes; and the 400 freestyle featured Madej, Chimes, junior Colin Charbonneau and sophomore Pete Krusinski.

“Our relays really got behind each other,” Madej said. “We did get a little bit more rest for this week, it is not nearly what we have had in the past. A lot of it is bringing that adrenaline to the meet and a lot of fast swims happen when people are not the most rested just because we get behind each other. I think we will be even better with more rest.”

Individually, Madej set a meet record in the 100 butterfly (47.89 seconds), and was second in the 50 freestyle (20.54) to Hoover senior Nathaniel Mullens (20.51).

Jack Krusinski won the 100 breaststroke in 56.74 and Pete Krusinski was fourth in 57.40 seconds. Their parents, Mark and Mary Ann, watched and shared a hug on the pool deck.

“That was a really fun race,” Jack Krusinski said. “I was kind of surprised I won that, honestly. Off of the last wall, I looked and I thought I saw my brother was in first. I was thinking ‘I can’t lose to my younger brother Pete.’”

Green senior Andrew Roh­weder (56.76) and Walsh Jesuit senior Richard Kurlich (57.29) were second and third, respectively, in the 100 breaststroke. Chimes also won the 500 freestyle (4:36.47) and Stow senior Cornelius Cremer was second (4:42.11).

“I am proud of our team,” Chimes said. “We have been working hard all season and we have been tapering for about two weeks. I am really impressed with us.”

Hudson junior Jay Johnson placed first in the 200 freestyle (1:40.28) and in the 100 freestyle (45.30).

“Jay swam great,” Hudson coach Matt Davis said. “We haven’t had but one or two other kids in our program come to a district meet and win two individual events.”

North Royalton senior Colton Phelps placed first in the 200 individual medley (1:50.62) and was second in the 100 butterfly (49.84).

Hoover placed first in the 200 freestyle relay with junior Vincent Stephens, junior William Schneider, freshman Karl Helmuth and Mullens compiling a 1:23.92.

Mullens also took second in the 100 freestyle (45.34).

Elsewhere in the meet, Walsh Jesuit sophomore Kaden Smesko won the 100 backstroke (51.08) and Hoover sophomore Christopher O’Connor was second (51.54). Firestone junior Jack Saum finished second in the 200 IM in 1:51.82.

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or [email protected]. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at Follow him on Twitter at

LOS ANGELES: LeBron James says he will not stick to sports.

The Cavaliers superstar reiterated his determination to speak out on social issues and the nation’s political climate Saturday during his media availability for the NBA All-Star Game.

“I will not just shut up and dribble,” James said. “I get to sit up here and talk about what’s really important.”

James spoke publicly after Fox News host Laura Ingraham criticized the three-time NBA champion for his recent comments about social issues. James previously responded with an Instagram post containing similar sentiments.

“We will definitely not shut up and dribble,” James said. “I will definitely not do that. I mean too much to society. I mean too much to the youth. I mean too much to so many kids that feel like they don’t have a way out and they need someone to help lead them out of the situation they’re in.”

James made the initial public comments in question during a recent video segment on Uninterrupted, a platform co-founded by James. He was joined by Kevin Durant, and both superstars were sharply critical of President Donald Trump and the nation’s racial climate.

James referenced Muhammad Ali, Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Jackie Robinson as athletes who previously spoke up for equality and change without concerns about the consequences or any rewards.

“We know it’s bigger than us,” James said. “It’s not about us. I’m going to continue to do what I have to do to play this game that I love to play, but this is bigger than me playing the game of basketball.”

James was backed at media day by several All-Stars including Stephen Curry, Paul George, Draymond Green and Durant. They all believe athletes have an important opportunity to advocate for positive social change.

“We’re a part of what’s going on this world, what’s going on in this society, just as much as anybody else,” said George, the Oklahoma City Thunder forward from nearby Palmdale, Calif. “We’re fathers. We’re sons. We’re brothers. We’ve got family to look after. We’re connected as deeply in this as anybody else is. For someone to go out and say, ‘Stick to dribbling a basketball,’ that’s pretty ignorant. That just goes to show you where we are as a country right now.”

Curry called the Fox News host’s comments and dismissive tone “aggressive and just out of line … but not surprising, because I’ve heard that plenty of times before.”

“That’s the tone that people [utilize to] try to put athletes and black athletes in a box, to say, ‘Basketball is the only thing that you can provide in this world,’ ” Curry said. “It’s really, obviously, very upsetting. I think the way that we handle the response is to highlight all the good that we’re doing … Every single NBA athlete here that plays this game, that’s not what we’re about. That’s not all that we contribute to this world.

“Guys are going out, putting resources and funds, and raising awareness in the community and trying to make the world a better place through what we do.”

KENT: University of Akron men’s basketball coach John Groce said earlier this week he liked the direction his team was headed.

Little probably changed with the Zips’ 78-68 loss Saturday to the archrival Golden Flashes (13-14, 7-7 Mid-American Conference) at the M.A.C. Center. The teams duked it out, as has become typical of UA-KSU games, with the ending remaining in doubt until the final moments.

Ultimately, the Zips (11-15, 4-10) have plenty they can take from the game as they try to build some momentum heading down the stretch run of the season.

Despite their typical fast start — which put the Zips up 15-4 less than five minutes into the game — they again surrendered it down the line.

The difference this time around was that they gritted their teeth and took a 56-51 lead with 6:35 left in the game.

“I think our effort has been pretty good,” Groce said. “I think our attitude is getting closer to where I want it. That part’s made a lot of improvement.”

The development and evolution have come incrementally with each of the last three games.

“We’re playing better,” Groce said. “We fought some demons with effort and attitude being inconsistent in preseason practice, at the beginning of the season and the beginning of league play. It’s encouraging over the last three games to see those areas be significantly better, more consistent and I think it’s the reason why the bulk of the three games we’ve played pretty well.”

In the end, the Zips will be able to feed off their triumvirate of Malcolm Duvivier (27 points, three rebounds), Daniel Utomi (20 points) and Jimond Ivey, even though he struggled through 1-of-11 shooting and scored just five points against the Flashes.

What UA missed was another player stepping up to take advantage of the moment at hand, Groce said. That was the unknown that Kent State had in BJ Duling and Jalen Avery.

“He did a great job of providing them with energy and some baskets and some rebounding and some toughness,” Groce said of Duling.

Avery proved the difference maker in the second half, scoring all 16 of his points in the game’s final 4:47.

“I admired him coming into the game,” Groce said as he rattled off the reasons why. “He just seems like a guy where not too much rattles him … today he made big plays.”

Groce said he expects Duvivier, Utomi and Ivey to continue to lead the way for the rest of the season. Ivey’s play, which included five turnovers, surprised him.

Given the Zips’ youth and injury situation, the team will need those three players to make plenty of noise for the rest of the season.

Fitting in

UA has a large number of players who hadn’t before played against Kent State, but rivalries have a way of taking on a life of their own.

The saltiness certainly was real as at the end of the first half when Kent State’s Adonis De La Rosa and UA’s Eric Parrish each received a technical foul.

George M. Thomas can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Zips blog at Follow him on Twitter at

It never feels like it just yet thanks to that bitter Mother Nature, but baseball things are happening somewhere.

So for those holding out hope that summer will once again reappear even when it feels like you’ll be scraping snow off your car until the end of time: hold on a bit longer.

In fact, if you’d like to wait to read this until Monday or Tuesday, when the highs are supposed to reach into the 60s and — maybe — the low 70s, well, that’s OK if it’ll make it feel as though the regular season is even closer than it already is.

The commotion around Indians camp in Goodyear, Ariz., has already begun. Pitchers and catchers reported on Wednesday, and the full squad reports Sunday morning. The Indians’ spring training slate of games gets underway Friday against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark and will continue until Opening Day on March 29 in Seattle.

The Indians enter 2018 as the two-time American League Central champions who stand as the clear favorites in the division once again, barring a series of unfortunate events. With aspirations for a World Series title and not just another division banner, though, the additions made in Houston and New York are daunting for a team looking to avenge a devastating loss in the 2016 World Series and a frustrating, early exit from the 2017 postseason. Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA projections have the Indians at 97 wins, second in the AL and 16 games above the Minnesota Twins in the Central.

But before the games count, the Indians still have a number of things to sort out. Here are seven storylines to watch in Indians camp this spring.

• The fourth and fifth spots in the starting rotation — The Indians have four potential candidates to fill the open two spots in the starting rotation. Danny Salazar, Josh Tomlin, Mike Clevinger and Ryan Merritt are all in the running to file in behind reigning AL Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber, top-5 finisher Carlos Carrasco and Trevor Bauer, who recently won his arbitration case. Salazar’s health could play a key role in this race, but it isn’t off to the best start — the Indians disclosed this week that Salazar dealt with an onset of right shoulder rotator cuff inflammation in January and is behind the other pitchers by a couple of weeks. Another key factor is that Merritt is out of options and would have to be passed through waivers to be sent to Triple-A Columbus.

• The final spot in the bullpen, and the attempt to replace Bryan Shaw — The race in the rotation might end up playing a factor in the bullpen. Cody Allen, Andrew Miller, Dan Otero, Nick Goody, Tyler Olson and Zach McAllister have the first six spots nailed down. One of the two pitchers who aren’t named starters by Opening Day could slide in as the seventh member of the bullpen as someone who could throw multiple innings. All four have experience pitching out of the bullpen. Regardless of its makeup, this unit will also have the task of replacing Bryan Shaw’s workload.

• Michael Brantley’s health — Hey, look, it’s Groundhog Day! For the third consecutive spring, Brantley’s Opening Day status is in question, and the Indians will have to closely monitor his progress as he ramps up his workload. Brantley is coming off right ankle surgery last October. He was named an All-Star in 2017 before a sprained ankle derailed his season. Still dealing with his ankle issue, he went just 1-for-11 in the ALDS, a dud of an ending to such a strong year. If healthy, Brantley can be an All-Star caliber addition to the lineup. But that might be the biggest “if” on the roster.

• Jason Kipnis’ position and the infield situation — Indians manager Terry Francona has said Kipnis will probably end up at second base, but it’s a more complicated issue than that. At least in the early part of the season, Brantley’s health could dictate where Kipnis plays in the field. The Indians liked how their infield was structured toward the end of last season with Jose Ramirez at second base and the Yandy Diaz/Giovanny Urshela combo manning third. If Brantley isn’t ready, Kipnis could head for the outfield, solving the log jam in the infield. Kipnis has spent two of his last four seasons (2014, 2017) struggling through injuries. In the other two years, he put up nearly five-win seasons each time. He was dangled as trade bait this winter, partially because of his sizable contract, and that could continue. But if healthy, he’s proven to be a valuable commodity, even if it leaves Diaz or Urshela in a predicament.

• The outfield layout, and the return or Rajai Davis — If Brantley is ready to go by Opening Day, he’ll join Lonnie Chisenhall, Brandon Guyer and Bradley Zimmer in the outfield. That leaves a number of contenders hoping to join the left-handed-heavy group. Tyler Naquin is in camp but would be the fourth lefty. Greg Allen, a switch-hitter, had a cameo last season but might be better suited receiving everyday at-bats in Triple-A, although he did impress the club in his short stint. Abraham Almonte, another switch-hitter, has a track record in Cleveland. The Indians then have two right-handed options — Rajai Davis and Melvin Upton Jr. — trying to win a spot in camp as non-roster invitees. Davis was signed on Saturday, bringing back the speedster who hit one of the most memorable home runs in franchise history when he rifled a game-tying, two-run blast off Aroldis Chapman in Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. Both Davis and Upton will effectively be trying to match the terrific return on investment the Indians received last year with Austin Jackson, who, as Francona said, “saved our butts” as the outfield dealt with numerous injuries. As with everything, health is the key, but it’s certainly true for an outfield group looking for more balance in 2018.

• Francisco Mejia as the prospect to watch — Mejia stands as the Indians’ No. 1 prospect and the 20th prospect in baseball, according to Baseball America. And according to Baseball Prospectus, Mejia has skyrocketed up the rankings to the No. 5 overall spot. He’s on the smaller side for a catcher, but Mejia has raked in the minor leagues — .835 OPS for the RubberDucks last year — and has a good deal of upside as an offensive catcher. His bat can be such a weapon that the Indians had him experiment at third base over the winter. Francona recently said Mejia could stick to catching, but that it was too early and no decision had yet been made. If he does remain behind the plate, the Indians have Yan Gomes (2019 with two club option years after that) and Roberto Perez (2020 with two club option years) under control for multiple seasons. Mejia gives the club some flexibility and potential ammo on the trade market. If you’re looking for a prospect to follow, as well as an intriguing situation for the Indians moving forward, it’s Mejia.

• Yonder Alonso, the new guy replacing Carlos Santana — Santana, a mainstay in the Indians lineup for the better part of a decade, is gone. Enter Alonso, an All-Star in 2017 who benefited from a swing change but one without much of a track record. The Indians took a gamble, believing in Alonso’s power surge — he belted 28 home runs in 2017 after never reaching double digits in any prior season. For a team close to the top of its financial ceiling, Alonso was the major offseason signing.

Ryan Lewis can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Indians blog at Follow him on Twitter at

The Browns hosted two-time Pro Bowl cornerback Vontae Davis on a free-agent visit Friday, an NFL source confirmed for the Beacon Journal.

After meeting with the Buffalo Bills on Thursday, he’s also expected to visit other teams next week, the source said. ESPN first reported the visits.

The Browns need help at cornerback, and they’re seeking experienced veterans like Davis coming off an 0-16 season.

Davis, who will turn 30 on May 27, is eligible to sign a contract anytime because the Indianapolis Colts cut him on Nov. 9. He played just five games last season.

The Colts benched Davis last season and insisted the decision wasn’t injury-related. But Davis made it known he played through a lingering groin injury that hindered his game and said he felt “disrespected” by the Colts. It all led to a messy separation.

Davis then had surgery on his groin. ESPN reported Monday he had been medically cleared.

The Miami Dolphins drafted Davis in the first round (No. 25 overall) in 2009 out of the University of Illinois and traded him to the Colts in 2012 for a second-round selection and a conditional late-round choice in the 2013 draft.

He started all 76 regular-season games, in which he played for the Colts for six years and made the Pro Bowl in 2014 and 2015. In 120 career regular-season games, he compiled 393 tackles, 97 passes defensed, 22 interceptions, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery and two sacks.

Nate Ulrich can be reached at [email protected]. Read the Browns blog at Follow him on Twitter at and on Facebook

In true “What’s not to like?” fashion, Nick Gilbert’s first words after he awoke from eight hours of brain surgery this week were funny, touching and on-point.

Gilbert, the 21-year-old son of Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, asked if the Cavs had beaten Oklahoma City, according to a tweet from his father Thursday night. The Cavs, 34-22 at the All-Star break, captured their third consecutive victory with a 120-112 road triumph over the Thunder Tuesday.

A student at Michigan State University, Nick Gilbert was born with neurofibromatosis (NF), a genetic disorder that causes tumors to grow on nerve tissue. He underwent another in a long string of operations at a Detroit-area hospital.

“Miracles do happen!” Dan Gilbert tweeted. “After 8 long hrs of brain surgery & 48 hrs rest, Nick is recovering nicely. Endless gratitude to the many souls whose thoughts & prayers surely impacted positive outcome. Nick still has hurdles ahead but true hope is now alive. 1st question: ”Did @cavs
beat OKC?’”

Gilbert also posted a picture of Nick in his hospital bed wearing a makeshift bow tie, his signature, made of fabric with the Cavs logo.

Nick Gilbert became part of Cavs history in 2011, when he represented the team during the NBA Draft lottery as the Cavs got the No. 1 pick, which enabled them to draft guard Kyrie Irving. When his dad called him his hero on the broadcast, Nick responded, “What’s not to like?,” which led to a Cavs’ marketing campaign.

Former Cavs general manager David Griffin continued his support of Nick Gilbert through Twitter. He retweeted Gilbert’s update with the comment, “Seriously. “What’s not to like” about this report? Faith, hope and love are all present. Every obstacle can be overcome when this is the template from which you build.”

Nick Gilbert has joined the team’s lottery contingent on other occasions as the Cavs also landed the No. 1 pick in 2013 and 2014.

LeBron James and Maverick Carter announced that their SpringHill Entertainment company will produce a remake of the 1990 cult classic movie House Party and James might even make a cameo appearance.

The comedy released by New Line Cinema in 1990 starred Kid ’n Play of the hip-hop duo of the same name and was followed by sequels in 1991 and 1994.

Stephen Glover and Jamal Olori of Atlanta will write the screenplay, according to the Hollywood Reporter.

“It’s fun, it’s an honor when I got the opportunity to produce it, reboot the whole movie,” James said. “I had so much fun as a kid watching that movie. When I was growing up as a youngster I was like, ‘Man, I hope I get an opportunity to throw one of these house parties, where it’s just a lot of fun, a lot of joking around, dancin’, people just having a good time. We’re going to have a lot of fun with it. I maybe even [will] make a cameo in it, but we’ll see.”

James was born in 1984. He knows his new teammates Larry Nance Jr., Rodney Hood and Jordan Clarkson, all 25, probably have never seen the original. Hood and Clarkson were born in 1992, Nance in 1993.

“They are too young, they weren’t [born] when it came out,” James said. “But my man Swish right here knows what House Party is all about.”

Cavs coach Tyronn Lue is also a fan of the original.

“Love it,” Lue said. “Kid ’n Play. Want me to be in it? Nah, I stay away from stuff like that.”

AUSTIN, Texas: Former Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Johnny Manziel says he’s making a football comeback.

Manziel tweeted Wednesday morning that he has signed with the developmental Spring League in Austin, Texas, which will play from March 28 to April 15. The league is designed for players hoping to impress NFL scouts.

Manziel won the Heisman as a freshman with Texas A&M in 2012 and left school after his sophomore season for the NFL. He was drafted by the Cleveland Browns, but was cut in 2015 and hasn’t played since.

In a recent interview with “Good Morning America”, Manziel said he’s been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and has stopped drinking alcohol.

“Can’t wait to get back on the field and show NFL scouts what I can do!” Manziel tweeted Wednesday.

Notes, quotes and observations after the Cavaliers defeated the Oklahoma City Thunder 120-112 Tuesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.

1. If the Cavaliers go on to win their second NBA championship, the past six days may define their season and the moves general manager Koby Altman made on Thursday will have been the turning point.

2. The Cavs shed six players in three trades involving four teams. Gone were those who couldn’t be trusted, who didn’t fit in, or dreamt of a homecoming. Perhaps Altman’s only twinge of remorse came with the departure of center/forward Channing Frye, a popular locker room leader considered a joy to play with by his teammates.

3. As the clock ticked down, the Cavs reshaped their roster, acquiring a veteran point guard and three 25-year-olds, two who can drive, pass or shoot, one a relentless rebounder and inside presence who may be coming into his own on offense.

4. Then in just their second game as Cavaliers, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue left ex-Lakers Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. on the court down the stretch in a tight game against the Thunder, and they delivered.

5. Revere High School product Nance scored nine points in the fourth quarter, seven in the final 4:08. He scored on a cutting layup off after a J.R. Smith steal and assist with 2:02 left that put the Cavs up by nine. He made two free throws with 34 seconds remaining to boost the Cavs’ lead to eight. Then after a Smith rebound and touchdown pass to Nance running downcourt, Nance’s dunk with 11.6 seconds left cemented the victory.

6. “It was a great pass. I don’t know if he saw me or what, just trying to waste time,” Nance said. “He hit me in stride and it was easy from that point.”

7. Nance finished with 13 points, going 5 of 10 from the field, with nine rebounds (eight offensive), two assists, a steal and three blocked shots in 25 minutes. His plus/minus was plus 14, tied with Jeff Green for second-best on the night.

8. Clarkson hit a huge 3-pointer after a Nance rebound tap-out that gave the Cavs a 111-100 lead with 3:22 to go.

9. Asked if he figured a teammate was going to get the tap, Nance said, “Wen the shot goes up, the defensive team sucks in to get a rebound, so I assume if I bat it out one of my guys is gotta be out there.”

10. Clarkson finished with 14 points, seven in the fourth quarter. He hit 6 of 10 field goals, 1 of 3 from long range, along with three rebounds and four assists in 24 minutes. His plus/minus was a game-high plus 16.

11. “All it is is just playing hard and making the right plays,” Nance said of the mindset for himself and Clarkson. “If you do those things, you can go play with any team in the league and fit right in. I know for myself that’s what I wanted to focus on. Just come in and make sure I’m just out there making winning plays. Whether it shows up in the stat book, I don’t care. Just deflections, offensive rebounds, charges, blocks, whatever it may be. Whatever the team needs, that’s what I’m doing.”

12. Clarkson doesn’t seem to care that he’s exceeding expectations.

13. “For me, I didn’t really have none,” he said. “I know they’re here to win games. I’m trying to figure out what my part is, play my part, help them win, impact the game when I’m on the floor.”

14. Lue admitted he was surprised at what Clarkson and Nance have been able to do in just two games as Cavs.

15. “Everybody I talked to in the Lakers organization, (Brian) Shaw, Luke Walton, Ryan West, Jerry West, they all just said, ‘Those are two great kids and they’re fearless and they play hard and they play well.’ Clarkson taking that big 3 at the end of the game, making that big shot. In Boston the same way, making two big 3s to open up the game. Just for those young guys to come in, an atmosphere like this and play well, it’s amazing. Used those guys down the stretch and they produced. Just seeing that, it’s going to go a lot this year.”

16. The pair were in the crunch time rotation with LeBron James, Smith and Green.

17. To start the fourth quarter, Thunder coach Billy Donovan went with starters Steven Adams and Paul George, while Lue stuck with his second unit of Clarkson, Nance, Jeff Green, Kyle Korver and Rodney Hood.

18. “It was important. They did the same thing in the first half,” Lue said. “I thought Larry was very good with Adams, he was active. He had eight offensive rebounds himself. I know Adams had 12, which kinda kept them in the game having 18 offensive rebounds (as a team). I thought Larry did some great things, just rolling to the basket, making the right pass, offensive rebounds, great defensively, was able to switch a lot with him. We’ve got to keep working, it’s going to be a process, but I like what I see so far.”

19. Nance called Thunder center Adams, 7-foot and 255 pounds, the “strongest player in the league and it’s not close.”

20. “With a guy like that, you just gotta be active,” Nance said. “It’s almost like if a heavyweight gets their hands on you, it’s a problem. But if you keep dancing around them and staying on the outside, you can do some damage. That’s all I was trying to do, just dance around and be more active with him.”

21. The four new Cavs combined for 48 points, with Hood also scoring 14 and George Hill seven (with four assists). In their debut in Sunday’s rout of the East-leading Celtics, they totaled 49.

22. Lue said he wasn’t worried that their performance Sunday was a fluke, the rest of emotion and not talent.

23. “I didn’t think so. I thought that we’ve got guys that can shoot, dribble and pass and they can make plays,” Lue said. “It’s changed our team, and we’re a lot faster. Now I think we’ve got a chance to switch a lot of things with our size and our length, we can switch stuff defensively.

24. “I thought it would be a process, it’s still going to be a process. But the first two games I didn’t think they would not be decent. But they exceeded my expectations.”

25. With Hill the only starter of the new four, the Cavs bench outscored the Thunder bench 51-20. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the 31-point differential is the largest by a James team in his career, including playoffs. Clarkson, Nance and Hood had 41 of the 51.

26. James said he wasn’t surprised at the new players’ contributions.

27. “No, I think they played with a lot of poise with the Lakers as well,” he said of Clarkson and Nance. “Obviously they’re very talented and the change of scenery, I think they just tried to take advantage of it.

28. “And for us, with the guys that’s here, we’re just trying to make them as comfortable as possible. Jordan, Larry, Rodney and George, just try to make the transition as seamless as possible. We’re going to have some bumps obviously along this road because we’re all new together, but we’re trying to make it as seamless as possible for the transition.”

29. Making them comfortable seems to included finding the joy of the game that has been lost for most of the season.

30. Early in the year the Cavs spoke about how they had a target on their backs after reaching three consecutive NBA Finals. With the four newcomers, it appears they can get back on the attack.

31. “I think so. I think we’ve got to get back to being the hunters and not the hunted,” Lue said. “These young guys we have, able to shoot, drive or pass it, adds a different element to our team. They’re playing free, having fun. The biggest thing is Clarkson finished the game. George Hill during the timeout was talking to him and happy. Tristan (Thompson) was happy for Larry Nance. That’s what we’ve got to have.

32. “If you want to win you’ve got to sacrifice. With our team, whoever’s playing well is going to finish the game. They understand that and it’s all about winning with this group.”

33. James was hoarse after the game, but didn’t seem to mind.

34. “I think Koby did a heck of a job of understanding what our team needed,” James said. “It just wasn’t working out for us and he felt like he made the changes that he felt best fits our team. Then it’s on me to make sure the new guys that come in, I make sure they fit in and make it as seamless as possible. That’s my job.

35. “This is the third game in a row my voice is gone. And so, I’m just trying to have the communication at an all-time high for us, for the new guys and for the rest of the guys as well.”

36. Nance couldn’t miss James’ yelling.

37. “It’s easy,” he said of playing with James. “It’s hard to miss a defensive coverage when you’ve got somebody behind you yelling it for you. He sees everything on the court, offensively and defensively. Offensively he can tell where to go, no matter what position. So, he’s been integral to my joining the team, but he’s not probably the best player of this era. He is.”

38. James’ voice will get a break as he said he headed to his house in Cabo San Lucas with his family before going to Los Angeles for Sunday’s All-Star Game. But he’ll likely be raspy for the rest of the month until his new teammates get up to speed.

39. “I’m just trying to fast-track it,” he said. “So my voice has to be heard. Some things we could do on the fly with the guys that we had to start the season or in the past because we kind of knew the system. Right now I’m trying make sure that the new guys are always hearing me behind them on the defensive end and offensively they know where to go. So I’m just trying to do my part and lead them the best way I can.”

40. Lue was in a jovial mood as he left for the break. In the past four games, the Cavs beat the Timberwolves by two in overtime after losing to them by 28 on Jan. 8, drilled Boston by 22 after losing the previous meeting by 14, and avenged a 24-point loss to the Thunder, as well as beating Atlanta. Since the trade deadline the Cavs are 3-0, although the new players’ deals hadn’t formally gone through and they had to sit out vs. the Hawks.

41. Asked the best of the past six days, Lue said, “Winning. Going through a tough stretch this late in the season, these last few weeks have been tough for us. But I think bringing some new bodies, some fresh bodies kinda rejuvenated us. To come out and beat Minnesota, beat Boston, beat OKC, three teams that beat us pretty bad last time we played ‘em, it’s a huge stepping stone. We’ve got to continue to keep working, it’s a process. We’ve just got to keep playing well, keep getting better and hitting our stride in April.”

Solid guard play propelled St. Vincent-St. Mary past Walsh Jesuit in a boys basketball game on Tuesday night.

The host Irish relied on senior Scott Walter, junior Lunden McDay and freshman Seth Wilson to earn a 62-38 victory over the Warriors.

McDay and Wilson led the Irish with 14 points apiece and Walter scored 13 points.

“There were two turnovers between those three guys,” St. V-M coach Dru Joyce II said. “When you get good play out of them like that, we are hard to beat. I have been pressuring them about the turnovers. I thought two games ago [in a loss at Hoban] we had too many turnovers from the guys who control the ball. Tonight, they were good.”

Wilson and McDay each had four assists, and Walter had three. Junior Chris Painter contributed six points, four rebounds and four assists for the Irish (11-8), which finished with six turnovers. The Warriors (13-6) had 14 turnovers.

“Scott is the leader,” Joyce said. “He is the all-everything guy. The kids feed off of him. He gets us going. He is a guy who plays both ends of the floor and plays with all heart. When he is making shots we are very, very hard to beat.

“Lunden doesn’t make any mistakes. He is solid on offense and he is solid on defense. He is very consistent. He is going to give you around 15 to 18 points per game and four or five rebounds. Seth is young, but he is an extremely talented guy. He has played a lot of basketball, and you can see it. He does not shy away from the moment.”

Sophomore Maison Ross paced Walsh with 10 points, junior Tommy Cummings had nine points and five rebounds, and senior Ben Merril had seven points and five rebounds.

“I like where our effort is at,” Walsh coach John Norris said. “I like getting ready for the tournament, and a game like this kind of shows your weaknesses. When you play against a quality opponent like St. V in their place and they make shots, they are tough to beat.”

St. V-M forced five turnovers in the first quarter and held a 17-11 lead. Walter scored six points in the opening quarter and McDay scored four.

“We have talked about how for us to be good and to make a run in the playoffs that Seth, Lunden and I, we have to step up,” Walter said. “I think that showed tonight. We played together, we were making our shots, and we were smart with the ball.”

The Irish led 24-11 and 26-13 during the second quarter, and were ahead 26-17 at halftime.

Wilson made two 3-pointers in the third quarter, and Walter and McDay each scored four points as the St. V-M lead reached 42-29 entering the fourth quarter.

The Irish put together an 11-0 spurt in the fourth quarter to lead 57-35 with 2:05 to go. Wilson started the run with a jumper and 3-pointer, McDay made two layups and Painter dropped in a layup.

“We made our free throws, and we were more efficient,” McDay said. “We played really well on defense. Everybody was talking, and everybody was moving with the traps.”

St. V-M’s Marcus Johnson, Malik Lewis, Darius Cone, Keyshawn Jones, Jordan Addison and Noah Peeples combined for 15 points and 14 rebounds.

Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or [email protected]. Read the #ABJVarsity high school blog at Follow him on Twitter at