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Led by Nick Sales, Defiance College rolls in Heartland Conference

Barberton O., native Nick Sales has been one of the leaders for the Defiance College Yellow Jackets this season. He leads the team with 374 points or 15 ppg as a senior forward in Sports Management.

Defiance plays in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference with Anderson, Hanover, Manchester, Transylvania, Franklin, Mt. St. Joseph, Rose-Hulman and arch-rival Bluffton.

The past three games, Sales has led the Yellow Jackets to wins over Bluffton, 70-60 last Wednesday, 73-60 over Franklin on Saturday and Tuesday February 23 another win over Franklin, 92-78 in the conference tournament.

The Bluffton game marked the final regular season home contest for Defiance College’s six-man senior group, as Sales,  Mike Floyd,

Nick Sales Defiance (DC)

Eric Stolly, Nate Conley, Josh Stuckey and Heath Armstrong improved to 73-31 during their four years at the northwest Ohio school.

Seles now has over 1,300 points for his career and became the fifth player in DC history with at least 1,200 points and 800 rebounds in a career. The Yellow Jackets are 21-5 overall, 11-1 in the Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference.

Defiance has advanced to the conference tournament semi-finals on Friday at 6 p.m. vs. number 2 seed Hanover.

NFL DRAFT: 2010 Class loaded with potential first round picks

This year’s NFL draft is scheduled for April 23 and for the first time ever, it’ll be a three-day event.

There will be several players wishing and hoping their name will be called in the first round. Only 32 will have that dubious distinction. Included in that list is Illinois WR Aurrelious Benn.

Benn was the favorite receiver of Illimois QB  Juice Williams. The numbers from his final college season would suggest he is not worthy of the first round: 38 catches, 490 yards and 2 touchdowns. Those low numbers were more of the fact that Illinois’ offensive line didn’t give it’s quarterbacks time to get the ball down the field and not that Benn unachieved.  Plus, he also played on a sore ankle which was injured early in the season. If he had played on a better team, say Ohio State, Texas, Alabama or Penn State, he would’ve caught more than 70 balls and had more than 10 scores.

Most NFL Scouts like Benn and his potential and something you can’t coach or teach, speed. They also Benn’s size (6’2, 225), and showed excellent hands in college.

Benn needs a fantastic combine to convince teams he can make an early impact in his rookie season. If  Benn accomplishes this, there are several NFL teams that need a wide receiver of his caliber in the first round: 49ers (16th), the Ravens (25th), and the Jets (29th).  A poor combine means he would drop anywhere from second round through the 3rd.

Aurrelious Benn breaks a tackle (UI)

Team USA defeats Canada in Olympic Classic

I sat down last night and flipped on the USA-Canada Olympic Hockey Game on MSNBC?! (we’ll get to that later) with every intention of taking notes for today’s column about Ohio State’s gigantic win Sunday afternoon in the Breslin Center over Tom Izzo, Sparty & Co. when something strange happened.

I got absolutely no work done.

Transfixed by the most engaging sporting event since Tiger’s press conference, I found myself completely engrossed in Olympic hockey Sunday evening. The underdog Americans defeated Canada in Olympic hockey for the first time since many, many decades before I was born and it truly made for fantastic television. 

En route to a 5-3 win Sunday night over Canada, Team USA was outshot 45-23, including 14-4 during a third period barrage from the Canadians as they tried desperately to even the score. Even so, Canada was unable to deliver the knock-out blow to goaltender Ryan Miller who was magnificent, stopping 42 shots.

And when Ryan Kesler added an empty-netter at the 19:16 mark of the final period, the decidedly pro-Canada crowd was left completely shell-shocked.

The good news got even better for the Americans after last night’s late-game when Sweden defeated Finland, 3-0, giving the Americans the top seed in the entire tournament. Consequently, Team USA gets a bye into the quarterfinals Wednesday afternoon when it will take on either Belarus or Switzerland–the same team that took Canada into a shootout in the second game of the preliminary round last week.

A day short of the 30th Anniversary of the “Miracle on Ice” and donning duds nearly identical to those worn by the ’80 team, the Americans played  an inspired brand of hockey we have not seen since the last time the Team USA took gold in the Olympics, at Lake Placid.

The similarities don’t end there, either. 

Often referred to as young, inexperienced kids the 1980 team was littered with college students with no professional experience playing in their very first Olympic Games. Though much is often made about the fact the U.S. Olympic Hockey Confederation now uses NHL players to fill its international rosters, the reality of the situation is the average player on the 2010 edition of Team USA is 26 years old and 20 of the 23 players on the squad have no Olympic experience whatsoever.

There’s more, American defenseman Ryan Suter is the son of Bob Suter, who was a defenseman on the 1980 team and defenseman Brooks Orpik is said to be named after Herb Brooks–the head coach of the “Miracle on Ice” team; my goodness, the similarities are endless. 

Perhaps even more impressively, in 1980 the Americans were playing on home ice and thus served as the darlings of the dance. Last night Team USA, playing in rival Canada, was treated to a level hostility not unlike when American soccer plays in Mexico City.

I don’t want to get too carried away. After all, this wasn’t even a medal game and it certainly wasn’t the “Miracle on Ice” but last night’s contest was nothing short of classic.

How classic? Yanks versus Canucks made me switch the focus of this column from the aforementioned Buckeyes road win at Michigan State yesterday, which is saying quite a bit because that was an extremely important victory for Ohio State. 

By defeating the Spartans Sunday afternoon, the Buckeyes grab firm hold of second-place in the Big Ten with three pretty-winnable games remaining on their regular season schedule. Ohio State remains a game behind fourth-ranked Purdue for Big Ten supremacy, but the Boilers still have to travel to tournament-minded Minnesota and host Michigan State.

The Buckeyes hit the road to face Penn State Wednesday night before coming home to play Michigan Saturday afternoon. The Buckeyes then host Illinois a week from tomorrow in the conference finale.

In retrospect, perhaps it was a bit presumptuous to expect Ohio State to go 3-0 at Illinois, home to Purdue and at MSU as I did. To escape that little gauntlet 2-1 with road victories in Champagne and East Lansing, a season-split with the Boilermakers and the tie-breaker against Michigan State is actually quite good.

photo: Sports Illustrated

To finish 3-0 the rest of the way would ensure Ohio State no worse than a second-place conference finish and if Purdue stubs its toe down the stretch, the Bucks could even wind up with a share of the conference crown.

It was a tremendous victory for the Buckeyes yesterday afternoon. On a day when Evan Turner was forced to play with flu-like symptoms and was therefore not himself and both post-players, Kyle Madsen and Dallas Lauderdale, were plagued with foul trouble the Buckeyes were able to hang on for the victory. Nevermind the fact they blew an 11-point halftime lead and trailed by a point with three minutes to play.

That’s how big Team USA’s win over Team Canada was last night. It was one for the ages, for the record books, a true Olympic classic that you may one day tell your kids about–as long as you had access to cable television.

Let us all in unison give a hearty “do better!” to NBC for failing to air last night’s classic nationally on its network.

Holy crap, MSNBC?! What a joke. Though, Keith Olbermann isn’t bad.

Ring. Ring.

Nate: Hello?

Nate’s lawyer: Nate! You don’t want to make political jokes in your columns. You’ll end up systematically alienating your entire readership, including your mother, sisters and future in-laws.

Nate: Whatever. Only like five people read me, anyways.

If I’m NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman right now, I ain’t too happy. C’mon, you have a television contract with NBC, last night’s game was almost exclusively NHL players, as a league you’ve worked tirelessly trying to restore your image and get people watching the game again and the network doesn’t air the game nationally. Not a good effort out of NBC in that regard.

Other than that glaring error, the telecast was quite good. Mike Emrick is perhaps the best play-by-play guy on television regardless of sport. He’s absolutely brilliant and you should check out Olympic hockey if for no other reason than to listen to Mike Emrick call the game. It’s pure poetry.

Fortunately, the Olympic hockey action is just heating up and the top-seeded Americans are in fine position to play for a gold medal. Heck, it’s not inconceivable they could rematch with Canada. If that happens, maybe NBC will air the game nationally.

Luck puts Jimmie Johnson back in winners’ circle

The race fans at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., saw Nascar’s  Jimmie Johnson turn a possible loss into a win but he did have some luck along the way.

His break came because he was already in the pits when a late caution flag came out. His pit crew finished their work and Johnson passed the scoring line at the end of pit road before Jeff Burton and Kevin Harvick were able to cross the start line.

That split second kept Johnson on the lead lap and allowed him to regain the lead when everybody else pitted under yellow when Brad Keselowski spun in turn 4. Johnson maintained his lead the final 20 laps after the restart.

After winning his unprecedented fourth consecutive Sprint Cup championship in 2009,   the Loews #48 Chevrolet team finished 35th in the Daytona 500.

Johnson rebounded to lead for 101 laps and won with an average of 141.911 mph.

Jimmie Johnson (AP)

Next Sunday, Nascar moves into it’s 3rd race of the young season, The Sprint Cup Shelby American at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Race time is at 3 p.m. on Fox.

Northland Vikings continue to dominate the City League`

This past weekend, Columbus Northland wrapped up their fourth straight City league title with a victory over Marion-Franklin, 65-52 at East High School.

Everybody talks about dynasty, legacy and men among boys when Northland’s team is being discussed these days. There are still five weeks left in the basketball season and it remains to be seen if this team can defend their Division I championship.

The two big-name leaders of this team is Jared Sullinger and J.D. Weatherspoon have been a part of this dynasty all four years, winning those four unprecedented City League titles. If you count City League records in the North Division and City Championship games, the Ohio State-bound dynamic duo were part of teams which piled up a record of 59-0.

One wonders how this team will stack up to other Columbus City League basketball programs in years past.

The senior class from Columbus East led by Ed Ratleff, Dwight “Bo” Lamar and Nick Connor that won back-to-back state championships in 1968 and ’69 finished with a 71-1 slate. But those accomplishments cover only three seasons because ninth-graders were not permitted to play varsity during those seasons. Although the Tigers went undefeated in the City League from 1966 to ’69, they lost fellow City rival and eventual state champion Linden in the 1967 regional final.

Brookhaven also set standards of excellence with 12 City North titles and a 159-14 league record from 1995-2006, including six straight City championships. The fifth, was given to them by default after Africentric forfeited 27 wins, including a win over Brookhaven in the championship game.

In the win over Marion-Franklin, 19-0 Northland received the best shot from the determined Red Devils, but their height, athleticism, depth, patience and talent was too much to overcome.

As usual, Jared Sullinger and J.D. Weatherspoon led Northland with 25 and 16 points respectively. The 15-4 Red Devils were led by Jeremy McCoy with 13 points.

IN OTHER WEEKEND HIGH SCHOOL MEN’S  BASKETBALL ACTION

*Traevon Jackson scored 25 points, and host Westerville South (20-0, 14-0) completed and unbeaten regular season by defeated Olentangy Liberty (10-10, 7-7). Isaiah Rogers scored 15 points and Jon Jennings had 11 for South,  which led 38-22 at halftime.

*Gahanna over Groveport, 65-21 as Anthony Jackson scored 12 points to lead the Ohio Capital Conference Ohio Division champion Lions (19-0,13-0) over the host Cruisers (1-17,0-14).

*Taylor Rieger scored 17 points and Cameron Sheehan 15, as host Olentangy Orange earned a share of the Ohio Capital Conference Capital Division title with a 54-50 victory over Delaware.

*Logan Elm beats Canal Winchester, 51-38 as Logan Hauserman scored eight of his 16 points in the third quarter, and host Logan Elm (17-2,12-1) beat Canal Winchester (14-5,11-2) to win the Mid-State League Buckeye Division for the second year in a row.

Jared Sullinger Northland (AOL)

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